Are YOU in a battle with Satan?
GWC Master of Theology Student
Most of us in the modern West think of evil as something that exists within humanity. We see evil in individuals who have murdered others, we see evil in the rapist and the child molestor. We also see evil in political regimes. We saw evil in the Nazis and the Soviet Union, in the reign of Pol Pot and Assad and closer to home, the evil of the Apartheid system. We usually think of that evil as a moral failing within certain individuals, which if we could just reform, would give us a perfect world. What we don’t realize is that evil is outside of us as well as within us. We seem to have lost our awareness of a kind of evil that we cannot see, but which is at work in those same evil people and systems which we can observe with our five senses. I am of course talking about the person the Bible calls Satan, the Devil or the Evil One (as well as a number of other names). Why have we stopped caring about Satan and his demons? There is one main reason: the effect of modernism and the enlightenment in particular.
The effect of the Enlightenment
The Enlightenment refers to the period of history which roughly dates to the 18th century, but some historians date it’s beginning as early as the 1620s. The main theme of the Enlightenment was that truth could only be found through reason, and not pure experience. There needs to be evidence which can be studied and checked; facts which can be proven through the scientific method. This was accompanied by a skeptical attitude toward religious authority, which was seen as holding people back from true knowledge. The scientific method eventually won out over a “magical” understanding of the world around us and in some ways this was a very good thing.
However, what all of this led to was a move away from the authority of the Bible, and the elevation of the interpretation of the individual mind. Secular Reason was seen as more important than what the Bible said, and it created a method of interpretation which took out all of the parts of the Bible that seemed “unscientific” and “made up”, because the Bible clearly contains a lot of “magical” things like talking animals, miracles (not to mention a man rising from the dead), and a spiritual world which cannot be observed or studied by the scientific method. Many people therefore started downplaying the “magical” parts of the Bible and in particular the spiritual world. This meant that we started to think of evil in purely human ways rather than acknowledging a real spiritual evil which we cannot see.
The Bible tells us so…
We have become used to explaining the world based on the things which we can see, rather than the unseen actions of God and Satan. And yet, the Bible tells us that there is a direct connection between what happens in the physical world and what happens in the spiritual realm. A prime example of this is the story of Job. In the life of Job, he experiences the loss of his family to marauders and natural disasters. He also gets a horrible skin disease, which we would say was caused by bad hygiene and bacteria or possibly a virus. However, behind these physical symptoms, we see a spiritual cause. In the beginning of the book of Job, we are told that it is “the Satan” who comes to God to ask to be allowed to test Job’s faith. God then gives Satan permission to do all of these things to Job. In the Gospels, there are a number of people who seem to be suffering what we would call “seizures”, and yet Jesus casts out demons from them. In a similar way, the man from the tombs seems to have what we would call a mental disorder, but Jesus finds a legion of demons to be the cause of his disease.
Now, of course we should remember that at Jesus’ death he wins a victory against Satan and his demons. Jesus says “Now is the judgment of this world, now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). Jesus is speaking of the event of the cross and his resurrection thereafter. However, we see that even though a victory has been won by Jesus, Satan and his demons remain our enemy. Paul tells us to put on the full armour of God—not to stand against human enemies—but against Satan and the powers which he controls (Ephesians 6:10-20). Peter also warns us that Satan roams around like a roaring lion looking for an opportunity to “devour” us (1 Peter 5:8). The greatest place that we see the power of Satan against the Church is in the book of Revelation. We see the figures of the two Beasts and the Dragon as the real power behind the persecution of the Church and the political powers that run this world. Revelation draws back the curtain on the spiritual realm, but instead of finding a powerless little man like in the Wizard of Oz, he sees a group of monsters who have real power, and sometimes even the power to kill God’s people. However, Revelation shows us that in spite of these things, God is in control, and his Messiah will win the final victory (Revelation 19-21).
So, what does that mean for our lives day to day? Are we in a battle with Satan? Yes, and we should be aware of that. How do we fight against him? By putting on God’s armour and trusting that God is fighting in us and for us. One of the areas that we often forget that this battle plays out is in the pulpit.
Preaching as a battle against Satan
I was reminded one Sunday as I was praying and getting ready to speak, that preaching is an act of war in which the preacher fights against Satan with the Word of God. Satan is always at work in some way in our Church meetings, trying to distract our listeners so that the Word of God will not take root in our hearts (including the preacher’s!). The parable of the sower comes to mind here (Mark 4:1-20). Some of the seed which is scattered is stolen by Satan. Whenever we bring the Word of God to people, we must be aware of the spiritual fight that is happening and we should be praying against Satan and for our listeners. We should trust God to use us as his messengers and to overcome Satan with his Word.
Be aware of the Battle
Above all things, the Christian’s role is to pray, to ask God’s help, and to believe that he will intervene in a number of ways. The enemy is defeated, but not dead, and so we must continue to fight until Jesus comes to destroy him. We must be aware of the battle, or risk being caught off guard.
 This is a very simplistic summary of the Enlightenment period, and I suggest that if you are interested, you should start by reading the Wikipedia articles on the Enlightenment (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment), and the four great thinkers of the period: Descartes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/René_Descartes), Hume (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hume), Newton (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton) and finally Kant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant), who is particularly important.