Rebuilding the Foundations
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I use this newsletter to send Bible studies as much as once per week, sometimes less, but never more. See back issues.
The advice below is obviously not really written by Satan and found by me, but you should read it as though it were. This small treatise is every bit as much an exposé of the devil's method- as if the premise were true, and I had found a booklet defining the devil's purposes toward the church.
The devil really did use the methods below to turn the powerful, holy, and united churches of the apostles into organizations filled with nominal Christians and leaders that look more like priests of pagan temples than humble servants of the flock of God.
The history on this page is accurate and referenced. The devil's perspective on that history cannot be historically scrutinized, of course. It is my argument, though, that this document really is the devil's plan towards the church and that it is still succeeding today.
Originally published by Greatest Stories Ever Told in 2009. The PDF of the book can be downloaded for free
Though this treatise is from the devil's perspective, he makes a lot of historical references. The text boxes explain the history to which the devil refers, and I have also put in-text citations to reference sources validating the devil's historical comments.
All Bible quotes are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.
Obviously, I've had quite a lot of practice at making churches fail. More than anyone, really, since everyone else gets just seventy or eighty years upon this earth. I've battled the church during its entire 2,000 years.
I think my record speaks for itself. I have been eminently successful, and most of what passes as Christianity in the world today bears little, if any, resemblance to the religion started by that Man—who shall go unnamed for obvious reasons—that the Son of God became.
My plan is a three-part process that ends, not in the renouncing of the Christian religion, but in its replacement with something that does not join people to God, to his purposes, or to each other.
And this is quite enough. The danger is not that the occasional exceptionally committed man or woman will avoid sin and perhaps attain heaven by their righteousness. This is so unlikely that the accursed apostle Paul, exaggerating a bit, said it can't be done.
The danger is that men and women will know God and fulfill his purposes, for it is God—and his Son, though whom he speaks to humans—that is my Enemy.
God's purposes are horrifying. Leave him alone, and he would save the whole world. He would bring peace, joy, harmony, and righteousness, and then what would my servants do? We'd be stranded here on this earth, ignored by people empowered from heaven by God. What fun is that?
So here are the steps for preventing Christians from knowing the purposes of God, living for those purposes, and joining themselves to him.
Fortunately, as that wretched apostle John knew and tried to prevent, the whole world lies under my sway.
People tend to think that only the fallen angels and demons are my subjects. Oh, no. Virtually all the world obeys me at my whim. Not being omnipresent, as God is, I can't spend all my time controlling them, but as the need arises, they are all at my beck and call.
Think of it like some internet viruses. Someone writes a program, then loads it on numerous computers through whatever means he can. Sometimes he uses a trojan, tacking his virus onto some legitimate program. Other times, he has a computer randomly search the internet for unsecured computers that will accept any program without the user's knowledge.
Such a viral program sits unused on hundreds or thousands of computers, reporting the IP address of its host to the virus writer. When he's ready, the writer simply sends a command to all those addresses, and the virus goes to work. Hundreds or thousands of computers use all their bandwidth to do the will of the writer.
Often the will of the writer is to shut down a web site. He simply orders those thousands of computers to ping the web site incessantly until its computers can't handle the load, and the site disappears from the internet.
When a church or a particularly gifted Christian begins to lay hold of the promises and purposes of God, I do roughly the same thing. I call a legion of demons to stir my oblivious servants to hatred against that church or Christian. They take it from there.
Humans are programmed to care about the opinions of others. When that dangerous church or Christian sees that everyone is opposed to what they are doing, they will often back off. Either they will doubt they are on the right path—how could they be if no one agrees with them?—or they will simply quit out of fear or weariness.
Quickly and Wholeheartedly
It's important to do that quickly and wholeheartedly. If you let that church or Christian spend too much time in fellowship with God, then their experience with heaven will assure them that they are on the right path. When that happens, almost none of them will turn from the path they have embarked upon.
I have to assume that this is why my Enemy, the God of heaven, refuses repentance to those who, as he says, "were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come" [Heb. 6:4-6]. Such gifts are quite a banquet to humans, and it is a rare one that walks away after tasting all that.
That's why it's important to get them rapidly.
