Satan

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.”

Shifting the Marginalized

Recently I was in a conversation with a church member who shared their concern about shifting who we marginalize. This member said that they have been marginalized in their life and it was a terrible place to be. This member said that they have a concern that the conversations in the UMC around LGBTQI+ inclusion has been dominated by voices that are willing to shift who we marginalize rather than attempting to eradicate the very idea of having marginalized groups! 

Photo by  Ryan Searle  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ryan Searle on Unsplash

I heard this member express concerns that it will be the traditionalists who will be marginalized in the conversation. This was unsettling to this member even as they disagree with the traditionalist position. They could not imagine being a part of a church that would be willing to shift who we marginalize.

It is conversations like this that I have time and time again with members of the local church I am a part of that I offer as evidence to why I support the efforts of the Uniting Methodists. 

If we believe that the faithful way to eradicate angry racism toward people of color is to fight with angry racism toward whites then we truly are lost. Replacing one evil/Sin with the very same evil/Sin with different pronouns then the cycle of violence and scapegoating is alive and well. It is this cycle that Rene Girard identifies at Satan.

Satan, like Christ, is a title not a proper name. While Christ means "Anointed", Satan mean "Accuser." The more we accuse, blame, marginalize and scapegoat others the tighter grip the Satan has on us all. And so you may begin to see that to use tactics that divide people is the very first step to acting as the Satan (Accuser). 

If it is true that you just cannot abide with a community that you believe is doing things that are outside the Grace of God, then perhaps the most faithful response is to move closer to them rather than divide. For division is the second act of the Satan. The final act of the Satan is to move toward eradication of another. And when the other is eradicated, guess what, the Satan will desire another victim. 

Shifting who we marginalize is not the work of the Anointed. It is the work of the Satan. May we not shift the marginalized but rather remove the act of marginalizing. 

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.