"I can resist anything except temptation" Oscar Wilde

Just what is meant by temptation? Wikipedia suggests that it is a harmful act that looks appealing to an individual. It is usually used to describe acts with negative connotations and as such, tends to lead a person to regret such actions. Temptation also describes the coaxing or inducing a person into committing a negative act. In advertising, temptation is a theme common to many marketing and advertising techniques to make products more attractive for purchase by consumers. Temptation is also used in a loose sense to describe actions which indicate a lack of self control and as something that allures, excites, and seduces someone.

It has been argued that temptation in itself is not wrong or harmful and that only when consented to does the enticement to wrong become harmful. Former President Jimmy Carter once remarked that he had ‘lusted in his heart’. Was this an example of internal temptation even though he did not act? Can temptation have a positive purpose? For example, can it show and prove our own weaknesses on the one hand, and on the other hand humble us and to make us more understanding and compassionate toward others? Does it strengthen virtue in any way, as a storm might strengthen an oak tree?

What are your reflections on Temptation?

February, 28, 2007


Maureen said...

Re Jimmy Carter - I think he might say that temptation actually has value!

Wasn't the point he was making that if there was no temptation, then he would not have overcome it and thereby would have not had an opportunity to strengthen his faith?

A later president might have done better to have followed the same course!

D. Putin said...


Don’t start me on temptation! I just moved to DC and I can tell you this is worse than Las Vegas – except LV has at least some entertainment value to its temptations. Jimmy Carter was a good man but they got him out quick – he couldn’t be tempted. Clinton took the bait on everything and what did the voters care! At least Carter wouldn’t take any money and hide it in his fridge – only congressmen here can do that and then get to ride on airforce one to boot. Anybody ever thought what tempted Bush and Rummy to take us into Iraq? I haven’t figured it out – it wasn’t the nukes! They were either after the oil or revenge!


Maureen said...

Dave: What do we have to do to get them to fix social security, medicare, and medical insurance before they bankrupt my grandchildrens' futures? If it takes a wad of cash in their fridges it might be worth it ;-) You can call it temptation if you want but maybe it would be better to look at it as an investment.

Sorry but I have become completely cynical about that bunch ever accomplishing anything excepting building hoards of cash to run for office. Maureen

desmond said...

Not so sure that President Jimmy actually manages to avoid giving way to temptation--In Matt 5 v 28 we see that lust equals adultery. On that basis, I guess that it is pretty widespread!
Perhaps that is why the Bible appears to teach that we need to be "saved" as there is NO chance of seeing Heaven by just behaving ourselves. Can't be done.

D. Putin said...

"There is NO chance of seeing Heaven by just behaving ourselves"

Are you serious? What if you are a faithful Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist? Did you say that your bible only 'appears to teach' you that or do you really mean it DOES teach you that?

Hey Maureen - get used to it. None of them down here is going to touch SS or MC with a pole - they make money in power not out of it. Most of them are rich enough they don't have to worry about minor things like health insurance or SS.


desmond said...

To Putin--Not sure what being a faithful Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist has to do with anything--why not a faithful car mechanic?

Jesus Christ stated (John 14 v 6) that the Way to the Father (God) is found only through believing in Him and I take it that He meant this to apply to car mechanics, Muslims et al.

"appears to teach" means that's how I understand it. Others may disagree with this interpretation.

D. Putin said...

Hi Desmond:

OK - I'm happier with that - you are not being exclusive! But if I live a good life as say an atheist why would I not be accepted into heaven (assuming of course that there is one)? Why would I be rejected if I honestly could not believe in the existence of God and then it turned out that I was wrong. Didn't Jesus also say in Matthew Chapter 6 that if you forgive others their trespasses you will be forgiven for yours? As I see it a loving God would accept an honest atheist who has lived a moral life if his belief in atheism was also honestly held.

Incidentally, just for the record, I am not an atheist.


Desmond said...

Hi Dave. In Matt 6 Jesus was addressing His disciples (refer to Matt 5 v 1 for context) therefore His teaching on forgiveness was to those who were already His followers.

As to the acceptance into Heaven of "honest atheists"-I still refer back to Jn 14 v 6 and see no way around that.

Mind you, in Matt 19 vv 23-26, when Jesus' disciples were amazed as to what they perceived was the almost impossible standards required to enter the Kingdom of God, Jesus replied "for God everything is possible"........

As for someone who "honestly could not believe" in the existance of God--in Hebrews 11 v 6 we read that "without faith it is impossible to please God and that HE REWARDS THOSE WHO SEEK HIM".

My view therefore, based upon that scripture, would be that an truly seeking atheist would be rewarded in his search by a loving God.

