Something which I’ll be evasive about has prompted this post. I know that belief in a real Satan and demons may be viewed in a mocking or skeptical way by certain secular folks. In our modern age, how can someone believe in such? I get the skepticism. (A focus of my blog is on faith and doubt!) This post is not intended for the secular people out there, but for Christians – To serve as a review of traditional, orthodox Christian beliefs.
At first I was going to write this myself, but Blue Letter Bible has an excellent article: Does Satan, or the Devil, Really Exist? The article begins with this:
“From the Book of Genesis, through the Book of Revelation, the existence of an intelligent, cunning personage who is the great archenemy of God is clearly taught. Known by a number of different names, this personage is always treated as a real character – there is no indication whatsoever that he is merely a symbolic figure of evil.”
The article gives an overview of Satan in the Old and New Testament, and then walks through a series of characteristics of Satan which demonstrate Satan is a real being or entity or personage – and not simply a metaphor for evil. I’d encourage you to read the article in its entirety. Towards the end it states:
“The existence of a personal Devil is tied to the issue of the authority of Scripture. If Scripture is accepted for what it claims to be – God’s inspired Word, the final authority on all matters of faith and practice – then the existence of a personal Devil is beyond all doubt.” – I agree.
However, even Christians who believe that Satan is a real being, can end up with certain wacky or imbalanced views of Satan. In his introduction to The Screwtape Letters, I appreciated CS Lewis bringing clarity.
“Does he (Lewis) really believe in the Devil? Well, no, if you mean by “the Devil” a power opposite of God and, like God, self existent from all eternity. God has no opposite. There is no uncreated being except God. But, yes, Lewis believes in devils. That is, he believes in angels, and some of these angels abused their free will and became enemies of God. These are devils. Devil is the opposite of angel only as bad man is the opposite of good man. Satan, the leader of the devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael the archangel.”
This still needs to be emphasized, as some Christians have an inaccurate “Star Wars” type view of good and evil forces.
I also appreciated a caution in the preface of The Screwtape Letters:
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
Unfortunately, there are types of Christians who do have an obsession with Satan. While it is true that we are in a spiritual battle (Ephesians) and we don’t want to forget it, I’ve observed Christians who are more focused on the battle and on the existence of the demonic – than on Jesus! They have lost focus. In addition, some Christians have been more influenced by Hollywood movies and Christian fiction – than by the Bible – when it comes to their beliefs about the supernatural realm.
Which is a perfect lead in to a book that I recommend and reviewed on the blog: Living Free in Enemy Territory. The author explains that he wanted to approach the topic of Satan from a different perspective. The focus of the book is more on Christ’s victory over Satan, rather than our battle against Satan. He observes that there is often a lopsided interest in our part of the fight. It is a Christ-centered book, because that is where true hope is found to live free in enemy territory!
Satan exists. He is a real being. There is an unseen, but very real, spiritual realm. Christians really shouldn’t have to be reminded of these truths!
If there isn’t a real Satan, it creates many interpretive problems. What exactly are we fighting against then? Jesus sure spoke and acted as though the satanic realm was real. This takes us back to the authority of Scripture, mentioned above.
But again…we don’t want to lose focus or drift into wackiness…and give some Christians a good excuse for throwing out the baby with the bath water – either viewing Satan as nothing more than a metaphor or avoiding any mention of him.
1 Peter 5:8 says that we need to be alert and on-guard against Satan’s schemes. We can’t be alert about something that we are pretending doesn’t exist.