Satan: Alive and Well
Forty to fifty years ago, North America took a great interest in the occult and Satanism. This was prompted by multiple events.
In 1966 Anton LaVey founded the First Church of Satan. His book, the Satanic Bible, followed two years later. Through his “church,” LaVey promoted a lifestyle of indulgence, vengeance and self-gratification. As a result, many from around the nation joined him.
In 1966 and 1967 Timothy Leary toured college campuses promoting the use of the drug LSD for spiritual enlightenment. During that same period of time he founded the League for Spiritual Discovery, a religious movement with LSD as its holy sacrament.
In 1969 the Manson family was linked to a string of murders in the Los Angeles area. Their vision was to trigger a race war between blacks and whites that would launch the US into chaos. In his book Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi documented the fact that Charles Manson borrowed philosophically from the Process Church of the Final Judgment, a cult known for worshiping both Jesus and Satan.
In 1971 William Blatty wrote a book called The Exorcist. A movie of the same title soon followed. It was a frightening and ugly story of a young girl who suffered from demon possession. It was based on a true story. In many theaters, viewers fainted from fright.
In the middle of this furor, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship invited me to speak on the subject of the occult and Satanism at conferences in both Billings and Bozeman, Montana. These speaking engagements began an interesting journey for me. I suddenly had contact with several people who related their occult experiences to me. In addition, I received over sixty invitations to speak on the occult and Satanism from coast to coast, including television, radio and press.
Since that time, the preoccupation with the occult has died down. (I’m glad the trip is over—I’d much rather talk about Jesus than the devil). But that does not mean that Satan is easing up on his nefarious work in North America or around the world.
Satanism has existed from the beginning of history and it still exists today. I believe Satan, as he always does, has simply changed his tactics. His methodology of the 1970s and 80s produced more fear than disciples. Satan does not like to be in the limelight. In the light he walks in light, and in the darkness he walks in darkness.
The devil’s new approach in his attack on humankind is subtle, and it has been far more successful than in the past.
How has the devil succeeded? In many ways!
First, we see Satan’s attack on the family, by a multitude of avenues, including divorce, cohabitation, homosexual union, abortion and child abuse.
Second, we see the effect that drugs have had on our society. In some instances we even see state and federal governments working against each other, divided over the issue of legalization.
Third, we see the desire in our society for material things. We are a people driven by a want for more. We are fixated on building up treasure in this world.
Fourth—and perhaps the most subtle of them all—the strongest tool of Satan is religion itself. Reading the Old Testament, we see that when God judges Israel, the first sin that is mentioned is idolatry.
In 1 Corinthians 10:20, Paul tells us that a sacrifice to a false god is an offering to the devil. And, sad to say, even Christians inadvertently do the devil’s work from time to time. When Peter reprimanded Jesus, Jesus said it was Satan speaking through Peter (Matthew 16:23).
In Acts 4:12 we are told, “There is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
This exclusiveness is not tolerated in our age, when we are taught that there are many approaches to God. To claim that we have absolute truth is viewed as the height of intolerance. This is in spite of the fact that there is one Truth, and that Truth is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Francis Schaeffer observed that our present society has not only turned its back on Truth, but on the very concept that truth exists. Truth has become subjective. “You have your truth and I have mine,” and in many cases the Church has bought into this lie.
Behind all of this is the sinister figure of Satan. We are tempted by the world and our own flesh, but behind all temptation is the person of Satan.
Ephesians 6:11-12 tells us, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
We are involved in the ultimate battle between good and evil. Temptation comes at the Christian from every direction. It may be subtle. Satan attacks when we are weak and where we are weak. Know your weaknesses, and guard against them. When Christ faced temptation he turned to Scripture. Remember where your hope is found and that your victory is won in Christ.
Rev. Omar Gjerness graduated from Lutheran Brethren Seminary (LBS) in 1945. He has served Lutheran Brethren congregations in Montana, Saskatchewan, New York and California. In 1962 he became professor of systematic theology at LBS, and in 1984 he became president of LBS. Pastor Gjerness retired in 1993 and lives in Fergus Falls, MN.