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Friday, November 30, 2018

Demons Today

There is a prayer, said by not a few Catholic churches regularly, to the archangel Michael. It begins:
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. …
The frankness of this prayer—the way it takes the demonic with utmost seriousness—startled me the first time I encountered it. But the more I’ve thought about it, I’ve come to think Protestants would be wise to imitate that seriousness. One reason is biblical—the devil as mere metaphor just doesn’t take the New Testament writers, let alone Jesus, seriously, IMHO. The other is this ongoing reality, as reported by Mike Mariani in The Atlantic:
… far from being confined to a past of Demiurges and evil eyes, belief in demonic possession is widespread in the United States today. Polls conducted in recent decades by Gallup and the data firm YouGov suggest that roughly half of Americans believe demonic possession is real. The percentage who believe in the devil is even higher, and in fact has been growing: Gallup polls show that the number rose from 55 percent in 1990 to 70 percent in 2007. …
Father Vincent Lampert, the official exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, told me in early October that he’d received 1,700 phone or email requests for exorcisms in 2018, by far the most he’s ever gotten in one year. … Several other priests reported that without support from church staff and volunteers, their exorcism ministries would quickly swallow up their entire weekly schedules.
It’s a long read, to be sure, but the stories grip one’s attention so that time flies.
Different Kinds of Knowing
What’s the cause of the serious divides in our world? Such things are complex, but here is another aspect of it:
One largely neglected aspect of this ideological migration concerns the act of knowing itself. The fault lines opening up across the West reflect a fragmented set of beliefs on two distinct kinds of knowledge. On the one hand, there is the apparent expert, drawn from an elastic group of authoritative voices ranging from Stephen Hawking to Lady Gaga. On the other, there is the ordinary Joe with practical, pragmatic wisdom and common sense that understands what’s happening “on the ground.” These two poles have been pushed far apart in the spirit of the current age.
Consequences or Punishment?
This piece, by ethicist Gilbert Meilaender, begins with a look at a method of parental discipline in which parents avoid punishment and replace it with natural consequences. Most parents, myself included, are attracted to this method for good reasons. Meilaender shows the confusions that can result from this well-meaning effort, as well as the benefits of old-fashioned punishment. But what really interested me in the piece was how he related this to theology.
When a correspondent with C. S. Lewis suggested that God’s punishment is merely an impersonal consequence of not obeying God’s laws, like touching a live electrical wire, Lewis responds:
My dear Malcolm, what do you suppose you have gained by substituting the image of a live wire for that of angered majesty? You have shut us all up in despair; for the angry can forgive, but electricity can’t.
This is likely the reason the Bible has so much talk of divine punishment. It proclaims a personal God who, in fact, shows mercy to the penitent.
Remember the Algorithm’s Creator
This short video is an entertaining reminder that the strange magic called algorithms, which rule so much of our lives these days, are not only strange but decidedly opinionated.
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today

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