Authority: The Authority of Satan

This is part of a series of posts on the doctrine of Authority. Click here to see the entire series.

Evangelicals today are practicing Deists.  That is, they believe in two equally powerful deities who are fighting over the authoritative control of the earth.  Those two deities are the God of the Bible and Satan.  In evangelical practical theology, man, fully equipped with free-will, is listening to the sales pitch of both God and Satan and then deciding which spiritual future he wants to purchase.   Satan tempts us with powerful inducements to the fleeting pleasures of sin.  God begs, cajoles and pleads with us to follow Him because His Son loves us so much.  Lest what I just wrote be considered a gross exaggeration, let’s take a moment to look at the three “omnis” of God’s incommunicable attributes and compare them to the power and authority usually attributed to Satan.  Those “omnis” are omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence.

Psalm 139:7 says, “Where can I go from Thy Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Thy presence?”  The answer to the rhetorical question asked by David is “nowhere”.  God is everywhere, all the time.  There is no place a person can go and not have God present.  Of course, God is spirit, so He is spiritually present everywhere.  The ridiculous story about the Soviet cosmonaut who announced, upon his arrival in outer space, that he could not see God so God must not exist, does not negate the reality of  His spiritual omnipresence.

What about Satan?  If we only listen to the televangelists, we would be soon convinced that Satan is lurking behind every bush, just waiting for the opportunity to possess every believer.  Sometimes it is not Satan who is ready to pounce.  Televangelists also give credit to the hoards of demons who are responsible for practically every sinful thought or impulse that exists in the mind of a believer.  Indeed, among charismatic believers, the ancient rite of exorcism is regularly practiced in order to remove the demons from the wayward Christian who has stumbled into lust, greed and avarice.

I believe it is entirely fair to say that Evangelicals believe that Satan and his demons are omnipresent.  Many believers talk about encounters with Satan or his minions on a daily basis.  If our experience is normative for the entire Church universal, then it must be the case that Satan is omnipresent.  There are simply too many believers around the world, all of whom are allegedly experiencing daily attacks from Satan.  The only way that could possibly be true is if Satan is everywhere.  And it is not only the superstitious charismatic believer who is prone to this absurd idea.  Sadly, the omnipresence of Satan has dominated the thoughts of many brilliant theologians throughout the history of the Church.

Martin Luther describes his life as an almost daily battle against the devil.  He literally believed that the devil would come to him and torment him on a regular basis.  John Calvin, in his Institutes, routinely writes about how Satan is wandering around Geneva seeking trouble.  Even the venerable D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones had this to say (in his sermons on Psalm 73 recorded in “Faith on Trial”) about the omnipresence of Satan, “And we must not forget the subtlety of Satan.  He comes as a would be friend….You know that I am not speaking theoretically.  We all know something of this; if we do not, we are not Christian.  This is the kind of thing to which God’s people are subjected.  Because they are God’s people the devil makes a special target of them and seizes every opportunity to get them down.”

Do you understand what Dr. Lloyd-Jones has said?  If you have not personally had an encounter with the devil, you are not a Christian!  How many millions of Christians are there in the world at any given time?  How is Satan able to get around to all of them on a regular basis?  Even if he has several legions of demons at his disposal, how are they able to get around to all believers on a regular basis?  Clearly it is impossible.  The only solution to this demonic dilemma is if Satan is omnipresent.

In evangelical practical theology Satan is also omniscient.  It is amazing how Evangelicals testify to how Satan knows exactly the right time to come to them in temptation.  Somehow he is never off in his timing.  How does he know this?  Not only is his timing perfect, the methodology by which he wages war against the believer is also perfect.  He always knows the exact right thing to tempt the believer with.  He wastes no effort.  At the right time and in the right place he brings a temptation that results in evil fruit to the praise of his kingdom.

It is a standard practice in evangelism to inform a new believer that he will soon be experiencing a demonic/Satanic attack.  We tell the new believer that Satan is outraged by his profession of faith and to be prepared to withstand the onslaughts of the devil as he comes to try and take his possession back.  Now, how does Satan know who has recently believed?  How does Satan know when a person has been converted?  How is he able to rush all around the earth with perfect knowledge of who is recently converted so he might torment them?  Does all of this not clearly require omniscience?

We are told that Satan knows everything.  Satan does know some things.  He knew of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of His elect through the sacrifice of His Son.  He knew of his own future.  He knew he would be thrown out of heaven for disobedience.  He knew the Son would come to “bruise his head”.  He knows that his future is the lake of fire.  Many of these things are revealed in Scripture and are knowable.  Nevertheless, how is it possible for the devil to know when and where I was going to repent?  How is it possible to know when and where I will be sure to fall into a particular temptation?  How is it possible for Satan to know who are elect and who are reprobate?  How is it possible for Satan to know anything about the secret decree of God?  From the way Evangelicals talk today it is necessary that we conclude that Satan knows these things because he is omniscient.

Technically it is not correct to say that Evangelicals believe that Satan is omnipotent.  It is not possible to have two omnipotent beings.  It is correct to say that Evangelicals are deists in that they speak as if God and Satan are two equal beings who are almost omnipotent.  There is plenty of heresy to go around.

If Satan has the ability to be everywhere at the same time and to know everything that is going on, then he is obviously omnipotent.  If he has access to the eternal secret decree of the Triune God and if he is able to thwart that decree (as is generally believed by Evangelicals, if they believe in the decree of God at all), then he must be omnipotent.  One of the characteristics of an omnipotent being is that it has the ability to put thoughts into the minds of less powerful created beings.  The entire doctrine of the eternal decree of God is predicated upon his directing the way of all mankind by means of His ability to put thoughts into the minds of men at the subconscious level.  Sadly, this power is also attributed to Satan.  Here is what Lloyd-Jones continues on to say in his exposition of Psalm 73:

At this point I would stress that to be tempted in that way is not sin.  We must be clear about this.  That such thoughts are put to us, and insinuated into our minds, does not mean that we are guilty of sin.  Here again is something which is of fundamental importance in the whole matter of spiritual warfare.  We must learn to draw a distinction between being tempted and sinning.  You cannot control the thoughts that are put into your mind by the devil.  He puts them there….The Lord Jesus Himself was tempted.  The devil put thoughts into His mind.  But He did not sin, because He rejected them.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones is a marvelous teacher who is correct 99% of the time but he is dead wrong here.  He not only asserts that the devil implants thoughts into the minds of man, he goes on to say that the devil had sufficient power and authority to implant thoughts into the mind of Jesus Himself.  That is impossible, unless he is omnipotent.  I have to believe that Dr. Lloyd-Jones was just being sloppy in his thinking here.  The ability to place a thought into the subconscious mind of a man or the Lord Jesus Himself requires omnipotence.  The Bible speaks frequently about how God implants his secret will into the minds of men.  Nehemiah 2:12 (in which Nehemiah is speaking of his own experience), says, “And I arose in the night, I and a few men with me.  I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem…”   Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”  Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord; and He delights in his way.”  Never is the ability to implant a thought into the mind of man attributed to Satan.   Nevertheless, many, if not most, Evangelicals today believe that Satan does just that with them on a regular basis.  Indeed, Satan has been elevated to the status of deity.  Does this make sense?

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