What the Devil

I think it was in Progressive Voices, the magazine of the Progressive Christianity Network, that I read an article in which the writer was expressing concern about taking bits of the Bible literally.  He recounted how a bishop had said to him, “It’s poetry, dear boy”!

I was reminded of this during our recent Baptism and Confirmation service.  Candidates are asked to, “ Fight valiantly…. against sin, the world and the devil” and later to “persevere in resisting evil”.  More metaphor and poetry?

St. Augustine developed the doctrine of “original sin”, illustrated Biblically by the story of Adam and Eve.  But, how about about the idea of “original goodness” – “created in God’s image”? A goodness that is always there, but which can become distorted by the way we are treated and by a desire to survive, which makes us prone to sin.

‘Sin’ encompasses thoughts, words and actions devoid of love and compassion and thereby damaging to ourselves and other people.  Or, as Father Laurence, my favourite Benedictine monk says, “Sin is not the breaking of rules, but the fracturing of relationships”. 

And where does the Devil come into this?  I find it helpful to see the Devil as a metaphor for a distorted and unrestrained ego. The ego is that part of us that encourages us to become a separate being.  A necessary process enabling us to grow, explore and make choices.

Ideally we come to have a balance between feeling both separate, connected and loved.  If we have a bruised and damaged ego and thereby feel separate, disconnected and unloved, we may be tempted to show the world that we are somebody and just how powerful we are.  Not everyone says, “Get thee behind me Satan” and that can have disastrous consequences.

Chris Dawson                             

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.