Satan

Evil swallows most of its own venom and poisons itself, wrote Montaigne. I do not believe in Satan.

Milton’s Satan tempted Eve and Adam, and precipitated the Fall. Blake said Milton was of the Devil’s party, and did not know it. But in Genesis 3:1, the “serpent” which tempts Eve is “more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made”. Its motivation is unclear but it is not a fallen angel.

In Job, Satan is “The Accuser”, one of the heavenly beings, not the Enemy we find in Milton. He is the Accuser in Zechariah 3, and a tempter in 1 Chronicles 21. The word “devil” does not appear at all in the Old Testament. In Revelation, though, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Jesus watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.

In the Gospels, Satan tempted Jesus, proposing other ways of gaining followers, entered Judas before his betrayal, and causes mental and physical illness.

CS Lewis’s Screwtape liked two attitudes in humans- an unhealthy interest in devils, or disbelief. Wormwood seeks to draw his victim from things of lasting value to lesser things. Wormwood delights in the destruction of the World War, but Screwtape is wary, as war can bring out virtues of honour and courage in human beings. The professorial Screwtape even gives a lecture. In Perelandra, though, the spirit which possesses Weston and fights Ransom for the soul of the first woman created on Venus is mindless, silly in a way which is less than childish, destroying because that is what it does rather than for any purpose.

And there is Mephistopheles and Faust. This is Hell, nor am I out of it. He is a deceiver, whispering to Faust of things which have no value in reality. The Hesychasts imagined themselves surrounded by tempting demons. The start of sin was to pay attention to one, from which the sinner slid down to constant indulgence without shame. However, I doubt there is any a co-ordinating intelligence plotting this.

A man left his wife, and had an affair. She would not let him go, and they are back together. Now, he might see the affair as a lack of trust and respect for himself as well as his wife. He was running away. Then, he would not see it like that, or he might not have left her in the first place. His sin arose from his failure to see his situation and the people in it clearly.

It is tempting for the Evangelical to imagine “Civilization” as a whole is in fact NOT the glorious by-product of our marvelous Christian heritage, but rather the construct of an entourage of fallen angelic beings, led by Lucifer himself, a construct which in fact serves as the mechanism by which he ultimately aims to use in order to establish his fully-realized kingdom on Earth. It puts him at war with God’s creation.

William Blake, Satan before the throne of God from illustrations to the Book of Job

7 thoughts on “Satan

  1. Perhaps I just don’t know you well enough yet to easily glean whatever specific point you’re trying to make from this. The various opinions of fiction writers on the person of Satan is interesting and all, but ultimately only human conjecture. You seem to summarily dismiss the notion that the bible does indeed say that Lucifer is a fallen angel, but don’t say how/why.

    Temptation however is rightly understood as the primary mode of deception at work. I wouldn’t really debate that part…

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      • ” the dishonest steward is not historical.” Right. It’s a parable. Which is why it’s presented as a parable from the outset…

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          • Oh good grief… “the indicative mood”? You’ve really never seen phrases like “the kingdom of heaven is like…”, or read passages where the disciples said to Jesus “rabbi explain to us the meaning of this parable”…?

            It truly amazes me to hear all the clever little things people come up with to try and wiggle around the Bible saying what it plainly and honestly says. Why even bother? Why not just say that the Bible is just a bunch of garbage and not worth reading at all? You get the same result after all…

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            • Do not insult me. “Oh good grief” he says. You really are arrogant, aren’t you? There is no indication this is a story: “There was a rich man…”

              The Bible clearly is not a bunch of garbage. You ignore God’s message of Love. The result is that you get the message you desire, of rules and Hell for those you dislike.

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            • I am not trying to insult you, I apologize, but I admit I find the idea you are proposing to be quite indefensible. You say there is no indication that “this is a story”. Well this is really bizarre, because regardless of whether or not Jesus was making up a story to illustrate a point, or using something that actually happened to illustrate a point, either way, in the end he is still illustrating a point!

              And what is that point? It’s right there in the text:

              Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.

              You cannot serve God and wealth.”

              I am not ignoring God’s message of Love at all. The whole thing is a message of love! But tell me… Do you think Jesus’ words here in this particular place are going to be universally received as “loving” by someone who say, is very attached to their material wealth and doesn’t like the idea of being told he might have to let it go..?

              I don’t “desire” a message that includes stark realities such as sin and hell, but when I read the words of Jesus they are invariably there. He talks about sin and hell and the devil quite matter-of-factly. You can’t get around it if you don’t pick and choose the bits and pieces that sound like “love” from your own personal perspective. God IS Love, and Jesus is God, but yet He puts his finger on the very issues in our hearts which we would prefer to have left alone. He loves us too much to look the other way…

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