Question: Did Satan know Jesus was God, or was he just tempting his human nature…
Is Satan evil, or just God’s ‘bad cop’?
Way back in 1968, the popular rock band The Rolling Stones had a classic hit called “Sympathy for the Devil.” That’s a tune that medieval historian Henry Ansgar Kelly could well be singing these days.
Kelly, who teaches at the University of California at Los Angeles, is a former Jesuit exorcist who has written three books about the devil. Recently, he taught a three-day “Satan Seminar” at Chicago’s Loyola University in which he advanced his pet thesis: Satan has gotten a bum rap. The devil, he postulates, is God’s “heavy” who does his dirty work for him, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Among scriptural evidence he cites is the Book of Job, wherein Satan carries on a dialogue with God about Job and receives God’s permission to smite him with hardships and tragedy to test his faith. His temptations of Christ in the desert and of the apostle Peter provide further evidence of Satan fulfilling his duties as God’s henchman, according to Kelly.
While it’s clear that God allows temptation and evil to exist, that’s not quite the same as suggesting that God and Satan are playing “good cop/bad cop.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Satan is a “fallen angel” who “radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign” (No. 391, 392). Jesus, who himself called the devil “a murderer from the beginning” and “the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), came into the world for the express purpose to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8).
Although Satan “may act out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus” and cause grave spiritual and physical injury, “the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history,” the Catechism states (No. 395).
The Book of Job is specifically a meditation on the very problem of evil in the world and how good people suffer along with the not-so-good. So when the Catechism calls it “a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity” (No. 395), we may find ourselves neither consoled nor enlightened.
What we do know is that Satan, whom God allows to test us so that we may be strengthened in faith and obedience, deserves none of our sympathy — no matter what Mick Jagger says.