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Did God allow Satan to have dominion?

Postby Regnus Numis » Thu Oct 26, 2017 3:29 pm

Since Satan wanted to become God, did God allow Satan to obtain dominion over the Earth to expose him as an imperfect ruler? Did Satan rebel solely out of a personal desire for glory, or is it because Satan had a different plan for how creation should be ruled? If the latter, then what was Satan's ideology? And did God allow Satan to rule the Earth in order to prove his ideology wrong? Could spiritual warfare actually be a political conflict between God and Satan? And what is Satan's purpose for invoking evil and suffering? Or, if Satan simply wanted to become God, is evil and suffering a direct result of Satan's inability to replicate paradise after God handed him dominion over the Earth?
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Re: Did God allow Satan to have dominion?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Oct 26, 2017 4:05 pm

Well, some of your initial premises have been called into question recently, and it affects your case and some of your question.

> Since Satan wanted to become God...

This is the first questionable statement. This specifically comes from an old traditional interpretation of Isaiah 14.12-14, to which most biblical scholars and pastors no longer subscribe. It's a prophecy about the king of Tyre, which most biblical scholars now think pertains to—you guessed it—the king of Tyre. Throughout most of church history, these verses have been applied to Satan, but there is much opposition to this interpretation. Since applying the verses to Satan doesn't seem to fit with the author's intention or context, we would be hard pressed to sustain the suggestion that the passage refers to Satan. In other words, it's probably not true (and certainly cannot be confirmed) that Satan wanted to become God.

We are never told anything about the origin of Satan or how he got to be the way he is. Since God created everything good (meaning orderly and functional), we can assume Satan was at one time good. But we know nothing about his creation, his original state (what kind of being he was), or the circumstances or motives surrounding his becoming Satan.

> Did God allow Satan to obtain dominion over the earth to expose him as an imperfect ruler?

There is no such suggestion, hint, or any information in the Bible that would lead to such a conclusion.

> Did Satan rebel solely out of a personal desire for glory, or is it because Satan had a different plan for how creation should be ruled?

2 Peter 2.4 mentioned that angels sinned, but it says nothing about the nature of that sin. So we can't say it was rebellion, per se. We actually don't know what it was, though rebellion is a good guess. We certainly don't know what his motive was (because he had a different plan for how creation should be ruled) or what he hoped to achieve or gain.

> And did God allow Satan to rule the Earth in order to prove his ideology wrong?

In the Old Testament Satan is not a being at war against God, but a functionary of God's (as an adversary) to accomplish God's purposes. He is not seen as inherently evil. In the NT we learn that Satan is an enemy of God's people, but he is never identified as an enemy of God (though it would seem logical to infer that by extrapolation). We are not told the reason that God allows Satan to do what he does. We do see that everything Satan does ultimately folds into God's plans.

But this is not to claim he's one of God's minions doing the dirty work. He is an independent agent, but still under God's sovereignty.

> Could spiritual warfare actually be a political conflict between God and Satan?

I guess it depends what you mean by "political." Spiritual warfare is portrayed in Ephesians 6.10-20 as a war between Christians and Satan, not between God and Satan.

> what is Satan's purpose for invoking evil and suffering?

What we are told about Satan's purposes is that he has a motive to deceive humans. In the OT he is known as "The Adversary," and his role there (particularly in Job) seems to be to bring a case against God. It's more a legal role than a moral one.

In the NT he is also known as an adversary. He uses the instrument of sin and its consequences (suffering) to oppose God (order, goodness, truth).

The concerns of the ancient were with order, non-order, and disorder. God (like all deities of the ancient world) works to bring order out of non-order. The demons belong in the non-order category (they are amoral—moral wildcards. they do what they do, motivated, it seems, by their instincts). Satan seems to belong in the "disorder" category. He brings spiritual chaos. Such disorder is the result of sin and leads to harm.

> Or, if Satan simply wanted to become God...

Can't agree to this, as previously stated

> is evil and suffering a direct result of Satan's inability to replicate paradise after God handed him dominion over the Earth?

No, evil and suffering are the result of human sin (Gen. 3).
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Re: Did God allow Satan to have dominion?

Postby Regnus Numis » Sun Oct 29, 2017 4:36 pm

> No, evil and suffering are the result of human sin (Gen. 3).

I would reply by asking how natural evil could result from human sin, but as I recall in our past discussion, you stated that "natural evil" was a misnomer, implying certain natural events were necessary and we only label them "evil" if collateral damage occurs. However, wouldn't Genesis 3:17-18 indirectly suggest the Pre-Fall world contained no natural event we would label a "natural evil", such as hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and volcanoes? Doesn't the existence of such a world indicate that any natural phenomena we often associate with "natural evil" aren't necessary? And how does human sin lead to disease?

