Monday, November 5, 2012

A Biblical Look at Satanology and the Existence of Evil

            Every religion and philosophy has some belief on the issue of good and evil.  This is well seen, especially this time of year as Halloween approaches.  However, there is a difference in how most religions and philosophies view this concept of good and evil in contrast with Christian believers.  For many people there is this “yin and yang” view that both good and evil exist and that they are two equal forces since eternity at work.  Believers see this differently as they recognize the personification and existence of evil, but not as equal or as eternal.  Believers know that evil is not eternal because the personification of evil, Satan, is not eternal.  He is a created being created in eternity past through the creative work of God who is eternal. 
            Satan was a created being, and was one of the highest, if not the highest ranking angel that even when contending over Moses’ body, Michael could only rebuke Satan through the name of Christ[1].  Ezekiel describes Satan as the “guardian cherub[2] which places him before the very throne of God.  However, in his splendor Satan chose to become full of pride, and stated five “I will” statements[3] that lead to his being cast out of heaven[4].  Until Satan’s pride, sin did not exist, and therefore evil is not eternal.
            Of course there are some objections to these interpretations of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.  Many people argue that these refer to kings of Babylon and Tyre, yet no name is given for either of these kings.  In Isaiah some will attribute this pride to Nebuchadnezzar, Dr. Towns points out a major problem with this belief that Isaiah 14 is referring to a contemporary king when written by pointing out the time frame mentioned in Isaiah 14:1-3.  “Israel is described as returning to their land (emphasis added), as ruling over those who had ruled over them, and as resting from their sorrows and fear”[5].  The objection that Ezekiel is referencing an actual king of Tyre is also misguided just by a basic understanding of the text.  “You were in Eden, the Garden of God”[6].   No person contemporary to Ezekiel could have been in the Garden of Eden and as Scripture should be taken literally unless there is evidence of a figurative explanation this passage again must be referring to the fall of Satan.
            In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 one sees a picture of one who fell by their own choice.  Satan was puffed up with pride in Isaiah 14:13-14 and therefore evil began in his mind, not in the creative work of God.  God created the angels with free will and the ability to make conscious decisions and choices.  The granting of free will does not make God responsible, but the individual or being through their own conscious choices.  Dr. Towns points out the need for free will, “It was necessary that God crate the angels with free will in order that they might offer true praise and worship to God”[7] .
            Satan has many limitations in his ability as clearly demonstrated through Scripture.  In 1 Peter, the Apostle Peter describes Satan as “roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour”[8].  This as well as Job demonstrate how Satan is not omnipresent.  When you look at Satan’s continuous attack against God, and understand that he does know Scripture you see that he is not omniscient or else he would have to realize he cannot win.  In Job we also see that Satan is limited in his power when God granted Satan power over all that Job owned, but restricted Satan’s access to Job’s body[9], and again when God granted Satan power over Job’s body, but would not let Satan kill him[10].
            “The Devil made me do it” became a nationally known catchphrase by Flip Wilson, a famous comedian during the 1970s.  This has permeated society as well as the Church, yet it is not a Biblical concept.  Even in the Garden of Eden Satan did not make Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, even though Eve attempted to blame Satan for her decision[11].  It is because Adam made the conscious choice to eat the fruit therefore violating God’s command which is why sin is in the lives of everyone today[12].  James gives us the clearest understanding of sin, “But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires (emphasis added)”[13].  The Apostle John also explains how sin is a result of what people chose to occupy their minds, “If we say we have fellowship with Him, yet we walk in darkness (emphasis added), we are lying and are not practicing the truth”[14].

Blum, Edwin, Jeremy Royal Howard, and Holman Bible Editorial Staff, eds. HCSB Study Bible, Black Genuine Leather. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2010.

Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001.

[1] Jude 9 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
[2] Ezekiel 28:14 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
[3] Isaiah 14:13-14 (HCSB)
[4] Isaiah 14:15 (HCSB)
[5] Elmer L. Towns, Theology for Today, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001), 364.
[6] Ezekiel 28:13 (HCSB)
[7] Elmer L. Towns, Theology for Today, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001), 366.
[8] 1 Peter 5:8 (HCSB)
[9] Job 1:12 (HCSB)
[10] Job 2:6 (HCSB)
[11] Genesis 3:13 (HCSB)
[12] Romans 5:12 (HCSB)
[13] James 1:14 (HCSB)
[14] 1 John 1:7 (HCSB)