Monday, March 5, 2012

Why Satan is more powerful than God: a brief (and hopefully) thoughtful critique

First, the (kinda cool) image:

I will be responding to each line. First, a summation.

There are numerous assumptions either hidden or shown via this picture. The classic "problem of evil," which cannot be dismissed these days, seems to be one such assumption. This is not a negation of the problem of evil, nor is it in anyway praising it. I realize and have struggled with the problem of evil in the past, though mostly due to not having a developed theodicy and simply not knowing how to respond to objections.

But, the issue is not about heaven or hell, or Satan being more powerful or intelligent. It seems to be far more indicative about the nature of God, and how this person sees him.

Line one:

I'm not certain I disagree. However, the verses cited in support do not necessarily support an eternal conscious existence. The verse cited in Romans specifically mentions death, not hell. Revelation is an ambiguous passage that simply states that there are people outside the gates -- gates that never shut. I'm currently reading a book by Brad Jersak called "Her Gates Never Shut" that explores the concept of Revelation and the 'gates that never shut.' More to come.

This does not necessarily support the idea of "hell" as "hell" or hades, is thrown into the lake of fire earlier in chapter 20. Which leaves it open for a possible discussion as to what happens. Many would disagree, but I think there is plenty of room for interpretation.

Line two:

There are MANY other verses that support the idea of God desiring/willing that all men would be saved. Arminians wouldn't disagree, nor would Calvinists (though they have a different take on the phrase "all men.")

I Timothy 2:4 speaks of God's desire to save all men/ Romans 11:32 speaks of having mercy upon all/ Lamentations 3:22 & 3:31-33 speak about God not rejecting forever and being bountiful in love/ The (almost annoying) cliche verse John 3:16.

I'm not certain much more needs to be said. Just that God's love is far greater than one verse. I'm also not convinced that this a secondary goal or desire of his, and indeed I would question the assumption that God's primary goal is to glorify himself. But that is a conversation for another time between friends (hopefully) over alcohol.

Line three:

Wikipedia is not a necessarily valid source of information. I prefer redditt. There are many books written about Biblical prophecy, and simply reading them for yourself is best.

In short, this line ought to be dismissed until actual evidence is offered.

Line four:

I would argue that there are some great reasons (somewhat controversial reasons) that support this claim. But, sure, I don't disagree about what Christ's death accomplished. I prefer the classical view of the atonement versus Penal Substitution, but I'm not interested in dying on any particular hills this evening.

Line five:

I'm not certain Luke 13 is necessarily a parable or not. Instead, it seems that again Jesus is drawing a specific parallel between the people who claimed his name and did not act according to his teachings and the people who acted in accordance with Christ. In fact, I think verse 30 (which was not cited) sums up the entire thrust of the section:

"Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

See the story of Jacob and Esau, as one the lesser will rule the former. And yet they were reconciled at a later time.

This fits perfectly with the parable about the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. It does not seem to speak specifically about eschatological judgment, or even "hell", but of right action inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is, of course, based on the brief memory of an F.F. Bruce commentary on the NT where I think he mentioned something along those lines. I could be mistaken, but it seems to make some sort of sense right now. If shown wrong, I'll re-write. We are very quick to jump upon any teaching about 'hell', but we're also very quick to miss the simplicity of many parables. I think this is a classic example.

So, indeed, v30 of Luke's gospel doesn't necessarily explain eschatological judgment, but provides us with what Christ preached about how we are to act now in accordance with his teachings. Reversalism seems to be the main thrust of the passage, and is amply supported by multiple other Scriptures.

Line six:

I think all Christians would dispute this. My analysis is very brief and simplistic, and I attempt no caricature.

Calvinists would say that God chose specific people in accordance with his purpose and for his glory. This includes only the elect. They would say that God only intended to save the remnant, and thus this satisfies his plan of which the elect are saved.

See John Piper, Wayne Grudem and Gordon Clark. 

Arminians would affirm that God loves everyone, but allows for human freedom and rejection. God does accomplish his plans, but human freedom trumps His ultimate desire for the salvation of all men. His plan to save all according to his foreknowledge, and the fact that all will eventually know of God, is complete. That some do not go to heaven is on the shoulders of those that refuse the free gift of grace, but God's plan on offering salvation is complete.

