What’s the deal with Satan?
Posted: 30 December 2009 04:47 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Not being facetious - at least not yet. Today I watched a little girl ask her mum: “If god is all powerful why does he let Satan do stuff?” Her mum’s efforts to explain didn’t manage to satisfy either of us - or herself, seemingly.

Any experts care to set me straight on this one?

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Posted: 02 January 2010 10:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Occam’s Razor - 30 December 2009 09:47 PM

Not being facetious - at least not yet. Today I watched a little girl ask her mum: “If god is all powerful why does he let Satan do stuff?” Her mum’s efforts to explain didn’t manage to satisfy either of us - or herself, seemingly.

Any experts care to set me straight on this one?

What a terrific question!

The first time we encounter Satan in the Bible is the Book of Job.  This book was written after the Jews were liberated from the Babylonians - by the Persians.  The character of “The Satan” (meaning “the adversary) is a character the Jews acquired from the Persians, from Zoroastrianism.  In this religion there is a god of good, Ahura Mazda, and a god of evil, Ahriman. Satan is the Jewish parallel of Ahriman, but since in Judaism there is only one God, Satan was assigned the role of a celestial being, but not quite on the same level as God: a fallen angel.

In Job Satan is the adversary, the challenger.  He works for God.  God uses him to test Job’s faith.  This is why God lets Satan do stuff.  It is his job to figuratively put us through hell so God will see if we’ll turn away from him, curse him.  That’s why God doesn’t just defeat Satan.  Satan is working for God.

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Posted: 03 January 2010 09:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Let me see if I get this straight…

The Creator of the Universe who could, one supposes, make a perfect Universe free of strife, pain, anguish and suffering, instead created someone specifically tasked with inflicting whole heaps of the aforementioned upon mankind to see if we love him enough?

Wouldn’t it have been simpler -and far more grown-up, frankly - to create a Creator of the Universe without these emotional issues?

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Posted: 09 January 2010 08:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Occam’s Razor - 04 January 2010 02:29 AM

Let me see if I get this straight…

The Creator of the Universe who could, one supposes, make a perfect Universe free of strife, pain, anguish and suffering, instead created someone specifically tasked with inflicting whole heaps of the aforementioned upon mankind to see if we love him enough?

Wouldn’t it have been simpler -and far more grown-up, frankly - to create a Creator of the Universe without these emotional issues?

More “grown-up” to fabricate a different, more secure, more emotionally stable sky daddy? That’s a debate for another day.

But simpler? Not at all, my friend. No religious believer, of course, can deny that there IS strife, pain, anguish and suffering in our universe. So…..to create a god who doesn’t feel the need to task someone with inflicting the aforementioned on us to test our loyalty, leaves the believer with an even bigger problem…..trying to explain how a god who has no reason to create pain, anguish, etc…..created it anyway.

If I was a believer, I would venture a guess that it has something to do with needing an opposite to properly define and articulate a concept. Without death, “life” would be a nonsensical term. Without life, “death” would be equally nonsensical. Without evil, how could we identify “good”? And vice versa. One needs the other for identity purposes. So…..if we never had pain, suffering, gnashing of teeth, etc. to begin with, then how could we possibly know that we are living in a universe free from it? How would we ever know the difference?

That’s just what I would guess, if I were a God botherer. But luckily, since I’m not a Jesus hugger, I don’t feel obligated to form any explanations for the existence of hurricanes, tsunamis, war, famine, pestilence, and Miley Cyrus.

[ Edited: 09 January 2010 09:03 PM by Josh]
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Posted: 09 January 2010 08:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Rami - 03 January 2010 03:18 AM

The first time we encounter Satan in the Bible is the Book of Job.

Then who the hell was that talking snake with legs, in that garden, who convinced a naked chick to eat an apple, and then share it with a naked guy who was missing one rib?

Was that Satan, or just a more evolved version of Kaa from the Jungle Book?

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Posted: 16 January 2010 12:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Josh - 10 January 2010 01:46 AM
Rami - 03 January 2010 03:18 AM

The first time we encounter Satan in the Bible is the Book of Job.

Then who the hell was that talking snake with legs, in that garden, who convinced a naked chick to eat an apple, and then share it with a naked guy who was missing one rib?

Was that Satan, or just a more evolved version of Kaa from the Jungle Book?

