2.1.11 External Temptation
Moving right along, I'll go on to this point: The figure of speech known as personification was addressed quite a bit, and the question was put to us: Is sin personified? We were referred to the Book of Romans for example, as well as other passages. My answer is, Yes, sin is personified. However, I think I was misinterpreted. I did not say that we find the language of personification only in the poetic books. What I said was that we find the language of personification, we find that particular figure of speech in particular types of literature. I specifically mentioned parables, allegories and that sort of thing, but I didn't say that personification is not used in the epistles.
What I did say is that the language of personification is not used in historical narratives. I believe that point deserves to be taken seriously. I would like anyone to produce for me any historical narrative anywhere in the Bible where a personification talks to a person. No such passage exists. I have no problem at all with personification and figure of speech. Indeed, I believe the Bible is filled with it; however, I do believe we must remain sensitive to the literary text of the scriptures. There were several references to metaphors that are used throughout the scriptures; for example, the devil is roaring lion, the devil is a dragon, that sort of thing, and of course those are not personifications. Just for the record, those are metaphors and those metaphorical uses of course do not argue against the personal existence of such a devil.
Let us see, the question was also asked if the words Satan and Devil can be used just as descriptive nouns without referring to the supernatural devil. I also addressed that in my presentation and I believe that they can. For example, John 6: 70 was cited in which Jesus called Judas a devil; however, in that case, and the other cases in which we find this, as I stated, the article is not used.
Now Matthew 16 and verse 23 was cited in which Jesus called Peter Satan. Now I don't think that Jesus intended to call Peter just an adversary there because of course in the Greek New Testament the word 'satanas' is a direct transliteration from the Hebrew word 'satan' and it is being used almost as if it were a name - the enemy - and I believe that Jesus was using a figure of speech known as antonomasia in which someone is called by a name to imply something about them; for example, if I said to you, " You are a Hitler" , what I am implying is that you are a very cruel person indeed. This figure of speech is used several times in the Bible; for example, I believe it was Jezebel who called Jehu Zimri, not meaning that his name was really Zimri, but meaning that he was a murderer. This was that figure of speech. I believe that Jesus' point is that Peter's suggestion had such radical consequences for God's plan of salvation that it can be characterised as having come from the great arch enemy, the devil himself.
Let's see, okay, next we move on to the origin of sin. Several passages were referred to in this context, Mark chapter 7, Romans chapter 7 and also James chapter 1. Now I would like to go on record as saying that all of these passages are quite irrelevant and they only relevant if they are based on a misunderstanding of what temptation really is. For example, our Christadelphian friends often go to Mark chapter 7 and say sin comes from within and then they reason well, if you can prove that sin comes from within, then the existence of an external tempter is thereby refuted. Well, that is only if temptation and sin are identical, but the Bible does distinguish between these two things. Temptation often comes from without, and I would like to offer an example: in Genesis 3 when the serpent tempted Adam and Eve, the temptation came from without, the sin came from within and there is a difference. I would like to turn for example to Romans 7 where it talks a great deal about our struggle with sin. The devil isn't mentioned, no, and he doesn't need to be because the devil does not make us sin. In fact there was a statement made to the effect that Christianity teaches a form of dualism, but I think one will find that the Church by and large does not teach such a doctrine and one cannot find in the systematic theological text books the teaching that the devil makes us sin.
James 1 was referred to so let's turn over there and see what we read there. Chapter 1, verses 13 through 15: " When tempted, no one should say God is tempting me, for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire is conceived it gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full grown, gives birth to death." Now the Christadelphian argument from this passages is, as Christadelphian author Peter Watkins has admitted, actually an argument from silence, because the text here does not rule out external temptation; what it says is that temptation is temptation because of wrong desires.
For example, if you were to wave a packet of cigarettes underneath my nose I would not be tempted by that, because I have no desire. On the other hand, if I did have desire for that, I would find that to be a temptation. To give another example: if you are on a diet and I know you are on a diet and I know you love chocolate and I want to tempt you I can wave a chocolate bar underneath your nose. Now if you like chocolate then I am leading you away by your own lusts. It's your own desire that makes this a temptation, but without those desires, I would not be able to tempt you, but if you have that desire, I am tempting you. You then have a decision to make, are you going to eat the candy bar and suffer the consequences of bad complexion, weight gain and all the rest of it, or are you not going to eat the candy bar. Whatever you do, you are responsible for; I am not responsible for that. I am tempting you but you are going to suffer the consequences of what you have to do, and similarly, I would suggest the Bible does not rule out external temptation, because it clearly teaches this. Also in Christendom Astray, p. 179 I think it was, Robert Roberts talked about external temptation. So if men can tempt men, and this is not ruled out by James 1, why cannot the devil be a spiritual tempter who tempts men.
I don't know if I've reached all my notes, but I'm sure my time is up, but I would say one last thing. We referred to several verses, for example, a comparison of Hebrews 2: 14 and Romans 6: 23 - a verse snatched from here and a verse snatched from there and we looked at words and we said, " Okay, this word and this word are identical, well, I don't think that is a very sound method of interpretation. I think if there were a single passage which said, " Here is sin and here is the devil" and it makes the equation that would be a little bit different, but to take verses from different authors and say that these words are parallel, that's not necessarily the case. And there is some more to say, but maybe we'll get to it in questions and answers. Thank you very much.