Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Wednesday's Word - March 27: Satan

Because he goes by many names, we're also going to look at "devil".

Satan noun
Sa·​tan | \ ˈsā-tᵊn  \

From merriam-webster:
1 : the angel who in Jewish belief is commanded by God to tempt humans to sin, to accuse the sinners, and to carry out God's punishment
2 : the rebellious angel who in Christian belief is the adversary of God and lord of evil

proper name of the supreme evil spirit in Christianity, Old English Satan, from Late Latin Satan (in Vulgate in Old Testament only), from Greek Satanas, from Hebrew satan "adversary, one who plots against another," from satan "to show enmity to, oppose, plot against," from root s-t-n "one who opposes, obstructs, or acts as an adversary."

In Septuagint (Greek) usually translated as diabolos "slanderer," literally "one who throws (something) across" the path of another (see devil (n.)), though epiboulos "plotter" is used once.

In biblical sources the Hebrew term the satan describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character. Although Hebrew storytellers as early as the sixth century B.C.E. occasionally introduced a supernatural character whom they called the satan, what they meant was any one of the angels sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human activity. [Elaine Pagels, "The Origin of Satan," 1995]

devil noun
dev·​il | \ ˈde-vᵊl,  \

From merriam-webster:
1 often capitalized : the personal supreme spirit of evil often represented in Christian belief as the tempter of humankind, the leader of all apostate angels, and the ruler of hell 
2 : an evil spirit : DEMON

Old English deofol "a devil, a subordinate evil spirit afflicting humans;" also, in Christian theology, "the Devil, a powerful spirit of evil otherwise known as Satan," from Late Latin diabolus (also the source of Italian diavolo, French diable, Spanish diablo; German Teufel is Old High German tiufal, from Latin via Gothic diabaulus).

The Late Latin word is from Ecclesiastical Greek diabolos, which in Jewish and Christian use was "the Devil, Satan," and which in general use meant "accuser, slanderer" (thus it was a scriptural loan-translation of Hebrew satan; see Satan). It is an agent noun from Greek diaballein "to slander, attack," literally "to throw across," from dia "across, through" (see dia-) + ballein "to throw" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach").

Jerome re-introduced Satan in Latin bibles, and English translators have used both words in different measures. In Vulgate, as in Greek, diabolus and dæmon (see demon) were distinct, but they have merged in English and other Germanic languages.

Last Wednesday's word was katholikos, which explained the universality of the Church. There was a unity in Christianity that existed for over a thousand years. Even after then, one could argue that the Church was still universal - there was still a shared understanding of sacraments and most doctrines of the faith. It wasn't until after the reformations which began in the 1500s that the Body of Christ became truly broken. 

When I was a Protestant I used to get offended when something like this was brought up. I was a luke-warm Christian, at best. But still, I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I certainly wasn't responsible for participating in the harm done to His mystical body. I kind of had a Rodney King attitude about it all. "Can't we all just get along?" 

The problem was, that's democratic thinking. That's thinking that was cultivated in a pluralistic, consumeristic society. The different flavors of Christianity were just different products to be consumed. I had my preference. Others had their preferences. We all accepted Christ and should just unite in His saving grace. 

The greater problem was, that's demonic thinking. Hold on. I certainly wasn't demonic. I just wanted everyone to respect everyone else's Christianity. If we're centered on Christ as our Savior, that's really all that matters. How can that be demonic?

To start to lift the veil on this, let's keep in mind the word definitions and origins above and let's look at what Satan wants. Primarily, he wants the destruction of souls. He wants to pull people away from Christ. Since the Church is the mystical body of Christ, he wants to destroy Christ's Church in order to destroy Christ's body. You may recall how he tried this once before. The outcome, of course, was the resurrection and Satan's defeat. Jesus, of course, knew of Satan's strategy when he established His Church (Matthew 16:18). He also knew that the Church, which would never be destroyed, would be attacked by Satan and would face division. If he couldn't destory it completely, Satan figures, he'd do as much damage as he could. Jesus forewarned us of this when He prayed for unity (John 17).

Unfortunately, humans tend to do a better job listening to Satan than we do listening to God. The really unfortunate part of this is we don't even realize we're listening to Satan. He knows us so well he can disguise himself as the voice of reason, of intellect, of enlightenment. We can go all the way back to our first parents (Genesis 3) to understand the main page in his playbook. Deceived by Satan, our first parents thought they were making a good choice. What happened? Division.

Fast forward to the "fruits" of the Reformation and we see the same thing happening with our first Protestant parents. They thought they were making a good choice. What happened? Division.

