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Why Is Satan Evil?


Neon Genesis
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Why does orthodox Christianity treat Satan as the epitome of evil? I don't understand what it was that Satan did that was so evil. Given the immoral actions God commits throughout the OT like genocide and infanticide, I think it's perfectly reasonable why Satan would want to rebel against God. Satan's only sin in the OT seems to be getting Adam and Eve to think for themselves instead of mindlessly following the commands of a dogmatic dictator. Satan was the one who told the truth in this story when he said Adam and Eve that they wouldn't die from eating the fruit and he was right and Yahweh was the one who was lying because they didn't die. Even in the gospels, when Satan tries to tempt Jesus, the only thing Satan is doing is trying to show Jesus how immoral and senseless God's plan of salvation is that he would kill his only son to save the world from the sin he created. Jesus himself seems to have realized later on that maybe Satan was right when he prayed to God that he wouldn't have to go through with his sacrifice and when he questioned God's love for him on the cross. The only immoral action I can think of that Satan ever did in the bible was when he tortured Job, but even then, Satan only did that when he received permission from God and that's still nothing compared to all the innocent children Yahweh had slaughtered for his causes. So why is Satan considered evil by Christianity? Is not Satan the real hero of the bible and Yahweh is the real villain?

Edited by Neon Genesis
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Why does orthodox Christianity treat Satan as the epitome of evil? I don't understand what it was that Satan did that was so evil. Given the immoral actions God commits throughout the OT like genocide and infanticide, I think it's perfectly reasonable why Satan would want to rebel against God. Satan's only sin in the OT seems to be getting Adam and Eve to think for themselves instead of mindlessly following the commands of a dogmatic dictator. Satan was the one who told the truth in this story when he said Adam and Eve that they wouldn't die from eating the fruit and he was right and Yahweh was the one who was lying because they didn't die. Even in the gospels, when Satan tries to tempt Jesus, the only thing Satan is doing is trying to show Jesus how immoral and senseless God's plan of salvation is that he would kill his only son to save the world from the sin he created. Jesus himself seems to have realized later on that maybe Satan was right when he prayed to God that he wouldn't have to go through with his sacrifice and when he questioned God's love for him on the cross. The only immoral action I can think of that Satan ever did in the bible was when he tortured Job, but even then, Satan only did that when he received permission from God and that's still nothing compared to all the innocent children Yahweh had slaughtered for his causes. So why is Satan considered evil by Christianity? Is not Satan the real hero of the bible and Yahweh is the real villain?

 

A couple of points.

 

I think Satan is needed by fundamentalists to explain the presence of evil in the world. But, one problem with this is that this contradicts the idea of a god who is both compassionate and omnipotent.

 

FWIW, Satan was not a character in the Genesis creation story. The concept of Satan came much, much later in Judaism. And, it is much later that Satan was assumed to be in the story.

 

George

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I know Satan wasn't in the Genesis story but I was working from the perspective of orthodox Christian theology. That even if Satan was in the garden of Eden, he didn't actually do anything wrong. The Gnostics also saw the serpent as the hero of the story who was saving Adam and Eve from an evil false god.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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I know Satan wasn't in the Genesis story but I was working from the perspective of orthodox Christian theology. That even if Satan was in the garden of Eden, he didn't actually do anything wrong. The Gnostics also saw the serpent as the hero of the story who was saving Adam and Eve from an evil false god.

 

While both stories at the very least involve the serpent undermining the Creator's original design of things. The story as presented in the Bible and interpreted by most of Christianity assumes God the Creator is good, and therefore the serpent's subversion isn't. From an orthodox Christian theological POV, the serpent and Satan are equated, and Satan is seen tempting Adam & Even away from God's order of things. From this POV, Satan did something quite significant.

 

Also, there's apparently a version of liberation or feminist theology that suggests that humanity's original sin was over-passivity and servility rather than rebellion. I haven't read it, but I'm curious how they elaborate that argument.

 

If we're listing all the possibilities, we don't need to stay within the hero/villain binary. One could make the claim, as some forms of Gnosticism did, that neither the Creator/Demiurge nor Satan are good. Both delusional arrogance and rebellion for rebellion's sake are to be rejected. One could also make the case that neither God nor Satan are evil. In this version, Satan is an unfallen angel who occasionally prods Gods with questions and challenges, but is not truly a rebellious enemy. IIRC, Satan was viewed this way in some forms of Judaism.

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
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In this version, Satan is an unfallen angel who occasionally prods Gods with questions and challenges, but is not truly a rebellious enemy. IIRC, Satan was viewed this way in some forms of Judaism.

 

Yes, this is the role Satan plays in Job, his first biblical appearance.

 

George

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While both stories at the very least involve the serpent undermining the Creator's original design of things. The story as presented in the Bible and interpreted by most of Christianity assumes God the Creator is good, and therefore the serpent's subversion isn't. From an orthodox Christian theological POV, the serpent and Satan are equated, and Satan is seen tempting Adam & Even away from God's order of things. From this POV, Satan did something quite significant.

 

But orthodox Christianity never explains why Satan's tempting of Adam and Eve is significant. It's just simply accepted as significant and God is accepted as good because they say he is. If God wants to commit genocide, then according to them, God's actions are moral because anything God does no matter how immoral otherwise are inherently moral, yet Satan is wrong just for leading Adam and Eve away from worshiping such a god just because. Perhaps Satan was the original progressive Christian?
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But orthodox Christianity never explains why Satan's tempting of Adam and Eve is significant. It's just simply accepted as significant and God is accepted as good because they say he is. If God wants to commit genocide, then according to them, God's actions are moral because anything God does no matter how immoral otherwise are inherently moral, yet Satan is wrong just for leading Adam and Eve away from worshiping such a god just because. Perhaps Satan was the original progressive Christian?

 

It never occurred to me that progressive Christians could be something other than human :P

 

More seriously, I'm not offering a justification of genocide. With Borg, I view the Bible as a collection of sacred texts of people concerned about their understanding of the divine, rather than the Bible representing the absolute truth of history and God's glory. The Bible is a fragmented, polyphonic anthology. Also, there is a 'will to power' theme in the Bible (in both Testaments), where the righteous victoriously annihilate all that oppose them, that can be problematic in the extreme. If somebody needs to hear about the slaughter of Amalekite children to feel the glory of God... erm.... that's not what they're feeling.

 

The place I disagree with you is the statement that "But orthodox Christianity never explains why Satan's tempting of Adam and Eve is significant." I don't have the time right now, but I bet I could in under a day find you a discussion of that very issue by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther. I wouldn't be surprised if it's discussed in the Westminster Catechisms, either. Stories in the Bible can be amazingly thin on detail, allowing for an impressive amount of interpretation and re-interpretation. Re-interpreting biblical stories is a long and illustrious history, and specific theologies to fill in the details in different ways. Without checking any of it at all, I'm pretty sure God putting a rule in place that Adam & Eve break because of the serpent's influence is going to be involved.

 

I may disagree with what they say (as a guess, I will, considering what I know about them), but I seriously doubt they are silent on the issue.

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  • 1 month later...

Why does orthodox Christianity treat Satan as the epitome of evil?

 

The reason for Satan as the bad guy is twofold:

 

Control: The Church will protect you from the evil one.

 

Power: In return for protection from this evil one, you will submit to our authority.

 

Fyodor Dostoyevsky explored this very subject quite elegantly in The Brothers Karamazov.

 

Of course, this arrangement is not unique to Christianity. I imagine there were groups of Neanderthals who insisted they had the lowdown on those naked, evil apes starting fires all over the place.

 

NORM

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