Look at Jerusalem, for example. I got started instantly. When Peter healed the lame man at the temple gate, I didn't even wait until he was done preaching. I got the captain of the temple over there with the Jewish leaders and soldiers and stuck them right in jail.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that arresting Peter and John failed. The first time the Pharisees released them, and the second time my Enemy sent an angel to release Peter.
That's where you're a fool, and I'm wise. It was effective. The general populace saw them arrested and questioned. Most people don't have the courage to go through that kind of pressure, so in one fell swoop I eliminated hundreds or thousands of converts through fear.
Don't forget the parable of the sower. I hate it when my Enemy's Son exposes my tactics, but since this pamphlet is to help you help me, I don't mind talking about it.
A sower went forth to sow. When he sowed, some seeds fell by the side of the path, and the fowls came and devoured them up.
Some fell upon stony places, where they didn't have much earth. These sprung up immediately, because the soil was not deep. When the sun came up, they were scorched, and, because they had no root, they withered away.
Some fell among thorns. The thorns sprung up, and choked them. But other fell on good ground, and brought forth fruit; some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold.
He who has an ear, let him hear.
My first tactic is to prevent them from becoming Christians in the first place. Like a bird of the air, I come along and snatch the seed before it has a chance to pierce hard hearts. Arresting Peter and John prevented the seed from resting on the by-ways long enough to take root.
I helped this tactic along by stirring up Ananias and Sapphira. What a great plan that was! But then, I'm a great general. God should have made better use of me.
My Enemy was forced to strike down both Ananias and Sapphira. That was not to no purpose. God, being wise like me, knows that discipline and commitment to the cause are more important than force of numbers. In fact, as I will show you in the last section of the pamphlet, large numbers are my greatest tactic, not his.
So striking down Ananias and Sapphira was my Enemy's best choice, but it benefited me as well. As God is forced to admit through Luke, because of the death of Ananias the people "dared not join themselves" to the church [Acts 5:13]. Yes, they magnified the church, but it is far better for humans to be impressed with God than that they actually join themselves to his Son and become spiritual.
How I hate spiritual eyes! Remember, my disciples, light is the Enemy of darkness. We need not avoid a few losses. We need to avoid light.
Steady and Unrelenting
The persecution must be steady and unrelenting. I was very fortunate to have found Saul. What a powerful tool he was! He virtually shut down the church in Jerusalem single-handedly. Then, even when the ones that my Enemy's Son possessed fully spread to other cities, I sent that wretched traitor Saul after them.
He would have succeeded, too. How could I have known that my Enemy's Son would leave the throne to obtain a convert? I was convinced that was somehow against the purposes of God. He had never done anything like it except to reward that burr in my saddle, Stephen [Acts 7:56].
Let him arise for men like Stephen. At least we dispatched him to his reward, where he could do me no more harm.
When Saul turned on me, even then I did not relent. I turned from the Jews to that Roman puppet, Herod. He was so effective that God himself had to intervene and strike him down.
Sad, that turn of events.
However, that brings me to my next and most important point on the matter of persecution ...
You Can't Beat God by Fighting Him
The phrase, "Behold, I stand at the door and pick the lock," is borrowed that from Isaac Air Freight, a Christian comedy team that was popular in the 1980's.
Hey, I should know, shouldn't I?
Listen, I know what you humans are saying about me. You say I'm full of pride. What you don't realize is that I have reason to be. You underestimate my power and wisdom.
Being wise, I'm not so proud that I use useless tactics. I tried overthrowing God and his angels. It didn't work, and I'm not going to make the same mistake twice. I have a new tactic now. Behold, I stand at the door and pick the lock.
There is no real scriptural support for the idea that Satan led a third of the angels in rebellion against God in the past. The symbolic passage that discusses such a war in heaven is Revelation 12:4-9, which also symbolizes the church or Israel or both. Since the church or Israel are present, the battle could not have happened prior to Adam and the garden. All of Revelation seems to be about the future, and Revelation 12 is no exception.
Let the Son of God call me a thief [Jn. 10:10]. Victory is victory, and unlike humans, I will not be deterred by a little derision.