As for moral evil, you might argue that God allows its perpetuation to respect our free will, but then how would you explain His constant interventions throughout the Old Testament, like the Great Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?
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Re: Did God allow Satan to have dominion?

Postby jimwalton » Sun Oct 29, 2017 5:02 pm

> However, wouldn't Genesis 3:17-18 indirectly suggest the Pre-Fall world contained no natural event we would label a "natural evil", such as hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and volcanoes?

Great question, and a fair one. The exact nature of this curse and its effect on the earth are difficult to pin down. The text itself is about human beings. They were given the role of dominion over the earth, and now that will become a difficult thing to achieve, as if now the earth and humans were at odds with each other when it came to providing resources for food. But it's also true that the language of Romans 8.19-22 suggests that human sin led to some kind of change in the functionality of the cosmos itself. It's not explained too deeply because the point is that now humans would have a rougher go of it, and that's the only point it's making.

The ground is cursed because of what Adam & Eve did. The word used ("cursed") indicates that something had been removed (the term means "taken from; banned") from God's protection or provision. In the garden their food had been provided for them. Now the ground will not show them favor, but make them work hard for every morsel. It would be untamed and disordered. It's difficult to know if we can extrapolate this to natural events like hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and volcanoes. Such phenomena, according to the scientists, actually have quite a bit of beneficial effect on the planet.

> And how does human sin lead to disease?

Again, great question. I'm not sure the Bible claims it does. If you know of a text, I'd be glad to discuss it with you. People often make the mistake of thinking that Eden was a perfect environment, and that the world before sin was Paradisal. The Bible never claims that (again, unless you can point me to something that says differently), but only that the world was ordered and functional ("good"). As far as we know, there was death before Adam & Eve sinned. It's just that they weren't accountable for sin before that. So there may have been disease as well. But if you have a text that says differently, let's talk about it.

> As for moral evil, you might argue that God allows its perpetuation to respect our free will, but then how would you explain His constant interventions throughout the Old Testament, like the Great Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?

I wouldn't call two events "constant" interventions. The Flood is never identified as a judgment. It's a restoration to order of a system that had become disordered. (The ancient world was ALL about order and disorder.) The world (meaning society) had become dysfunctional—disordered.

S&G were definitely a judgment for sin. It is within the purview of the King (like our civil authorities) to maintain righteousness in the land. Ideally speaking, the whole point of military, police, governments, and courtrooms is to maintain order, reward good and punish evil. God, as judge and king, perceived a situation that was beyond being detrimental to humanity, and he acted to judge it. After many years of patience and other attempts to correct it, the only reasonable course was to bring it to an end. It was the case with Hitler's Germany, and we see some rogue nations that are possibly in this situation today, viz. North Korea or Somalia. Intervention is warranted, in my opinion, when situations deteriorate to the point of no return without such moral (via military) intrusion.
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Re: Did God allow Satan to have dominion?

Postby Regnus Numis » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:28 pm

> Great question, and a fair one. The exact nature of this curse and its effect on the earth are difficult to pin down. The text itself is about human beings. They were given the role of dominion over the earth, and now that will become a difficult thing to achieve, as if now the earth and humans were at odds with each other when it came to providing resources for food. But it's also true that the language of Romans 8.19-22 suggests that human sin led to some kind of change in the functionality of the cosmos itself. It's not explained too deeply because the point is that now humans would have a rougher go of it, and that's the only point it's making.

> The ground is cursed because of what Adam & Eve did. The word used ("cursed") indicates that something had been removed (the term means "taken from; banned") from God's protection or provision. In the garden their food had been provided for them. Now the ground will not show them favor, but make them work hard for every morsel. It would be untamed and disordered. It's difficult to know if we can extrapolate this to natural events like hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and volcanoes. Such phenomena, according to the scientists, actually have quite a bit of beneficial effect on the planet.

In my opinion, it's possible that Adam and Eve were protected from death before the Fall, meaning even natural disasters couldn't harm them. They were suspended from the laws of nature, just like Jesus and Peter when they walked on water, although Peter experienced doubt and began sinking (Matthew 14:28-30).

> I wouldn't call two events "constant" interventions. The Flood is never identified as a judgment. It's a restoration to order of a system that had become disordered. (The ancient world was ALL about order and disorder.) The world (meaning society) had become dysfunctional—disordered.

