Tag Archives: evil

How Do We Know the Devil Exists?

February 29, 2012


Photo/Daniel Dobleu Licensed under Creative Commons

If the real battle between good and evil were like a superhero movie, God, wearing a mask or maybe iron armor, would face off against his super villain, the devil, whom He would defeat after a very intense two-hour confrontation.

There’s no doubt that evil exists but often it’s hard to trace it back to an arch enemy. I think Satan would like us to think he’s Batman’s nemesis–or that he doesn’t exist at all.

Since he  is an angel and can assume any form he chooses, we might not recognize him.  But there is good evidence that he wreaks havoc and tries to get us to make bad choices.

According to Bl. Pope John Paul II:

The battle against the devil … is still being fought today, because the devil is still alive and active in the world. The evil that surrounds us today, the disorders that plague our society, man’s inconsistency and brokenness, are not only the results of original sin, but also the result of Satan’s pervasive and dark action.

Satan was at first a good angel, the Fourth Lateran Council taught, but he and other angels “radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign.” (CCC 392)  The story of their fall from heaven is found in Rev. 12:7-9. It is believed that Satan and his angels refused to serve Christ, whose human nature was below the level of the angels. But since angels don’t face the same weaknesses and temptations as humans, it’s not totally clear why he sinned.

We don’t know how high Satan is on the angel scale of importance. He is powerful because he is pure spirit, but he is still a creature and can’t prevent the building up of God’s reign. It’s a great mystery why God allows his diabolical activity. (CCC 395)

Jesus talked a lot about the devil–He mentioned Satan at least 17 times in the gospels.  Matthew 4:1-11 tells how the Evil One tried to derail the Lord’s mission by tempting Him three times in the desert.

The Apostles also thought Satan was real.  St. John wrote: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)   St. Peter warned: “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

When Jesus prays, “But deliver us from evil” in the Our Father, evil “refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who ‘throws himself across’  God’s plan and His work of salvation accomplished in Christ.” (CCC 2851)

The devil isn’t responsible for all evil–we contribute to the evil in the world through our own wrong choices–but he brings intelligent direction to all the evil tendencies and forces.

Iron Man’s high-tech weapons won’t help in defeating the devil but prayer will. Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi offers these rules:

  1. Do not forget that the devil exists.
  2. Do not forget that the devil is a tempter.
  3. Do not forget that the devil is very intelligent and astute.
  4. Be (always) vigilant in the eyes and the heart.
  5. Be strong in spirit and virtue.
  6. Pray tirelessly.
  7. Adore God.
  8. Listen to God’s words.
  9. Remember Christ’s victory over temptation. Remember man’s sharing in that victory.
  10. Be humble and love mortification.


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