Fighting against the people of God is no different than fighting against God himself. That annoying ant of a man, Tertullian, said accurately that the more Christians we mow down, the more of them there are [Tertullian, Apology, ch. 39, c. AD 210].
There's a time to stop, or you will just multiply the servants of God. And it's not just any servants that will multiply, but hardy, powerful servants will multiply into an army much stronger than Michael and his angels.
Persecution is to keep the minions of the world from crowding into my Enemy's kingdom while the message is still pure. It's necessary to keep the masses out. It's the means for stripping the Word from the paths and for causing those without deep roots to abandon the path before they grow deep roots.
Once those are taken care of, it's time to move on to ...
Have you ever listened to the sudden quiet after a great noise? The silence is deafening. It subdues all other thoughts.
That's one more reason that persecution needs to be sudden, swift, unrelenting, and powerful. It should make a noise! It should draw all the attention of the disciples of that upstart King who is trying to take my kingdom.
When the silence comes, they should notice. They should be left standing with the quietness ringing in their ears, with no memory of what should be done when the battle is not raging.
Oh, how effective this tactic of mine has been! What power was found in it! I should not marvel. I am the most brilliant of the creatures of God.
When I unfolded this ploy in the third century, one of my Enemy's disciple fought hopelessly against it. Listen to his pleas, his complaints, his acknowledgment of my success!
The arranged time comes to our people; there is peace in the world. At the same time, ruin is weighing us down from the enticement of the world, of the reckless people whom you have torn into schism. [The Instructions of Commodianus 66, c. AD 240]
He goes on to compare it with persecution. Even this mere human recognized that the peace I ordered was more effective in the church than persecution had been. I have to suppose that he had no awareness that persecution was not for the church, but for the minions that I meant to keep outside my Enemy's influence.
A treacherous peace is coming to you; persecution is rife; the wounds do not appear; and thus, without slaughter, ye are destroyed. War is waged in secret because, in the midst of peace itself, scarcely one of you has behaved himself with caution. Oh badly fortified and foretold for slaughter! You praise a treacherous peace, a peace that is mischievous to you! Having become the soldiers of another than Christ, you have perished. [The Instructions of Commodianus 66, c. AD 240]
Yes, yes, yes! I cannot hide my glee! What effect! What power! What craftiness on my part!
Why Peace Is Powerful
This peace is powerful, very powerful. It is powerful precisely because it follows persecution.
Persecution teaches the church to look at the world around it. It trains them to face the battle at all times. Their view is horizontal, not vertical, and thus it is useless and even damaging to them in time of peace.
Compare the actions of the third-century church with the actions of the apostle John a century and a half earlier. In both cases, I gave them peace, but the responses were much different.
John and the Peace of AD 100
There will always be men like John. I know that I cannot avoid this. John may have been an even greater danger than the traitor Paul.
There is a revival of gnosticism in America today. It was already growing, but The Da Vinci Code fed it into a frenzy.
Gnosticism is an early form of Christianity, if indeed it can be called Christianity while rejecting the apostles and claiming that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is a false god.
Gnostics attributed the creation of all matter to an ignorant, false god known as "demiurge." This demiurge, they said, was Yahweh, God of Israel. Since all matter was evil, gnostics denied physical resurrection, both of Jesus and of Christians.
Paul spoke against gnostic beliefs in 1 Corinthians 15. "Those who are trying to seduce you" in 1 John 2:26 are the gnostics as well, and the powerful, straightforward theology of 1 John is written in direct response to it.
John's disciple, Ignatius, whom he appointed as bishop of Antioch, spent much of his career battling gnosticism as well. He wrote seven letters as he traveled to Rome to be martyred in AD 107 or 116. (These can be read online)
The work of John and Ignatius was effective. After the mid- second century, all arguments against gnosticism are written as though gnostics were no longer in the church. They still had their own congregations and movements, but they had been cast out of the apostles' churches as heretics.
Paul was a man of battle. I was forced to assail him constantly, in hope that just one time my Enemy would stop protecting him or that the high-strung apostle would wear out and give up the battle. A thousand discouragements I sent him [cf. 2 Cor. 1:8, 11:23-30; 12:7-10].
I suspected he would not falter. Didn't I choose him myself? He was my soldier, and it gives me fits to this day that he turned on me.
