Satan—the Genius of Deception
How is his existence evident? What are his methods of deception?
A PRETENSE of nonexistence is the favorite cover of criminals. Behind its deceptive front organized crime is able to prey upon a community with little interference. Since criminals find this deceptive device so useful in their depredations, can we not suspect that Satan, the master criminal, would likewise use it? Pretending not to exist has been one of his most successful deceptions. Behind its screen he freely exerts his influence upon human affairs. But the modern world goes blindly on, contending; that he is nothing more than a carry-over from the superstitious past. In its imagined wisdom it relegates him to mankind’s cluttered closet of myths and legends.
Among the most ardent proclaimers of his nonexistence have been many clergy men who have argued that he is nothing more than the evil within man. The well-known German theologian, Friedrich Schleiermacher, claimed: “The problem remains to seek evil rather in self than in Satan.” H. L. Martensen, theologian, declared: “The evil principle has in itself no personality.” The theology of Albrecht Ritschl completely discards belief in the Devil. Recently, clergyman Gene E. Clark of the Church of Religious Science ridiculed Satan’s existence, claiming that “the only adversary there actually is can be found within ourselves.” Expressing this popular view, The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition, states: “It may be confidently affirmed that belief in Satan is not now generally regarded as an essential article of the Christian faith, nor is it found to be an indispensable element of Christian experience.”
This attitude may seem reasonable and sound to this sophisticated world, but it is a dangerous one. It disarms and creates a false sense of security. It lays the public wide open for assault and manipulation by that prince of wickedness. It makes them easy prey to his deceptions. Note what the book Satan, published by Sheed and Ward, says about this: “The devil’s triumph lies in eluding the direct grasp of man. He is ambiguity incarnate; we never know which mask it is that hides him. . . . It is dangerous not to believe enough in the devil; for to imagine that he does not exist is to do his own work for him. . . . It is no part of wisdom to underestimate an enemy. It is stupidity to cultivate an ignorance of the enemy to the point of blindness to his existence, for in such blindness it is impossible to face an enemy, let alone hold him at bay or conquer him.”
A REAL PERSONALITY
Despite Satan’s efforts to camouflage his existence, he is clearly exposed in the written Word of God. The fact that it speaks about some angels going bad and about “wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places” gives substantial reason for concluding that Satan has personality and is not an abstraction called evil. (Eph. 6:12) Peter identifies these wicked spirit forces as “angels that sinned.” (2 Pet. 2:4) Their activities are evident in the strange doings of spiritism.
When Jesus spoke about Satan, he did not use words that suggested that he was talking about the principle of evil, but his words reveal that he was referring to an evil personality who is “the ruler of the demons.” (Matt. 12:24) He said: “That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) Jesus is clearly speaking here of a personality who had once served God, standing fast in the truth. That cannot be said of the abstract principle of evil. When did it ever “stand fast in the truth”?
Like a hungry lion on the loose that lurks out of sight in tall jungle grass waiting to devour someone, Satan prowls about seeking to bring the unwary under his domination and to swallow him in his vast organization. “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” (1 Pet. 5:8) Those who foolishly persuade themselves that no such enemy exists are easily led into a position of opposition to Jehovah, the Supreme Sovereign.
METHODS OF OPERATION
Being a superhuman intelligence, Satan is a formidable enemy who can, with ease, outmaneuver the cleverest human mind. His deceptive devices show no lack of imagination. They are many and greatly varied. Some are so subtle that a person’s thinking can be cleverly twisted to justify as right things he ordinarily knows are wrong. Without realizing it he can be led into serving Satan.
The torturing and killing of devout people who differ with popular religious opinions is obviously wrong, but a great many people, from the time of the first century Roman persecution to the Nazi and Communist inquisitions of our day, have justified it as right. Devilish reasoning has warped their thinking.
It has been Satan’s purpose from the time of his rebellion to turn men away from the loving Creator and to oppose and slander him. Since his wicked interests are served by the persecuting and killing of God’s servants, he would be the cause for men’s thinking to be warped into justifying crimes against them. Jesus foretold this when he said: “The hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God.”—John 16:2.
The pages of history have been drenched with innocent blood shed by religious zealots whose thinking had been warped by Satan through false religious systems. Their hearts were hardened to the screams of the men, women and children they tore apart in their fiendish torture chambers or roasted to death on stakes. All this and more they did in the name of God. What monstrous crimes to associate with God! What reproach their actions brought to his name! Who else but Satan would originate the idea that this does service to God? They unknowingly served Satan’s interests well.
