Ralph Winter and Greg Boyd Talk about the Devil and Disease
WCIU Journal: Health and Disease Topic
October 7, 2018
Excerpts from: Ralph Winter’s Missiology of Disease
What if all disease pathogens as well as all violent forms of life are the work of Satan? What would Jesus have said about fighting germs in the name of Christ had the people of his time know about germs? How would that amplify and refocus our global mission? Christ has called us to be salt and light in a world of evil, corruption, and disease. We have a mandate to restore the glory of God among all peoples by more adequately representing His character. We misrepresent him if we talk only about getting to heaven. We must also reveal by our actions his concern for the conquest of evil and evil disease.
While Christians are noted for being kind to people who are already sick, curiously and ominously, to this day, Christians are not well known for fighting the viruses, the bacteria, and the tiny parasites that cause illness. The fact that Jesus did not talk about germs—which not even Calvin and Luther knew about—does not mean that He wants us to be silent on that subject today. It is common today among many Evangelicals to be content with the first century understanding of nature. But the challenge for us today is to discover what Jesus would have said had the people known what we know today about germs.
Greg Boyd Excerpts
Winter’s thinking closely parallel’s that of pastor/theologian Greg Boyd. Winter included an excerpt of Boyd’s seminal book, God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict, in the 1999 and 2009 editions of the Perspectives Reader.
In writings Winter did not live long enough to see, Boyd wrote:
“Parasites, viruses, diseases. … are … the result of Satan and forces of evil corrupting the creative work of the benevolent Creator.” [Greg Boyd, “Evolution as Cosmic Warfare: A Biblical Perspective on Satan and ‘Natural’ Evil,” in Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science, ed. Thomas J. Oord (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publishers 2009, 125-45).]
“When [scientists] discover ways to fight diseases and discover their origins, that is spiritual warfare.” [Greg Boyd, “A War-Torn Creation,” in Evangelical and Frontier Mission Perspectives on the Global Progress of the Gospel, eds. Beth Snodderly and A. Scott Moreau, (Oxford: Regnum 2011, 293).]
From a Transcription of Greg Boyd’s Lecture, “Is Satan Real?” given at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, October 18, 2016:
Often in the process of Jesus healing people, the gospels diagnose that the fundamental cause of the illness that he was healing was demonic in nature. Sometimes he treats an illness like it was a demon. He rebukes a fever (Luke 4:39), for example. (The Greek word translated “rebuke,” epitimao, is the same word used to describe the way Jesus spoke to a demon in Mark 1:25.) Sometimes he even diagnoses that there is a specific kind of demon behind it, e.g., a demon of muteness or a demon of deafness. I talk about this a lot in my book God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict.
In the New Testament there is an overlap in what Jesus does when he delivers people and what he does when he heals people. There’s a continuum there. But, this is a central part of his activity. He saw his whole ministry as planting, and inaugurating, and advancing the kingdom of God over and against the kingdom of Satan.
So for example, in Luke 10, when he sends out the 72 disciples and they go out and they heal the sick and cast out demons. When they return he says, “I saw Satan falling from heaven like lightning.” And what he’s saying is that what they were doing was toppling that enemy empire. His whole ministry has a spiritual warfare motif. First John 3:8 says that the reason the Son of God came was to destroy the devil and his works. Hebrews 2:14 says the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the key of death, that is, the devil in order to free all those who all their lives have been afraid of death. So this is a central thing.
One of the reasons Darwin lost his faith [is that he saw that] the history of nature is a story told by the Devil’s chaplain. At one point he said, if there is intelligence behind the operation of nature, it’s at least partly evil. Because some of it is designed to inflict maximal torture. He was particularly interested in this one insect, the Ichneumonidae. It is able to plant its larvae in a caterpillar and the creatures know exactly what to eat and what not to eat to keep the caterpillar alive while they feast on its insides. And for two weeks the thing is being eaten from the inside out but they have the intelligence to know what not to eat so they don’t kill it.
Is that the only way God could go about arriving at human beings? Through this bloody, nasty, vicious, violent process?
It’s best if you believe, like I do, that Jesus reveals what God’s nature is really like, especially on the cross. He reveals that God is not violent and God is self-sacrificial and loving.
Would that God create a creation like this?
So I propose seeing the evolutionary process as a matter of God creating, and principalities and powers dis-creating. And then God bringing good out of evil, and then them dis-creating again, bringing corruption, and God bringing good out of evil. I’m working with some biologists and paleontologists now to try to fit that into the actual frame of what we actually know about the evolutionary process. … They’re trying to argue that all diseases, cancer, all of that can be shown to be a mutation of something good. So there’s a corrupting influence. Something went wrong.
Ralph Winter Again
We must reveal by our actions his concern for the conquest of evil and disease. When souls are saved they are not merely supposed to be survivors singing of their salvation, but soldiers deliberately choosing to enter into the dangerous, sacrificial, arduous task of restoring the glory of God for all to see. “Let your light shine in this way: that your good deeds may be seen by men who will thus be able to glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). To destroy the works of the devil is one major way in which our testimony of word and deed can glorify the true nature of our living God, our loving heavenly Father. It is to rectify our God’s damaged reputation. It is to avoid extending the implicit and embarrassing policy of almost constantly misrepresenting Him in our mission work around the world. Attacking the roots of disease is part and parcel of our basic mandate to glorify God in all the earth.