To our distinctly liberal theological seminary in New England there came some years ago a young evangelical from Belfast. Three days it took him to size us up. Then he spoke his mind. “The students on this campus,” he said in his open-air voice in the dining hall, “do not believe in a personal devil, but you’re not here more than a day or two before you meet him face to face.” Last year in the Church of England an unexpected outcry arose and caused the reversal of an official committee’s recommendation to omit from a revised catechism specific reference to the devil. Even the much-criticized translators of the New English Bible made no attempt to modernize 1 Peter 5:8, but faithfully rendered: “Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, prowls round looking for someone to devour.” In some ways we have here a theme which is a neglected area in our theological thinking.
There are signs, however, that this whole question is increasingly being brought into the limelight; one biblical scholar called a recent article “Satan Returns from Holiday,” but I disagree violently. Four centuries ago Bishop Latimer took the diabolical measure. “Who is the most diligent bishop and prelate in all England, that passeth all the rest in doing his office?” he asked. “It is the Devil. He is the most diligent preacher.… He is never out of his diocese … never unoccupied … never out of the way, call for him when you will. He is no lordly loiterer, but a busy ploughman.” Inordinate preoccupation with such matters might be dangerous, as Dr. G. C. Berkouwer has shown. In his article “Satan and the Demons” in CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S Basic Christian Doctrines series (now available in book form), he rightly indicates the pitfall of using Satan as an explanatory ...1
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