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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Unseen World of Devilish Mischief

The Unseen World of Devilish Mischief

Popular culture pictures angels and devils perched on our opposing shoulders, duking it out in a battle of whispered temptations and pious reprimands. The Bible, of course, has a much richer understanding.
For the November issue of CT, I asked Graham Cole, professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and author of Against the Darkness: The Doctrine of Angels, Satan, and Demons, to pick five books that can help us get a handle on the supernatural beings operating behind the scenes.
Here’s what Cole has to say about Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, a book written by 17th-century Puritan pastor Thomas Brooks:
“[Brooks] writes out of a deep understanding of Scripture and Christian experience, taking the unseen world of devilish mischief with utmost seriousness. His focus is on believers (‘saints’) and Satan’s strategies to trip them up. In chapter after eminently practical chapter, he describes the devil’s malevolent devices and the remedies to counter them.”

Matt ReynoldsMatt Reynolds
Matt Reynolds
Associate Editor, Books

Does Socialism Have to Be ‘Godless’?

The word socialism has a frustrating habit of slipping the bonds of its textbook definition and taking on a life of its own. Very few people who advertise themselves as socialists these days mean to endorse anything quite as comprehensive as the state owning the means of production or the abolition of private property. For some, socialism looks like a Scandinavian welfare state or the policy platform of Bernie Sanders. For others, it’s nothing more controversial than an ethic of sharing your toys with all the other kids in the sandbox. In our current political conversation, of course, “socialist” often appears as a slur against anyone with left-of-center economic ideas.
Certain Christians have spied an approximation of socialism in the second chapter of Acts, when the earliest believers “had everything in common” and “sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (v. 45–46). This gets us a good deal closer to the ideals animating the cast of characters featured in Vaneesa Cook’s Spiritual Socialists: Religion and the American Left, which recalls an earlier strain of faith-based political thought with few parallels today. Historian Heath Carter reviewed book for CT.
He writes, “The heart of [Cook’s] story lies in t­he half-century between World War I and the Civil Rights movement, a time when ‘spiritual socialists,’ as she calls them, stretched the boundaries of Christian social and political imagination, even as they helped reorient the American Left away from doctrinaire Marxism. As that latter point suggests, for Cook, as for her characters, socialism is a far more fluid category than the oft-cartoonish representations of it might suggest. Consistent with countless readers of magazines like Christianity Today, ‘spiritual socialists turned to the Bible rather than The Communist Manifesto for answers and inspiration.’ It was their faith that led them to reject the American Dream. They felt a call, deep in their hearts, to seek first, instead, the kingdom of God.
“Spiritual socialists did not agree on every detail of how the kingdom would come, but nearly to a person they believed that it was not through the state. As Cook observes, ‘Rather than encouraging centralized power politics, they promoted small-scale, local organization from the bottom up.’ Dorothy Day offers one case in point. During the international economic crisis of the 1930s, which prompted countless Americans to put their trust in an expanding national government, she poured her energies instead into the fledgling Catholic Worker movement. She put little stock in the New Deal’s alphabet soup of lumbering federal bureaucracies; but unlike its conservative critics, she also had no faith in the free market.”

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