Unconditionally Hating Demons

pray for satan

Those of us who’ve grown up in a christian culture have probably all been taught to love everyone and even forgive and pray for our enemies.

Yet somehow demons have managed to be excluded from the definitions of the words “everyone” and “enemies.”

We were not taught to love demons.

We were not taught to forgive demons.

We were not taught to pray for demons.


Aren’t demons “someone”?

Aren’t they our enemy?

How come they are exempt from what Jesus instructed his disciples to do?

“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).

And why were we taught things that the scriptures in fact never do say, such as:

God doesn’t love demons.

Demons can’t repent. 

Demons can’t be forgiven. 


If God created demons, he must have initially loved them. But if God’s love for them could change after they turned bad, why should we be any different?

Why do we think that demons, unlike us, cannot change their ways? Why do we think that it’s “too late” for them? The scriptures never say this. According to Jesus anyone who believes in him can gain eternal life, and his reasoning is that he didn’t come to condemn but to save (John 3:16-17).

Why do people cringe and even become outraged at the suggestion of forgiving demons?

People often say “God is love!” and proceed to describe him with 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. That very segment says that love keeps NO record of wrongs. Most people have no problem applying that line to humans. But…. what if there are no boundaries to love? After all, Paul did note in Romans 8:19 that creation (not just humans) eagerly awaits the manifestation of the children of God. Or maybe when in Mark’s account of the life is Jesus (Mark 16:15), he mentions that Jesus asked those with him to preach the gospel to ALL creation (again, not all humans). Do we really think that we can stretch the goodness of God so far that he interrupts us and says “Okay, okay I know I’m good/gracious/merciful/loving and all but come on guys, I’m not THAT good… sheesh!”? – Daniel Kotin

I’m done being angry. It’s no fun. When anger is directed toward demons, people call it “spiritual warfare” and act as if it is a fruit of the Spirit, but it’s not.

I’ve been more at peace in my heart since I’ve extended pardon to the “spirits in prison,” just like Jesus did (1 Peter 3:18-20).

devilAccording to Jesus, we are the ones who determine whether demons are forgiven or not.

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:23).

So I choose to forgive all demons.

I forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).

I choose to believe that God will indeed be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28) and that God’s redemption really is powerful enough to “restore all things,” even demons (Acts 3:21).

When evil shall have been some day annihilated in the long revolutions of the ages, nothing shall be left outside the world of goodness, but that even from those evil spirits shall rise in harmony the confession of Christ’s Lordship. – Gregory of Nyssa

I know that most persons understand by the story of Nineveh and its king, the ultimate forgiveness of the devil and all rational creatures. – St. Jerome

In the end God’s patient love will succeed in making all his creatures weary of their unfaithfulness. The most stubborn will eventually give in and consent to love him, and at last even his enemy death will be overcome. – Origen

The devils themselves after a set time expired should be loosed from their torments, and become bright angels in heaven, as they were before. – Origen


Also see:

The Salvation of Satan by C. A. Patrides


Unconditional Salvation (Part 3)

Part 2

The previous posts will be hard to believe for some because they want a part to play in their salvation, to have something that they can claim they did to get themselves saved, some condition that they had personally fulfilled. Thus you hear people say things like “I chose God,” “I found God,” “I put my faith in God,”  “I believed the Gospel,” or “I asked Jesus to come into my heart.”

But the good news is the exact opposite of these things!

You didn’t choose God; God chose you.

You didn’t find God; God found You! You were the lost sheep in Jesus’ parable, and he’s the shepherd who searched for and found you.

Your faith doesn’t save you; Jesus’ faith does. Or do you really think that the difference between those who get to spend eternity with Jesus and those who don’t is that the former made superior choices? In that case, we really are saved by our own righteous acts after all!

You didn’t believe the Gospel. You couldn’t; it’s too good to be fully believed. Jesus believed it for you.

You might have asked Jesus to come into your heart, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there until you did so. Indeed, he was there all along, waiting for you to realize it.

From His point of view we were found before we were lost – He found us in Christ before He lost us in Adam. We were given grace before the fall. He was simply waiting for the opportune time in which to appear – in which to reveal what has always been: the reality of our salvation in Christ Jesus. – Andre Rabe

Salvation is always God’s initiative, not people’s, which is religion. Religion will tell you what you must do to achieve salvation, enlightenment, heaven, perfection, happiness, etc., but the Gospel declares what God has done for us to achieve it on our behalf.

The salvation of God is unconditional.

Your efforts are not needed.

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).

