How We Prevail on Earth

They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ — Luke 4: 32-34

If you can believe the sign in the parking lot, the church is a demon-free zone. Just who certified this isn’t exactly clear. But up to now there’s never been a demon there in all the years I’ve been attending, at least not one that was visible.

If I’d wanted to see a demon, the church would be the last place I’d go. Yet there it was. And where there is one, there are many. It’s like switching on the light in the kitchen and seeing a lone cockroach scuttling across the floor. You just know there’s never just one.

That man was carrying one in his gut like a parasite. That’s the only explanation I can think of. To look at him you’d never think he was host to a Legion of devils. In fact, he was the one who talked the most about them. “There could be one among us today!” he’d exclaim. You could hear him out in the narthex, grilling the visitors. I guess he thought they could wipe their feet before they came in and that would somehow do the trick.

Do we think the demons avoid the church because there is some magical aura that rebuffs them, some force-field against which they cannot hurl themselves? Don’t be silly. A church is like any other building, just quieter when it’s full. Not much happens at our church; perhaps that is why the demons have always left us alone.

But he wouldn’t let it alone. “We’ve got to stand together,” he’d say. “All of us in unity. If we give the Devil an opening he’ll crack us like a walnut. If you harbor thoughts otherwise you will not stand in that day! You’ll be the one who lets the Devil in amongst us. Do you want to be that person? Really?”

In a meeting someone finally said, “Pastor, why do you think we’re demon-bait? Have we ever given you reason to think we are?”

“Can you prove you’re not?” said one of the men next to him. “Do you really think you’re qualified to know the signs? Don’t you think the best thing is to trust those of us who’ve had some experience in these things?” He waited.

In the silence the pastor cut in. “We’ve argued about this long enough,” he said with a frown. “There are doubters among us.” He pulled out a form and laid it on the table.

“We’ve got to be unified,” he said. “We don’t have any time to lose. I want you to put aside your doubts and join me in a pledge to stand against the Devil and his hordes. That’s what this church has always stood for: unity for the mission.”

He tapped the form in front of him: “This is your day of decision. Sign this or forfeit your right to speak.”

“But you can’t do that,” someone protested. “Besides, signing a piece of paper doesn’t prove anything. What matters is what we decide in our hearts. It’s between us and God.”

The pastor stood. The late afternoon sun poured redly into the room, casting him in both light and shadow. His hands balled into fists.

“Do not oppose us,” he said softly.

Barry Casey taught religion, philosophy, and communications at Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University, for 28 years. He is now adjunct professor in ethics and philosophy at Trinity Washington University, D.C., and adjunct professor in business communication at Stevenson University, Maryland. This essay originally appeared on the author’s blog, Dante’s Woods on October 15, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission.

Image Credit: / Ian Espinosa

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The SDA GC asked the members of the AC 2017 to sign a document. “[You] can’t do that,” someone protested. “Besides, signing a piece of paper doesn’t prove anything. What matters is what we decide in our hearts. It’s between us and God.” After much debate, it was sent back by the very AC 2017 for review.

People generally conflate faith and membership. (Please allow me to differentiate the two terms this way for this purpose). Your faith is in God, true; and whatever you choose to hold sacred is between you and Him. Membership however is related to the things of this world, and with it comes the responsibility of adhering to the principles of the organization on whose register your name appears. The SDA denomination is not a cult: it defines itself by 28 fundamental beliefs and gives anyone the freedom to join or leave.

Interestingly, it mirrors the Divine Establishment for it is written of Jesus Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” (Col. 1)

Do you see that? “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” In other words, there is a pyramid and Christ is above all: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” (Heb. 1)

But it goes further than that, much much further! In fact, it goes so much further that it is too dreadful to contemplate. “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; FOR IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THAT I AM HE, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24) As simple as that! Not muzzled, not dismissed, not disfellowshipped, not excommunicated … but the fearful expectation of eternal death!

In light of this, the SDA GC has been very lenient and patient and forbearing, hasn’t it?



Even your own Spectrum is governed by laws and judgments. At the end of this very article is the following guidance: “limit yourself to one comment per article … Comments that fail to meet [this] criteria will be removed.” But I’ve come to realize that this forum has been overrun by a rebellious clique of SDA who scream and shout and bang their pots mightily in revulsion against the slightest thing said concerning the GC, good or bad. They generally lack a biblical wherewithal for the worldly ideas they angrily yell about from the back of the room; and seem hell-bent on shouting down anyone who offers a nuanced response to a complex issue.

Then along comes one who criticizes the GC and suddenly the band, balloons and streamers and the Rockettes are brought out. Indeed, that one is hugged and kissed and gloriously praised. “Here is Wisdom,” is proclaimed aloud. “a Daniel come to judgment! Be silent, O people of the Forum, and let us hear the conclusion of the matter.”



Okay… Wow…

Believe it or not, one’s concept of God is patterned during the formative years of childhood and adolescence. Ask 10 people in a room who God is and you’ll get 10 different answers. It’s been shown that the answer nearly always depends on the individual’s experience with their primary authority figure, generally but not always the father, when they were growing up.

So an authoritarian father equates to an authoritarian God to the adult. Loving, engaged, and nurturing father equates to a loving, engaged, and nurturing God to the adult. See the pattern?

I’ve gotta say, the picture of God you portray, James Peterson, is not one that appeals to me, nor will it appeal to anyone searching for a savior, in my opinion, but you are welcome to try to convince me otherwise. If this is the suggested model for the SDA denomination, per your recommendation, well, I actually want no part of it.


Is this a call for the “divine right” of the GC? That concept has been debunked long ago.


Just as it is in parenting, the intent plays a significant part. With the GC, one can argue they have “been very linient and patient and forbearing,” but I contend all in the wrong way as evidenced by the recent AC2017 184 to 114 vote.

James, I’d like to point out that my post emphasized the 184 to 114 votes. Not one of those 184 votes were any of those “Then along comes one who criticizes the GC and suddenly the band, balloons and streamers and the Rockettes are brought out.” Those 184 votes were from the hardworking, earnest and faithful followers of our church who disagreed with the direction of the GC leadership. Did you find any merit for the 114 votes?


this is an interesting connection between moments of AC2017 and the halloween motif…of course everything collapses as far as TW is concerned since he did willingly concede to the 184-114 vote that very definitely opposed him…

my guess is that something will surface in 2018 that will kick the can of enforced compliance to san antonio even further down the road…i think it’s quite clear that AC2017’s proposed remedy of separating membership from voice and vote in annual council is unconstitutional - and unfair, since union leaders, in the case of ricardo graham and dave weigley, have simply followed overwhelming votes from their constituents, which they couldn’t really not do - which means there really isn’t a compliance mechanism in place without divisional support, which definitely isn’t happening in the case of NAD…short of the nuclear option, which has been expressly ruled out, it doesn’t appear as if anything can inject movement into this impasse…this probably means we’re in official limbo, with the rejected yes option in san antonio effectively governing our church for the foreseeable future…

maybe san antonio really has been our balaam moment, where wrong was intended, but right has since overruled…


The church is not some masonic or similar organisation or political party of club where you have to agree 100% with everything and obey 100% of everything or your out.

Church is a community. People join it for many and varied reasons. People are born into it. People have journeys within it.

If church is about 100% compliance in everything then it’s a cult.

People’s reasons for being in a group and belonging can be for many reasons and many of them are valid. If we start to be exclusive and hard and fast in our rules of who’s in and who’s out and who is eligible and who isn’t we are in a very bad way.

regarding the devils being in the church grounds or not, I’ve seen a number of devils in church. Some of the most dangerous are sanctimonious pious people!