Does the BOM take it easy on Satan?

So a few weeks ago I was reviewing some recent, secondary literature on the famous scene of Peter’s rebuke in Mk 8:33 (“Get behind me, Satan!”). My own interests were in the language of interscholastic (as in Hellenistic philosophical schools) rebuke and frank criticism. However, during this survey, I quite unexpectedly came upon a passage which caught my interest as a Mormon. The source is Hans F. Bayer’s Das Evangelium des Markus (Witten: Brockhaus, 2008), a volume in the Historisch-Theologische Auslegung series for the NT. The context of the passage is the exegesis of Peter’s rebuke and his misunderstanding of the concept of a messiah. Bayer first points out that Peter’s political messianic expectations clouded his own rebuke of Jesus’ assertion that he must suffer and die. He then discusses the theological implications of such misguided messianic hopes.

“Above all, this notion at the same time unwarily and perfunctorily flouts the fundamental problem of alienation from God. Furthermore this expectation underestimates the power of Satan. The divine way goes to the root of this problem.

Every religion or philosophy of life which over-plays or makes light of these root issues of the fundamental alienation from God and the power of Satan (e.g. Palestinian Judaism, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Buddhism, the doctrine of Confucius, Hinduism; cf. also for example the Stoic philosophy of life), ultimately defies the sovereignty of God and his will, as in the case of Peter. Here also there is fundamental fact that the individual, from his own idealistic perspective, does not require a vicariously suffering Messiah. Only from the revealed perspective of God does the individual recognize his grave alienation and enmity toward God (the burden of sin) as well as the power of Satan. From this he realizes that he is existentially reliant upon the vicariously suffering and, moreover, ruling Messiah.”

I am no specialist in German translation so this rendering is a bit slavish and rough. Also I am not a theologian so I may have botched some technical terms. That being said, what is Bayer suggesting here? Why would Bayer include the Book of Mormon in the list of works, disciplines, or philosophies which either over- or under-play humankind’s alienation from God and the power of Satan? Does the BOM over- or under-play these two issues? Does it over-play the one and under-play the other?

I suppose that the statement surprised me because I think of the BOM as pretty heavy handed when it comes to the notion of humankind’s alienation and dependence upon divinity and the influence/power of Satan. Maybe Bayer is confusing some other Mormon theological developments or ideas bandied about from time to time (humans as divine entities, spirits as co-eternal with God, abolition from the concept of hell, Satan and Jesus as bros, etc.) with what the BOM itself offers.

7 Replies to “Does the BOM take it easy on Satan?”

  1. yes, welcome oudenos.

    way to play hardball. german theology in german no less.

    so i’ll admit that i have no familiarity with this commentary series, but glancing at the german wiki it seems to be evangelical and conservative.

    i’m guessing that bayer is of the opinion that mormons aren’t real big on a suffering messiah, as in they think they can save themselves through works or something … and that he has probably not read the book of mormon.

  2. that’s a nice way to put it, smb.

    so oudenos, do we get to hear your thoughts on the verse and interscholastic rebuke and frank criticism? and how did you wander from hellenistic philosophical schools into conservative envangelical theology? were you just going through every commentary on the shelf? the horror!

  3. My guess—and purely a guess—on this: Some parts of the Book of Mormon (e.g., Alma ch. 42) suggest the possibility that God isn’t a necessary being, in the technical sense of the word, but that there are eternal forces that place limits on God’s existence and actions. This is highly troubling for some who come from a mainstream Xian point of view, and i could see how it might lead to something like what you quoted.

  4. Thanks for the input, all.

    As g.wesley points out and David. B. suggest, the commentary comes a rather conservative theological series and I think that that is the over-riding cause for Bayer’s comments.

    Kevin B., good link and good post. As always, whenever one thinks that one has a fresh idea, somebody has already blogged about it and some German has already published a dissertation on it.

    I rather think that the BoM generally overplays the role of Satan, ascribing all things bad to him and all things good to his counterpart. Perhaps this is why Bayer groups the BoM with Stoicism, since, in way, the two both attribute all things good to an immanent deity even though the BoM allows for evil within the “plan” with a Satan figure as opposed to Stoicism which co-opts evil as part of universal providence.

    Also, even though he may have commented in jest, I agree with smb’s metonymy suggestion.

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