It’s Sunday morning; my town is still asleep. The yellow leaves that blew into the front yard yesterday are wet with overnight rain; I briefly considered—then rejected—the option of starting up the furnace. Too much like admitting that summer is over.
I’ve got a book on my desk that I chanced upon in the library yesterday. It’s Satan: Christianity’s Other God by James R. Brayshaw. It purports to show that “scholars have imposed their belief in a cosmic Satan onto passages that have nothing to say about such an entity” and that “A journey through the Scriptures and history reveals that God did not create the Satan of Christianity and that Satan didn’t exist in the theology of the people of God until they spent time among cultures steeped in mythology.” (This latter refers—I take it—to the sojourn in Egypt and more importantly, to the exile and the subsequent influence of Babylonian and Persian culture and religion.) So much I’ve gleaned from the Preface, Introduction and the book jacket. I’d better read it before I say more about its contents.
I expect that even the most adamant evangelical preachers must have had some intuition that the image of a powerful, supernatural “Satan” with his evil angels/demons is antithetical to that other important Judeo/Christian imperative, namely that there is but one God, not two, not ten. Just one.
This is heavy stuff for a Sunday morning. In Eigenheim Mennonite Church, a group of us will gather at 10:00 to discuss the motives and methods behind Nehemiah’s determination to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. (I don’t expect the possibility that Ezra and Nehemiah had been influenced by the Persians to see good and evil as the work of two opposing gods will come up.) More important is the observation that we are all beholden to courageous people with the energy and the foresight to lead us in REBUILDING that which is crumbling and broken down, burnt like the gates of Jerusalem in 500 BC. Courageous leadership is not easy to find, especially leadership with the fortitude to tackle rebuilding, whether it be of physical structures, lives, or religious concepts that may have led us astray. Rebuilding takes guts.
But in questions of understandings that reach back into antiquity—like the Satan imagery—it’s a bit like refusing to turn on the furnace because it would be admitting that one has given up on summer.
May the light of the one, single God shine on you this day.