Friday, June 26, 2009

Ephesians 2:1-2 (part 2)

You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once lived following the age of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-2).

According to a 2004 research conducted by the George Barna group, only 17 percent of Catholics, 18 percent Methodists, 20 percent Episcopalians, 21 percent Lutherans, and 22 percent of Presbyterians believe Satan is real.

Another way to say the same thing is, 83% of Catholics, 82% of Methodists, 80% Episcopalians, 79% Lutherans and 78% of Presbyterians do not believe Satan is a living, active being.

It seems CS Lewis was prophetic. In his Screwtape Letters, Lewis writes: 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 [demons] themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

Another of Satan’s tactics is to convince humanity that he is little more than a buffoon, a fool who trips more over his own feet than he causes others to fall. Surely you have seen his cartoonish caricature with horns and tail, wearing a red suit and carrying a pitchfork. William Congreve, a 17th century playwright had this unwise thing to say: If I were a painter, I would draw the Devil like an idiot, a driveller with a bib and bells.

Look again at those numbers from Barna. When we consider how often Scripture speaks of Satan as a living being (I mean, after all, Jesus Himself spoke with the devil face to face during the Wilderness Temptation!), those statistics are very troubling.

Scripture pictures the Devil quite differently than he is believed to be. Jesus called him the "father of lies," a "murderer" and a wolf that scatters God's sheep (John 8:44, 10:12). St. Paul called him and "angel of light" and his ministers "false apostles, deceitful workers" who disguise themselves as disciples of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). St. John warned that the “whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also devotes a number of paragraphs to the Devil. We find a few of those here, here, here and here. And yet, despite such frequent references to Satan and his demons in Scripture and Church teaching, it is clear the Devil has convinced large swaths of people who should know better (i.e. Christians) of his non-existence. And this has proven for him to be a very effective (and deadly) ploy, for if one does not believe Satan exists, there is no reason to guard against him.

St. Paul warned his readers in Ephesus against knowingly – or unknowingly – following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient. And St. Peter cautioned, Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). And we should consider ourselves in great danger if we reject the teaching of Scripture and the Church, for in rejecting that teaching, we strip ourselves of any hope of defending against Satan.

What is our defense? God has provided us a defense that is more than sufficient for the task. St. Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

God has not left us without supernatural resources to battle our supernatural enemy. Next time we will look briefly at both the strategy – and the battle armor -- God has given us for our protection, and for the defeat of Satan’s influence in our lives.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Do you believe in a living being called Satan? If not, why not? If yes, why?

2. St. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10 (see above) that our weapons are not fleshly, but divinely powerful. Though we will talk of those weapons next week, what do you think those weapons are? More importantly, how do you use those weapons in your daily life?

No comments: