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“One Must Never Converse with Satan”

I don’t talk about the devil nearly enough for some Christians. In some churchy circles, one often hears prayers and conversations littered with all manner of wild spiritual warfare language that makes me squirm with discomfort. What are we talking, like horns and pitchforks and fiery barbecues? Frank Peretti and Tim LaHaye novels? None of it resonates with me.

Truth be told, I often find it all rather silly and embarrassingly anthropomorphic. At best, all this Satan talk is metaphorical, right? The eighteenth century mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace was once queried about why he hadn’t mentioned God in his discourse on the orbit of the planets. He famously replied, “I had no need of that hypothesis.” I suppose I often implicitly offer a similar response when it comes to the devil: “I have no need of that hypothesis.”

Alternatively, when we wander away from churchy circles, talk of the devil is often the province of silly caricatures. The devil is kind of conceived of as the dirty, fun-loving uncle who lets you get away with all the stuff that a stiff and stodgy do-gooding God would prefer you avoid. Who wants to go to heaven where all the prudes hang out? The good time is to be had down below. The devil just wants you to have a bit of fun! Like in a song by the Counting Crows called “Friend of the Devil” that came up on the playlist while I was writing this post:

You can borrow from the devil
You can borrow from a friend
The devil’ll loan ya twenty
But your friend got only ten

The devil will spot you what you need for the party. He won’t tell. He’s where the action is. Wink, wink. Whether it’s super-zealous religious types who see a literal devil behind every obstacle in life or more secular folks for whom the devil represents little more than a dalliance or two with the shadowy back alleys of life, neither seems particularly persuasive or compelling to me.

But perhaps my reticence is misplaced. Jesus certainly seemed to believe in the devil and a demonic realm. It’s tough—really tough—to read the devil out of the gospels, hard as we might try (and I have, believe me). And, well, it’s probably not advisable to locate yourself on the opposite side of Jesus when it comes to matters of theology.

And Jesus has company. Pope Francis also seems to think of Satan pretty literally:

“He is evil, he’s not like mist. He’s not a diffuse thing, he is a person. One must never converse with Satan—if you do that, you’ll be lost,” he told TV2000, a Catholic channel. “He’s more intelligent than us. He always pretends to be polite, that’s how he enters your mind, but it ends badly if you don’t realize what is happening in time. (We should tell him) go away!”

This is a proclamation that I suspect will not make him as popular as some of his other ones. Doesn’t Francis realize that statements like this won’t win him any points with the smart people? What’s he thinking? Sheesh.

But perhaps we rush to judgment when it comes to the (non)existence of the devil. How else, after all, to account for the horrors that our world has seen? I don’t really have to enumerate, do I? I suspect we all walk around with a kind of shorthand list of atrocities that we have heard or read about or seen or witnessed or experienced that makes us shudder down to our bones. The appalling violence and cruelty that our planet has seen, continues to see… Sometimes it beggars belief. Is it so far fetched to imagine a malevolent agent or force at work in the world? Human beings are selfish and stupid and capable of all kinds of mischief, to be sure, but perhaps we’re only capable of so much on our own. To reach escape velocity evil, maybe we need “help” from an outside source? I don’t know.

Or, perhaps we could get a bit more uncomfortably personal. It’s natural enough to rummage around in our brains for the evilest evil we can imagine and then pin that on the devil. But if the biblical account of human origins is in any sense to be believed, the devil’s original temptation wasn’t to lure the first humans straight into to the grimiest depths of depravity. It was a bit subtler than that. It was more like a whispered, Did God really say… ? You can be like God! The original sin was for human beings to arrogate to themselves the place that God alone should occupy. And this has remained the devil’s most basic and least challenging task since—to relentlessly drive us inward, to self, where God would direct us outward in love.

I honestly still struggle to conceive of the devil as a literal, personal agent of evil. But maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I have more need of this hypothesis than I think. Maybe instead of speculating about the plausibility of the devil’s existence I should expend more energy in avoiding conversation with him, as Pope Francis says. Or to more determinedly resist him that I might watch him flee.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. nomad #

    A very important and serious reflection,Ryan.
    I’ve come to realize that an understanding of the god of this world/Satan and the scope of his influence must literally come to each of us individually by way of revelation knowledge. Once the eyes of our understanding have been “opened”, we can never view this World in the same way as before. It’s very very disturbing when we can actually perceive the unseen dimension from where the Powers of Darkness operate upon this World-the seen dimension. There is so much one could say here but I’m afraid it would fall on deaf ears. Let no one be deceived by the comical drama that we often see exhibited by certain sects within Christendom, it wasn’t the devil that made you drink that second Latte…..

    December 15, 2017
    • nomad #

      “…but i’m afraid it would fall on deaf ears.” ….I’m sorry and I apologize for the condescending tone of this statement. My self righteous arrogance once again raises it’s ugly head.

