Pruning the vine, vertigo and the powers of this dark world

Posted: 28th May 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

Brian at συνεσταυρωμαι has written recently about the reality of spiritual warfare and the power of prayer to destroy the strongholds of the enemy. I had written earlier about the connection between our physical condition and the unseen war – the early comments to Brian’s first post underscore this thread of discussion. (Especially regarding the Great Apathy of the United States, with the temptations of luxurious rationalism being one of Satan’s most insidious methods of destroying the individual Christian, and by relation, the Church. Indeed, are we not lukewarm Laodicea?)

Note: I originally began writing this post after Brian’s first post on the topic, but since then, he’s followed up with another and Peter Kirk has added his rebuttal thoughts as well. The rest of this entry tries to reflect some of the discussion in these additional posts.

On a personal level, my family is experiencing physical ailment again. My wife has been diagnosed with a form of vertigo, which (rationally) explains a great many things that she’s experienced over the past few years, but has been quite disabling for the past week or so (also explaining my spotty participation in blogdom). We give thanks to God that she did not black out when she had a severe episode while driving on the freeway last week and was able to get safely off before calling an ambulance.

In his second post, Brian presented Paul Heibert’s three-tier model of rational/physical explanation, the presence of spiritual beings and divine sovereignty. From Brian’s perspective, the cause of any event would be rooted in one of these tiers, e.g. my wife’s vertigo could be explained as an inner ear disorder (physical), an attack by demonic forces (spiritual) or the pruning discipline of God (divine).

It is difficult to know whether our family is being pruned or goaded. We are over committed and busy, with barely a minute or two to breath in relationship with each other. Is God stepping in and using physical ailment to force us to cut back and restore ourselves to each other and Him? Is the enemy driving us on and on and on to the point of breakdown, cutting our roots and placing our lives on shifting sand? Or is this just the natural affect of my wife’s seasonal allergies on her body as she grows older?

Peter’s critique is that we shouldn’t look to just one of the tiers for an explanation, but to all three, such that my wife’s ailment is the result of a physical disorder that has a spiritual warfare equivalent, but that may have been orchestrated by God with an overall good purpose in mind.

  1. Bryan says:

    I definitely agree with Peter’s response. In fact, there are a couple of issues I’ve dealt with that I see in just such a light.

    My regards to your family, I had a temporary case of vertigo that lasted a whole summer once.

  2. Well again, I think this is why prayer is important – I don’t think it has to be an either or situation nor does it have to be all the above – though it could be. Sometimes our own flesh drives us to the point of wearing down – sometimes it is the enemy – James 1 tells us that as we face trials of many kinds if we are unsure about things, ask God for wisdom in discerning the nature of the trial/situation.

    I guess I am still working this all out…is Peter’s response saying I am wrong or looking at it the wrong way?

  3. @Brian: the discipline of prayer is something I’m working on. Not very well, so there’s a lot of groaning, but I’m working on it.

    I think Peter’s perspective is that all three tiers are interconnected and that any given event or ailment can’t just be limited to one tier. If that’s also your conclusion, then I apologize for misreading.

    @Bryan: I’m dreading a whole summer of this, but the physical therapy doctor just yesterday seemed to think that it wasn’t inner ear related, based on her eye movements. The worst is when she suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night, dizzy and nauseous, for no apparent reason.

  4. Brian says:

    My reason for point out Heibert’s theory of the flaw of the excluded middle was to point out why many westerns tend to have a problem with ideas such as spiritual warfare. For westerners things can be explained either in terms of science or the supernatural (ultimate life issues) – but not necessarily because of devils and demons, etc. We’re too sophisticated for all that. Devils and demons are things one hears about in third world countries, not in the western world – we’ve move beyond all that – catch my drift? I put more on my blog to keep from commenting too long.

  5. […] yet more on spiritual warfare This is in response to a post by ElShaddai Edwards and somewhat in response to Peter Kirk (whose comments I appreciate). […]

  6. Unless I’m misunderstanding it, I would add our own sinful desires (James 1:4) to physical, spiritual (demonic attack) or the pruning discipline of God (divine).

    I would say that all hardship would include God’s discipline (Hebrews 12:5) as defined by Thayer:

    1) the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment) It also includes the training and care of the body
    2) whatever in adults also cultivates the soul, especially by correcting mistakes and curbing passions.
    2a) instruction which aims at increasing virtue
    2b) chastisement, chastening, (of the evils with which God visits men for their amendment)

    So I would say at least two are always involved although the discipline may not be a cause but is always involved according to His providence and sovereignty. (possibly Lamentations 3:37-38 although this is regarding the disciplining of Israel)

    I would agree with Peter that there is no need to separate them and I would say that sometimes we shouldn’t even try because we just don’t know.

    Sometimes Satan can influence us to succumb to our own sinful desires which results in something physical happening and God uses it to discipline us.

    Just some musings subject to change.

    My wife had vertigo once. How awful for them.

  7. Good thoughts, Jeff – thanks for the comments, especially regarding discipline.

    Sometimes Satan can influence us to succumb to our own sinful desires which results in something physical happening and God uses it to discipline us.

    That’s worth chewing on – thank you.

  8. Peter Kirk says:

    I have just got back to reading blogs after a few days away. This is a fascinating discussion, thanks for carrying it on.

    I don’t think I’m saying Brian is wrong. Just, perhaps, that there is a bit more to this than he explicitly wrote.