Richard Beck found that the elimination of the Devil, “that ancient and arrogant spirit” according to a prayer I repeat every evening,  gelded progressive Christianity and left it insipid and flavorless. That the oh-so-clever modern world should leave off believing in the Devil is no surprise; we live in an age that abhors fecundity and wants to geld everything, yet somehow ten years ago, Beck found that there is something in evil that does not reduce in our analyses. So, we are forced to reimagine him. Beck does a great job, by the way, and is far more courageous in his imagination than the collection of progressive fundamentalists that comment on his blog.

For some reason, God saw a cosmos with a Devil preferable to one without, and somehow there is bound up in the idea of the Devil the concept of Freedom. Barfield’s discussion on the progressive Liberation of the Logos comes into play here; the austrolopithecine mother cooing to her infant on the darking savannah already contained in her DNA, that ballet of nitrates demanding and surrendering electrons, all of our vaunted human wisdom; Gilgamesh, Jeremiah, Plato, Lucretius, Newton, Faraday, and Hawking. But it wasn’t free.

art_0409_1-lg_2Of all the people on this board, I have less sympathy for the classical liberal concept of Freedom than most. When I saw a piece of artwork by an acolyte of Richard Rohr that illustrating an article here about three weeks ago, I knew immediately that my sympathies lay with the figures on the top half of the drawing more than they did with those on the bottom. Instinctively I felt the figures on the bottom couldn’t be trusted with that freedom, and that they would use that freedom to do ridiculous, objectionable, and banal things. Worse than that, I would be expected to rejoice in them and be thought defective if I couldn’t.

It is beginning to dawn on me, just beginning because the idea beats against the tide of a lifetime of egotism and elitism, that maybe what God wants us to do with the freedom we find in Christ is not to voluntarily and joyfully recreate ex corde the top half of the illustration, but to take some risks and fail, sometimes spectacularly, in the service of an end whose glory we cannot yet even imagine.