The truth about the devil

In his preface to the Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis writes that, “There are 2 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.” I’m halfway through reading the book and its a very interesting read. The Letters is a collection of letters from an uncle devil to his nephew instructing him how to tempt his “patient” to go to hell through subtle snares and traps. It’s a very clever and creative look into the spiritual life through the other side. The preface statement gets at the way we human beings can fall into extremes regarding the devil, both of which equally please him.

Many people, especially on this day, Halloween, have been deceived into thinking that the devil has more power than he actually does. Halloween by the way is not the “devil’s birthday” contrary to what some actually think! It comes from the Vigil of All Saints Day, as I’ve written before somewhere on this blog, but has gotten mixed up with a unfortunate resurgence in paganism with its harvest festivals and with commercialization––the selling of candy and costumes. Anyway, on this day, there is this kind of crazy fascination with the demonic. There are so many horror movies out there, some of which have a lot of truth to them, but kind of get people to relish in the glorification of evil. This is the excessive and unhealthy interest that CS Lewis is referring to. An example would be the showing of an exorcism on live TV, something that goes against the legitimate ministry of exorcising people possessed by the devil––it’s not something to be televised. Another example would be those ghost hunting shows and stuff like that. And then there are those who actually worship the devil and carry out satanic rituals.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who don’t believe in the existence of the devil. Anyone who denies the supernatural and spiritual realities, especially materialists and atheists, falls into this kind of error. We’re talking about those who only believe what they can see in front of their own eyes, and only in things that can be measured, qualified, and observed, scientifically speaking. They, and others, may have the idea that the devil is a literary device or a kind of symbol for evil. The devil gets people lulled into thinking he doesn’t exist so that he can be more effective in bringing them over to his side and catch them unaware. One of the main characters in the movie The Usual Suspects, Verbal, refers to the devil when he talks about the shadowy criminal Keyser Soze whose existence is doubted: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.” If you deny his existence, then you give him the power to work unoticed, slowly, until it’s too late, because he stuck up on you when you didn’t even know he was there. Subtlety is one of the main tactics he uses against souls according to Mr. Lewis.

The middle ground between preoccupation with the devil and denial of the devil is to be on guard against him as a malicious and highly intelligent creature and to know that he indeed is a creature, with limited power, and that Jesus Christ has already vanquished him.  When I was a kid, somebody gave us a ouija board… thankfully, I knew that it was nothing to play with and that it was a doorway to the demonic so we threw it out that night without opening it. I heard a priest recently quote an exorcist who was asked if the devil has more power today than he did before; he replied that he does not, but there are more doors being opened to him today. In other words, the devil is more active these days through people willingly giving in to him. And it’s not the sensationalistic means so much as the simple temptations that the devil uses. As the Screwtape Letters point out, the main forms of temptations are just to get people to commit serious sins and gradually numb their consciences–“the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” That’s why it’s so necessary to be on guard. “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith…” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Ultimately though, the devil is a coward. He wants us to miss the mark so that we will not realize our full potential because he fears our true potential, which is to be Christ. Like Bruce Wayne’s dad says in Batman Begins, “they [the demons] are more afraid of you than you are of them.”

Again, Jesus Christ has already vanquished satan destroying his power along with that of sin and death. If Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, then Christians are supposed to be lights, exorcisms, to cast out the darkness. Just something I wanted to share today.

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