Let's step back a bit and take a short, high level look. A more thorough study of the history of the Church will show Satan's tactics time after time, but let's stay at 30,000 feet for the sake of brevity. After 1000 years of a Church that was apostolic in nature, a Church that rested on the authority of the apostles and their successors, a Church - infused with the Holy Spirit - which created the Bible, a Church which continues to this day, Satan launched another assault in an attempt to harm the body of Christ. His victory in that battle was partial. He convinced the Eastern Patriarchs that the successor of Peter was not primary among the bishops. This was only a small victory for Satan because, through the continuance of apostolic authority, the Eastern Orthodox Churches managed to maintain a high degree of doctrinal harmony with the Universal (Catholic) Church.

Some 500 years later, Satan launched another massive attack on the Church. This time he decided not only to try to do away with the primacy of Peter, but with apostolic succession altogether. By stealing the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:19), he could unravel the foundations of the faith. He could become the unHoly Spirt guiding and transforming the faith to his own. Now travel through the 500 years of subsequent reformations as Satan continues this assault, attempting to destroy even those churches that fell away from the universal church. Division after division. 

Satan is a scholar of scripture. He knows it better than any human that has ever lived. And he knows how to use it for his advantage. The Holy Spirit made sure to warn us of this (Luke 4). Yet, even with this warning, we've allowed Satan to successfully deploy one of his greatest tactics for division: Sola Scriptura. This doctrine is our modern forbidden fruit. Humans face the same temptation time and time again. Time and time again we fall. 

Looking back at my Protestant perspective, I can now see how I was duped into believing non-scriptural concepts of what the church ought to be. I was born into 500 years' worth of indoctrination - propaganda that was written by the master of lies himself. Yet, those arguments seemed so valid to me....because I wanted them to be valid. It was so enticing to think that all I needed was the Bible and the Holy Spirit to guide me. Why? Pride - the very same weakness that led to Satan's fall and which was used by that very devil to bring about the fall of humans is still used by Satan to corrupt Christianity. Sola Scriptura allowed me to be my own Pope, my own magisterium and, in all honesty, my own Holy Spirit. 

This is exactly how Satan wants us to be. We become experts in Scripture (or our own interpretation thereof) and can use it for our own purposes citing chapter and verse, but out of context, just as Satan does. Think of the many different and contradictory "Christian" doctrines that have developed since the Reformation. "The great sign of the demonic is scattering," says Bishop Barron in the video above. There is only one Holy Spirit. Either he suffers from multiple personality disorder or the spirit guiding contradictory interpretations of Scripture isn't the Holy one. 

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of awesome Protestants out there, many of whom are more devout, more faithful and better models of Christianity than many Catholics or Orthodox. This post isn't a judgment on the people or their faith. It's an analysis of Satan's tactics in the war in which we're all soldiers - soldiers who have been conditioned and trained to think and act certain ways.

The leader of the opposing side has launched his assaults on many fronts. He has infiltrated our ranks. He's infiltrated the Church itself. While he continues to divide and scatter with Sola Scriptura, he also operates at the highest ranks of the universal Church. Even Peter himself was shown as an example of Satan's tactics (Matthew 16:23), not to mention Judas (Matthew 26:20-25), so it's no wonder that the successors of the apostles would continue to be targets of Satan.

In reality, there is only one Christ and only one mystical body of Christ, but it is badly broken. While we all have different roles within the body (1 Corinthians 12), when we try to make the finger the head, we break the body. We search for unity, the same unity for which Jesus prayed. But we're deceived by the devil who convinces us that such unity is found in vague altruistic statements. With such a mindset, true unity cannot be achieved. Only with the humility to surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit, to be led and guided by the successors of the apostles can we repair the body of Christ. 

God, however, is a better strategist than Satan. Even in evil, God brings about good. "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). While Satan tries to destroy the Church, while he infiltrates it, God utilizes those who are in tune with Him, regardless of where they are, to bring about a rebirth, to stoke a renewal, to launch a counter attack. But we mustn't just stop after the first mission, after the first objective is obtained. We must be allowed to be led to the mission's end.

Please, my Protestant brothers and sisters, continue in your fervor, continue in your passion, continue in your faith in Christ. But please, also be open to coming home (Luke 15:11-32). Be willing to contemplate the role of Satan in the division of the Church, in his desire to harm the body of Christ by causing division and scattering.  Shed 500 years of indoctrination and knock on the door (Matthew 7:7). Your presence and influence will be well received and your relationship with Christ will flourish even more than it is now.

Please, my Catholic brothers and sisters, do not succumb to the temptations of Satan in our desert. Do not abandon Jesus because of Judas. Do not let Satan's whispering of prideful thoughts lead you to believe you are smarter, holier, more enlightened or more in touch with the Holy Spirit than 2000 years of apostolic succession. Our Protestants brothers and sisters can teach us much about relationship, community and outreach and it's essential to seek truth where it may be found. But we mustn't leave Truth for other truths. We must incorporate (from Latin in- "into, in, on, upon" + verb from corpus "body") truths while we work to restore the body of Christ.

The broken body of Christ