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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.: 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:

bullet Most 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.

bullet A 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 viewed as 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 demonic 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 69% of human beings on Earth today -- those who are not Christian -- to be followers of Satan! Such a statement is not probably going to create much warmth among Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Unitarians, Wiccans, other Neopagans, 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:

bullet Introduction: Bible passages about Satan; Attributes of Satan

bullet Beliefs about Satan:
bullet By the general population, and

bullet By liberal Christians, conservative Protestants, and Roman Catholics

bullet The development of the concept of Satan:
bullet Before 300 BCE to 100 CE

bullet 100 CE to the present time

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Related essays in this web site:

bullet Demons
bullet Demon 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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Two recommended books about the Devil:

book cover imagePhilip 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.

book cover"The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day" by Paul Carus. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. U.S. $0.76 in Kindle format, or U.S. $9.99 plus postage in paperback. This was the book of the month selection by this web site for 2018-NOV.

Amazon.com book review:

"From ancient Egyptian religions to Judaism, Hinduism to Buddhism, Christianity to Islam, as well as many more, Carus analyses each religion in turn to expose their views of the devil and where those views came from.

He takes the reader from five thousand years ago through to near the present day to give a wide overview of changing views on good and evil and how different civilisations created varying ideas of the devil.

In the last five hundred years of history the devil has appeared to be marginalised as only a literary figure rather than a genuine fear, but Carus demonstrates how throughout the Reformation, the Inquisition and even the nineteenth century, fear of the devil was extremely real.

Paul Carus provides an extremely thorough survey of various ideas about the devil along with what is good and what is evil.

Carus was a pioneering author and thinker of the early twentieth century. He became the first managing editor of the Open Court Publishing Company which aimed to provide a forum for the discussion of philosophy, science, and religion, and to make philosophical classics widely available by making them affordable. As an author he published 75 books and 1,500 articles. He died in Februrary 1919."

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Copyright 1998 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2018-NOV-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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