See Roger Olson, Jacob Arminius, Howard Marshall and Thomas Oden. 

Universalists (specifically Christian and exclusively through Jesus) affirm that God accomplishes his entire will, and that He factored human freedom into his sovereign will, or that through the unlimited election of all souls in compliance with the 4 other points of Calvinism, all shall be saved. This concludes the simple fact that He will save everyone in the end.

I think this option has a lot more weight than previously thought.

See Thomas Talbott, George MacDonald and Robin Parry.

All of the three systems triumphs over Satan, as Satan is genuinely defeated in the end -- either through imprisonment, ultimate death or reconciliation. The elect is saved. All of humanity is without excuse to reject God. All of humanity, regardless of Satan's attempts, will be saved.

Either way, the question is answered and the assertion is ultimately insufficient in it's overall critique.


For a different and more Reformed perspective, check out this link from my friend Brandon:


  1. yeah the twist is really in point 6, and it is presented in a way that most emotional ramblings are constructed - building on a few truths, and then twisting the last one, all the way building momentum.

    the feeble minded looks at it and says "ah, we got those christians now!"

    the discerning is able to spot where the truth is being twisted though...

  2. Yeah, when Christians have a decent theodicy as well as a grasp of Scripture, things get far more interesting.


  3. I think you could easily dismiss this illustration as a caricature of what Christians who hold to a traditional Western view of hell actually believe. After all, by pitting Satan against God, it's already falling into a dualistic view of the universe that has more in common with Manicheism or Zoroastrianism than Christianity.

    So while you could spend time refuting this note-for-note, I think it's more important to listen to the emotional subtext behind it. Whoever made this illustration is saying he's listening to what Christians are saying about salvation, hell, etc., and to him it doesn't make any sense. If God created a universe where the majority of the beings he created wind up separated from him in a state of eternal torment, what kind of God is he? To this person, that God sounds like a failure.

    Of course, this will prompt many Christians to put forward Scriptural or theological arguments in defense of God, arguing that God isn't the failure, we are b/c we're so sinful. But that still doesn't get God off the hook, b/c if he can create sinful people, he could just have easily created people who don't sin. To which evangelicals will often respond, yes, but if we don't have a choice between God and evil, how can it ever be said that we truly love him? Because love requires freedom. But then you're in a position where evil becomes a tool in the hands of God--a viable option that he actually needs in order to create free creatures. So if that's the case, it doesn't make much sense to punish evil or those who choose it as an option--seeing as God created it. It also tends to trivialize evil, b/c it becomes the price God is willing to pay to create free creatures. So those who suffer great evil are merely collateral damage in God's quest to create free creatures. (An idea I find highly offensive, btw).

    I could go on, but my point is, I think it's always a mistake to respond to an emotional argument with a rational argument. And hopefully what I've just written above is a good illustration of that.

  4. Hey Unknown. I agree, I could have completely dismissed it. However, I was more interested in seeing how I would answer these charges if asked directly. I think of it as a mental exercise.

    And I agree with you (again) on the topic of emotional subtext. I thought about writing another post specifically addressing this issue, but alas, time and a lack thereof.

    Thanks for the comment and your thoughts. ;)


    1. Hi Nick: "Unknown" is actually me, Kevin Miller from "Hellbound?" I tried signing in with my Google profile, and that's what it called me. At any rate, just wanted to ID myself and say I hear where you're coming from re: it being a mental exercise. I approached it in much the same way at first. But often that just leads to a conversation like we're having with Andrew over at my blog, where heaps of proof texts get shoveled back and forth.

    2. Hah. Hey Kevin. I wondered if it was Andrew for a minute. ;)

      Yeah, the more I tend to debate/discuss things with others, it often descends into a prooftext slap fight that doesn't seem to solve much. Once one settles down and actually begins to explore the personality and perspective from the other, often times magic happens.

      Essentially, we need to listen to each other. Let them speak, yell, and the like. And hopefully, they will let us do the same after the dust has settled.

      In short, I agree. ;)


  5. I'd say line 3 is a false assumption. God is a transcendent Being, the great "I Am". Time as we humans use the term is meaningless to Him. In this case "several thousand years" is a human construct, attempting to define the divine in human terms.

    1. Hey buzz. ;)

      I wouldn't disagree.