Book Plunge: Demons and Spirits In Biblical Theology

What do I think of Walton and Walton’s book published by Cascade Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A few months ago John Walton and his son released this book. It’s a bit different from their usual work seeing as there’s not a list of propositions being affirmed and that it doesn’t just focus on the Old Testament, but it also focuses on the New Testament. The work is meant to examine what the Bible means when it talks about demons and spirits.

This book is sure to cause some controversy if it hasn’t already. Walton and Walton think that a lot of what we believe about demons is wrong. The Bible is not meant to teach us any kind of demonology as the beliefs about the demons came from the culture much like one could talk about geological beliefs about the shape of the Earth and the nature of creation without having that be meant to give us scientific details.

This involves looking at the systems of thought that existed in Biblical times. This also means looking at what is going on when gods are invoked or prayed to in other cultures. Some texts of the Old Testament indicate that these could be to demons. Is that really the case?

There’s also a lot of talk about spiritual warfare. What is really going on in that? We have a look at the Daniel 10 passage where Michael says he was upheld by the Prince of Persia. It’s an odd passage in many ways and one frequently cited. I don’t want to tell the look the Waltons give of this. You need to read it for yourself.

They also look at the Serpent in the Old Testament. Is this really the devil? There could possibly be references in the book of Revelation that indicate that, but the creature doesn’t seem to be mentioned anymore in the Old Testament text. This will also include examinations of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book I found was when they talked about the problem of evil. While Christians of the past did have something to say about evil, it wasn’t really considered a major issue like it is today until the time of the Enlightenment. This is very similar to something David Wood said to me when I interviewed him for the first time on my show.

What changed? The Enlightenment sent us the message that human happiness was the greatest good. This doesn’t mean that human happiness doesn’t matter to God, but is it on the same level we would put it on? The problem for us is we think if God is doing what He “ought” to be doing, then we shouldn’t be seeing this evil. God actually becomes a means to our happiness and we judge His commitment to us by how our lives are going. That’s why some people walk away from their faith at this point which is, in essence, firing God. They get something out of it that they don’t think they get in Christianity.

The Waltons also say this doesn’t serve the cause of what they call conflict theology, where God is fighting against the ways of the devil as classically understood, in a good light. Too often, it is easy to say that people do great evil because of demonic inspiration. I’m not one to say demons aren’t always involved, but enough times the old adage is true. Lead me not into temptation, I can find it on my own. We’re good enough at finding evil ourselves.

There’s another concern with this also. It’s this idea that if we just removed demons from the scene, none of us would really choose to do evil. I find the same thing happening when we have a mass shooting and we talk about mental health. If we can just remove the mental health, well then everything will work out perfectly and no evil will take place.

There’s a lot to think about here. I’m not convinced on every point just yet, but there is stuff to think about. I look forward to seeing what other scholars say in response to this important work and dialogue starting about the topic of the devil and demons.

If there’s something else I would have liked more on, I would have liked something on the holy angels, seeing as those I think would be included as spirits. Maybe that will be in another work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Maybe It’s Not The Devil

Do we give too much power to the devil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I was at my small group when someone asked me about Preterism. What about Revelation 20? I told them I’m of the opinion that the devil is bound right now. I got asked about all the evil that is still in the world today.

I pointed out that Jesus in the middle of His ministry said the Kingdom of God was among the people and yet He was having to cast out demons. I could have added that Psalm 110:1 says that Jesus sits at the right hand of God until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. 1 Cor. 15 goes on to say the last enemy is death. John 12 has the prince of this world being cast out.

This got us to talking about temptation which is something I notice regularly happening with Christians. So many Christians I know think that whenever they are tempted, that means the devil has to be working on them. I mean, yeah, that has to be it. It can’t be that you yourself are a fallen and sinful human being. Obviously, if that devil would just leave you alone, you’d be walking around living like a saint entirely as you would never be tempted.

Scripture regularly tells us that our hearts are the problem. The devil can hypothetically tempt us of course, but as the old saying goes, “Don’t lead me into temptation. I can find it by myself.” We don’t really need much encouragement to do evil. We’re pretty good at finding it ourselves.

If we keep blaming the devil, we never get to the real problem. There’s something inside of ourselves that needs fixing. If we look at an external problem as the great cause of our being tempted, we can’t do the self-examination that we should be doing.

It also leads us to some form of pride. This is just how important I am. The devil is going after me to stop me from doing what I should be doing. The problem isn’t us. It’s the devil.

We could also ask what difference does it make? A man sits down at his computer and is tempted to look up internet pornography. Doesn’t he have to pray to stand strong and resist the temptations of the flesh regardless? Why not just work on that to begin with?

When we do this kind of thing, it can lead us to a sort of Christian dualism where we think the devil and God are equal and opposite partners. They’re not. If my eschatology is correct, the devil is bound now and while there is still some demonic activity going on, it is much lower than it was.

I honestly think too many of us in the church are spending way too much time focusing on the devil instead of Jesus. I also, since we’ve said something about eschatology, think we spend more time trying to figure out who the antichrist is than figuring out who the Christ is. Scripture calls us to be sober-minded. There’s no need to be paranoid about the devil every step of the way. Work out the evil in your own heart with the work of the Holy Spirit in you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Redemption Of The Pagan

Should we be concerned if something has a pagan origin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s that time of year again. Halloween is going to be here in a few weeks and what’s being said about that? Pagan. Just yesterday a friend shared with me that a well-known Christian apologist is sharing a bogus meme from Anton Lavey that I wrote about last year. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence we’ve seen that the quote comes from LaVey, but oh well.

Before too long, it will be Christmas. What will people be saying about that in Christian circles? That’s right. Pagan.

