Origen famously created controversy in his day by merely speculating on the possibility that even the devil could be saved. It is important to ask why this idea should be controversial in a Christian context. Allegedly, Christianity is all about redemption, about the possibility of those living in darkness seeing the light and changing direction. Yet even today a question about praying for the devil on Yahoo! Answers meets with either surprise or the response ‘there would be no point’.
I was struck when teaching a course on South Asia in which we read the Ramayana how, after the hero Rama defeats the demon Ravana, he sees the latter’s inner self, with the selfishness and bitterness burned away in the battle. Similarly, Star Wars presents Luke Skywalker redeeming his father, even though even Anakin himself is persuaded that it is too late for him. Yet reading John 8 once again as we reached that passage in the Sunday School class I teach, I couldn’t help noticing how absolute (almost Zoroastrian) its depiction of the devil is – a liar and murderer “from the beginning”, which I suppose could mean from creation (as in the Life of Adam and Eve), but sounds like it is simply saying ‘he was always that way’.The Biblical writings do not have a consistent doctrine of Satan or ‘the devil’ – most of it is based on the application of texts from Isaiah and Ezekiel that originally referred to the kings of Babylon and Tyre to a fallen angel. So perhaps it is not that surprising to find that there isn’t a coherent view of what it would mean to hope for the ultimate reconciliation of all things either.