“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” That’s not from the Bible, but it is good theology. It’s actually from the 1994 film The Usual Suspects, and it’s a line that has stuck with me.
I say it’s good theology because the biblical authors had to remind us that Satan is real. Paul warned:
“…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14–15)
Peter had to remind us that the devil is actively prowling around like a lion (1 Pet. 5:8), waiting to pick off those who are not on their guard.
I like writing about culture. I like seeing the ways that God is working in the “secular” world, the ways his glories are being proclaimed by even the most unlikely suspects. But I have to remind myself, as a coworker reminded me last week, that Satan is in the business of deception, and he’s active in our naïveté and ignorance.
I still believe that “secular” music, for example, often glorifies God. But I also need to heed the biblical warnings that those things that seem innocent, even those things that look like “light,” could be placed there for malevolent purposes. Mercifully, Satan’s worst tactics still end up accomplishing God’s greater purposes—like when Joseph was sold into slavery (see Gen. 50:20) or when Satan killed Jesus (see Acts 4:27–28). Even so, we need to keep Paul’s warning always in mind:
“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)