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Satan's power in hardcore Christianity

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2003 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

Christianity is officially monotheistic, not duotheistic. It officially teaches that its God is omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, and is the one and only uncreated being. Satan is alleged to be a mere angel, created by and vastly inferior in power to the Christian God. And it is believed that the Christian God will, someday, take Satan's power away and punish Satan for all eternity. In the meantime, Satan has been granted temporary rulership over the Earth.

When I look at a religion, I am more interested in what it says about the spiritual here-and-now than in what it says about the past, the future, or the afterlife. A religion's claims about the here-and-now are likely to reflect people's actual apiritual experiences, whereas I'm inclined to dismiss a religion's claims about the past, the future, and the afterlife as just pie in the sky. For this same reason, I am also much more interested in the "what" than the purported "how" or "why" of a religion's claims about the spiritual here-and-now.

What does Christianity say about the spiritual here-and-now? Among other things, it says that Satan is "God of this world" (yes! -- "God" -- see 2 Corinthians 4:4), "Prince of this world" (e.g. John 14:30), "Prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), and a being with enough power that He could, with even the slightest hope of being convincing, "tempt" Jesus by offering him power in exchange for worship (Matthew 4:9). And Christians traditionally lump together "the Devil, the world, and the flesh."

Christians say that Satan got His power only by permission of the vastly superior Christian God. But that's only the purported "how" -- not the "what" -- of hardcore Christian spiritual experience.

In practical, here-and-now terms, many hardcore Christians -- especially Protestant fundamentalists, but also some Catholics too -- are obsessed with "spiritual warfare." And they do see themselves as an alienated enclave within what is basically Satan's domain, even though they also make the pie-in-the-sky claim that their God will eventually take Satan's power away.

Often Christians claim "victory over Satan" in the here-and-now too. But such "victories over Satan" are only very localized and short-lived, sort of like the "victory" of a one-room air conditioner over heat. (On a scale larger than the room itself, an air conditioner succeeds only in generating more heat. And, even to continue to cool the room itself, an air conditioner must keep on working. The "victory" is not final.) Satan keeps popping up, again and again, as a live and powerful enemy, and as the mastermind of worldwide cultural and social trends.

In the Eastern Orthodox churches, every baptism is preceded by an elaborate exorcism and renunciation of Satan. The Roman Catholic Church uses a slightly toned down version in its rites of child baptism and adult baptism. The implication is that if a person has not yet sworn allegiance to the Christian "God" in particular (or has not yet had such allegiance on one's behalf, in the case of an infant), then the default ruler is Satan. And, though the baptism/exorcism is thought to greatly lessen Satan's power over individual people, those people must still continue to resist the influence of Satan throughout their lives.

The Devil is given an even bigger role by Protestant fundamentalists and evangelicals, especially by Pentecostals and charismatics, and especially within the past several years. In my neighborhood, there are now "Deliverance Ministries" all over the place, at least one every several blocks.

Thus, it seems to me that hardcore Christianity is duotheistic in practice, though not in its beliefs. And that's how a lot of people get the "wrong" impression that Christianity is duotheistic.

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