Hernández and De La Torre: Rethinking Satan as Absolute Evil

There is a great article over at Bible and Interpretation by Hernández and De La Torre asking the question many of us have asked at one point or another: What is Satan’s role and what does that role say about God in the Bible?   I know I have asked why Satan gets such a bad dogmatic wrap in Christian theology when, in fact, God is often portrayed in the Bible as the sinister one (Satan takes a role more akin a Satyr in Greek myth rather than evil incarnate).  This article asks the same questions, but in a broader manner, and offering some interesting incite.  Here are some snippets.  Do read the whole thing, it does provide some interesting perspective:

God’s portrayal as a character of absolute goodness is the result of a theology that is read into the Christian Scriptures, yet which is not necessarily supported by a close reading of the texts. Not only is this theology challenged by the Bible, it is also challenged by existentially and morally comparing such a theology of absolute Good versus absolute Evil with the realities of life.

Jesus asks, “What person among you, if asked by their child for a loaf would give a stone? Of if asked for a fish will give a snake? If, then, you, who are evil, know to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good things to those that ask?” (Matt 7:9-11). Yet, reading the morning paper, one finds stories about tornadoes that have wiped out good Christian families while they slept peacefully in the middle of the night, or innocent children who perished at the hands of child molesters and murderers, good decent individuals who die in freak accidents, and many others who suffer under moral evils (those actions caused by humans) and natural evils (those actions caused by nature).

One is forced to ask: Where is God? Comparing Jesus’ words with the reality of evil in our global economy seems to indicate that earthly parents, rather than God, know better about how to care for their children.

In a very real way, the search for the historical Satan is an attempt to justify God’s grace while legitimizing the reality and presence of evil in human history. It appears that the development of Satan was to a certain extent, trying to save God from appearing as the source of evil that is so much a part of the reality of human suffering and death. The Scriptures attempt to convince us that God is still worthy of our worship despite the presence of evil, even though the most troubling conclusion derived from the Judeo-Christian biblical text is the discovery of a God who is the cause and author of all that is good—and all that is evil. As the prophet Amos reminds us, “If there is evil in a city, has Yahweh not done it?” (Amos 3:6). The prophet Isaiah understands God to say, “I form light and create darkness, make peace and create evil, I Yahweh do all these things” (45:7). This is a God who sends evil spirits to torment, as in the case of Saul (1 Sam 18:10) or Jeroboam (1 Kgs 14:10). Contrary to popular opinion, the biblical text does not begin by introducing its readers to Satan as the Prince of Darkness and enemy of God whose primordial spiritual warfare continues to manifest itself in our times. Rather, this concept developed over centuries as religious ideals comingled with popular culture and the flow of history.

A simple good versus evil binary understanding of reality leads to an ethical perspective that might cause more evil than good. A world where everyone and everything is either with or against God leads to great atrocities by those “with God” in their defense against the perceived threat of those “against God” (who those on God’s side usually define as Satanic). Because such an ethical framework causes more evil than good, we are in need of a new way of understanding what is satanic, what is Satan.

via The Bible and Interpretation – Rethinking Satan as Absolute Evil.

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