Editor's Note: Clarion will be posting Michael Hardin's 20-episode series (excerpted from What the Facebook? vol. 1) on The Satan as a weekly release, each Thursday. CLICK HERE for the full pdf or kindle document.
(1) Why this series on the satan?
I am often asked about the devil or the nature of evil or why there is evil in this world. Some folks would prefer that I do not talk overmuch about this. They say, since Jesus has defeated the devil, we should not give it too much air time. They are correct. As Karl Barth observed, the Bible only mentions the devil to dismiss him. However, the Bible does mention the devil so we too, even as we dismiss its/his presence and work. We must first clear away some misconceptions in the first few posts and note that the concept of the devil has a history.
Before I begin, however, I will lay my cards on the table so that as you follow along you will not be too surprised at what you will see. Primarily what I will be doing in these posts is seeking to work out an understanding of evil from a human perspective. If you are familiar with my writings you will know that the mimetic theory of Rene Girard informs how I read the Bible. I read it first as an anthropological text and then (and only then) as a theological one. The cross before the resurrection as it were.
As we begin this journey I hope you will find that reframing our understanding of the devil contributes greatly to our understanding of just what it is that is overcome in the life of Jesus. I hope you will find the courage to “cast out the satanic influences and impulses” in your own life. We who live in the light of God’s great liberation in Christ are already aware of the power of the gospel to deal with our sin, our addictions and the way sin manifests itself in the structures of our life. The devil is not an elusive concept nor a free floating spirit, nor a power to be feared. The satan had been crushed, laid low in the death of Jesus, never to rise, destined to doom.
You will notice that I do not capitalize the word satan. There are several reasons for this. Satan is not a name but a function (it means accuser). Second, the satan is not a person but a principle (more on this as our studies evolve). Third, the satan has been given way too much press in the Christian faith as a virtual equal or peer of God, as though God was a good eternal principle and the satan an evil eternal principle. Not so! Christians are not dualists; we are those who recognize that only Jesus has been given all authority and power (Matthew 28:16-20, Phil. 2:5-11).
Yet, it is also true that while Jesus has overcome the satan in his death and resurrection and ascension, it is also true that we still live between the times; we live as those who share in both this age and the age to come. We are still bounded in this life by sin, death and the devil, but even as we are bounded by such we are freed from fear of any of them. We are liberated from fear of judgment, for Jesus has forgiven us all of our sin. We are liberated from fear of death for we live in the promise of the resurrection of our bodies. We are freed from fear of the satan and freed from its authority over us by virtue of Jesus overcoming of the satanic principle. This is the gospel and it is good news indeed.
So while we will discuss the devil and at times it may appear as though the devil has the upper hand in human history, nevertheless we do so knowing that there is a world coming where sin, death and the devil will cease to exist. We live, as the theologians put it, with an ever expanding eschatological horizon opening up for us.
Next episode: (2) Hollywood, the Bible and The satan