> S&G were definitely a judgment for sin. It is within the purview of the King (like our civil authorities) to maintain righteousness in the land. Ideally speaking, the whole point of military, police, governments, and courtrooms is to maintain order, reward good and punish evil. God, as judge and king, perceived a situation that was beyond being detrimental to humanity, and he acted to judge it. After many years of patience and other attempts to correct it, the only reasonable course was to bring it to an end. It was the case with Hitler's Germany, and we see some rogue nations that are possibly in this situation today, viz. North Korea or Somalia. Intervention is warranted, in my opinion, when situations deteriorate to the point of no return without such moral (via military) intrusion.

Is God deliberately balancing His divine interventions with the amount of freedom He endows to mankind in order to maximize the number of people who voluntarily choose Him?
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Re: Did God allow Satan to have dominion?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 31, 2017 3:13 pm

> it's possible that Adam and Eve were protected from death before the Fall, meaning even natural disasters couldn't harm them.

What we are told is that continued eating from the Tree of Life could allow them to live forever (Gn. 3.22). So what we know is that humans were mortal, not immortal (Gn. 2.7, "made from dust" suggests their mortality, by nature; also they needed the Tree of Life to extend life beyond their natural mortal years). It's not "the food of immortality" protecting them from death, but fruit that apparently extends life. Wisdom, in Proverbs 3.16-18, is a "tree of life," granting someone blessing and a long life. Proverbs 13.12 speaks of a "tree of life" that is a good thing that makes life better. So also Proverbs 15.4. All these passages speak of a Tree of Life as if it enhances life, but never does it grant immortality. Only God can grant immortality, not fruit. The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden symbolizes that life which is God's alone to give.

We can't go with "the tree protected A & E from death." Death had to have been in the system before the Fall. If plants could serve as food, then plants died. And since death was in the system, there is no reason to draw a false line between flora and fauna, claiming that flora died but fauna didn't. Instead we are better to understand it that because of sin people lost access to the tree of life and became fully susceptible to death. In other words, the tree of life represents grace, but not immortality.

But we still have to deal with Genesis 3.22 and Revelation 22.2. Gen. 3.22 says "He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." Genesis 3.6 equates the tree with wisdom, as does Proverbs 3.16-18. Based on the context and analysis, then, what Gn. 3.22 is about is that if A & E had lived in wisdom, meaning in the likeness of God, rather than following their own ways, they could have lived forever in God's grace. Not that their mortal bodies would have been immortal, but that God would have granted them eternal life after physical life as a reward for their living in relationship with Him. It wasn't magical fruit, but symbolic of their dependence on God and their loving obedience of His will. After their sin, they are barred from eating it. They turned their backs on God's wisdom and their obedient dependence on Him, so therefore walked away from God's free gift of eternal life.

In Revelation 22.2, the water of life and the trees of life are for the healing of the nations. Immortality has already been granted; the trees bring healing.

So I'm not convinced, I guess, that A & E were protected from death before the Fall, meaning that even natural disasters couldn't harm them. I don't see that in the point of the text, the context of the tree of life, or in the words themselves either. It's not something the Bible teaches, as far as I can tell. There is no indication they were suspended from the laws of nature.

> Is God deliberately balancing His divine interventions with the amount of freedom He endows to mankind in order to maximize the number of people who voluntarily choose Him?

Interesting question. I'd probably say yes to this. We know God wants to maximize the number of people who voluntarily choose him. (God can't force people to choose him.) We know that too many divine interventions would make science and reasoning meaningless, because cause and effect would cease to be a dependable principle. So I just might agree to your statement, but it's hard to think it through all its ramifications in such a short time. It's an interesting concept, though.
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Re: Did God allow Satan to have dominion?

Postby Regnus Numis » Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:08 pm

> Interesting question. I'd probably say yes to this. We know God wants to maximize the number of people who voluntarily choose him. (God can't force people to choose him.) We know that too many divine interventions would make science and reasoning meaningless, because cause and effect would cease to be a dependable principle. So I just might agree to your statement, but it's hard to think it through all its ramifications in such a short time. It's an interesting concept, though.

Perhaps, although I do harbor a personal beef with the concept. To me, it's almost as though God gave us free will just to see how many souls He can "win over", like He is scoring points in a political game with every soul who converts to Christianity. I'd like to believe there is a higher reason we should choose Him besides racking up His score. While God granted us free will so we may choose Him voluntarily, the fact itself provides no reason for us to choose Him. If a Christian states we should choose God to avoid Hell or reach Heaven, then he/she isn't explaining why God is the right choice, only that we benefit from choosing Him. Thus, I want to know if we're actually meant to learn anything (i.e. moral lesson, universal truth) by choosing God or if we should choose Him solely for personal salvation.
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Re: Did God allow Satan to have dominion?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:24 pm

> To me, it's almost as though God gave us free will just to see how many souls He can "win over"

Well, this premise I disagree radically with. Without free will, we're not human. It has nothing to do with "how many souls God can win over" or scoring points in a political game.

