Thoughts on Evil: Part 11, The Diabolos

I am still working my way through Jacque Ellul’s “six evil powers.”  If you have been keeping score, this is evil power #5 – “The devil” or “division.”

Let me reiterate Ellul’s claim about evil.  Evil is only personified as “Satan” when it is convenient to do so.  Evil has many expressions beyond Satan.  Ellul says:

“The Bible refers to six evil powers:  Mammon, the prince of this world, the prince of lies, Satan, the devil, and death.  Concerning these six, one might remark that they are all characterized by their functions:  money, power, deception, accusation, division, and destruction.”

Diabolos.  Devil.  “The divider.”  The concept is rather a simple one.  God is the creator of unity.  The devil divides what God has created for peace and unity.  When we fight, war, kill, divorce, break-up, split, disrupt, combat, compete, exclude, or mal-adjust, we have fallen prey to the devil – the evil power of division.  Again, I will let Ellul’s work stand:

As in the case of Satan, the church is a favorite prey of the devil, and the occasion of many disruptions in the world.  Certainly there were wars and conflicts and divisions prior to Christianity.  But I believe that the church has been an aggravating factor in the natural situation.  What might have been simply a psychological or political or sociological matter has now become a spiritual matter.  Divisions are aggravated because they have spiritual roots.  We now find holy wars, crusades, heresies, etc…

Wars of religion are more implacable than all other wars; this has been said hundreds of times.  Such wars typically result from cross-breeding the devil and the church, or the use of the devil of the truth held by the church.  As in the case of accusation, the drama has been that of contamination.  The contagion has spread from the church to society and to the world as a whole.  Our political wars and conflicts are so frightful because they are now wars of religion and spiritual combats.  It is not good appealing to the fact that ours is a century of secular religions, and that they wars stirred up by Hitlerism and communism are in their own way wars of religion, as all revolutionary movements are also religious movements.  They are not this by nature; the church, characterizing them by its presence, has made them religious.

This is the point of caution for the church.  Do not get tangled up in division and war in the name of God or church.  I think Bob Dylan’s song “With God on Our Side” says rather sarcastically what is meant by Ellul.  “If God’s on our side, he’ll stop the next war.”  Justification quickly turns to holiness, when there is a colossal difference between the two.  This is, ultimately, why we study evil.  To remind ourselves that ALL division is contrary to God’s will.  The summary statement by John Howard Yoder is a good one – “Peace is the will of God.”  The church should, in Ellul’s mind, purge itself from participation in all manner of division and discord – social and personal – in order to focus its life on actions that bring people together in peace and unity.

Ultimately, dividing is a what a world captive to the Diabolos does.  This is what a church captivated by ‘the love of Christ that’s rich and free’ does:

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…”  (Eph. 4:1-3, NIV).

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