The Devil—An Evil Reality?

IN MANY religious circles, the Devil has come to be regarded largely as a superstitious relic—an invention of humans. So Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Genoa—one of Italy’s leading cardinals—caused quite a stir with his 40-page pastoral letter on how to fight the Devil. It listed “10 commandments.”

First: “Don’t forget that the devil exists,” because his “first falsehood” is to “make us believe that he doesn’t exist.”

Second: “Don’t forget that the devil is a tempter. . . . Don’t consider yourself either immune or invulnerable.”

Third: “Don’t forget that the devil is most intelligent and astute. He continues to be insidious by being fascinating, as he did with the first man.”

Fourth: “Be vigilant: in eyes and heart. And be strong: in spirit and virtue.”

Fifth: “Believe firmly in the victory of Christ over the tempter” because this “will make you secure and imperturbable before even the most violent assault that can be unleashed against you.”

Sixth: “Remember that Christ makes you a sharer in his victory.”

Seventh: “Continue to listen to the Word of God.”

Eighth: “Be humble and love mortification.”

Ninth: “Pray always, without tiring,” in order to overcome temptation.

Tenth: “Adore the Lord your God and to him alone render worship.”

What effect did this pastoral letter have? Its advice was not well received by Milan’s Center of Theological Studies. The Center contended that such a “theological formation smacked of medievalness in character.” According to a spokesman, “to put the ultimate blame on the devil could help to deprive people of their [own] responsibility.”

Although the Bible does not absolve humans of responsibility for their actions, it clearly identifies Satan the Devil as “the god of this system of things,” the one who tempted Jesus. It also reveals the power of Satan and his intention to ‘blind the minds of unbelievers.’—2 Corinthians 4:4; Matthew 4:1-11.

Indeed, as the apostle Peter wrote, Satan is “like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” (1 Peter 5:8) Little wonder that the apostle John reminded believers: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) We are wise not to ignore these Scriptural warnings.