Monthly Archives: May 2012

Flannery O’Connor on the Academic Type

Anyone familiar with academic administration, departmental politics, or faculty committee dynamics knows that scholars tend to have an immunity to effectively accomplishing anything.

In Flannery O’Connor’s short story “The Comforts of Home,” Thomas, the main character, is such a person.  He’s a historian faced with a serious domestic dilemma that requires shrewd relational navigation.  It becomes increasingly clear that he isn’t up to it.

I had to laugh at the following lines in which O’Connor nails the academic type:

Thomas had inherited his father’s reason without his ruthlessness and his mother’s love of good without her tendency to pursue it.  His plan for all practical action was to wait and see what developed.

Election According to Scripture, Pt. 3

Deforming Divine Election

A brief word about theological method.

The narrative shape of Scripture must discipline our theological speech so that we speak faithfully of God and God’s ways with his people.  Our theologizing about any notion within Scripture must be constrained and shaped by the form of that notion within the narrative.

Divine election has its proper form and shape as God’s love language for his people.  It shapes our identity and mission.  We are the people who celebrate God’s love for us that stretches back to eternity past.  And we are the people appointed to radiate God’s love to the world in hope that even more people will be swallowed up into God’s love.

If we take divine election out of its narrative form and put it into a doctrinal system, we have just deformed it.  If we take it out of the narrative that shapes it properly, we have a misshapen doctrinal notion.

We will now have a deformed and misshapen view of God, one that creates serious theological tensions.

We must not put divine election to use in order to speak of unbelievers so that we have a theological category labeled “the unelect,” or “the elect unto damnation.”  That isn’t a category in Scripture. 

It may very well make good sense according to how we’ve constructed our doctrinal system, but we’re no longer being disciplined by Scripture.  Insofar as Scripture speaks of those outside the faith from the perspective of election, it speaks of those whom God is pursuing in love through his elect.

This is the case because of the purpose of divine election.  Divine election always has a “so that,” and the “so that” has to do with God’s mission to reclaim the nations so that all of creation will enjoy God’s life-giving reign.

There’s much more to say about divine election, but with regard to theological method, we must respect the role of election within the narrative lest we deform it and end up with unfaithful theological speech.

Election According to Scripture, Pt. 2

The Purpose of Divine Election

We must keep in mind a second aspect of divine election in Scripture in order to see that it does not stand in tension with God’s love.  God sets his love upon a particular people so that they might be the agents whereby God swallows up even more people into his love.

Divine election is actually an extension of God’s love for the world.  This becomes clear when we consider the Scriptural narrative.

The mission of God to reclaim creation begins with God’s call of Abram in Genesis 12.  God promised to make Abram (later called Abraham) into a great nation so that he would be a blessing to “all the families of the earth” (vv. 2-3).  From the beginning, God’s election had a universal thrust.

After Israel grows into a great nation in the womb of Egyptian slavery, God delivers them and gives them their commission.  Israel is God’s chosen people for the purpose of being a “light to the nations,” a “kingdom of priests” (Exod. 19:6).

Israel was supposed to cultivate a national life of justice and care for the poor, the orphan, and the widow.  And, as a kingdom of priests, they were to initiate a mission to bring the nations to God and the one true God to the nations.

God’s election of Israel was not at the expense of the nations, but for the purpose of God’s redemption of the nations.  God chose Israel to receive his love and to radiate his redemptive love beyond themselves to the nations.

Israel failed to fulfill this commission.

They perverted their election, regarding themselves as God’s favorites.  God had chosen them and not any other nation.  That must have meant that God loved them rather than the nations.  Israel eventually came to despise their neighbors, longing for their destruction.

We see this posture toward the nations embodied in the prophet Jonah.  God called him to announce judgment to Ninevah, but Jonah refused.  He knew that God longed to redeem, and that if there was even the slightest hint of repentance, even on the part of a blood-thirsty nation well-entrenched in its paganism, God would pour out mercy.  Jonah’s expression of agony at God’s redemption is shocking:

But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “Come on, LORD! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. At this point, LORD, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:1-3, CEB).

Israel, like Jonah, longed for the destruction of the nations, perverting the purpose of their election. 

