Archive for category Satan
You know, if there is a Devil actively working mischief in our lives, then we need to be very careful. I’ll never forget the scene in “Piercing the Darkness”, by Frank Perretti, where little invisible demons and goblins would perch on their unsuspecting victims shoulders, reach into their skulls and whip their minds into all sorts of destructive confusion.
If this is true (And why not? After all, who knows? It just very well might be.) then demonic influences are causing all the emotional and psychological trauma that many people experience. We’ve been wasting our time with years and years of psychoanalysis and the administering of mind-altering drugs.
So, if you are suffering from depression or anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or just about any ‘psychological’ ailment and you feel that it is finally time to seek professional help, then do yourself a big favor: ask your shrink if he believes in Satan. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
Recently on ABC’s “Nightline” there was an interesting debate over whether Satan is for real or just another myth. (You can link to the debate or read excerpts here.) Lively, and fun (as Marc Driscoll said) I think they missed the boat by not including a Jew and a Muslim in the conversation. It might be even more fun, and perhaps enlightening, to hear their interpretations of who Satan is.
Personally, I don’t believe in Old Scratch, for a number of reasons:
1). The Satanic scenario of good vs. evil is way too similar to many other common myths of the past.
2). The original authors of the Bible were Jewish and Jews historically have considered Satan to be a metaphor.
3.) It makes no sense for God to conjure this fellow up – we have all the resources at our disposal to do evil without the need for some supernatural being devoting his existence to leading us astray. And it is too darn easy to blame our evil on the Devil.
4.) It’s almost impossible to tell where real scriptural support for a ‘living’ Satan (if there is any) ends and folklore begins.
5.) What difference does it make? I mean, does a belief in Satan help you become a better person? Or perhaps…
It was surprising to read in the above linked article that 70% of Americans believe in Satan. Until I considered the prevailing content of the 400 or so cable channels on my TV as well as the pulp magazines that face me at the grocery store check-out. I don’t know that our nation’s level of sophistication is altogether that high. I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that the same 70% believe in guardian angels. (Maybe Michael Landon is performing a miracle somewhere at this precise moment.)
I don’t think it necessary, however, to discard the idea of Satan completely, as long as we recognize that it is a convenient trope – an anthropomorphism. For the sake of discussion, it is useful to refer to things as having the characteristics of an individual personality: the fury of Mother Nature, the whims of Lady Luck or the blindness of Justice. Satan is another useful metaphor – the mere mention of ‘him’ sums up the thrust of a psychology text, but without all the big words.
This is because Satan so easily embodies the characteristics of our selfish and wounded personal egos, as well as what the owners of those egos are capable of doing. He knows that his destructive behavior is ultimately futile, but he just keeps on being bad. This is the main reason, I think, it made sense for Jesus to use the concept of Satan in his teachings (whose students, by the way. were Jews who may or may not have believed in a distinct person called Satan).
One of the participants in the “Night Line”debate, “New Age” spiritualist Deepak Chopra put it this way:
“Healthy people do not have any need for Satan. Healthy people need to confront their own issues, understand themselves and move towards the direction of compassion, creativity, understanding, context, insight, inspiration, revelation and understanding that we are part of an ineffable mystery. …So I would say be done with Satan and confront your own issues.”
Making an important point about the difference between belief and experience (which, from a spiritual perspective, might be called ‘faith’) he later said:
“All I have to say is belief is a cover-up for insecurity,” Chopra said. “If something is real, you don’t have to believe in it. You should be able to experience it. And the most fervent believers in the world are the cause of all the problems in the world right now, OK?”
I have to agree. When considering many of the more egregious acts committed by religious people around the world, they all seem to have this one superstition in common: they believe in the Devil.
In Isaiah 46 the author talks of two of the ancient Babylonian Gods, Bel and Nebo:
1 Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low;
their idols are borne by beasts of burden.
The images that are carried about are burdensome,
a burden for the weary.
2 They stoop and bow down together;
unable to rescue the burden,
they themselves go off into captivity.
I was curious about what all this meant and found an informative article written by Dr. Allen Ross on Bible.org. This line was of particular interest:
“Bel” is belu, which is the equivalent of ba’al in Western Semitic. Bel is the Semitic title for the ancient Sumerian god Enlil, Lord of the Air.
