Have I said how much I like Greg Mitchell’s commentary on The Strange Man? I ought to, because I am about to quote it again. Here he writes about the end of chapter 4:
So, this is probably THE most controversial and debated scene in the book among readers and even my editors. Lindsey cries out for Jesus to save her from the bogeyman. All fine and good, except…she dies. This has raised some questions: “If she genuinely called on the name of the Lord, why did He not rescue her? Why did she die? Did God abandon her?” One review even went so far as to say I was condemning her for what I, the author, viewed as a sinful lifestyle. In a Christian book where demons are involved, it’s awfully easy to just have the hero “rebuke the devil in the name of Jesus” and then, wham, instant relief from danger. But I don’t think it works quite like that in real life and it definitely doesn’t work like that in The Coming Evil Trilogy. People die. Sometimes good people, who call on the name of the Lord. I think of the story of Job. The Lord forbade the devil from killing Job, but said no such thing about all of Job’s kids. They all died in one horrible afternoon. Now, most Christians want to cast themselves in the role of Job–believing that the devil can never harm them. But maybe, sometimes, we’re Job’s kids. But, even in the death of Job’s children, God was given the glory and it eventually strengthened Job’s faith. That’s a victory of a kind. I love Lindsey and certainly was not stepping in as Author and condemning her or passing judgment on her. In fact, I think there was a line that was eventually cut that said the spilling of her “innocent” blood is what affects the lake at the end of the book. Nor was I suggesting that God abandoned Lindsey or that He didn’t forgive her or save her soul.
There is a lot of truth in this. Any serious study of the Bible, any knowledge of the persecution the Church has suffered and is suffering now around the world – all will show that to be a Christian is not to be safe. Sometimes good people meet evil and it kills them.
And yet … Greg Mitchell brought up Job. There are many intriguing things about his story, and one of them is this: Satan never directly attacked Job. All his assaults were made through the physical world: forces of nature (which is scary), and human beings (which is scarier yet). Job’s children were killed when the oldest brother’s house, struck by a strong wind, collapsed on them. Satan didn’t show up in physical form and take care of business – which is pretty much what the Strange Man did with Lindsey.
In the Bible, direct confrontations between demons and human beings are hard to come by. Not that it is impossible. The Seventy-two, for example, had their encounters:
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
From first to last this is a fascinating statement. I always found it interesting that Jesus did not allow His disciples to rejoice in their authority over demons. But what is pertinent to our discussion is that the spirits did submit. They continued to.
One thing to note about these confrontations is that Christians prevailed, through the authority the Lord gave them. Another thing to note is that even there, the confrontations took place through the possessed human being. It still isn’t quite like The Strange Man, where demons interact with humans as physical beings in the physical world.
So to what degree are demons are capable of that, to what degree does God permit them, and to what degree do they choose to? And the answer is, simply, we don’t know. Greg Mitchell takes us into territory that is, scripturally speaking, uncharted.
And that’s why it doesn’t bother me. I understand the theological points raised by other reviewers, but Mitchell’s bogeyman is sometimes mythology rather than theology. The bogeyman coming to town in a storm and the gremlins flying down Main Street aren’t real-world; they’re just analogies to it.