Because of this enduring posture toward the nations, God sent them into exile, eventually calling them, “not my people.” 

God has set himself on a mission to redeem creation and so chooses a particular people as agents of his saving love.  If they become a people who do not purposefully extend God’s love beyond themselves, they cannot be called the people of God.

Divine election always has this outward thrust.  God chooses a particular people from eternity past to save them so that they will be agents of his redeeming love for the world.

From the perspective of divine election, then, there are (1) the people upon whom God has set his love, and (2) those whom God is pursuing in love through his elect.

Regarding the two groups from the standpoint of election differently is quite perilous, for we risk taking our place alongside those whom God called “not my people.”

Election According to Scripture, Pt. 1

Divine Election vs. God’s Love

Many Christians flinch at biblical talk of election.  It seems a dark corner of Christian theology that is better left alone.  It’s like God’s dirty secret that we’d rather not know about, the skeleton in God’s cosmic closet.  We’re afraid we’re going to find out that God’s heart is like the Grinch’s—two sizes too small.

Is it really the case that before creation God sat down with the names of everyone who would ever live and chose some for salvation and some for damnation?  How arbitrary!  How unloving!

Further, how can we reconcile this with the open call of the gospel, that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved?

Well, relax.  Scripture’s election talk does not stand in tension with God’s love.  It is, rather, an extension of God’s passionate love for humanity and God’s mission to reclaim creation.

We rightly understand election when we recognize two aspects of this notion in Scripture.  I’ll develop the first of these in this post.

Election talk in the Bible is God’s love language.  God uses it to express love for his people.  “Before you had any notion of me at all, before you could do anything to earn my love, I set my love upon you and pursued you out in order to save you.”

This isn’t language that describes a cold, dispassionate act before time began.  It’s the language of God as a Lover and it is used specifically and solely to speak of his relationship to his people.

Lovers enjoy revisiting with each other the first moments of awakening desire.  “You didn’t even know my name at the time, but when I first saw you, I was absolutely smitten.  I made sure that we sat next to each other just so I could talk to you.”  It’s a way of delighting in the love that they share.

The same holds when election talk is applied to the church.  Paul tells believers in Asia Minor that they were on God’s heart and mind from eternity past (Ephesians 1:3-14).  He set his love on them and pursued them to save them.  These “nobodies” in the world’s eyes are precious to the God of all creation.

My point, then, is just to say that election language in Scripture functions very specifically to shape the identity of the people of God.  We are the ones who have our origin in the love of God from eternity past.  God set his love upon us and sought us out to reclaim us and redeem us.

That is the only function of election language in the Bible. 

We pervert divine election when we take it out of the context of God’s love for his people and use it to speak of those outside of God’s love.  When we do that we now have the “elect” and the “nonelect.”  We only end up with that latter category when we take election talk out of its biblical context as God’s love language for his people.  But the “nonelect,” or the “elect unto damnation,” isn’t a biblical category.

When Scripture considers the group of people outside of God’s saving love, it sets election talk aside and picks up other sets of language.  Scripture talks about those to whom the elect are sent in order to demonstrate God’s love.  Scripture talks about those whom God longs to redeem.  Occasionally Scripture talks about those who are enemies of the gospel, perhaps those who have rejected God and are persecuting God’s people.

But the Bible does not consider “those whom God has chosen for damnation.”  When it comes to election, the two groups are the elect—those upon whom God has set his love in order to save—and those to whom the elect are sent so that they might also be swallowed up into God’s love.

We must be careful to respect the biblical function of election talk.  Too often election talk has been excised from its biblical contexts and put to use in doctrinal systems.  It does not belong there.  That move distorts the Scriptural depiction of God.

Consider an analogy.  I am talking to my kids about how crazy I am about my wife.  I do this often and usually embarrass them.  My kids might ask me, “well, what about Mrs. Jones, our neighbor?  Why are you not crazy about her?”  I would respond by putting “lover” talk aside and using a different set of language.  “Lover” talk is nowhere on the radar when it comes to Mrs. Jones.  She’s our neighbor.  She’s really very kind, but as it happens, she is better regarded in the category of a casual acquaintance who made us cookies last Thanksgiving.