The book of Revelation, written many centuries after Genesis says that it was Satan.

The Serpent is an allegorical character in a children’s tale.  The Serpent was a symbol of wisdom in Mesopotamian cultures.  This is why it is a serpent that leads Man and Woman to the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  It was also a way of explaining why snakes don’t walk, but have to slither.  To our ancient ancestors, the fact that snakes did not walk like “normal” animals must have seemed like a misfortune (rather than an adaptive trait) - one that they explained as being the result of a curse from God. 

As Judaism and consequently Christianity continued to grow and evolve, future generations took the character of Satan and imagined that that he was the serpent in Eden - the author of all confusion, the deceiver of mankind, the one who wants mankind to disobey God.

Christianity does this kind of reinterpretation all the time.  Look at the story of the suffering servant in Isaiah.  They managed to make it into a foreshadowing of Jesus, even though the “prophet” was talking in the past tense and about something completely different, something pertaining to his own time and place.  But, no, God’s Word is for MEEEEEEE, it speaks to MEEEEEEEEEE, because it’s all about MEEEEEEEEE!  And so the suffering servant became Christ and the serpent became Satan.

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Posted: 16 January 2010 12:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Occam’s Razor - 04 January 2010 02:29 AM

Let me see if I get this straight…

The Creator of the Universe who could, one supposes, make a perfect Universe free of strife, pain, anguish and suffering, instead created someone specifically tasked with inflicting whole heaps of the aforementioned upon mankind to see if we love him enough?

Wouldn’t it have been simpler -and far more grown-up, frankly - to create a Creator of the Universe without these emotional issues?

Don’t get me started…

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Posted: 16 January 2010 03:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Hey Occam and company,

Good question; similar to the “problem of evil” and also yields a similar response.

It’s also a terribly loaded question which doesn’t have a sufficient answer to the skeptic expecting a nicely packed, short and concise answer that will somehow show where Satan came from, where evil came from, how it achieves God’s good and redemptive purposes and so on and so forth.

However, if you really want to understand how a Christian (or yourself) could get comfort from knowing that God allows (and seemingly uses) Satan to cause suffering and temptation, then there might be a decent answer.

And actually, that answer is pretty simple.  It would seem that God’s decisions to keep Satan on a long leash (for a time) achieves His purposes better than some other scenario.  Seemingly, God’s glory and redemptive purposes are increased in value, beauty and goodness by Satan being active in deceiving and manipulating and tempting believers. 

Christians certainly believe that God could “take Satan out” at any time if He chose to do so, but for his good purposes and will, he does not.  You might think of it as a movie villain that is snuffed out too early to have any significant impact on the emotions of the viewer.  If we were simply told that William Wallace is good and King Edward I was bad, and Edward was killed off in the first five minutes, we wouldn’t have a real understanding of Wallace’s chivalry or the evil of King Edward.  As Josh noted in an earlier post, without the existence of good and evil, there is really nothing to measure by or any meaning to the terms at all…things just happen.  This perhaps is a glimpse into how and why God created a universe, a world at all.  Granted, only a glimpse.

This brings up other questions, of course, but its an attempt…

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Posted: 16 January 2010 07:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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“clayforHim648” date=“1263701816”]
And actually, that answer is pretty simple.  It would seem that God’s decisions to keep Satan on a long leash (for a time) achieves His purposes better than some other scenario.  Seemingly, God’s glory and redemptive purposes are increased in value, beauty and goodness by Satan being active in deceiving and manipulating and tempting believers. 

Christians certainly believe that God could “take Satan out” at any time if He chose to do so, but for his good purposes and will, he does not.  You might think of it as a movie villain that is snuffed out too early to have any significant impact on the emotions of the viewer.  If we were simply told that William Wallace is good and King Edward I was bad, and Edward was killed off in the first five minutes, we wouldn’t have a real understanding of Wallace’s chivalry or the evil of King Edward.  As Josh noted in an earlier post, without the existence of good and evil, there is really nothing to measure by or any meaning to the terms at all…things just happen.  This perhaps is a glimpse into how and why God created a universe, a world at all.  Granted, only a glimpse.

This brings up other questions, of course, but its an attempt…

Clay, I think you nailed it, without realizing.  It precisely like the villain in a movie or a story.  If the villain is taken care of by page five, there is no more conflict and the story kind of fizzles out.  That should be your clue that the story is indeed fiction, as reality doesn’t wait for an appropriate amount of time to pass before it resolves the conflict - in order to keep the reader’s attention. 

