Why God Will Not Rid The World Of The Devil

Stanley Hauerwas ( Source )

Stanley Hauerwas (Source)

As previously stated at the end of the last post, Stanley Hauerwas wrote in his book Matthew, “That is why the devil is at once crafty but self-destructively mad, for the devil cannot help but be angry, recognizing as he must that he does not exist.”

The point being that the devil does not exist apart from other systems, structures and people. The devil does not exist outside of that which it is attached to. Like a parasite, the devil does not have the capacity to live outside of a host body. Thus, Hauerwas makes the case, this is maddening for the devil because the devil knows just how powerless the devil is.

The devil may not exist on its' own, but the presence and influence of the devil is felt. Which is why so many of us desire the end of the devil, but when we begin that work the tragic irony is revealed.

Even God will not rid the world of the devil.

The reason God will not eliminate the devil is because the force we call the devil, that does not exist without the life energy of other beings, is interwoven within humanity. It is like a tumor that has become entangled with vital organs. To remove the tumor the vital organs would be destroyed and the body would die. Given the option of killing the body or allowing the cancer to exist, God chooses not to kill the body but hold that body in God’s hands through the difficult times of life.

Because to destroy the a parasite so interwoven with creation, God would destroy the very creation God loves. The devil is crafty in so much that the devil figured out, even as a being that does not exist, how to survive.

Even Satan Knows He Does Not Exist

Photo by  NASA  on  Unsplash

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Pastor Brian Zahnd was explaining Satan to those of us who do not take the Satanvery seriously. Generally those are the people who are in the west, highly educated, wealthy, “rational” and suspicious of those things that are unscientific. A decent sized group of people.

In his efforts to explain the Devil, Zahnd described the way meteorologists would describe a hurricane. Hurricanes are powerful, destructive and are even given anthropomorphic names. But even as we name a hurricane, we know that the hurricane is the result of complex systems intermingling and colliding with each other. The hurricane cannot exist on its own.

Likewise Satan is powerful, destructive and given a name. We know that Satan is the result of complex systems intermingling and colliding with each other. As such, Satan cannot exist on its own. Satan is the result of the most complicated systems interconnected with the most complex animal on the planet.

Those of us who have read Stanley Hauerwas may recall how he wrote in his book Matthew, “That is why the devil is at once crafty but self-destructively mad, for the devil cannot help but be angry, recognizing as he must that he does not exist.”

Work of God, God's Work and the Work of the Satan

In the previous post I shared a bit of what I saw to be the difference in the Work of God and God's Work. As a reminder here is the short list:

  • Healing (Work of God)  ----  Resurrecting (God's Work)
  • Guiding (Work of God)  ----  Influencing (God's Work)
  • Sustaining (Work of God)  ----  Abiding with (God's Work)
  • Reconciling (Work of God)  ----  Transforming (God's Work)

In a couple of emails I was asked if I could identify the role of Satan in all this. Regardless if you believe in a literal being or not, I think everyone agrees there is evil in the world. Christians personify God as a way to talk about God but Christians also know that God is beyond the personifications made. For instance God is not male or female but we talk about God being so in order to express something about the nature of God and humans. Likewise, many Christians personify evil in the character of Satan. Christians also know that evil is not limited to the personifications expressed. For instance, Satan is not a half man/goat hybrid with a pitchfork. 

Taking the above list of the work of God and the Church, I added the work of Satan:

  • Healing (Work of God)  ----  Resurrecting (God's Work)  ----  Hurting (Satan's Work)
  • Guiding (Work of God)  ----  Influencing (God's Work)  ----  Dictating (Satan's Work)
  • Sustaining (Work of God)  ----  Abiding with (God's Work)  ----  Abandoning (Satan's Work)
  • Reconciling (Work of God)  ----  Transforming (God's Work)  ----  Dividing (Satan's Work)

In some ways, the distinctions of these different "works" can also be seen in the difference in symbolic, parabolic and diabolic.

Are we willing to be wrong in order to be loving?

You may know the story of what Jesus said in response to charges brought against the woman caught in adultery: "Those who are without sin cast the first stone." It is iconic in so many ways and functions for the Church as a standard for forgiveness, grace, mercy and creativity in the face of difficult situations. 

If you continue to read in John chapter 8, Jesus is engaged in a conversation with the powers that be. Here is the tail end of the conversation:

They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’

As you may be picking up in the story Jesus is echoing the story of when Abraham did not kill his son. Abraham may have thought that he heard God's voice tell him to go and kill his son, but when the time came to do that he was confronted with the reality that in fact, God desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).

The Pharisees and Scribes that are talking with Jesus are so convinced that they are correct in their understanding of the law and of what should happen to the woman caught in adultery and what should happen to Jesus that in their pursuit of being right they were willing to kill others in the name of "being correct". 

Abraham and the Pharisees were both convinced they were right in their understanding of the desire of God. Abraham was humble enough to recognize that he was wrong. The Pharisees were not.

Are we willing to be wrong in order to be loving? Are we able to admit we are wrong when our convictions lead us to kill, destroy, remove, scapegoat, or condemn another? 

As Ghandi said, "I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill."