Devil May Care
by Dr. Jack Hoehn
Former GC Theologian Ed Zinke writes a curious sort of Devil-may-or-may-not -care article in the Adventist Review titled “Does the Devil Care?” Now when I knew Ed as a classmate in religion classes at Pacific Union College he was always a serious theology student, and in later life has become a leading proponent and thought leader for the theological necessity of a 144 hour Creation chronology.
Although Ed seems to have left denominational employment for a business career, it appears he is still available to promote (as a “senior advisor to the Adventist Review”) those doctrines essential for the preservation of his vision of Adventism.
After the catchy title, Ed’s article suggests that Adventists have but two choices:
DEVIL FAITH or BIBLICAL FAITH.
You might just have an inkling as to which side he hopes we come down on?
But just to make sure his first three paragraphs are all about the Devil.
“Satan tempts…”, “Satan hopes…”, “The devil was….”, and just what is the Devil so busy doing? Trying to get us to use our minds, that’s what! “To establish our minds as the absolute determiner of truth…”; “to test God’s Word by our minds…”; “to trust their own judgment…” .
Opposed to this he offers “Caleb and Joshua who urged faith”, and Hebrews 11 where “By faith we understand that the worlds were created by the Word of God.” (I do note that it does not say “by faith we believe” but “by faith we understand”.)
Bible Faith is above human thinking, and Sister White is quoted to prove that. Abraham’s obedience to leave Ur is the “most striking evidence of faith to be found in the Bible.”
Biblical faith he concludes is “grounded in the power of the Word of God” and is distinct and not compromised with Devil faith which he calls humanistic. Especially dangerous would be to synthesize these two faiths, humanistic and Biblical. Like playing golf with a soccer ball.
Now while playing golf with a soccer ball might improve my ability to hit that little sphere, far be it from me to mix those two sports. Yet both sports do share a common thread, both are played for the same purpose, to put a ball into a specific location. The games do have similar goals, although the equipment players use may be diverse.
So it seems that Satan and God using different approaches are both playing a similar game. They are trying to score a decision by my mind. I don’t see the Bible suggesting I stop thinking and have faith. And I don’t see Satan suggesting think it over carefully and weight all the evidence!
In fact most of what I experience the Devil doing is to stop me from thinking—he distracts me from thought with frivolity, and carnality. He appeals to pride and vanity to prevent analysis. He encourages intoxicants, drugs, and overindulgence to deaden the sacred “sensibilities of the mind”, as Sister White might phrase it.
Abram in Ur was not tempted by Satan to “think it over carefully, and use your reason to not trust your Creator”. It was not “using his mind” that tempted Abram of Ur to stay put. It was comfort, it was wealth, it was family ties, it was emotion, and sloth, and inertia that might have kept him from seriously considering God’s command.
Also God was not asking for Abram’s faith instead of reason. God was not suggesting Abraham take Sarah and move to Arkansas or Patagonia. He was not directed to Mars or Oz, he was suggesting he move to a real and possible place, with roads that could be followed, and travelers who could tell him about the journey. God didn’t suggest he make a time capsule or an ark and wait for flood waters. God suggested a logical and reasonable course of action, and he didn’t just say, “Obey or else”. God offered Abram’s mind real incentives to think this through, to weigh the evidence.
He made him an offer that was actually hard to turn down, if you believed it was the Creator speaking. Listen to the inducements to obedience, “ I will make of thee a great nation.” “I will bless thee and make thy name great.” “Thou shalt be a blessing.” And in case the dangers of the adventure would halt him, God offers wonderful security, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.”
Abram departs not in a blind leap of faith, but in the thought-out, reasonable, realistic, mental decision to trust Yahweh.
Obviously we like Abram all make faith decisions with our minds. If Abram didn’t use his mind as “the absolute arbiter of truth,” what in Heaven’s name did he use? He had no scriptures to read, did he decide with his stomach? With his sense of humor? With emotion? Did he head for the Promised Land on warm fuzzy feelings? Did he decide if this was Yahweh or the Devil speaking to him based on throwing dice? I think not!
God was not trying to overcome Abram’s reason by calling him to Canaan, the whole purpose of the call was not the destruction of thinking, but the enhancement of thinking. Listen to what Sister White wrote about Abraham’s call to leave Ur:
“God disciplines His servants. He sees that some have powers which may be used in the advancement of His work…He gives them opportunity to correct these defects and to fit themselves for His service…They are educated, trained, and disciplined, prepared to fulfill the grand purpose for which their powers were given them. When God calls them to action, they are ready…” E.G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, “The Call of Abraham” p.129, 130.
Obedience, Bible faith, is not opposed to human thinking, judgment, reason, it is for the enhancement and purification of these very human “powers” which are to be “educated, trained, and disciplined” to fulfill the grand purpose for which God created human minds, the power to think and to do.
Of course we have to choose Devil Faith or Bible Faith, but we always make this vital choice using the kingly power of reason, this very human power hopefully educated, trained, and disciplined .
If Ed Zinke has some interpretations of Adventist doctrine that require us to not use our educated , trained, and disciplined human minds, then by Biblical faith I will carefully think through and reject interpretations that remain doubtful, debatable, of some private interpretation, or contrary to sanctified human reason. No matter what the Devil may care.