Monday, August 25, 2008

Why did Satan Sin?

The traditional view of Satan says that he is a good angel gone bad. But what provoked him to take that turn for the worse? To be honest, this question (and the attempts to answer it) has bothered me since I was 13 or 14 years old.

We generally think there are 3 provocative elements that can lead us to sin. One is Satan himself (along with possibly demons) as a tempter. A second source is our sinful nature. And the third source is our fallen world (peer pressure). The biblical account of Eve's sin has always made decent sense. She didn't have a 'fallen nature' or temptation from the world. But she did have a tempter (the serpent).

But what about Satan? If the traditional view of the devil is correct, he rebelled against God without a fallen nature, without a fallen world AND without a tempter. How and why? This question causes me to re-think the traditional view of Satan.


Aaron Perry said...

I think one of the reasons for the satan's (accuser's) place in Scripture is to offer a *description* of our experiences without explanation. Perhaps the reason there is so little by way of explanation is because there is no answer...

The AJ Thomas said...

On a related question I have always wondered if angels had free will, and the Satan story would require them to, do they still, do angels still fall, can an angel be redeemed in some way?

Although I can throw out a few ideas I'm guessing that ultimately there is no solid answer, we are talking about a different kind of being on a different plain.

AP - Are you hinting at Satan as a representation of something rather than a being?

TMNK said...

I know of quite a few thoughtful Christians who've made an argument that Satan isn't a personal being. And while I don't agree, I do say problems like the one raised here make such theories attractive.

I'm more interested in a different 'solution' to this problem. I have been contemplating a non-traditional view of satan that eliminates the problem raised in my post and can fit with the other Scriptures about satan (though, as AP said, there aren't so many passages 'about' satan as their are descriptions of our experience with him).

Though it's a very uncomfortable thought to most Christians, I have to ask myself...could God have created an angel with the role of testing' His people? In other words, is it possible that the adversary was created as an adversary from the get go?

In light of passages like Deut. 13:3 & 1 Kings 22:22, we know that God is very willing to test His people, even with misinformation and counterfeit signs. Since God has, apparently, created angels with specific roles (like Michael's role to protect ancient Israel), would it have been wrong for Him to have created an angel with the specific role of testing.

Now, if such a theory has merit, I'm not exactly sure what happened after such an angel was created. Has he performed his function well? Was he, himself, corrupted along the way (previously just testing people for God, but eventually 'wanting' them to fail). I haven't got that far yet.


In regards to AJ's 'free will' comment, my personal opinion is that angels do, indeed, have free will BUT that all the angels made a permanent choice at the 'war in heaven'. Their decision has been made. Perhaps decisions made in God's presence are eternal decisions. Of course, I have no real grounds for such an opinion, but that's my guess. After all, I hardly think people will cease to have free will once they are in God's presence, but I don't think they'll be a threat of another 'fall' either.

Aaron Perry said...

I am most comfortable simply using the language Scripture uses regarding satan--which itself is a title (accuser), not a personal name. The role he plays is often the accuser, prosecutor, as Job seems to suggest. I would not want to put "representation" against "personal being" because I think this is what Scripture wants to combine: it's not just a description of something abstract and almost unreal using personal terms, it's a description of something very real and very personal, but that's it. There is nothing more than description and hints at narratives (Rev. 12, for example). The language is also applied to political forces, as well--princes, kings, wars between nations, etc.

Connected to this, and with regard to Matthew's comment, is the temptation of Jesus. Matt, Mark, and Luke all have the Spirit playing a role in Jesus' temptation, either leading (Matthew/Luke) Jesus into the wilderness or sending (Mark) him there. Matthew even says that this was for Jesus to be tempted by the devil (Luke also has "the devil," Mark has "Satan;" Matthew, however, records Jesus calling his tempter "Satan."). But notice all the temptations revolve around how Jesus will pursue his political revolution: "If you are the Son of God..." The devil's temptation is to offer him authority and splendor, but not the way God is directing. This was certainly a "test" Jesus would have had to overcome: such a powerful figure determining how he would use power.