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Asking the clergy: Does the devil exist?

Rabbi Ronald Brown, Temple Beth Am, Merrick:

Most people in my congregation, if you ask them about Satan, would have little knowledge of the subject. It is something that is not emphasized in Judaism. However, having said that, the character of Satan does appear in rabbinic literature. In the famous story of Abraham taking his son Isaac for the sacrifice, the akeda, the journey takes three days. During that period, the rabbis imagine that Satan appears to Abraham in the guise of an old man and says to Abraham, "Do you realize what you're about to do is tantamount to murder?" He also says, "You've waited until this advanced age to have a son, why would you risk losing a son now?" From this encounter, we can conclude that Satan represents the doubts that we have in life. In Judaism, Satan is not the traditional concept. What we see in the movies or literature doesn't exist. The rabbis posit that evil is not external, but within us. We have the choices between good and evil on a daily basis, but we choose to do wrong. The blame is not on an external force, but on ourselves.

 


Pastor Gary Stevens, New Beginnings Christian Center, Coram:

Absolutely yes, the existence of a devil or adversary of God and his people is evident around us every day. In John 10:10, (Jesus said identifying the difference between the nature of God and of the devil), "The thief comes not but to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and life more abundantly." From the beginning, this fallen angel of God has been lying, stealing and seeking to destroy God's people. He was the leading cherub of heaven, (Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14), but his heart was lifted up in pride and when he tried to revolt against God, he was cast out of heaven. Ever since, he has been oppressing, vexing, afflicting, putting sickness and heavy yokes upon people and then trying to convince them that it comes from a loving God. The late Oral Roberts said God is a good God and the devil is a bad devil (John 10:10). The reason we need to know our enemy is so we can identify him and defeat him with God's word. Let's give God the glory for being a great God.

 


The Rev. James Barnum, doctor of ministry, board-certified chaplain, pastor, Bellmore Presbyterian Church:

C.S. Lewis, that wonderful writer and apostle to the agnostic, was right to say we must not deny the existence of the devil on one extreme nor blame him for everything that happens on the other extreme. He also wisely said, "Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn, my God, do you learn." In the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti and all the misery associated with that, not only is there a devil, but, according to evangelist Pat Robertson, people are making pacts with him. Did you hear his statement recently: "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti. . . . They were under the heel of the French, uh, you know, Napoleon the III and whatever . . . and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you, if you get us free.' " If there ever is a devil, the devil will be found in such painful and hurtful statements made by people of faith trying to figure out why bad things happen in this world. It is never God's plan to do bad things to people, good or bad, because whether we like it or not, God loves all people. Judgment and justice will come, but I am afraid for most of us it will not be in our lifetime. The devil delights when God is blamed for bad things. But the God I worship is a God who is good; a God who wants good for all, despite what happens on and in the Earth. The God I worship has overcome the devil, and promises good to those who refuse to listen to the voice of the Evil One.


Pastor Al Warren, Long Island Alliance Church, Dix Hills:

The great Christian thinker C.S. Lewis said, "There are two opposite and opposing errors we can fall into about the devil. One is to disbelieve in his existence, and the other is to believe and have an excessive interest in him." You won't see his name printed in the headlines, but the evidence that he exists is around us. In the Gospels, Jesus confronted Satan and taught his disciples to be aware of his tactics. He described him as a murderer, liar, deceiver and thief (John 10:10). The devil tries to convince us to live independently of God. We are not to live in fear or ignorance of his ways. The scripture gives a simple yet powerful strategy in overcoming the devil and his work in our life, "Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Christ's victory over the devil can become the believer's victory.

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