By clever deceptions Satan has succeeded in using as his ministers men who thought themselves servants of God and who outwardly appeared to be men of righteousness. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness.”—2 Cor. 11:13-15.
As a false angel of enlightenment, Satan has encouraged the cultivation of philosophies and theories that champion his efforts to slander the Supreme Sovereign. Permeating them is the thought that there is no God. So often has this atheistic lie been repeated and insinuated that the thinking of a large percentage of mankind has been swayed by it. It is evident in the thinking that claims man to be the evolutionary result of an accident. Because this idea has been artfully surrounded with an aura of respectability through association with science, it is commonly referred to as if it were a proved fact rather than an unproved theory. Its obvious intent is to eliminate from human thinking the need for the Creator. This fits in well with Satan’s purpose of turning men away from God.
With good reason the Bible warns: “Look out: perhaps there may be some man that will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8) Worldly wisdom is not trustworthy. It must be sifted with care and with alertness for Satan’s cunning deceptions.
Man’s love for freedom has not escaped from becoming a tool in the hands of Satan. He has used it to persuade humans to violate divine laws and to rebel against Jehovah. When the great deceiver spoke to Eve through a serpent, he deluded her into imagining that she would have greater freedom by violating a law of God. “You are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad,” he told her. (Gen. 3:5) She was deceived. Instead of independence from God, she found enslavement and death.
Satan uses the same device today. By subtle means he influences worldly thinking to make independence from divine laws appear as a desirable thing. God’s laws are slyly ridiculed as being restrictive to freedom, burdensome and outdated. Worldly thinking minimizes and frequently justifies the wrongness of immoral acts that are forbidden by God. Drugs are even marketed to help remove guilt feelings from such acts. Through worldly thinking Satan stimulates the rebellious idea of breaking free from God’s standards of morality and judging for oneself what is good and bad. It is the same old lie told Eve but presented in a less conspicuous manner. This devilish quest to be free from God’s laws so as to think and act as one pleases has not brought to man a better world.
Even the field of entertainment is colored with this idea of breaking free from the restraints of God’s moral laws. Dramatic themes are predominantly on what is immoral, criminal and violent. The effect they have on one’s thinking should not be discounted. Recently a research team from the Stanford University Institute for Communication Research remarked about TV entertainment: “Hour after hour this parade of violence passed, as it must pass before our children week after week, and the amount and intensity of it gives one pause.” It should give one pause to think about the deleterious effect it can have on children as well as on adults. Care should be exercised in the selection of entertainment so that insidious ideas that are destructive to respect for divine laws cannot have opportunity to be pounded by repetition into sensitive minds. Be alert to recognize entertainment that reflects the influence of Satan’s twisted thinking.
How Satan’s evil thinking can permeate human reasoning on a national scale is seen in man’s willingness to justify the incinerating of whole cities in the name of war. After remarking that the human race is “predominantly insane,” Dr. Hugh Keenleyside, former Canadian diplomat, said: “We can accept without a qualm the idea of incinerating hundreds of thousands or millions of women and children whom under normal conditions we should be glad to cherish, and in whom we should find gentleness and delight. . . . Being insane, we have devised political and economic and religious reasons to justify burning them to death.” Similar devilish reasoning twisted the thinking of the Nazis to justify their infamous extermination camps.
The sinister power that is twisting the thinking of the nations to devise an atomic holocaust for one another is not interested in the welfare of mankind. “We have listened to the wisdom of the serpent,” says the New York Times. “We have brought Promethean fire down from heaven. But the fire consumes us rather than warms us.” Satan is determined to continue ruling or else to ruin mankind, and he uses nationalism to suit his nefarious ends. The Scriptures truthfully state: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—1 John 5:19.
Since Satan’s deceptions are so clever and convincing that they almost mislead “the chosen ones” of God, you cannot afford to be careless or indifferent to them. (Matt. 24:24) You need safeguards. Two of the best safeguards are recognition of Satan’s existence and knowledge of God’s ways and principles. Recognition of Satan’s existence is essential to successful resistance to his bad influence on your thinking, and knowledge of God’s ways and principles is vital to detecting that influence. Whatever has Satan’s thinking in back of it will be out of harmony with God’s ways and principles.
Love for righteousness, faith in God’s Word and trust in him for salvation can serve as protective armor against the clever wiles of Satan. “Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” (Eph. 6:11) Be wary of worldly thinking and its trend to justify what is wrong in the eyes of God. Do not underestimate Satan’s power and ability. Be alert! Be watchful! Resist Satan’s efforts to mold your thinking and to seduce you with his craftiness.—2 Cor. 11:3.