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Worldviews in Conflict: Christian Cosmology and the Recent Doctrine of Spiritual Mapping (Part 2)

 

Presently we have arrived at the crux of the matter, and this time three questions must be answered to meet our purposes here: (1) what is Satan’s relationship to God and creation? (2) what power do Satan and demons have over the believing community? and (3) is spiritual mapping a biblical practice in relation to the believer’s spiritual warfare?

 

Satan’s Relationship to God and Creation 

Concerning the first issue, there is no doubt about Satan’s position in relationship to God and creation. Basically he is a creature, not a god or another spiritual power equal to God. Since all things were created “good” in the beginning, the logical conclusion is that Satan, as well as man, fell from grace at some point. Although there are several theories and speculations that attempt to explain how it occurred, the Scriptures are decidedly mute on the specifics.41 Most likely, Satan originally belonged to the class of angelic beings42 and, later, actively rebelled against God.

Nothing in the Scripture would suggest that Satan possesses similar attributes to God. He is not omnipotent or omnipresent, though his influence may be considered pervasive and global in scope. Jesus refers to him as the “prince of this world” (John 14:30), and Paul calls him “the god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4). Here we have a “bold expression for the devil,”43 one that certainly implies the attitude of his willing subjects.44 Nevertheless, the Bible never intimates that Satan has the power of God, either to foretell future events or know the hidden thoughts of a Christian.

Nothing makes a greater or more lasting impact on culture or a community than “real” Christians.

Being a creature does not preclude the fact that Satan is powerful and wields a destructive and scandalous influence in the world. Again, the New Testament unveils the devil’s infamy by exposing him as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). His power appears to be mainly comprised of his skill at deception (II Cor. 4:4) and he is known as the “father of lies” (John 8:44). He “masquerades as an angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14). He was in the Garden in the beginning and tempted Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 3:1-6; II Cor. 11:3). He is associated with “the powers of this dark world and…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Based upon the New Testament’s characterization, we can easily understand why, throughout the church’s history, Satan has been presented as an intimidating foe to the average believer.

The main point, here, is that Satan and his demons do not pose any ultimate threat to the advancement of the Kingdom of God or to God’s perfect plan. Even in the book of Job, where Satan is introduced as the harmful agent behind Job’s disasters, God retains complete control of the situation. More precisely, “the” Satan45 became an agent of God’s purpose in the life of Job. The book of Job reasserts “God’s sovereignty over Satan, who cannot harm Job beyond God’s limits” (1:12; 2:6).46

 

Satan’s Power and the Believing Community

With respect to the second question, the New Testament shows that Satan can influence the decisions and behavior of a believer. Among Jesus’ disciples, two stand out as having been influenced by Satan. Peter protested Jesus’ prediction of suffering and it earned him the Master’s rebuke (Matt. 16:23; Mark 8:33). Addressing Peter he said, “Get behind me, Satan!” Although Peter’s concern for his Lord seems admirable (he did not want Jesus to suffer), he was acting as the spokesman for the devil—in other words—saying what the devil would say. Satan’s greater influence, however, was reserved for Judas (John 13:2, 27) whose greed inclined him to foolish conclusions and eventually led him to complete moral collapse (John 12:6; cf., Luke 22:1-5).

 

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Category: Living the Faith, Winter 2002

About the Author: Larry L. Taylor, M.A., D.Min., is Affiliate Faculty at Regis University in the Denver area and formerly professor of humanities at Portland Bible College. Larry Taylor founded a church in Colorado and has 17 years of pastoral experience.

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