Satan Is Alive and Well and Watching ABC 


Last evening ABC showcased a Nightline debate called “Face-Off-On Satan”. The link to the entire debate is provided above. The moderator, Dan Harris, appeared on the O’Reilly Factor and said that this debate would provide an insight into the varying beliefs surrounding the existence of Satan.

A Barna Group poll in 2002 indicated that just over 50% (a surprisingly low number) of self-professed “born again” Christians believe that Satan is an actual being. This belief stems from Bible verses that state Lucifer was an angel whose name means “Morning Star.” The Bible implies that angels, as well as men, were given free choice to follow God. Lucifer led an angelic rebellion against God. He, along with a third of the angels, were cast out of heaven and banished to the earth. Satan and his minions will eventually be thrown into the “fiery pit” for eternity at the time of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.

Most conservative theologians would agree that, although Satan has the power to tempt Christians, he does not have the same strength of power (albeit evil) as God. He, too, is merely a created being, not a god. It is also believed that only non-Christians can become demon-possessed.

Originally, the well-spoken agnostic and, self-professed, former Christian Bart Ehrman, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, was scheduled to debate Mark Driscoll, the well-known pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Unfortunately, Deepak Chopra, a highly publicized medical doctor and gadabout, who advocates a secular humanist spirituality known as the New Thought Movement, replaced him.

Bishop Carlton Pearson, who used to be a prominent evangelical preacher, joined them. In 2002 he began to espouse universal salvation and was subsequently branded a heretic by many orthodox Christians. The panel was rounded out by Annie Lobert, a former prostitute who became a Christian and founded a ministry called “Hookers for Christ”. The genial moderator, Dan Harris, rounded out this group

As one can see from this lineup, the stage was set for a rather unique debate on the existence of Satan. Frankly, the debate was rather difficult to follow. We present some thoughts that jumped out at us.

Mark Driscoll clearly pointed out the standard Christian view of Satan. He, more than the others, stuck to the subject at hand and was quick to contradict misperceptions of the faith by other panelists. He appeared very serious, and his quips, although clever, could have been perceived as sarcastic.

Deepak Chopra was somewhat condescending in his explanations. He stressed that life is a study in contrasts. All men have both good and diabolical impulses, and the bad impulses separate us from our “divine” nature. We are perfectly capable of overcoming our dark nature ourselves. Healthy people do not need Satan and must accept that the meaning of life is a mystery. His contention was that all the trouble in the world is caused by religion. His major gaffe was his supposedly inspirational closing remark, which he attributed to a mystical sect known as the Essenes. Apparently, he did not know that this group (the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls) were dedicated Jews who separated themselves from society, led lives of voluntary poverty, and were devoted to the study of the Old Testament. They believed in the imminent return of the Messiah and most certainly believed in the existence of demons.

Dr. Carlton Pearson, well known for his denial of many Christian doctrines, was pleasant, yet ineffective in expressing his viewpoints. His basic premise was that the Bible is filled with errors and has changed throughout history. Therefore, man is capable of “picking and choosing” what he will follow from it. He claims that it is not the inspired word of God but the inspired word of man about God. He is adamantly opposed to the idea of hell as an eternal torture chamber, which, unfortunately, no one challenged. The best moment came when the moderator asked him why he still wears his pastoral white collar since he did seem to believe in many Christian tenets. He answered that he is “in process.”

Annie Lobert was a sympathetic individual and movingly described her life as a former prostitute. She said she believes in Satan because she saw the evils that surrounded her in the dark world of selling sex. Her conversion story is touching, and we think she would be very effective in a different forum. Unfortunately, towards the end of the debate she appeared to claim that she was held down and raped by Satan and/or demons. At that point, the moderator asked her to clarify a few points and quickly changed the subject. Mark Driscoll looked like a deer caught in the headlights. I hope he will give her a few theological tips on what Satan can and cannot do.

Finally, the debate was a bit difficult for these theological babes to follow. We would rather have heard Mark Driscoll debate Deepak Chopra, or better yet, Bart Ehrman, utilizing more formalized debating rules. Also, the problem of evil was clearly mixed into the discussion, further confusing the topic. In summary, we are grateful that, in our rather jaded society, the existence of Satan is being discussed, and for that, we applaud ABC’s Nightline.

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