Satan and demons
Full resolution: Satan/the Devil (Lucifer) and demons do not truly exist as personal beings.
No trolling, no abusive definitions, assume a Christian viewpoint.
CON would argue that Satan and demons exist in the same sense as God does, just like the angels and other divine beings: personal beings with thoughts (for lack of a better word) and are singular beings. (They exist in themselves.)
PRO would argue that Satan and the demons, etc. do not exist in that sense.
The debate will remain closed, I will choose someone from the comments to send a challenge to.
It is the nature of this matter, as my partner in this debate has indicated, that it must be approached from a Christian perspective. If someone does not believe in the existence of God it is unlikely they will entertain the existence of spiritual beings created by Him, and the debate would be simply impossible. All this notwithstanding, the perspective with which this debate must be approached also stands further clarification. I am a Catholic, however it is my understanding that my interlocutor is not of my same faith and to approach it from a purely Catholic standpoint (bashing my opponent on the head with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teachings of the popes) would be to unnecessarily exclude a large swath of Christians from this conversation.
I will therefore approach the issue from the perspective of what C.S. Lewis called "mere" Christianity. That is, the large area of common belief among mainstream Christian groups. I will therefore take for granted the following things:
1. The Bible (Old and New Testament) is the infallible Word of God
2. The testimony of early Christians, while not infallible, is a valuable guide to the correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture.
3. The beliefs of traditional Judaism are also a valuable guide to the cultural and religious context of Sacred Scripture.
The Bible (Greek biblia, books) is a collection of different inspired works written in different literary genre. It includes poetry (Song of Songs) theologized history (Kings), ancient biography (Gospels) and apocalyptic literature (Revelation). It is therefore plausible in some contexts to claim that a reference to an angel or a demon could be allegorical to a theological truth. This however does not hold up to scrutiny once one sees that references to angels and demons are ubiquitous throughout the different books of the Bible. Both Old Testament and the New. To deny the existence of angels and demons as true beings as described in the Bible is to rewrite Salvation history and the Scriptures themselves.
This is particularly so in the New Testament, where references to demons and exorcisms are so common, and explained in the same tone as any other circumstance in the life of Jesus and His disciples that it is difficult to deny that they are meant to be taken at face value. I leave, finally, a list of occasions in which demons are mentioned in the New Testament. Particular passages may be given a spiritualized interpretation which denies the reality of demons, but the mass of evidence simply cannot be ignored without at the same time placing doubt upon the whole of the New Testament.
- Matt 4:24; 8:16; Mark 1:32-34, 39; Luke 13:32; 16:18 Christ cures demon possession among many other problems.
- Matt 7:21-23 Some people will claim to cast out demons in Christ"s name but not really know Him.
- Matt 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-19; Luke 8:26-39 Jesus casts out demons from two men into a heard of swine.
- Matt 9:32-34 Jesus casts demon from mute/deaf man, Pharisees claim it is by the ruler of demons.
- Matt 10:1,8; Mark 6:7,13; 13:14-15; Luke 9:1 Christ sends Apostles out, gives them authority to cast out demons.
- Matt 11:18; Luke 7:33 John the Baptist accused of having a demon.
- Matt 12:22-32; Mark 3:22-30; Luke 11:14-23 Christ casts demon out of a blind-mute man; Pharisees accuse Him of doing it by Beelzebub, prince of demons, and Christ explains that attributing miracles by the Holy Spirit to Satan will not be forgiven in the world to come.
- Matt 15:22-28; Mark 7:25-30 Christ casts a demon out of Syro-Phoenician woman"s daughter.
- Matt 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-30; Luke 9:38-43 Disciples could not cast out demon causing epilepsy in child, Christ said this kind required prayer and fasting to come out.
- Matt 25:41 Everlasting fire is prepared for the Devil and his angels (demons).
- Mark 1:23-28; Luke 4:33-37 Christ casts out demon in synagogue who tried to reveal His mission.
- Mark 9:38-42; Luke 9:49-50 Christ tells disciples not to stop others from casting out demons in His name, even though they do not follow him.
- Mark 16:8-10; Luke 8:1-3 Seven demons cast out of Mary Magdalene, yet she helped to fund his ministry and was the first to see Him when He was risen.
- Mark 16:17 Casting out demons listed as first sign of those who believe.
- Luke 4:41 Many demons were cast out while trying to reveal Christ"s mission.
- Luke 10:17-20 Seventy disciples who were sent out rejoice that demons were subject to them.
- Luke 11:24-26 Christ explains that when a demon is cast out, it may try to return with more demons.
- Luke 13:10-13 Christ heals woman who had a "spirit of in firmity" for 18 years and could not stand up.
- John 7:20; 8:48-49,52; 10:20-21 Christ is accused of "having a demon".
- Acts 16:16-19 Paul and Silas cast a "spirit of divination" out of a woman.
- Acts 19:13-20 Seven sons of Sceva are wounded when they fail to cast out a powerful demon in the name of "Jesus whom Paul preaches". The demon recognizes Jesus and Paul, but not these men. The well-known event causes many to burn their magic books.
- 1Cor 10:19-21; Rev 9:20 People who worship idols are worshipping demons.
- 2 Cor2:11 "lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices."
- 2Cor 11:13-14 "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works."
- Eph 6:11-12 "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
- 1Tim 4:1-3 In the latter days, people will give into deceiving spirits and "doctrines of demons".
- Jms 2:19 Demons believe there is one God.
- Jms 3:13-16 Evil, earthly wisdom comes from demons.
- 2Pet 2:4 "For if God spared not the angels who had sinned, but having cast them down to the deepest pit of gloom has delivered them to chains of darkness to be kept for judgment;" (Darby Translation).
- Jude 1:6-13 Angels that left their proper place wander around doing evil and will be judged for it.
- Rev 12:3-4 The great red dragon (Satan) "drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth". Did one third of the angels become demons?
- Rev 16:13-14 Demons can perform false miracles.
- Rev 18:2 Demons sometimes dwell in demolished cities.
My opponent defines demons as “fallen angels” we should first biblically define what an angel is. It contradicts itself. Angels are physical, personal beings; carrying God's Name; channels through which God's Spirit works to; execute His will; in accordance with His character and purpose; and thereby manifesting Him. “Angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word.” (Psalms 103:20). The Angels are much more than simple messengers; they are the ones who carry out God’s commands. Can angels sin? My opponent has the burden to first show that angels can sin, then show that they were cast to earth and became “demons.” It is not enough to simply assert that is the definition of demon (a fallen angel) they must biblically show why this is the case and if it is even possible for an angel to “fall.” Now that we have established these parameters, I will present a case as to why angels cannot sin in a very simple syllogism.
P1. Sin brings death.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The meaning here seems rather self evident, the price of sin is death. The fall of man in Genesis also points to this same conclusion, people’s lives became difficult because of sin.
P2. Angels cannot die.
Luke 20:34-36 “And Jesus said unto them, The sons of this world marry, and are given in marriage: but they that are accounted worthy to attain to that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: for neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”
The phrase “neither can they die anymore” in Greek is oute gar apothanein eti dunantai. This translation is correct. In verse 35, Jesus refers to beings in “that world.” This is a reference to Heaven. Matthew 30 has a similar passage, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” The phrase “that world” is a reference to heaven, thus, heavenly beings such as the angels, cannot die.
C. Angels cannot sin.
By the two above premises, Angels cannot sin as this would directly contradict their nature, which is impossible.
Now for Satan.
The word “satan” in the bible
Satan is a Hebrew word meaning “adversary.” Devil is a translation of the Greek word diabolos which means “an enemy, a liar, or a false accuser.” Since a word and its definition are congruent, you should be able to replace the word “adversary” with the word satan and still have the sentence keep its meaning. You are only replacing the definition with the word itself. The sentence “he moves at a speed faster than a walk, never having both or all the feet on the ground at the same time” is basically the same as the sentence “he goes on a run.” The same should hold true with the bible. The Biblical usage of these words will show us that they can simply be used as adjectives, describing ordinary people. While of course the passages I provide are going to be in English, so we can read them.
