How Well Do Satanists Know Satan? Not Very1
Perhaps youâ€™ve read something in the news of a lawsuit filed in August of 2013 against the state of Oklahoma by the Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU. The latter contends that the state has violated its own constitution which forbids using public property to support any system of religion â€œdirectly or indirectly.â€ The violation, allegedly, comes from the presence on the grounds of the state capitol building of a monument containing the Ten Commandments. But that lawsuit is not my reason for writing. Keep reading...
Perhaps youâ€™ve read something in the news of a lawsuit filed in August of 2013 against the state of Oklahoma by the Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU. The latter contends that the state has violated its own constitution which forbids using public property to support any system of religion â€œdirectly or indirectly.â€ The violation, allegedly, comes from the presence on the grounds of the state capitol building of a monument containing the Ten Commandments. But that lawsuit is not my reason for writing.
It now appears that the Satanic Temple, an organization based in New York, has launched its own campaign to place next to the Ten Commandments a monument that reflects something of their devotion to Satan. According to a recent article in The Economist (December 14, 2013), titled, â€œBeelzebubba: Satan threatens the heartlandâ€, the Satanic Temple â€œpromised that the monument would be â€˜public-friendlyâ€™ and something children could play onâ€ (41).
Come again? â€œPublic-friendlyâ€ and â€œsomething children could play on.â€ I have no comment on the legalities of the lawsuit, but Iâ€™m more than a little surprised by the incredible naivete of the Satanists themselves. That anyone with any degree of education could envision anything related to Satan as being â€œpublic-friendlyâ€ and suitable for children to â€œplay onâ€ is stunning. It led to me to ask myself: How well do Satanists know Satan? Not very well, in my opinion.
Far from the harmless image in their imagination, and regardless of how they portray him in their â€œtemple,â€ the biblical portrait is of a different order.
His name alone ought to alert us to his nature. As I wrote in my chapter, â€œWhat Can We Know About Satan?â€ in Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions (Crossway, 2013), he is called the â€œDevil,â€ a word that is used 35x and literally means "slanderer" or "accuser" (see 1 Sam. 29:4; 1 Kings 11:14. In Luke 4:2, 13; Rev. 12:9, 12). In other words, it is the devil's aim to defame. He is a constant source of false and malicious reports. He lies to God, about you (Rev. 12:10; but cf. 1 John 2:2; Rom. 8:33-39), to you, about God (Genesis 3; Matthew 4), and to you, about yourself (Eph. 6:16; he seeks to undermine and subvert your knowledge of who you are in Christ).
Other names or descriptive titles for Satan include the old Serpent (Rev. 12:9, 15, an obvious allusion to Genesis 3; cf. 2 Cor. 11:3; Rom. 16:20), the Great Dragon (Rev. 12:3, 7, 9, 17). He is a terrifying, destructive beast. He is also the Ruler or Prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Scripture does not make clear how it is that Satan came to exercise such authority over the world, although it is likely that he became such as people, through their sin, granted him power.
Paul declares in Ephesians 2:2ff. that Satan is â€œworkingâ€ in the â€œsons of disobedienceâ€ (cf. Mark 3:17; Luke 10:6; 16:8; 20:34; Acts 4:36; Eph. 5:8; 1 Pet. 1:14), that is to say, in non-Christians. This does not mean that all unbelievers are demon possessed. It does mean that â€œthe whole world lies in the power of the evil oneâ€ (1 John 5:19).
Satan is also called the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4; but see Ps. 24:1; 89:11) and the evil one (Matt. 6:13; 13:38; John 17:15; 1 John 2:14; 5:18). Satan is the Prince or Ruler of demons (Matt. 10:25; 12:26-27; Luke 11:15; 2 Cor. 6:15). The name or title "Beelzebul" has been taken to mean "lord of dung" (i.e., god of filth), "enemy," "lord of the dwelling" (i.e., the dwelling of demons), and "lord of the flies," a title given to one of the pagan gods of the Philistines, brought over into Judaism as a name for Satan.
