Some key ideas from Graham Cole’s Against the Darkness: The Doctrine of Angels, Satan and Demons [Wheaton, Illinois, Crossway 2019]
p18: Underscoring Charles Taylor’s key finding in his ground breaking A Secular Age, that the “social imaginary” has changed in the West. By this he means that the West has moved from an enchanted to an unenchanted worldview.
p45: In liturgical churches, like Anglican ones, a sense of the angelic order is built into the liturgy. Examples include the prayer:
We praise thee, O God: we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee: the Father everlasting.
To thee all angels cry aloud: the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee the Cherubin [sic] and Seraphin [sic]: continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy: Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty : of thy glory
[Book of Common Prayer 1662, opening words of the Te Deum]
The Holy Communion Service includes the words:
Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name….[Book of Common Prayer 1662]
The Trisagion, from the Service of Holy Communion is found in Revelation 4:8.
[Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, Have mercy on us. Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, Have mercy on us. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.]
p81: Cole notes that some churches and theologians in the past and present, build in extra-Biblical data to further describe spiritual beings eg the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite. Cole himself carefully limits the presentation of his theological insights to material that can be found in Holy Scripture. In note 11, p81 Cole writes: I follow the wisdom that says, “Have many teachers but only one Master.”
p.86 In relation to the Genesis 3 story of the temptation of Adam and Eve, Cole notes: The tempter targets the word of God. It remains true today.
p.89 In relation to reading the Bible text, Cole endorses the work of Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hayes that a respectful reading of the Old Testament in light of the New discloses figurations of the truth about the one God who acts and speaks in both. [From Davis and Hayes: The Art of Reading Scripture, 2003]. In note 45, p81 Cole suggests that the same approach could be usefully applied to the correspondence between the serpent (earlier) and Satan (later).
p131. In relation to the story in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 regarding Paul’s command to the Corinthians to expel an unrepentant Christian who was living in sin and instructing them to ‘deliver this man to Satan’, Cole notes that The church was holy ground. Outside the fellowship of believers was the domain of Satan. That was where sin and its self-destruction belonged. From these texts it appears that Satan is an external force in the believer’s life, not an internal one. [cf also 1 Timothy 1:20 where the troublesome pair of Hymenaeus and Alexander whom I have delivered to Satan [i.e. to the outside world away from the church]
p133. Cole quotes cautionary remarks about charismatic activity by theologian R. T. France: Not only the profession of discipleship, but even miraculous activity in the name of Jesus, is not enough to prove a genuine disciple….Prophecy, exorcism and miracles can be counterfeited. ‘Charismatic’ activity is no substitute for obedience and a personal relationship with Christ. [R T France: Matthew, TNTC, 2008 p153]
p 146 Cole quotes the old adage lex orandi lex credendi. That is to say, the law of praying is the law of believing. What we really believe shows in our prayer life. Later on p.158 Cole notes our praying will show whether our espoused theology matches our operational theology. And he adds on p159: A prayer life that exhibits no awareness of evil is in a cocoon removed from the anguish in the world and Christ who wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and for his dead friend Lazarus (John 11:35). In Jesus’s case, his espoused theology and his operational theology were a perfect match.
p159. Re the fear of death: Cole notes: Scripture calls death the last enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is like a power that can exert an influence over us. The writer to the Hebrews sees the very human fear of death as the means by which the devil may enslave us. (Hebrews 2:14-15). How that works the N T does not explain…..On the cross, Christ took our judgment…to really believe that is to be at peace about the future.
p167 Re spiritual warfare: 3 verses: Cole notes the apostolic task is set within the contest between light and darkness, God and Satan. The task involves opening the eyes of the spiritually blind……. 2 Corinthians 4: 4 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, who is the likeness of God.
2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:5,15. For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you accepted you accept it readily enough…. so it is not strange if his [i.e. Satan’s] servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
p204 Re judgment: Cole notes: We live in a morally serious universe. There is an accounting. The God of biblical revelation is not only love but also light. God is holy, righteous love. His love is seen in salvation history. Jesus ‘will save his people from their sins”. (Matt.1:21). The light is seen in the judgment of God. And from p.206: Judgment is coming. Wrath is coming. And divine wrath is not to be made banal and dismissed as the depiction of a celestial temper tantrum unworthy of a modern person’s belief.
p221 Back to the secular age in which we live:
We live in a society that appears to be moving from tolerant indifference toward Christianity on the part of the secular elites to increasingly open hostility at the verbal and judicial level. “…Christians have to learn how to move from the moral majority to a prophetic minority. [quoting Russell Moore, from Moral Majority USA]
p 228 “ …as Christians we do not believe ‘in’ the devil. The devil is not mentioned in the creed. But we do believe ‘against’ the devil. [quoting Otto Weber]
p 238 Islam takes the supernatural seriously, and so should any professing Christian.