      December 16, 2017
    • No problem at all, nomad. I appreciate your comment here.

      December 16, 2017
  2. Hi Ryan, thanks for your article. I just lately recognized I’m in a dilemma. I sympatize (my english isn’t that perfect…don’t know the correct word 😉 ) with the ungundamentalistic theology and appreciate new interpretations etc. But when it comes to satan, I often disagree. It would be very nice, if he didn’t exist. It would be so much better…^^ I understand your view and similar views of other brothers an sisters. Since several years I have counseled (?) christians, who had survived abuse since being born. Abuse in occult rites of covens. In Germany we call it ritual abuse. The last two years I helped a 22 year old woman, who was still involved in ritual abuse. Being abused herself since womb, her familiy is a very important one in high satanistic circles worldwide. After everycounselling date she drove home, only to be punished in her own flat by the people of the coven, Being raped, programmed (she had many personalities…), tortured… everytime risking, she would be killed. Until we decided to give her a room at our house. When she lived here, we didn’t just have demonic appearances, an witnessed demonic attacks she had, and that we have been controlled by people oft the cult… we heard much of the wicked stuff she learned sonce childhood. It’s not “only” the abuse and wickedness of human beings, which shr endured. She told many things of being sacrificed (by rape and torture) for certain demons and satan himself. Deliverance took place and there has been everything from “nothing happened bit she was free” until: “disturbing Things happened during our prayers. Satan is real. Everyone who talks with survivors of this shit will know about this. I hope, my text and my cocern are understandable. It’s difficult to describe all this stuff in english. Sorry for incorrect expressions 😉 Greetings from the most northern city in Germany, Bettina

    December 20, 2017
    • Hi Bettina, thank you for sharing here. I very much appreciate hearing of your experiences and the light that they shed upon this topic. It’s good for those of us who are not familiar with such encounters with the evil you have witnessed firsthand to hear from outside of our bubbles!

      Your stories here make the soul shudder. I can’t even imagine what you have witnessed. I have never encountered such things. Like Paul below, I pray that God would continue to give you strength and peace and wisdom as you do battle with this grave evil. I am grateful for people like you in the global church to bring the light of Christ into the heart of darkness.

      December 20, 2017
      • Hi Ryan, thanks for your frienly answer. I think most of us christians (or human beings) live in a bubble, different bubbles. In concern of the things described above, I’ve been there, too. Through counselling, I’ve learned a lot of demonic boundaries, which can (not must) be cause of psychologic problems. It’s very astonoshing, when you talked about some problems months or years and nothing is getting better …and then pray and send spirits away…and fears or ticks etc suddenly are gone. Of course, there are enough problems which have other (human) causes. – In reference to the satanic circles I described above – many bubbles I had, burst in the last years. The persons, who are in this stuff aren’t some freaks, wearing black cowls/frocks and hanging around on cemeteries and so on. High Satanists often are very sophisticated persons with good jobs. Some are very wealthy or well known and respected persons. Some are neighbours, or the parents of the schoolfriend of our children … some are in church. Being engaged in counselling survivors and dropouts changed my worldview. Satanists believe that Satan is real. They make deals with him, and gain power through these deals at high personal cost. Survivors describe rituals and the supernatural and weird occurances they have witnessed. And no, not everything is a trick in order to impress victims. Survivors have been forced to do rituals themselves and they describe being possessed by demons through these things. The 22 year old lady, who’s a good friend by now, told me, that she’s been educated and accompanied by a demon who came by occult rituals and remained until we prayed and sent him away. And this one was just one of many. Satanists take satan for real – they rejoice when we don’t. We should know that he’s real… but Jesus is mightier and we as his children can send them away just by simple (some times very short and ordinary ones) prayers and commands. These are good news, I think 🙂 Greetings from Flensburg

        December 21, 2017
  3. Paul Johnston #

    Thank you for your comment, Raus.

    I am very close to several people who are engaged in, “inner healing” a cathlolic charismatic term for deliverence.

    Having occasionally been present in silent prayer during deliverence I too can attest to inexplicable physical occurrences and a sense of dread, a coldness and fear enveloping an entire room. As if death were present among us.

    I am convinced evil is cosmic and that far from being imaginary, Satan as personified by the church barely scratches the surface of evil’s reality.

    May God continue to bless and strengthen you. Your ministry is crucial for the salvation of many.

    December 20, 2017
  4. Hi Paul, yes – being involved in inner healing, one get to know these forces. And how to fight them 🙂 Thanks for your friendly words. In counselling and helping the young lady out of these circles, I literally helped to save many… she has had 2000 or more inner personalities. We often make jokes about this, saying I-m a mega-evangelist (that’s not my gift…) 🙂 I like it, that we share these things in the different denominations. I’m a baptist and a Priest oft the catholic church in our town is a good friend, sometimes we pray together, sometimes we meet for a good beer 😉 Be blessed in your ministry, too! It’s so important.

