The Pope's latest excuses for the sins of Catholic priests? It was Satan's work.
Welcome to the June 11th, 2010 edition of Bible in the News. This is Glenn Abel with you. The official Vatican “year of the priest” mercifully came to a close this week. It’s probable that the Holy See wasn’t expecting the events of the last 12 months to transpire in the manner in which they did... for in the “year of the priest”, it was discovered that the priests of Catholic Europe were involved in the same types of child-molestation cases and coverups that the priests in America were caught up in just a few short years ago.
When it was discovered several months back that Ratzinger himself (the Pope) had been involved in the cover-up regarding one of the Priests, the Vatican “circled the wagons” and Catholic officials defended their leader with vim and vigor. As outrage spread, the Pope worked hard to maintain an image of humble piety, while allowing his minions to blast away at the church’s “enemies”. Yet, listening to his words on this subject, we see efforts underway to disassociate the church and her teachings from these events by deflecting the blame on the time-worn head of Satan himself.
As he wrapped up the “year of the priest”, Ratzinger prayed for forgiveness for the sins of the priests, but blamed these sins on “the enemy” - meaning Satan. Here’s an excerpt: The context is his reflection on the “ear of the priest” which was supposed to increase the vitality and strength of the priesthood.
“It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the “enemy”; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite...”
This isn’t the first time this excuse has been used to defend the behavior of church leaders. But Bible students do take exception to the perpetuation of false teachings that undermine a believers standing before God. And so, we are going to look at a few basic scriptural facts on this subject.
Bible facts about “satan”
Here are some Bible facts about “satan”:
- The Hebrew word “satan” simply means “adversary”
- No where in the Bible does this word imply an “arch-enemy” of God. In fact:
- Of 33 occurrences in the Old Testament, it is translated “adversary” 12 times, “withstand” 1 time, “resist” 1 time.
- The rest were not translated and remain as “satan” in 4 distinct passages
- Take the time to look up this word in a good concordance such as “Strongs Exhaustive” and see for yourself that not one of these occurrences support the typical “church” teaching about the root of sin.
- In Matthew 16:23, Jesus called Peter “satan” because he was opposed to God’s will as it pertained to the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. As such, he was an “adversary” to Jesus
- Compare 1 Chronicles 21:1 with 2 Samuel 24:1. Read the context of both passages. What do you conclude about “satan”?
Bible facts about “the devil”
- The Greek word “devil” is “Diabalos” which means “a false accuser or slanderer”
- See its use in Titus 2:3, and 1 Timothy 3:11 (look up the Greek words for “slanderers” and “false accusers” in these passages)
- A review of the use of this word indicates that scripture personifies those evil lusts, which are part of human nature which tempt man to sin
- As such it is also used to refer to classes of people who are mired in sinful ways, including political and religious groups (Revelation2:10; 1 Peter 5:8-9)
For a good scriptural analysis of this subject, see the Arthur Bull’s articles in the Bible Magazine (see www.biblemagazine.com and ask for back-issues).
Bible teaching on the Root of Temptation and Sin
Consider the following passages on the the root of temptation and sin:
- Genesis 8:21: “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”
- Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
- Mark 7:21-23: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
- James 1:13-15: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
Read Romans 7:15-25. This section describes the struggle that occurs when we decide to be servants of Christ and not servants of sin. If we don’t know our adversary, how can we defend against it? Paul knew his adversary (v18): “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing”. In Romans 8 we learn that the scriptures help us to develop Godly thinking that can overcome fleshly thinking.
Jesus’ Mission: To Destroy “Sin’s Flesh”
The effects of sin and death can be overcome through the Lord Jesus Christ. His mission in this respect is summarized in Hebrews 2:14, John 1:29, 1 John 3:8, Romans 8:3: To “destroy that having the power of death, which is the devil;” or sin’s flesh; in other words, to “take away the sin of the world” and to “destroy the works of the devil” i.e. sin. He did this by being obedient to the will of his father, living a sinless life, even though he bore the same nature as those he came to save... sin’s flesh with all of its impulses and temptations. In this he demonstrated the righteousness of his father.
The “church” teachings on “Satan” are alluring to the flesh: they seem to provide cover over our sins and hint that God will overlook them because we were overpowered by an external entity that controlled our actions while we were helpless spectators... and thus not responsible really for our sins. The “secular” perspective is little better, instead placing the culpability upon either our environmental upbringing or on some genetic switch that completely predetermined our behavior.
All such reasoning is not scriptural and is nothing more than a man-made cover of leaves over our sins, as we, like Adam and Eve attempt to deflect the blame on others for our own actions.
Scriptures teach us that only God can provide an adequate covering for sin, which he did through the Lord Jesus Christ. They also teach us to take responsibility for our sins, to confess them, pray for forgiveness, and to repent of them. Above all, they teach us to recognize God’s righteousness and our position before Him.
Consider, for example the prayer of David after his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51), in which he takes responsibility for his sin, acknowledges his sin, and his position before God, begs for forgiveness, and sets his thoughts and heart on a righteous future. We would do well to follow his example for our own sins.
Our concluding thought is some encouragement from James to resist the impulses of sin’s flesh, that the better habit we make of resistance (with a correct understanding), the easier that resistance becomes: James 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
On Join us again next week, God willing, for another edition of Bible in the News.