Spiritual warfare is hardly a neat war between the uniformed armies of equal countries, snapping up this bit of land with all those nice mines and factories in it or grabbing up that lucrative trade route. Spiritual warfare is guerrilla warfare. Satan is in a rebellion against God, so he can hardly sign a peace treaty and must fight to the bitter end, with dire consequences for humanity. Although we are bound up in an irregular war that defies neat solutions, although Christians are on the legitimate side and have to follow rules that the enemy does not, and although the smallest failure is a setback for the kingdom of God, Christians are free to pursue unconventional solutions, rely upon power that the enemy will never have, and the smallest victory is a step forward for the kingdom of God. Continue reading Spiritual Warfare is Guerrilla Warfare
How does Milton redefine the concept of a Homeric hero?
A Homeric hero: courageous, daring, angry, charming, strong, manly, passionate, commanding, skilled in oration, alluring.
This is Satan in Milton’s masterful prequel, Paradise Lost. Although we watch the Devil’s extraordinary fall from heaven into the pit of hell, Milton’s brilliant writing draws readers in, tempting them to cheer for Satan. The poet gives the villain all the charming characteristics of a typical Homeric hero. Satan is a passionate and fiery leader, quick to speak, he takes action and grows angry, and is audacious in courage—a powerful lord in his own right. Yet he is also determined to “have equalled the most high,” and it is this hallmark of pride which leads to his downfall (line 40). Milton paints a powerfully favorable picture of the Devil: “In shape and gesture proudly eminent stood like a tower; his form had yet not lost all her original brightness” (590-592). As the poem progresses, Milton calls into question our preconceived notion of a “hero” by drawing his readers in with Satan’s winning courage, audacity, and leadership skills. As the reader, I had to continually remind myself that this was the bad guy, not the character I was supposed to root for.
Now skip forward to Paradise Regained, which takes place during Jesus’ temptation. At first glance, this seems like an odd choice—wasn’t paradise regained on the cross? At this point, Christ has not even started his ministry; in fact, Milton gives Christ some “musings” before he goes into the desert, in which he contemplates “how best the mighty work he might begin of savior to mankind, and which way first publish his godlike office now mature” (186-88). Christ has not yet started the business of saving souls. But Milton is suggesting here that the real battle is fought—and won—when Satan comes to tempt Christ during his forty days of fasting in the desert.
Think of it in terms of Star Wars. Luke Skywalker must defeat Darth Vader in battle before he can address his true enemy, Emperor Palpatine. Yet while he is dueling physically with Vader, he is also fighting mentally with Palpatine. As a result, when Luke defeats Vader—physically, mentally, and emotionally—the emperor is no longer a threat. Excuse my poor metaphor—I realize that there are many problems with this analogy. Yet I find it a striking image. Satan is the one who tempted mankind in the first place, and it was he who caused their downfall. If the same tactics were to cause Christ’s downfall, God’s plan of salvation would be futile. Instead, when Satan makes his attempt against Jesus, the Christ conquers, reciting Scripture as argument, and standing firm in God.
This makes Christ’s forty days in the desert significant because they become the reversal of Paradise Lost. In the garden of Eden, Satan battles man and triumphs. In the desert, Satan battles Christ (both God and man), and loses. Thus, when Christ begins his ministry, he has already conquered the Devil himself.
In Paradise Regained, Christ’s character stands in stark contrast to all of Satan’s “Homeric hero” traits, and in one fell swoop, trumps them all. Christ’s quiet character stamps upon the proud tilt of Satan’s head. His rash passion is beaten down by Christ’s steady faith, slow to anger and abiding in steadfast love. Proud ignorance is overcome by wisdom, more ancient than the stars, which beholds all things and makes plans before the foundations of the earth were laid. Satan’s disobedience, hot and fierce, proud in nature and refusing to bow to the Creator, looks weak and powerless in the shadow of Christ’s obedience, that clear spring of joy which Christ yields like a sword upon his foe. This unbreakable wall sends Satan reeling back to hell: “So struck with dread and anguish fell the fiend, and to his crew, that sat consulting, brought joyless triumphals of his hoped success, ruin, and desperation, and dismay, who durst so proudly tempt the Son of God” (576-580). In this “epic battle,” Milton shows the uselessness of the qualities which Homer and Virgil valued so highly. True victory is not won with fire, anger, and disobedience, but with faith, Scripture, and obedience.
To answer the question, Milton re-defines the concept of a Homeric hero by setting up Christ’s character as the ultimate hero, which opposes Satan, Achilleus, Odysseus, Aeneas, etc.
A new definition of a hero: brave, meek, obedient, loyal, patient, wise, slow to speak, slow to anger, abiding in steadfast love.
Once again Satan has been repulsed, but he is patient. Job remains strong thus far, but Satan has all the time in the world. Job is in emotional and physical agony, and Satan even deprives him of rest (7:3-4). Job tosses and turns, tormented with visions and nightmares (7:13:15). And now his friends have come, his friends who are convinced that all misfortune is a punishment from God. It is here that we must be careful, for the words of God at the end (42:7) makes it clear that when these friends speak of God, they are not to be trusted. They are right occasionally, but they are often wrong, their words guided by a false understanding of God and how he interacts with us. Continue reading The Great Cynic Defeated (Job Series, Part 3)
This is the second part of a three-part series on Job. Read the first part here.
Satan has been defeated, but he is nothing if not persistent. Job is stronger then Satan reckoned, yes, but that merely means that the ultimate cause of Job’s faith must lie in Job’s own person. Satan, of course, cannot understand love, so on further reflection he must have thought, “Yes, of course Job would be unmoved by the death of his children. They were no good to him anyway: He cares only for himself, his own body, and that has remained largely safe.” Continue reading …of my servant Job? (Job Series, Part 2)
In The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton calls Job “one of the colossal cornerstones of the world,” and in his introduction to the book of Job, he calls it one of the most interesting of all books, both modern and ancient. Further research, including an awesome commentary that I first discovered in Oxford but have more recently discovered on the internet, has only caused me to agree with this statement of vast importance more and more. The book of Job remains to this day one of the most immediately relevant and applicable books of all time.