Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This Present Darkness

Okay, I'm sure I'm so behind the times, but I finally got around to reading Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness. All 508 pages of it!

My twelve year old son actually won it at some library contest, but quickly decided he didn't want to read it. So, being the voracious reader that I am, I did! (By the way, did I mention that my wife has declared June a 'no TV' month? Lots of time to read, friends!).

Anyway, I can see why the book was so popular a few years back, but (as you might imagine) I have some serious criticisms of it too...

First things first: it's a novel, not a theology book. Frank Peretti has the same rights to create fiction as any other story-teller. In that sense, he's created a captivating world, one filled with billions of demons and angels at war with one another. A world where the LORD tells people the names of these demons in a bid to grant power to His angels on the offensive. A world where super-powerful individuals work toward a one-world religion and government with great cunning.

As a novel, the book is pretty gripping. I regularly found it hard to put down. Some of the names are cumbersome, and when you can't get comfortable with names it tends to make a story choppy for me sometimes. There were too many Halmark moments for my taste, too. But all told, the tale is interesting and fast-moving. The daunting 500 pages didn't seem overly long once the story began to unfold.

The trouble I have is that too many well-meaning Christians seem to have taken their theology from the pages of this book. More accurately, this book reflects a theological tradition that has grown in prominence because of this book. Regardless, there are now plenty of folk out in the world that are "binding and loosing" demons by name, all the while convinced that this is what real spiritual warfare is all about. I disagree.

If spiritual warfare were what Peretti's fictional world makes it out to be, why is the Bible so shockingly silent about it?!? Where's Paul's great teaching section about how to bind demons? Where's the letter to the Angelonians - you know, that church struggling against the weight of all these sin-demons? Just as importantly, why does the New Testament so often leave us with the impression that we - not some spiritual power of darkness - are to blame for our sins? If the reason I struggle with pride is that I have a "pride demon" crawling around my person, surely the Bible would tell me that, no?

It's this kind of spirituality that severely minimizes our own culpability in our sinfulness that drives me crazy. Always looking for a demon to blame; always certain that "the Devil is out to get me". I'm not denying the reality of demons and the stated goal of Satan, but I can't go along with a theology that over-emphasizes it either. Let me wrestle with my own sinfulness, my own wrong desires, my own "old man"... I'll leave the untold things of angels and demons in the hands of the Almighty.


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