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Thread: Book Plunge: Demons And Spirits In Biblical Theology

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    Department Head Apologiaphoenix's Avatar
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    Book Plunge: Demons And Spirits In Biblical Theology

    What does Scripture tell us about evil spirits?

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    A few months ago John Walton and his son released this book. Itís a bit different from their usual work seeing as thereís not a list of propositions being affirmed and that it doesnít just focus on the Old Testament, but it also focuses on the New Testament. The work is meant to examine what the Bible means when it talks about demons and spirits.

    This book is sure to cause some controversy if it hasnít already. Walton and Walton think that a lot of what we believe about demons is wrong. The Bible is not meant to teach us any kind of demonology as the beliefs about the demons came from the culture much like one could talk about geological beliefs about the shape of the Earth and the nature of creation without having that be meant to give us scientific details.

    This involves looking at the systems of thought that existed in Biblical times. This also means looking at what is going on when gods are invoked or prayed to in other cultures. Some texts of the Old Testament indicate that these could be to demons. Is that really the case?

    Thereís also a lot of talk about spiritual warfare. What is really going on in that? We have a look at the Daniel 10 passage where Michael says he was upheld by the Prince of Persia. Itís an odd passage in many ways and one frequently cited. I donít want to tell the look the Waltons give of this. You need to read it for yourself.

    They also look at the Serpent in the Old Testament. Is this really the devil? There could possibly be references in the book of Revelation that indicate that, but the creature doesnít seem to be mentioned anymore in the Old Testament text. This will also include examinations of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.

    One of the more interesting aspects of the book I found was when they talked about the problem of evil. While Christians of the past did have something to say about evil, it wasnít really considered a major issue like it is today until the time of the Enlightenment. This is very similar to something David Wood said to me when I interviewed him for the first time on my show.

    What changed? The Enlightenment sent us the message that human happiness was the greatest good. This doesnít mean that human happiness doesnít matter to God, but is it on the same level we would put it on? The problem for us is we think if God is doing what He ďoughtĒ to be doing, then we shouldnít be seeing this evil. God actually becomes a means to our happiness and we judge His commitment to us by how our lives are going. Thatís why some people walk away from their faith at this point which is, in essence, firing God. They get something out of it that they donít think they get in Christianity.

    The Waltons also say this doesnít serve the cause of what they call conflict theology, where God is fighting against the ways of the devil as classically understood, in a good light. Too often, it is easy to say that people do great evil because of demonic inspiration. Iím not one to say demons arenít always involved, but enough times the old adage is true. Lead me not into temptation, I can find it on my own. Weíre good enough at finding evil ourselves.

    Thereís another concern with this also. Itís this idea that if we just removed demons from the scene, none of us would really choose to do evil. I find the same thing happening when we have a mass shooting and we talk about mental health. If we can just remove the mental health, well then everything will work out perfectly and no evil will take place.

    Thereís a lot to think about here. Iím not convinced on every point just yet, but there is stuff to think about. I look forward to seeing what other scholars say in response to this important work and dialogue starting about the topic of the devil and demons.

    If thereís something else I would have liked more on, I would have liked something on the holy angels, seeing as those I think would be included as spirits. Maybe that will be in another work.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters

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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    What does Scripture tell us about evil spirits?

    Link

    -----

    A few months ago John Walton and his son released this book. Itís a bit different from their usual work seeing as thereís not a list of propositions being affirmed and that it doesnít just focus on the Old Testament, but it also focuses on the New Testament. The work is meant to examine what the Bible means when it talks about demons and spirits.

    This book is sure to cause some controversy if it hasnít already. Walton and Walton think that a lot of what we believe about demons is wrong. The Bible is not meant to teach us any kind of demonology as the beliefs about the demons came from the culture much like one could talk about geological beliefs about the shape of the Earth and the nature of creation without having that be meant to give us scientific details.

    This involves looking at the systems of thought that existed in Biblical times. This also means looking at what is going on when gods are invoked or prayed to in other cultures. Some texts of the Old Testament indicate that these could be to demons. Is that really the case?

    Thereís also a lot of talk about spiritual warfare. What is really going on in that? We have a look at the Daniel 10 passage where Michael says he was upheld by the Prince of Persia. Itís an odd passage in many ways and one frequently cited. I donít want to tell the look the Waltons give of this. You need to read it for yourself.
    I'd like to know how all of this squares with Mike Heiser's Divine Council view. It sounds like Walton and Walton want to downplay the spiritual realm, which is diametrically opposed to Heiser's view, which seems to see the spiritual realm as much bigger, and more influential to author/audience of the Old Testament than we moderns sometimes reckon.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    They also look at the Serpent in the Old Testament. Is this really the devil? There could possibly be references in the book of Revelation that indicate that, but the creature doesnít seem to be mentioned anymore in the Old Testament text. This will also include examinations of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.
    Again, interesting. Heiser is very careful about distinguishing the ha-satan in the rest of the Old Testament from the Nachash (serpent) in Genesis, but ultimately asserts that the Nachash is identified with entity titled "Satan" or the devil in the New Testament.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    One of the more interesting aspects of the book I found was when they talked about the problem of evil. While Christians of the past did have something to say about evil, it wasnít really considered a major issue like it is today until the time of the Enlightenment. This is very similar to something David Wood said to me when I interviewed him for the first time on my show.

