Edwards and Demons (Part V)
This is part five of a series on Jonathan Edwards’ thought regarding the active work of Satan in the world.
This satanic guidance of culture is not the primary battleground between good and evil in the physical, human realm. Culture exists as an amalgamation of a million individual persons. These million individual persons, for Edwards, are of chief importance, for though societies will be judged, it is individuals who are the responsible agents and bearers of that judgment. Societies are not cast into hell; individual men, women and children are.
The question of one’s own relation to God is the most important discussion a man may have with himself. As such, it is natural to expect that the greatest point of demonic influence in the soul consists of attempting to delude an individual of his or her relation to God. The Scriptures bear witness to the intentional work of the demonic realm in an attempt to counteract the work of the gospel inside the particular human heart. In Jesus’ parable of the sower, Luke identifies the “birds of the air” who came and snatched away the seed along the path as the devil, with the result that “they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). Paul charges the Corinthian believers to beware for, “In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4) Again Paul writes, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Edwards writes, “[T]he devil can counterfeit all the saving operations and graces of the Spirit of God . . .” (253). At the heart of the work of the devil is counterfeiting and deception. He is indeed the father of lies. Deception is a difficult concept to consider, for according to the very definition, those that are deceived do not know that they are indeed deceived. The moment deception is realized, it is no longer deception but insanity. Matthew 7:21-23 is a chilling passage bearing witness to the existence and eternal fate of those who are convinced of their own reconciliation before God, but who are not known by Him.
In order for deception to be a reality, the one deceived must be deceived through means. He must be given something that mirrors that which he is seeking in order to be convinced that he has the real thing, and that substitute must produce the happiness and assurance that he is expecting to derive from the real thing. Though a counterfeit will never be of the quality of the genuine object, to the individual who has never known the delight of the genuine, the benefits received from the counterfeit may very well convince them that they possess the genuine object.
[I]t must be observed, that a natural man may have religious apprehensions and affections, which may be, in many respects, very new and surprising to him; and yet what he experiences, be nothing like the exercise of a new nature. His affections may be very new, in a very new degree, with a great many new circumstances, a new co-operation of natural affections, and a new composition of ideas. This may be from some powerful influence of Satan, and some great delusion. (267)
A counterfeit gospel will always produce affections, otherwise it would have no power to first entice, and then retain. Natural men are always slaves to their own quests for happiness, whether Pascal’s man upon the noose or the shadowy sexual tryst. As we have noticed earlier, there are a thousand ways to remain in rebellion to the Lord, yet only one road that heralds a change of kingdoms. Satan does not care which one of the thousands paths his slaves travel, so long as they are blind to the highway that leads to freedom.
A man who converts from the predominant secular naturalism of American culture to Islam will have “religious apprehensions and affections’” that are indeed “very new and surprising to him.” And yet, that man still will have no greater grace within him after as before. Likewise, a man may believe himself to be converted to Christianity from the same cultural milieu, while having only transferred himself from one of the devil’s battlefield trenches to another, all the while believing himself to be liberated because of the change of scenery. The psychological effects of having a cause to fight for are a powerful thing, and to a man unacquainted with true Christianity may appear to be the same thing. One’s perception of reality does not necessarily equate to reality itself.