resist

Resisting Evil

The New Testament refers to Satan as the “god of this age” and the “ruler of the power of the air” (2 Cor 4:4; Eph.2:2). In the first century Jewish worldview, “air” referred to the domain of spiritual authority over the earth. The author, Paul, was thus saying that the spiritual environment of the earth is controlled by an anti-god and anti-life force! John goes so far as to say that Satan has power over the entire globe (I Jn 5:19) and that the devil leads “the whole world astray” (Rev. 12:9).

People often ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It’s an odd question really, given that Jesus promised us that bad things would happen, especially to “good people” (Jn 16:33). If we consider the fact that the Bible teaches a warfare worldview, it would stop surprising us when evil happens. In a war zone, you expect bad things to happen.

While few Christians would deny that Satan is in some sense the ruler of this world, since it’s so clearly taught in the New Testament, many nevertheless insist that everything Satan and every other free agent does fits into God’s divine plan that is governing every detail of world history. In this view, it’s not just the beautiful aspects of creation that glorify God. Everything, including evil events, ultimately contributes to the “glory of God.” God is ultimately behind it all.

As traditional as this view is, I frankly find it very disturbing.

Throughout history and yet today, very few Christians have seen themselves as belonging to a subversive resistance to evil—despite the clear teaching of the New Testament regarding the enemy-occupied status of the world. I frankly suspect that this God-is-behind-it-all theology is partly to blame. The belief that “evil” is ultimately controlled by a greater good tends to produce an attitude of resignation toward evil rather than an attitude of revolting against it.

Interestingly enough, there were many pagans in the ancient world before the time of Christ who believed every particular thing came to pass by a sort of cosmic necessity and that it all contributed to a greater good. The most well-known philosophical school espousing this view was known as “Stoicism.” Consistent with their determinism, Stoics advocated a form of piety that stressed peaceful resignation to all that afflicts humans rather than an on-going attempt to resist it.

How can you, and why would you, resist something you believe can’t be other than it is?

I suggest that Jesus had a very different mindset, as did most of the early Church fathers until the fourth century when St. Augustine advocated a Stoic view of providence. His view, unfortunately, more or less came to dominate Christian theology. This certainly wasn’t Jesus’ view.

When Jesus encountered people who were physically, socially, or spiritually oppressed, he never once encouraged them to resign themselves to their situation as a part of God’s mysterious plan. He rather viewed their various afflictions as the direct or indirect result of Satan’s will—and he resisted them.

For example, when Jesus confronted a Jewish woman with a deformed back, he asked, “should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free …” (Lk 13:16, emphasis added)? This is what we consistently find throughout the Gospels. Peter summarized Jesus entire ministry by saying he “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil…” (Ac. 10:38, emphasis added).

Far from supposing that things like diseases and deformities were part of a great divine plan or that they glorified God, Jesus revealed God’s will and glorified God by coming against these things! Jesus ministry was not about helping people accept the world as it is—as though it now reflected God’s will. His ministry was about helping people resist the world as it now is—in order to bring about God’s good will.

Photo credit: Voluntary Amputation via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Related Reading

What is the Warfare Worldview?

The warfare worldview is based on the conviction that our world is engaged in a cosmic war between a myriad of agents, both human and angelic, that have aligned themselves with either God or Satan. We believe this worldview best reflects the response to evil depicted throughout the Bible. For example, Jesus unequivocally opposed evils…

Knowing the Eternal God

If all our knowledge about God is to be oriented around the cross, as I argue in many places (see this post for instance), what does this mean for how we reflect on God’s transcendence? In other words, how can we speak of God’s eternal being since there obviously was no cross within God prior…

How do you respond to Isaiah 44:28–45:1?

This passage is one of the most persuasive evidences of divine foreknowledge in the Bible. The verse proclaims the Lord as the one “who says to Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall carry out all my purpose’; and who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall…

Neo-Molinism and the Infinite Intelligence of God

Classical Molinism holds that, since God is omniscient and knows all truths, he knows not only what every agent will do in the future, but also what every agent would have done in every other “possible world.” In this essay I argue that classical Molinism overlooked a whole category of truths that an omniscient God…

What Does God Look Like?

Thomas Hawk via Compfight Our good friend Jessica Kelley wrote this blog featuring sermons from Mark Moore about what God is really like. It’s a timely piece since Jessica is going to be preaching at Woodland Hills Church this weekend, and Mark Moore is attending the upcoming ReKnew conference and will be hosting a get-together with…

A Visit to Auschwitz

Ever since I first learned of the full horror of the Holocaust when I was a freshman at the University of Minnesota I have had a kind of obsessive fascination with it. I’ve studied every aspect of Hitler and the Third Reich and about the philosophy that led to their “Final Solution.” In fact, for…