Thursday, August 28, 2008

3 Alternatives

Suppose you came to agree with me that the traditional view of Satan's origin (as a good angel gone bad before The Fall) carries some heavy philosophical and theological baggage. Are there alternatives? Are we forced to swallow a pill that just doesn't go down smoothly? I don't think so. Here are 3 alternative views of Satan's origin that are, at least, worth considering.

1) One route to take is a less literal view of the adversary. Though it goes against many of the fundamentalist and evangelical senses, we should at least consider that what the Bible describes in passages mentioning the satan is just that; a description of human experience. I'm sure there are many variations on this theme. Personally, I am not inclined to go this direction. At least not at this point. And probably never.

2) Another option is a view that seems to be picking up some momentum. Might the satan have been created as a testing-angel. Angels are given specific roles from God. What would have stopped Him from creating an angel with the specific role of testing His people? After all, tests are actually a good thing. Perhaps the satan has performed his role faithfully, but Christ has passed the test with flying colors so that, one day, the tester will no longer be necessary and will be cast away.

3) As a variation of option 2, I have been brainstorming another theory. It may be new. I have never seen anyone, besides myself, argue for it. But my theory (thrown out there for others to dismantle) is that, as view 2 states, the satan was created with a worthwhile role (as a testing agent) and performed this role faithfully. But, in the course of time, mankind's consistent failure to pass his tests, their willingness to offer worship to objects used as tests, and, perhaps, his growing awareness that, in light of Jesus' ministry, his time as tester was running short, the satan became a corrupted agent.

I am testing this 3rd theory out on various message boards. So far, I feel it is quite workable and stands up to the various relevant Scriptures.


The AJ Thomas said...

I gotta say I tend toward the traditional view. Requiring a tempter or sinful nature takes a lot of the personal responsibility out of sin.

All that is required to sin is free will, the possibility of going God's way or not. "Free will" is not just freedom of action but more importantly freedom of desire.

I'm having a hard time understanding how your "tempting agent" approach gets past your original objection of "who tempts the tempter"

Also - if God sends someone to temp us isn't that basically the same deal as God tempting us?

TMNK said...

Hey AJ :) Thanks for the feedback.

1. I don't think recognizing the provoking elements of sin takes away from personal responsibility at all. If so, none of us would be responsible b/c the provoking elements were present in our case. The provoking elements can never force us to sin.

2. How do you know that all that is required to sin is free will? In, at least, 99.9% of cases, more than free will was present. The only possible case of 'sin' minus a provoking element is satan.

3. In my theory, the tempter is eventually tempted by his own success in the fallen world which has affected all of creation (including him). He does not fall BEFORE the 3 provoking elements are present, but after.

4. Is God sending someone to tempt us the same as God tempting us? Ultimately. But, ultimately, this is a problem in the traditional view as well since God allows a tempter when He doesn't have to. One could just as easily accuse God of tempting us in the traditional view.

Personally, I view the passage about God not tempting us as a way of saying that God doesn't want us to fail. He certainly does put tests in our way. Tests and temptations are the same word, just different perspectives.

In blog format, my view is underdeveloped, i'll admit. I think the message board format has proved more fitting to this discussion, as I've had plenty of feedback in such places and the theory has been more fleshed out.

thanks again,

Aaron Perry said...

the only problem is that this view is piecemeal from Scripture...not in pasting bits and pieces together to find a narrative embedded therein, but a theory applied to the whole of Scripture. as a result, it feels more like eisegetic as opposed to exegetic hermeneutics.

this view also has troubles with the protoevangelium, if the serpent is the satan in Gen. 1. God's prophecy in that case would surely "lock" the satan into becoming a corrupted agent.

(also, it's ironic that the first route, which takes the literal name of the satan literally is called less literal. :))

TMNK said...

1. I think any theory on the origin of satan is piecemeal, to a large extent. So I hardly deny mine is such.

2. The 2nd problem goes to the issue of sovereignty, free-will & foreknowledge. So whether it's a 'problem' or not would depend on what you pour into your word 'lock' in relation to foreknowledge.

3. True enough :) I always come at things from the popular perspective.

If I had to guess where my thoughts will eventually land on this subject, I'd speculate that they'll take a bit from all 3 of these alternatives... Perhaps something like this:

God, from the beginning has built 'testing' into the human experience. This testing, much like the law, is often personified in Scripture and has good purposes while, at the same time, has the capability of producing negative results. Testing is good, but amidst failure it takes control and becomes a powerful force. Christ, however, passed all tests and, thus, destroyed the tester. It is our job to pass these tests by His power until He returns and the time of testing is completely over.

Aaron Perry said...

Hey Matthew,

Just to clarify, the theory is created piecemeal, but employs elements to create a full narrative when one is not present in Scripture. We form doctrine from Scripture often because so much of it is narrative that forms doctrine that is not addressed specifically by the individual narratives. So, the problem, as I see it, is something akin to what happens when people find the need to 'harmonize' the gospels and end up affirming something that no gospel says.

I liked this small series, though. Thanks for posting it.

TMNK said...

Sure. The way I see it is that 'something' must be true about 'the satan' and any truth is worth thinking about.