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Satan / The Devil Edit

"Satan" is a name that traditionally has been used to point to and personify the forces and dynamics in the Universe that lead to chaos, breakdown, violence, destruction, temptation, betrayal, and so forth. Today, however, almost no one uses words like "Satan" or "the devil" in a public gathering, unless it's a gathering of religious conservatives. This is unfortunate — though quite understandable, given centuries of horrific abuses justified by the use of demonic imagery and language. A disturbing fact of human history is that some of the greatest evils of all time have been perpetrated by those who were trying to rid the world of evil. One need only bring to mind Nazi Germany, the Inquisition, or the Cambodian Killing Fields to realize how tragically true this is.

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Because it has become fashionable to mock belief in a literal Satan, it's also easy to forget that what the word "Satan" points to is not something that can be believed in or disbelieved in. Rather, it is something that every human being — indeed, every living creature — experiences simply by virtue of being alive. "Shit happens," as they say. In a Universe where choice is an integral part of life — where real freedoms exist — deception, exploitation, betrayal, cruelty, manipulation, and similar "evils" also necessarily exist. Central to any meaningful understanding of the Gospel, however, is that this realm never claims the final word.

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When we look at "The Great Story" (the Universe Story, or Epic of Evolution) through sacred eyes, the violent, chaotic, destructive side of the Cosmos seems always to have been held within the larger arc of creative evolution. That is, God (or whatever name you want to give to Ultimate Reality) seems to delight in taking bad news and creating good out of it. Is this not the central message of the cross, as well as the book of Revelation? However successful Satan may at times appear to be, Christ always proves victorious. Good Friday is followed by Easter Sunday. Death and destruction are not the final word. Resurrection is.

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One of the most trustworthy patterns in life's 3.8 billion year history is this: bad news, chaos, and breakdowns consistently catalyze creativity and transformation. Those who suppose that it's merely a coincidence that this pattern so perfectly reflects the Gospel are missing much of what the Holy Spirit is up to today.

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A fundamental truth that previous generations could not have known is that reality is composed of nested "holons" — creative wholes that are part of larger creative wholes that are part of still larger wholes, like nesting dolls — subatomic particles within atoms within molecules within organisms within planets, and so forth. Everything is simultaneously a whole and a part — a holon. "God" is a sacred name for that Ultimate Creativity or Infinite Whole having no other whole of which it is part. "God" is a proper name for that all-embracing Reality which includes, yet transcends, every other level of reality.

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Another truth about the nature of reality that was first noticed a century ago but has only recently attracted wide acceptance is that there is a direction to divine/cosmic creativity. The Universe, expanding within the heart of God, is becoming more complex, self-aware, and capable of experiencing and expressing love over time. An arrow of progress has been moving through Creation since the beginning — albeit slowly for much of history and not without chaos and setbacks which, in fact, are major drivers of transformation. We can relate to this directional process as Creation itself maturing, as expressing greater cooperation, interdependence, and awareness at ever-increasing scale and evolvability. Humanity and our supportive technologies are now integral to this process.

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Satan can be present in anyone or anything, as Christ can be. If something or someone leads you away from serving the whole, Satan's influence is apparent. If something or someone leads you to honor and contribute to the wellbeing of the whole, Christ is "Lord" in that moment.

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"Demonic temptation" is anything that seeks to have us violate the integrity or disregard the wellbeing of the larger holons of which we are part or the smaller holons for which we are responsible. "Demonic possession" is a legitimate, traditional way to speak about someone who is seemingly compelled to act in such ways.

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Speaking traditionally, and spiritually, that which inspires a person, group, corporation, or nation-state to be a blessing to the present and the future is Christ. That which seduces a person, group, corporation, or nation-state to make something other than the good of the whole their ultimate concern or commitment is Satan.

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Because Satan can and does use the most gorgeous and alluring of disguises, humility and the support of others are essential ingredients for long-term integrity, sobriety, and faithfulness, as the 12-step recovery movement so effectively models.

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Where does Satan reside? In secrecy! Where does God reside? In openness! When we pursue in secret what we imagine will benefit us in the short run, but we know in our hearts will not benefit us or others in the long run, we flirt with the devil. When we pursue openly what we know in our hearts will benefit us and others in the long run, we commune with God.

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For those of us committed to co-creating a just, healthy, beautiful, sustainably lifegiving future, and doing so to the glory of God, how can we confront evil without becoming possessed by it in the process? This is precisely where Jesus' example and teachings model the way!

As Walter Wink shows in his excellent book, The Powers that Be, active nonviolent resistance (from a heart of love and passionate commitment to kingdom values) is Jesus' way to engage the as yet unredeemed social structures of the "Domination System" that control so much of the world today.

Resources Edit

"Let's Stop Trivializing God, the Universe, and Our Role in Evolution!" - foundational essay

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