He is the Destroyer (Rev. 9:11), where the Hebrew word "Abaddon" could mean ruin or destruction, and the Greek term "Apollyon" exterminator or destroyer. Finally, Satan is the Tempter (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thess. 3:5), the Accuser (Rev. 12:10), and the Deceiver (Rev. 12:9; 20:3). He is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44; either an allusion to the murder of Abel by Cain or to the fall in Genesis 3; cf. 1 John 3:11-12), and a master of misrepresentation (2 Thess. 2:9; 2 Cor. 11:14-15). He is powerful, but not omnipotent (see Matt. 4:5, 8), intelligent, but not omniscient, and active, but not omnipresent.
We know that Satan works in active opposition to the gospel (see 2 Cor. 4:1-6). Paul says that he blinds the minds of the unbelieving lest they should see the glory of the gospel and be saved. There are two factors in spiritual blindness: fleshly, sinful, self-resistance to the truth on the one hand, and satanic/demonic hardening or blinding on the other. Before we ever arrive on the scene with the gospel, Satan is exerting a stupefying influence on the mind of the unbeliever. In other words, we face more than merely intellectual obstacles. We face supernatural opposition.
Satan is often, but not always, the source of sickness (Acts 10:38; Matt. 8:16; Mark 9:17-18; Luke 13:10-17). He can inflict death as well as provoke the paralyzing fear of it (Heb. 2:14; see Job 1:13-19; John 10:10). He plants sinful plans and purposes in the minds of men (Acts 5:3; John 13:2; Matt. 16:21-23
He sets a snare or trap for people (perhaps with a view to exploiting and intensifying their sinful inclinations). In 1 Tim. 3:6-7 Paul speaks of the danger of falling â€œinto the condemnation of the devil,â€ and in 2 Tim. 2:25-26 he speaks of people experiencing â€œthe snare of the devil,â€ having been â€œcaptured by him to do his will.â€ Thus Satan is able to exploit any blemish on the reputation of a Christian leader. In the latter text Paul speaks of individuals who have been led astray through false teaching. Satan thus strives to hold people captive to do his will by deceiving them to believe what is false and misleading. If nothing else, this text emphasizes how crucial sound doctrine is.
He tests or tries Christians. Consider Satanâ€™s â€œsiftingâ€ of Peter in Luke 22. Clearly, Satan is unable to act outside the parameters established by the will of God. He must first ask permission of God. Satan's intent in "sifting" Peter was obviously malicious. He wanted to destroy Peter by inciting him to deny Jesus. But God's intent in permitting Satan to do it was altogether different. God's purposes with Peter were to instruct him, humble him, perhaps discipline him, and certainly to use him as an example to others of both human arrogance and the possibility of forgiveness and restoration.
He incites persecution, imprisonment, and the political oppression of believers (1 Pet. 5:8-9; Rev. 2:10), is the accuser of the Christian (Rev. 12:10; see also Zech. 3:1-2), performs signs and wonders to deceive the nations (Exodus; 2 Thess. 2:9-11), and seeks to silence the witness of the church (Rev. 12:10-12).
He also seeks to incite disunity and division in the church (2 Cor. 2:10-11), promotes false doctrine (1 Tim. 4:1-3; Rev. 2:24; 2 Cor. 11:1ff.), attacks married believers in regard to their sexual relationship (1 Cor. 7:5), exploits our sinful decisions, most likely by intensifying the course of action we have already chosen (Eph. 4:26-27), and confronts us with various temptations (1 Chron. 21:1; 2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Thess. 3:5).
Are devotees of Satan and perhaps even members of the Satanic Temple in New York aware of this? Probably not. I suspect that for many of them participation in such an organization is a harmless religious game, perhaps their way of making a name for themselves or of being more visible and vocal in their protests against the presence and influence of Christianity in America. One would hope and pray that through some means they might realize how serious this is, that Satan is many things, but â€œpublic-friendlyâ€ or a harmless arena in which children might play, he is most assuredly not.
As for Christians, whether in Oklahoma or elsewhere, letâ€™s never forget that â€œthe reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devilâ€ (1 John 3:8). There is nothing Satan does that Jesus cannot reverse and overcome. He is Godâ€™s devil, and he is a defeated enemy. So simply remember this: â€œSubmit yourselves . . . to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from youâ€ (James 4:8).