At the heart of evangelical ideology is the conviction “this world” is antagonistic to God. Depraved men and women are controlled by an evil sin nature and subject to its desires which are diametrically opposed to God. And all the while Satan and his demonic henchmen infiltrate every aspect of life on earth in a last ditched attempt to overthrow God and destroy the faithful before the final judgement. It’s the stuff movies are made of but evangelicals believe it to be true!
8”Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”(1 Peter 5:8)
This article we will explore the stark contrast that exists in the minds of evangelicals between this visible material world and the unseen supernatural world of angels and demons.
In the context of evangelical obscurantism, we will discuss how superimposing a spiritual reality over a physical world blurs reality. It can result in a blatant disregard and irresponsibility toward global stewardship and political peace. It breeds mistrust in the scientific community, secular educational institutions and media outlets which are populated by unregenerate carnal individuals whose rational capabilities are considered tainted by sin. Where the infallible words of holy scripture always take precedence over science when the two are in conflict.
10”Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. … 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-12,16,17)
Spiritual warfare is one of evangelicals sexiest and most intoxicating beliefs. It turns an everyday mundane world into one teeming with battles between angels and demons waging holy warfare for the souls of humans. On a personal level, evangelicals possess an inherent mistrust and paranoia toward the non evangelical world at large. Non believers can be viewed as evangelistic targets, approached with trepidation as unwitting tools of Satan or avoided for fear of causing compromise.
14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.”(2 Corinthians 6:14-16)
Evangelicals live in a quasi fantasy world derived from various biblical passages. It pits an unseen spiritual world controlled by Satan and his demonic cohorts against God and his angelic forces. This spiritual world overlays our physical world.
The four gospels record Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. This narrative sets the stage for Jesus’ entire ministry which will be characterized by exorcisms. His life culminated in ultimate triumph over sin and Satan.
13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you [or “us”] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”(Colossians 2:13-15)
This narrative is preached from pulpits throughout the land and filters down to the average evangelical to be eagerly ingested. It pervades evangelicalism and ratchets up fear, creates paranoia and breeds mistrust. Religious freedoms are is seen as being threatened. Society is being pulled into a moral abyss. Hollywood, the media, liberal secular education are all conspiring (unknowingly) to thwart the plans and purposes of God and impede the gospel.
On the one side, this dualistic perspective is immensely satisfying for believers. It gives one a tremendous sense of significance and empowerment as key players in this cosmic struggle. Evangelicals are given a higher calling, an heightened sense of purpose and an incentive to mobilize in an effort to preserve and protect these cherished freedoms and defend God’s truth.
On the flip side, evangelicals are meant to act as soldiers of the cross and God’s moral warriors. Sadly, this part of their calling has been ignored.
13”Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”[Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7,26](1 Peter 1:13-16)
And later in the same epistle
11”Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”(1 Peter 2:11,12)
In the middle of the Ephesians passage is this verse.
14”Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…”(Ephesians 6:14)
The most important piece of armor is that which protects the soldiers heart is “righteousness.” The righteousness spoken of here is that of the believers own moral uprightness not imputed righteousness. This is demonstrated by the original verse from which this imagery was borrowed where the Lord himself is pictured anthropomorphically “suiting up” for battle.
“… so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him. 17”He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” (Isaiah 59:16b-17)
And in John’s epistle
18”We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:18,19)
The New Testament paints a graphic picture of this epic struggle between good and evil as well as the believers place in it. Implicit is the believer is either an active righteous participant or a disobedient dupe of Satan. In the same way only a well equipped soldier can ever hope to achieve victory in battle, so too must the Christian soldier arm him or herself with the highest virtue. A Christian who “continues in sin” or succumbs to the “sinful desires” will be “devoured” by Satan.
Evangelical leaders are most to blame for stoking fear and creating this distrust in all things non evangelical. Sermons, podcasts, books and videos on the topic of spiritual warfare and demonic involvement provide stimulating and inspirational reading.
Evangelicals in positions of power and influence are masters at creating “villains” to frighten their congregants. Originally, it was the dreaded monster of Deism who attempted to replace a personal and intimate God with an “absentee landlord.” This God was aloof and uninvolved. Past monsters have included liberalism, communism, New Age mysticism, Islamic terrorism, secularism, agnosticism and of course atheism. Many of these terms are echoed throughout pulpits today to rally God’s people to action. Lurking behind all of them is Satan and his evil forces.
Most evangelicals would bristle at being labelled “anti-science” or “anti-intellectual” but they are when it’s convenient and suits them.
Throughout my theological education, I encountered this skepticism whenever it served to undermine man’s attempt to challenge biblical authority. Preserving the integrity of the Bible superseded any and every piece of scientific data that suggested otherwise.
While few evangelicals would contend the laws of physics, which are seen as God’s laws, when it came to evolution or archeology, science suddenly became dubious. Or on the topic of miracles, God was able to temporarily suspend natural laws and interject the supernatural.
At this point one might argue these views may be misguided and naive but they are relatively harmless. I can assure you they are not. Foundational to these is the complete authority of the Bible against which moral and social issues are measured.
I have witnessed as some evangelicals have relaxed their insistence on the “literal day theory” of creation in an attempt to be more science friendly. There are now evangelical churches that support the gay lifestyle within the confines of a civil union despite seemingly clear scriptural condemnation of homosexuality. Women are able to assume positions of leadership contrary to traditional gender role differences. Many evangelicals now advocate for environmental responsibility against viewing the earth as God’s gift to mankind for exploitation. Last many evangelicals have abandoned apocalypticism as fomenting political strife, sectarianism and encouraging warfare in an effort to align with God’s eschatological plan. But all evangelicals are not created equal.
There still exists today a large faction of evangelicals bent on instituting Christian Dominionism where God’s law is the law of the land (Theonomy). Strangely, while American evangelicals are notoriously pessimistic premillennialists, this typifies an optimistic postmillennialists approach to society. In other words, whether one sees the world as improving or worsening usually drives their eschatology.
American evangelicals are mostly pre-tribulation premillennial dispensationalist which generally view the world to be devolving morally. Trying to institute righteous reform in society would put them at counter purposes with God. Current attitudes belie more of a domestic postmillennialism and a foreign premillennial outlook. American evangelicals want to improve their own society while fomenting division and discord abroad, particularly the Middle East. Heightening tensions between Israel and her neighbors plays into their eschatology.
Christians restorationism is the belief America is specially favored to receive God’s blessing due to its unconditional support of Israel. Thus Christian zionism is closely linked to this concept. Not only are these strange bedfellows given centuries of Christian antisemitism (upon which Gentile Christianity was originally built) but what may be expedient now could have disastrous future consequences.
Truth basks in the light of reason while faith cowers in the shadows