And You Say The Devil’s A Bad Guy

I seem to enjoy doing things that really creep me out. A couple of months ago, I decided to watch The Exorcist. Now, I’ve seen this movie at least a dozen times, and there’s really nothing in it that wasn’t there the last time that I watched it. But somehow, that movie ends up unnerving me. That Spider walk is plain creepy. May I take a moment to say here, that it’s not so much the fact that the movie, that is the visuals, that are scary. What’s scary is Mercedes McCambridge’s voice! In that scene where Reagan does the crucifix number, and then whips her head around and says to her mother “do you know whay she did?!?”, I nearly crap my pants every time! So, I was busy creeping myself out, watching “the version you’ve never seen” ( during the daytime, with the lights on, I’ll admit). But I was alone, and that counts for something. Anyway, there’s a scent that is in this version, where Father Karras and Father Merrin have just finished a session with Reagan. They are both exhausted. As Father Karras, who is caught in a crisis of faith himself, rests, he asks Father Merrin a question. He asks, why this little girl? What purpose does possessing and possibly killing her serve? Father Merrin answers — the possession has nothing to do with the girl. The devil wants us to feel that we are unworthy of God’s love. He wants us to feel that we are sinful, vile, and lowly creatures who cannot earn or deserve the grace of God. That’s the way, Father Merrin explains, the devil gets us to turn away from God. That made me think. Now, if the devil wants me to turn away from God, he may cause a situation (say something like a demonic possession) that causes me to lose faith and turn from God. But, I have to remember that my rejection of God was due to my free choice, not because the devil made me do it (so to speak). I will burn in Hell for all eternity because I made the choice to turn from God. I have to be held accountable for the choices that I made and make freely. This is because I have free will. One of the reasons that we are given that there is evil in the world, is because people, like me, have the freedom to choose to do evil deeds. Because God made man with the ability to choose, he cannot interfere with our choices (because if he did intervene that would mean that we didn’t have very much free will). So, I thought, we make ourselves so busy asking what role that God plays in man-caused evil, that we don’t ask what role God plays in Satan-caused evil. If all intelligent beings created by God have free will, does that mean that the devil has free will as well? And if he has free will, is God bound to allow the devil to make choices that may be the source of the world’s evil (or at least a strong influence)? Ok, I know that Satan, as an angel, is what we call a fully actualized being. That means that he is all that he will ever be. He doesn not “grow” in the sense that people mature and find enlightenment or come to know the divine.As something near perfection, once the devil makes a choice, he’s locked into it. Which explains a bit as to why he cannot repent for his misdeeds. But that’s just it. He chose to fall from God. We might assume that he didn’t have to. That is, if you don’t believe that there is such a thing as determinism. So, Let’s say that Satan chose to leave God. There. He made a choice. And God seems to have respected his decision to do so. So, Satan decides that he is so thoroughly disgusted with mankind that he will forever torment God’s creation. He will make our lives so horrible that we will run to God for shelter. These all seem to be career choices that the devil made when he decided to leave the family business. If our actions aren’t determined, then is it ok to say that Satan’s actions aren’t determined, either? But then, if we assert that the devil has free will, we must account for exactly what kind of free will he has. According to the standard free will defense, man’s free will is libertarian — that is, with any choice we make, we are free to do otherwise. So, for example, if someone has a gun to my head and says that he will kill me if I don’t announce in a public place that I molest collies, I don’t have to choose to make the announcement. There is the choice, albeit a very unlikely one that I’d pick, to get shot. There are alternatives that I may take. But, the devil is fully actualized. He doesn’t get the mulligans that I do when I make mistakes or decide to change my mind (for instance, I can decide to repent from my evil ways and accept Jesus as my personal savior. It’s unlikely, but I very well could). Satan, as stated, cannot so as such. But he seems to make choices all the same. Although he free will is not libertarian as it is with people, he seems to have some, limited free will. This free will (if even the freedom to do one thing) is to create evil. So, it may be that we are hanging our coat on the wrong rack. We’re looking to God to explain why he allows evil (as if we are saying that God somehow is a generator of some of this evil), but we might take a look down and say that God “permits” evil because Satan has free will that God is bound to respect. As with any other agent, the lord of all that is unholy is free to do as he sees fit. Unfortunately for us, that means occasionally killing someone’s grandma with colon cancer, or running over the family pet, letting Two and A Half Men run for another season, or putting the desire to set the forest ablaze in the mind of an arsonist for the sole purpose of burning furry little animals to a crisp. To make matters worse, the fact that God is bound by Satanic free will means that (lest we give rise to a massively irregular world) God may, and in fact does, lose souls to the devil’s influence (This is due in two parts: 1) Satan has free will, and b) humans have the free will to follow the devil’s influences). I don’t know if I’m putting forth anything revolutionary (I’m sure that I’m not), and maybe I’m giving the devil a little too much power, but it is worth thinking that the devil’s influence on our actions may be because he has the same free will as we. Besides, it’s really a cheap way to say that we can have evil and God at the same time — resorting to that old, worn-out cliche “the devil made me do it”. I thought that this time I would try to give it some philosophic legitimacy. I don’t think it worked.

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