God of the dark and light

Do you think Christianity teaches two opposite and equal deities?

A word from Isaiah:

I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things.

Where does Satan fit then?

9 thoughts on “God of the dark and light

  1. Arnau van Wyngaard says:

    Matt, I’m not always sure what people are trying to get at when saying something like this. Are they trying to say that there definitely is no Satan? It is true that Satan actually plays a very small role in the Old Testament, except for a bit in Zachariah and then of course in Job, and in both cases Satan seems to be shown as a fairly innocent although mischievous rascal. But 400 years later, when Jesus is born, He shows us a totally new side of Satan and the way that Jesus refers to him, he is anything but innocent. He is called the father of the lie, the one who wants to rob Jesus of the kingdom, someone who is able to possess a person in such a way that only Jesus can release that person again. And in Revelation it is clear, especially when reading from chapter 12 onwards, that the struggle of the church on earth is actually a result of a war between Jesus and Satan.
    I’m not saying that we need to fear Satan or that we need to find him behind every stone (no pun intended). But I do think that we need to acknowledge that there is a distinct development in the way in which the authors of Scripture understood the reality of Satan, more especially after Jesus revealed to his followers who Satan really is. Perhaps I misunderstood you, but I find it more and more that Christians say that Satan is just something made up in the minds of some feeble people who had no understanding of science, etc.
    For people like myself who is full time involved in missions in Africa (and the same is true for missionaries in Asia, South America, etc) there is no doubt that Satan is a reality – not someone to fear, but someone who exists and who has as his primary goal to break down the kingdom of God.
    Satan is definitely not an equal but opposite power to God. Colosians 2 clearly shows how Satan was defeated and humiliated when Jesus was crucified. But that does not mean that he still desires to oppose God in whatever way he can.

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  2. Jarred says:

    I don’t know. I can’t say as I have much “use” for Satan, myself. 😉
    Though I will admit that the passage you quote above tends to make me think about questions relating to theodicy rather than what place there is for Satan in Christian theology.

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  3. Matt Stone says:

    Jarred, well, the problem of evil (theodicy) and the problem of the evil one (Satan) aren’t exactly unrelated in Christian teaching. Though the former is the broader topic, I find people’s position on the latter can be very enlightening.
    For instance, the Satan that I find many Pagans renouncing is more Zoroastrian than Christian, a Satan who is very difficult to reconcile with the above scriptural teaching. So I dind your own response curiously consistant with this. Thoughts?

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  4. Jarred says:

    On the rejection of Satan, I reject the notion of a great evil being on par — or even close enough to on par as to make such a comparison — with God. So in that sense, you’re right.
    I also have an issue with Satan in that I think too many people tend to attribute all the ills of the world to him. Quite frankly, I think we humans are capable of doing selfish and vile things without some spiritual being’s help. (Granted, I also believe we’re capable of doing noble and virtuous things without a spiritual being’s help. But that’s probably another topic.)
    Where I do part ways with some Pagans is that I do believe there are spiritual beings that are either (1) directly hostile to us or (2) simply not healthy for human beings to be around. The latter kind are kinda like active volcanoes. An active volcano is not evil per se, but it’s still in my best interest to keep a respectable and safe distance.

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  5. Jarred says:

    Which brings me to the broader question. Bear with me, as it’s late at night and I’m still trying to work this out all in my head.
    Are natural disasters really evil?
    From my own perspective, I’m inclined to say no. A tsunami or an active volcano is a force of nature. It’s a powerful force of nature that does all kinds of destructive things, and it’ll plow over any human being.
    But I’m just not convinced that’s really evil. Sure it’s unpleasant to humans, but that’s a rather anthropocentric viewpoint. And maybe the entire world or universe isn’t always about us.
    And of course, there’s the whole idea that destruction paves the way for creation and rejuvenation, so such forces of nature aren’t all bad to begin with. Just for those unfortunate enough to be in the path. But that also assumes that death is an inherently bad thing, which I’m also inclined to question, being all Pagan and all.
    So I admit myself wondering when God says he creates disaster, does that mean that even in Christianity a disaster is inherently evil? Unpleasant, sure. But evil? I don’t know. I’ll leave that to you.
    Of course, I think that one of the reasons that this is so hard to deal with in Christianity is because suffering and death are seen as something to be conquered, as something brought about due to sin. But how does that jive with a God who admits to authoring such disasters? Him punishing people for their sin? The first problem I see with that is that it’s an idea that Jesus himself rejected when his disciples asked him whose sin caused the blind man to be blind. Jesus said it was due to no sin, but that God may be glorified. (That statement in itself strikes me as a bit of a mystery. Surely God doesn’t go around causing pain and suffering just so He can show off how great he is by alleviating it, does he? So what did Jesus mean by that statement?)
    Anyway I’m rambling. I hope you can make some sense out of it. If nothing else, it should give us something to discuss further, I hope. 😉

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  6. Kalessin says:

    I was reading the fragments of Philo’s “On Providence” yesterday. Philo was an Alexandrian Jew with a heavy Platonist streak, a contemporary of Jesus and Paul.
    I found it curious that the formation of human character, for him, almost completely forestalled the question of natural evil. Natural hardship engenders courage, resilience, persistence, and so on. The End, more or less.
    It certainly highlights how personal formation is so little a part of modern philosophy (where theodicy is usually discussed), while for virtually everyone before the last century it was closely symbiotic with rationality.
    There’s probably a deistic shift behind that somewhere: the idea that God’s “job” is to make a perfect world, rather than that he employs the world to make us perfect.

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  7. Bec says:

    Matt, thanks for this – anthropologists working in my field make a lot of the dualism of Christianity (which is inherent, if you take them at their word. Then again, apparently “Christianity” and “Catholicism” are the same thing too).
    JarredH, I found your comments on disaster really interesting. Natural disasters are actually one of my areas of research, and amongst researchers and practitioners (ie. in aid and development agencies), the distinction between a ‘hazard’ and a ‘disaster’ is basically uncontested these days. The idea being, of course, that there might be natural hazards, but it’s context that makes those hazards ‘a disaster’ (ie. a flood in a rice paddy is not a disaster). In other words, it’s acknowledged that human’s don’t need Satan to create a disaster, they’re perfectly capable of creating such circumstances themselves.
    Interestingly, the academic that was instrumental in developing this view of disasters, Gilbert F. White, was a Quaker…given that his faith influenced things as mundane as his view of appropriate meeting procedure, I’m sure that it was instrumental in his view of what makes a hazard a disaster.

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