I do not think of my wife as being my lover and all other women as “not my lover.”  Their identity with reference to me is that they are friends, co-workers, neighbors.  I use other language tools to speak of them.

Divine election, then, does indeed appear throughout Scripture.  God sets his love upon a particular people and commits himself to pursue them and save them.  We can celebrate God’s love for us that stretches back to eternity past.  But when we turn to consider our friends and neighbors outside of Christ, we must think and speak in terms other than divine election.

Divine election does not mitigate or threaten God’s love.  It is an extension of God’s love for his people.

Thinking with Scripture about Divine Election

This week I’m going to re-post a series I wrote last summer about divine election, slightly edited. 

Scripture uses predestination and election language throughout both testaments, but for many people these are confusing and troublesome notions.  They raise questions about the mechanics of salvation and doubts about God’s ways with humanity.

Ephesians 1 is loaded with election and predestination talk.  I had the opportunity to reconsider how this language functions while teaching Ephesians and then while writing The Drama of Ephesians

I’m hopeful that these will bring about some clarity, or at least generate some helpful discussion.

Living Between the End and the End: A Homily

*Originally given at Midtown Christian Community, October 9, 2010.

I’ve always been deathly afraid of passages like Mark 13.  I grew up in an evangelical culture that would read passages like Mark 13 as wild and woolly predictions of end-times cataclysms, assigning biblical significance to contemporary events.  Back in the 1980’s, the big fear was the Soviet Union and of course we all knew that America enjoyed Most Favored Nation status with God, so in some way biblical prophecies of gloom and doom were involved in current international relations.  “This passage right here in Revelation has to do with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; and this one in Matthew probably refers to Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.”

Such interpretive moves never sat well with me.  Why would Jesus be talking to a bunch of illiterate fisherman about global politics 2,000 years down the road, and why would the Apostle John be concerned with Cold War stand-offs when writing words of comfort to the churches of Asia Minor?

I didn’t really have answers to all this, but when I come across passages like ours for this evening, I start to get really nervous and agitated and would just rather not deal with them at all.  Perhaps Don feels the same way and so he dumped Mark 13 in my lap so he didn’t have to talk about helicopters with the heads of grasshoppers and armies of locusts coming west from Siberia to begin a world takeover.

What brought me a measure of comfort was the fact that the disciples ask Jesus the same question that many would have asked in the church where I grew up.  “This is all so fascinating, Jesus, how will we know that it’s all about to happen?  Do you have any charts that we could use to map all this out and trace it as it unfolds?”

Jesus doesn’t bother to answer their question, but instead in v. 5 begins to exhort them regarding what they should be concerned about.  And again, in v. 32, Jesus admits that the Son of Man has not been informed about when this will all take place.  Only God the Father knows this, so don’t worry about that, says Jesus.  In the meantime, you have some responsibilities.  And here they are.

Let’s walk through this passage a bit in order to understand the situation that Jesus’ disciples are in and what he tells them to do.  That way we can invite Mark into our life together as a community and discover together what Jesus wants us to do.

For a while now in Mark, Jesus has been predicting the end of his life and the destruction of Jerusalem.  God has rendered his verdict on Jerusalem and the temple as an institution.  It is not functioning at all as God had intended, and Jesus has already condemned it to eventual destruction.  This was pictured earlier in Mark by Jesus cursing the fig tree.  Back then, Peter, after seeing the fig tree withered, had said, “Look, Teacher, the fig tree you cursed has withered.”  Mark, the master storyteller, has one of the disciples open up Mark 13 with an almost exact quotation, “Look, Teacher, what massive stones!  What magnificent buildings!”

Good readers of Mark are supposed to take the hint—the fig tree is the Temple; the temple is the fig tree. 

Yes, impressive stones indeed!  They will share the same fate as the withered tree.

Jesus goes on, in fact, to predict the temple’s destruction—not one stone will remain upon another.  He is referring to the coming of the Romans to completely devastate Judea and Jerusalem.  And when you read the history of all of this, it is stomach-turning.  Much of what Jesus predicts happens, and even worse—pervasive cannibalism, people cooking dung in order to survive.

