“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve
in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in
them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with
the same delight.”
That quote is from one of my favorite Christian authors, C.S. Lewis, in his 2nd edition preface to The Screwtape
Letters. In that work, he takes on the persona of Screwtape, an experienced old devil writing advice to a
young tempter, Wormwood, on how to bring about the corruption of a “patient”, an ordinary young man in
1940s England. In this backhanded way, Lewis has insights that resonate today about the nature of pride,
gluttony, lust and other vices, the strengths and weaknesses of the church, the foibles of society and the general
brokenness of the human condition.
Though Lewis’ primary purpose was to comment on issues of faith and life, many queried him about the actual
existence of demonic spirits–hence his addressing the question for the 2nd edition. And with Halloween
approaching, it seemed an apt topic for the month.
I, like Lewis, accept the possibility of spiritual forces of evil–i.e., demons–just as I accept the existence of
spiritual forces for good–i.e., angels (“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt
of in your philosophy”, to quote another English author, Shakespeare-Hamlet, Act I, sc. 5). But as Lewis
counsels, we should neither take obsessive interest in them with untoward fears or, worse, occult practices,
nor completely disregard them as utter figments.
Now I don’t want to suggest we can start to dismiss human sinfulness with the old excuse, “The devil made
me do it!” But I think the trials, frustrations and annoyances we struggle with each day can be fanned into
deeper resentments and bitterness by forces which get the better of us, and as pride, greed, envy, anger and
other deadly sins master our thoughts and affect our dealings with others, the Devil delights to see personalities
warped, relationships splintered and ministry stymied.
“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against . . . the spiritual forces of evil in
the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on
that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
As Paul in Ephesians 6 recognizes spiritual forces opposing to God’s will, so he also lifts up spiritual powers
affirming God’s will and assisting those who seek to live it out. Calling upon “the better angels of our nature”
(Lincoln’s 1st Inaugural Address!) and taking up the breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, sword
of the Spirit and all the necessities supplied by God, may we likewise resist all that wants to warp, splinter
and stymie us and serve boldly for God’s purposes in our lives and our community.
Yours in Faith, Pastor Jeff Jacobs