The Prince of the Power of the Air

Out at the prison Bible study we were in the book of Ephesians.

One of the things we tracked through Ephesians was a theme of what some call "spiritual warfare," our struggles against the devil and other spiritual forces. A sampling of themes: 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the children of disobedience... (2.1-2) 

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (4.26-27)

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (5.15-16)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places...In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. (6.10-12, 16)

I remember when Fortress Press, now Broadleaf, first approached me to write a popular book. (My first three books--Unclean, The Authenticity of Faith, and The Slavery of Death--were scholarly books. Readers who have read all my books will have noticed a big contrast in style between those first three books and my last four.) When Fortress asked me about what sort of book I wanted to write, I had a quick answer: "I want to write a book about the devil." That's how Reviving Old Scratch came to be. 

That was a very odd and risky choice. The audience Fortress was aiming at was mainly the progressive Christian camp. And my own audience was mostly progressive. So no one saw a book on the devil coming. Progressives, for a variety of reasons related to their doubt, deconstruction, and demythologizing tendencies, just don't talk much about the devil. Given that, I had no idea who would even read Reviving Old Scratch

Why, then, did I want to write a book about the devil? It was the prison. For example, as we worked through those texts in Ephesians above it was the most natural and obvious conversation you could have. Those men out at the prison know the prince of the power of the air. They see the devil, clearly. So I wrote Reviving Old Scratch to bridge my worlds, the world of the prison and the world of the doubting progressive Christian. I wrote Reviving Old Scratch for an audience of one--myself. But many others have found the book helpful as well. Because when you read a book like Ephesians, it's hard to miss what is staring at you in the face.

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