Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Know Thy Enemy, Part 1: Introduction

When he wrote The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis lamented that Christians at his time tended to have one of two opposite views of demons – either they did not believe them to exist, or they had an unhealthy fascination with them.

Today I think the church is in a different place, at least among evangelicals. Most evangelicals I know do rightly believe in the devil and his demons, and have a healthy fear of him. Where we seem to fail today is that evangelicals tend to assume that everything bad which happens is due to a spiritual attack. I have heard Christians flippantly dismiss the reality of clinical depression, saying that it is not a chemical imbalance but rather a matter of spiritual weakness—"you just aren’t strong enough” to resist the devil’s attacks like the rest of Christians. I have heard some say that the reason that they fell into an affair was because of Satan (rather than their own sinful nature). I have heard some say that the devil brought storms into town in order to try and keep people from attending their church’s service—but that God was able to divert the storm and protect their church (apparently He was not strong enough to save the church down the road, though, which was destroyed by the same storm).

Could the devil do all of the things listed above? Yes – as you will find out. But you will also find out that this is not the ‘normal’ mode of operation. The devil is not Jesus’ evil twin, with Jesus and he battling day-to-day and Jesus winning the war while the devil wins the battles. Nor is the devil the cause of your sinfulness—you cannot blame him for your failures.

What you will learn is that the devil is very real, and he is very active. But he is not what most Christians think he is, and he is not doing what most Christians think he is doing. Christians today have taken a whole lot of medieval superstitions, misinterpretations, and bad theology and used them to build a wrong-headed view of our enemy. And if we do not know our enemy, then we cannot properly fight him.

So in this series, let’s find out what Scripture really says about the devil.

When we discuss the devil in Scripture, there are a number of different titles that are used, and we will investigate them all during this series. These titles are: Adversary (satan), Slanderer (diabolos), Lord of the Flies (Beelzebub), the serpent (ho ophis ho archaios), the prince of power/god of this world, Adversary (antidikos), the Dragon (drakon), the Tempter (peirazon), and the Wicked One (poneros). In Revelation 12:9, we are explicitly told that several of these names refer to the same individual person (drakon, ophis, diabolos, and satan). We will discuss each of these in a separate post, and then conclude with a discussion about demons and a discussion about hell.

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