Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alpha Course: Week 8, How Can I Resist Evil?

This is the eighth official installment in the Alpha course series, in which I recall my experiences as a Jewish-raised dude and now a Gnu Atheist who took the Alpha course with his Christian wife. Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Since most of us in Alpha saw one another just a few days before at the overnight getaway, there was both interest and fatigue. Personally, I wanted to see everyone and say hello. I was curious about how people “re-integrated” into the world, but I also didn’t expect to see or hear anything new. I didn't.
  • Dinner was chili with hots, and ice cream sundaes. Two songs sung.
  • The DVD talk was on “How Can I Resist Evil?” 
    • By the end of the talk, we had used words like “evil,” “temptation,” and “sin.” 
    • However, we were really talking about resisting temptation and not resisting evil.
    • To my mind, "evil" was presented as a given and not well-defined or examined.
  • This was a weak talk. 
    • Gumbel asserted that evil did exist. 
    • Why? Because if evil exists then we can make sense of the horrible things that happen in the world. 
    • Amusingly, a follow-up assertion was that any philosophy or worldview that didn’t posit spiritual forces of evil has a great deal to explain. 
      • I don’t need to show in detail how stupid this line of thinking is, do I? 
    • Another reason we know evil exists, says Gumbel, is Church tradition. 
      • No, he doesn’t mean how evil the Church has been. 
      • Instead, he means that Church fathers believed that the devil was real. 
    • The third reason, according to Gumbel, is that the Bible asserts the existence of Satan. Jesus believed in Satan.
      • Sigh.
    • Gumbel went on about how the devil worked to separate people from their God.
      • Gumbel went to the Garden of Eden story, but only one of them. 
      • He enjoined everyone to remember that the side of God was the side of forgiveness and freedom, while the other side (there’s only one other, apparently) is the side of destruction. 
      • He then went to a famous bit in Ephesians (attributed to Paul but not certainly authored by him) about arming oneself with/in God. 
      • The main supports against evil are, Gumbel says, the Bible, prayer, and the church community.
  • At small group, we began with impressions from the overnight getaway, and if anyone felt tempted afterwards. 
    • People shared some personal stuff. 
    • For example, one woman is going on Friday for a biopsy. She’s scared. 
    • Another person talked about being tempted to go out with his buds--perhaps he was/is an alcoholic? 
    • We also talked about being able to talk with others openly about Christianity. 
      • People generally feel discouraged from being “open” believers, at least the new ones. 
      • I happen to see plenty of folks who have no problem with religious sayings on their cars or on Facebook.
    • We closed in prayer. Not me, of course.

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