in his letter to the church at ephesus, the apostle paul makes the following comment regarding the battle that christians face:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 – NASB
most commentaries take these verses to be very straightforward. that is to say that the battle christians face isn’t necessarily with each other, or more specifically with non-christians, rather it is both a spiritual battle between ourselves and other spiritual forces as well as between angelic and demonic forces. does this mean that spawn is perched on some old, inner city church steeple trying to fight the good fight? Is the governor of california battling some demonic creature, trying to save the world? Is keanu reeves out there trading blows with demons? are gabriel and lucifer leading unseen armies into armageddon? does this battle play itself out in our daily lives, right before our eyes without most of us knowing it?
no. no. no. maybe. yes.
theologically speaking, it may be the case that there is some eternal battle between angels and the demons. but true or not, and i do believe it is true, why does paul urge the church in ephesus to be mindful of the dark side, er this battle and to put on the full armor of God? it boils down to one thing, “could it be…hmmmmmmmm…satan?” and if i know satan, his ways are much more subtle than a flat out war; did you see al pacino in the devil’s advocate? our biggest clue to what the form that this battle may take comes not from the verses about the battle, but rather from the weapon that paul encourages the church to use – “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God [the Bible].” – Ephesians 6:17b (NASB).
there is a fact about the Bible that is accepted by anyone who has studied it seriously – the books of the bible where written at a specific time, to a specific group of people, by specific authors, who had a specific purpose. further, whether you believe in strict biblical inerrancy or not, there is a theme and message, a single story if you will, told throughout the bible that is consistent (with this view, i think it is safe to leave room for there to be discussion on whether or not there are any particular parts of the bible that can be seen as contradictory as the specifics become secondary to the primacy of the full biblical story). if that is the case, then it can be said that there is a very specific ideology – ontology, epistemology and ethic – that the Bible espouses.
it is that ideology itself which is at stake.
choose any number of topics that are of interest in the world today, abortion, gay rights, sex, drugs, rock and roll! the world is full of ideas and thoughts, questions and answers, paradigms and philosophies. we live in a world that has been described as the marketplace of ideas – and that is what we are battling for. not for salvation (that is presupposed by paul in this letter); not our desire to become more Christ like; but we are battling for something more immediate, more dangerous, and more costly. we are battling for our thought lives.
here is the rub, though it may seem like we are losing the battle – it is not the case. and i mean that not in a good way. rather, most christians aren’t even fighting the right fight. we choose topics and platforms, get stuck on sexy issues like abortion and gay rights. we draw a line in the sand for morality all in Christ’s name but we are not fighting the right fight. instead of fighting for our belief’s place in the marketplace of ideas, we are fighting in the court of public opinion. and that is what pisses me off.
instead of asking, “what would Jesus do”, or making cart blanche assessments of biblical morality and trying to thrust those down the throats of those who would disagree with us we need to start with something more basic – and for this i borrow from a friend and mentor – we need to start with the question, what did Christ believe to be true about God and existence, and how can i believe the same thing.