Satan is real, he is active, and he must be opposed. Christianity suggests this is true and human experience fits that suggestion. Men like Rasputin have a diabolical charm, able to deceive even decent people. I have known men like he was. The vessels change, but the devils do not.
Having seen events that looked demonic to me, I face this challenge from my skeptical interlocutor M*:
32. With any examples that you may have given, can you tell me what methodology one should use to make sure that it’s Satan doing such things and not the result of something else happening?
I am unsure why such a methodology is needed. If Christianity is true, devils do things. I am not a Christian because devils act, but I act against devils because I am a Christian.
If a man decides that the diabolical is involved, and he happens to be wrong, what is the harm? Satan is not like God.
We cannot use human reason to be sure Satan exists because Satan is not necessary. God created angels and some chose to disobey. These devils could have chosen differently. God didn’t have to create them.
Prayers against the demonic – why not?
This is not so different from my knowledge of M*. He has written me several times and I work on the hypothesis M* is real and is who he says he is. It is perfectly possible that a friend is pranking me by sending me all these questions.
After all, at one time a friend decided to sign me up for every piece of college junk mail he could find as “Nicodemus Opey.” I received mail from colleges for years saying: “Nicodemus- your college test scores and life say you are a special person.” We got mail for the fictitious Mr. Opey (in many variations including Oprah, Opera, and Ophir) for years.
Suppose I know a person who seems uniquely oppressed by evil thoughts, temptations, or self-loathing. I will often pray: “The Lord rebuke you” to the devils that might be playing on his problems.
I don’t use that as an excuse to avoid medical care or professional counseling. Why would I do that?
When other people have prayed this way for me, the permanent relief is real. Perhaps if a scientist could investigate why and we will discover that this is all perfectly natural, but until then I suggest there is no harm in prayer against devils.
This advice comes with a warning.
Devils would like nothing more than to be the center of our attention. I have known a few people who blamed everything on devils. I am overweight at the moment. This is not due to demons but to my habit of eating too much. There is no reason to think the forces of darkness cause my particular problem!
On the other hand, sometimes I have felt a particular sense of oppression, based on nothing external, have asked Mom and Dad or my pastor for prayer, and have felt that sense lift from my life.
I am not saying this proves there are devils. Why would I wish to prove there are devils? Perhaps I might rebuke a devil when no devil is there. If no relief follows, then I will try other explanations. No harm, no foul spirit!
Instead, relief comes and I am happier. That relief is evidence enough for a rational man using the tools he has to achieve human flourishing.
Doctors? Bring them on! Therapists? Please! Exorcists? Amen!——————
*M is a non-Christian that sent me 55 questions earlier this year. He has asked that I not reveal his or her name. I will write as if “he” is a male, but this is for convenience. I do not know if I will get to all his questions. I try to limit my answers to hundreds and not thousands of words. Here are questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 44, 46, 47, 49, 51, 52, 53, 54, and 55.
Rachel Motte edited this essay.