The Spirit World
WE have been urged to review a pamphlet entitled “The Devil—An Expose.*” As only a few of our readers are exercised about this matter we do not feel it wise to go into the subject thoroughly at this time. Yet it may be helpful to correct immature methods of study and point out how we may safeguard ourselves by closer attention to the details of Holy Writ. The pamphlet consists of nearly sixty-four closely printed pages, and contains some statements which are worth copying. It commences with the rule that “nothing ought to be believed as true, unless its truth can be demonstrated by an appeal to the facts recorded in the book of creation, or to those revealed in the book of Revelation.” Again: “Nothing in spiritual matters ought to be believed as true, unless its truth can be demonstrated by an appeal to the original Scriptures, and this to the satisfaction of every well-constituted, truth-loving mind. This rule, once generally recognized and practically carried out, will make all of one mind, will establish a uniformity of opinion, founded on the connection, and not on the suspension, of the understanding.”
The first subject taken up is “The Devil.” A list of the passages is given in which the word occurs, and the conclusion is reached that it should be translated false accuser, calumniator. This is good, but we suggest that slanderer is even better.
Next there is a sustained attempt to prove that, when not spoken of men, it refers to a state of mind. Had the author had a little wider knowledge of Greek, or had he earnestly tested this theory by the facts, he would have saved himself much work and many mistakes. Just as we cannot use a word with the ending er, such as “slanderer” of a state of mind, so “diabolos” cannot be used of aught else but the person who slanders. Consider such words as antidikos, plaintiff, aggelos, messenger (which are elsewhere used in the work), and compare their ending with astheneia, infirmity, epithumia, lust, which may possibly be mental states (which also occur in this pamphlet). Diabolos is a word like diakonos, servant, apostolos, commissioner, or doulos, slave. If we make all these a state of mind there will not be much left of God‘’s revelation.
A good way to test the matter is this: Make a list of all of the passages where all are agreed that it refers to human slanderers. Can it in any such case refer to a mental state? The passages follow:
1 Tim.3:11 wives (be) grave, not slanderers
2 Tim.3: 3 truce-breakers, false accusers
Titus 2: 3 not false accusers
Now the subtle snare in this is the fact that slander arises from a mental state, and it is easy for the mind to slip from the person to the state in any given passage. But no one reading the Greek intelligently can do this, nor can anyone using a concordant version. The laws of concord demand that this class of nouns denote persons. The fact that, in every passage where the meaning is not debatable it refers to a person, demands that it also be assigned to such in all the other passages.
It may be possible that, in some passages, a human being is intended rather than a spirit, but it cannot be a condition of the mind. It cannot refer to civil magistrates, or an ordinary plaintiff, for these are not necessarily false accusers. Such a passage as “resist the slanderer and he will flee from you” cannot be referred to a “state of mind” without stultifying the intellect. No mental state, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But the worst of all the wresting of Scripture in this connection occurs in explaining our celestial warfare. The teaching is very plain. We wrestle not against blood and flesh, but with spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials. As this is fatal to the idea that the slanderer is merely a state of mind, it is twisted so as to get rid of all spiritual forces. “Flesh and blood” is “our own selfish desire’s and our natural feelings.” Celestials is “heavenly matters.” Spiritual forces are ecclesiastics. We are to fight the false ecclesiastical powers in direct contradiction of the statement that we do not wrestle with blood and flesh. When a theory leads to such plain denials of Scripture, it is self-condemned.
The second chapter begins with a philosophical analysis of man’s constitution—animal, spiritual, and intellectual. Such a commencement is fatal. No truth can come of it. It is not merely unscriptural but nebulous. By making the “animal” all bad and the “spiritual” all good we may easily mire ourselves in many miseries, and land in monasticism. Then the “natural state” of man is described as self-love, without the least warrant. Man’s nature is not evil. This leads the writer to the rather sweeping conclusion that all who are not disposed to believe God are slanderers! We live in a world of “devils!” With reprehensible looseness he then applies Matthew 24:41, which refers to only a few at the beginning of the day of the Lord, to all whose state of mind slanders God. The parable of the tares is pressed into service, but, if the Son of Man is a Person, then the Slanderer also must be a person. It will not do to contradict Scripture and say that Christ sowed truth and the Slanderer did not sow the tares. That is rank unbelief.
In the Scriptures “wickedness” is poneeria, but poneeros is always a wicked person. It is folly for anyone to oppose all existing translations on such a theme unless he has thoroughly investigated the evidence. The writer of this booklet uses much Greek, but seems not at all familiar with the language. We would laugh at a foreigner who used the words “the wicked” when he meant “wickedness.” It is evident that this pamphlet is not worth much of our space, so I will only briefly cover its further speculations. Now that he has formulated his theory and supported it by his ignorance of Greek, I can only expect him to continue along the same line.
We will skip to chapter three, where the title “Satan” is discussed. It is properly taken to mean adversary. It may be applied to human beings. It is applied to Peter. The next chapter lays down the dictum that it means any adverse thing or condition. Then he falls into the fault so common with those who use a concordance. It is never wise to base the meaning of a word on figurative usages. Paul’s messenger of Satan, a thorn in the flesh does not prove that messengers are thorns or satan a disease.