Let's approach it this way. To do science you have to suggest a hypothesis (use your free will to think and make a decision) and create an experiment to test said hypothesis (use your free will to think and make decisions). You have to collect data and evaluate it (use your free will to separate legitimate data from spurious data, as well as use your free will to weigh what trends or suggestions the data affords). A scientist often has to deliberate between what seems to be contradictory directions and possible conclusions to determine what seems to be the truth of the matter. Then other scientists, both supporting and dissenting, use their free wills to either replicate or discredit the conclusion.

In other words, without free will there is no science, and therefore there is no reasoning. We are unable to reason if we are unable to evaluate the input and weigh varying options.

Without free will also there is no such thing as what makes us most human. Love isn't love if it is determined. Kindness is mere robotics, and forgiveness is an illusion.

In other words, free will is no political tool to score points, but an essential characteristic of humanity.

> I'd like to believe there is a higher reason we should choose Him besides racking up His score.

And you're right, there is. The higher reason is that is the path to truth and authentic love. The reason we should choose God is because He is where truth and goodness resides, and it's only by forming a relationship with God that we find the real purpose in life and experience life the way it was meant to be lived.

> If a Christian states we should choose God to avoid Hell or reach Heaven, then he/she isn't explaining why God is the right choice, only that we benefit from choosing Him

I agree. We don't choose God because we're afraid of hell, or choose him to get the good stuff that heaven promises. That's a total misunderstanding. That's as stupid and shallow as marrying someone for their money. While it may get you money in the short run, you've missed the whole point of sharing your life with someone and experiencing the depth of a true love relationship.

Heaven is just another way of saying, "Finding one's true existence in relationship with God," and hell is another way of saying, "The loss of God's presence and the natural consequence of that loss."

In ways I wish heaven and hell were not taught in the Bible, except that it only makes sense that we understand that a relationship with God gives such fantastic grounding in truth and fulfillment of person, and that walking away from a relationship with God has no place to go but into horror. That's why we hear about those things—because it's the way to be truly honest. But people who make their decisions based on fear of hell or to be greedy for heaven are really making all kinds of mistakes.
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Re: Did God allow Satan to have dominion?

Postby Regnus Numis » Wed Nov 01, 2017 2:04 pm

> Heaven is just another way of saying, "Finding one's true existence in relationship with God," and hell is another way of saying, "The loss of God's presence and the natural consequence of that loss."

Given that I examine things from a utilitarian scope of necessity, I want to know whether the fact that a relationship with God is the only path to salvation is a universal law not even God Himself can change. I'm not trying to challenge God's omnipotence as I'm aware He cannot undermine His own sovereignty/power. For example, He cannot destroy Himself, create another God, manipulate His own memory, or sacrifice His powers. Assuming Hell is the loss of God's presence, as you've stated, does that mean God cannot create a being who can exist happily without Him? Is a relationship with God not only beneficial, but necessary?
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Re: Did God allow Satan to have dominion?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Dec 14, 2017 4:48 pm

> I want to know whether the fact that a relationship with God is the only path to salvation is a universal law not even God Himself can change

That is correct. It is necessarily so. Since YHWH is the only God, and salvation is found in Him alone, He alone is life and can grant life, and He alone is truth, then it is true that a relationship with God is the only path to salvation, and that is a law that is impossible to change. Ultimate reality in God cannot be any different that it is.

> I'm not trying to challenge God's omnipotence as I'm aware He cannot undermine His own sovereignty/power. For example, He cannot destroy Himself, create another God, manipulate His own memory, or sacrifice His powers.

Correct. He cannot do these things either.

> Assuming Hell is the loss of God's presence, as you've stated, does that mean God cannot create a being who can exist happily without Him?

"Happy" is the word in question here. Happiness can be real or superficial, permanent or temporal, genuine or fake. It can be based on realities or mere perceptions.

So saying, there are many people who intros life experience happiness apart from a relationship with God. But it's just a party on the Titanic. When the ship goes down (physical death), it will be time to pay the fiddler, and there will be no happiness without Him because the season of general grace will be over. The loss of God's presence will also necessarily involve the loss of any notions or perceptions of happiness that are not founded in His person and a relationship with Him.

> Is a relationship with God not only beneficial, but necessary?

Yes. Eventually, all people will come to a critical junction—a moment of truth, so to speak. What we are will be obvious. Those who have a genuine relationship with God will continue their existence in His presence (with all the ramifications of that relationship), and those who have rejected a relationship with God will necessarily remain separated from Him (with all the ramifications of their choice).


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