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Christian Rationalism: The Devil’s Hand Revisited

Guest Blogger: HG Ferguson

“Dr. Dillard, how much of this can we attribute to ventriloquism?”

I’ll never forget that question, posed to Dr. Raymond Dillard at Westminster Theological Seminary when he was teaching on the OT prophets, particularly passages such as Isaiah 8:19. The rather condescending tone revealed the questioner believed the chirping, whispering, peeping voices of the “spirits” to be nothing more than vocal sleight of hand. I will also never forget Dr. Dillard’s answer: “You know, some Christians live their entire lives as if the demonic does not exist.”

This was Christian Rationalism in fullest flower.

Christian Rationalism is what I call the worldview that proclaims for all intents and purposes, the Devil’s hand does not really exist. Call it superstition, call it stupidity, call it fear, call it any number of things, but there is absolutely no reality to the occult, to spell-casting, to practicing magic, to divinations, to séances, to the Ouija board, to the Tarot, to any of this, let alone physical manifestations like monsters and other more uncomfortable notions. No reality at all, or if there is any reality it just messes with your mind and that is as far as it can go, because “Satan is a defeated foe!”

Yes, he is, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t bite. With real teeth.

In October 2013 I posted a piece on “The Devil’s Hand” where I discussed the reality of this truth, i.e., that the Devil does actually indeed possess powers, powers given to him by virtue of his original creation, powers he did not lose when he plummeted into darkness and sin. Powers he has used ever since in a warped and twisted way, a mirror of his own warped and twisted being, to corrupt all of God’s good creation, including the physical world. He made fire fall from the sky, afflicted Job’s physical body with sore boils, and mimicked the power of God through the magicians of Egypt. I won’t repeat what I have already said on these truths.

devil

Photo by Girinath Gopinath * FreeImages.com

Let me instead expand upon the worldview that gives rise to Christian Rationalism.

Christian Rationalists live in a nice, safe universe where God is the only power. The vast majority of Calvinists I have known fall into this camp. While some Christian Rationalists may want to distance themselves from Calvinist theology, they hold the same view on this subject. God is the only power in the universe. Why? Well, because He’s sovereign. And yes, God is indeed so. But sovereignty does not mean no other power for all intents and purposes exists. Yes, God is sovereign. He is the ULTIMATE power in the universe, but not the ONLY power in the universe. He allows the Devil’s hand to operate according to His will. But that’s the Devil’s hand, not God’s. God did not afflict Job. Satan did. God allowed it, but it was Satan’s hand under God’s permission. Period.

Calvinists tend to take one truth, that God is sovereign, and squeeze and bury everything else through and under it. So the occult et al. just does not really exist, that’s superstition, because God is sovereign. This is the closed continuum kind of world the liberal theologians howl about, that the Bible can’t be true because miracles don’t happen. Well, Christian Rationalists are howling the same thing, that the occult, magic, monsters, ad infinitum et terror just don’t happen. It’s the same thing, same worldview. Problem is, it’s not the worldview of the Bible at all.

Recently one of these Christian Rationalists proclaimed that teleportation does not occur in the real world. Whose real world? The real world of the Christian Rationalist or the real world of Danish explorer Peter Freuchen who described precisely such a thing in his Book of the Eskimos where a shaman vanished from a crowded igloo to commune with the spirits and then reappeared, an experience which left Freuchen shaken yet confidently asserting there is nothing supernatural, just things not adequately explained by science.

Christian Rationalists do not believe the Devil’s hand is real. They do not believe the Bible. They believe instead their own tiny little safe comfortable closed continuum is the real world. Especially where magic is concerned, and especially where “Satan can’t affect the physical world” is concerned. A few of them even love to mock, shame and demean Christians who, like me, do not share this worldview and are not afraid to call it out for what it is: unbelief in the Word of God, spawned out of two things. Either a deep-seated but very palpable deep-down dread of the very thing they think they nullify by pretending it is not so, or a foolish cavalier frame of mind that reduces true spiritual warfare to little more than a superhero movie.

Either way, Christian Rationalists prate that if something is not part of their own personal experience, it ain’t real. But they’ve never had the Devil’s hand knock on their door. If they had, they would no longer be…Christian Rationalists.

