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Understanding Our Faith

Written by: on April 18, 2015

I must honestly admit that when it comes to the philosophical side of Christianity, I sometimes have trouble contemplating and fitting it into my Christian context.

This being said, I did find chapter 38, “The Devil and All His Works”, intriguing. Raeper and Edwards explore the way that modern culture views Satan. The authors state that, “In the present Western philosophical climate, a person who believes in the existence of the devil is intellectually suspect.”[1] I have found this to be an accurate assessment of what the world believes about the Christian faith. Humans seem to have the mindset that we have the intellectual capacity to prove and understand all of the mysteries of the universe. To believe in something that you cannot identify by science or with your 5 senses is unacceptable. This is just one of many lies Satan has propagated into our modern culture.

The authors also explore how Satan is identified differently between the Jewish and Christian faiths. In the Jewish religion, Satan is portrayed as an accuser or adversary of God people.[2] In the Book of Job, we see Satan standing before God arguing that the only reason Job is serving God is due to the fact that Job is protected from adversity. Satan argues, but isn’t an opponent. The exchange continues between God and Satan, and we see a pattern where the Devil accuses God and His chosen people. I think of this in the context of a slick lawyer going to God’s court and arguing for a guilty verdict. In addition, Satan is a tempter, or one who corrupts. So, he is also a participant and influencer. Duality is at play between good vs. evil.

In the Christian faith, Raeper and Edwards illustrate that Satan is also seen as a one of God’s created beings. He is fallen, and can be compared to man when he rebels against God and tries to usurp God’s authority and power. However, Satan is also portrayed as a being with power and dominion over evil. So, he moves from being a lawyer to being a villain with super powers. He has chosen to be the bad guy instead of the good guy who submits to God. “Instead of accepting the humility of a created being, he (Satan) insisted on equal powers with God. There was war in heaven between the devil and his followers and God.”[3] Satan moved from being an accuser of God and his followers, to taking direct action against Him. This Christian philosophical comprehension contradicts ancient belief of dualism.

Throughout my theological studies, I have come to believe that Judaism and Christianity are both correct in their understanding of Satan within their respective context. In today’s culture we should consider both views, but it is my opinion that we should not look at these views as being on a timeline in a certain sequence of events in time. We look for concrete answers to explain who Satan is, and if we can’t explain we assume maybe he just doesn’t exist.   Then, when bad things happen, we explain this as divine punishment. People say things like “why is God doing this to me”?

It is difficult for most people to wrap their minds around the complexity of good vs. evil and to reason why bad things happen. This book provides an overview of the various philosophical views that have shaped the way that our modern society views evil and bad in the world. The reality is that we don’t know the answers to these difficult questions. We can find holes in every one of the top theories. Sometimes I think that we spend so much time trying to explain things to people, when efforts could be better spent helping them to understand that it is perfectly acceptable that we live in the mystery. Man will never fully understand the mysteries of the universe until God chooses to reveal them to us. If we spent as much time pursuing our relationship with Christ, as we do trying to use human intellect to understand Him, our experience may provide more answers to our questions.

[1] William Raeper and Linda Edwards, A Brief Guide to Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 283.

[2] Ibid, 283.

[3] Ibid, 284.

About the Author

Richard Volzke

10 responses to “Understanding Our Faith”

  1. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Richard, Thank you for your thoughtful post. There are so many bad things happening in our world that we don’t fully understand why. But nothing is hidden from our God. Like you say, “If we spent as much time pursuing our relationship with Christ, as we do trying to use human intellect to understand Him, our experience may provide more answers to our questions.” Thanks again.

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Telile,

      I agree that we cannot understand all the suffering that happens in the world, and there are things we may never know until we are in heaven or when Christ returns. With all of man’s intellect, we haven’t even been able to find a way to stop killing of one another. It is only through Christ that man will ever truly love his brother, and it is only through Christ that we can find redemption from the woes of this world.

