Ivy points out every so often that in Judaism, Satan is not hateful but rather another righteous servant of the Almighty, only one charged with testing God’s people. It’s a job along with any other, kind of like an undercover cop who tries to buy narcotics but isn’t himself breaking the law.
That’s not the Christian view, which goes with Jesus’s statement that Satan was a liar and a murderer from the beginning, and is God’s enemy.
Ivy and I have discussed this a few times, and here’s a problem: Jesus tells us that we can know a tree by its fruit. In other words, if the outcome is bad, we can assume the thing itself was bad.
But the New Testament states that all things work together for the glory of God for those who love Him. In other words, if something bad happens to you, God can turn it to good.
This muddles up the whole fruit industry. It implies that over the long term, the fruit of everything is going to end up being good, and that makes it difficult to figure out whether something is from God or otherwise. And it implies that anything Satan does is going to be “perverted” by God in order to achieve goodness, and therefore Satan is actually in the service of God. (Whether he wants to be or not is another question.)
I’m taking the Christian line on this one, but the next question is, if God turns evil into good (which He does) and if you can only tell the tree by its fruits, then in the long run all the fruit is good fruit, so we’re working in the dark here. Right?
Discernment is a lot trickier than I thought it was back when I was sixteen and I knew everything.
Last week, I had another thought, and I’m running it here in the interests of being corrected if I’m wrong.
Good tree will produce good fruit. That much is a given.
Bad tree will produce rotten fruit. But here’s the next thought: that inside that rotten fruit, there are seeds.
And those seeds can become trees themselves. In other words, in the heart of that rotten fruit is the makings of something which can go on to become a source of goodness for all of us.
That’s how God turns evil into good. Some things are going to themselves be good. And other things are bad and then fall apart, rot away, and their residuals become the source of other good things.
A man’s child is murdered. That’s clearly evil. He uses his grief over the child’s death in order to raise awareness, prevent crime, and safeguard other children. The seeds of the rotten fruit become good fruit-bearing trees for the future.
The tools are there to discern. We just need to be able to reconstruct whether we’re dealing with ‘the first fruits’ or the second generation fruits.
My current church kinda threw me a bit of a loop on the topic of Satan… by pointing out he was, and thus still is, just an angel who lead a rebellion of 1/3 of the angels and likes to annoy God by throwing us extra grief.
Thus, he still faces angel limitations… is not all knowing nor omnipresent… and is not responsible for all evil. . He’s just team captain if you will, of a team outnumbered 2 to 1, with the good team having extreme advantage… so they take the shots they can get in a game they know they will lose. It’s not even close to an even match.
He (and his team) don’t produce evil, he only encourages us to follow our own sinful natures that we already have for the purpose of making us less useful to the winning team.
Putting it that way was definitely different… and gives him a lot less credit than most, who like to put him just a touch under being a god himself in terms of ability and power. But I think it does make sense… and beyond that seems to be helpful.
Sometimes we like to think we are personally up against some huge evil being on every battle, rather than an outnumbered underling who just likes to persuade us towards the messed up nature within us when they can. In some cases, a difference between a battle with a temptation that we aren’t sure we can win, and a battle we can recognize and much more easily ignore.
Satan’s opposite is St. Michael the Archangel, not God. God has no opposite. They’re right.
At this point, I think the enemy is operating purely on spite. It’s a lot like guerilla warfare. But that’s actually another topic for a post… 🙂
I forget where I read it, but someone pointed out that, without evil, there can be no good. That is to say, we have to really truly have the choice to do wrong for it to mean something if we do right. You can’t choose to flap your arms and fly, so choosing not to fly is a meaningless choice.
Satan serves to give us that choice. Sometimes I think he likes it when he looses. I think he’s dedicated, hard working (far too hard working for our good sometimes) and determined to do his best, and yet, once in a while, when we say, “get lost, creep–I’m on G-d’s side”, I think he smiles and says, “good choice”.
And if that’s the case, I think he got stuck with the single worst job in the universe.
Other times, I’m not so sure. My head is too small for this.
I’ve experienced far too much vindictiveness and nastiness for me to believe it’s entirely the work of a righteous servant. I do believe there are angels in charge of pushing us to work harder, like a personal trainer who encourages us to push in order to do our best.
But it’s the difference between, “Here, increase the resistance on the treadmill” and a death march. Both involve a whole lot of walking when you’d prefer to be sitting, but they’re qualitatively different things. And *both* are in operation here. I would say the “spiritual trainer” team is in operation precisely because every so often we’re going to get hit out of the blue by crazymaking nasties.
BTW, your first paragraph is only WRT free will. We don’t have to have someone else actually harming us in order to give us free will. God gave us that first.
Enjoyed your post. I like your example of a man’s child being murdered.
Hmm…. I guess I never really saw satan as very frightening. (I as a child felt very protected by my faith, now that I’m older, I just kinda figure what’ll be will be, and as long as I do my best, everything else is out of my control. No room for fearing invisible demons.)
And my view of Satanw as always a really rebellious teenager, grounded in his “room”
Like my younger brother, really.
“We just need to be able to reconstruct whether we’re dealing with ‘the first fruits’ or the second generation fruits.”
Very insightful. Thought-provoking, even. This is something it’s all too easy to forget. To extend a metaphor, it’s kind of like, you don’t need to write off the child because his father was an evil-doer. The son could still grow up to cure cancer despite his parentage. Interesting piece.
I usually see Satan as equally powerful to God, but both are limited because they have to let us have free will. Evil is out-numbered by the basic goodness of most people. (Even evil chaotic wizards like living near lawful good towns. Sure, it’s a bit harder to get eye of newt, but much easier to get your daily groceries, and when you do get the eye of newt, no one will steal it.)
The first interpretation, just doing an unpopular job, is interesting. Some good fic fodder there, even if it doesn’t fit with Husband’s horror movies, where the universe is one idiot savant who puts the rituals together away from annihilation.
BlueRaindrop has a good point. The book Good Omens has a successful but unpopular (among his own kind) demon who tries to explain that when it comes to creating suffering, humans are more imaginative and evil than a demon could ever be.
Ideally, children wouldn’t need to be safeguarded, so we wouldn’t need the man to champion the cause. I believe good can come without evil, but it’s easier to recognize it when there’s something to contrast it with.