I received a response to the blog I did a few weeks ago about Hell that said it helped to make logical sense of how Hell could exist.  But what makes no sense, what this person has a hard time believing in, is the existence of a personal devil.  Hell yes; devil no!

I’ve been a Christian for over thirty years now.  But I’ve only believed in the devil for about the last ten.  Driven to Christ by reason, a personal devil was something I couldn’t bring myself to believe in.  Rationally, the idea of a personal devil seemed like nothing more than a childish way to explain the evil choices people make—as in the cartoonish image of an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, each trying to twist your will to theirs.  

It’s easy to reject the idea of a being dressed in red tights whispering temptations into peoples’ ears in an attempt to steal their souls away from God. 

What’s worse, the people I heard talking about a personal devil being real seemed to see him lurking around every corner.  They blamed him for everything, not only their temptations—the devil made me do it—but also anything that went wrong in their lives or the world around them.

And the only way they could make sense of the unimaginable evil they saw human beings doing—think the Holocaust or genocide in Rwanda—was by a larger force ultimately responsible for “possessing” people to do it.  

To me, the obvious explanation was simply man’s inhumanity to man.

But then two of the smartest people I’ve ever read—Raymond Brown and C.S. Lewis—made me radically rethink my “Satan skepticism”.  Shockingly, both of these highly intelligent, critical scholars believed in a personal devil.  And they weren’t naively reading the devil into everything.  They had a very sophisticated understanding that far transcended the red-tights childish notion which was so easy to dismiss as silly.

Brown, the most revered Catholic scripture scholar of the Twentieth Century, garnered, as very few scholars ever manage to do, the nearly universal respect of his peers, from every side of the spectrum.  He is considered to be one of the most balanced and soberly critical scholars to have ever lived.  That’s why I, as a skeptic, was drawn to him.  With tremendous integrity, he only accepted what could be established through rigorous analysis and then laid the evidence out in meticulous detail.  Somehow though, I read him for many years before realizing, to my dismay, that, based on his scholarly analysis, he believed in a real devil. 

C.S. Lewis was as skeptical and brilliant as they come.  His path from atheism was based on the reasonableness of “Mere Christianity.”  So I was sure this renowned scholar of ancient literature only thought of the devil metaphorically.  Then I read that while he was writing one of his most popular books, The Screwtape Letters, which portrays an imaginary dialogue between an elder demon and his protégé who is trying to steal the soul of a newly-minted convert to Christianity, he believed he was under spiritual attack; he felt the oppressive weight of a real, personal devil opposing him.  If it weren’t someone like Lewis saying this, I would have found find it laughable.

So here I was, confronted with two of the most brilliant and skeptical people I knew who, much to my chagrin, also believed in a personal devil.  And the sophisticated way they understood the devil wasn’t so easy to dismiss.

Since then, I’ve discovered that there are a growing number of academics, many of them non-believers, who are finding human intention or psychological causes insufficient to explain the nature and magnitude of the worst evil we see around us.  They are beginning to acknowledge that there must be something more to the reality of man’s inhumanity to man.  (I’ll say more about this in future blogs and, taking off from Lewis, Brown, and others, propose an understanding of the devil that does make logical sense.)

People often say that the biggest lie the devil tells is that he doesn’t exist—which, if there is a devil, makes perfect sense: getting us to think he doesn’t exist would be one of his most effective tactics.

This isn’t his biggest lie, though.  The biggest lie the devil tells is about God, about Who he is and how He feels about us.  The biggest lie the devil tells is that God doesn’t really give a damn about you.

If your life hasn’t turned out the way you wanted it to, and you’re tempted to think that there can’t be a God out there who loves you, that’s a lie straight from the devil.

If you’ve ever felt like there may be a God out there, but He couldn’t possibly love you; He might love everyone else, but He couldn’t possibly love someone like you, that’s a lie straight from the devil.

If you feel invisible and insignificant, like you don’t matter; if you are tempted to think God has forgotten about you, that’s a lie straight from the devil.

In Greek, the word for Devil comes from the verb diaballein.  Literally it means to “throw apart” or “separate”.  By definition, the devil is the one who separates and divides.

If there is a devil, then you can be sure of this: he’s desperate to separate you from God—forever!

He’s desperate to get you to think that God couldn’t possibly love someone like you.

Whatever else you believe, don’t believe his lie.

So, how do you understand the devil?  Why do you think God would create, or at least, allow the devil to exist?  Or, do you think the whole thing is ridiculous? 

Let me know what you think!  You can contact me on the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus Website.  Also, if you would like to read more articles like this one, please “Like” the Raising Jesus Facebook page so we can keep you updated on future blogs, videos, and announcements.  I would love to hear from you!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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