D. Putin said...

Desmond, Sorry but you have me confused. You quote John seeing no way round the problem and then quote Hebrews saying God rewards people who seek him.

So I still don't get where you think my 'honest atheist' will end up? There is another thread on this website about Marcus Borg. His view is that the NT trumps everything so with this view it looks like my 'honest atheist' is excluded.

I just can't accept that - the whole of the NT tells the story of how Jesus associated with the marginalized, the weak etc - and I would include under 'weak' people who might not be great religious thinkers (my honest atheist friend).


Desmond. said...

In the context of your question,is the phrase "honest Atheist" not an oxymoron? As far as I know, An Atheist rejects God which in light of the Hebrews teaching means he/she has not sought Him.

On the other hand, were you to have wondered about an "honest agnostic" I would have thought that as he/she are still seeking, Jesus' promise of "seek & you shall find" (Matt chapt 7 v 7)would apply.

Joan Ferguson said...

Dave, I’m with you (I think) on this one though I think the only correct position is to say that we are all agnostic. I don’t know if the Big Bang is correct – in fact it might be that the universe always existed and therefore everything is moot (hope I spelled that right!) there is no beginning and no end and therefore no creator or creation. . Is there anything we know for certain except things like 1 plus 1 is 2? The rest is belief and sometimes what we believe is right and what we believe turns out to be wrong. So if there is a God, and I live with that belief, I can’t see why he would punish me just because as a human I was too stupid to get my belief system right in this life especially with the limited brain capacity that we have as humans. Anyway, sorry to ramble on. Joan

D. Putin said...

Desmond, let's put the 'honest atheist' to one side for the moment. What about a Buddhist?


Desmond. said...

Dave--Romans chapt 10 vv 9-12.

Joan Ferguson said...

Re Romans 10 1) I doubt Paul knew any Buddhists! 2) That may be Paul's view but that is no proof that his belief is God's view on the matter. 3) What about all of the other people living on the earth in Paul's time - say the inhabitants of present day France or Russia who might have never have heard of Paul or his message from Romans! Those are rhetorical questions - I think I know your position on the matter. I just don't subscribe to it but I respect your right to hold it.

Re the honest atheist guy, I think the same thing applies!


Desmond said...

Hi Joan.
Interested to hear your views.
May I enquire
1) To which "belief system" do you adhere?
2)What is your view on the Old & New Testaments in respect of whether (as most Christians believe) they are the inspired Word of God?

I ask so that I may consider your comments in context.

May I quote the reference from Rom 10 to which I referred?

"The scripture says'Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed'. This includes everyone, because there is no difference between Jews & Gentiles;God is the same Lord of all & richly blesses all who call to Him. (Good News Bible)

I believe this "all" to mean "all".

Paul,in fact, quotes from the Old Testament and therefore (depending upon what you think of that, I suppose)is not just expressing his own opinion as I think you suggest.

(It has just occurred to me thst this "blog" was meant to be about temptation---oops)

By the way, I can't find the word blog in my dictionary. Can anybody help with the definition please?

D.A. said...

Quote: Joan Ferguson said...

"Dave, I’m with you (I think) on this one though I think the only correct position is to say that we are all agnostic."


"I don’t know if the Big Bang is correct – in fact it might be that the universe always existed and therefore everything is moot (hope I spelled that right!) there is no beginning and no end and therefore no creator or creation. . "

Small problem with that infinite universe theory - if the Universe is infantly old everything that was going to happen would have already happened and the night sky would be filled with light - look up Olbers' paradox. (On a side note I don't think the Big Bang model is correct)

"Is there anything we know for certain except things like 1 plus 1 is 2? "

Does it? Can you prove that? Do "1" and "2" actually exist?

"The rest is belief and sometimes what we believe is right and what we believe turns out to be wrong. So if there is a God, and I live with that belief, I can’t see why he would punish me just because as a human I was too stupid to get my belief system right in this life especially with the limited brain capacity that we have as humans. Anyway, sorry to ramble on. Joan "

Just because you "can't see why" God would do that doesn't mean he won't. As you said we have a very limited brain capacity - we can't understand why he would do it but it could be said he has told us he will!

Joan Ferguson said...