    December 21, 2017
  5. nomad #

    I once attended a mass exorcism conducted by the late renowned charismatic demonologist Derek Prince. After a short briefing, we were instructed to start coughing into the napkins
    they provided until the demon(s) was coughed-up,all-the-while someone was shouting “come out of them in the name of Jesus”. It was a profound psychological experience witnessing the ensuing drama that transpired and one I will never forget. This was at the beginning of when the teaching of casting out your personal demons began to take root and become popular among Charismatics. It’s interesting to note the huge differences of methods utilized between the Catholic exorcists and Protestant. Curiously,I’ve never once read or heard mention of an Orthodox exorcism, though I did read of how some of their saints literally physically “wrestled” with their demons while living in seclusion.

    December 21, 2017
    • Hi nomad, me again… 😉 Yes, I understand your feelings. Often it’s a little bit weird and oversized, when it comes to deliverance. Sometimes we have to work in behave of our character (? correct expression?) or our habits. In these cases coughing or shouting at demons etc will not help. And one ends up with the question: Did we do it “right” or is everything about this not real? It’s a balance act (I suspect this is perhaps denglish: german expression translated to english…?) to take the existance of satan and his servants (demons, spirits) serious, but also not to oversize the topic. I never visited a mass exorcism. I’m too baptist for this, I think. I learned about deliverance from an old lady (now, she’s in heaven, I’m sure), who was professional counsellour and had to do with so much persons of all backgrounds. With persons who had been in esoterics and also with ritual abuse survivors. She once served me. I studied theology at our seminary, it’s long ago. In this time I became aware, that I knew, who would die next… (Oh my english…) And I was frightened and depressed, because this knowledge was not good knowledge. Not at all similar to prophetic knowing. I never did something occult in my life. I’ve been raised in a brethren church in Germany. I never was allowed to got to service in trousers, or to go to school parties and so on. Why did I have this knowledge? I heard about this lady, Gerda, and I made a date with her.After we talked perhaps about two hours, we began to pray. She did not shout. I did not cough. Nothing like this. She asked me, if I would be freed from the “Third eye” and the “second Face” (don’t know, what this is in english), and not knowing, why I have had these things, but knowing I had them, I said Yes and gave it to Jesus. She sent the spirits behind this stuff away. Everything was very quiet and nothing was frightening. After the prayer, there was no sign, that I have been set free. But when I left her house and drove home with the train, I looked out of the window and I saw colours, like I would see them first time. The green was greener, blue and yellow (it was may, springtime in Germany)were more intensive than normal.Depression was gone. Many persons talked to me, while I travelled (not normal, I had been very shy) and I could make small talk easily. My husband witnesses I changed, had more freedom. And… I had no more preknowledge (?) about who was dying next time. Instead there was growing something prophetic, which is totally different. When I do deliverance today, it’s often the same. No shouting, no pressure. Some words. Most of the time,nothing extraordinary happens (no coughing 😉 ), but the person is free. In very few cases there is something disturbing happening. But that’s the exception (and normally only with persons who had been deep into the occult or satanism). And I think one to one deliverance is more personal and effective. Greetings!

      December 22, 2017
      • nomad #

        Guten Tag,heir fraulein.
        Thank you for providing more details of your experience. I am curious to know by what Authority does Gerda cast out demons?
        (Acts:19:13-20)

        December 22, 2017
      • heir fraulein 😉 thats amazing, perhaps just as amazing as some of my writings in english 😀
        I don’t know how to take your comment. It sounds, as there’s something said between the lines. T answer your question directly: I’m sure she did (she died ) cast out demons in the name and authority of Jesus. Same way as I do. Tatally the other way than mentioned in Acts 19. Did you mention it to say Gerda did it by occult powers? – Casting out demons is getting rid of occult powers. Be blessed

        December 22, 2017
      • nomad #

        Sorry. The terminology you used to describe your experience with Gerda sounded as if she was an esoteric mystic. I’ve never heard “Third eye and Second face” used in western christian circles. I apologize for my ignorance of European culture.

        December 22, 2017
      • It’s ok. It is difficult for me to describe these things in another language. Misunderstandings may be expected… It would be easier to talk and see the face and body language with the dialog partner. Written stuff is misunderstandable. Different cultures can cause misunderstandings and my english perhaps is very talented to provoke misunderstandings !^^ What Gerda did was defining the problem I had. I knew in advance who would die. And then he/she died. That was frightening me and I wanted to get rid of it. So I spoke to her, and she asked me, if I wanted to get rid of the second face (don’t know if this term exists in english) and the third eye, which both she knew, were occult (right expression?) powers. And then she broke (we use this term in german) these powers and sent the spirits behind these powers away. I hope this is understandable now. I didn’t know, christiansin the US don’t use these terms. We call these things as they are called in occult circles… but we don’t appreciate them.

        December 22, 2017

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