But Jesus’ instruction here is to be on guard.  Watch out that you are not deceived by false Christs.  Further, when you are persecuted, take comfort because the Holy Spirit will empower you to know how to act.  When accused, just say what comes to mind and it will be God himself who will be giving you the words to say.

But this wave of persecution and intense suffering is not yet the end of the world, says Jesus in v. 7.

In fact, says Jesus, when you see something like what Daniel spoke about—the abomination of desolation—you need to get moving. 

What’s going on here?  Well, about 200 years previous to Jesus’ day, Antiochus Epiphanes defiled the temple with pagan sacrifices—the abomination of desolation, as Daniel talks about. 

This is going to happen again, but this time it will be the Romans who come into the temple and defile it.  The Roman emperor Caligula had a massive statue of himself set up in the temple and before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the defilement of the temple is again imminent.

Jesus says that when this happens, it would be wise to flee to the north.  For Mark’s readers in Jerusalem in the late 60’s, this would have been taken as an endorsement of the prophecy given in that church that they were to flee north to Pella in order to survive the coming destruction.

But Jesus again makes the point that these events are not the end.  Before the end comes, the gospel must be preached to all the nations.

The instruction in Mark 13, therefore, is how Jesus’ disciples—including us—are supposed to live between the end and the end—the end of Jerusalem and the end of the world. 

Certainly the end of Jerusalem must have felt like the end of the world for Jesus’ first followers.  For thousands of years, the Jewish people have always had Jerusalem.  How can you even conceive of following the God of Israel without God’s favorite city around?  How can you even maintain the existence of the God of Israel, if his home city is destroyed?  Usually if that happens, you’d have to assume that he’s not strong enough to defend it.

So, the end of Jerusalem actually would have really shaken up the first followers of Jesus, and it would literally have felt like the end of the world.  It would have thrown them into confusion and turmoil.

Without Jerusalem and its temple—without the singular defining piece of real estate that oriented everything about their lives and their community self-understanding—how do we even go on from here?

That’s what Mark 13 is all about.  And Jesus tells them to be on guard and watch out for false ways.  Jesus has showed them the way—self-sacrifice; service to others; cultivating a community of cross-shaped social dynamics; self-giving unto death for the sake of others. 

If anyone tells you otherwise, especially if they want to take up arms and overthrow Rome, do not listen.

He also tells them to remain faithful to their gospel task.  The gospel must be preached, so keep at it.  Remain faithful even in the face of persecution for the sake of Christ.

And thirdly, be wise.  There is no virtue in staying in Jerusalem as it is surrounded by the Romans and finally completely destroyed.  In fact, Jesus says they’re going to need to leave the city at some point, and if they wait too long, it’s going to be rough.  What if some women are pregnant and it’s winter!?  This is very unspiritual counsel that Jesus gives—but very practical.  The cash value of this instruction is simply this—be wise.  Don’t be foolish.  Read the signs of the times and be ready to move if you need to.

So, while Mark 13 is loaded with all sorts of bizarre-sounding stuff, it’s actually a chapter loaded with practical counsel about living wisely when the world is coming apart.  Even if it feels like all you know is coming crashing down—beware, because that’s not yet the end.  The end will come, but only God knows when it will come.  Just make sure he finds you being faithful to what you know you should be doing.  Do that, says Jesus, and you’ll be doing all you need to worry about.

That’s Mark 13 for Jesus’ first followers.  What about us?  Let’s now invite Mark 13 into our community and let it do some work here.  What does this crazy passage have to say to us?

Our world is not coming apart—at least for most of us.  Sure, times might be tough, but none of us are yet resorting to cannibalism . . . so far as I know, anyway.  Our lives are pretty comfortable, and our stresses don’t come from needing to survive, but from striving to get ahead or to ensure a comfortable future for ourselves and for our children.

Jesus keeps repeating himself throughout Mark 13—don’t get caught up in curiosities, and don’t worry about figuring out the end-times, but “be on guard,” “watch out for false Christs,” “watch out for anyone claiming to show you another way,” and finally, “watch!”

So let’s talk about this, and here are some questions to guide our discussion: What are our temptations?  What are the ways we are tempted by false Christs?  What are some alternative voices out there that call to us?

