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Is Satan Stupid?

If the Devil is so incredibly cunning and subtle and smart, as the Bible clearly portrays him to be, why does he expend so much effort in the attempt to frustrate the purposes of a God who is omnipotent and omniscient? Continue reading . . .

If the Devil is so incredibly cunning and subtle and smart, as the Bible clearly portrays him to be, why does he expend so much effort in the attempt to frustrate the purposes of a God who is omnipotent and omniscient? If God always turns everything, even Satan’s nefarious schemes, for the good of his people and his own glory, why does Satan persist in trying to undermine God’s plans? Is he just plain stupid?

Jonathan Edwards answers the question by saying that although the Devil is exceedingly crafty and subtle, “yet he is one of the greatest fools and blockheads in the world” (Yale, 13:227). He elaborates on his point as follows:

“Sin is of such a nature that it strangely infatuates and bewitches persons: makes men deliberately choose eternal torments rather than miss of their pleasure of their pleasure of a few days, and to esteem a little silver and gold above eternal happiness; makes men choose a few minutes pleasure, though eternal flames be joined therewith, rather than not have it – thus do the cunningest of wicked men” (Yale, 13:227).

Edwards’ point here is that sin is of such a deceptive and twisted nature that it convinces even the smartest and most intelligent of human beings to forfeit eternal bliss for a few passing pleasures in this life. Such is sin and the corrupt souls of humanity that the allure of silver and gold in this life wins out over the streets of gold and the presence of God himself in the next. He continues:

“Sin has the same effect on the devils [that is, the demons], to make them act like fools, and so much the more as it is greater in them than in others. The devil acts not according to his deliberate judgment, but is driven on to his own inexpressible torment by the fury of sin, malice, revenge and pride; is so entirely under the government of malice, that although he never attempted anything against God but he was disappointed, yet he cannot bear to lie still, and refrain from exerting himself with all his might and subtlety against the interest of holiness; though he, if he considered, might know that it will turn to its advantage” (Yale, 13:227).

I think what Edwards is saying is that sin has a discombobulating effect on the mind. It is disruptive and disordering to straight thinking. Malice and revenge and pride have a way of clouding the understanding and distorting the will and poisoning the affections to such a degree that an otherwise brilliant and informed being will do incredibly stupid things, things that he can’t help but know will work for his ultimate destruction and torment. Such is the horrific and perverting power of sin.

So, is Satan stupid? In a sense, the answer is obvious: Yes. But it is only because he is first and foremost incredibly, indescribably, and incorrigibly sinful.

Let me close with a warning and a word of encouragement. The warning is that because of the unimaginable sinfulness and resultant stupidity of Satan you can expect that his assaults against you will continue unabated. He will never cease to “prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). But be encouraged in the assurance that if you “resist the devil . . . he will flee from you” (James 4:7). As relentless, sinful, and stupid as Satan may be, we are reminded by Paul that nothing, not “angels” or “rulers” (i.e., demonic powers) can ever “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). John adds his own words of reassurance: “for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

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