Being “born again” is a term used synonymously with being saved. Once again, it is not anything we do that gets us born again; it was caused by Christ’s resurrection. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3, emphasis mine). Think about it – who ever made any kind of contribution to their own birth? Nobody. The work fully belongs to the mother.

“Even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:5). We were saved when we were dead in our transgressions, not when we decided to turn to God. That is precisely why we were saved by grace (i.e. by what we could never earn and is only according to God’s unmerited favor).

Reconciliation took place when we were still enemies; “…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God…” (Romans 5:10). God didn’t reconcile us after we had chosen to become buddies with him. Even after we were reconciled, we remained enemies (in our own minds) until we realized that God was never our enemy. So reconciliation must have taken place for all humanity (unless you would like to hold to a theory of limited atonement, where God reconciled only those he knew would believe later).

We do not accept Christ into our lives; He has already accepted us into His! Any accepting done on our part is simply accepting the fact that He has already accepted us. – Christian Erickson

If you reject Him, He will reject your rejection of Him. – Andre Rabe

You can exclude yourself, but you can’t stop him from including you. – John Crowder

The New Testament generally credits even repentance (2 Timothy 2:25), faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and belief (Acts 13:48) to the work of God within.

You have no part to play in the actualization of your salvation.

You do, however, have a part in the experience of your salvation. Indeed, it is you who experiences it. It is you and your choices that determine when and how you experience the salvation that Jesus has made fully available to you. Salvation is objectively real independent of us, but subjectively real (i.e. experienced) only through our participation by faith.

…Salvation – or happiness… – is by faith and not by works. Since the repair job is already done, all you have to do is believe – to trust that it’s done – and you’re home free; because except for your unbelief, you were home free already. – Robert Capon


Also see:

Reinterpreting the Cross

mad godThe crucifixion of Jesus is hugely significant to christian theological thought. The way you view the cross will largely determine the way you view God. Yeah. It’s kinda important.

The lamb was slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). I understand that to mean that, ontologically speaking, the cross didn’t change anything; all of its “effects” took place before the world was made. It did, however, change our perception of who God is and what he is like.

Reconciliation and similar language in the scriptures that speak of mending our relationship with God are metaphors that were culturally relevant to the recipients of the writings (especially to Jews), ultimately pointing to our experiences of realization of the reality we never knew.

God didn’t bring about the crucifixion. Sure, God saw it coming, but it wasn’t the Father who predestined his Son to get tortured on the cross (knowledge and foresight do not necessarily imply predestination or causation). God didn’t decided to have Jesus crucified and make people act accordingly to make sure it happened. Rather, God saw that people would crucify Jesus when he sent him, so he acted accordingly prior to that, predicting it through prophets and scheming a revelation of himself through it.

God saved the world through his Incarnate Word in Jesus by the historical accident of a judicial murder. – Robert Capon

It was people who crucified Jesus, not God. God didn’t kill his own son so he could finally bring himself to forgive humanity. God watched humanity murderously unite against him, but he still did not retaliate.

God went to show that no matter what people did to him, his love for them would never change.

God wasn’t angry with Jesus or even with people. People were angry with Jesus, and that’s why they decided to crucify him.

[God] is not a schizophrenic deity bouncing between love and hatred. The point of the cross was to redeem mankind from his own self-destruction … not to pay off an ill-tempered, narcissistic God who was spitting mad at you for sinning against Him. – John Crowder

The cross was man’s doing, but the incarnation was God’s doing; it was God’s way of showing the reality already in place. Through Christ’s incarnation the union of all of humanity with the Godhead was revealed.

Jesus wasn’t sent to die but rather to reveal God’s heart toward us. His death wasn’t necessary for us to be reconciled to God (we already were in God’s mind), but it was the greatest manifestation of the fact that God never had a problem with us.

God surely anticipated that a person like Jesus would be killed by an order established on violence, but God did not kill Jesus, or require his death, or manipulate others into sacrificing him. God may have found a way to triumph over this crime, but God did not cause it. – Walter Wink

It was humanity who caused Jesus to be crucified, not God. And yet, God used our act of violence for good, through it revealing to us what he is really like. God presented the sacrifice, not people (Romans 3:25). He sacrificed his option to respond with violence toward us to our act of violence toward him.

Christ is a divine offering to humankind, not a human offering to God. – Robert Hamerton-Kelly

Instead of us bringing a sacrifice to God to appease him, through the cross God brings a sacrifice to us to reconcile us. – Derek Flood

The cross was and is the ultimate revelation of who God is. The cross is enlightenment, not payment. It enables us to believe the truth about God that we couldn’t believe without it. The cross went to demonstrate, not effect, that not even killing the one who loves us could separate us from him!

