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The Man With All The Answers | Provoketive Magazine
The Man With All The Answers

When I took Systematic Theology in graduate school, Devlin Lucent was the best student in the class by far. Devlin knew all the answers. He never lost his cool. He was ridiculously good-looking. Sometimes he asked the professor questions so clever the professor would start to answer, stop, and then say, “That’s a very interesting question, Devlin. Class, what do you think?”

One day I had to know why Devlin even bothered with this class. I caught up with him on the quad.

“Hey, why do you ask such impossible questions?”

“Just playing devil’s advocate,” he said. “Dr. Hallow is on the right track, but he hasn’t taken it far enough.”

“Sounds like maybe you should teach.”

“I will,” said Devlin. “But the world only respects diplomas and degrees, so here I am.”

The whole semester went on like this. Devlin knew the correct answers in every category: sin, Trinity, covenant, you-name-it: this guy was as smart as they came.

And talented, too. When he led worship people raved about the music. He had no trouble finding dates: it seemed like a third of the girls in the school were lined up for him. (I noticed, however, that a few of the girls he went out with ended up dropping out of school.)

One night I had a dream:

Devlin was at a nearby bistro enjoying a glass of wine and the admiration of a table full of other students. He saw me through the music and the haze of those who pretend to smoke cigarettes.

“Grimsley!” He gestured. “Just the man! Get over here.”

I had to admit it was something of a thrill to be publicly recognized by the coolest guy in seminary. I pulled over a chair and wedged into the crowd.

“We were just discussing our take-over of the school,” said Lucent. I laughed, but the rest of them turned their attention back to Devlin. “No, really: those stodgy fools have no business running the place. Even when they’re correct they’re hopelessly lost in applying the answers. They’re driving students away and holding the rest of us back. Are you in?”

“This seems rather sudden, eh?” I tried to ask.

“Nothing sudden about that lame seminary. They’ve been screwing people up for decades.” No one interrupted Devlin. They focused on him with devotion usually reserved for rock stars or saints. He loved it. He didn’t need my buy-in: “I can see you’re holding back. No matter–I may still let you attend after I’m in charge.”

The next morning it was Devlin who caught up with me on the frosty quad.

“Good morning, Grims. Sleep well last night?”

“Well enough,” I said. In the morning light he didn’t look so menacing.

“I like to give people a little time to adjust to progressive ideas,” he said. “You should think about my offer.”

My heart stopped at the same time as my feet. “Your offer?”

“Surely you didn’t think that because it was a dream I wasn’t serious?”

“Wait–how did you–was I really talking to you, then? In my dream?”

“Don’t concern yourself with details, Grimsley. Just because it was a dream doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. What? Confused? You should’ve studied the Old Testament harder. It’s not so strange.”

What was strange was the winterlight behind him. His head was rimmed with light but I looked through the shadow to his face. His good looks vanished. The features were the same but they had distorted into pride and lust and anger. What had been appealing became grotesque. He saw what I had seen, and it somehow amused him.

“What now? You’re thinking how a good student like me would want to rebel? Grow up, man: my theology is perfect,” and here he leaned toward me until I smelled the breath of death itself. “It’s not enough. I won’t stop until I’m in charge.”

In that moment my alarm sounded. I was utterly confused. I had already awakened, or so I thought. Last night’s dream was the dream–or was it a dream within a dream? I was truly afraid, but the student in me still got the point. I fumbled for the notebook next to my Bible. My shaking hand managed to scrawl the awful truth:

The devil’s theology is just fine. The problem is he wants his own way.

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