Does the devil have a theology? Why would anyone pose such a question? The devil is supposed to be the antithesis of God. So, it would seem unlikely that the devil would have a “theology,” a word which stems from “theos” meaning god and “logos” (-ology) meaning word or study. Rephrasing the question in that light, does the devil have a word of or from God? It seems like an absurd idea, does it not?

As silly as the question might be, in Genesis the serpent “said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?’ 2 And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ 4 But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis. 3:1-5).

Similarly, Matthew depicts how the devil tempted Jesus in the desert using biblical passages:

“5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ [Psalm 91:11] and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’” [Psalm 91:12] (Matthew 4:5-6).

These two examples indicate that the devil will use scripture to tempt both man and the son of man. It is a clever ploy. On the one hand, believers like to describe scripture as the word of God, with some saying that it is inerrant or infallible or both. So, if the devil quotes the Bible, is he using God’s word, and is what he says inerrant or infallible or both? Plainly, this is not the case. Misusing or misinterpreting God’s word is certainly demonic. So, what does it mean when human beings do the same? It means that sinful human beings misuse or abuse God’s word to suit their own sinful purposes, just like the devil. So, if theologian after theologian throughout history has mixed his or her own teachings with God’s word for their own sinful purposes, wittingly or not, should one not thus conclude not only that the devil is a theologian but the father of all theologians? If that is the case, would this not also mean that all theologians are of the devil?

Luther writes, “From these and many similar sayings it has been clearly and convincingly enough proven that God has strictly and sharply forbidden the doctrines and works of men in the church, as being contrary to faith and leading men away from the truth, that is, they are sheer lies and fraud before God. And where the devil has gotten involved—that one embellishes them with God’s name or the apostles’ names, and sells them under these names—then they are no longer simple lies and fraud, but also horrible blasphemy, idolatry, and abomination. For then the devil makes God a liar and deceiver, as though God had spoken such lies or done such works; and the people fall for it, believe it, and depend on it, as if God had said and done it, and thus they give their trust and honor, which is due to God alone, to lies and to the devil” (LW 41:302-303).

Nowadays, people are not so forthright, or perhaps so condemning as Luther. Today, we live in an “inclusive,” secular society and in an ecumenical age when we agree that our disagreements are declared to be no longer church-dividing disagreements. Ecumenists call this “differentiated consensus.” In plain English, that means talking out of both sides of one’s mouth hoping that no one will notice or take offense or, if they notice, will not call us duplicitous or liars or idolaters or blasphemers or demonic. Instead, such churches and their leaders arrogate to themselves the right to devise and to implement all manner of human doctrines and works in God’s name but without God and even contrary to God, just like the devil. When this happens in Protestant churches, it means that the Reformation has been thrown out with the baptismal water. For Luther, following scripture, one cannot serve two masters.

So, are you a theologian of God or a theologian of the devil? Do you read your Bible, or do you not? When you interpret the Bible, do you seek to know and communicate God’s word and God’s will or to effect your own in God’s name? How can you recognize the difference, or do you just happily mix a few words from scripture with your ideas and decree it all to be simply divine?

Unfortunately, we sinners mix and mash God’s word with our sinful words and ideas all the time. In the cauldron of our devoutly self-righteous religiosity, we brew and stew the best of intentions (WA 46:789.16–27 = LW 22:274), adding a little folk religion, a little superstition, a few Bible verses, and a whole heap of unbelief to conjure up a concoction of pious and prayerful platitudes which plainly perpetuate the seemingly all-pervasive power of paganism.

St. Luke’s Theological Academy (SLTA) was founded in part to address this very human, very mundane, very demonic tendency in all of us. A faithful, mission-minded church needs to be full of the faith in Christ which only comes from the word of God, purely taught and proclaimed in both law and gospel. As Luther says, “Whoever knows how to distinguish the gospel from the law may thank God and know that one is a theologian (WA 40, I:207.17–18 = LW 26:115).

By that criterion, the devil is no theologian, but what about you as a member of the priesthood of all believes? Contrary to much of church life, it is not enough for any of us to quote a few Bible verses to undergird our opinions and positions as divine decree. The devil does that, routinely! Instead, a faithful church needs to be strategically theological and theologically strategic. That means always led by the word of God in all things. That comes not only from knowing the word of God in the Bible but also knowing what that word means by differentiating the law properly from the gospel. Only then can a faithful church communicate God’s word theo-logically according to God’s will as revealed it in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If this concept seems new or foreign to you, it may be time to take a course or two at SLTA.