Also, you are making the point that by having Satan around, doing his devilish work, it makes God look better.  So God thinks that our worship, adoration of and commitment to him is more important than all the evil, all the suffering, all the confusion Satan causes? 

Furthermore, there will come a time when Satan and Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire.  There will come a time when Satan will no longer exist.  Without Satan, how are people to know that God is good and worthy of glorification?  Without evil, how can there be good?  Good will cease to have meaning or value. 

And what do you mean that God seemingly uses Satan?  That is precisely the point the Book of Job makes - that God DOES use Satan to challenge people’s faith, to put it to the test.  There can be little question that Satan is working FOR God.  They are working together, not really in opposition to one another - in Job. 

And one more thing.  If God knows everything, if he can foresee the future, why should anyone’s faith be tested?  God should know in advance who is going to pass the test and who isn’t.  Why should he have Satan unleash all of that suffering on earth?  Or could it be that God is not omniscient?  That God cannot foresee the future?  And if God cannot foresee the future, then could it be that the defeat of Satan, as per Revelation, is far from certain?

You keep doing this, Clay.  Your standard argument seems to be something like “God knows what he is doing because, unlike us, he can see the big picture.  It seems awful from where we are standing, but ultimately it’s all for the best.”  Well, I am sorry, that is not really an argument.  That is just an assertion of blind trust which is not worth anything.

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Posted: 24 January 2010 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Rami - 16 January 2010 05:32 AM

The book of Revelation, written many centuries after Genesis says that it was Satan.

The Serpent is an allegorical character in a children’s tale.  The Serpent was a symbol of wisdom in Mesopotamian cultures.  This is why it is a serpent that leads Man and Woman to the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  It was also a way of explaining why snakes don’t walk, but have to slither.  To our ancient ancestors, the fact that snakes did not walk like “normal” animals must have seemed like a misfortune (rather than an adaptive trait) - one that they explained as being the result of a curse from God. 

As Judaism and consequently Christianity continued to grow and evolve, future generations took the character of Satan and imagined that that he was the serpent in Eden - the author of all confusion, the deceiver of mankind, the one who wants mankind to disobey God.

After having been told all my life that the four-legged snake was Satan, this is very enlightening for me. I’m still young, and I learn something new every day. Thanks, Rami!

Christianity does this kind of reinterpretation all the time.  Look at the story of the suffering servant in Isaiah.  They managed to make it into a foreshadowing of Jesus, even though the “prophet” was talking in the past tense and about something completely different, something pertaining to his own time and place.  But, no, God’s Word is for MEEEEEEE, it speaks to MEEEEEEEEEE, because it’s all about MEEEEEEEEE!  And so the suffering servant became Christ and the serpent became Satan.

Exactly. Egoistic self-absorption leads to self-serving Biblical interpretations. Just like Exodus 22:18 inspired the witch hunts, from which the Catholic Church profited by seizing their assets after burning them alive. I guess they must have inadvertently skipped over Exodus 20:13 (thou shalt not kill). Oh well…..

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Posted: 06 March 2010 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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rays - 22 January 2010 12:27 PM

God is in no rush to arrest Satan.
He has unlimited time and all the force to do what He wills.
-

OK. How about God commitments? Are they legally binding? I am not an expert on Bible but I am sure there is something there about God’s commitment to people.

Now let’s imagine bad guys are about to launch a rocket with nuclear warhead which may as well be the beginning of the spectacular end for human life on Earth. Will God be in a rush to stop them?

The most interesting question, however, is about you. Are you sinning by attributing to God something you have no way of knowing whether it is true or not? The very possibility of acting against God interest ... well I am not the one to lecture you about the consequences.

How about the abortion doctor killers? In the minds of some Christians they are killers who have nothing to do with God and will be condemned. In other Christians’ minds they are God martyrs.

In general, what does God think about those who rush to “His defense”? Are they heroes or maybe unrepentant sinners, guilty of having inflated egos? What should you do when you see evil in action? Do you try to stop him or refrain from any action other then praying? I mean if you rush to action don’t you prove that you are a man of little faith?

