Satan’s Tactics

I think this meme is clumsy, and overstates its case. This is aggravating, because the point it really wants to make is a good one, but it is overstated here, beyond what is true and reasonable, as if the author were driven to declare an absolute rule about how Satan operates.

Let me demonstrate. Here’s the first sentence:

Satan disguises submission to himself under the ruse of personal autonomy.

This opening line raises the question of whether the meme will assert an absolute (which it does in the second sentence). It could make a softer entry into the subject by inserting “sometimes”, as in “Satan sometimes disguises….”. But it seems to be running headlong into the absolute statement made in the second sentence:

He never asks us to become his servants.

This is an absolute statement, leaving no room for exceptions. (Note the absolute term, never.) As such, it only takes one exception to disprove an absolute statement. And I think I have found an exception in this passage of scripture about the temptation of Jesus by Satan:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’

Matthew 4:8-10. NIV.

Is this not Satan asking Jesus to become his servant? And does not the meme say Satan “never asks us to become his servants”? Does the Matthew 4 passage not present an exception to the rule asserted in the meme?

I think so. And should this not give one pause when considering the veracity of this absolute assertion? That is, if Satan explicitly asked Jesus to worship Satan, how can we be so confident that this was the only time it had ever happened, or would ever happen?

(I’m assuming that the meme’s author assumes that Satan is still at work today as he was in the First Century. If this is not the case, then further exception might be taken to the meme on those grounds.)

This one exception to the absolute assertion, “never”, should stop the meme dead in its tracks, but it doesn’t seem to have this exception in mind. Rather, it goes on, as if trying to make a proof from a negative:

Never once did the serpent say to Eve, “I want to be your master.”

This is another overstatement, for in no place that I know of are we told that we have in print the complete conversation between the serpent and Eve. Yet here, the meme’s author assures is that “never once” was such a thing said. And this statement certainly could have been softer. For example, it could say “We don’t see the serpent saying to Eve, ‘I want to be your master.'” Rather, it goes so far as to assure us that “never once” were such words spoken. But how could the meme’s author possibly know that? And what would make a writer want to assert so absolutely something he could not possibly know?

The meme goes on:

The shift in commitment is never from Christ to evil; it is always from Christ to self.

Note the continued use of absolute language in the terms “never” and “always” here. The author really seems to want there to be a hard-and-fast rule about how Satan operates, and is willing to go out on a limb, declaring such things without the direct support explicit statements of scripture.

I note also that this sentence seems to assume that a commitment to Christ is already in place when Satan does his enticing. That raises some questions that deserve examination in their own right.

Let us consider Judas for a moment, and the passage here:

As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”

John 13:27. NIV.

It is difficult for me to imagine that what John really wants to tell us here is that autonomy entered Judas at this momentthat an attitude of aloofness and independence suddenly entered into Judas. The word John uses here is “Satan”, and the plain sense of the language seems to be that some manner of possession took place here, with Judas serving out the specific mission of Satan with regard to the arrest an execution of Jesus. Sure, the author of the meme could argue that “clearly”, Judas was in it for the money, which is a self-serving thing, and that Judas “never once” said he knew he was serving Satan in all this. But my point is that he would have to make this argument while stepping over the way that the Gospel of John tells the story. He would have to insert his points into the story told by scripture.

I was curious just how much the Bible talks about serving other gods, as opposed to serving oneself. So I searched the following terms to spot check the idea, and I got the following results:

Searching the ESV for [serv gods], I got 54 returns.
Searching the ESV for [serv self], I got 1 return, and it doesn’t seem to be relevant.
Searching the ESV for [serv selv], I got 0 returns.

So, why would the Bible speak so much in terms of serving other gods, but not in the terms that the meme seems to adamant about using?

I did search all the Bible translations at BibleHub.com, and got zero returns on the word “autonomy”.

The meme continues:

And instead of HIS will, self-interest now rules, and what I want reigns. And that is the essence of sin.

It is certainly true that shunning what God wants in order to do what oneself wants is sin, but once again, I believe the meme goes too far in saying that self-interest is “the essence of sin”. Isn’t sin conventionally defined as “missing the mark”, as in missing a target. One doesn’t have to be aiming at the wrong target to miss the one he’s supposed to be hitting. That’s what the meme seems to want to describe: replacing the pleasing-Jesus target with the pleasing-self target. But can’t one be fully intending to do right by Jesus, and still miss the mark by way of some error, or of insufficient effort, perhaps?

This whole meme seems too adamant and stubborn to me―too heavy-handed in its disposition with regard to the absolutes it asserts. Even in this final sentence, it wants to commandeer the definition of sin to serve only the one instance of substituting one’s own will for that of Jesus―as if the scriptures use the term in no other way than that.

Why the need to reframe the tactics of Satan and the very definition of sin, demanding that this one case be the only case? Why the need to declare that Satan “never once” said a thing, as if we have an exhaustive list of all the things Satan ever said? And why the need to declare that Satan “never asks us to become his servants” when we have him on record enticing Jesus to worship him, and we have Jesus on record replying: “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”?

Sadly, even though this meme does recognize one of the tactics used by Satan, it grossly overstates some of its points, and is very messy, as are so many memes. The abuse of absolute terms and statements is a tell-tale sign of a messy mind. The author either doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, that we have at least one slam-dunk exception to his rule about Satan’s tactics in the biblical record.

If I wanted to write a meme about this target-switching enticement of Satan, I might write something like this:

While Satan might be happy to have somebody switch from being fully committed to Jesus to being fully committed to Satan, it would seem from a broad surveying of scripture that he is also content to have people choose an attitude of self-rule, as this effectively draws them away from Jesus, too.

Or, to tackle it from a different angle, still, I might write:

You don’t have to be an all-out Satan worshiper to rebel against God and go your own way in some fashion similar to Satan. The sin is in missing the Way of God, and not so much in which particular alternative way you chose.

Or again,

Since man is not born fully-devoted to God, but must learn that devotion during his life on the Earth, it is not necessary for Satan to convert the man to full devotion to Satan in order to ruin the man, but only to keep him from being fully devoted to God, as per the first and greatest commandment.

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