So, let me begin with a confession, I have a man crush on Richard Beck. His blog Experimental Theology has been a constant source of quality thinking, prophetic challenge, and palatable/authentic Christian reflections. It would not be a stretch to say that he has served, all the way from Abilene TX, via blogspot and books, as a mentor to me. I am grateful for Richard.
I was able to preorder his new book Reviving Old Scratch and get a hold of it before its May 1st release date. I read it immediately and loved every page. While his work is always very accessible, this one, which was dedicated to the "Men in White" at the prison where he leads a bible study, seemed to have been written with accessibility as a very clear goal. It is filled with big theological ideas and yet is written in a way that might be understood and accepted by both skeptics or conservative believers of any educational level.
The book takes the potentially doubting and disenchanted reader on quite a journey as he makes the compelling case that we talk far too little about the Devil. Whether you're a holy ghost filled Pentecostal who sees the devil everywhere or a secular skeptic that cannot even begin to imagine what the point of such language could possibly be, I cannot recommend this book enough.
While there are those who scoff at the very notion of a devil and others who seem to go on and on about Old Scratch, Beck does an amazing job at offering up a corrective to all. To the liberal Christian who would flatten any talk of 'spiritual warfare' to a political battle for social justice, Beck pushes you to reconsider. To the more conservative Pentecostal position that imagines disembodied spirits floating around in the sky screwing with folks, Beck offers a very biblical invitation to Reconsider.
Whatever it is you imagine when you read passages of the NT like Ephesians 6:12,
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Beck follows the tradition of Walter Wink and William Stringfellow in breathing new life and understanding into these passages that so often baffle our 21st century minds. His offering gives fresh lenses based in very concrete realities that we all experience. It presents us with a very sober interpretation of the language of scripture and the realities to which that language points. Regardless of where you stand on questions about God, the supernatural, or religion in general, this book engages the reader in a compelling reflection on evil in the world and issues a serious call to an authentic spiritual vocation of love.
Using everything from Scooby Doo to the our feeling that we haven't had enough sleep or don't have enough time, Beck brilliantly uses our everyday realities to illuminate something we might be missing everyday. Beck's own narrative about being reintroduced to the Devil will serve any and all who would also like to make his acquaintance. Consider yourself invited.