From Anthony David Jacques, “Why, according to the Bible, Satan is either more powerful or more intelligent that [should be ‘than’] God.”
I like how ADJ is attempting a ‘big picture’ understanding of the Bible here, without necessarily nitpicking on how the Old Testament law seems to contradict the New (which is what many atheists with absolutely no desire to understand biblical hermeneutics have too much time for). But there are some serious errors in ADJ’s understanding of the biblical narrative and God’s sovereignty over Satan, which led to his misguided conclusion that the joke is not on Satan but on the Bible-believing Christian. Below is a point-by-point critique.
1. “Because of original sin, man will go to hell.” (Romans 3:23, Revelation 21:8)
ADJ cites two relevant verses, yet he doesn’t expound on their full implications. Both verses are clear that it is not merely for the state of original sin that man will be judged, but also for the sins that were actually committed. All “fall short of the glory of God” because “all have sinned.” The biblical idea of judgment is one that falls on both man’s actions and their hearts. God is most concerned about the heart. (This is a crucial point, which we’ll return to later.)
2. “However, God desires that all men be saved.” (2 Peter 3:9)
This is true, and not only in 2 Peter but also in 1 Timothy 2:4 - God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Yet, what ADJ misunderstands is that God’s desire for all people to be saved is not the greatest of his desires, and therefore not part of his decretive plan (i.e. God’s infallible decree). As the ESV Study Bible explains, there are at least two possibly greater desires God carries: Arminians hold that God’s greater desire is to preserve genuine human freedom (which is necessary for genuine love) and therefore he must allow that some may choose to reject his offer of salvation; Calvinists hold that God’s greater desire is to display the full range of his glory (Rom. 9:22–23), which results in election depending upon the freedom of his mercy and not upon human choice (Rom. 9:15–18). God’s desire for all people to be saved is thereby governed by his greater desires for a greater demonstration of his goodness. The biblical narrative is not as centered on mankind as ADJ assumes, but this is where the unbeliever’s heart is revealed. The natural heart hates being dethroned from the center to the peripheral.
3. “In effort to save man from death and hell, God spent several thousand years developing a plan.”
The language here isn’t very clear, but I can presume ADJ to be saying something to the extent that God is unfolding his redemptive-historical narrative over thousands of years. If this is the case I have no qualms with it (though I’m curious why the wikipedia reference was used rather than a biblical reference). It’s worth noting once again that a man-centered hermeneutics is guiding ADJ’s reading of Scripture.
4. “This plan required a miraculous birth, 33-year life, and horrific death of his only Son.” (John 3:16)
The redemptive-historical narrative is certainly consummated in the life, death, and resurrection of the Son, Jesus Christ; but it’s also important to note how this narrative is really told not only in the four Gospels, but also in every page from Genesis to Revelations. But ADJ doesn’t seem to be challenging this particular point so I’ll leave this point at that.
5. “But this plan only provides salvation for a lucky fraction of all mankind who hear and believe.” (Luke 13:23-28)
By “a lucky fraction” I presume ADJ is referring to the elect, which ADJ correctly describes as those who hear the Gospel and come to saving faith. But it would be wrong for him to imply from the doctrine of election that the unbelievers today are therefore non-elect, because God is the only one who knows whether someone is elect or not (ADJ cannot logically claim that he himself is a non-elect). The fact is the door of salvation is still open to all by the grace of God (it is in this sense that God wants “all people to be saved”), and this was the main point of the passage in Luke. The command is to “enter.” ADJ need only read a verse or two further to realize this invitation is open to him as well - “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:29-30) The very fact that this door is open to “all,” is a sure sign that Satan has not been victorious in bringing mankind to inevitable doom with himself.
6. “All of this is an attempt to undo what Satan accomplished with a single conversation… and it isn’t working.” (Genesis 3:1-4)
There’re quite a few misunderstandings here. For one, the only thing Satan accomplished in the Garden was setting an exact date for his eventual doom - when the Messiah comes from the seed of Adam. Everything that unfolded in Genesis and thereafter were part of God’s plan, which ADJ invoked in his third point, and it wasn’t so much of God’s undoing as it was about God’s continual outworking of his plan. Secondly, it’s worth pointing out once again that what’s supposed to be “working” is not the conversion of all mankind; as I argued above, universal election never was a part of God’s eternal decree. What was supposed to ‘work’ and has ‘worked’ is the salvation plan accomplished by the Messiah, as prophesied in Genesis, to the glory of God (not man). Thus, it was “necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory.” (Luke 24:26)
7. “Christians actually believe this.”
“This” simply is not what the Bible teaches, and Christians certainly will not believe it to be true.
8. “They believe that Satan is either much more powerful or much more intelligent than God.”
The attempt to reveal an inconsistency in the biblical worldview requires a proper understanding of the Bible in the first place. ADJ’s conclusion is not only illogical, it’s clearly unbiblical. But the real problem here, however, is that the unbelieving heart is by nature irrational and cannot come to a true understanding of God (much less his Word). Satan’s power and intelligence (though limited and irrational in their own right), are thus exerted most violently on the unbelieving heart. In other words, Satan’s power and intelligence is not greater than God’s, but they may be greater than ADJ’s.
The joke is still on Satan, but it can also be on those who fall under his puny authority.
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
Teehee. Get owned.