By Ralph D. Winter
From his "Works of the Devil" lecture presented on June 23, 1999
Our theological tradition does not list for us exactly what the works of the devil really are. The respected Dutch theologian Berkouer made the rare comment that “You cannot have a sound theology without a sound demonology. Another theologian dared to suggest that Satan’s greatest achievement is “to cover his tracks.” Note that if in fact Satan has skillfully “covered his tracks” all of us may therefore be extensively unaware of his deeds. Paul suggested that we are not to be ignorant of his devices. We are told that Satan and his angels once worked for God. When Satan turned against God what precise kind of destruction and perversion did he set out to achieve? Where would we see evidence of his works? Would we get so accustomed to evil that we would be slow to connect Satan with evil and suffering? Would Satan successfully tempt us to think that God is somehow behind all evil—and we must therefore not attempt to eradicate things like smallpox lest we interfere with Divine Providence?
In the last 20 years paleontologists have dug up more evidences of earlier life forms than in all previous history. One of their thought-provoking discoveries is that the pre-Cambrian forms of life included no predators. Then, at a very distinct juncture there suddenly appeared destructive forms of life at all levels, from large creatures to the microbiological level. Is this what Satan set out to do from the time he fell out with the Creator—that is, he set about to pervert all forms of life so as to produce the vast jungle of tooth and claw that reigns today? Recent lab results indicate that retroviruses are smart enough to carry with them short pieces of pre-coded DNA which they insert into the chromosome of a cell so as to distort the very nature of an organism. Can a lion that will lie down with a lamb become vicious by such DNA tinkering? We do know that many diseases reflect defective genes. Very recent literature indicates that, in the case of the major chronic diseases, infections are now seriously thought to underlie everything from heart disease to cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and even schizophrenia.
A Double Enigma
But we confront a second and separate mystery here—beyond the scientific facts. Speaking in colloquial terms we face a “double whammy.” We are not only suddenly aware that our medical people have been looking in the wrong direction. We are aware that some force is delaying that awareness. For example, it has been two decades since it was clearly proven that 95% of duodenal ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection, yet today half the doctors in the state of Colorado still do not employ the simple remedy now available. Is this demonic cultural delusion added to demonic physical distortion? Will there be a similarly ominous and tragic lag in the application of knowledge with regard to the relation between infectious agents and the major killer diseases I just mentioned? Can and should the church speak out on these twin problem areas? Where are our theologians when we need them?