Tuesday, March 19, 2013

misundertaking spiritual warfare: reading in context and in (anabaptist) communitas

 “If we are going to grow up into Christ we have to do it in the company of everyone who is responding to the call of God.” (Eugene Peterson)

On the seemingly neverending list of "misundertaken" scriptures (especially due to
              verse-itis ,
              not reading in context,
                                        and reading through Western lenses)..

 How many times have you heard

"greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world?"

...and you KNEW that
  • the "He who is in you" is...of course, Jesus?
  • the "one who is in the world" is...of course, the devil?
  • the "you" is ...of course, the individual believer?
Read  1 John 4...in context, and get back to me.

The first two questions are partly true.
For example, simply reading the previous verses (unheard of!) suggests the primary answer to #2: "This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."  The devil is mentioned nowhere in the context.

It's the third question I'd like to focus on.
I wish everyone could read biblical Greek and Hebrew.
But speakers of language like Spanish GET the idea of a plural "you."
In fact, you should learn spanish JUST to read 1 John 4:4:

Ustedes, queridos hijos, son de Dios y han vencido a esos falsos profetas, porque el que está en ustedes es más poderoso que el que está en el mundo.  link, context
"Greater is he who is within you all" doesn't do it justice.
Just ask anyone from Texas.  "How are y'all doing?" usually means a single 'you".
To ask about a group, it's "y'all of y'all."

I sometimes suggest to Spanish speakers that  the "singular plurals" of the Bible are almost like an
"Ustedes va" --a grammatically incorrect phrase, the "you" is plural and the verb is singular--  a community as one, not one (individual) as the community as English forces us to think.

On the singular plural, see A Crash of Rhinos...a Committee of Buzzards.

It is ironic and should be obvious that one of the groups we can learn the most about spiritual warfare is Anabaptists/Mennonites, nonresisitants and pacifists!  How do folks who don't "do war" actually "do war" with the devil.  Secondly, they GET community/communitas.  I was privileged to spend a week in community (ahh)  studying spiritual warfare and worldview with a great Mennonite Brethren scholar, Paul Hiebert.
I may upload some of his notes.  There are also at least two helpful related resources:

Not to mention....okay I will... that high up on the list of misunderstood scriptures is the "spiritual armor" of Ephesians 6: "take up the shield of faith," which we usually read as addressed to an individual.
But it's addressed to a group/church...grammatically and theologically. 



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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!