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Christian personalities

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Satan: All points of view

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Overview:

Satan is a.k.a. as the Accursed Dragon, Adversary, Beelzebub, Devil, Foul Spirit, Ha-Satan, Lucifer, Master of Deceit, Mephistopheles, Prince of Darkness, Satanic Power,  etc.)

There is no consensus in North America about the nature of Satan. A 2002-AUG poll by Barna Research showed that:

bulletMost American adults (59%) consider that Satan is simply a symbol or concept or principle of evil, not an actual personality. Three in four Roman Catholics believe this; 55% of Protestants agree.

bulletA minority of adults (34%) believe Satan to be a living being with supernatural powers. 1

Some of the concepts that people hold about the devil are:

bullet

Most conservative Christian churches teach beliefs that are grounded in the 1st century CE -- that Satan is a profoundly evil, fallen angel who is totally dedicated to creating chaos in the world, destroying everyone's lives, and causing people to be routed to Hell after death. He is a supernatural being who "walketh about, seeking whom he may devour," and is aided by an army of countless demons. They engage in world-wide "spiritual warfare," and are a continual threat to every human. Their spirits can dwell within people, and can control their mind through the use of demon possession.

Hank Hanegraaff, the "Bible Answer Man," posted an e-Truth message to the Christian Research Institute's mail list on 2017-JUN-30. He wrote that Satan:

"... is the god of this age in that he is the supreme exemplar of evil. Satan is the de facto ruler of all who willingly subject themselves to his masterful deceit (2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:3). If we do not belong to the God of the ages, then we are of Satan -- the god of this age.

Since the "God of the ages" apparently refers to the Christian Trinity, this means that he considers about 47% of human beings on Earth today to be followers of Satan! Such a statement is not probably going to create much warmth among Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Unitarians, NOTAs [those NOT Affiliated with a faith group], etc.


bullet Liberal/progressive Christian churches tend to view Satan as a principle or concept of evil, without any physical existence or personality. They acknowledge that Jesus and his disciples believed in the presence of a living entity called Satan. They realize that the gospel writers wrote of exorcisms which drove indwelling demons from within people. But they attribute these beliefs to the pre-scientific level of knowledge in the Gallilee and Judea at the time.

bullet Anthropologists, religious historians and other researchers have traced the development of the concept of Satan from its origin in  the Zoroastrian religion, via the ancient Babylonian Empire, to ancient Judaism, and finally into Christianity and later to Islam.

bullet Most present-day religious Satanists belong to religious groups such as the Church of Satan or the Temple of Set. Most of the former are Agnostics; they do not believe in Satan as a living entity or as a God; they view Satan as a basic force or principle of nature. Members of the Temple of Set recognize the ancient Egyptian god Set as a deity. Both groups' beliefs about Satan have little in common with Christian beliefs.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletIntroduction: Bible passages about Satan; Attributes of Satan

bulletBeliefs about Satan:
bulletBy the general population, and

bulletBy liberal Christians, conservative Protestants, and Roman Catholics

bulletThe development of the concept of Satan:
bulletBefore 300 BCE to 100 CE

bullet100 CE to the present time

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Related essays in this web site:

bulletDemons
bulletDemon possession and Exorcisms

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Reference used:

  1. "Americans Draw Theological Beliefs From Diverse Points of View," Barna Research Online, 2002-OCT-8, at: http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/

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Recommended book:

book cover image Philip C. Almond: "The devil: a new biography." Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. $22.19 plus postage in Paperback. Available in Kindle format for $14.20.

Amazon.com book description:

Excerpt from The Devil:

"Although the Devil still 'lives' in modern popular culture, for the past 250 years he has become marginal to the dominant concerns of Western intellectual thought. [It has been all but forgotten] that life could not be thought or imagined without him, that he was a part of the everyday, continually present in nature and history, and active at the depths of our selves. ... It is the aim of this work to bring modern readers to a deeper appreciation of how, from the early centuries of the Christian period through to the recent beginnings of the modern world, the human story could not be told and human life could not be lived apart from the ‘life’ of the Devil. With that comes the deeper recognition that, for the better part of the last two thousand years, the battle between good and evil in the hearts and minds of men and women was but the reflection of a cosmic battle between God and Satan, the divine and the diabolic, that was at the heart of history itself."

Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub; Ha-Satan or the Adversary; Iblis or Shaitan: no matter what name he travels under, the Devil has throughout the ages and across civilizations been a compelling and charismatic presence. In Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the supposed reign of God has long been challenged by the fiery malice of his opponent, as contending forces of good and evil have between them weighed human souls in the balance.

In The Devil, Philip C. Almond explores the figure of evil incarnate from the first centuries of the Christian era. Along the way, he describes the rise of demonology as an intellectual and theological pursuit, the persecution as witches of women believed to consort with the Devil and his minions, and the decline in the belief in Hell and in angels and demons as corporeal beings as a result of the Enlightenment. Almond shows that the Prince of Darkness remains an irresistible subject in history, religion, art, literature, and culture.

Almond brilliantly locates the “life” of the Devil within the broader Christian story of which it is inextricably a part; the “demonic paradox” of the Devil as both God’s enforcer and his enemy is at the heart of Christianity. Woven throughout the account of the Christian history of the Devil is another complex and complicated history: that of the idea of the Devil in Western thought. Sorcery, witchcraft, possession, even melancholy, have all been laid at the Devil’s doorstep. Until the Enlightenment enforced a “disenchantment” with the old archetypes, even rational figures such as Thomas Aquinas were obsessed with the nature of the Devil and the specific characteristics of the orders of demons and angels. It was a significant moment both in the history of demonology and in theology when Benedict de Spinoza (1632–1677) denied the Devil’s existence; almost four hundred years later, popular fascination with the idea of the Devil has not yet dimmed.

Webmaster's personal note:

One of my stepsons once attended a conservative Christian church. His mother noted that he would compulsivly inspect each chair before closely before sitting on one. When asked why, he said that he was looking for signs of the Devil. He had learned at Sunday School that Satan might be on or behind the chair at any time, and one must be careful to stay far away from him. His mother severed his connection to the Sunday School class immediately.

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Copyright ©1998 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2015-JUL-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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