John, however, may have been worse. Nothing turned John's eyes from heaven. When a time of peace came in the late first and early second century, I raised up the gnostic religion—right in the midst of my Enemy's kingdom!—so that if the saints were to look towards heaven, they might have a false heaven to behold.
John—how I abhor those long decades that he trod the earth!—never turned his eyes to earth nor to any false heavens. He saw things no other disciple could see. He spoke of them, and wretched, accursed, horrible Light was in his every word.
Aargh! I can remember the harsh pain to this day! My blessings upon the day he departed this earth.
When I sent Cerinthus across his path at the Roman baths, John, unlike later disciples of the Enemy, was not pulled to the side. He cried out, "Let us flee, lest the bath house crash down upon us, for Cerinthus, the Enemy of truth, is within" [Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III:3:4, c. AD 185].
That was it. No battle. No looking towards earth.
Fortunately, there are few like him. Polycarp was one. Confronted with Marcion, he simply called him my own firstborn and left [Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III:3:4, c. AD 185]. I had better success with his trainee, Irenaeus, who wrote hundreds of pages against Marcion and others like him [Against Heresies, c. AD 185].
Though it is unfortunate that those pages still exist as a testimony to the nearly forgotten faith of the apostles, my tactics have succeeded so fully that no one cares any longer what Irenaeus wrote or how Polycarp behaved. Fortunately, not many more care about the words of the apostle John, either.
In fact, my tactics were so successful, that just 150 years later, when Commodianus was helplessly complaining of my victories, no one was able to follow John at all. [Remember, this is the devil talking, and he is the father of lies. We can be confident that the devil is exaggerating and that God always has a reserved remnant.]
Division and the Peace of the Third Century
Look at the church of Commodianus' day. In the midst of peace, he points out that they were careless and in schism.
I didn't leave them in peace. I raised up Decius in AD 250 and Valerian in 253 to fume against that reckless church.
Decius and Valerian were two Roman emperors who ordered all Roman citizens to sacrifice to the pagan Roman gods in AD 250-251 and 254-255. Christians couldn't do this, and they were punished for refusing to comply. These persecutions produced the Novatian "heresy." (Heresy used to mean any doctrine that caused division in the Church because the Church used to know how important unity was—Jn. 17:20- 23.)
Christians fell away in large numbers during those persecutions. Many were not actually tortured or harmed. The mere threat caused some to turn in copies of the Scriptures in order to purchase a certificate saying they had sacrificed. Others purchased those certificates with money. Still others actually sacrificed to the gods and denied Christ.
When the persecutions ended, some of those Christians wanted to come back to the churches. A Roman elder named Novatian took offense when the churches readmitted them. He declared himself bishop and started a new congregation in Rome, producing the first true, lasting church split.
When the Church joined itself to the Roman government during Constantine's time, persecution stopped, and the Novatians slowly returned to the catholic churches.
Oh, what success! Christians fell away by the droves!
But as I told you, persecution must be stopped. It is not an effective weapon against the church. I used it simply because the church was filled with weaklings, and I knew that my net would be bursting at the seams.
Wisely, I stopped short of cleansing God's church for him. I left him with proud, divisive men who had forgotten how to battle me and were trained in battling one another.
There were councils galore and letters written back and forth. What were they arguing about? They were arguing about my wisdom! [James 3:14-16]. The persecution was strong, but swift. I did not arouse great fear, but only small fear. As a result, those who denied my Enemy's Son during the persecution wished re-admittance afterward.
Did the saints look to heaven? Oh, no. They looked to councils, to one another, and to the Scriptures. Each saw something different, and the bickering was even greater than in Commodianus' time twenty years earlier.
In fact, for the first time ever I was able to split the church of my Enemy. Novatian took half of the city of Rome with him into schism. What Abraham Lincoln said is true. United they stand, but divided they fall.
Oh, how ripe they were.
Almost a century earlier, I had raised up Montanus, speaking to him in visions and voices, and through him I attempted to lead astray the church. My success was limited, for the church was united. When the church in Ardibau in Mysia rejected Montanus, he attempted to appeal to others. One in heart and mind, they strengthened one another, and Montanus was driven out [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, V:16].
