Satan

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Swampguy

Puritan Board Freshman
This article was in my local paper and I thought some of you may find it interesting:


Giving the devil his due process
Scholar challenges Satan's evil image

By Manya A. Brachear
Tribune staff reporter
Published August 29, 2006


For centuries, popular culture has treated Satan as God's nemesis -- an angel consumed by pride and cast out of heaven to run his own evil empire.

But Henry Ansgar Kelly says poor Satan has gotten a bad rap. For decades he has pleaded the devil's case, arguing Satan is simply one of God's celestial agents with the dirty job of gauging humanity's virtue.

While that job has made Satan cynical and jaded over time, Kelly says, it doesn't make him the mastermind of evil.

"Christian tradition has laid a lot of blame on Satan for things [people cause] themselves," says Kelly, 72, a former Jesuit exorcist and now a medieval scholar at the University of California at Los Angeles and author of three books about the devil. "I am pessimistic about human nature. I think we are totally capable of doing what we have done. You can blame it on psychosis if you want."

But you can't blame it on Satan, he says.

During a three-day "Satan Seminar" at Loyola University earlier this month, Kelly -- the author of "Satan: A Biography" (Cambridge University Press) -- preached his controversial gospel to an understandably tough crowd of biblical scholars.

But after three days, students found themselves with a newfound appreciation for the celestial agent who, according to Kelly, acts as God's heavy.

"I assumed what is assumed in popular culture -- that Satan is evil personified," said Stephen Binz, a writer from Little Rock, Ark., who develops materials for Roman Catholic adult faith formation. "This reaffirms that God is in charge of the world -- its history and its future."

Kelly's attempt to exonerate Satan comes just months after the unveiling of the "Judas Gospel," an ancient manuscript claiming biblical back-stabber Judas Iscariot actually conspired with Jesus to fulfill his mission on earth.

However, Kelly dismisses the revision of the role Judas played in Christ's Crucifixion as "Gnostic rubbish."

He makes his case for clearing Satan's name using traditional Scripture, saying church fathers twisted the Old and New Testaments to portray Satan as God's enemy rather than something more on the order of a jaded employee. A careful examination of the sacred texts reveals a quite different story, he says. For example, the serpent that tempts Eve in the Garden of Eden has nothing to do with Satan, he says -- rather, it is no more than a conniving animal trying to trick Adam and Eve. God tests humanity by asking Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son. (Abraham passes the test with flying colors.)

It is in the Book of Job that Satan makes his debut, already showing his cynical side. There, Satan reports to God that Job is not as righteous as he pretends to be.

God permits Satan -- his hired heavy, Kelly calls him -- to put Job's faith in God to the test, subjecting him to a succession of hardships -- painful boils, destroyed possessions, dead children. Job doesn't waiver.

"People don't want to see God dirty his hands," Kelly said. "So he cleans up his dossier and has his henchman do it instead."



Question of interpretation

While few biblical scholars disagree with Kelly's Old Testament analysis, his interpretation of the New Testament raises more questions.

Kelly says Satan's job is no different in the New Testament: He hazes Jesus for 40 days and nights in the wilderness to make sure he's up to the task God intends for him. Jesus makes the cut.

Satan tempts Judas to betray Jesus and Judas succumbs, thereby helping to engineer the Crucifixion -- all part of God's plan, Kelly says.

Kelly also argues there is evidence in three of the four Gospels -- the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke -- that Jesus, Satan and God had a conference call of sorts. Satan gains God's permission to test the Apostle Peter, while Jesus makes sure Peter's test is not as harsh as Job's.

"[Satan's] motivations in the New Testament are the same," Kelly says. "He is suspicious of human virtue and he wants to check it out. He doesn't want people to be given a free ride if they're no good."The evolution of Satan's role can be traced back to theologians in the 3rd and 4th Centuries who interpreted the fall of Lucifer in Isaiah 14 as the story of Satan's prideful rebellion against God, who then cast him out of heaven.

Kelly says Lucifer is merely the metaphor for an arrogant Babylonian king.

Even the Koran, which Muslims believe was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed in the 7th Century, speaks of a Satanic figure.

But it wasn't until the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 that church fathers defined the devil as the instigator of sin.

From there, the notion of Satan as a monster crept into pulpits and pop culture. In the Middle Ages, he acquired a fetid odor, horns and a variety of names: Lucifer, Satan, the devil, the Prince of Darkness.

Rev. Gregory Mobley, an American Baptist minister and Old Testament scholar who co-wrote "The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots" (Palgrave Macmillan, 240 pages, $24.95) said there is no absolute truth about the Prince of Darkness -- only stories.

Popularized by John Milton's "Paradise Lost," the stories that became canons of popular culture actually originated in ancient Jewish texts that never made it into the Bible.

"In those stories, Satan is the Professor Moriarty of the universe," Mobley said, referring to the criminal mastermind in Sherlock Holmes. "The reason bad things happen is because there is a secret organized force dedicated at all times and all places to fouling the wellsprings of happiness."



Good vs. evil

He praises Kelly's approach.

"But it's never going to garner mass popularity because people like a good ol' cowboy movie where good guys and bad guys are against each other," Mobley says.

Kelly, a self-proclaimed "diabologian," published his first defense of the devil in 1964. He could not accept church teaching that Adam and Eve's sin of disobedience was instigated by the devil to stain humankind for eternity. Most Roman Catholics believe all of humanity fell from grace at that moment they call "original sin." Kelly does not.

Kelly's theories do not sit well with traditional theologians. Erasing original sin takes away the guilt and threat of damnation used for centuries to galvanize congregations, he says; "If that didn't happen, a lot of rewriting has to be done in Christianity."

Students at the "Satan Seminar" found Kelly's theories more helpful than heretical.

"Modern American culture is defined by fundamentalist Christians," Binz said. "There are lots of gray areas in real life."

Joan Robertson, an art therapist from Three Rivers, Wis., said she came to the "Satan Seminar" to learn how to help her clients. Biblical imagery often emerges in the artwork of patients with schizophrenia and other forms of chronic mental illness.

"This idea of being possessed by the devil, in the clients I've worked with it's a fairly common theme," said Robertson, 62.

"I think it will help one to see Satan as God's advocate," she continued. "It will help them understand that some truth can come through this dark and frightening experience. An agent of God can be an agent of healing."

Laughing, she added: "I can imagine that might take a while for all of that to sink in."

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[Edited on 9-9-2006 by Swampguy]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
It is not surprising to find such blasphemy at a Jesuit school which serves Antichrist. Screwtape would be pleased with this strategy.

As C.S. Lewis said, "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."

[Edited on 9-9-2006 by VirginiaHuguenot]
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Loving the Devil is even a greater ploy of his keen nature to outwit theological morons than it is to make himself as the one who does not exist. At least in the latter some plead ignorance. In the former they are simply moronic. They are devils themselves.

[Edited on 9-9-2006 by C. Matthew McMahon]
 
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