  2. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Richard
    Thank you for your interesting blog. I liked where you wrote, “Then, when bad things happen, we explain this as divine punishment. People say things like “why is God doing this to me?”
    It always intrigues me that when things go wrong in our lives, many of us seem to apportion the blame of that to God. Why is it that we rarely hear people, Christian or non, blame Satan when evil things happen in our lives? This is another strategy of Satan I believe.

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Liz,
      I think one reason we don’t hear people blame Satan for what happens to them is that He is not the one who loves us enough to correct our behavior. Satan encourages us to sin and to only think of ourselves. God wants us to focus on Him, and then in turn love our neighbors. The devil knows that once we do this, we are no longer seeking to fulfill our own wants, but also the wants and needs of others.
      Richard

  3. Richard,

    Thanks for your post, my friend. You state, “Sometimes I think that we spend so much time trying to explain things to people, when efforts could be better spent helping them to understand that it is perfectly acceptable that we live in the mystery.” I so agree with this, and the longer I am a Believer, the more mystery I discover. You are right; we cannot explain everything, especially things like suffering. Perhaps we are not meant to have all the answers. If we did, we would be God, and that would certainly make for a strange universe!

    I like what the anthropologist David Maybury-Lewis said. He said, “Humility plus wonder equals wisdom.” I so agree. I think all Christians should practice this mantra. If we did, we might be better reflections of Whom it is we are supposed to be reflecting.

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Bill,
      Sometimes I do not understand why Christians think that God should reveal everything to us? Life would boring if we knew everything. Mystery provides a sense of wonder and exploration is what makes life fun. Also, if we knew everything than there would be no reason to learn from each other, because we would know all there is to know. God desires for us to have a relationship with Him, and He wants us to be able to discover and explore with one another.
      Richard

  4. Michael Badriaki says:

    Richard, I loved you post! You write, “This is just one of many lies Satan has propagated into our modern culture.” You are so correct. When Satan lies, Satans’ aim is to “steal, kill and destroy”. This is why life in God the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in this world, is the ultimate alternative for humanity’s redemption and aliveness.

    I may never know it all, and I am okay with that. I am also grateful for the wisdom in God’s word that reveals who Satan is to the extent that I might be able to understand. You note, “however, Satan is also portrayed as a being with power and dominion over evil. So, he moves from being a lawyer to being a villain with super powers.”

    Thanks Rich!

  5. mm Stefania Tarasut says:

    Good thoughts Richard! I have to admit that I really struggle with the idea of Satan… not that he doesn’t exist, but I have a hard time giving him credit for things… I know! It’s easier to say “Why God?” than to think through and make a case for Satan.

  6. Richard: It is interesting the dualism that you brought out of how Judaism and Christianity differ in their perspective regarding Satan. I often think that Satan receives not enough credit and God to little credit, or not enough good credit. Interesting how people often blame God for bad things but never thank him when good things happen. Your last statement exhorting us to spend more time with God rather than trying to intellectually figure out God would be beneficial for us, made me wonder how our perspective would change of the entire spiritual world if we were to participate more and analyze less. The scripture that comes to my mind is the one in Isaiah “his ways are higher than our ways,” and yet we always struggle to try to figure out in our finite minds the infinite character and love of God. Do you think that it is our individualism and our “John Wayne” attitude that keeps us from simply living love?

  7. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    Richard, appreciate your seeking to reaffirm that sometimes “the devil made me do it” may well be appropriate. 🙂 I offer this a bit tongue-in-cheek of course, but you importantly showcase that when we “do away” with the devil, God very quickly tends to get the blame. Our problem isn’t so much with an unwillingness to accept the influence of fallenness in life…rather, our problem at times stems from a healthy unwillingness to adhere to a caricatured form of evil, but not being offered intellectually reasonable alternatives to this and therefore just eschewing the concept as a whole. Your post is a thoughtful corrective to some of this.

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