The Lord of the Air? Where had I heard that before?
According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
OK, close, but not quite. Anyway, this is one of the two or three scripture verses that those who are anxiously awaiting the End Times serve up as evidence for the impending Rapture. Personally, I’ve always felt that it’s a pretty long stretch of the imagination to take these verses literally. Even so, what if Paul wasn’t talking about Jesus being the Lord in the Air? In Ephesians 2 he specifically refers to Satan as the lord of the air:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient
What if Jesus takes only those who are “dead in Christ” and then leaves the rest of us – those who are still alive – not to the Lord IN the Air but the Lord OF the Air?
Jeesh! That’s not too encouraging.
While looking for fundamentalist arguments against Halloween, I was surprised to find a very sensible article on the subject by Andy Freeman, over on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network website. I present you with the piece in it’s entirety. It’s called The Enemy’s Victory: Darkened Homes and Harvest Parties.
I realize this column is going to bring down the wrath of Preacher, teacher, and parent alike. But someone has to break the illusion. Here goes.
The biggest trick played on Halloween is Christian kids and adults being bottled up inside churches or homes all night. That’s right! Hiding from the devil in the family life center and surrendering the neighborhood to little Ghouls, goblins, and witches is a victory for old Beelzebub. He’s got the church right where he wants it: inside the four walls, hunkered down behind the stained glass.
Think about it. How many chances do you get to mix with our neighbors during the year? At my house we are blessed with a 4th of July block party. Otherwise, Halloween may be it for many of you. And what is your relationship evangelism strategy? Either hustle the kids over to church before nightfall or worse, you turn out the lights, don’t answer the children at the door, thereby demonstrating your Christian love and hospitality. But if you do encounter a child in a pink bunny costume it goes something like this:
“We don’t celebrate Halloween! There’s no candy here for you, kid! Now get out of here”.
And the parents of the pink bunny waiting at the foot of your sidewalk say:
“Boy, honey. There’s something really different about that mean family that sits in the dark every Halloween. I really want what they have in their life.”
Isn’t it time to turn loose a few of those little Moses and Davids into your community?
Imagine the shock when an Angel instead of a devil greets the nice lady down the block. A child who says “please”, “thank you” and yes, even “Jesus loves you” and “God bless you” as they receive their mini-Snickers or Candy corn. And please, please, please you well-meaning brethren: give the kids that come to your door the best candy treat on the entire block along with that tract. Some of you give six years olds a little “be warm and filled” treatment every Halloween. Give them something sweet for the palate as well as the soul.
Never forget: Jesus came to serve the sick and broken. He loved being at the well, by the sea, and in the marketplace. He would never have said “run and hide, its Halloween!”
Don’t teach children to fear Satan. Help them understand Christ has overcome the world. He has made us victors in Him. He loves all of His creation.
Remember what He said:
” You are the light of the world – like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket (or in a dark house, or at a harvest party with church kids)! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father”. Matthew 5:14-16
Jesus wants us to engage our neighbors and culture not hide from them this October 31st.
I just drove 93.6 hot and fast miles through hellish sun-blasted terrain on US Route 491, in the heart of New Mexico’s Navajo country. A mere two lane highway blessed with ample desert visibility, the speed limit is set for a very liberal 65 mph. (but 75 to 80 is the norm). The harsh surrounding countryside, studded with dry sandstone mesas, black-lava spires and red-rock buttes, is terrifyingly beautiful.
For the past five years US491 has connected Gallup with Shiprock and is one of just two roads running north and south on the New Mexico side of this immense reservation. But back in 1926 this very same road was the sixth one in New Mexico to spur off of the famous Route 66, which according to the system adopted by the American Association of State Highway Officials or AASHO (make sure you get that spelling right !) gave this road the original designation of….a little creepy organ music please… 666.
Unsurprisingly, people soon started calling route 666 the “Devil’s Highway”. (For accuracy’s sake, Route 66, being the “Mother Road”, should have earned this moniker. A better nickname for 666 would have been “Anti-Xpressway”). Not only did the road’s numerical designation worry certain nervous religious groups but soon the road became notorious for it’s many fatal accidents, undoubtedly caused by unseen forces. (More likely this was due to inadequate road design in New Mexico. In Utah and Arizona 666 was a safer than average road.) It was not unusual for desperate drunk drivers to claim that “the devil made them do it”. (A side note: Jazz/fusion guitarist Al DiMeola once wrote a piece called “Race with the Devil on Spanish Highway”. Ironically I found myself racing with Hispanics on the Devil’s Highway.)
