So we are plugging away through Richard Baxter’s The Christian Directory—whacking topics as they, mole-like, poke their little heads up. Our topic today is taken from I.I.I.3, and has to do with the judicious use of our ears. Specifically, is it sensible to take advice from the devil about religion?
Poisonous ideas have always been ready to hand, but never so ready as now. It used to be that one had to scale the mountain and spelunk the cave in order to meet the guru. Today the guru has a Facebook account and uses Google AdWords. If five hundred years ago the marketplace of ideas was the size of a general store in a one horse town, now with globalization and the internet, it is Alibaba.com. It will deliver the epistemological equivalent of ten tons of scrap rubber foam… right to your front door.
Now, though there are a few who will brazen it out and champion the Father of lies as the real truth-teller, most people will concede that Satan is not the guy to buy a used car from, let alone a right view of God. But the problem is the name on Satan’s Facebook feed is not “Lucifer, Son of the Dawn” with his employment listed as “Slanderer; Accuser of the brethren; Adversary.” No, he’s a touch more subtle than that. Satan co-opts others to do his work. He works through their sneers, wry smiles, and arched eyebrows at the things of God. He works through their links, and comments and “likes.” Who wants to be on the outside of the inside? We all crave access to what C. S. Lewis called “The Inner Ring.” Sometimes that inner ring is academic respectability. Sometimes it is being known as “open and affirming.” Whatever it is, we dread receiving the ostraca which banish us to dweebdom, so much so that we stumble over ourselves to conform to Satan’s “authorized opinion”: “Yes sir, Mr. Devil, sir. Whatever you say.”
Baxter’s advice for those who want to know God is very practical. It is that if you are waiting around for the world’s approval for you to make peace with God, well, you’re going to be waiting a long time. He writes:
“I conclude, then, that if you will never turn to God and a holy life till wicked men give over belying and reproaching them, you may as well say you will never be reconciled to God till the devil is first reconciled to him; and never love Christ until the devil loves him; or never be a saint until the devil is a saint, or give you leave; and that you will not be saved, till the devil is willing that you be saved.” p. 15.
If you want to figure out what to believe about God, it matters much who you listen to, and whose approval is most important to you. If you want to know God, go right back to the source, back to the Word of God. If you are new to the Bible, start in the New Testament, in the gospels, the four eyewitness accounts of his life and ministry. Start there, but keep going. Listen to God on God. Hear him tell you who he is, what he has done, and what he requires of you. And as the world chortles that you done “got religion,” remind yourself that ultimately, each of us needs to give account for ourselves. No one will stand with you on judgment day. We will all face it alone.