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“Against the Darkness: The Doctrine of Angels, Satan, and Demons” by Graham A. Cole

Published Wednesday, July 1, 2020 By Dave Jenkins

Against the Darkness: The Doctrine of Angels, Satan, and Demons
by Graham A. Cole
Crossway, 2019
272 pages (hardcover), $40.00

Growing up in Seattle, I often interacted with those who have divergent views regarding angels, demons, and Satan. Typically, the average conversation would run counter to what we as Christians believe about these topics, which provided an opportunity to discuss these matters from a biblical worldview. There, as in many other parts of the country, spirituality was all the rage and confusion often reigned. It’s much the same today. With the growing confusion of spirituality comes the ever-increasing influence of New Age thinking, atheism, Satan, and an increasing interest in the occult worldwide. All of this is why having a good grasp of angels, demons, Satan, and spiritual warfare is critical for Christians who are concerned to grow and develop a biblical worldview.

In his new book, Against the Darkness: The Doctrine of Angels, Satan, and Demons, which is part of the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series from Crossway, Graham Cole helpfully traces these doctrines in Scripture and church history, showing their practical relevance for the Christian life. He writes,

This study is both descriptive and prescriptive in approach. Not only will careful attention be given to describing what is in the biblical testimony to angels, Satan, and demons, but biblical theology as a discipline plays an important role in constructing doctrine as it pays careful attention to the task of description. (21)

In chapters 2 and 3, Dr. Cole explores the role of angels in the created order and their function and ministry. Specifically, he considers the various activities of angels, the seraphim, and cherubim (32–33). In particular, what I appreciated in these chapters was the author’s mention that “the dismissal of angelology leads to a diminished Christian worldview” (47). Such an understanding helps us to heed his warning (43) about not worshipping angels but seeing them as “created spirits that serve God and God’s images in a myriad of ways in heaven and on earth” (48).

In some movies, television, or in science fiction novels, Satan and demons play a prominent role. In his discussion of Satan and demons in chapters 4 and 5, the author helps the people of God navigate away from the popular cultural confusion by grounding his teaching in Scripture. In these chapters, Cole articulates a clear understanding of the work of Satan and demons that squares with biblical orthodoxy.

The book takes an interesting turn in chapter 6 with his discussion of Christus Victor. Cole clearly and succinctly traces this theme from the first gospel in Genesis 3:15 to its completion in the finished and sufficient work of Christ. In my ministry experience, many Christians struggle with Satan’s accusations. In his work on Christus Victor, Dr. Cole picks up on this:

Justification is the verdict that we are deemed right with God in the divine court. This is the end-time verdict received now by the believer. This is all of grace, not merit. The devil may attempt to use our conscience as a means of spoiling our spiritual poise, but as Paul says, it is God who justifies, and he has. (Rom. 5:1; 160)

One subject that needs more coverage in our day is spiritual warfare, which is why I’m so thankful for the author’s treatment of this subject. Along the way, he covers the various views, such as David Powlison’s and Greg Boyd’s, among five others. Even as he discusses these, he sets forth his own and encourages Christians toward a “robust, biblically informed Christology” on the topic of spiritual warfare (187), which is critical to any right and biblical understanding of spiritual warfare.

In chapter 8, the author considers the judgment day and the second coming of the Lord Jesus. One outstanding feature of this chapter is his brief discussion of the various views of the Millennium and how these views affect our reading of Revelation. In particular, this reader appreciated his explanation of how Jesus praying for the kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven is the “eschatological mind-set” that “shows itself in two attitudes: confidence and expectation” (221). Christians can be confident in Christ because he has come and died, and his work is sufficient for them. Such an understanding provides fuel in a biblical worldview for the idea of expectation and why Christ will return, which energizes the hope of the Christian in the imminent return of the Lord Jesus.

As the author wraps up, he rightly concludes, “The biblical language that we are more than conquerors is no mere rhetorical flourish, although in this life it is mostly a matter of faith not sight” (230). Such a point is significant, because the person and work of Christ is the centerpiece of all of history, and all of history finds its completion in him.

Ours is a day of great confusion about spirituality and, in particular, about biblical spirituality. In Against the Darkness, Christians are reminded of who they are and whose they are because of Christ. As the author traces a biblical view of Christ and an orthodox view of angels, demons, Satan, and spiritual warfare, readers are instructed and equipped. Along the way, you’ll find parts no doubt where you disagree with the author, as I did on the author’s understanding of the pre-incarnate Christ in the Old Testament, among other subjects. Don’t let your disagreements with the author, however, stop you from considering the arguments he shares in this book. Instead, let them drive you to further study of Scripture and to greater theological insight on these vital subjects. Against the Darkness is a helpful biblical-theological feast for serious-minded laypeople and pastor-theologians to sink their teeth into and grow in their understanding of angels, demons, Satan, spiritual warfare, the person and work of Jesus, and the second coming of our Lord.

 

Dave Jenkins (MDiv, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the executive editor of Theology for Life magazine, and the host of the Equipping You in Grace podcast and Warriors of Grace podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, Facebook at DaveJenkinsSOG, Instagram, or read more of his writing at https://servantsofgrace.org/theology-for-life/.

  • Dave Jenkins