Jared C. Wilson, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Spurgeon College and author of books such as The Gospel-Driven Church and The Imperfect Disciple, has recently released his new apologetic work that seeks to shine a light on the most pervasive and deceptive arguments about God circulating within Christianity today. In his new book, provocatively titled The Gospel According to Satan, Wilson tackles an issue that has been sorely missed in many recent apologetic and pastoral works. The knowledge that Christians are embattled in spiritual warfare is a common concept, but one that most Christian do not take seriously, and non-Christians usually scoff at. However, Wilson lays out a case that not only is this threat real, but it is one for which we are all too often ill-equipped to resist because the lies Satan uses often sound like they could be truths about God.
Wilson points out that the nature of spiritual warfare does not take on the classic examples of good vs. evil battling it out with flaming swords or even the rousing defense of blatant heresy, but more commonly in the form of deceptive lies about God that sound like truth that lead us wildly astray. As Wilson states on the opening page, “Before there was death, there was the lie. But before the lie, there was the Liar” (xiv). However, as the old adage states (explicitly quoted in the movie The Usual Suspects), “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” and the easiest way to do this is to make mankind believe his lies are actually truths that come from God.
Much like C.S. Lewis’s famous apologetic The Screwtape Letters, The Gospel According to Satan builds an argument about the nature of those temptations and how the greatest and most effective of those lies told to us by our great adversary sound oddly truthful. While these arguments themselves will not be new to pastors and those who have been instructed in Christian thought, Wilson uses his pastoral experience, story building talents, and poignant language to brilliantly apply those arguments to the readers less familiar with the Christian faith as well as those who are well-rooted in the Christian tradition.
What is more, the lies that Wilson defines and exposes are specifically relevant to the contemporary church. Modern statistics and research into protestant belief have increased our understanding of the extremely pervasive issue some have coined as cultural Christianity, the idea that one identifies as Christian due to familial or cultural association but lacks the true, believing faith in Jesus Christ, or moral therapeutic deism, the idea that Christian morality provides the therapeutic benefits to spirituality without the requirement of submission to a Lord and Savior.
Wilson takes on eight of the most common forms of these lies:
- God just wants you to be happy.
- You only live once.
- You need to live your truth.
- Your feelings are reality.
- Your life is what you make it.
- You need to let go and let God.
- The Cross is not about wrath.
- God helps those who help themselves.
Each of these worldviews have vague elements of true, orthodox Christianity, but lack the fullness of life offered by Jesus Christ. In fact, Wilson describes this dilemma in this introductory chapter to the book, “Similarly, the lies we believe today that erode our dependence on God and discredit our belief in the good news of his Son Jesus are not blatant. They are subtle. They make promises. They seem plausible” (xviii). The profound issue with each of these lies is that they almost sound Christian in nature.
For example, take the first lie, “God just wants you to be happy.” On its face, this seems to be an innocuous statement about God’s love for his people and his desire for us to serve him but lacks the theological understanding that while he desires for his people to find joy in him and to serve him with joy, the ultimate purpose of God’s plan is not for us to be happy but to be holy. Wilson states, “This is what makes the half-truth, ‘God just wants you to be happy,’ so dangerous: The devil would be perfectly satisfied if we were perfectly satisfied apart from the holiness of God. He will do whatever it takes to get us interested ultimately in our own happiness” (17). More importantly, Wilson shows how these common misconceptions about God that have begun to invade the global church. In this case, Wilson shows how the lie that God just wants us to be happy has led to the false teaching found in prosperity gospel theology and brings his arguments back to scripture to deduce the truths derived from God’s word. Wilson concludes Chapter 1 by stating, “God is not opposed to our happiness; he only wishes that we find our ultimate happiness in him” (19).
Wilson does not just combat known heretical thought or liberal theology. Much of his work is focused on displaying how these lies have shaded Christianity in areas such as political allegiance, Christian consumerism, and watered-down theology. While Wilson does not cover any new theological ground, what he does do is to present a convincing case that the threat that Satan presents to Christians and non-Christians alike is to distract us from the truth of God’s Word and the joy found in being obedient to Christ Jesus. Our only real hope of defending against our great adversary is not in our own works, but in knowing the word of God better: “The Christian must combat hellish lies with heavenly truths. The antidote for worldly wisdom is not more of the same, but the wisdom that comes from on high. This means that every Christian must be a person of biblical doctrine” (179–80).