1 Kings 11:14 “The Lord stirred up an adversary (same Hebrew word elsewhere translated "satan") unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite” (Parentheses added by me).
1 Kings 11: 23, 25 "And God stirred up another adversary (another satan)...Rezon...he was an adversary (a satan) to Israel"
The same Hebrew word is translated as adversary and also as Satan. The exact word, the exact spelling. But, in these cases, we can see that God was not bringing a supernatural being to oppose be an adversary to Solomon. He stirred up ordinary men (Rezon and Hadad the Edomite). For a further example, look at Matthew 22, 23. Peter was attempting to convince Jesus to not go to Jerusalem to die on the cross. Jesus turned and said “Get thee behind me, Satan...thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Peter was quite bluntly called a satan. Jesus was not speaking to an Angel or monster he was speaking to Peter, who was being Jesus’ adversary. In 2 Samuel 24: 1 “The Lord...moved David against Israel" and then later in 1 Chronicles 21: 1 “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David.” The only logical conclusion we can make here based upon our prior assumptions is that “The Lord” was acting as “Satan” or in other words “an adversary” to David. This is not outside the scope of God’s characteristics; the entire Book of Job highlights this quite well.
It is the same way with the word devil. “"Have not I chosen you twelve (disciples), and one of you is a devil?” He was speaking of Judas Iscariot, a mortal man. The word devil here simply refers to a wicked man. 1 Tim.3:11 is another example, the wives of church elders could not be “slanderers” the original Greek word here, was diabolos, the same word translated as devil elsewhere. Paul warns Titus that these women should not be “false accusers” or “devils.” (Tit. 2:3). “In the last days...men shall be...false accusers (devils)" (2 Timothy 3:1,3). This is not saying people will turn into supernatural creatures, but rather they will become increasingly wicked.
You may then argue that the Bible speaks as if Satan was a person. But, this is simply the use of the literary device personification. Even a brief reading of the bible shows it uses personification (speaking as if abstract ideas are people.) See Proverbs 9:1, or Rom. 6:23. Sin is often personified as a master (Rom. 5:21; 6:6; 17; 7:3). Why could the devil not be same way? Paul talks of man having two beings within us (Rom. 7:15-21): the man of the flesh fights with the man of the spirit. There are not two literal persons fighting within us. The sinful part of man’s nature is personified as “the evil one” (Mt. 6:13). The same Greek phrase is translated as “wicked person” in 1 Cor. 5:13. This shows when a person gives way to sin, he becomes an ‘evil one’ or “devil.”
I have shown that Angels cannot sin and thus Satan cannot exist. Then, I showed that regardless of the nature of Angels the bible does not speak of the devil or of satan in a manner that means satan is an independent personal being. Thus, we can assume that demons, who are followers of the devil, do not exist as personal beings either. But, to make this more clear, let us briefly continue.
God is the source of all power. “The Lord He is God; there is none else beside Him” Deut.4:35. There is one God. If there is only one god, only that god has power over good and evil (Job 1:21; 2:10; Is.45:5-7, 22). God is responsible in the sense that he permits, both good and evil. So now, how is the concept of a demon even intelligible in the sense that these demons somehow have power? For if these demons have power over evil, they are like gods themselves, and thus, there is more than one god, which is completely contradictory to the idea of monotheism. The demons people believe in today are nothing more than false idols.
1 Cor. 10:20, 28 details how idols and demons are effectively the same exact thing. “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with demons.” We should notice the phrase “they sacrifice to demons, and not to God” the demons were NOT god, and as there is only one god, it logically follows that demons have no real power. This point is shown quite bluntly in 1 Cor 8:4. "As concerning ...those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol (equivalent to a demon) is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one." Demons do not exist. There is only one God or power in the world. God is the cause of all things, good and evil.
The passages you mention mostly speak about Jesus driving the demons out. But, casting a demon out of someone is basically saying they are cured of a mental disease or physical illness. I do not have the room to explain this in more detail, but I hope all the above will suffice, at least for now.