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Posted: 06 March 2010 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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rays - 22 January 2010 12:27 PM
Occam’s Razor - 30 December 2009 09:47 PM

Today I watched a little girl ask her mum:

“If god is all powerful why does he let Satan do stuff?”

Her mum’s efforts to explain didn’t manage to satisfy either of us - or herself, seemingly.

Any experts care to set me straight on this one?

 


Why shouldn’t God let roam for a while?

In the end the old nick will be thrown in the hot kitchen anyway.

God is in no rush to arrest Satan.

He has unlimited time and all the force to do what He wills.


-

You have the question backwards.  How could god exist without satan?  He’d have to take the blame for disease, suffering, natural disasters ... As it is, he just shrugs and says, “Oh, that was satan, no me?”

Satan is necessary because otherwise the myth that the world was created by a supernatural being that loves us is impossible to maintain.

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Posted: 07 March 2010 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Rami - 17 January 2010 12:19 AM

“clayforHim648” date=“1263701816”]And actually, that answer is pretty simple.  It would seem that God’s decisions to keep Satan on a long leash (for a time) achieves His purposes better than some other scenario.  Seemingly, God’s glory and redemptive purposes are increased in value, beauty and goodness by Satan being active in deceiving and manipulating and tempting believers. 

Christians certainly believe that God could “take Satan out” at any time if He chose to do so, but for his good purposes and will, he does not.  You might think of it as a movie villain that is snuffed out too early to have any significant impact on the emotions of the viewer.  If we were simply told that William Wallace is good and King Edward I was bad, and Edward was killed off in the first five minutes, we wouldn’t have a real understanding of Wallace’s chivalry or the evil of King Edward.  As Josh noted in an earlier post, without the existence of good and evil, there is really nothing to measure by or any meaning to the terms at all…things just happen.  This perhaps is a glimpse into how and why God created a universe, a world at all.  Granted, only a glimpse.

This brings up other questions, of course, but its an attempt…

Clay, I think you nailed it, without realizing.


Believers do that a lot, much of the time actually making it clearly they really know better, but choose to pretend otherwise (compartmentalize) in order to preserve their bullshit world view.

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Posted: 30 March 2010 12:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Mind you, this is completely different than the Jewish concept of Satan. Much as Christians claim to be “completed” or “perfected” Jews what they have become bears no resemblance whatsoever to Jewish thought either now or two thousand years ago. Take Satan for instance. In Judaism (cf. Mishnah, Rambam, Rashi, Zohar) angels do not really have free will like we do. They are their functions which means that a rebellious or fallen angel is like sour sunlight or a maroon smell - meaningless.

To the Jews Satan is the “Tester”, the “Accuser”. Jews are told that he is the most faithful of the angels and weeps whenever he succeeds in tempting someone. That is why the Sages tell us “Be as faithful as Satan, but don’t do anything he suggests.” But Christianity suffered from a heavy dose of neo-Platonic dualism with Zoroastrian, Mithraist and other touches that took it far, far away from its roots. That included an anti-God and wars in heaven. But what do you expect from a lumpenproletariat (and boy was it lumpen) Jewish flying saucer cult?

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Posted: 12 September 2010 07:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Rami - 16 January 2010 05:33 AM
Occam’s Razor - 04 January 2010 02:29 AM

Let me see if I get this straight…

The Creator of the Universe who could, one supposes, make a perfect Universe free of strife, pain, anguish and suffering, instead created someone specifically tasked with inflicting whole heaps of the aforementioned upon mankind to see if we love him enough?

Wouldn’t it have been simpler -and far more grown-up, frankly - to create a Creator of the Universe without these emotional issues?

Don’t get me started…

So anyhow.  The pat answer to why strife exists is so that people can be tested/ tempted here on earth to see if they will be true and faithful to covenants they made to God…. so that one day, if they do enough good things and attend all their meetings, pay 10% tithing on GROSS income, attend temple, serve all free time to their church… ONE DAY they might be good enough to rule & be God to their very own planet with hundreds of wives to boink every night.  Celestial polygamy is the ultimate reason for the strife.  It is such a prize!  Only the truly faithful and righteous can obtain it.  If there were zero tests, temptations, strife, inequity that would test & shake your faith and tempt you to fall away from God, how would you ever prove to God that you were indeed worthy enough to inherit the great and glorious grand Prize of the Universe… Celestial Polygamy.

er…. or… wait… that’s what the Mormons say.

Noggin

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