by Faith Kowitz, Franciscan University of Steubenville
The devil can be a scary topic to research, and there are many questions I had about Satan before writing this article. Upon selecting this subject, my goal was to study how Lucifer, the bearer of light, became Satan, the adversary. I hope that I can help answer some questions you might also have, or at the least spark your interest in the subject.
Let us start by knowing our enemy. Who is the devil? The devil goes by many names: Devil, Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Father of Lies, and the serpent, just to name a few. Lucifer was the light bearer. He was God’s closest and most powerful angel. Traditionally, we believe that God revealed His plan regarding creation to His angels. We believe that Satan detested God’s will for Earth and humankind. Many commentators say he hated that God, being all powerful, could become like one of us powerless mortals out of love for us. He also did not like that God, being Christ, could die. Just to be the devil’s advocate here… think about it: the everlasting God perishing? That sounds absurd. Satan did not want to serve a god that could become a human and die just as easily as one. It seems that after he heard about God’s plan, Satan became infuriated and gathered an army against God. However, St. Michael the Archangel, God’s greatest warrior, cast him and his followers into Hell, where God is totally absent.
This story raises several questions. If Satan was God’s greatest angel, doesn’t he have the hope of being an angel again? Don’t we worship a forgiving God? What if Lucifer repented? My research found that the devil could not have repented because his actions are irrevocable (CCC 392). By betraying God, Satan cast His presence from his very being. When we die, our souls are as black as we allowed them to be. There is no turning back and making it right. By casting out God, Satan wrote his own death sentence.
According to the Fourth Lateran Council, the Devil and his followers, although created naturally good, became evil by their own choosing and doing. For Satan to be evil, he must have renounced God. To have fully renounced God, Satan had to desire everything that God did not want. His actions must have been motivated by a total evil, which is the opposite of good creation: nothingess. Because of this, Satan makes it his mission to ruin God’s creation by separating us from God.
What is evil? Evil implies a deficiency in reaching a thing’s full potential. We understand that our full potential is sanctity and our ultimate goal is Heaven: eternal rest within the presence of God. So, evil is anything tainting that goal. Satan does exactly that. He is the “anything” that taints our vision and road to God. He chose to become the embodiment of evil with his final action against God. But if we ever reject God, will we automatically suffer a similar fate in Hell? Do we become the embodiment of evil when we betray God like Satan did? No. What sets us apart from the devil is our human nature, in the image of God, that prevents us from being pure evil. Being human is the greatest gift God gave us because we are actually stronger than the devil. According to Genesis, we can get back up when we fall, unlike the devil, who was cursed to crawl the Earth on his belly.
Why would God allow such evil to persist, though? Perhaps Satan’s eternal punishment can give some perspective here. Think about it. What would be the ultimate way to punish a being who seeks to bring about evil and destruction in creation? How about allowing such evil to happen so that an even greater good can come from it. Think of it this way: fruit is amazing, unless it is rotten. But even rotten fruit has a purpose, you can either give it to the pigs or let it fertilize the soil for even better fruit for the next year. Likewise, even the worst decisions we make in our life can be used against themselves through repentance and actively choosing God. By doing this, we love him in a way we never could without making such a choice. I hope this article was able to shed some light on some interesting questions, or at least piqued your curiosity in the subject.
Much of this information was found at: https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/devil
Edited by William Deatherage