Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Brief Primer on the Devil

From The Catholic Thing:
I have written a fair amount on the angelology of St. Thomas Aquinas. But I haven’t yet delved much into demonology, though Aquinas has quite a bit to say about that subject in the Summa Theologiae (I, Q. 63-64). Fortunately, Aquinas asked many questions that come to my mind, and maybe yours, too. So, herewith, a few of them, with possible answers: 
Q: Devils, as pure spirits, don’t make choices like humans: For example, “Oh, if only I knew what the consequences would be!” The angels had the initial choice of siding with God, or not. They had a clear understanding of what they were doing, and what the results would be if they rejected God, including the punishments. How could they be so stupid? 
The intellects of pure spirits are not discursive, like ours; in other words, they do not think logically – starting with certain premises, figuring out connections or implications, and coming to conclusions. For us, even the conclusions can be ignored, out of laziness, or conflicting interests; regrets may come later, as bad consequences appear.
We can imagine souls in Purgatory regretting actions they took in life, or souls in Hell cursing themselves and all the conditions or persons that put them on the wrong road. But this could never take place with the devils. They can literally only blame themselves, since they foresaw as clear as day all the future consequences of their choices.
So, then, why did they reject God, and the rewards and love He offered? The tradition has it that Satan himself, the leader of the angels, was like a god, with powers and intelligence that we can barely fathom. When Satan took Jesus to the top of the mountain (Matt. 4:8) and showed him all the riches and grandeurs of the world, and claimed that everything was under his power and could be bestowed on Jesus, Jesus did not contradict him. Satan before his fall was probably the closest thing to divinity. But this was also his downfall. Could a primeval “son of God” (Job 1:5, 2:1) with such majestic and all-encompassing powers accept subjugation to God – even the God who had created him?
How could such a great being accept such subservience and humiliation? How could St. Michael’s cry, “Who is like God?” penetrate such overbearing pride? And if Satan and his followers were also given information about the coming creation of humans, how could they resist the possibility of setting up their own kingdom down below, being followed and even worshiped for the benefits and powers they could supply? (Read more.)

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