Friday, December 4, 2020

Temptation and Anti-temptation

Epistemic status: provisional.

A temptation is when you feel a pull toward doing something bad. The pull has something to do with who you are (often), but is other than you. Perhaps this pull is experienced as thoughts, or as hungers, or feelings -- anything that can have power over your decision-making process. You don't have to give in to temptation, but you are more likely to do bad or become bad when tempted. A real temptation (as opposed to being overcome by a spirit) never forces you to do something wrong, but it does correlate with and partly cause your free decision to do wrong. Or perhaps rather than causing your decision, it only occasions it. But without the occasion, the decision would not have happened, and it would not have altered you or your life.

In MSLN terms, a temptation pulls you away from God, from connection with God, loyalty to God, valuing God, love of God. But an anti-temptation is like a temptation, except that it biases you toward connection with God, loyalty to God, valuing God, loving God (and thus obeying and honoring God, among other consequent pursuits). It doesn't make up your mind for you or force you to do or be good apart from who you really are, how you really choose. Perhaps sometimes the Holy Spirit overcomes us so that we are encouraged in our religious walk, or to enable us to do things that we are not good enough to do, because those things are things God needs to get done through us in the moment. But these indwellings, if so strong as to be "not of us", aren't what I would call anti-temptations. Sometimes the Spirit can create an environment in us in which we are anti-tempted, thus in which we still have some ability to not seek God or to not do the right thing.

You can get yourself into a rut by giving in to temptations, but get out of it by giving in to anti-temptations. Anti-temptations are not only "given in to", but also "affirmed" -- maybe more commonly in order to participate in them we must affirm them, rather than giving in to them. Martin Buber's idea of "good as whole-souled decision" is what anti-temptation calls for. Anti-temptation does not feel the same as temptation, is made out of a different material, as it were. Generally the "giving in" of anti-temptation feels different from that of temptation.

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