It was a worthwhile attempt, but I knew I had to give them more time and more peace, that they might grow more worldly.
When I struck in the 250's, it was a much different story.
The churches bickered over the baptism of the Novatianists, and though they condemned the Novatianists for being schismatics, they showed no unity themselves. In the midst of argument and dissension, the Novation division spread across the entire empire.
What a gleeful time for me. I fed that schism for decades until I needed it no longer. When I sent all the world back into that weak and bickering church, I encouraged the Novatianists to return as well. Unity under God is dangerous for me, but unity under a government, a set of rituals, or even a religion proclaiming intellectual doctrines about Christ is of no effect at all. This is all the more true when the majority of the religion's adherents have had no real spiritual experience with God. It is obedience that we must squelch.
I followed my own advice. Now let me tell you how I got all the world into what was supposed to be God's kingdom, but which became wholly mine.
If you can make their religion worthless, then it is not only acceptable but imperative that many join it.
The church was weak and bickering in the late third century, but their religion was not worthless. It still called for people to forsake the world and devote themselves to my Enemy through this Christ of his.
That message was the very heart of Christianity. Only the greatest wisdom could displace it. Fortunately, mine is the greatest wisdom.
It was important to displace the message, for it is not Christianity I fear and fight against, but the Word of God.
I created the perfect plan. Once again, I had to resort to the tool—the temporary tool—of persecution.
Have any of you learned Judo? Unlike what happens in your movies, a Judo throw cannot be accomplished by simply grabbing your opponent and overpowering him. To throw an opponent, you need his cooperation. You need his momentum.
I conceived a way to do this. In Judo, you obtain the cooperation of your opponent by pushing him. When he pushes back, then you pull, and his power and yours combine to make the throw a simple thing, as though it were his wish as well as yours.
So I pushed.
The Great Persecution
I raised up Galerius—a fool, but my fool—to instigate a persecution throughout the Roman Empire in AD 303. He enticed Diocletian, senior emperor in the East, to issue a proclamation against Christians, and I helped with some prophecy through the oracle of Apollo at Didyma.
Diocletian was up to the task, immediately issuing orders to raze a church building built by an overly comfortable church in Nicomedia. However, Diocletian had no proper heart for violence, so I ordered him to resign so that the pagan Galerius could reign in his stead and vent his religious rage. [Diocletian was the only Roman emperor to resign.]
The emperor Diocletian ordered the Great Persecution in AD 303 under the instigation of his general Galerius. When Diocletian voluntarily retired in AD 305, he appointed Galerius as his replacement in the East. In the West, Constantius—father of Constantine the Great—and Maximian didn't have much stomach for the persecution, so it was sporadically carried out during their reign.
Galerius, however, was bloodthirsty, and he persecuted Christians in the eastern Roman empire diligently for eight years until he saw the ineffectiveness of it. He then issued the Edict of Toleration in 311, ending the persecution.
For several years I went on a rampage. I knew that my timing was right, for the Christians bickered even in their dungeons.
When the time was right, I stopped pushing. I rejected Galerius, and the God of heaven repaid him for his hatred toward the saints by striking him down with a particularly loathsome disease. I know you humans have weak stomachs, so I will spare you the description, though it was a pleasure to me.
In his place, I raised up Constantine, who truly deserves the title "the Great."
As hard as Galerius pushed, Constantine pulled. Galerius destroyed; Constantine built. Galerius imprisoned; Constantine freed. Galerius confiscated; Constantine bestowed.
It worked. Oh, it worked! The church could not embrace Constantine closely enough. They could not praise him with high enough praises. They could not fawn over him with kisses fondly enough.
Eusebius of Caesarea, though a brilliant theologian and meticulous historian, was one of my favorite tools, all the more effective because of his acknowledged wisdom and scholarship.
He authored The Oration of Eusebius in Praise of Constantine for the emperor who became his dear friend. He called Constantine "the beloved of the Word of God," and refers to the emperor's "holy services," when he offered to God, my Enemy, the souls of his flock.
I laugh at the very thought. Who is that flock? What souls does an earthly emperor offer to God? Are they his souls, or are they mine? Am I the ruler of this world, or was Constantine?