When I was at college a friend who shall remain unidentified whose family lived in a further unidentified part of the United States shared with me and a few select others how his family, dedicated, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians, were regularly harassed and attacked by literal things that went bump in the night, sometimes went more than a little bump — hard, cold, physical entities definitely not serving God and wanting to harm this family any way they could. Christian Rationalists will retort, “Things like this really don’t/can’t exist/happen.” My answer: You were not there. Had you seen my friend’s face, seen his eyes, above all heard the change in his voice as he recounted the story, you’d think again. And had you been there with this family during this attack, you would either have ended up gibbering in a corner like one of Lovecraft’s doomed characters or blasting away with shotguns as these Christian people did. And my friend’s final reflection? “But you know what? That doesn’t bother me, because Jesus is my Savior, and Jesus is my Lord!” And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony (Rev. 12:11).

Okay, HG, what’s your point? That there are demons and things lurking under every rock and tree? Nope. But there are demons and things lurking somewhere, and we are fools to live our lives as if they do not.

Okay, HG, but how does this relate to writing? Simple. We write according to the worldview the Bible teaches. In my novel Jezebelle releasing October, she’s a ghost. Say what? But she is also a monster. Say what? And she’s not looking to settle unfinished business and move to some sort of “light” — she’s wreaking havoc and death everywhere she goes to recover her stolen doll. Because that’s what she is, destruction and death in the form of a dead, drop-dead, smoldering raven-haired antebellum beauty. And her antagonist must come to grips with a reality that shatters her own safe little world in order to deal with this abomination once and for all.

But HG, this can’t happen in the “real world.”

Maybe it can if the Devil’s hand touches it. And God permits it for His own purposes.

Unless of course we are indeed Christian Rationalists, safe in our closed continuum.

And may God forbid that, because He might decide to burst that false little bubble for us, where we too may have to face the Devil’s hand in the form of something we KNOW just doesn’t/can’t exist. In that moment you and I too will have a choice. To end up gibbering in the corner, or letting the Devil know one thing: “Jesus is my Savior and Jesus is my Lord!”

And with a shotgun too if so required.

 

author HG Ferguson

HG Ferguson

Author, theologian, graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary and Oral Roberts University, HG Ferguson brings biblical truth and articulate power to bear upon matters of both spiritual arcana and his work as a writer of horror fiction from a thoroughly scriptural perspective. Always outside the box of convention, but never outside the lines of what God has told us in His Holy Word. Look for HG Ferguson’s ghost story Jezebelle this fall from PLS Bookworks, where the darkness haunting a small southern town takes a road trip — into implacable evil and mindless destruction. And some Light too.

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6 comments on “Christian Rationalism: The Devil’s Hand Revisited

  1. Great post, HG. No teleportation in this world? How do we explain when the crowd wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff and He “walked right through them”? Oh, but that was Jesus. Then how do we explain Philip leaving the city and ending up in the desert miles and miles away just to speak to a man from Africa? Only the hand of God. Yes, demons and satan are real. And they are real powers. Just as real as the Adamic nature each of us possesses that can and does do nasty things to ourselves and others. Thanks for putting into words what so many believe. We are in a battle, and yes, God has won the war through Jesus, but that doesn’t make the battle any less real!

    • Philip was my first thought at the mention of teleportation as well:
      “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.”

      • Thank you for your comment, Nico. I know of one Christian who claimed he was also “teleported” into an unspecified country hostile to the Gospel, bore witness to Jesus to the unbelievers he encountered there, and then “was found/found himself” back home safe and sound. Remarkable miraculous things clustered around this man, so I am inclined to believe this story. Only he and God know if it actually occurred. But is anything too hard for the Lord? Our God is in the heavens, He does as He pleases. Who am I to say “What doest thou?”

  2. Thank you for your support, Leeann!

  3. Thought provoking. And woke me up this morning more than my coffee did!

    • I sometimes do that. Thank you for your kind response, It’s not easy writing on this topic, given the extremes so prevalent today — the one being this realm doesn’t really exist and the other being we must exorcise Satan from everything 24/7. Again, thank you for bringing some much-needed laughter, glad I could be of assistance… 🙂

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