P1. Sin brings death
P2. Angels cannot die
C. Angels cannot sin
I believe this belies a rather poor understanding of the statement that "the wages of sin is death", however apart from whether or not the phrase refers merely to physical death, there is a previous problem of whether or not this statement is applicable to angels. Paul is speaking to the Church in Rome, presumably all of them human. Revelation is meant for mankind and speaks to mankind, and just as we cannot expect references to unchastity, adultery or the use of material belongings to apply to angels who, as spiritual beings have none of these concerns; we cannot expect a statement on physical death to apply to them.
Only God is incapable of sinning. This is because the rule of righteousness, of Good, is His very nature. Angels and Humans are not the essence of Good, we are rather created by God and geared towards Him. Our function in life is to know and love God and to do His will, just as the angels, and whether or our we sin by an action a thought or an omission is determined by whether or not our will is in accordance to the Good, which is outside of us. Similarly with angels: if the rule of righteousness, of good, is to be found in them then they cannot sin. If it is found outside of them (in God) then they are at least theoretically capable of sin. This seems to be what happened according to Jude 1:6 " And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."
Even if the argument were sound, however, this would be a challenge only to the true origin of demons, and not to their existence, which is abundantly attested to, particularly in the New Testament. Although I hope we may refer to this in more detail later on, as my partner in this debate only referred to this matter in passing, saying the casting out of demons refers to the healing of mental disease or physical illness, I will only reply in passing that the New Testament authors were sufficiently familiar with mental disease and physical illness that they could make (and indeed did make) references to them without calling them demons, identifying them by name (Legion for legionella, I suppose), having them identify Him as "The Holy One of God", or allowing the mental or physical illness to possess a large herd of pigs and drown them in a nearby lake.
My opponent also mentions the different uses of the word "Satan" in the bible as adversary or diabolos (devil) as enemy, liar or accuser. This is simply not a sound argument. It would be as if someone were to say that, as the term "Son of Man" has been used to describe the human race as a whole (in Numbers, Job and the Psalms), individual men (as in Ezekiel) or to denote human frailty (as in Isaiah) then it cannot refer to Jesus Christ. The fact is that in many instances the bible refers, not to enemies of Israel or mistaken apostles, but to the "father of lies" and "murderer from the beginning". This is, perhaps a good time to turn to the testimony of the early Christians, to see how those closest in time to Christ interpreted these "personifications". It would be difficult to find any of the early Christian writers who interpreted references to the Devil as anything but literal. (I will resist the urge of listing patristic authors and their positions for the sake of legibility).
The final contention against the existence of the Devil or demons is that the power of demons would entail some sort of Polytheism (a bad god and his lackeys vs. the good god and angels). This is a misunderstanding of both the nature of the Devil and of the power of demons. Take two evil people: the first of these is rather a simpleton whose evil actions were limited to taking candy from small children when their mothers aren't looking; the second is incredibly intelligent and weaves dastardly plans for his illegitimate gain and the ill fate of those he considers enemies. The second of these two evildoers would be more powerful than the first, by virtue of a greater power of intelligence. This power does not diminish the power of his Creator in any way, as he owes it entirely to the nature granted to him. In this same way the Devil and demons, former angels, owe their "power" to their angelic nature, and not to themselves. They are creatures of God and have nothing that is not given to them from the beginning. The evil they do with said powers is tolerated just as the evil done by humans is tolerated.
God does not have power over evil, but neither does the Devil or demons. Evil is simply not something that power can be had over, it is the mere negation of good. God made all things, and in so far as those creatures with free will deviate from His will, they engage in evil. Just as it is with humans, so it is with angels.
THEBOMB forfeited this round.
THEBOMB forfeited this round.
I remind the voters that in this debate it is not my task to prove beyond any doubt that demons and the devil exist, but that their existence must be affirmed by a Christian viewpoint. That is, accepting the truth and infallibility of the bible and the beliefs of the early Christians as a guide to its interpretation.
This being the case it is overwhelmingly evident that both the Scriptures and early Christians affirmed the existence of demons and the Devil in a very literal sense.
I thank my opponent for proposing this debate and the readers for their time. I hope in the future, once he has more time to do so, we are able to carry out the debate to its completion.
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