Should Christians Leave the Devil Out of Discussions on Evangelism and Early Discipleship?


Parents and godparents will no longer have to promise to “reject the Devil and all rebellion against God” at baptisms in the UK’s largest denomination, and will instead pledge to “turn away from sin” and “reject evil.” Mark Burnett’s Son of God film dropped Satan scenes to prevent viewers from focusing on him instead of Christ. Most Christians may not miss him: A 2009 poll found that nearly 60 percent of U.S. Christians view the Devil as only a symbolic character. We asked experts whether Satan should be part of evangelism and early discipleship, or whether it’s better to talk about evil and re-educate people on the devil later on. We’re posting responses below on a spectrum, from those who think it’s better to wait up top, and those who think Satan should be part of early discussions near the bottom of the article.

“For many people, the Devil has been turned into a cartoon-like character of no particular malevolence. The problem is helping people with little doctrinal appreciation to understand what we mean by affirming that the Devil is a defeated power.”
Robert Paterson, Bishop of Sodor and Man, Church of England (in comments presenting the revised baptism liturgy to the church’s General Synod)

“No, and for some good cultural reasons. C. S. Lewis said that there are two errors to avoid regarding the Devil—to ignore him and to become fascinated with him. The problem is that many in our culture seem unable to engage the concept of the demonic without becoming fascinated in problematic ways.”
Jim Beilby, professor of systematic and philosophical theology at Bethel University and coeditor, Understanding Spiritual Warfare

“In Jesus’ earthly ministry the temptation account comes somewhat early; perhaps that could be a standard for when to introduce new believers to the wiles of the Evil One. But if one were to judge by standards of doctrinal importance, I would put it way down the list. I would give the Devil his due, which isn’t much.”
Jerry Root, coauthor, The Sacrament of Evangelism

“Instruction on sin, and evil, absolutely. Satan: maybe. It’s not an essential first step of discipleship, so I wouldn’t catechise on it, but if people ask, I’d give a (very) straight answer.”
Andrew Wilson, elder, Kings Church in Eastbourne, England

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Compiled by Ruth Moon

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