I am currently reading, “Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin” by Cornelius Plantinga. It isn’t exactly what you find in your local Barnes and Nobles top reading list but nevertheless has won the Christianity Today book of the year award in 1996.
While finding it a fascinating study of sin, what stands out to me is that in 200 pages, the author only mentions the Devil on six pages. This, of course, fits in with modern society. While 90% believe in God in some manner or form and more than eighty percent affirm some form of Christianity, only about half believe there is a devil. I suspect that in mainline churches, the percentages might be even lower than 50%.
The challenge with this is how can we not believe in someone that Jesus did? Jesus encountered the devil in the wilderness. He also encountered him in everyday life (e.g. “Get behind me Satan” while Peter is talking to him). Jesus taught about him fairly regularly. Satan was real to Jesus.
It is logical in our 21st century world to stop believing in some being with pitch forks and a pointy tail ruling over some realm that looks like molten lava. But if we simply ascribe Satan in the Bible to our personal psychological weaknesses, I believe we are traveling far from the what the Bible teaches us. What ever “the devil” actually is, there absolutely seems to be a force (“powers and principalities” as Paul call them) that try to lure us off course.
One thing is for sure in the Bible. The devil is a loser. He has already been defeated when Christ was resurrected and we all know how the story is going to end (which won’t go well for him). But he must not quite realize it yet because as we look out at this world, there are many still chosing his side for whatever reason. Indeed and unfortunately, we all do at points.
If sin, as Plantinga defines it, is not the way it’s supposed to be – we need to be aware that there is a force out there trying to make us who we aren’t supposed to be as well. And we give that force great inroads if we deny its very existence.
Let’s not dismiss so readily something or someone Jesus himself taught about. And let us also remember that Jesus is on our side and he knows how to beat him.
All the best,