PART ONE. Preparing For Battle

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1 PART ONE Preparing For Battle

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3 1 KNOW YOUR ENEMY Be sober, be watchful! For your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith... 1 Peter 5:8 9 ike it or not, you are at war. No matter who you are whether or not you know it you have a mortal enemy who wants to destroy you, not just in this life, but in the next. No matter where you live on this planet whether or not you can see it you live on a hotly contested battlefield, and you can t escape the conflict. It s a spiritual war with crucial consequences in your everyday life. And the outcome of that war will determine your eternal destiny. The first rule of any type of warfare is to know your enemy. How can you fight an adversary you can t identify? Worse yet, how can you avoid being a casualty in a battle going on all around you if you don t even recognize that you re in danger? 3

4 4 CHAPTER 1 Your adversary is the Devil, with his army of demons. Your battle with him rages not only all around you, but also within you, a fierce conflict for control of your mind, your heart, and your ultimate destiny. The world may scoff and tell you there is no Devil and no battle. But the world has been blinded to these realities by the Enemy himself. Its skepticism is part of his stealth strategy: Those who deny his existence are an easy prey. Evidence of the battle How do we know that demons are real? Consider first the accumulated evidence of confirming testimony. Throughout all history, peoples of vastly different cultures around the globe have affirmed the reality of evil spirits even when they have disagreed about most other spiritual realities. Many of our contemporaries as well, who by any reasonable standard are intelligent and in their right mind, have testified to having encounters with demonic powers. No doubt, some types of mental and physical illness have been wrongly attributed to demons, today as in the past. Nor can we deny that superstitions and legends about evil spirits abound. But these misguided ideas about the Devil don t in themselves prove that he doesn t exist, just as age-old beliefs about a flat earth don t prove that our planet doesn t exist.

5 KNOW YOUR ENEMY 5 Skeptics may demand scientific evidence. But what kind of relevant evidence would scientists be capable of measuring? The natural sciences measure time, matter, energy, and motion; the social sciences analyze human behavior. Demons have no physical bodies, and they aren t human. We can t put them in test tubes or subject them to psychoanalysis. The most, then, that scientists can do is to observe the effects of demons on the physical world or on human behavior. But the prevailing mentality among scientists will press them to seek other explanations for such phenomena, even when these explanations are utterly inadequate. In any case, for Catholics and other Christians the issue should be settled. A number of passages in the Bible testify to the existence of the Devil and his evil allies. (See chapter 8, Scriptures for the Battle. ) The Gospel accounts in particular record that Jesus Christ Himself conversed with Satan. Our Lord s debate with the Devil in the wilderness was not simply some inner dialogue with Himself about temptation. Christ referred to demons on more than one occasion, and casting evil spirits out of those who were possessed was a striking and indispensable aspect of His mission. Of course, some interpreters have claimed that when Christ cast out evil spirits, He was simply healing a physical or mental disorder misunderstood as demonic possession. But

6 6 CHAPTER 1 we need only reply that on at least one occasion, at Christ s command, the demons left their human host to take possession of animals instead. You can t cast a medical disorder out of a man into a pig. If Christ knew what He was doing as Christians must insist and if the Gospel account is historically reliable as Christians must also insist then we must conclude that the forces described there as evil spirits are precisely that. The reality of demonic powers has been a constant doctrine of the Catholic Church ever since it was founded by Christ through His apostles. They and their successors spoke and wrote about Satan repeatedly. Through the centuries, the great teachers of the Church have consistently affirmed that he is real. Satan s existence has also been affirmed in authoritative declarations by Popes and Church councils. (See chapter 7, Church Teaching About Spiritual Warfare. ) He s referred to in the liturgy of the Church. And throughout the centuries, numerous saints, whose moral integrity and mental health could hardly be debated, have testified to personal battles with demonic assailants. (See chapter 9, Help From the Saints. ) Yet even aside from the Church s teaching, the evidence of demonic intervention in human affairs is all around us daily. As Fr. Ronald Knox once wryly noted, It is stupid of modern civilization to have

7 KNOW YOUR ENEMY 7 given up believing in the Devil, when he is the only explanation of it. What are demons? The Church teaches that Satan and the other demons were at first good angels, created by God before the creation of the human race. But they became evil by their own free choice, radically rejecting God and His reign. Satan was the leader of the rebels. God and the good angels defeated them and cast them out of heaven. Now they make their influence felt in our world. They cannot repent of their evil, because the choice they made against God is irrevocable. (For a summary of the Church s teaching about demons, see chapter 7, Church Teaching About Spiritual Warfare. ) Just how many demons are there? We simply don t know for sure. Sacred Scripture and Tradition take for granted that there are multitudes of them. But we can be consoled to know that their numbers aren t increasing: They cannot reproduce themselves. When we keep in mind that demons are fallen angels, we have some sense of what they can and cannot do. Angels are like humans in that they have intellects and wills. But they have no physical bodies as we do that would make them subject to death or physical ailments.

8 8 CHAPTER 1 The angelic nature includes certain kinds of superhuman powers. Angels are far superior to us in strength, skill, intelligence, and knowledge. Having no physical bodies, they don t move through space as we do, since they can t actually occupy space. Even so, they can act on physical objects, shifting their attention and their activity instantly from one place to another. The angelic nature of demons, though in many ways superior to ours, has been deformed and darkened by their sin. They abuse their great gifts from God by using them to injure human beings. Their purpose is to see as many human beings as possible join them in rebelling against God and in their everlasting misery separated from Him in hell. For centuries, theologians have debated the limits of demonic power. According to the prevailing tradition, the Devil and his cohorts cannot know the future unless God has revealed it. They may, however, make accurate predictions and then act on them, given their vast knowledge of events throughout the world and the corresponding natural consequences. And of course, being aware of their own intentions, they know their own plans for the future. In any case, demons have remarkable power to use against us. But it s essential to remember that they don t have unlimited power. The Devil is not an evil deity equal in might to the good God who is eternal, all-powerful, and all-knowing. Satan is

9 KNOW YOUR ENEMY 9 only a creature, and in the end, he s no match for God, his Creator and Judge. 1 Why is the Devil still in action? God is infinitely more powerful than the Devil and his hosts. So why doesn t God prevent them from their evildoing on planet earth? We could ask a similar question about why God doesn t stop human beings from committing wicked deeds. Evil s continuing presence among us is a mystery we can t fully figure out in this life. Nevertheless, we can say this much: God allows evil because He s powerful enough to bring out of even the greatest evil a much greater good. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ provides a vivid illustration of this reality. According to the Gospel, when Satan entered into Judas, one of the twelve Apostles, he went out to betray Jesus (see Lk 22:3 4). So the worst evil we can imagine the torture and murder of God s innocent Son occurred through the Devil s influence. Yet the triumph of the empty tomb transformed the horror of the Cross. Satan was thwarted. When Jesus rose from the dead, He displayed God s power to bring out of the greatest of evils an even greater good: the world s redemption. 1. For an excellent summary of the angelic nature and capabilities, see Peter Kreeft, Angels (and Demons): What Do We Really Know About Them? (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1995).

10 10 CHAPTER 1 Meanwhile, our days in this life provide a season for God to test, purify, strengthen, and perfect us, making us fit to live with Him forever in heaven. To that end, the demons serve as useful tools for Him as they constantly test us by tempting us, so that we become purer and stronger and closer to perfection every time we resist the temptation. In this sense, we might say, quoting St. Augustine: As an artist, God makes use even of the Devil.

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