And what about possible ways our community needs to think about being wise?  We’re considering a move to a new place—any wisdom for that?  Is there anything else we need to keep in mind as our community is in transition?

Apocalypse & the Word of the Cross

I picked up a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories at Black River Books in South Haven the other day.  I’m also digging back into Galatians, so I read with interest Lou Martyn’s essay, “From Paul to Flannery O’Connor with the Power of Grace.”

He compellingly captures Paul’s apocalyptic vision and the subversive power of the cross.  A snippet:

The crucifixion of God’s Christ – the horrifying nailing of Jesus to splintery pieces of wood – seen as God’s invading apocalypse speaks in an utterly different way to the question of power.  We say to Paul, ‘Look!  From Harlem to the ancient valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, the oppressed are crying out for change, for liberation, for transformation, and we must find the power by which genuine change, liberation, and transformation can be brought about!’  Paul responds: ‘The people are indeed crying out.  I myself cry out.  Who is weak, and I am not weak?  Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?’  (2 Cor 11:29)  ‘But look,’ Paul continues, ‘God is neither indifferent nor powerless.  There is a word, one Word, which has the new power genuinely to change, liberate, transform, and that is the word of the cross.”

A strange Word with a stranger power that looks like weakness.  It is not a word addressed to the will of the individual, exhorting that individual to do this or that.  Neither is it a contingent word, laying down conditions that humans must meet if there is to be a movement toward human betterment.  The word that is God’s power is the indicative word of the cross as the apocalypse of God’s genuine love and powerful grace.

But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

. . . while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son. (Rom 5:10)

At this point we are confronted with the mystery of God’s strange way of making right what is wrong.  For the crucifixion of Christ proves to be the centerpiece in God’s war in our behalf, the event of his powerful invading grace, in no way contingent on the fulfilling of a single presupposition from our side.  On the apocalyptic battlefield Christ’s death is the deed enacted in behalf of those who are enslaved under the power of Sin, and that means in behalf of all of us.  Paul can even say, therefore, that in Christ’s death God is the one who rectifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5).  Here is the power of God’s grace: that Christ did not die for the righteous, for the morally acceptable, for the noble of heart who are never anxious.  Indeed Paul even sees in the crucifixion that Christ did not die for those who believe.  Neither Christian faith nor faith of any sort is a presupposition to God’s invading apocalypse of love in the crucifixion of the Messiah.  On the contrary, the crucifixion is God’s revelation of that gift of grace that, not assuming or presupposing faith, calls faith into existence. . .

See that in the literal crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth God invades without a single if.  Not if you repent.  Not if you learn.  Not even if you believe.  The absence of the little word if, the uncontingent, prevenient, invading nature of God’s grace shows God to be the powerful and victorious Advocate who is intent on the liberation of the entire race of human beings.  This is the victorious power that . . . Paul saw in the cross, the event in which the name Immanuel was enacted: ‘God with us’ (Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul, pp. 288-89).

The Corporate Character of Moral Formation

I’ve been enjoying James Thompson’s excellent book, Moral Transformation according to Paul.  He has a wonderful chapter on the communal character of the church’s moral transformation.

Paul shares with Aristotle and the Stoics a concern for behavior, but he speaks with a totally different vocabulary, which is nowhere more evident than in the terms with which he establishes the identity of his readers.  Unlike ancient moralists, Paul is concerned not with the virtue or happiness of the individual, but with the corporate identity of his communities as the basis for moral formation (p. 53).

He demonstrates from 1 and 2 Corinthians how Paul shapes the church’s self-conception by drawing upon Israel’s identity (“holy” and “elect”) and the community’s new constitution as the family of God.

His concluding paragraph:

Paul shapes the moral consciousness of his gentile converts by instructing them with the vocabulary of ancient Israel.  The corporate ethic of his communities is based on their identity as the elect and holy people who live out the consequences of their divine calling.  Inasmuch as these communities, unlike the Israelites, are not united by physical kinship, Paul provides an identity of fictive kinship by which they assume the roles of families.  These images indicate that the moral life cannot be lived in isolation, but only in the company of others who are called to be elect and holy members of the family.  These images also draw boundaries between the in-group and the outsiders that the community expresses by adopting a code of conduct that distinguishes them from others.  Insider language drawn from Israel’s Scripture characterizes the moral discourse of this in-group.  As in Israel, they respond to the holiness granted by God by being holy in their activities.  They respond to their relationship as a family by behaving as family members (p. 62).

