As Baudelaire observed, the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist. Anglican clergyman, George Pitcher is persuaded:
English satanic practices always make me smile. They conjure up images of very white, fat people dancing around clumsily in a wood. So when I read our story today that a vicar in the Forest of Dean is seeing signs of “dark forces”, I’m afraid I was reminded more of Ghostbusters than of The Omen.
But the Rev Nick Bromfield, rector of Drybrook, Lydbrook and Ruardean, is taking it all very seriously: “It might sound medieval to talk about the relationship between good and evil, but there is no middle ground on this. People need to leave well alone.”
Oh, c’mon, Rev Nick. We’re not talking about Old Nick here, are we? All that classical theistic Greek dualism, which gave us the battle between God and the Devil, with the great eschatological battle fought out at the Cross of Calvary? Are you mates with Mel Gibson? Or perhaps you just didn’t like finding a sheep’s head impaled on a stake outside one of your churches?
I agree that’s not very nice, least of all for the sheep, but are we still really talking about a Miltonesque battle for dominion between the powers of darkness and light? I don’t think so. Evil is the absence of the divine in humanity, made potent by the power of human imagination gone wrong. So I agree that humans obviously have a capacity for great evil. But because they are possessed by the Prince of Darkness? No. There’s only room for one deity here.
Let’s see, if there is no devil there was no Fall, no rebellion against God, no sin, no need for a Saviour, no Incarnation, no atonement on the cross, no salvation, no heaven, no hell, no hope.
What does that leave us with? The Church of England.