Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 89: Who or What Is Satan?
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 89: Who or What Is Satan?

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

As discussed in the previous essays, the Bible’s treatment of Satan encourages an anthropologic explanation, which Girardian mimetic theory offers. Mimetic theory posits that satanic forces are within all of us, reflecting our fallen state.

The Bible has several passages that seem to describe Satan a spiritual being, but not as a human, and trying to understand Satan in human terms is very difficult. Many people regard Satan as wanting to create discord for no evident reason. Such a desire is incomprehensible to me. We see humans doing hurtful things all the time, but rarely, if ever, do they merely want to harm. While their actions may be harmful or destructive, it appears that generally their principal motivation is to meet their own “needs,” to assist members a group with whom they identify, or to defend an ideology. Proverbs 21:2 reads, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes.” We always think we are doing the right thing, even if others disagree strongly. Therefore, I for one am unable to imagine a person who does evil for the sake of evil. Such a creature is a monster, so different from my experience that I cannot understand it.

Many Christians envision Satan as trying to influence other people. It is not clear how Satan does this, and the ambiguity is fertile ground for all sorts of human mischief. Repeatedly, people have accused others of being “gripped” or “controlled” by Satan. The only reasonable approach, it has seemed, is to scapegoat such a person – to banish or kill them. All religions have blamed scapegoats for the community’s destructive desires, claiming that the scapegoats are “possessed” by demons or the devil (Satan). They have projected everyone’s “satanic” fears and hatreds onto scapegoats.

Whether or not Satan is a real being, we all have satanic desires that separate us from God. Our satanic nature includes selfish, acquisitive desires that engender destructive rivalries with friends and family members and encourages us to harm God’s animals and God’s earth. Our satanic nature also prompts us to blame other people for our own failings, reflecting our tendency to derive our sense of self-esteem not by our relationship with God but by how we compare to others. Our satanic nature inspires us to deceive ourselves into believing that our selfish, destructive desires are actually good because they are God’s will.

There is a tension between our natural desires to be loving, compassionate, and constructive, and our natural desires to be egocentric, self-serving, and (if necessary) destructive. When we blame human destructive desires on a non-human person named Satan, rather than recognize them as universal and constitutive of what it means to be human, then we will tend to fail to recognize our own satanic nature and we will tend to destroy others whom we identify as “Satan.”

Next week, we will consider how our evil, satanic desires encourage us to accuse other people and trick us into believing that these accusations come from God.

Go on to: Part 90: Satan the Accuser and the Trickster
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