Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Shape of Temptation

Sorry -- no cheesecake pictures here.

My friend and colleague Jeff Mooney -- an Old Testament scholar -- links to a blogpost by Tim Challies at The post is on "the shape of temptation" as written about by Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke in his book An Old Testament Theology. Waltke writes that Satan tempts us the exact same way he tempted Eve -- so that encounter is our model for how temptation works.
We are as skilled in leading others into temptation and tend to follow Satan's model when we do. Here are the 5 basic steps with a taste of Tim's commentary:
1. Be a theologian. "...Satan is a theologian who despises God with every bit of his being. When he turns to Eve and says, “Did God really say…?” he brings Eve into a dialogue that opens her mind to a new realm of possibility, one she would not have thought of on her own. He knows God well enough to know what God has said and done.
2. Turn commands into questions. Satan takes the command of God and rephrases it as a question. “Did God really say?” What was a clear statement suddenly becomes hazy. Posing as a theologian he asks, “Are you sure about this, or is this only Adam’s testimony as to what God said? Are you sure? How do you know? Is this really a command? Can we discuss this a little bit? Is it possible that you misinterpreted what God said? Is it possible that there is some context here we’ve ignored?” Waltke says, “Within the framework of faith, these questions are proper and necessary, but when they are designed to lead us away from the simplicity of childlike obedience, they are wrong.” And so we see Satan raising questions of interpretation and authority necessarily designed to create doubt and confusion and to lead away from the simplicity of a childlike obedience."
3. Emphasize prohibition over freedom. "Satan carefully and deliberately distorts, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden” into “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” He overlooks the great freedom God gave Adam and Eve and instead overstates the one prohibition."
4. Doubt God’s sincerity and motives. "Satan casts God’s motives as self-regard rather than love. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He convinces Eve that God is limiting her, that He is not giving her the full measure of humanity. He is holding back, reserving for Himself things that she deserves to know and to experience."
5. Deny what God says is true. In the final step, Satan flatly denies what is true. “You will not surely die.” The fruit of all of the doubt and the resentment is unbelief. If God’s words happen to hinder us from becoming what we want to be or from doing what we want to do, Satan convinces us that we can safely ignore them."
Tim Challies' post has more good stuff on temptation. The above is just a taste.

Satan expertly breaks Eve down, gets her to take God out of her decisonmaking equation, and it's all over but the cryin' by the time she does the same to Adam. This pattern has been followed endlessly and is still the model for temptation. That make it all the more pressing to steel ourselves to protect us from temptation (fleeing it is good advice) as well as to prevent us from becoming tempters.

The book is here:

h/t: Jeff Mooney

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