Satan


Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

Satan
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The figure of
Satan is often perceived as a fugitive from a Halloween party.
He is
portrayed as wearing a silly red suit. He has cloven hoofs, horns, a
tail, and carries a trident. Such a figure is a point of ridicule among those
who
deny biblical Christianity. I once asked a college class of about
thirty
students, “How many of you believe in God?” The majority of the
students
raised their hand. Then I asked, “How many of you believe in the
devil?” Only
a couple raised their hand.

One student blurted out, “How
can any intelligent person believe in the devil
in this day and age? The
devil belongs to superstition along with ghosts,
goblins, and things that go
bump in the night.”

I replied, “There is a far more credible source for
believing in Satan than
for believing in goblins. You may not be persuaded of
the trustworthiness of
the Bible, but it is surely a more credible source
than Mother Goose.”

To lump Satan with witches and goblins is to do
violence to serious and sober
thought. I followed my discussion with the
college class with another
question: “If you believe that God is an invisible, personal being who has the
capacity to influence people for good,
why do you find it hard or incredible
to imagine that there is an invisible,
personal being who has the capacity to
influence people for
evil?”

Perhaps our problem with Satan rests on the fact that we react to
a caricature
instead of the biblical view of him. In Scripture, the term
Satan means
“adversary.” We know him as the devil. He is a high angelic
creature who,
before the creation of the human race, rebelled against God and
has since
battled with human beings and God. He is called the prince of
darkness, the
father of lies, the accuser, and the beguiling serpent. The
real portrait is
nothing like the horned, triad-bearing, comedic adversary to
which we have
become accustomed. That image, at least in part, arose out of
the medieval
church. The silly picture of Satan was intentionally created by
the church in
order to poke fun at him. The church was convinced that an
effective ploy to
withstand Satan was to insult him. His most vulnerable part
was seen as his
pride. To attack his pride was seen as an effective way to
repel him.

The biblical view of Satan is far more sophisticated. He
appears as an “angel
of light.” That image points to Satan’s clever ability
to manifest himself
under the appearance of good. Satan is subtle, beguiling,
and crafty. He
speaks with eloquence; his appearance is stunning. The prince
of darkness
wears a cloak of light. Scripture also speaks of Satan as a
roaring lion,
seeking whom he may devour. Christ is also referred to as a
lion, the Lion of
Judah. He is a redeemer, the anti-lion and devourer. Both
images speak of
strength.

How, then, should the believer react to
Satan? On the one hand Satan is indeed
fearsome. In 1 Peter 5:8 we are told
that “your adversary the devil walks
about like a roaring lion, seeking whom
he may devour.” The believer is not to
respond, however, in sheer terror.
Satan may be stronger than we are, but
Christ is stronger than Satan. The
Bible declares, “He who is in you is
greater than he who is in the world” (1
John 4:4). Satan is, after all, a
creature. He is finite and limited. He is
limited in space and time. He cannot
be in more than one place at a time. He
is never to be regarded in any way as
an equal with God. Satan is a higher
order of being than humans; he is a
fallen angel. But he is not divine. He
has more power than earthly creatures
but infinitely less power than almighty
God.

Satan is not to be compared to mythical creatures.

Satan is a fallen angel with sophisticated powers to delude, tempt, and accuse
people.

Satan is a finite creature without divine powers or
attributes.

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