“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled…”

a-light-in-the-darkness“…was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” ~Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects

Roger Olson reflected a few days ago on the curious absence of any discussion of Satan in modern theology. He even speculated:

I suspect that one reason Greg Boyd, a brilliant theologian, is not taken as seriously as he should be by many evangelicals is his obvious, “up front,” blatant belief in a very personal, very real, very active Satan who has great power in the world. And he believes in “spiritual warfare,” something that scares most evangelicals (to say nothing of mainline, liberal Protestants!).

Roger also suggests a possible role of Calvinism in this downplaying of the reality of Satan:

I think Calvinism tends to downplay the reality and power of Satan by reducing Satan to an instrument of God. Luther said that “The devil is God’s devil.” Calvinism generally agrees with that. The idea is that God alone is sovereign so the devil must somehow be an instrument of God in the “big plan” to glorify himself.

As I read the New Testament, however, Satan is no instrument of God but God’s enemy (and ours). In order to avoid dualism, many intellectual Christians have abandoned Satan altogether or absorbed Satan into God (or at least God’s will and plan). I, too, want to avoid dualism, but I don’t know how or why Satan is real and powerful and “the prince of this world.” All I can say with confidence is that he is a conquered enemy of God who is still causing a great deal of chaos. Why God allows it, I don’t know. That’s God’s business. That he will eventually take away all of Satan’s power and free us from his influence lies at the heart of biblical hope.

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