Why Do Catholics Believe in the Devil and Demons? *


The Story of Job tells how Satan asked God for a chance to test Job (see Jb 1:6-12). Are we to understand this as a symbolic reference to evil: Or do demons have a real existence as personal, but not human, beings?


Scripture, Tradition, and the Church's magisterium all consistently affirm that God has in fact created angelic beings to serve him (for biblical references, see Why Do Catholics Believe in Angels?). But some of the angels made a radical and irrevocable decision to reject God and his reign (see Jude 6). Though created good by God, they became evil through their own choice. So they were cast from his presence in heaven (see Lk 10:18), and they now attempt to seduce human beings away from God as well (see Gn 3:1-7).


The leader of these fallen angels (or demons) has many names in Scripture: the evil one (1 Jn 5:18-19); the devil (from the Greek word meaning "the one who throws himself across the divine plan"--Mt 4:1); "the ruler of the world" (Jn 14:30); Satan (in Hebrew, "adversary, accuser"--Jb 1:6); the serpent or dragon (Rv 12:9). The name Lucifer (from the Latin for "light-bearer"--Is 14:12-15, footnote) traditionally refers to the devil's radiant angelic beauty before he fell.


The great power and intelligence that belongs to angels by their nature, now perverted for wicked purposes by the diabolical rebellion against God, allows the demons to do great evil in the world. Nevertheless, as mere creatures they are by no means God's equal, and in the end their utter defeat is sure through Jesus Christ (see Heb 2:14-15; see also "Why Do Catholics Believe That God Allows Evil?)


In the meantime, except perhaps in the case of a genuine demonic possession (which is rare), human beings cannot be forced by Satan against their will (see Jas 4:7). His tactics instead are to tempt, deceive, and accuse (see Mt 4:1-11, Rv 12:9-10; Zec 3:1-2). For that reason, our Lord has taught us to pray, "Deliver us from the evil one" (Mt 6:13).


Other related scriptures: Jb 2:4-5; Wis 2:24; Dn 10:10-14; Mt 4:24; 8:16, 28-34; 9:32-33; 12:22; 16:23; 25:41; Lk 11:14-26; 13:16; 22:3, 31; Jn 13:2, 27, 14:30; Acts 5:3; 10:38; 16:16; 26:18; Rom 16:20; 1 Cor 5:5; 7:5; 10:13; 1 Tm 1:20; 3:6-7; 5:15; 2 Tm 2:26; 1 Pt 5:8-9; 1 Jn 3:8-10; Jude 9; Rv 12:1-9; 13-18; 20:1-3; 7-10


Catechism of the Catholic Church: 391-95; 397; 2850-2854; 2864.


*Quoted from The New Catholic Answer Bible. Wichita, Kansas, Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005. www.firesidecatholic.com


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