Belief that Satan is a Real, Historical Being

Greg Strand – October 8, 2013 4 Comments

Jennifer Senior interviewed Justice Antonin Scalia in New York: “In Conversation: Antonin Scalia.”  Many issues were discussed during the interview. One very interesting exchange pertained to heaven and hell and belief in a real Satan. For context, Scalia is a Roman Catholic and committed to the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church.

Here is the exchange, the bold consisting of Senior’s questions, the plain text Scalia’s responses.

You believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?

No.
Oh, my.

Does that mean I’m not going?
[Laughing.] Unfortunately not!

Wait, to heaven or hell? 
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.

But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it? 
Of course not!

Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?

Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.

You do?
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.

Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.

Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.

No.
It’s because he’s smart.

So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.

Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.

Right.
What happened to him?

He just got wilier.
He got wilier.

Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
I was offended by that. I really was.

This says a great deal about our society and culture. This was an acceptable belief. However, as this interview reveals, and which we have known, we no longer live in a day when this is believed. Interestingly, when a culture “progresses,” often the first thing to be questioned are the truths and morals taught in the Bible. In many ways, it affirms the initial sin in the Garden through the means of the Enemy when he duped and deceived Adam and Eve by questioning God, His character and His Word. Though the outer garment changes with the times, the tactic often remains the same.

We in the EFCA affirm the inspiration, inerrancy, authority and sufficiency of the Bible. We believe that the Bible is authoritative in matters of faith and practice and of science and history.

In our Statement of Faith we explicitly affirm this truth in Article 2, The Bible. Because the Bible teaches Satan is a real, historical being, we believe it. We make explicit reference to Satan in Article 3, The Human Condition. The real, historical Adam and Eve “sinned when tempted by Satan.” We also affirm that Satan is a deceiver (Rev. 12:10) and the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). As such, he defies God, blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4), and does what he can to “kill, steal and destroy” believers (Jn. 10:10).

Jesus came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8). He is a defeated foe, having been triumphed over in the cross of Christ (Col. 2:15). As we affirm in Article 8, Christian Living, we “combat the spiritual forces of evil,” with Satan as the chief of the demonic realm and demons and all the forces of evil, “with God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name.”

This is the word of God. This is the teaching of the Bible. This is the teaching of the Church. This we believe.

 

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

4 responses to Belief that Satan is a Real, Historical Being

  1. But does the EFCA believe in a real hell and that it is where the lost will spend eternity? In your statement of faith it reads, “We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment….”

    What is your definition of eternal conscious punishment?

    • Each of the three terms is important: eternal means it goes on forever; conscious means it is known and experienced; punishment means one is under God’s wrath. In contrast, for example, an annhilationist would not affirm this was conscious and that this was one’s eternal existence. Rather one would cease to exist and that state of non-existence is eternal.

      • Your response did not answer my question. I believe this discussion is more for theologians and not regular folks. There is either a hell or there is not. Your answer leaves other questions like what do you mean by being under God’s wrath as it relates to eternity. Remember, not only highly educated Bible scholars may be reading this.

      • Most certainly we believe in a real hell. But to use the term hell without some definition does not mean much today. So to affirm we believe in hell is insufficient. Many today affirm hell, and then go on to say that hell is AIDS; hell is Rwandan genocide; hell is ??? All of those things are reflective of sin and are machinations of the father of lies, the deceiver, the accuser, Satan, but they are not hell. This is why it is essential to state what we do in our SOF about this teaching.

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