There’s a pastor in Fairfield, California, who apparently wants to exorcise any notion that the devil and demons are real.
I happened to stumble across his column in the local newspaper, a preview of his sermon for the next day – Super Bowl Sunday.
His name is Perry W. Polk, and he is interim rector at Grace Episcopal Church.
Polk focused his teaching on the day Jesus cast a demon out of a possessed man in a synagogue in Capernaum.
About this incident, described similarly in Mark 1 and Luke 4, Polk has the following to say: “Now we don’t know what Mark meant by an ‘unclean spirit,’ but we do know that people had a full range of beliefs about how the world was governed. The unclean spirit likely was that the man was defiled in some way. But what the man says suggests that his defilement was caused by a demon. The man says, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ Of course, Jesus lived in a pre-scientific time. Causation was assumed to be from the spirit world, and this especially applied to people who acted out of the norm. The society placed great emphasis on conformity.”
Back in 1864, Charles Pierre Baudelaire famously wrote, “The loveliest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist!”
Apparently, Pastor Polk is one of those who has been so deceived.
He’s hardly alone.
Surveys suggest 70 percent of self-identifying Christians don’t believe in the in the existence of the devil.
The problem with that conclusion, however, is that you must believe Jesus Himself is a liar or that what the Bible says about Him is simply not true.
A little biblical context is necessary here. Just prior to this incident in Capernaum, the gospels describe in detail Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, where the Messiah spent 40 days fasting and praying before launching His public ministry.
We can assume this conflict was actually described by Jesus Himself since He was alone with the devil.
Does Pastor Polk, I wonder, believe Jesus, too, the Creator of the universe, was confused about who he was dealing with in the desert? Was the Creator of the universe just befuddled because he lived in a “pre-scientific time”? Who was Jesus contesting with and resisting if not the devil? And, further to the point, what is the purpose of studying or teaching the Bible in scientific times like these when it all begins with this non-existent devil deceiving mankind in the Garden of Eden, causing mankind to fall?
Lastly, who doth this pastor say Jesus is?
After all, Jesus talked frequently of the devil and his demonic minions.
He spoke to them.
They recognized Him as the Son of God before He had identified Himself to others that way.
He taught His apostles to cast them out of others.
He described the devil as “a murderer from the beginning,” and “a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
He commanded His followers to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”
Why would Jesus deceive His followers and the readers of Scripture in our times about the nature of the devil and the demonic realm if he knew better? Or was Jesus deceived because He, too, was raised in a culture of ignorant clans, as Pastor Polk explains so condescendingly?
There’s something in the Bible about this phenomenon of false teachers.
It can be found in 2 Timothy 4:3: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”