Desmond and d.a. My belief system is basically non fundamentalist .. liberal, but sometimes both of those labels have some bad meanings to others. I grew up Catholic but as an adult I left .... there was too much dogma and guilt. That’s why I steer clear of any fundamentalism. I think we all have a different belief about God though I don’t exactly understand what God is. I’m getting there in my own way. There is a book by Borg on this website ... I have read his stuff and I am comfortable with some of it though he seems to throw out a lot that I won’t. I have also read Bishop Spong’s books ... he is a bit too way out for me. I have some sympathy for the Bishop Holloway’s position which I also see mentioned here – he was a fundamentalist believer who lost his faith to atheism and now sees himself moving back towards the middle of these extremes. He seems to be probing himself and what he believes and I like that. As to questions of the universe I am not really up on them but when I read about multiple universes and strings and multiple dimensions etc in magazines I think the physicists are all probing around too. The bottom line is that I don’t think anyone or any organization has the complete picture but that is ok with me. That’s about it. Joan

Ps: Enough about me ... I’m surprised all of this is on a thread about temptation! That’s the topic I’m interested in.

Desmond. said...

Joan--thanks for your response, but not sure I'm any wiser really as I have not read Borg or Bishop Holloway.

Still not sure what you believe about the Bible.

Am always intrigued as to why so many want to read what others think about the Bible, when it is available to us all to read for ourselves and, dare I suggest, to study,with an open mind and a willingness to be influenced by the Spirit of God.

Would be interested to hear your views on that.

(do YOU know the definition of BLOG?)

Peter said...

Satirist and writer Armando Iannucci's had a piece on Radio 4 here in Britain on temptation.

You can read the whole thing here ....


The part of it that I got a kick from said:

“At a very early age I discovered that there was a silly side to temptation. I used to quite avidly give things up for Lent (as a boy it was Cadbury's Creme Eggs) thinking this was good for the soul, then I discovered a Lenten loop-hole. Lent lasts forty days, but is stretched across six and a half weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. That's forty-six days. Lent is longer than it says it is. I later found out that the six Sundays in Lent don't actually count. So, technically, during Lent you give things up six days a week but are free to gratify yourself senseless on a Sunday, or, in my case, gorge yourself stupid on six Creme Eggs. It's a theological worm-hole, an ecclesiastical scandal up there with anything described in The Da Vinci Code, which is why I've no reservation about revealing it to you now, and why, when I was recently asked back to talk to the pupils of my old Jesuit-run secondary school, I experienced a curious thrill revealing it to the entire junior school in front of their ecclesiastical staff.

A bit of harmless fun, wasn't it? Or was it showing off? And what of the next stage, where I mock not only religious practice, but religious belief?

I find it funny, for example, that an American born-again Christian can condemn abortion, advocate the right to life, and yet support capital punishment and the right to carry guns. I find it funny that, as Adam Curtis narrated in his documentary series The Power of Nightmares, there was a militant Islamic group so fundamentalist that they ended up arguing that everyone should be killed, including all Muslims apart from themselves. I find it amusing that whenever you switch on 'Sunday', Radio 4's weekly religious affairs programme, you generally get a bitter argument between three different types of Christian.

It's the most tantalising temptation in the world to conform to the enlightened consensus that all those who subscribe to religion are out of touch with reality.

But I wonder if that form of sweeping assessment is not the worst temptation of the lot? To judge in advance, to categorise someone's personality and morality according to the group to which they belong? To place a big cartoonist's label on them before they speak?

The things that annoy me are the things that deny or restrict our humanity. But isn't the religious impulse itself an intensely human activity? Practically every tribe, every community in any continent has come up with a system of beliefs in the supernatural or other-worldly. Man defines himself almost by being the only creature capable of thinking about a set of values greater than himself. It's what makes humanity rather marvellous. Attack religion for being irrational, and you also have to question everything we do that's irrational. That includes clapping at a concert, singing at a football match, saluting, two-minute silences, birthday parties, in fact any communal act or ritual that designates or celebrates something other than itself. We technically don't need these things to survive. Technically, we don't need songs, or stories, or soap operas, or sermons. We don't need them. They're silly. We don't need jokes. Humour isn't essential for our survival. Yet, we have an appetite for them. That's a human thing. Religion celebrates our humanity. To err may be human, but so is to worship.

What we do with religion, however, is up to us. There's no doubt we're bound to get a lot of it badly wrong which is just as well, otherwise I'd have nothing to joke about. And how can I resist that temptation? After all, I'm only human.”

Take Care,

Avid Reader said...

There is an interesting review of the book Eve's Exegetes: Victorian women on Genesis reviewed by Timothy Larsen who is a visiting fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge University.


In his review Larsen discusses how the temptation scene in the story of the Garden of Eden is viewed from the female perspective. He writes:

“Again and again, it strikes them (women) that Eve is less culpable than Adam. Hannah Mather Crocker, a granddaughter of the leading Puritan divine, Cotton Mather, averred: "It does not appear, from his own account, that Adam withstood the temptation with more fortitude than Eve did; for she presented the fruit, and he received it without hesitation; but it is plain she did not yield immediately, though the most subtle agent of the devil told her that her eyes should be opened."

Ever, DM