Duncan Heaster wisely introduces his thesis on The Real Devil with an introductory chapter on the history of the commonly held idea (though constantly changing in form) of a legendary, mythical being, which originated in Babylonian and Persian times, influencing all who came in contact with their powerful empires. He follows the influence through Greek and Roman times, through the early Christian patristic times, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, up to the present times - a persistent, changing myth that has no place within the pages of holy scripture. Clearly, his own preference, as he states, is firmly focused on the word of God; but, at the same time, he is conscious of the value of history, and its supportive role in influencing how so many of us will come to the subject. He is aware that he needs to address his reader where he/she actually is. For many will not come to this subject without a prior cultural conditioning, shaped outside the realm of the Bible. It has been my own personal experience that my companion in discussion, even a professional clergyman, is sometimes much more familiar with what he imagines John Milton believes and says about Satan in Paradise Lost, than he is with what the Bible is saying. Similarly, avid fans of the great Russian classics may possibly have misread some of the metaphorical utterances of, say, Ivan Karamazov, in The Brothers Karamazov, or of Alyoshka in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; preferring his/her own misconception of what he/she thinks the author is saying.
And so the author presents a clear historical record of this persistent, erroneous myth, with endnotes and bibliography for those interested enough to follow up, before proceeding to the basic Bible teaching on the subject. There has never been a clear and consistent teaching on the Devil in orthodox ranks during the past two millennia. Origen rejected Ethiopic Enoch’s theories, Augustine did not fully follow Origen, as Abelard did not agree with Anselm that the atonement had anything to do with the Devil. And Thomas Aquinas and Calvin had their own personal views, whilst Schleiermacher, more recently, questioned the conception of a fall among good angels and said that Jesus did not associate the Devil with the plan of salvation; rather, Jesus and his disciples drew their demonology from the common life of the period rather than from Scripture. Even in history, the Devil has never had a fixed role or function. And so, I endorse the inclusion of The History Of An Idea as a preliminary to the discussion. It has potential for meeting the actual cultural position of the reader, and by God’s grace, may lead to the truer understanding and a positive response.
Certainly, when we come to the actual Bible teaching and the practical implications of these teachings we are met with a formidable case. In the examination of the specific Bible passages which might be thought to mention the Devil and Satan, from the Serpent in Eden (Genesis 3) to the binding of “Satan” in Revelation 20, “no stone is left unturned” in addressing even the most remote and unlikely text that might, to some, hold the slightest hint of a literal demonic being. The reader can be left in no doubt of the true teaching of Scripture on the subject, and that “our greatest personal Satan / adversary is (in reality) our own humanity and sinful tendency”. That, certainly, was the clear perception that subsumed the great Russian classics of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn. As Alyoshka said so pertinently in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: “You should rejoice that you’re in prison. Here you have time to think about your soul” (p.140, Penguin, 1982 edition).
But it doesn’t stop there. Though that’s where the problem for each of us is, it will not be solved simply by repression of our sinful desires in a kind of clinical, legalistic way. Like the Apostle Paul, long ago, mindful of the true Bible message, Duncan hits the high note. The solution is positive and is not to be found in negative repression. The “new ethic” calls for a complete submission to the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Master, baptized by immersion into Him. In Christ, with imputed righteousness, strengthened by His grace, acting as He acted, thinking as He thought ...dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ... servants to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end - eternal life.
I commend this honest presentation by my brother in Christ to all who are earnestly seeking the truth about the nature of evil and the only way given under heaven for it to be totally overcome. May God bless your sincere and honest striving for truth.