The problem of evil is a very big mystery indeed. It does not submit itself easily to reductionism. (M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie)
(Acts 19:13-16 ESV) (13) Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” (14) Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. (15) But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” (16) And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Note: The above quote from Peck is not meant to be our endorsement of all that he has written.
I hardly even need to make application of this Scripture, do I? The seven sons of Sceva are the pastors and members of our churches today. The evil spirit indwelt man is the abuser. As the pastors and Christians try to work their exorcisms on him, he leaps upon them, masters them, and overpowers them. I’m not sure how many run away naked and wounded — they would probably be better off if that happened to them to bring us all to our senses.
Evil is saying to us — in the person of the evil man — “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” Yes, who are we? Well, we are people who are ignorant of evil. And in this ignorance, we apply the wrong remedies, yet are quite confident our medicine is the correct one. In the case of abuse however, it is all too often the victim who flees out of the house naked and wounded, not us.
Evil is not so simple. Evil is seductive and deceptive. It clouds our minds. It lies — it always lies. It charms — oh, how it charms us. And it can sound eminently reasonable. Listen to it long enough, and it will have you. Bilbo almost forgot that in the lair of Smaug and the dragon almost had him turned against his own friends.
I will say once more what I have said many times: If you want to become wise about sin and evil, about Satan and his tactics, set yourself to study the mentality and tactics of abuse. You will see evil in action as never before. You will whack yourself “upside the head” more than once exclaiming, “Stupid! How did I not see that?” And eventually, that man in whom the evil resides will cease to master and overpower you. You will be able to say, “I know you, and I know what you are doing. In the name of Jesus Christ, depart!”
[March 19, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to March 19, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to March 19, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to March 19, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (March 19, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
9 thoughts on “We Are Ignorant of Evil, and it is Killing Us”
I am going to comment at the risk of appearing really stupid or at least quite concrete in my thinking. I have never been particularly fond of Peck because I felt that he attempted to modernize “the idea of evil.” I would agree that evil is a bit mysterious but probably not at all in the way he did. I mean, the origin of evil is very clear. Peck never seemed completely sure on this. Your point re the fog, deceptiveness, charm and seduction points to the true mysteriousness of evil. I’ll just say it — I have trouble knowing if there is any small regenerate person in the abuser overcome by something larger than the human, something like the serpent? It is so mysterious that sometimes this seems to be true.
Pippa – I may not be exactly clear on what you mean, but let me see if I can help. First, I wouldn’t give Peck a blanket endorsement either. You definitely have to read him with biblical discernment. But he does stumble across some good points here and there. I won’t be quoting him a lot and I don’t read him a lot. And then, I would agree with your questioning of the notion that in the abuser there is some weak but real regenerate person. I can’t believe that a person with the mentality of an abuser as we have defined him could possibly be a real Christian. John says that if a person says they love God but hates their brother, then that person is a liar and doesn’t belong to Christ. That is plain and certain. I find that very often in Christian books the authors will be unclear on this and seem to say that a Christian can be an abuser. The mystery and confusion come from the abuser himself. From his lying, his deception, his changing of reality and so on. I would say however, as I have noted before, that I think the evil of abuse is Satanic perhaps from a lesser to a greater extent depending upon the situation. Satan is prowling and he loves to show up among the people of God in the person of his representatives —
I really think that one brand of Satan’s emissaries are abusers who come among us in disguise, claiming to be servants of righteousness. In some way that perhaps we don’t fully understand, Satan is in them or with them or directly them. Satan is alive and well and operative.
Jeff, I read “People of the Lie” 2 months ago, and also thought that he went overboard with a few of his beliefs. He did though make it clear that there is evil in this world. That was a favourable impression. I was concerned that people who are not Christians and who read this book may have quite a field day with his thoughts on being a father figure to “Charlene” and exorcism (to me it was over-the-top). I had written down some of his thoughts and one of them he had borrowed from Aldous Huxley’s book was “Be more for God than against the devil.”
I think a lot of pastors who are against divorce for any reason may be of this type of persuasion….that to be fighting the devil constantly means that they are doing a great thing….protecting their flock. It makes them look super-human. Instead of resting in the Lord and trusting Him for His wisdom and strength, it is so dramatic and self-aggrandizing to be wrestling with “evil super-powers.” It also serves to present the abuser in a benign light….”HE IS NOT THE GUILTY ONE….SATAN MADE HIM DO IT”. Meanwhile, his abused victim, usually the less vocal of the couple and so compliant, is offered as the one who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing!
We really do have the answer that is true because it is the one the Lord has given us (and is the one the Lord gave us because it is true) in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. It is what we need to know. If the abuser presents himself as a servant of righteousness, then he is a servant of Satan. Whether he is possessed or evil or whatever, he is a servant of Satan. If he is possessed, there would be no point in sending his legions into a flock of pigs, because the clean house would be ready for seven times more demons.
Yes, you are right. That is all we need to know. No sense doing some “exorcise the demons from the poor abuser who is just a victim of the devil.” No way. Jesus did not do that with Judas. And yes, why clean house for Satan’s legions to move in?
I have wondered in recent days: When my abuser was raging over me (for no logical reason at all, need I say?) and punching the walls and kicking the door and yelling “I HAVE TO TERRIFY YOU!”, what would have happened if I had said in the power of the Spirit, “I bind you in Jesus’ name!” Maybe he would have crumpled into a whimpering rag. Maybe he wouldn’t have. I will never know. But at the time I was terrified and it didn’t enter my head to take spiritual authority like that. (I don’t want to sound silly or boastful, but I’ve taken authority like that many times when I was under spiritual attack while asleep or drowsing, or when I’ve been in strong prayer to break through a stronghold that the enemy had over my life.)
But at that time, when my husband was raging over me, I was in fear for my bodily safety and terrified by his fury, and although I knew intellectually that his rage was satanically motivated, I didn’t have the presence of mind to take charge of the evil one who was distorting his sneering vicious countenance and shooting hatred from his eyes.
I wonder if this is part of what Peter is getting at when he says —
Would love to hear others’ thoughts on this.
It would certainly have been interesting to see what would have happened. Hard to do in that fearful of a situation. You know, I wonder if the shouting, raging demon isn’t actually more motivated by fear of Christ in you than we might realize?
Fear of Christ….yes, very possibly a great motivation. If I remember to see the dislike I cop from unbelievers that way, it might help me handle them better. Oh to have more remembrance that I have the mind of Christ!
Whether with the Bible or Scott Peck in mind, the key idea to remember is the individual choosing to change. (Even Peck made this point.)
Since the abuser rarely (if ever) wants to truly change / repent, s/he is leaving space for evil to re-enter, demonic or otherwise.
Hence the renewal of the mind.
Changing, approached from the Biblical or the secular (or both) perspectives, requires the individual to participate. One cannot passively lie back and wait for someone else to “wave their magic wand” to promote immediate healing.
Yes, there can be limitations in terms of ignorance. I once heard a quote “You cannot progress past the point your therapist is unwilling to go.” I think this applies to both the Biblical and secular communities.
If the pastor is unwilling to learn about evil, they aren’t going to be able to help people past that particular hurdle, no matter how well versed or educated. The same can be said for the secular world. If they are unwilling to learn about psychopaths, they will be taken in every time.
In neither case is the victim / survivor at fault. In neither case is the abuser let off the hook.