Friday, February 27, 2009

Biblical Dualism

For the longest time I have been meaning to post some Bible studies and thoughts I've had, yet I never seem to. So here is the first. It began as a Bible study I taught last year.

Dualism is an age old concept when it comes to religion. Good versus evil. Light versus dark. God versus the devil. The idea is pretty much set in the popular imagination and in pop culture. God sits on his throne, ruling from Heaven, and Satan sits on his, ruling from Hell. Biblically and theologically this is complete nonsense. God and the devil aren't counterparts or equals. God alone is all-powerful, the creator of Heaven and Hell. And of the devil. God is unique. He doesn't have an opposite. The devil, however, does. His opposite is the Church. That's the true dualism of the Bible, the devil versus the Church. But even here it gets complicated.

Outlining the contrast between the devil and the Church could not be easier.

The devil is a destroyer, John 10:10a:

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy...
And he is without truth, John 8:44:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
The Church, on the other hand, is called to restore that which Satan has destroyed, it has a ministry of reconciliation, 2 Corinthians 5:17-19:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
We are instruments to be used to complete Jesus' goal, Luke 19:10:

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
We are to be bringers of life, John 10:10b:

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
And holy, Ephesians 5:27:

That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
But it goes beyond simple contrasts. Before Calvary Jesus described Satan as the prince of this world, John 14:30:

Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
Following Calvary the Church is both king and priest, Revelations 1:6:

And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
In theory this conflict should be a very simple one, because a breach has been made for us into the devil's kingdom. Until the invention of the cannon cities would protect themselves against their enemies by building strong walls around their perimeter. But each wall had at least one hole, or breach, in it: the gate. The city needed its gate in order to connect to the world around it, but if the gate fell to the enemy, the city so followed. The Bible says that the gates of Hell cannot stand against the Church, Matthew 16:18:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
So the Church exists to undo the devil's works. We have been given authority over his kingdom, to destroy it. And that is why the devil attacks us. He isn't simply doing whatever it is he does. He fears us and takes our threat to him far more seriously than we often do ourselves. He knows he was defeated at Calvary and he knows that he was no power over the Church. But he also knows that the Church is made up of men and women, sinners saved by grace. He knows that there are only two ways for us to exercise our God-given authority, through prayer and fasting, Mark 9:28-29:

And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
And by submitting ourselves to God, James 4:7:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
And here is where we fail. To defeat him we don't need arcane rituals and incantations, we simply need to submit ourselves to God and resist the devil. In practice, however, we prefer to neither submit to God nor resist the devil. The devil is invidious. If he can't win, we'll destroy as many as possible. Biblical dualism, in a nutshell, is: the devil works to destroy and the Church to restore. We have all the power of Heaven at our disposal, but don't avail ourselves of it. Satan has been defeated, but is willing to use whatever means he can in his efforts to do as much harm as possible. So where is God in all this? He is far from neutral. He defeated Satan on the cross and He is happy to empower His Church to the extent that we will allow Him. All we have to do is submit ourselves to His will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is a very insightful point, David. I had never recognized that contrast. Thank you.