His weakness was not a paralytic affection, for the Greeks have a special name for that. Bad health is not satan. Adverse circumstances, mental opposition, and infirmity may be caused by satan, but, if all these are satan, then mankind must be more satanic than satan himself. This reduces the matter to mere drivel. The weakness of the logic in this pamphlet is well shown by the question, “How could he [Satan] be a dragon, a serpent, a devil, and a satan? How could one distinct being be four distinct beings?” Our Lord, accordingly, must also be a state of mind, for He is two entirely antagonistic animals, a Lambkin and a Lion. At one time He is like a Lamb. At another He is like a Lion. So the same “distinct being” who will be seen as a dragon in the future was like a serpent in the past and is the slanderer of the saints and the adversary of Christ. Each of us can have a variety of characters at the same time. I find that, by this time, I am an adversary of the teaching in this pamphlet, but that is not the only term which may be used to describe me.
Chapter five deals with demons, mistranslated “devils” in the Authorized Version. But it is absolutely futile to seek for the meaning of such a term in the Greek classics. They may use it for deified departed human spirits, but there is not a trace of this in the Scriptures. Nor is there any warrant for the conclusion that demoniac possession was merely “bodily and mental diseases.” The terms used, “possession” and “casting out,” cannot be used of disease, but only of actual spirits. Our author is confusing the effects with the fact. The demon spoke. To say that “the opinion prevailed at the time” that this was so, strikes at the very root of inspiration. If the Scriptures merely record the mistaken opinions of benighted men, let us have done with them. But if they give us God’s Word, let us believe them implicitly. Furthermore, the idea of this writer, that demonism is merely insanity, which we can cure without Christ in this enlightened age, is utterly repulsive and decidedly dangerous.
This man seems to be a modern Sadducee, so far as the denial of angels and spirits is concerned (Acts 23:8). He feels this himself. After explaining that demons did not enter the swine, but that the madness of the men was communicated to them, he asks, “How could God in Christ allow such an error to be perpetuated by permitting the writers of the gospels thus to describe such an event?” His reply is “Jesus Christ did not come into the world, nor did Moses the prophet, to teach man natural science . . .” No, nor did He come to teach lies. Further, he states, “the Scriptures . . . teach what is the opposite to fact: they teach . . . scientific untruths. Thus, the sun is said to go his journey round the earth.” There? Imagine, a man inserting a falsehood into the Scriptures in order to prove that it is unscientific! The Word of God is the most accurate scientific book in the world today.
We do not care to follow such an unreliable guide into the holy precinct of Christ’s temptation, but such is his next subject. We agree that “temptation” should be trial. But it is misleading to take James’ statement (James 1:15) to teach that desire is the only source of trial. The disciples were taught to pray to God, “bring us not into trial, but rescue us from the wicked one” (Matt.6:13). The point seems to be to make all trial spring from within, never from without. Arguing from the standpoint that Christ was not the Son of God, and therefore could not communicate with the invisible spirit world, our writer seeks to discredit the narrative of our Lord’s trial in the wilderness. A good deal is made of the mistranslation “pinnacle of the temple,” as though it would be impossible to put Him on such a place. I myself expect to look down from a wing of the temple soon. I have already looked up.
Then an attack is made on the literality of the third trial. Our author assures us that the Slanderer could not show all the kingdoms of the world to our Lord from any mountains in Judea. But that is the unbelief of ignorance. There are machines made today by means of which I, here in Jerusalem, could pass any part of the world before your eyes. To bring sounds from the whole earth would not be considered noteworthy. If that is possible to me now, it is the height of absurdity to deny such powers to a superhuman spirit.
Trading on the mistranslation of Hebrews 4:15, “yet without sin,” our author tries to show that the “devil” was in Christ Himself. His own thoughts, trying Him, seeking to make Him sin. The reading of Hebrews 4:15 should be “apart from sin.” It is not that He wished to sin, but did not yield, but He had no sin to suggest a wrong thought. The trial came to Him from without.
Proceeding on the false premise that “God’s laws are for the production of good,” we are led on to the conclusion that, “If there is a god, there cannot be a devil.” But God creates evil as well as good. The protest here is not only against orthodoxy, but is vitiated by the very errors against which it is directed. A challenge is cleverly worded thus: “Let anyone detail a vice . . . which is not a suggestion of the flesh, and then will be the time for calling in of a being called the Devil.” But the Slanderer and Satan and the demons are not the source of vice. That is only one form of evil. The flesh does not invent evil doctrines (1 Tim. 4:1). The flesh is not a messenger of light. Its servants are not dispensers of righteousness (2 Cor.11:15).
Enough has been said to expose the pamphlet. It is based on ignorance of the original and faulty reasoning based on unscriptural premises. There is no “devil” in the Scriptures. The term is not used in the CONCORDANT VERSION. The grotesque ideas of Christendom find no place in the Sacred Scrolls. But there is a spirit, called Satan, and the Slanderer, and the Serpent and the Dragon, who has messengers, who sinned from the beginning. There are also demons, spirits that obsess human beings. None of these are supernatural. They are simply not human. They certainly are not a hallucination of the human mind. The Scriptures are given to open our eyes to their operations. Spirits are the ones with whom we wage our present warfare. How sad to see God’s revelation of the unseen world used to seal our eyes to its stark realities!
A. E. Knoch
[*Editor’s Note: Boldface type is used to refer to, or quote from, the pamphlet being reviewed by Mr Knoch.]
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