More on the devil from last Sunday’s sermon

September 29, 2011

As I was preparing last Sunday’s sermon, I thought of this classic song by the late, great Keith Green called “No One Believes in Me Anymore.” You can count me as a former devil skeptic. Even as recently as seminary, I seriously doubted that Satan existed. And I was slightly embarrassed by the quaintness of the many New Testament passages that made reference to him or it.

Once, when I was sitting through a lecture on St. Augustine’s theology, the professor—an Oxford-educated Augustinian scholar named Lewis Ayres—made reference to Satan. I protested: “I don’t understand why we need a devil. I sin just fine on my own, without any outside interference! I’m certainly not going to say, ‘The devil made me do it.'”

Dr. Ayres replied, “Of course. But just because you don’t understand what Satan does or how Satan works in the world doesn’t mean that he doesn’t exist.”

And he was exactly right. What impressed me was that someone who knew much, much more about theology than I do was not embarrassed to say that he believed in the reality of the demonic. Of course it didn’t hurt that he said it with a beautiful English accent!

Enjoy the song. You’ll appreciate, I hope, what a great pianist and songwriter Keith Green was. He died in a plane crash in 1982.

2 Responses to “More on the devil from last Sunday’s sermon”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    Brent, excuse me if I am missing part or your sermons or posts where you deal with this subject of the devil or the demonic more thoroughly. I think the Bible is very clear that there is a devil, or Satan, and his “hordes,” the demons. I also agree, however, that James says every man who sins does so when he succumbs to his own lusts. So why the importance of demons?

    Paul says we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, which from the context is a reference to the fallen angels. I am drawn away by my own lust, but who is “tempting me” to follow that lust? Remember that Jesus, although led by the Spirit into the wilderness for the purpose, was nonetheless tempted by the devil, not God. As James also says, God cannot be tempted, neither does he tempt any man. I believe that many times the situation in which lust occurs is “engineered” by satanic hordes, even though they are subject to God’s control and purposes, and even though the “succumbing” or not is up to me. Jesus said to Peter that Satan had desired to sift him as wheat, and then Peter winds up warming himself by the fire and gets “recognized” as being a follower of Jesus, whereupon he succumbs to his fears and denies Christ.

    I also believe they “whisper in your ear” (speaking anthropomorphically) sometimes to get you on a path which can lead to sin if not “checked” by the “temptee.” (See the account where Satan stood up against Israel, where David “got the idea” to order a census, even though he was fully responsible for doing so.)

    Further, they often are responsible for disasters (in an “intermediate” role–God remains in control) which may on the one hand simply harass us, but also again may sometimes lead to temptation or “testing” to draw us into sin. See Satan’s discussions with God and the disasters inflicted on Job as a consequence. (There are several subsequent references to Job in scripture, including in the New Testament, which refute that account being merely some sort of “parable,” even if the “discussion in heaven” part is related in a bit of an anthropomorphic style.)

    Jesus also cast demons out of people. Those accounts sound nothing like simply healing someone with a mental illness, as some argue (being thrown to the ground, the demons asking Jesus if they could go into the pigs, etc.) So I think it is very difficult to argue that there is no Satan or demons with any kind of a “high” view of scripture, totally divorced from any “inerrancy” debate.

    God clearly uses “angelic intermediaries” throughout scripture, whether good or bad ones. Gabriel and Michael as good ones, for example, and the spirit that plagued Saul and the “lying spirit” in the case of Ahab as bad. This is similar to God using us as intermediaries to accomplish his purposes. Why should he do that in either instance? That’s up to him, but I don’t see why he should be any more restrained from, or have any less reason to, use angels, whether good or bad, in that capacity just as he does with men.


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