Friday, October 5, 2012

How temptation works

Dietrich Bonhoeffer skillfully unpacks the struggle all human beings have with tempting desires.
 In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money, or, finally, that strange desire for the beauty of the world, or nature.

Joy in God is…extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; the only reality is the devil. Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God….The lust thus aroused envelopes the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination of decision are taken from us….It is here that everything within me rises up against the word of God. Therefore the bible teaches us in times of temptation in the flesh to flee: Flee fornication (I Corinthians 6:18)—from idolatry (I Corinthians 10:14)—youthful lusts (II Timothy 2:22)—the lust of the world (II Peter 1:4). There is no resistance to Satan other than flight. Every struggle against lust in one’s own strength is doomed to failure. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Temptation, 33-34).

Now compare his insights with James 1:14-15:  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.