Re: Coercion

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Mon Apr 19 2004 - 17:18:25 EDT

Why should we see ourselves as positioned at (or near) the top of the
mountain in a universe that has yielded no signs of other intelligent
It has never stopped anyone serious from speculating about why we
don't detect them.

My observations are not about seeing humanity at the top of any mountain.
They are about what can be observed now in the present day and age. When
looking at history, we cannot prove anything. We can only make
estimations about what is most likely to have taken place. I think your
idea about speculation is a good one, because it was speculation and
skepticism that lead to our modern day and lead to diagnoses that pointed
to non-supernatural demonic reasons behind mental illnesses. I would be
very saddened if as we progress into the 21st century there exist more
belief in demonic forces causing mental illness.

Admittedly, it is of little use to speculate on the mechanisms of
between humans, spirits and swine, but one must also wonder if a
Christ in a tangibly active earthly ministry would not provoke such
observables. There is no denying that Jesus _could_ have been a
mere charlatan, nevertheless, we are left with an account, and a
accepts on faith the honesty of the witness: irrespective of what may
seem parsimonious to presume in the minds of others.

I disagree on this. What is at issue is the very nature of the universe.
If the story is literal, then Christ moved supernatural beings from one
physical host to several others. There could be two ways he did this. The
first way requires that we view the story totally literally in that the
man was possessed by separate beings and Christ moved them from him to
the pigs. The second way would be that Christ, the divine controller of
the cosmos, made the man appear to be demon possessed, and orchestrated
the entire thing through his own divine action. If we are skeptical of
the claim there are several possibilities. One is that it was staged by
Christ and one of those tending to the swine. Another is that it is
fictional, meant to illustrate some theological message not dependent on
a literal reading.

To accept such an account as literal in a day when there exists
absolutely zero documentary pieces of evidence of this type of thing
occurring is not feasible to my mind. To do so, I would be forced to
conclude similar things about other miracle stories from non-Christian
stories, unless I am to assume as a pastor told me that “demonic” forces
did it. This is a “demon of the gaps” theory that I find reprehensible
and irresponsible to say the least. The events of 9/11 were murderous
acts by men. Those militant martyrs of Islam are not in heaven right now.

This “demons did it” recourse forces us into a corner where there are
several possibilities as I can envision it. If demons are responsible for
the supernatural activity outside of Christianity, and angels responsible
for the good stuff, then why are so many of the things attributed to
Satan so purely reducible to physical causes? I cannot believe that Satan
is behind the 9/11 attacks except as a personification of evil. If I am
to assume that demons are real, as the Jesus of several Gospel accounts
believed and interacted with, and I am to believe that the “young man”
who was in the tomb in Mark, but became an “angel” in other gospels are
real, then what am I to make of this great “spiritual war?” I am to
assert that there exists a tenuous balance between Satan and God such
that miraculous manifestations of the demonic never be captured on film
irrefutably. Instead, they manifest through actions of men which are
otherwise reducible to physical laws. The Satan of the gaps gets smaller
and smaller the more you think about it.

The other possibility is that demons and Satan do not exist literally and
that the stories about Jesus “casting” out demons is not literally true.

I do not have a predisposition to unbelief in the supernatural. I have a
predisposition to believe in the natural until otherwise proven
different. Absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence, but surely
presence of evidence is evidence of presence.


It is easy to go the XOR route with "mental illness" and other phenomena.
It is clear that some mental disease is related to abnormalities in brain
chemistry or structure. These are the basis of therapy in First World
countries. However, I have heard missionaries report on individuals who
acted as demoniacs are described in scripture, and who became
symptom-free on command in the name of Jesus.

Unusual phenomena are not confined to Third World countries. An associate
once came in tired. At one time training to become a priest, he had
become quite an authority on witchcraft. Indeed, he was at the time
married to a white witch. Two of his students had decided to try a spell.
Something happened which scared them badly. I did not learn what exactly
had happened, but they had called him in panic to come to them to put the
phenomenon to rest.

My Dad and the country chair of the mission were together on the Cayapa
River, stopping at the dwellings to evangelize. At one place, which
seemed like others, as they exhanged the normal greetings, they felt the
oppression of evil, though there was nothing overtly different in the
exchange. Stu whispered to my Dad, "Dick, let's get out of here." They
later learned that they were at the home of the chief witchdoctor of the

On a positive side, which bears on the matter of divine "coercion," Glenn
Morton's experience of finding a Turkish interpreter to witness one night
is either an amazing coincidence, something that sounds more like a tall
tale than a factual report, or a matter of divine direction.

Some years ago I read of a Colombian pastor who was taken by insurgents.
Out in the jungle, one raised his revolver and fired at his head.
Misfire. He pulled the trigger again. Misfire. The rebel turned the
revolver and fired into the jungle. I don't recall whether he tried
shooting the pastor again, but he released the pastor. This was either an
incredible coincidence or divine coercion of firing pins or primer.

Were trained observers with sccientific instruments set up on these
occurrences? No. Would they have measured anything out of the ordinary? I
doubt it. Can I explain why one pastor should live and others should die,
or that congregations should perish at the hands of revolutionaries? No,
nothing beyond the belief that God accomplishes his purpose in spite of
evil men sometimes, and because of evil men at other times. Consequently,
I rest in God's hand.
Received on Mon Apr 19 17:20:48 2004

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