Satan’s opposition as a mark of the Church

Rev. Larry Beane, a.k.a. Father Hollywood, has a profound and most encouraging post,
The Church: Rent and Distressed. He makes the point that, despite our search for the perfect and unified church, one mark of a true church is Satan’s opposition, and thus to the church’s constant assaults with heresies and schisms that the Devil keeps stirring up within the body.

Luther considered the “cross” – that is persecution, to be a “mark of the Church.” If Satan is not working night and day to destoy you, you have become uninteresting to him. Only one who is hopelessly lost has that kind of “luxury.” As long as the Bride of Christ endures in the fallen world (and our Lord promises that not even the gates of hell will prevail against her) the true Church will suffer the assaults of schism and heresy bubbling up from within.

This reality is of great comfort when we see encroachments of the secular world upon the Church. For if she were not the Church, Satan wouldn’t care to attack her.

No part, jurisdiction, denomination, or confession within the Church Catholic is exempt from such internal discord – though some feel the need to put forth the illusion that their particular denomination is free from such schisms and heresies.

Father Hollywood goes on to show in detail that the Devil really has a thing against Anglicans, also Lutherans, Roman Catholics, the Reformed, and even the seemingly homogenous Eastern Orthodox (among other traditions one could add). This means that each of these communions poses a particular threat to the Enemy and embodies in a particular way Christ’s church.

I would think, though, that Satan sometimes wins, with some church bodies ceasing to oppose what he puts forward, so that what was once of value in these traditions ceases. But I take his point, that the search for a perfect strife-free church–to the point of dividing into ever-smaller sects, then to a group of your closest friends meeting at home, then to just meeting with your family, then to being a church consisting of your own sweet self–is to pursue a theology of glory rather than a theology of the cross.

HT: William Weedon

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://heresyhunter.blogspot.com Bob Hunter

    “also Lutherans.” Aha!! So that explains Ablaze!

  • http://heresyhunter.blogspot.com Bob Hunter

    “also Lutherans.” Aha!! So that explains Ablaze!

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I do understand where Father Hollywood, my good friend, and fellow Society of st. Eric, Bo Giertz translating friend is coming from. Satan will always be on the attack against God’s faithful. We should not be surprised to find strife and fighting in the church.
    However I am hesitant to make it a mark of the Church, which sometimes seems to be the way we in the LCMS think about it. Sometimes I think we will find something to fight about if we don’t have anything of substance to fight about. Not only will we fight about whether or not it is proper to wear a Chausible, we will then fight over what color Chausible is proper. (O.K that is an exageration but…)

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I do understand where Father Hollywood, my good friend, and fellow Society of st. Eric, Bo Giertz translating friend is coming from. Satan will always be on the attack against God’s faithful. We should not be surprised to find strife and fighting in the church.
    However I am hesitant to make it a mark of the Church, which sometimes seems to be the way we in the LCMS think about it. Sometimes I think we will find something to fight about if we don’t have anything of substance to fight about. Not only will we fight about whether or not it is proper to wear a Chausible, we will then fight over what color Chausible is proper. (O.K that is an exageration but…)

  • Pingback: If the Devil isn’t gunning for you . . . worry. « Planet Augsburg

  • Pingback: If the Devil isn’t gunning for you . . . worry. « Planet Augsburg

  • amocurrare

    i love to talk about this topic because it reiterates my utter hatred for Satan. Satan can’t beat God. Satan is flung. God creates man and loves man. Satan doesn’t want God to have man or man to have God. But Satan doesn’t want man either! The church is illustrated as the bride of Christ, so of course Satan is going to attack wherever the risk is highest. He doesn’t seem to care how the strife and confusion and lies happen, only that they do. Politics? Moral Issues? Interpretation? Colors of linens? Check, check,check,check. It seems to me a characteristic of the Church, but by no means should become our identity.

  • amocurrare

    i love to talk about this topic because it reiterates my utter hatred for Satan. Satan can’t beat God. Satan is flung. God creates man and loves man. Satan doesn’t want God to have man or man to have God. But Satan doesn’t want man either! The church is illustrated as the bride of Christ, so of course Satan is going to attack wherever the risk is highest. He doesn’t seem to care how the strife and confusion and lies happen, only that they do. Politics? Moral Issues? Interpretation? Colors of linens? Check, check,check,check. It seems to me a characteristic of the Church, but by no means should become our identity.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I would agree with Bror (@2), and add that, again, while Satan will indeed attack true believers where they are found, one cannot point to where there is rancor and division and say that true believers are there. Is the acrimony (and violence) between Sunni and Shia a sign that the Church is there?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I would agree with Bror (@2), and add that, again, while Satan will indeed attack true believers where they are found, one cannot point to where there is rancor and division and say that true believers are there. Is the acrimony (and violence) between Sunni and Shia a sign that the Church is there?

  • http://www.fatherhollywood.blogspot.com Rev. Larry Beane

    Not to put words in Dr. Luther’s mouth (the cross as a mark of the Church is his theology), but I don’t think he’s saying that violence among pagans is a mark of the Church, but rather he is saying that among true Christians you cannot have a trouble-free existence (the theology of glory).

    I don’t believe we should seek strife, and then comfort and congratulate ourselves that are the Church – but rather we should seek genuine concord, and when that Concordia is threatened, when the promises of the theology of glory ring hollow, it is then that we look to our persecution as evidence that the devil is trying to hurt us.

    In that kind of persecution, we can take comfort. For our Lord Himself tells us we are “blessed” (Matt 5:11-12).

    I do agree, though, that this can be terribly distorted. A lot of people create their own problems through sin and irresponsibility – and then turn around and want people to pity them. That’s not the theology of the cross, but rather the theology of stupidity.

  • http://www.fatherhollywood.blogspot.com Rev. Larry Beane

    Not to put words in Dr. Luther’s mouth (the cross as a mark of the Church is his theology), but I don’t think he’s saying that violence among pagans is a mark of the Church, but rather he is saying that among true Christians you cannot have a trouble-free existence (the theology of glory).

    I don’t believe we should seek strife, and then comfort and congratulate ourselves that are the Church – but rather we should seek genuine concord, and when that Concordia is threatened, when the promises of the theology of glory ring hollow, it is then that we look to our persecution as evidence that the devil is trying to hurt us.

    In that kind of persecution, we can take comfort. For our Lord Himself tells us we are “blessed” (Matt 5:11-12).

    I do agree, though, that this can be terribly distorted. A lot of people create their own problems through sin and irresponsibility – and then turn around and want people to pity them. That’s not the theology of the cross, but rather the theology of stupidity.


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