by Young Oon Kim
The Reality Of Satan
Traditionally, Christian theologians have used the concept of Satan to explain the Fall of man. However, since the Age of Reason, more and more Christians have attempted to describe origimodernin and the fallen nature of mankind without reference to the work of a personal demonic power. For example, Satan plays almost no role in the theologies of Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Barth, Brunner, Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, Teilhard de Chardin or the in and the fallen nature of mankind without reference to the work of a personal demonic power. For example, Satan plays almost no role in the theologies of Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Barth, Brunner, Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, Teilhard de Chardin or the modern process theologians. A notable exception is found in the thought of the contemporary German theologian Helmut Thielicke. 14
In agreement with Luther, Thielicke describes history as the battlefield where God and anti-god struggle for control of our world. This means that we must confront the reality of the demonic, he says. But to do so we must first stop thinking of the mere idea of evil as a problem for philosophical speculation. The demonic is not an idea but an utterly menacing power which every person encounters in his daily life. The demonic cannot be understood in a disinterested, objective fashion. Rather, it is imperative to see how the demonic reaches out for us, touching our lives and afflicting us. Furthermore, we have to recognize that there exists within ourselves something on which the demonic can take hold. We become aware of the diabolic presence because we are all infected by it. Especially in an age of social disorder and personal lack of constraint like ours, the reality of the demonic can be seen in all its horror. Thus, anybody who would understand history must take into account the existence of demonic powers.
The demonic is found not just somewhere outside of ourselves, but resides actively inside of us. We must first look not outward toward other men or the natural world, but inside the human heart in order to discover Satan. Then one will find that we are his slaves and he has taken control of man's world.
According to the New Testament, Satan is not simply a poetic name for the impersonal fact of evil. We rather encounter him as a person, a conscious power with a will, purpose and the ability to make his influence felt. If this is true that man has a supernatural archenemy, then each one of us stands in great peril. The enemy has invaded you and me, so we cannot merely sit back and philosophize. We must stand and fight or be destroyed. To believe in Satan implies that you must meet him face-to-face as your personal enemy.
Satan's goal is to separate men from God. That is the chief function of the devil, which he carries out in two ways. First, as man's accuser he sets us at odds with God. Secondly, he tempts man to act in such a way that we will prove that his accusations are valid. To do this, Satan takes advantage of our vulnerability to sin. He exploits an innate tendency of human nature: our openness to temptation. Because we are human and potentially sinful, Satan can get inside of us to carry out his will. As Thielicke states, Because I have sin in me, I give the devil a claim upon me.
What is Satan's foothold in man's nature? Myself, my ambitions, pride, passions and egocentricity. The devil lodges inside the heart because of a person's self-love. We are not simply slaves of an alien master but willing subjects. By loving ourselves, we deliver ourselves over to Satanic bondage. The responsibility is our own. At the same time, we soon discover that we are in the grip of a hostile power which is so strong that we cannot break its hold on us.
Since sinners are unable to get free by their own efforts, they look to God for liberation. The power of diabolic enslavement has to be broken by an external force superior to Satan. This redemption is accomplished when the devil's sovereignty over men is replaced by God's rule. Hence, fallen men must decide whether to remain slaves of Satan or become obedient servants of Christ. That is, the ultimate question involves one's allegiance. Only the Lord can free us, and he can do so only if we pledge total loyalty to him.
Satan, the New Testament explains, is our adversary; and he is a powerful opponent because he is a fallen angel. As an angel, the devil knows God's strategy. He realizes that God wants to establish His kingdom on earth. Also, since he was once Lucifer, an archangel in the heavenly court, Satan has the ability to disguise himself as an angel of light. In everything he does, he attempts to imitate God and appear like the friend of mankind.
Thus, the real intentions of Satan remain hidden from his victims. He works anonymously and appears incognito. The devil never says, "I will teach you how to sin." Instead, he says to man, "I'll show you something interesting, pleasurable or enriching." He acts in such a fashion that we think we are expressing our own desires and simply doing what we want. Hence, he prefers to stimulate, tempt and encourage us from behind the scenes. Satan does his most effective work as the all pervasive, invisible, yet almost irresistible "spirit of the times."
For that reason, the devil is described as the prince of darkness. As the power of darkness, Satan obscures and distorts reality. In the dark men become confused, are often needlessly frightened, and sometimes cannot see real perils. Once the devil has obscured man's true situation, human values and moral standards seem to be only shadows, and what appear to be most real are concrete economic, political and material forces. Cut off from God's light, we become fearful and distrustful of others, which leads to social chaos.
The devil's ultimate aim is not just to confuse or divide men but to enslave them. Once we summon up demonic powers, we find out that we cannot control or dispel them. We are caught under their spell. Thus, when we sin, we submit to the devil's power. When we are no longer loyal to God, we become part of Satan's dominion. Hence, we either give ourselves solely to God or we sell ourselves to Satan.
When man sins, an alien spirit enters and starts dragging its victim downward. For this reason, in his ministry of exorcism, Jesus always distinguished between the possessing demons and the persons harboring them. Satan holds people captive against their will, even if originally they were responsible for inviting the demons in. Therefore Jesus' mission was two-fold: to battle against Satan and to fight for man. His aim was to restore a person "to himself' as a creature made in God's image and a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Consequently, the Messiah is described as man's redeemer and savior: literally man's liberator.
14 H. Thieficke, Man in God's World (1967), pp. 163-198.
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