Jesus didn’t make God graceful towards you. He didn’t satisfy some blood lust against sinful man in order to change His nature into a forgiving nature. That isn’t even real forgiveness. God has always been a God of grace. He has always forgiven you, and been kind to you. The cross just demonstrated that fact. The cross is the expression of the Lord’s forgiveness of mankind, not the prerequisite for it. – Christian Erickson

The authentic Creator, the true light that enlightens every man was coming into this world. His mission was nothing less than shattering our illusions, exposing the unreal, unoriginal and fake identity that we embraced outside of Him. – Andre Rabe

Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about us but to change our minds about God. This is why he went around telling people to “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The kingdom was already there, fully available. People just needed to change their minds (i.e. repent) about that reality.

[In a retributive view of the cross,] our problem is God’s offense. The cross comes to bring God to repentance. The cross is the means by which he gets rid of his anger and frustration so that he can be kind to us again. God has never been our problem. Jesus doesn’t come to change God’s mind about us; he came to change our minds about God and one another. We are the ones who needed to change our thinking. We are the ones who needed to be converted. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. It isn’t our repentance that leads God to goodness. God was good long before we repented. – Andre Rabe


Also see:

The Contradiction of the Cross (by Andre Rabe)

The Revelation of the Cross (by Andre Rabe)

Punished For Us?

kill my son

I previously wrote on the topic of punishment in The Abolition of Sacrifice (particularly as it relates to sacrifice as hinted by the title). There turned out to be a bunch of people who gave me feedback that didn’t like it.

One concern was my claim that the cross was an accident (i.e. that it was humanity that murdered Jesus and that God did not cause it or bring it about, and yet that God brought about good through the evil plotted by people). This issue was addressed in an exchange in the comments section of that post.

Another concern was that by rejecting the notion that God is required to punish sinners and that the cross was not necessary for God to be able to forgive sinners, I was undermining God’s justice. (Let me repeat the clarification I made in What I Am Not Saying; Although I believe that the cross was unnecessary for God to be able to forgive us, I do maintain that it was necessary for our salvation.) In The Union of Justice and Mercy I explained how the scriptures describe justice as restorative, not retributive, and how mercy and justice are not in conflict with each other but rather are one and the same.

Something at the heart of this issue that I have not yet addressed is the penal substitutionary theory of atonement. This is the idea that Jesus took the just punishment we deserved as our substitute to save us from God’s wrath.

In this post I will deconstruct this idea and explain why I have become convinced of what I consider to be a much better and accurate conception of who God is.

My Experience with Believing Penal Substitution

I grew up being taught penal substitution. I was never told that alternatives existed, so I thought that it was the only possible and correct interpretation of the scriptures. Consequently, I read bibles through my interpretive lens of penal substitution. It wasn’t hard to find verses that seemed to support the beliefs I already held.

(Let me point out that just because we see the language used in penal substitution also used in the scriptures doesn’t mean that the scriptures are endorsing that way of thinking. There are plenty of false ideas that people invent that are formulated using biblical language but do not accurately reflect the truth.)

I also preached penal substitution when I shared with others what I considered to be the gospel. Yet I distinctly remember a sense of uneasiness whenever I did, because I could sense an uneasiness in the hearers. Really, who wants to get acquainted with an angry God, even if his wrath had been “satisfied”?

Of course, by no means does that automatically disqualify the theory. It did, however, plant the first seeds of doubt in me.

The Unreasonability of Penal Substitution

In college I started to question my long held belief.

Where in the scriptures does it say that God is required by his nature to punish sinners? Nowhere does it say that God is constrained by retributive justice. To the contrary, God says that he will have mercy and compassion on whoever he wants to (Romans 9:15).

Or where in the scriptures is it expressed that we all deserve to be punished by God? It is clear that punishment comes with sin, but only as a natural consequence, not something God inflicts.

If Jesus “paid the penalty for sin,” then it seems that God isn’t forgiving at all. If I pay off my student loans in full, did the loaning institution forgive my debt? Nope. Since I paid it all off, there is nothing left to forgive. On the other hand, Jesus taught unconditional forgiveness, regardless of what was “deserved.” Is God telling us to act more forgivingly than he himself does?

Jesus’ suffering was only temporary and finite. But if the punishment we deserve for sin is eternal suffering, then Jesus didn’t pay the full price.

