The Modern View of Satan: the Cosmic Conflict Between the Devil and God

Today in modern evangelicalism, we are in conflict; conflict from those on the outside in the world following the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, conflict from those in the church who profess they know God, but in works deny Him, and conflict, so it is thought, from the Devil and his angels.

Now, this modern evangelical view is to be distinguished from both the Charismatic and Roman Catholic obsession with preternatural things. Evangelicals are not prone to believe that demons are behind every rock and tree. Even more, Evangelicals tend to view Satan as seeking whom he may devour (1Peter 5:8) rather than openly dominating through malice and deceit on a mass scale.

Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic, the Charismatic and modern Evangelical all agree that Satan is the god of this world. Frequently we are told tales about the Devil and his demons with fervor, and though not with the fantastical view of the Roman Catholics and the Charismatics, still we hear of their influence in our lives and the lives of others. Indeed, the Devil is seen as the cause of most calamity, as the secret enticing agent of most of the sins in the world, and last and not least, the evil rival to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is thought that God is the cause of all the good things in this world, and that Satan is the cause of all the bad things. I will be a bit informal in my presentation of this view of Satan. I will not be quoting from theologians and scholars on the subject to show that this is a commonly held belief about Satan. It is because I know it to be widespread enough that I think it superfluous to prove. Undoubtedly many readers will fall under the criticism I will offer.

So what is this view of Satan? I think there are at least four (three of which we’ll cover) that make it distinctive:

  1. Satan is the god of this world
  2. Satan is a chief instigator to sin
  3. Satan is the cause of most ailments and maladies
  4. Satan is the grand deceiver of the nations

This battle between God and Satan, which I mentioned a bit ago, is of an ancient origin, its ferocity of intense proportions and the struggle almost too much bear. On the one hand we have Satan who is the Destroyer, and then on the other we have God who is seeking to save what Satan seeks to destroy. On and on they fight, not knowing where the battle lies. While the vast majority of individuals God seeks to save are lost to eternal perdition through the efforts of Satan, God is still able to woo a few souls into His glorious Kingdom.

What is wrong with this picture we have painted? Perhaps you see nothing amiss with it and your consolation is that you have “read the end of the book and know that God wins in the end!” I do not wish to hide my intentions here, so let me state my purpose in writing: it will be my goal to utterly eradicate this view under consideration, yes, of Satan, but more importantly the sort of view of God that under girds this view of the Devil which ultimately diminishes the glory of God.

First, let us ask the question: Is the popular view of Satan one that has been the historical view of Satan in the church? If the 3rd and the 5th chapters Westminster confession of Faith are any indication, it is not. These chapters can be read here: http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/

Of course, one will be quick to add that a confessional statement should not have the final say on this matter, and to this I would agree. The following, then, will be a Scriptural refutation of the error that Satan is the god of this world and that he has any other role other than the minister of God. I will then go to some implications the Scriptural and confessional statements have.

  1. Satan is not the god of this world. Not only are the Scriptures full of statements to the contrary such as Psalm 24:1 : “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (and quoted again in 1Cor. 10:26) and Psalm 97:1:  “The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.” But the only passage that is attempted to use to substantiate Satan’s deity is 2Corinthians 4:3-4:  But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
    (4)  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. “Now, it cannot be the scope of this paper to give an exhaustive explanation why 1Corinthians 4:4 does not have Satan in view, but suffice it to say that the Greek word for “god” can and should be taken as the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. Perhaps if you ask yourself this question it would be more clear: Who blinds the eyes of the blind and causes the deaf not to hear lest they should believe the Gospel? (Romans 11:7-10, John 12:37-41, Matthew 13:13-15)
  2. Satan is not the chief instigator to sin. Men are. You will not find in Scripture that states anything other than that men sin and that men sin because they are drawn away by their own lusts. (See 2Timothy 4:3; 2Peter 3:3; Jude 1:16). There is enough filth in man to engulf the world in utter wickedness and ruin without the help of Satan. It is an escape from responsibility to say otherwise; “The devil made me do it!”
  3. Satan is not the cause of most ailments and sicknesses. The often used text in the book of Job only proves the opposite. Instead of seeing Satan as afflicting whoever he wills, we see him needing to ask God for permission to take any sort of action against Job. (Job 1:7-12) Satan isn’t an independent god doing according to his will; he is rather much like a dog on a tight leash who can only harm whoever God permits him to harm. This is not the actions of a power or dark ruler; it is the working of a slave or a beggar!

Implications:

If Satan is not the god of this world, who is? Well, to answer shortly, God is! If one is to ask who the cause of all good is and who the cause of all evil is, it will be stated simply that God is the cause of all things and that there is nothing outside of the sovereignty of God. This means that instead of viewing everything from a myopic point of view, we must be conscious of the fact that God has total Lordship over our lives and that there is nothing that is outside of His control and authority.

If Satan is not the one who causes illness and calamity, how does it come about? The Scriptures speaks on this matter in Deuteronomy 32:39 ” See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” Calamity is the result of the judgment of God. Deuteronomy 28 is normative in this matter. Calamity and illness is either the result of sin, or, as in the case of Job, a test to strengthen ones faith. When we see catastrophe in a nation, we must not say, “Wow, Satan sure is powerful!”, but rather, “What have we done to incur the wrath of Almighty God?” It is extremely important to know the difference.

Conclusion:

Let it be said in no uncertain terms that one’s view of Satan must be viewed with a prior Scriptural understanding of God’s absolute sovereignty. There is none who can hold back the hand of God or say unto Him, “What are you doing?”(Daniel 4:35). The Church of Jesus Christ needs to get back the view of God that sees Christ highly exalted and sitting on the Throne of His Glory. No more Satan worship. Get over him; he’s not that great! If the Christian church would embrace again the teaching that God is King and that he does according to His will in the armies of Heaven and on earth, what need would we have of consternation or worry? Could we not say with David, “The LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods”?

– Jesse Murch

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3 responses to “The Modern View of Satan: the Cosmic Conflict Between the Devil and God

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