It was my flock that Constantine, the unbaptized emperor, offered to God's kingdom. How my Enemy foolishly trusts shepherds born on this earth. He does not guard his kingdom himself, but leaves it to men born of the stock of Adam. I may not have been able to overcome God by war, but I overcame his shepherds by being craftier than they.
How willingly they admitted my flock into the midst of theirs!
My flock does not consist of sheep.
I really like Eusebius Pamphilius of Caesarea. Though he overly praised Constantine in his Life of Constantine and can thus be faulted for being a major part of the fall of the Church, he was a meticulous scholar, and he preserved much of early Christianity for us. His Ecclesiastical History, written in AD 323, is an important read for Christians.
The history described in the next session—Christians killing one another, burning down each others' churches, and practicing political intrigue—comes from The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus, written in circa 451 and taking up the history of the Church where Eusebius left off. It, too, is worth reading, though mostly so you can see the incredible contrast between church history after Constantine and before.
The fall of the Church was real and deep, I am sorry to say. It has never been rectified and many of today's problems—in particular the emphasis on theology above obedient faith—can be traced to the fall of the church as described in this booklet.
The preaching of faith in facts about Christ—even though they be great and important facts such as the shedding of his blood for our atonement—rather than faith in Christ himself, displayed through obedience to him, is indeed, as George MacDonald put it, "the one great heresy of the Church."
My Flock in the Midst of God's
James the Just, as he was known, the brother of Mary's Son from heaven, once wrote, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?" [Jam. 4:4].
Apparently Eusebius did not know this. In fact, very few of his friends knew this, either. They were thrilled to become friends and admirers of Constantine the Great and share in his government.
The joining of my Enemy's church with the might of Rome was the completion of my plan. There was nowhere to go but crashing to the ground in exactly the same way a Judo master throws his opponent to the ground. A Judo master needs none of his own energy to throw his opponent. He pushes only to get his opponent to push back, then he uses his opponent's momentum to sling or throw him to the ground.
I pushed the church through persecution, weakened them through quiet waiting, pushed them again, then welcomed them back and used the momentum of their own return to throw them into destruction.
It worked! Over my shoulder the church went, crashing to the ground, wholeheartedly giving themselves unaware to hostility towards God.
What a feast ensued! The spiritual devouring accomplished by my wolves and the battering accomplished by my goats were recapitulated in the physical world where the church's bickering was no longer confined to words. Real, physical battles ensued. Blood flowed, literally, into the streets.
"Macedonius [one of two competing biships in Constantinople, c. 343] ... caused the emperor's remains to be transported to the church where those of the martyr Acacius lay. Whereupon a vast multitude rushed toward that edifice in two hostile divisions, which attacked one another with great fury, and great loss of life was occasioned, so that the churchyard was covered with gore and the well also which was in it overflowed with blood, which ran into the adjacent portico, and thence even into the very street." (The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus II:38.)
Christians stabbed one another. They burned churches down on top of one another. Once, they even dragged a Roman general from his bed at night to beat him to death in the streets. They brought each other to court, and having gained imperial favor, they commanded generals and armies to fight their theological battles for them.
Christianity was everywhere. It was universal and ubiquitous, but the Word was nowhere to be seen.
In this way I accomplished victory over the church of Christ, and in this way I continue to gain victories.
I cannot contain Christ. This I freely admit. When I quench a fire in one place, it arises in another.
But look at the extent of my victory! My Enemy staked his reputation on the unity and love of his servants [Jn. 17:20-23], but the religion that bears his name is famous for division, bickering, and even warfare and persecution. Formerly I persecuted them, but now they persecute for me.
When the Word rises up in one place, it is soon drowned out by the cacophony of dissenting and divided voices that are always thundering throughout Christendom.
My methods are tried and true, and now I have revealed them to you so that you may join me in the battle. You have only a basic plan, and you will need my awe-inspiring wisdom to make that plan work. You can never be as creative as I was in the use of persecution in the third and fourth centuries. Rest assured, however. I shall be available, moving you even when you do not know it, so that my purposes will be accomplished [1 Pet. 5:8; Eph. 2:1-3].