Penal substitution pits the Father against Jesus in what looks like a schizophrenic deity. Our greatest ally is Jesus, and our greatest enemy is not the devil, but God and the wrath he brings against us. It makes God the author of death, dealing it out to sinful humanity because they deserve it according to his justice. Jesus bearing the cross brings not us but God to repentance, changing his mind about how he will treat us.

Sacrifices are made by an individual or a group to a different individual or group; it is nonsensical for someone to sacrifice something to themselves, because that is not a sacrifice at all, merely a killing of something.

Ironically, the picture of God as a retributively just judge dealing out punishment does not do justice to the biblical picture of what justice is. As the early church fathers emphasize, there was nothing just about the crucifixion of Jesus. God has zero interest in hurting people, no matter how much of a “right” he might have to do so. All he wants is reconciliation.

Other objections to penal substitution exist, but just because there are questions which we perhaps cannot find satisfactory answers to doesn’t disqualify a theory either. So I dug deeper.

Alternative Theories of the Atonement

Half way through my college years I came across a number of different understandings of the atonement for the first time in my life. (I won’t explain any of them in depth, but you can get a pretty good overview of them on Wikipedia.)

Christus Victor is a model in which Christ’s death is the means by which the powers of evil that held humanity in their grip were defeated. The moral influence model teaches that Jesus came to bring positive moral change to humanity. In the recapitulation model humanity is recreated by Christ becoming what we are so that we can become what he is.

Biblical justification can be given for each view with verses that, at least prema facie, seem to support them. The same is true of the penal substitution model. So there are various interpretations of the atonement, none of them are necessarily mutually exclusive, and it is difficult to quickly rule any of them out.

I decided I needed to go even further down the rabbit hole and take a look at the history of the idea of penal substitution as well as of the other theories of the atonement.

The Lack of Historicity

I won’t take an in depth look at the writings of the early church fathers here but only mention themes that were prevalent as well as lacking overall. (If you would like an in depth analysis of the writings of the early church fathers as they relate to penal substitution, I recommend Substitutionary Atonement and the Church Fathers and The Abolishment of Retribution in the Church Fathers).

Prevalent themes include healing, restoration, recreation, freedom, substitution, and the destruction of the curse and death. Lacking themes include appeasing a wrathful God and the need for punishment by God.

The problem that the atonement addresses is never presented by the early church fathers as an angry God but a sick and dying humanity.

I like how the Wikipedia article on penal substitution put it: “In scholarly literature it has been generally recognized for some time that the penal substitution theory was not taught in the Early Church” (and then gives 8 references, which is a lot for Wikipedia lol…they must pretty sure about this one). Incidentally, the three alternative views I mentioned above can be found in the writings of the early church fathers.

Let me clarify one particular element of the atonement, because many of us have only ever known one way of thinking about Christ being our substitute, and that is to view him as substitutionally taking our punishment.

The theme of substitution is frequently seen in the writings of the early church fathers and is clear within the scriptures as well. The question that must be asked, however, is how was Christ’s death substitutionary?

When the early church fathers spoke of substitution, they didn’t mean Jesus took our punishment from God (although some said that Jesus took our punishment that sin brings with it through natural consequence). They meant that Jesus became the substitute for all humanity on the cross, taking our curse, sin, corruption, condemnation, death, etc. upon himself in order to destroy them.

Even those who are popularly cited as proponents of penal substitution, such as Augustine (354-430), Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), and Aquinas (1225-1274), deny the idea of condemning the innocent to free the guilty that is central to penal substitution. They did develop their own theories of the atonement that departed from what was taught before them, but even in their own theories they did not teach penal substitution.

Penal substitution as we know it today did not arise until the time of John Calvin (1509-1564). Did Calvin uncover a truth that had been missed by all who had gone before him? Methinks not.

(Some might claim that Calvin only reached a destination on the trajectory of progressive revelation that was set by those who had gone before him (like Calvinists tend to do for other doctrines developed by Calvin such as predestination and limited atonement). In other words, that penal substitution is simply a development in theology. I disagree, but that’s a whole nutha topic that I don’t want to get into here.)

Concluding Thoughts

The lack of historicity of the doctrine of penal substitution pretty much settled the issue for me. I can’t view penal substitution as anything other than a human invention that emerged hundreds of years after Jesus’ time. (I’ve also considered the issue from a biblical perspective and have found it to be wanting.)

There are, of course, plenty of arguments in favor of penal substitution. This has been a topic of hot debate for centuries, and I am aware that this post does not conclusively put the theory to sleep. I wrote this post for those who, like myself previously, don’t know that there are good reasons to doubt penal substitution and that viable alternatives exist.

