The New Testament writers undeniably believed the devil was a real being. An impersonal force cannot “scheme” (Eph. 6:11). An impersonal force does not have a “will” (2 Tim. 2:26). An impersonal force cannot “prowl” (1 Pet. 5:8). Most notably, Jesus himself dialogues with the devil during his wilderness temptation (Matt. 4). So, yes, I do believe there is a real devil who commands real demons. He really does want to destroy God’s good creation, and he really does tempt and try real Christians.
A couple of years ago, when I was doing a round of interviews for my book The Gospel According to Satan, one question I repeatedly encountered took be aback: “Do you really believe in the devil?”
In our post-Christian, largely irreligious age, it certainly doesn’t go without saying. Plenty of people do believe there’s such a thing as evil, that there are indeed actions that are morally wrong, but fewer and fewer believe there’s any kind of personality behind this evil. Even among professing Christians, the idea is growing that “Satan” is more a force than an actual being.
So do I believe there’s an actual devil? You bet I do. And here are a few reasons why:
First, given the biblical explanation for the origin of existence, only evil persons explain the presence of evil in the world. In other words, to believe that evil is only a force —- some ethereal wickedness or antagonistic but impersonal power —- is to identify God, who is the Creator of all things, as the author of evil. But the idea that evil only exists as a force in opposition to God and his holiness is more akin to Eastern religious views than to a Judeo-Christian worldview. Satan is no yin to the Lord’s yang.
The Bible explains that God created all things good but that he endowed his sentient creation —- both angels and humans -— with the freedom to will good or evil.