You know, for people who seem to want to be wary of anything that has to do with magic, pagan is thrown around like it’s a magic word to get people to have nothing to do with whatever is in question.

A lot of people do this with the devil as well. Feeling tempted? There’s one reason. Satan! The devil is going after you! The problem with this is that it assumes unknowingly that if the devil was removed from the picture, that you would not have a sinful human nature that would be tempted. You would live your life sin-free if only the devil wasn’t constantly on your shoulder. It’s also interesting that it’s always the devil. It’s never a low-ranking demon or something like that. We practically treat the devil as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent when we do this.

Many of us know enough of our own nature. If we were absolutely convinced the devil or demons were not tempting us, we would still be tempted. If we want to know why we’re tempted to sin, the devil isn’t the problem. We are the problem. We have a sinful nature.

Let’s start talking though about this problem with paganism. One aspect of Christianity is that God did not come into this world to save sinners, although He certainly did that. He came into this world to save the world. He wanted to redeem everything. The world is His creation. He wants to save it and rule it all.

That includes every day of the calendar. That includes every culture. There is nothing in this world that God does not intend to rule. When we go into a pagan culture, we seek to redeem everything then. As the hymn says, this is our Father’s world.

In fact, if you think that you should avoid anything that has the taint of evil on it supposedly, then look in the mirror. Your origins Biblically aren’t the best. We were once slaves to sin and death reigned over us. Think you can get much better than that? We are now a new creation in Christ.

Redeeming a culture is child’s play to what it took to redeem us. It took the death of the Son of God. When we act like something is irredeemable because of its origins, then we have a hard time with ourselves. Ultimately, I don’t care what a pagan intended to do with XYZ. I care about why I do it.

Christians. Please stop living in fear. Just stop it. Christ came so that you could be victorious. There’s no need to be cowering. Don’t give the devil more power than he has. Christ defeated Him 2,000 years ago. Start living in victory today.

And once again, if you must share something, please check up on it. In fact, just now, my friend Jeff Harshbarger commented on this story. What he did was something odd. He actually sought out the source material himself. (Yeah. Bizarre thought. Who knew?) Here’s the result.

Re: Contact Form Submission from the Church of Satan Website

Administration <administration@churchofsatan.com>
To
far468@bellsouth.net
Today at 1:43 PM
No. Since Satanism is not devil worship, LaVey would not say such a thing.

On 10/8/17, 12:21 PM, “Church of Satan” <administration@churchofsatan.com> wrote:

Name: Jeff Harshbarger

Email: far468@bellsouth.net

Comments: Did Dr. LaVey actually make this statement? I’m glad that
Christian parents let their children worship the devil at least one
night out of the year.

Please be living in truth people. Do that, and you have no need to fear. Yes. It’s something we all still have to work on. Check your history when making a historical claim and remember, if God can redeem you, who knows what else He can redeem.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 3

Does the idea of the devil make sense? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The next chapter in Zuersher’s book is on the devil. The first question Zuersher asks is why would an omnipotent God need helpers? Again, this falls into the category of “God does something I don’t understand. Therefore, He doesn’t exist.” It also assumes that everything that is done is done out of need. Why should I think that?

The interesting thing about an atheist giving theological objections like this is you want to ask how it is they did their theology. What criteria did they use? Did they go out and study the best works they could find, or did they just sit down one day and think about things and see what they thought was a hole and ran with it?

He also says angels don’t fit into monotheism. How? Your guess is as good as mine. This is a mistake even Rodney Stark makes in his latest book Why God? It’s thought that Jews, Christians, and Muslims aren’t true monotheists because we believe in beings like angels, but monotheism means belief in one God. It doesn’t exclude other spiritual beings.

Zuersher also says God could have created angels with a nature more like His own. Who is to say He didn’t? He couldn’t create them with a nature exactly like His because a created being will always have limitations, such as dependence on another for their existence. Creating a being doesn’t mean that God necessitates how that being will behave. That’s part of free-will.

He also says that the snake being the devil creates problems, such as why punish snakes? The answer is simply that the language spoken of the devil in this passage is that of shaming. It’s not making a categorical statement about snakes for all time.

Ironically, he does get something right. He does point out that the word for devil does mean adversary. This means many times what the Old Testament translates as satan could best be read as the adversary. It’s sad that the paragraph after this, he ignores the very suggestion he made in order to get at a contradiction he sees.

This is the account of the census in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. In 1 Chronicles, satan is said to be responsible while in 2 Samuel, God is. Who is responsible? My solution is to say that satan refers to an adversary that God allowed to be raised up. David decides this is a good time to count his fighting men in response. Had Zuersher followed the rule in the very prior paragraph, he could have found a solution to what he considers an embarrassing contradiction and passages that are generally avoided.

The same would apply to Balaam’s donkey. The term used to describe the angel is a term that is translated as lesatan. Again, this can refer to an adversary. If you read it like this, the problem vanishes. Balaam is on his way and he encounters someone who opposes him.

So how did the devil enter into the system to begin with? Zuersher says that during the exile, Jews came into contact with Zoroastrianism and got the devil from them. We would really like to see the hard evidence of this. For someone who doesn’t accept oral tradition easily, why accept the claims of what Zoroaster taught when those really come to us from the time AFTER Christianity?

Finally, some people might want to say who are Chrisitans that the devil is behind works like Zuersher. I would say if so, the devil could find much better argumentation to use. Too many Christians have a tendency to blame the devil for everything and make him quite often on par with YHWH. Unfortunately, such fixation on the devil gives people like Zuersher more ammunition.

In Christ,
Nick Peters