We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded by your direct support for ReKnew and our vision. Please consider supporting this project.

war in heaven

Theology That Accounts for Terrorism

The general assumption of both the Old and the New Testaments is that the earth is virtually engulfed by cosmic forces of destruction, and that evil and suffering are ultimately due to this diabolical siege. Jesus defined himself and his ministry in terms of aggressively warring against Satanic forces. Both he and his disciples recognized that he had come to destroy the devil and his works.

In this light, it is quite peculiar that after Augustine, throughout the church’s history up to the present, very few thinkers conceived of Satan as being in any way relevant to, let alone central to, the solution of the problem of evil. In terms of arriving at an ultimate explanation for evil, after Augustine the question always gets filed under the category of God’s providence instead of under the category of spiritual warfare, that is under the topic of what Satan and rebel angel and fallen humans freely choose to do against God’s will.

With Augustine it becomes a problem of understanding evil as a part of God’s will.

By contrast, the NT and the early postapostolic church always thought of the world as being caught up in a cosmic battle and thus as saturated with horrifying suffering and diabolical evil. That is the final explanation for evil. While the NT and the early church fathers taught that God is the final “why” as to the existence of all things, after Augustine, it is assumed that God is the final “why” for how these things and beings existed.

But the NT locates the ultimate “why” of evil actions in the angelic or human beings who bring about those actions.

In a state of war, bullets fly, bombs explode, mines are stepped on, and children are maimed. War is hell. This is expected. The only real problem is in confronting the evil and in overcoming it.

At the same time, the warfare worldview is admittedly not a worldview that many modern people find easy to accept. To many contemporaries, the notion is preposterous that real, semi-autonomous, self-determining and invisible spirits exist that can and do influence our lives. The whole thing sounds more like something out of a Star Wars movie than like serious contemporary theology.

One of the primary reasons that this is the case is due to the adoption of a model of divine perfection, which was derived form Hellenistic philosophy by Augustine and other thinkers in the church.

For example, from Plato, Aristotle, and the subsequent Hellenistic tradition, the church arrived at the notion that God was altogether unmoved, impassible, immutable, nontemporal and purely actual. Yet it is precisely these features of the church’s doctrine of God that undermines the warfare worldview. On the basis of this model of God, a meticulous, sovereign, divine blueprint was postulated to encompass all temporal events, including the idea of a cosmic war with evil.

This, however, renders the war a sham. For a war that meticulously follows a blueprint that has been drawn up by one of the parties involved in the war (God) is hardly a real war.

—Adapted from God at War, pages 55-67

Image: The Fall of the Rebel Angels, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Related Reading

Podcast: Did the Devil Make Me Do It?

Greg peeks into the complexity of our spiritual world and offers wisdom for discerning spiritual activity. http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0299.mp3

Kingdom Revolution

To properly understand an action, you need to interpret it in the light of the social context in which it takes place. For example, if we were to hear about a white male offering his seat at the front of a bus to an African American woman, we would probably interpret this as a nice…

Topics:

The Nature of Human Rebellion

God placed Adam in the Garden and instructed him to “protect” it (Gen. 2:15). The word is often translated “till” or “keep,” implying that Adam’s main responsibility was to protect the pristine Garden from weeds. This is certainly a possible interpretation of this word, but in light of the cunning serpent that shows up in…

Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?

If asked why Jesus had to die on the cross, most Christians today would immediately answer, “To pay for my sins.” Jesus certainly paid the price for our sins, but it might surprise some reader to learn that this wasn’t the way Christians would answer this question for the first thousand years of Church history.…

Will Violence against ISIS Root Out Evil?

Image by arbyreed via Flickr Fallen humans tend to identify their own group as righteous and any group that opposes them as evil. If they were not evil, we tend to believe, no conflict would exist. Hence, the only way to end the conflict is to rid the world of this evil. This is the age-old “myth…

Aslan Roars: The Atonement as Spiritual Warfare

Greg begins to unpack the Christus Victor view of the atonement by comparing it to the Chronicles of Narnia.