Last night in our Bible study we talked about the subject of demons and witchcraft. We’re studying from a book written by a guy named George Bloomer. He’s an African American and comes from a typically conservative, Bible-based church. It was very interesting to see things through his eyes as he talks about demons and the occult. He connects demons and the occult to drugs, celebrating Kwanzaa, and the violence that occurred in the U.S. Postal Service several years ago (seriously, he believes that someone put a curse on the USPS – interesting).
While my first reaction has been to laugh because of the absurdity of it, I am trying to be more understanding and patient in hearing other points of view. Bloomer obviously has a much different perspective and background that I do. In our group, we quickly pointed out some differences from his teachings and what we’ve typically been taught. From a critical standpoint, I believe Bloomer is woefully inaccurate in considering the biblical text contextually, fails to consider much of any background information that would be helpful, and applies texts freely and without consistency in referencing how the devil works and how his demons work.
For what it’s worth (and I may be totally wrong), on the topic of demons, Satan, and evil, I believe we have given way too much power, credit, and authority to Satan. I admit to being perplexed and uncomfortable with the Pauline language of the battle not being flesh and blood, noting there is obviously much going on that we don’t know about, but any book I’ve ever read on that matter, and every sermon I’ve heard preached in regards to this topic, seems to find a lot of fodder for discussion and a lot of clear teachings in some infrequent and passing references in Scripture. I think there is much more to be gleaned from the references in Paul to the “powers and principalities.” I think evil as a disembodied force is much more appropriately applies to the -isms and “the man.” That is where I choose to place the emphasis rather than on some kind of personal boogeyman fighting angels in some kind of third dimension. That seems more Platonic than biblical and more Hollywood than Christian. Just my thoughts on there, but I bring the topic of for broader application.
So . . . the real question I’m reflecting on today is what place does he have at the theological table of discussion? Is he denied a place because his thinking isn’t sophisticated enough? Does he sit on the fringe only opine occasionally never to be taken seriously? Now, I’m not questioning his place at the table of Christ, don’t read that, I’m just really struggling with what to do with theological perspectives you deem inadequate or falling short.
On the one hand it seems to uphold a kind of theological and philosophical arrogance to say that someone’s contributions are short of positive contribution. On the other hand, it seems irresponsible to place them under critical consideration, knowing they will not uphold to scrutiny, just because the thinker is well-intentioned. There till must be accountability. What are we to do then? I ask this question because it goes much broader than some book we’re studying on Wednesday nights in our small group. I bring this up because I’m afraid the more developed and advanced the missional re-evaluation of the church’s theology becomes by the academics and clergy, the greater the disconnect will become from the laity and common church-goers who are not trained (or interested) in the philosophical and theoretical foundation. And at the same time, that is the large part of the journey that has led me to where I am. How can I bring someone else along via another pathway?
The fact of the matter, and I realize this, is that philosophical shifts like this have happened throughout history, and since the Renaissance, it has begun in the academy and slowly permeated through society. The changes will come, but in the meantime, I believe it puts us in a unique, and often times, precarious position. Perhaps the demons are philosophers in theologians clothing?