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Metaphysical Evangelists

The faith teachers maintain that when Adam sinned, the world was turned over to Satan. The devil became the legal owner of the planet. The faith teacher’s position accommodates the Gnostic view (particularly evident in Zoroastrianism, a Persian Gnostic religion), in which a good god rules the spiritual world and a bad god rules the physical realm.

In such a philosophy the problem of evil is solved by blaming everything that goes wrong on the bad god (the devil); the good god is seen as no more than a counterbalance. One is left with the impression that the two gods each possess equal power both in quality and quantity. Everything that is wrong in the world is the fault of the bad god. And it’s up to the initiate or believer to make sure the good god wins.

When Jimmy Swaggart defied the orders of the Assemblies of God to refrain from preaching for one year, he assured the public that he was free of moral defect, for, he said, Oral Roberts had cast out the demons from his body over the phone. Oral Roberts confirmed Swaggart’s report, insisting he saw the demons with their claws deeply embedded in Swaggart’s flesh. Now that the rascals were gone, Swaggart and Roberts asserted, Swaggart could get on with preparing the way for Christ’s return. Evidently, personal responsibility for sin can be dismissed by blaming it on an external force. Yet Flip Wilson’s famous quip, “The devil made me do it” is hardly comedy when we’re talking about the biblical view of sin.

For these metaphysical evangelists, even personal sins can be attributed to the bad god, since he is, after all, sovereign over this earthly realm as the good god is relatively in charge of the spiritual domain. Here again, then, is the echo of the Gnostics of old. When that heresy was revived toward the end of the medieval period, Calvin said, “They made the devil almost the equal of God.”

In this way, the problem of sin is replaced with the problem of Satan. It is facing Satan, not my own sin and rebelliousness, that becomes the great task of the Christian life. I’m not the problem—the Devil is!

The Agony of Deceit by Michael Horton, Editor, 1990, Moody Press, pp.132-133

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