Recently I’ve been reading through CS Lewis’ masterpiece Mere Christianity. I read it once in 2007 (when I was still somewhat of a baby Christian) and I’ve been really enjoying re-reading it now. I had forgotten that it is not a book, per se, but a series of published speeches that Lewis gave over the radio during World War II. As such, it doesn’t read quite like a normal book… sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it’s not.
In any case, I’m reading it as a sort of "book club" with one of my friends who doesn’t identify as Christian. It’s been one of the most interesting, challenging, and fruitful things that I’ve done in a long time. Not only is CS Lewis' writing dense and philosophical beyond my ability to fully comprehend, we’ve also been having great discussion about his theological points. Through the process, I’ve been forced to become better at effectively communicating what I believe and why.
Something that I read recently was CS Lewis’ description of good and evil. I think it is actually quite simple and strikingly true:
"I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness; you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness... In other words, badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled... And do you now begin to see why Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angle?...Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel."
Now, I historically have not really bought into the idea of spiritual warfare. It kind of creeps me out and makes me feel like we’re all paranoid conspiracy theorists. I don’t like that feeling. However, I agree with what Lewis is arguing here. I also think that we all agree that evil is a "presence" in the world, even if it’s a presence that we may not like to readily personify. Evil being a "he" becomes so much more menacing than evil as an "it," doesn’t it? It becomes scary when we think of evil as having some sort of active, manipulative agenda, as opposed to something we just perhaps… fall into now and again. That’s probably why I don’t like to think about it that way very much.
However, I’ve encountered something interesting lately, which I think backs up Lewis’ claim. You may remember that since January I’ve been reading through a "guided tour of the Bible." Let me remind you that this is NOT a "read through the Bible in a Year" plan but instead a "one chapter a day for 180 days" plan. Just wanted to clarify that lest you think I’m far more dedicated than I actually am. Haha Anyway, about 1 and a half weeks ago the tour finally arrived in the New Testament. It’s been really interesting for me to read the story of Jesus across the gospels… one chapter in Luke, two chapters in Mark, back to Luke, over to John, etc. It’s provided a new perspective for me on some stories that are on the verge of feeling old and tired. I’ve also started to sense themes in Jesus’ life and ministry that I hadn’t picked up on before when I’ve been isolated in a singular gospel.
One of the things I’ve noticed lately is that every time Jesus drives out a demon, they always already know who He is. The demons always fear God, always call Him by name, and often recognize Him as Lord before the actual person does. This is fascinating to me. Now, we don’t talk much about demons these days… we don’t often suggest that people who are manic-depressive get an exorcism to cure themselves. And I’m not here to suggest or diagnose who may have demons and who doesn’t… or even hypothesize whether demons inhabit human bodies these days like they apparently did in Jesus’ time. That said, let’s just think about this for a second…
We think of demons as eternal beings… kind of like mean ghosts, or, more appropriately, as angels that have crossed over to the dark side. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that these eternal demons would recognize in Jesus the face of our eternal God? And why should they fear him if not for a full understanding of what He is capable of? They understand that they simply cannot continue to exist in the presence of our Savior, just as darkness stands no chance of existing in the presence of light.
When I read through the Gospels and specifically the stories of Jesus driving out the demons, I anticipate that the demons will mock Jesus or refute any claim He has made to be God. If they're of the dark side, it seems consistent for them to antagonize Jesus, right? Isn't it amazing and encouraging, then, that this is not what happened? Check it out for yourself: Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 1:21-28, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 4:31-41, Luke 8:26-39.
Although it is creepy and sometimes scary to think that evil exists and that there's a mind behind it in the existence of Satan, I love that we have this proof in the gospels of our victory in Christ! It is truly awesome!