Eventually the highway administration succumbed to pressure (or they were tired of replacing the many stolen road signs) and in 2003 route US666 was reborn US491, which owes nothing to any type of accurate numerical formula. Nor does this new designation have as much snap and pizazz as the old one.
With the flick of a bureaucrat’s pen evil route 666 became benign route 491 and perhaps Armageddon is postponed for a few more years. Who says this isn’t a Christian nation?
(The information above is readily available on the net. I used mostly Wikipedia – they have a slew of info on various roads. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_491 )
In Sympathy for the Devil, Mick Jagger sings the refrain; “Pleased to meet you, Hope you guess my name.” There is nothing too mysterious about the thrust of the lyrics, as the Devil taunts us into guessing who he really is.
No doubt he is not our friend, but is certainly our Enemy. The Bible warns us of him. People are afraid of him. This Enemy has powers that are beyond formidable and he uses them always to our detriment. He is rightfully feared more than any hostile foreign country, any repressive government, any murderous gang, although he usually (perhaps always) is an integral part of their plans.
He has been called the Accuser, the Adversary, the Tempter, the Wicked One, the Power of Darkness, the Prince of the Air, Abaddon, Apollyon, Beelzebub and Lucifer. More often we know him as the Devil, or Satan.
Ha-satan is Hebrew for “the accuser” and in the Bible he appears as a member of God’s court, sort of like God’s prosecuting attorney. In the Book of Job he refuses to see any good in the man and insists that he will fail God. Many people over the years have heard Satan say the same things about themselves, that there is nothing good about them, that they are failures, that God does not love them. Although many think this is hypnotic fantasy, I know it to be true. I have heard his voice myself, almost daily.
The Accuser does not hide in the shadows, waiting for me to drop my guard. He does not place temptation before me, compelling me to commit acts that end in misery. He doesn’t need to, because he lives quite comfortably inside me. In fact, he is very much a part of me.
One of the names for Satan is the Deceiver, the lier, one who convinces people that God is not good or perhaps that God does not love them because they are useless failures, undeserving of His love. The Deceiver whispers into our ears that, not only God, but everyone is looking at us, judging us, and finding us wanting. He encourages us to do the same thing with others, to look for their flaws and shortcomings, point out where they do poorly compared to ourselves. During this time the Deceiver continues works on his great masterpiece, a charade that convinces us that we are someone completely different than who we truly are; a living facade we present to the world in order to protect ourselves from the inevitable ridicule and scorn we otherwise would attract. As Simon Tugwell puts it in his book, “The Beatitudes”:
Another word for deceiver is ‘impostor’ and Brennan Manning, in his book “Abba’s Child” , describes how our personal impostors prevent us from loving others, as well as God:
“The sad irony is that the impostor cannot experience intimacy in any relationship. His narcissism excludes others. Incapable of intimacy with self and out of touch with his feelings, intuitions, and insight, the impostor is insensitive to the moods, needs and dreams of others. Reciprocal sharing is impossible. The impostor has built life around achievements, success, busyness, and self-centered activities that bring gratification and praise from others. James Masterson, M.D., stated, “It is natural of the false self to save us from knowing the truth about our real selves, from penetrating the deeper causes of our unhappiness, from seeing ourselves as we really are – vulnerable, afraid, terrified, and unable to let our real selves emerge.”
Of course Manning’ impostor is not an outside force like the Devil, but what we become when we are trapped by the deceits of our own personalities. And the same way that we would defeat an entity like Satan is the same way we overcome the burdens that the impostor has placed upon us.
“Peace lies in the acceptance of truth. As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the impostor and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others – and this is the natural prerequisite to for our presence to God in prayer.”
Not understanding this, we continue the cycle of poverty, crime, pestilence and war as our wounded and unloved egos seek each other out to unite, roaring and ravenous, across the face of the earth. Most of the rest of us deceive ourselves into thinking that we are pretty much “OK”, though being careful to keep our guard up against a possible encounter with Satan. But as Walt Kelly said; “We have met the Enemy. And it is us”.