I’ve been thinking about Satan a lot recently. You know, the red forked tailed fellow with horns who depending on your beliefs, can read your thoughts, is nearly omnipresent, and used to lead worship in heaven.
He’s the angel who transmogrified himself into a talking snake; The Devil, The Prince of the Power of the Air, Lucifer, The Accuser, The Father of Lies, The Enemy, The Evil One, That Serpent of Old, Son of the Morning, and so on. Man does this guy have a bad rap. Most of the people who I know who warn of Satan’s trickery refer to him as simply, The Enemy.
Most people don’t want to come out and say the word Satan. You start to sound crazy when you talk about him seriously.
It’s because it is crazy.
I started thinking about this after reading this post from Mark Driscoll, The founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The post is titled, 3 Ways to Examine Our and Others’ Faith. It’s pretty straight forward. He starts off with a story about someone who thought he was a christian but really wasn’t. He sins, hears from God that he’s going the wrong way, gets convicted from going to church and so on. This is a story that sounds very familiar to me. He goes on to list three tests we can use to examine our faith and the faith of others.
In test three, Driscoll straight up says, “John tells us that we can discern who the children of God or the children of the devil are based upon these three observations. Though our knowledge of someone’s salvation isn’t exhaustive, these three tests are sufficient to help the church humbly, lovingly, and patiently examine those within her jurisdiction to see if someone is or is not a Christian.” His reasoning comes from the bible (1 John 3:11–15).
Mark Driscoll does this thing where he always warns of danger. Danger of falling into lust, danger of letting pop culture values seep into your morality, danger of marriage being sullied by the homosexual agenda, danger in watching Twilight or Avatar,
Danger, danger, DANGER.
In this post he claims that there are two groups, The children of God, and the children of the Devil.
It feels silly that I need to clarify that there is no demonstrable danger in any of the things mentioned above. I think that pastors like to post on hot topic issues in order to increase web statistics. I’m sure that some of them genuinely believe that they are protecting the “flock” but I think that this sort of warning causes irrationality.
I was reluctant to share my story of unbelief because of this very method of thinking. How much suspicion has been propagated by the idea that Satan is controlling people? I can’t imagine that Satan has really lived up to his reputation. So much of the bad things that happen in the world are enacted by crazy or deluded people who claim to serve God.
Whenever there is a natural disaster, we hear some preacher or religious person claim that the disaster is Gods way of judging the effected area for sins or political decisions. Even from a Christian perspective, what evidence is there to believe in the person of Satan? If God was so good, why would he allow Satan to continually foil the plans he has for his people?
More about suspicion
I think that most of Satan’s dirty work can be attributed to people just thinking that he is in the background causing trouble. Suppose you have a neighbor. You believe in spiritual forces and you suspect that he/she might be in league with the Evil One. You might end up treating the neighbor as an enemy rather than treating them as yourself. This doesn’t even hold up in Jesus’s top two commandments found in Matthew 22:36-40.
Suspicion leads to bad social interactions
My wife ran into someone from church recently. She asked Becca how she was. Becca told her that she had been experiencing pain from her Crohn’s. She asked Becca how she was praying and implied that she might not be saying the right stuff in order to be healed by God. The acquaintance then told Becca that she felt like God was saying that our marriage is suffering. I hadn’t been to church in several months at that time therefore this person suspected that my marriage was falling apart. My marriage is awesome thank you very much. I think that people get really worked up about perceived patterns. We humans see patterns where none exist. We are great at convincing ourselves that something is afoot when in reality nothing is. Satan is a myth that has been perpetuated to cause fear in others and to act out their suspicions.
Please stop believing in Satan.
(Update) It’s occurred to me that belief states are not really choices. I’ve decided to strike out the last sentence in light of this new information. If you believe in Satan, you don’t really have a choice in it. You can gather new information and broaden your perspective and it’s possible that this path will bring you to a new place where you no longer believe in the devil. For now, all I can ask is that you consider the impact of a belief in Satan on real world relationships. Has assuming that the evil one is involved in any situation really helped? How did you know that the enemy was involved in something and that it wasn’t just chance, choices, or genes at work.