Satan & Demons

1. Why Do Over Half of Evangelicals Deny the Reality of Satan?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
According to reliable surveys, over 50% of Evangelicals do not even believe he exists.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part one of a series

We receive frequent questions and comments about the reality, nature, and influence of Satan - including many denials of his personality and power. Reliable surveys show that Satan has convinced over half of self-described Evangelicals to believe deadly lies about the enemy of their souls. Today we begin a series of articles to help counteract this dangerous trend.

Widespread Satan-Denial Among Evangelicals

Numerous surveys, including this one from 2016, show rampant unbelief among self-described Evangelicals, including widespread denial of the Biblical doctrine of Satan. In recent years, other reliable surveys have shown that well over half of American Evangelicals do not believe that Satan is a real person. Among Baptists of the so-called American Bible belt, the figure is 66%.1

Mention of Satan has disappeared from most Evangelical churches' doctrinal statements, and specific discussion of the doctrine of Satan in those statements has become even more rare. Today, the majority of Evangelicals believe that Satan is not a living being, but merely, at most, a symbol of evil or an impersonal force.

These developments bespeak a woeful, widespread ignorance of what the Bible says about Satan, the active enemy of every believer. When any church neglects the Bible, it creates a spiritual vacuum. What is true in physics is also true in the church: Nature abhors a vacuum. The natural world will do everything it can to fill a physical vacuum. Satan will do everything he can to fill a spiritual vacuum in the life of the church. One of the ways that Satan will fill that vacuum is with falsehoods about himself.

Woeful Ignorance of Scripture

From beginning to end, the Bible makes plain the facts of Satan's personal existence as a created being, and his immense power and influence in the present world. Scripture also makes it clear that, as Reformer and hymn writer Martin Luther put it, "his doom is sure." TeachingTheWord's doctrinal statement includes this summary of the Biblical doctrine of Satan:

Satan was created by God and given the most exalted position among God's created beings. Through pride Satan fell into sin, seeking to exalt himself above God. He was cast down from his exalted position, and led with him a host of angels who likewise fell. In his fallen state Satan is still subject to God, but he is the chief enemy of God, manifesting unremitting hatred toward God, His Word, and the person and work of Christ. Satan is also the chief adversary of mankind, and continually seeks to afflict mankind and seduce men toward every kind of evil. He especially wages war against believers in Christ. Satan's ultimate defeat was pronounced by God after he deceived our first parents into sin; it was secured at the cross by Christ, and will be consummated when Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity.2

Key Questions

In this series, we shall explore the Bible's teachings concerning Satan in relation to these questions:

  • What is Satan's origin?
  • What are Satan's names and their their meanings?
  • What is the nature of Satan's enmity toward God and Christ?
  • What is the nature of Satan's enmity toward God's Word?
  • What is Satan's present activity in this world?
  • What is the nature of Satan's enmity toward believers?
  • What is the nature of the believer's interactions with Satan?
  • What does Scripture say regarding Satan's ultimate defeat?

Next: How Can the Doctrine of Satan Be a Comfort to the Christian?

References:

1. These statistics come mainly from a series of surveys taken by Barna Research over more than a decade. For purposes of these surveys, an "Evangelical" was defined as a Protestant who responded "Yes" to this question: "Do you believe that when you die you will go to heaven because you have confessed your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior?"

2. In our doctrinal statement we include the following Scripture references on the doctrine of Satan, which are key passages but by no means exhaustive: Genesis 3:1-15; Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-7; Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:12-18; Zechariah 3:1-2; Matthew 4:1-10; Matthew 4:24; Matthew 12:26; Matthew 13:25-28 & 39; Matthew 25:41; Luke 11:18; Luke 22:3; John 8:44; John 12:31; John 13:27; John 16:11; John 17:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 6:15; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:11; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 12:3-9; Revelation 20:1-3 & 7-10.

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