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Is the Devil Real?

is the devil real

Is the devil real?

For many who grew up in the church, the obvious answer is yes.

But I’d say it’s much more complicated than a simple yes.

Personally, I believe in the devil – but not as some fallen angelic red being with horns, a tail, and a pitchfork.

The devil is very real, but not how we typically think. 

(For an in-depth conversation on this topic, check out my episode of “One Question with Pastor Adam titled “Is the Devil Real?”.)

Let’s start at the beginning, with Genesis chapter 1. As the story of the Bible unfolds, God creates the world, really the universe, and everything in. God creates the sky, the stars, the trees, the animals, the fish, and the humans. And God proclaims that everything is good. 

But did you recognize what is missing from the things God created? There is no mention of hell and no mention of the devil.

According to Genesis 1, hell and the devil are not part of God’s creation.

Interesting.

Some may say that this observation is just some modern-day progressive Christian heresy about hell and the devil. But actually, this line of thinking is rooted in traditional Christian orthodoxy.

Ancient Christian theologians like St. Augustine said that evil has no ontology. Evil is the privation of the good. Another way to think of this is that evil is the refusal to participate in the love of God. God gave us the freedom to participate in God’s love. Evil is the refusal to love your neighbor as you love yourself. (Here’s a brief but in-depth explanation of Augustine’s view of evil.)

But why did God give us the freedom to not participate in love? 

The simplest answer is that God is love and love doesn’t coerce. While that answer is simple, trying to participate in God’s love is often very complicated. Answers to questions of morality and love are often difficult to find.

Satan, the devil, and evil have no real being to them. So in that sense, they don’t exist. But evil does happen in this world. The Holocaust. Racism. Classism. Homophobia and transphobia. Political oppression. Wars. Personal choices that harm others for the sake of harming others. 

I think of evil as a manifestation that stems from the human level. The devil and satan are very real human actions of slander and accusation. I believe in the devil and satan, but not as actual evil entities. Satan and the devil are human. They are our responsibility. There is no devil that made me do it outside of the human sphere. 

The devil and satan are the spirit of hostility and accusation that permeate our world. They are very dangerous because they can easily become bigger than any one of us. We can become possessed by the manifestation of hostility and accusation.

The best answer that I have found is to try to take responsibility for my own tendency towards hostility and accusation against others. I don’t always do this well, but I can realize that I am just as susceptible to it as anyone else. 

Jesus put it well when he said to, “Take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of another’s eye.” 

But Jesus didn’t just leave it at that. He also said that the greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It’s a love that even seeks to embrace our enemies. This, I think, is the only way to manage the manifestations of evil that exists within ourselves and within the world.

For more, listen to my episode of One Question with Pastor Adam titled, “Is the Devil Real?” or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Adam Ericksen

Adam Ericksen

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