A Case Against Laptops in the Seminary Classroom

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m considering banning laptop computers from my classes.  If I do, here’s why.

I consider seminary classrooms to be learning environments rather than lecture halls.  Most seminary students are already self-motivated people who can learn on their own.  They have access to much of what I’ll talk about in class.

So my task isn’t so much to tell students items of information they don’t already know (though there will be some of that), but to foster a community of learning in which students can make connections between biblical texts, theological realities, and ministry challengesand to do this along with one another.

In such contexts, students have responsibilities to one another.  They are not free agents–individualistic consumers who attend a class for their own benefit.  They are members of a community and ought to give themselves fully to their classmates.

This is a specifically Christian conception of education—Trinitarian and cruciform.

This involves, in the very least, coming to class prepared to ask good questions about assigned reading, asking thoughtful questions of one another, affirming one another, challenging others’ comments, asking for further elaboration of someone’s contribution, and sharing from one’s experience.

Many people are communal learners—they grasp concepts and their implications more fully when they hear others think through them.  Because of that, professors and students must be fully present, prepared to invest entirely in each class meeting.

Everything about a classroom–the tables and chairs, the technology used, and the physical situation of professor and students–should work towards fostering a fruitful learning environment.

I’ve come to realize that my physical posture in class is vital.  I don’t stand behind a lectern or tech-cart, since those can be powerfully symbolic barriers.  I’d rather send embodied signals of invitation and openness rather than prohibition.

The importance of embodied behaviors can be seen in everyday conversation outside the classroom.  When a friend places a cell phone on the table during a coffee shop chat, or when he constantly checks his phone to see if he’s received a text, he signals that he is not fully present, that he’s distracted, or that he will prioritize a text or a call over giving me his full attention.

While such mundane habits are common nowadays, we should see them as practices that constitute something less than Christian conversation.

In the same way, laptop computers can be obstacles to the creation of fruitful learning communities.  Their threat to community is dramatically increased by internet access.

A few months ago, I referred to Albert Borgmann’s excellent discussion of “the normative pattern of technology.”  Every technology has benefits, which is why we use them.

But Borgmann warns that we can be so taken with a technology’s obvious advantages that we are blind to its significant costs.  With every technological gain, there are losses, and these usually involve the diminishment of human community.

I’m still in process on this, but I’m just trying to consider the classroom costs and whether the losses are worth the benefits gained.

Luther, Theological Interpretation, & Lively Rhetoric

I’m working on my paper for the St. Andrews Galatians conference in which I’ll include a small section hoping to clarify that Luther’s Galatians commentary is more concerned with theological interpretation than historical description.  It is much more like Barth’s Romans commentary than a pure biblical studies commentary focused merely on historical-critical exegesis.

Barth certainly appears to see it that way.  He regarded the historical-critical work in the text as necessary but only preliminary to “the understanding of the Epistle.”  He explains what he means with reference to Luther’s and Calvin’s work.

“By genuine understanding and interpretation I mean that creative energy which Luther exercised with intuitive certainty in his exegesis” (p. 7).

Barth notes “how energetically Calvin, having first established what stands in the text, sets himself to re-think the whole material and to wrestle with it, till the walls which separate the sixteenth century from the first become transparent!  Paul speaks, and the man of the sixteenth century hears.  The conversation between the original record and the reader moves round the subject-matter, until a distinction between yesterday and to-day becomes impossible” (p. 7).

At any rate, I’m trying to set Luther’s “exegesis” in a more favorable light for my biblical studies friends.

Passages like the following, however, don’t make my task any easier.  But they do make reading the Galatians commentary exciting!

[T]herefore the Anabaptists themselves are all bastards, and their parents were all adulterers, and whoremongers; and yet they do inherit their parents’ lands and goods, although they grant themselves to be bastards, and unlawful heirs.  Who seeth not here, in the Anabaptists, men not possessed with devils, but even devils themselves possessed with worse devils?