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The aim of the following is confined to the subject regarding "Satan": whether he is a spiritual being or a 'personification of sin', as Christadelphians teach. This is an important subject for it determines not only how we respond in an important area of life, but it affects our comprehension of Scriptures and spiritual values. Christians believe that Satan employs all sorts of strategies (Eph.6:llf 2 .Cor.2:l0f 1 Tim.3:6f) to keep people out of the Kingdom God, but the essence of Satan's strategy is to weaken Christian's faith by cunning, deceit, deception, or subtlety. It is to Satan's advantage to remain hidden and his plans camouflaged and his works are ideally suited among those who believe he does not exist. One chief aim is to blind people to the Gospel.
It was Robert Roberts who said, "the popular doctrine of a personal devil has no foundation whatever truth, but is the hideous conception of the heathen mind, inherited by the moderns from the mythologies of ancients". [ROBERTS, R. Christendom Astray. p.104. Birmingham, 1984].
Although not recorded in later editions of Roberts book, earlier editions this statement go on further to say - "...and incorporated with Christianity, by those men with 'corrupt mind' who, Paul predicted, would pervert the truth, 'giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils" [WILSON, B. Sects and Society.pp.228,229. W. Heinemann Ltd. London,1961].
This is one of many examples of alterations, deletions, so-called 'improved expositions' which have taken place over the years to the original works of both Roberts and Thomas. [THOMAS, J. Elpis Israel. See publisher's notes XXVI. And, 'Christendom Astray' Note to 1951 Edn., p.VI]. The charge of incorporating the idea of a personal devil ('heathen mythology') into Christianity, is difficult to prove, and was never successfully demonstrated by either Roberts or Thomas.
Word Meanings. Christadelphians open their argument with an analysis of the words used for 'devil' and 'Satan'. Roberts quotes the concordance by the Christian scholar A. Cruden, "this word (devil) comes from the Greek 'diabolos' which signifies a calumniator or accuser' [ROBERTS, R. 'Christendom Astray' pg.116]. This provides a foundation for Robert's exposition of scripture. However, he only quotes what he wants us to believe. The fact is, Cruden's concordance also refers to Satan as "the supreme evil spirit" [Cruden's Complete Concordance to the Old and New Testaments pg.146 Lutterworth Press London, 1930]. It's normal for these people to selectively quote and mislead. Conservative scholars accept a translation 'diabolos' and 'daimonion' to signify either - 'adversary, traducer, false accuser or slanderer' as Christadelphians so eagerly point out. [MANSFIELD, H. P. (Ed.) How to Combat Your Deadly Enemy. The Bible Devil Defined p.7 Eureka Press Australia, 1978. p.2.].
Therefore, all these words do not depersonalize Satan into 'a synonym for sin'. Rather the opposite is evident for it is appropriately in order to be a 'false accuser' to have a personality. Sin in itself is dead or arbitrary, for it is a transgression of the law (Deut.26:13 1 Sam.15:24 Isa.24:5 Mt.15:3 Rom.2:27) but, to falsely accuse, a living intelligence must unjustly claim against another, or it cannot be titled a 'false accuser'. Scholar of the NT Greek W.E.Vine describes the difference between an instigator of sin and sin, when he refers to Satan -"Being himself sinful, 1 Jn.3:8 he instigated man to sin Gen.3, and tempts man to do evil Eph.4:27 6:11". [VINE, W. E An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. p.306. Moody Press, 1985].
Another scholar of Bible words states, 'the Bible presents Satan as a personal being, a powerful angel in God's original creation'. [RICHARDS L.0. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. p.543. Regency Reference Library, 1985]. Christadelphians point out, that the word Satan in our English Bible, is at times with and without the definite article. [TENNANT, H. The Christadelphians, What They Believe and Preach. p.144. Birmingham, 1986]. A.Plummer would reply to this -
"It is not necessary to dwell on the obvious fact that here (2 Cor.2:ll) and elsewhere he (Paul) regards the evil power which opposes God and the well-being of man as a personal agent, whether with or without the article Satanas in the New Testament is always a proper name which designates the great Adversary of God and man."
[PLUMMER, A. & ROBERTSON, A.T A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. pp. 63 - 64. International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: Clark, 1911 T T].
Modern Christadelphians as those of the past, continue to quote, the 'Greek Lexicon' of J.Parkhurst (1728-1797) and disregard other scholars. [ROBERTS, R. Ibid., p.116. (1884) MANSFIELD, H. P.(Ed.) Ibid., pp.7,9,14. (1978)]. There are very few today who could access this ancient lexicon, to verify Christadelphian claims regarding word meanings. But a PROPER reading of this lexicon, (which Christadelphians do not give) refers to Satan as so-named, 'because he originally accused or slandered God in Paradise'. The Rev. John Parkhurst gives a reference to Satan as, 'that malignant spirit' of whom Judas was under control (Jn.6:70). [PARKHURST, J. A Greek Lexicon. p.125. 3rd Edn. Printed by Baynes London, 1826]. This is contrary to the Christadelphian exegesis of John 6:70. [MANSFIELD, H. P. (Ed.) How to Combat Your Deadly Enemy. p.11]. They do not mention this, nor that with all the major Christian doctrines Parkhurst clearly differs with Christadelphianism. [PARKHURST, J 'Life of the Late Rev. Parkhurst' pp.i-iii 3rd Edn. 1826].
