Why Do Professing Christians Question Satan's Existence?
I can still recall how Sunday, August 30, 1981, began. Ann and I were living in Dallas where I was serving as an associate pastor at a large non-denominational church. It was my custom on Sunday mornings, as I got dressed, to watch on TV some of the services being broadcast by several churches in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area. Continue reading . . .
I can still recall how Sunday, August 30, 1981, began. Ann and I were living in Dallas where I was serving as an associate pastor at a large non-denominational church. It was my custom on Sunday mornings, as I got dressed, to watch on TV some of the services being broadcast by several churches in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area.
On this particular day I turned to the live broadcast of the First United Methodist Church in Ft. Worth. By the way, I feel free to mention both the place and the preacher because it was a publicly viewed program, watched by thousands of people in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area. Dr. Barry Bailey, senior pastor at that church, was preaching. The title to his sermon was “The Devil and the Demonic.” He made mention of Jesus’ encounter with Satan in the wilderness, and said this:
“There was not a devil out there tempting him, that’s silly! There never has been a devil; . . . If you read it in one way, it is true that the Bible said, ‘The devil tempted Jesus.’ Therefore, when I tell you there is not a devil, it looks like I am disagreeing with the Bible. I am disagreeing with an interpretation of the Bible. . . . There is no devil; there are no demons; there is not something out there grappling for your soul. There is just one God and one Presence. Whatever bad or destructive that happens to you in life is either done by you, by someone else, caused by an accumulation of events or it’s an accident; it’s never done by God. Since there is not a devil out there, the devil cannot do it.”
My purpose in citing this isn’t to criticize Dr. Bailey, as deserving of it as he may be. But I vividly remember that Sunday morning in August of 1981 because it got me to thinking: “Why would an educated man like Dr. Bailey, a professing Christian, reject the existence of the devil and demons?”
The reason can’t be biblical. In other words, it isn’t because some other theological truth in the Bible denies Satan’s existence or rules out the reality of demons. There’s nothing theologically incoherent about the idea of a Devil. After all, God created humanity, so why couldn’t he create another sort of being such as angels? And if humanity rebelled against God, why couldn’t some within the angelic host do so?
Someone might try to argue that the reason we should question Satan’s existence is that we live in an age of advanced computer technology and space travel and have thus abandoned medieval myths and superstitions about devils and demons. After all, we’ve broken the DNA code. We all use cell phones and Skype. But I could as easily appeal to this argument to argue against the existence of God himself. If our technological ingenuity does not rule out the existence of God, why should it rule out the existence of a class of spiritual beings created by him? Why should we not conclude that belief in a being called “God” is just as medieval, mythological, and superstitious as such folk contend to be the case when it comes to Satan and his demons?
Neither can the reason be scientific. No discovery in the realm of physics or biology or astronomy or geology or any other discipline has disproved the existence of Satan.
As I continued thinking about it, I realized that the reason why professing Christians like Bailey reject the idea of Satan and demons isn’t biblical or scientific or philosophical or political or medical or economic. Rather, they reject the existence of Satan and demons because they fear the ridicule of others. Or, to put it more positively, they crave the recognition and respect of people which they would surely forfeit if it were discovered that they believed in such things. To admit that one believes what the Bible says about Satan and demons is to expose oneself to ridicule and laughter and scorn. It is to suffer the loss of academic and professional respectability.
So let me say this as honestly as I know how. If you are a Christian and you insist that spiritual beings such as Satan and demons don’t exist, don’t kid yourself by insisting that you have solid scientific, theological, or philosophical grounds for doing so. Your problem, dear friend, is a combination of pride, selfish ambition, and the fear of man.