Friday, May 19, 2006

the devil

Jim Martin has some helpful thoughts to remind us that God does hear his children's prayers, even when it seems especially difficult to pray, and that God is distant.

I now embark on a dangerous subject. As C.S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters points out: On the one hand you don't want to deny the devil's existence. On the other hand, you also don't want to be seeing the devil and his brood as the fact and factor in life (my paraphrase of what he's getting at). Also, I need to read Walter Wink's work on the powers. It is important to avoid a dualism that would ultimately minimize to oblivion the activities of either one world or the other.

I do believe in the existence of personal entities, including the devil, who are out to oppose the purposes of God in Christ. And are ultimately antihuman as well as antichrist.

Scripture acknowledges a personal intelligence using deception to deter humanity from faith in God towards either a languishing apathetic attitude that misses God's promise to and in them, or a pride that would ultimately see God as unnecessary to them or the world (see Mark Biddle's excellent book, Missing the Mark: Sin And Its Consequences in Biblical Theology).

"Satan" means opposer and the "devil" means slanderer. There is a host of demons in league with Satan. This is what these entities do. They oppose God's good purposes for humankind and slander God to humans, humans to God, and humans to humans (and God's good creation, as well).

Paul references them in Ephesians 6:10-18 in his passage on spiritual warfare. He makes it plain that the wrestling there is not against humans, but against entities at work in the world of humanity.

Paul, in dealing with a sin issue in the church at Corinth, tells the church to be sure to practice restoration of the repentant party, indicating that he is not unaware of Satan's schemes.

In Job, we have a remarkable story. What goes on behind the earthly scenes is between God and Satan. The story on earth involves scenes and settings that are made up of the stuff of this good and fallen world. The problem of evil. And God's silence, hand and work, in all of this. Job, from what we read there, never gets wind of a devil or demons he would then, have to take into account and fight against. But clearly, that aspect is not hidden from us. James in looking back at it for us, says we should learn from the perseverance of Job when suffering, and the Lord's compassion and mercy in blessing him in the end (5:10-11)

In Jesus, we have the victory of God over all the powers of this world and of the spiritual world interacting with us. We need not fear them. But, just as we need to better understand our own fallen propensities, so we need to understand that there are entities, which would fan these propensities into flame against God and his good will. Note how Jesus puts to flight the devil in the wilderness, in the same way we can (Matthew 4:1-11).

So back to Jim Martin's posting: he doesn't mention the devil, and has no need to necessarily do so in that context. You can read whole books in the New Testament that may mention this entity once or a few times, but for the most part in their content do not. Again, we need to be careful not to pay overdue attention to him, as I'm in danger of doing, by blogging on this subject today. But neither do we want to fail to take this entity into account as we look at life, temptation and evil in this world. And what God has given us to resist and triumph over it.

Jesus, We thank you that you have won the victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. We who are in you are in that victory. Let us truly follow your example and leading, by the Spirit. Help us not to give the devil and his minions more than they are due, but let us take into account your revelation in Scripture concerning them. Keep us in your love and grace and power. Amen.


rob horton said...


Desert Pilgrim said...

Very good piece, especially in view of the current darkness which is increasing. There is a very real warfare out there that is as you said, not only anti- Christ, but anti-human, a very profound statement. I think that is why we see love waxing cold. Nevertheless, we look for a Hew Heaven and a New Earth wherein dwelleth righteousness!
Desert Pilgrim

Ted Gossard said...

Thanks for stopping by again.

Desert Pilgrim,
Thanks. Amen. We do look forward to that!