Satanic Realism: A Real Devil or Just A Disembodied Concept of Evil?

cross danceThroughout history there have always been folks who have doubted the existence of the supernatural, whether that be God, gods, demons, or satan. The problem is that to do so is to claim that one is smarter and better than all the people currently on the planet as well as all those throughout history who have reported supernatural experiences.  And this includes people of all faiths, not just Christianity as the majority (if not all) religions acknowledge some form of the supernatural. Granted, they may differ as to how the supernatural interacts with the physical world, but it is there.

Yet in spite of this, the endless march of history has created a culture in which for the first time a large portion of the population no longer recognizes the existence of the supernatural. Or, if they do, it is simply a footnote buried beneath the weight of materialism.

Followers of Jesus are no exception to this modern tread. Vast portions of Christianity have removed the supernatural aspects of the Bible, claiming that the miracles recorded in the Scriptures were either literary devices designed to booster the authors message or simply the delusions of folks living in primitive times. (as a side note, this trend away from the supernatural within Christianity has always baffled me as belief in “God” is by definition a belief in a supernatural being…..)

One of the difficulties in accepting the supernatural as depiction within the Bible is the existences of evil, or, more specifically, the existences of Satan and demons. This, I feel, IS the biggest challenge for folks in accepting the supernatural as they do not want to acknowledge that there is anything out there fighting against them. It is a lot more comfortable and easier to believe in a “good supernatural being” than it is to believe in a “bad supernatural being”. This is not to say that there has to be a “bad supernatural being” in order for there to be a “good supernatural being.” The Scriptures tell us that God (i.e. the “good supernatural being”) existed before Satan (i.e. the “bad supernatural being”) and will exist long after Satan and his followers are destroyed (Gen 1; Revelation).

The problem with denying the existences of Satan and his followers is that it leaves parts of human experience inexplicable. As Dr. Roger Olson recently said, “much evil in the world, in my opinion, cannot be explained solely by means of human sin.”

Not to mention the fact that a follower of Jesus leaves themselves wide open for attack by denying the existence of Satan (i.e. you won’t fight against that which you don’t think doesn’t exists). There is a reason why St. James tells us to “resist the devil” (James 4:7) and St. Paul repeatedly talks about God protecting us “from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).  Yet, if you deny the existences of Satan and the forces of darkness than those verses no longer make sense. How, for example, do you resist a disembodied concept of injustice/evil? Or how can a disembodied concept of injustice/evil “outwit us” (2 Corinthians 2:11)?

In other words, I feel that we must take into account the existences of Satan and the supernatural world in general. Yes, it is hard to see and sometime hard to full understand – especially in our culture of computers, cars and all things material. Yet as followers of Jesus and people of the Book, we need to be aware of the battle around us while also knowing that God the Father has us in His hands. We need not fear the battle, just recognize it and be ready to fight when called upon by Jesus.

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” –CS Lewis in “The Screwtape Letters”

For more information about Satanic Realism and its practical implications, see the following blog posts by Dr. Roger Olson, Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University.

Where the Devil is Satan (in Contemporary Christianity)?
Practical Implications of Satanic Realism
Shocking Sermon by Presiding Episcopal Bishop