As I mentioned in my previous post, I am reading (scratch “am,” replace with “was”) a book by James R. Brayshaw called Satan: Christianity’s Other God. It may be a somewhat-anal observation, but should a reader really trust the scholarship of a writer who tends to constantly split his infinitives? Or who scatters punctuation as if it came from a saltshaker, placing commas, where they, don’t belong and omitting them where they do like here? Who allows the following sentence to go to print with his name attached? “Even the writer of the book, in their admission that they believe Satan has superhuman powers like God; agree that their “Satan” cannot create? (p.57) (Errors: non-agreement in number of the pronoun their with the subject writer; misuse of the semicolon, question mark after what is obviously a declarative sentence, missing comma.)
I’ve given up on the exercise, particularly since the case of Satan being an allegorical construct can be made in a few paragraphs and this book runs to 500 pages and has the depressing affix on the cover indicating that it is still only “Volume I”. (I was unable to find any record of a “Volume II.”) Even more, the sloppy writing and the lack of skilled editing simply made me think that this was an author whose credentials were suspect, like a person who expounds on his knowledge of hockey while referring to the scoring of a goal as a “slam dunk.”
I put down the book for good when I read Brayshaw’s declaration that the days in the Genesis creation story are literal, 24-hour days, supporting this contention with the dubious evidence that each day had an evening and a morning, so how could it be anything but a literal day?!? Brayshaw’s understanding of allegory and metaphor seems to be very selective, at best.
What I didn’t read anywhere was an admission that many of the same arguments used for the denial of the existence of a literal Satan can be used to argue for an allegorical God. The whole world of Scripture interpretation seems often to hang on the distinction between historical and allegorical “truth,” and Brayshaw (like pretty much every Sunday School teacher in the land) hasn’t mastered a consistent control of this fundamental religious conundrum.
He is right when he says that escaping the myth of a literal Satan is a freeing experience; what he fails to do is take the next logical step, namely to recognize that an allegorical approach to scriptures (or to Shakespeare, for that matter) is foundational to making peace with our spiritual doubts, fears and misunderstandings. Scripture as story, not as history—in a manner of speaking.
Story has an extraordinary power to illuminate, open doors for people alluded to by Jesus when he said, “he that has ears to hear, let him hear:” a clear call to human intellect to see the parables, for instance, as springboards to an expanding world of spiritual insight.
I know. I have spent far too much unnecessary time in the whale’s belly.