    What changed? The Enlightenment sent us the message that human happiness was the greatest good. This doesnít mean that human happiness doesnít matter to God, but is it on the same level we would put it on? The problem for us is we think if God is doing what He ďoughtĒ to be doing, then we shouldnít be seeing this evil. God actually becomes a means to our happiness and we judge His commitment to us by how our lives are going. Thatís why some people walk away from their faith at this point which is, in essence, firing God. They get something out of it that they donít think they get in Christianity.
    I don't know if I buy this. Qoheleth seemed to have quite a bit to say on the problem of evil, and the Bible is absolutely brimming with passages with people praying, pleading, and desiring an end to personal or national suffering. God himself constantly urging and desiring his people come back into right relationship with him to prevent the many evils that might befall them in their disobedience and lack of faithfulness. God may put people through some trials in scripture, but it's rare, and never, as far as I can tell, because he actually desires his people to go through pain, suffering and unhappiness. To the contrary, in the end we're promised that God will wipe every tear from ours eyes, and that there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. That's how it should have gone down from the start, but things went askew in the Garden. I agree that people often lose their faith because of the problem of evil, but that's not because they should be taught that suffering is what God desires, rather, it's because they haven't been taught why evil exists in this world, why this world is broken, and how it will eventually be renewed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    The Waltons also say this doesnít serve the cause of what they call conflict theology, where God is fighting against the ways of the devil as classically understood, in a good light. Too often, it is easy to say that people do great evil because of demonic inspiration. Iím not one to say demons arenít always involved, but enough times the old adage is true. Lead me not into temptation, I can find it on my own. Weíre good enough at finding evil ourselves.

    Thereís another concern with this also. Itís this idea that if we just removed demons from the scene, none of us would really choose to do evil. I find the same thing happening when we have a mass shooting and we talk about mental health. If we can just remove the mental health, well then everything will work out perfectly and no evil will take place.
    That quote of C.S. Lewis always comes to mind when this subject comes up,

    "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."

    While there are plenty of people who go too far, I'd say that MOST Christians don't believe in their existence enough. You're right to say that "the devil made me do it" is no excuse, but the reason why so many of are so easily tempted into evil is because we live in a broken world where spiritual warfare DOES happen, and where the Prince of the Power of the Air, and the current "god of this world/age" would like nothing more than to see our faith destroyed, and or relationship with God soured. He hates us, and is jealous of us, and if he can misdirect and distract us through our relationships, the media, politics, entertainment, etc., he has the ability and power to so. That's why prayer is so powerful. It's not just a way for us to demonstrate our reliance and faithfulness to God, but it actually moves things in the spiritual realm.

    Quote Originally Posted by Apologiaphoenix View Post
    Thereís a lot to think about here. Iím not convinced on every point just yet, but there is stuff to think about. I look forward to seeing what other scholars say in response to this important work and dialogue starting about the topic of the devil and demons.

    If thereís something else I would have liked more on, I would have liked something on the holy angels, seeing as those I think would be included as spirits. Maybe that will be in another work.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    Have you read Heiser's Angels: What the Bible Really Says About Godís Heavenly Host yet? I haven't gotten to it myself, but I wonder how Walton and Walton would interact with Heiser's material and vice versa. I don't agree with Heiser on a lot of things, but I think he's along the right path when it comes to the Divine Council stuff.

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    Professor KingsGambit's Avatar
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    I would like to see a formal discussion between Walton and Heiser on scriptural interpretation principles. As one scholarly-oriented friend said recently, Walton's approach is "the other ancient cultures other than Israel believed X, so we need to read Scripture in light of that while not necessarily endorsing it", while Heiser's is more like "the other ancient cultures other than Israel believed X, so we should believe X as well!"
    "Technology has, in an enhanced way, given mockers a platform to set society on fire with polarizing speech. Internet culture privileges those whose insults are click bait." - Timothy Keller

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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingsGambit View Post
    I would like to see a formal discussion between Walton and Heiser on scriptural interpretation principles. As one scholarly-oriented friend said recently, Walton's approach is "the other ancient cultures other than Israel believed X, so we need to read Scripture in light of that while not necessarily endorsing it", while Heiser's is more like "the other ancient cultures other than Israel believed X, so we should believe X as well!"
    That's an interesting take on Heiser's material. Have you read any of his work, or listened to his podcast?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    That's an interesting take on Heiser's material. Have you read any of his work, or listened to his podcast?
    I don't do podcasts (impossible to focus on audio while watching young kids). I've read articles on his website but none of his books. I'm kind of taking my friend's word for it.

    My main issue with Walton's following is that, having read The Lost World of Genesis One, I didn't see him present a lot of evidence for why his cosmic temple inauguration view is to be preferred, so the book's proposal struck me as speculative, though plausible. His view seems to have been taken as gospel among moderate apologists (somebody even presented a paper at the Rethinking Hell conference last weekend arguing for the traditional view of hell based on the cosmic temple inauguration view), in a manner that seems overly confident.
    Last edited by KingsGambit; 08-21-2019 at 07:45 AM.
    "Technology has, in an enhanced way, given mockers a platform to set society on fire with polarizing speech. Internet culture privileges those whose insults are click bait." - Timothy Keller

  7. Amen Adrift amen'd this post.

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