I must admit the concept of the Devil/Satan intrigues me. I choose the word concept for a reason; since I’ve been in seminary there hasn’t been one mention or discussion on the subject, except in my classes on evangelism. I find this incredibly interesting that it would be discussed in my evangelism class and yet not discussed in either my biblical studies classes, nor my theology classes; likewise, I find it frustrating.
When I was in my Old Testament class last year the issue of divine judgment arose.
Divine judgment is an issue in Christian theology that needs to be dealt with, the Scriptures are full of numerous reference to judgment in someway shape or form. Unfortunately, the topic has been dealt with poorly; it has been used to denigrate others and therefore show God, and Christians/Christianity therein, in a very bad light. This bad light has resulted in a negative emotional response from people, and culture in general; however, it has also resulted in a negative emotional response from Christians as well, not to mention seminarian Christians.
Upon bring up the subject of judgment in class as it pertained to the Old Testament it was met with a very strong (albeit done in a mild manner) reaction. The reaction was specifically caused by a quote from Miroslav Volf:
“To the person inclined to dismiss it [divine judgment], I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone … Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: a Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect noncoercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a sorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.”
From what I can tell, the reason this caused such an emotional stir is because the idea of judgment simply hadn’t been actively engaged with, that is, dealt with. More than likely, because it had been dealt with emotionally, meaning, put on the back burner, if on the stove at all.
I bring up this instance of judgment because it relates to how the notion of the Devil/Satan is dealt with, by which I mean it isn’t dealt with. Like judgment, it has been used to denigrate others and cast God and Christians/Christianity in a negative light; and, like judgment, it has been dealt with emotionally, therefore does not get dealt with critically. At least divine judgment was brought up in a biblical studies class and was been covered tangentially in a history of Christian thought class, but the Devil… noticeably absent, well noticeable to me at least.
And I find this fact frustrating. I do wonder if it has been left out of my theology classes because those in the biblical studies have simply not dealt with it; the idea won’t come up in a theology class if those in biblical studies don’t bring it up to wrestle with it theologically. Regardless, the fact that it isn’t being brought up either means that it hasn’t been dealt with, or no one wants to deal with it; neither of these circumstances help me.
I will say that my education is teaching me to think theologically about Scripture and theology, which allows me to wrestle with it on my own, but theology is not a task that should be undertaken in isolation but in community. After all theology is not done in a vacuum even when it is done alone, its done within the individual’s context; what is needed is multiple contexts to come together and wrestle with theology.
My problem is that I don’t know of another context with which to wrestle with what the Scriptures say about Satan, no one more learned than I or a contemporary just as learned as I. I could come to my own conclusions (*and they would be amazing conclusions I assure you*) but the sheer fact that I want to deal with the issue separates me from others who simply don’t want to deal with it.
Ultimately, I think my conclusions would simply be beneficial for those who want to deal with it, not those who don’t. What I want is to come to a conclusion of some sort that can engage those who have been emotionally scarred by the doctrine of the Devil, because I haven’t been, and to do that I need to know more places to go to than where I came from.