The Devil is Good (in substance, not morality)

It might seem weird that after writing about heresy, I would title a post, “The Devil is Good.” But I wanted to explore a common myth that people hold in conservative Churches, one that doesn’t make sense in the broad scheme of things.

Often we hear that the Devil is the embodiment of evil, that he is pure evil who’s sole purpose is to act against God. Were this the case, this would mean that evil is a created substance, something that diametrically opposes good. Furthermore, if evil were a substance, then Satan would be united to this substance to be the embodiment of evil.

There are, however, quite a few problems with evil being a substance:

1) God would have had to create evil. God is the only one who can create ex nihilo, therefore He would have had to create evil. But how can a perfectly good God create something contrary to His nature? It creates a contradiction – either God didn’t create evil or God isn’t perfectly good

2) If we say God did not create evil, then who did? Certainly evil wasn’t created ex nihilo as no one can do such a thing. Was evil then created from parts of good? If this is the case, how does one take what is good and make it used for evil without evil already existing?

So it makes sense to say that evil is not a substance or property, but an accident to nature. Evil is unnatural while good is natural. When we act unnaturally, we are committing evil.

So we then look to the Devil and see that he was created by God. If he was created by God, then his substance is still good. Even in the Devil goodness can be found for the simple fact that he is created. However, he was also given reason and a free will and he abused both. In his free will he sought to be above God and therefore sinned against God, committing evil (that which is unnatural). So when we say that the Devil is good, we mean that in his substance because he is created, like us. He is not, however, morally good. Morally speaking, he is evil and far more evil than any other of God’s creatures. All morally evil actions we see occur are actions that began in the mind of the Devil who then tempted humans (or had his minions tempt humans) to follow through on these actions (who had the free will to either commit or avoid these actions).

But the entire reason I’m pointing this out is to show that nothing, not even the Devil, is evil in substance. Substance is that which is given to us by God. Thus, we are only as evil as we choose to be. None of us were created evil, none of us have an evil nature, and there is no evil to be found in our nature except that which we put back into it through our own free choice to sin. Morally we are evil, but in substance we are good.

This shows the necessity of salvation. Because we are still good in substance, we are totally responsible for our actions. If God had put evil within the substance of the Devil or within our own substance, then how could he or we be blamed for acting in an evil way? Certainly we would only be following the path God laid out for us by way of our substance. Since, however, we are good in substance – as is the Devil – we share total responsibility for our sin. When we act in an evil manner, we do so by our own choice and not because sinning is a part of our nature.

Since we sin by our own choice, God sent His Son to redeem us of this sin. His Son took on human flesh and lived a perfect life to show that sin is not in our substance, but instead is in our will. It shows that God saved us when we did not deserve to be saved. We willingly turned against Him and do so to this day, but He willingly laid down His life to rescue us from our own imprisonment. The process of salvation brings us back to living in accordance with our substance, which is good. This is a process the Devil will never go through and he will suffer eternal punishment because he freely went against his good substance so he could be evil, that is, so he could be his own master.

So as humans we are left with two choices. We can either follow the way of Christ, who lived perfectly in the human substance and thus opened a way for us to be perfect one day, or we can follow the path of the Devil, who will never repent of his sins and will continually ignore the One who created his good substance and choose to be his own master, which will lead to his destruction. These are the only two paths available.