“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 NRSV
In the Latin Vulgate, the translation uses resistere to encourage believers to take a stand against the Devil. This stance is an oppositional one, but it is a prayerful, non-violent confrontation, as it should be. This is exactly what Jesus does. When he was in the desert fasting (as many are during this Lenten season), the Evil One tempted him, showing him the militaristic glory and splendor of the Roman Empire and all of the other powerful kingdoms of the world in the first century. Rather than accepting the offer, or getting violent out of frustration from Satan’s pesky questions (I know I get annoyed when people ask me too many questions), Jesus preaches the Good News. The way that resistance happens is preaching the Gospel. #resistere
I know a number of friends who are Christians who have come to reject the existence of ha satan (Satan), the Devil, the evil, or the Enemy. For many Christians, starting with Genesis three, the serpent is the personifcation of the Devil. A few Hebrew Bible scholars have argued that it may not be necessary to jump to such conclusions, given that the talking serpent is a symbol of wisdom in Ancient Near Eastern religious thought. In the same vein, Ezekiel 28 is understood as a description of Satan’s fall from the heavenly realm. Again, historically, this leap is not necessary, for it may be just an allegory for the King of Tyre as an Adamic person being excommunicated from God’s garden.
I think, while I agree mostly with these interpretations, that theologically, I think there is a “being” Christians recognize as the Enemy. I am not a dualist, I don’t believe that the Devil can make anyone do anything or that it can control the weather or any other elements, that it is an impersonal cosmic voice that lies, trying to lure humanity into choosing sin. I say impersonal because Satan’s personality has been stripped from it, and that it does not have any freedom (in the sense of being in God’s presence). Dutch Pauline theologian Henrik Berkhof, in his Christ and the Powers, argues that satan as a “power” is personal. But I am not convinced of his argument.
What say you? Is the devil real? Is it important to believe in “Satan” as a fundamental Christian belief?