What I’ve written above is highly intellectual and analytical, but taking a step back from all that, I want to take a moment to point out that, if what I am claiming is true, it’s really good news! It makes the gospel a message of a ridiculously forgiving God. He forgives people even before they ask, never requiring anything from them for or in return for his forgiveness. Wow! That’s forgiveness like the world has never known.

Some people might say that I am making God out to be a big fluffy marshmallow. I would have to agree. I would add that the marshmallow is perfectly roasted and is sandwiched between chocolate and biscuits. God is way better than any of us can imagine, and his goodness cannot be exaggerated.


Also see:

The Penal Substitution Atonement – Greg Boyd

Punished “for” or “by” our sins – The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 – Santo Calarco

Penal substitutionary atonement – Steve McVey

Sin and punishment – Steve McVey

An illustrative story about punishment – Steve McVey

Propitiation for sin – Steve McVey

The Union of Justice and Mercy

Many people talk about God as though he may be merciful but must be just. In other words, God cannot show mercy until justice is served. Mercy is optional, but justice is necessary.

God has to be just, they maintain, but he does not have to be merciful. He has to punish unforgiven sin, but he does not have to forgive sin. This is a common view among theologians, but it ought to be seen as problematic for a Christian view of God. To subordinate divine love to divine justice so that God has to be just but does not have to love is odd for a Christian who confesses that God is love. – Robin Parry

Further, justice is commonly understood as “getting what you deserve” and is thus seen as being opposed to mercy, which is commonly understood to be “not getting what you deserve.”

This is silly at best. If God requires that justice (in the above sense) be served before he can show mercy, then he’s not merciful at all. If justice has already been fulfilled, then since there is nothing left that is “deserved” it’s impossible to be merciful (i.e. stopping someone from getting what they deserve).

justiceJust what decides “what you deserve” anyways? Does God possess some divine formula for calculating how much punishment to deal out in accordance to people’s bad behavior? Actually, there is something like a punishment formula in the scriptures that matches certain crimes with certain punishments – the Law. The Law does not apply to us, however, since Jesus fulfilled it once and for all.

God does not have some judicial constraint inherent in his nature that forces him to punish sin. God is free; he does what he wants. He moves according to the desires of his heart, not according to some moral standard that bounds him.

Further, God’s justice and mercy are not in opposition to one another; they are in union with one another. As George MacDonald put it, “I believe that justice and mercy are simply one and the same thing.” Justice and mercy are two sides of the same coin. When God shows mercy, He is showing justice. When God shows justice, He is showing mercy. (This is arguably true of all God’s characteristics; this idea is called divine simplicity.)

And where is the biblical warrant, I would ask, for the popular idea that mercy and justice are separate and distinct attributes of God? Where does the Bible even hint that God’s mercy permits something that his justice does not, or that his justice demands something that his mercy does not? Christians sometimes picture God, I fear, almost as if he were a schizophrenic whose justice pushes him in one direction and whose mercy pushes him in another. – Thomas Talbott

The biblical description of justice is not punishment for wrongdoing. In fact, Jesus rejected this retaliatory understanding of justice: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:38-41). A few verses later Jesus explains the reason why we should think this way: “you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v. 48).

If God’s justice is not retributive, then what is it? According to scriptures it is restoration of what has been stolen, redemption of what has been lost, and reconciliation of what has been broken. It means “to set things right.” Justice is described as showing grace and mercy and compassion to one another. True justice is to set captives free.

No, divine justice does not require payback. To think so is to superimpose our own flawed human sense of justice onto the mind and heart of God. Divine justice is very different. A biblical study of what it means to “bring justice” does not mean to bring retribution at all, but rather to bring healing and reconciliation. Justice means to make things right. All through the prophetic bible passages, justice is associated with caring for others, as something that is not in conflict with mercy, but rather an expression of it. Biblically, justice is God’s saving action at work for all that are oppressed. – Steve McVey

Check out these verses:

“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18).

“Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free” (Psalm 146:7).

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed'” (Jeremiah 21:12).

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another'” (Zechariah 7:9).

“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).

“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice” (Isaiah 30:18).

Man’s definition of justice (the justice of law) is that when a man murders another man, the murderer gets punished. God’s definition of justice (the justice of grace) is that when a man murders another man, God resurrects the murdered man and brings healing, forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation of relationship to the two men. – Christian Erickson

There’s a reason that, unlike the Old Testament, justice is scarcely mentioned in the New Testament – justice has been servedEverything has been made right through Jesus’ finished work of the cross.