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Religion Library: Protestantism

Ultimate Reality and Divine Beings

Written by: Ted Vial

Since the Enlightenment in the 18th century, some Protestants have rejected the idea that Jesus is God, and some have rejected the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement. Unitarians, for example, conclude that both make no sense. They, along with some liberal Protestants from other denominations, tend to see Jesus solely as an emissary from God, a human model of sacrifice and service, and the most effective teacher on morality.

Protestants have traditionally believed in the existence of a devil, not as a metaphor for evil but as an actual being who, in conjunction with his emissaries—demons or dark angels—deceives humans and tempts them into sin. The fall of Lucifer, Satan, preceded the fall of humans. When he refused to submit to God's authority, he was cast out of heaven, where he continually tries to thwart God's purposes by creating chaos and tempting humans away from God. Protestants believe that even these attempts to obstruct God's will are in fact used by God to further God's plans, and at the end of history Satan will be defeated. Similarly, angels are beings sent by God to do God's work, to protect humans, and to counteract the activities of the devil. All of these—devil, demons, angels—are created beings, not divine beings, and have their existence in God's purposes.

Today, many Protestants retain traditional beliefs in the devil and in angels. For others, angels seem either uncomfortably pre-modern, or simply have no relevance to their belief system, and the devil is a only symbol of evil. Surveys show that increasing numbers believe in angels (and heaven) but reject belief in the devil (and hell).

Study Questions:
1.     How is the Trinity central to Protestant traditions?
2.     How do different Protestants define divine sovereignty?
3.     According to Protestants, what is the nature of Jesus Christ and why is it important?
4.     Do Protestants believe in divine beings other than God? Explain.


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