Scripture verses. How did sin originate? Genesis 3:1-24. Christadelphians resolutely affirm that the serpent that tempted Eve was "only an animal" but they are forced to admit deception came "through the teaching of the serpent" [MANSFIELD, H. P. (Ed.) How to Combat.p.5]. It the serpent was just an animal, how did it teach ? Christadelphians maintain, this animal had 'outstanding reasoning powers' and was capable of speaking. [MANSFIELD, H. P. (Ed.) How to Combat.p.5]. Then, how did the desire to deceive originate in this animal, resulting in the fall of the master race of mankind? No answer is given. However, Jesus said -"He (Satan) was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own for he is a liar, and the father of it." (Jn.8:44). Therefore, sin is satanic in nature, for Satan (not the animals) is its 'father'. The Bible states sin originated with the angel Satan (Isa.14:12-14. 1 Jn.5:8) but Christadelphians maintain it began with an animal.
Job 1:6-12. The Christadelphian interpretation of this passage, is that they consider Job's adversary to be two fold, - God and man. They blame God and say, 'Job's sufferings were inflicted by God' at the encouragement of a man. This man was, 'a much travelled man with an inferiority complex, a small minded, jealous associate of Job, maliciously slandering Job's name' [MANSFIELD, H. P. (Ed.) How to Combat.... pg12,14]. They would have us believe, God listened to the slander of this wicked man and responded to his beckoning. God then slew Job's servants, sheep, camels and sons and daughters, then smote Job with boils from his feet to his head, all at the charge of this wicked man.
The Bible however, describes how the Lord said to Satan, "he is in thy power... so Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job" (1:12 2:7). If Satan were a powerful angelic being, then there is some logic in the Bible account. In Jewish apocalyptic it is noteworthy to find Satan saying to Job, 'you are flesh but I am spirit'. ('The Testament of Job' 27:5). [FULLER, D. P. 'The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia'. p.342.Vol.4. Eerdmans Michigan,1988].
Mt.4:l-11. If there is no devil, and everyman is drawn away by his own lust and enticed (Jas.l:14), as Christadelphians insist, then where did the Lord's temptation come from? In Matthew 4 Christadelphians place an emphasis on a relationship between the flesh and blood and temptation and the devil. [TENNANT, H The Christadelphians, What they Believe and Preach. p.146]. They believe elsewhere, that Christ taught that 'out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts'. [MANSFIELD, H. P. (Ed.) How to Combat.,p.6]. So they conclude man's flesh to be 'the main source of temptation'. [TENNANT, H. The Christadelphians, What they Believe....pg146].
The implications of such a doctrine imply that evil thoughts came from within Jesus. This questions His impeccability by suggesting an enticement, as though there something in Him that responded to sin.
But the fact that singular pronouns are employed concerning Satan (when tempting Christ) completely flaws the Christadelphian argument. We read that Satan said, 'I will give thee...if thou wilt I... down and worship me'. How could it be said that, the 'devil leaveth him'? (vs.9,11). This makes little sense if referring to 'flesh and blood' and it is an indictment if referring to the 'lust the flesh' Christians believe Jesus was just like all men in every important point, except sin, but contrary to this Christadelphians say Christ 'inherited the human sin-nature of his mother'. [ROBERTS, R. Ibid.,p.100]. But, to say that since He came in sinful flesh, it made Him a sinner, ignores Scripture, "He did no sin" (I Pe.2:22)"He knew no sin" (2 Cor.5:21) And, "in Him was no sin" (1 Jn.3:5). These verses cannot refer to anyone but God in the flesh.
Conclusion. To accept the Christadelphian doctrine that there is no personal devil, is almost to deny existence and reality of evil forces. (Eph.6:12 Col.2:15). How can there be evil forces without a figure behind them, responsible for their activity? There must be a personality directing them. The Bible does not teach being of hoofs, horns and tail, but a living calculating powerful influential being, more than a man's fleshly desires (Jude 9) Christadelphians in interpretation of Bible words apparently overlook complete writings of Bible scholars and have even labelled God Himself as 'Satan' [MANSFIELD, H. P. (Ed.) Ibid.,pp.8-9], which demonstrates part the end product of this unscriptural doctrine.
The Bible indicates “the devils” existence and even common sense. Those who think about life admit there is an evil in his world that can't be dismissed simply as a 'bad nature' in man. There’s an evil greater in power and influence than simply wrong thoughts in humans. Not only does the Bible say so, but it's quite permissible to talk in terms of an ultimate evil. Something’s are always (regardless of circumstance and mans thoughts) wrong and evil. This evil exists outside of and regardless of man. Disorder, corruption and lawlessness cannot be dismissed as something only in the mind of man, nor is God to blame. Even animals can sense an evil event forth coming, just as man(a higher creature) by his spiritual nature can and does realise an evil being.
Tribes who have had no contact with the Bible or Christians have universally held to a belief in the existence of evil and a Great Spirit. But it's only in the Bible that we have the revelation of why, how and who. The existence of a devil is a spiritual revelation. Those WITHOUT their eyes opened to spiritual things (ie. CD’s) will always walk in the dark regarding spiritual realities (1 Cor.2:14)
Some helpful books -
“Unmasking Christadelphianism – the hopelessness of ‘The Hope” by Branson Hopkins. “Some Modern Faiths” by MC Burrell & JS Wright (Inter Varsity Press 2nd Edn. 1983). “Small Sects in America” TE Clark (Rvd Edn 1947 The Psychology of Religious Awaking, NY). “Three Curious Cults” KE Ditterich (The Methodist Publ. House Aldersgate Press nd). “Heresies and Cults” JO Sanders (Marshall Morgan & Scott London 1962). “Some Modern Religions” JO Sanders (Tyndale Press. Foundations for Faith 1965). “Sects and Society” BR Wilson (William Heineman Ltd London 1961).