Thursday, October 30, 2014

Paranoid of Satan

There is a danger of Christians becoming paranoid of things demonic. This happened in the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods, resulting in the witch hunts. It seems to be happening again today. The problem is making Satan and his followers too strong and God too weak.

There are three views on the power of demons. One is that they have no power or do not exist. This is the traditional view of modern society, but we are drifting away from it. Many Christians buy into this view in some form. But this leads to complacency and ignores the Biblical warnings to be alert (Ephesians 6:10-13; 1 Peter 5:8,9; 2 Corinthians 11:2,3).

Or one can hold the Late Medieval view that sees demons as having great power to influence the world. They can change one thing into another and work serious harm, while God seems to be far off. This is contrary to the fact that Christ is victorious over evil (Colossians 2:15; 1 John 4:4; Luke 10:19). This leads to being afraid of demons and building conspiracy theories based on what they are doing. We see that same attitude at work today. If you want stir up a furor, suggest that something is connected to witchcraft or Satan worship. Now I do not want endorse these beliefs, but there are a large number of beliefs that are just as contrary to Christianity. And inventing vast conspiracies does not seem to be the right way to approach the issue. Nor is it helpful to become irate over things like Harry Potter or the Wizard of Oz. The truth is that the majority of books out there do not fit in with a Christian worldview. We need to learn to read all of them with our guard up. But to single out the ones that seem (often very questionably) to have some connection to witchcraft or Satanism is simplistic. Satan does not care who or what you worship as long as it is not God.

While Scripture does not teach the particulars, the view that makes the most sense to me is that of the early church fathers and the Early Middle Ages. This view is that demons have power, but it is limited. They do not really turn people into wolves or make them fly around on broomsticks, but put them into a trance where they think they have done such things. They do not really know the future, but there are a lot of them and they move about and communicate at high speeds, so they can make good guesses about what will happen. They cannot really make living things, but they can do some good sleight of hand that enables them to switch rods with snakes. But most of all, God is greater than they are and is in ultimate control of the world (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 43:13). It is only as we have God in perspective that we can avoid blowing demons out of proportion.

No comments:

Post a Comment