Friday, October 28, 2016 - Updated: 7:00 am
QUESTION: While I hear a lot of talk around Halloween about “spirits” and “ghosts,” I get the feeling that most people are skirting the real issue, which is whether or not we believe that the devil exists. If we cannot see evil for what it is, how can we successfully fight it?
ANSWER: When dealing with Satan, two fundamental elements are important to establish. The first is the belief that God created everything and that nothing was created without God. The second is that God is absolute good and could not create evil. The consequence of these two beliefs, therefore, is that if evil exists in the world it could not be the result of God’s creative power but rather of some other origin.
With this as a foundation, we can look at Satan within the Bible. In the Book of Job, Satan was the accuser, a type of heavenly prosecutor whose function was to test the genuineness of human virtue. To accomplish this he had power to inflict suffering, sickness and natural catastrophe.
Satan’s function as tester is also reflected in various places in Scripture. Notably, it is found in Genesis where he is the tester of Adam and Eve, but also from the prophet Zechariah where he tests the high priest (3:1-2) and in 1 Chronicles where he even tests King David (21:1).
The significant question remaining is how do we get from this rather benign picture of the devil as a tester to a more contemporary view where he is completely evil? The New Testament Book of Revelation speaks of a “war” that broke out in heaven and how Michael and his angels battled against the great dragon. The Scripture goes on to say: “This huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as Satan, was driven out” (see Chapter 12:7-10).
This event is also described in the New Testament as “the star falling from heaven” (Revelation 9:1). Even Jesus uses a similar image when he says, “I watched Satan fall from the sky like lightning” (Luke 10:18). Jesus clearly acknowledges the existence of Satan and confronts him, for example, in the temptation in the desert.
For all of this, however, Scripture does not place a great deal of emphasis on the devil. Particularly in the New Testament, the great mystery of our redemption and salvation in Christ is so significant that all other power, even the devil, fades in comparison.
Today, perhaps too many people are fascinated by diabolical possessions and exorcisms but neglect the reality that the devil is a real part of their own lives and struggles to live according to the law of God. The reality of personal temptation means acknowledging the existence of the Evil One.
For us then, what is personally significant is establishing a balance between knowing that the devil has power and acknowledging that so do we. With the New Testament, we must see that the power of Christ is stronger than all else. When we truly commit our lives and our future to Christ, whatever power Satan may have is diminished if not destroyed.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.