Nightline Debate – Is Satan Real?

Recently, ABC Nightline conducted another debate in their “Face-off” series.  Previous face-offs have debated pornography and the existence of God.  In their most recent face-off, ABC sought to debate the existence of the Devil.  For this installment, they brought together Pastor Mark Driscoll of the Mars Hill Church and Annie Lobert who founded the Christian ministry “Hookers for Jesus” (on team Christian) to face-off against philosopher Deepak Chopra and Bishop Carlton Pearson.

Several interesting points were raised during the debate, and I think there are some fascinating items to reflect on, so I thought I would do this blog entry with my thoughts.  I have not taken a lot of time to organize my thoughts, but I wanted to point out some of the high and low points. I also promised some preliminary thoughts in The Christian Forum (http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=19371839356) a Facebook group I administer.  So, here goes!

If I’m not mistaken, the debate aired late last week on Nightline, but the debate can be still seen online at:

http://www.abcnews.go.com/Nightline/FaceOff/

I am familiar with Pastor Driscoll.  His blog is one that I subscribe to and check regularly, and I’ve recently added his weekly sermon series to my Podcasts.  I have heard of Mr. Chopra, but I had not heard of either of the other two participants.  My point in this blog is not to attack any of them personally but to address their viewpoints and make some observations about those viewpoints.  Some summary of where each person in the debate stood on the issue of Satan would probably be useful:

Mark Driscoll: took what I would call the Biblical viewpoint that Satan does exist, was created by God as an angel, rebelled and fell from grace, and will be conquered and defeated by Jesus in the final days.

Annie Lobart: believes in Satan and demonic forces and claims to have been physically raped by demons that she could not see.

Deepak Chopra: believes that all belief is a cover up for insecurity (and yes, I note the self-contradiction inherent in that statement).  He believes part of us is a “shadow” that is in guilt and shame.  This shadow comes from separation from our divine source.  People who obsess over sin, guilt and shame then project that out as the mythical figure we call Satan. He believes healthy people have no need for Satan, and that people need to confront thier own issues and understand themselves.

Carlton Pearson: believes that Satan is not real and that a loving God would not send people to an eternal hell.  He believes that Satan is a personal manifestation of people who want to believe in him.

Pastor Driscoll started the debate with a good presentation of the Gospel including a description of the fall, the need for Jesus, the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. I thought that, all in all, he did a good job of defending the Christian/Biblical point of view on the issue of Satan and presented a clear gospel picture.

Bishop Pearson made some interesting comments that warrant some discussion.  First, he indicated that he feels that he can choose which parts of the Bible to believe.  It is interesting that so much of the debate, and so many of the divisions, within the nominally Christian church today ultimately boil down to the authority of scripture.  It seems to me that the view that says that we can choose which parts of the Bible to believe makes man the ultimate arbiter of morality and judgment.  I would much rather have God in that position, and I for one am glad that the Bible says that he is in that position.  Mr. Pearson has a markedly post-modern view of the world.  It is clear that he does not believe in absolute truth, and he revealed this numerous times with comments to the effect that certain things were “true to you.”  To be honest, I do not understand this view that there is no absolute truth when it is obvious (when we honestly look inside ourselves) that there are certain things that are always evil, and not just relatively evil depending on the circumstances.  Take slavery for example, is it ever morally OK?   The Bishop also said that lots of people do not know the Scriptures and they are put in a position where they have no hope.  I find this ironic in that our only real hope comes through a relationship with Christ.

Annie Lobert seemed very sincere in her love for Jesus and in her testimony.  The one point she made which was a bit disturbing, though frankly I don’t know she intended it quite this way, was when she indicated that she didn’t care about the “evidence”  presented by the Bishop because she knows what she experienced.  Jesus does change our lives once we accept him, but I think advocating experience alone as justification for belief in Christ is dangerous in that the heart is deceitful above all things.   There is ample proof for Jesus and the claims of the Bible which have nothing to do with our own personal experience, and I cringe a little bit every time I hear somebody say something that could be interpreted as “blind faith.”  One convicting point that she did made for Christians was when she explained that she grew up in a denomination where they were taught that God was angry.  As Christians, we should remember that judgment without grace is legalism and grace without judgment is licentiousness.  It is important that we strike the balance between love and holiness and judgment and grace in teaching about God.

Deepak Chopra seems to believe two things strongly based on this debate.  He believes that all beliefs are a cover up for insecurity and that some people have a “higher enlightenment” and therefore don’t need religion.  And, he believes that all the problems in the world have to do with religious ideology.  One astute audience member of the audience did point out to him that his statement that all belief was a cover up for insecurity was, in fact, a belief.  Mr. Chopra clearly defined where he is coming from, and that is a very naturalistic viewpoint.  He explained that something is only real if you can experience it.  He explained that he has no need for the Devil because he doesn’t have guilt and shame and that evil and suffering comes from ignorance.

When pressed a little bit on his beliefs, Mr. Chopra fell back on the age old argument that most atheists fall back on when they can find nothing better, “What of all the people who have never heard of Jesus?”  Pastor Driscoll made the point that God is a big God and can save whomever he wants, but I would have liked to see him make the point that it is not amazing that God saves only a few but that God saves any!  Finally, Mr. Chopra quite proudly explained that he doesn’t want to hang around with a bunch of people who know the truth.  He would rather hag out with people who seek the truth and run from those who know it.  I think this is another indication of a post-modern “there is no real truth” viewpoint, and despite Mr. Chopra’s self-confessed enlightenment, he does seem to start from the presupposition that there is no truth!  He further confirmed this viewpoint when he expressed that Annie Lobert’s interpretation “works for her” but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to accept it.

In the question and answer section of the debate, Pastor Driscoll made a very valid point that we would do well to remember which is that you can’t blame the Devil for everything in your life.  The Devil can influence us and tempt us, but if we choose to do something, we are morally responsible for it.

Those are my “stream of consciousness” thoughts on the debate.  The Washington Post this week also questions the existence of the Devil in their On Faith section.  There are some interesting articles and viewpoints there as well, but I have not had a chance to read all of them so I won’t make any comments.  You can find it all at:

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/2009/03/does_satan_exist/all.html

When it comes to debating the existence of Satan, we would do well to remember the words of C.S. Lewis in his introduction to The Screwtape Letters:

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

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2 Responses

  1. […] An interesting, and scary look, at what self-professed Christian’s believe about Satan and the Holy Spirit based on a Barna survey.  This was particularly interesting to me after watching the recent Nightline debate on the existence of Satan which I write about back in March here. […]

  2. […] March 29, I summarized an interesting Nightline Debate on the topic of “Is Satan Real?” After that, the posts became more and more frequent.  On April 7 I started The Blog Patrol which […]

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