Did The Devil Make Me Do It?

AJ and I wrapped up our conversations on my book “Witchcraft In Europe 400-1700: A Documentary History.” We ended with a discussion on temptation. There is a conclusion that I’ve been coming to through these conversations that is both troubling and comforting.

In the podcast, I referenced the trial of Job and how God allowed Satan to torment him. The first aspect we should take notice is that Satan cannot just terrorize us. He is under the sovereignty of God just like the rest of us. That should give us great comfort. The troubling part is that God approved Satan to torment Job. That is one of those, “what the crap, God?” moments. If we are God’s children, why would He ever approve our temptation or torment at the hands of Satan?

The explanations I’ve received in the past were insufficient for me. I would be told that it is part of God’s permissive will. God permits things to happen, like in Job, but is not the reason for it. That didn’t mesh with the idea of God’s sovereignty. This could be semantics and maybe I don’t fully understand the concept of the permissive will of God, but I couldn’t connect how God could be sovereign and also just let things happen.

I have since begun to formulate my own understanding. In the book, it references Aquinas and his explanation of temptation. Essentially, the devil is a master at observation. He knows where we will struggle most by watching our behavior. So, to pull that back to Job, he knew from watching Job that he would struggle the most if he lost his property, his family, and then his health. This is why Satan presented those to God for permission.

Now, we have to reconcile the sovereignty of God and why He permitted Job’s suffering. Firstly, a sovereign creator God does not permit without purpose. God is good, therefore he does not permit suffering for suffering’s sake. Looking at Job, what was the conclusion of the story? A greater understanding of the person of God. Job was being tested, not to prove himself to God, but to walk a path of discovery.

I think the reason I couldn’t reconcile the permissive will of God and His Sovereignty was due to the separation. The whole permissive will answer made it feel, to me, that God was allowing suffering to happen and then making the most of it after the fact. It felt like we were trying to defend God’s innocence. That reactive response on God’s part is what I couldn’t get behind. If God is reacting, then He is not sovereign. We can attribute the suffering of Job to Satan, but the reality is, it came from God. Satan was just the tool that was used. (Yes, Satan is a giant tool, lol.) Whenever we are attributing a cause, we have to apply it to the highest authority. God could have said no and the book of Job would have been a lot shorter. But…He didn’t.

When looking at temptation and whether or not the devil made me do it, I think there needs to be a more wholistic approach. The devil is not a scape goat for my shortfalls, nor should he be the focus of my frustration. God is the author of my faith. That means he started and will progress it unto completion. God will use all sorts of things to reveal himself. He will use the love of my child to reveal one aspect of Himself and cancer in a friend to reveal another aspect. God wills our good and uses the devil, in his short sighted attempts to claw back at anything divine, to lead us all down a path of greater discovery of the person of God. The question is not what is the devil doing, but how much do I trust God?

***This blog post is my first attempt to formalize my thoughts. There very well could be some theological issues that I don’t see. If you have some thoughts, please post them in the comments. I welcome additional insight.

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