Sometimes people can live with a traditional belief that is not necessarily true. There is a line of thought about who and what the devil really is, that does not follow traditional thinking.
Of course, to deviate from traditional practice can mean derision, scorn, accusation, and in some cases, death. Jesus found this out when he opposed the Pharisees, just as all who seek to deliver an unpopular message have historically found.
This other line of thinking says that the devil is actually the personification of sin. To put it in a more direct way, it says that temptation arises from within man, not from an external “devil” tempter.
If you consider this, you may find a lot to support it. We know that “out of the heart of man comes…” all manner of evil. One version of the bible, when speaking of Ananias and Sapphira, says “Why have you conceived this in your heart?…”
If we look at children, it is easy to see how their mind works in their immaturity. When they are told not to do something, the automatic response tends to be to do the very thing they have been told not to do. It is not hard to see how Adam and Eve in their innocence may have responded, indeed DID respond, to being told not to touch the tree, and occurred as a result of the commandment [similarly Paul said “once I was alive apart from law, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died”].
It is possible to see how the “devil/serpent” may simply be the inner mind activity which is that questioning of anything that is put to us as a statement of fact. [especially prohibitive ones]. That we analyse it to see if it “holds water”. Such analysis and its consequences would then move us away from the position of “innocence”, as was the case with Adam and Eve, in that they were unable to return to their former position.
If we were to look at scriptural occurrences [“the heart of man is desperately wicked, who can understand it?”] and others, we might find a lot to back this up. In Revelation, towards the end of scripture, the devil, the dragon, the serpent and satan are all lumped together as the one “thing”.
It is relatively simple to see that the one “thrown down from heaven..” is an indication, not of a devil kicked out of heaven, but of the “inner devil” losing [his place of] authority. Indeed when Jesus sent out the disciples and they returned proclaiming how even the devils were subject to them, Jesus said “I saw satan fall like lightning from heaven”, this didn’t mean that Satan fell from heaven, it meant that lightning falls from heaven, and in like manner was authority removed from the high places. This was to be repeated when similarly devil/satan “fell” because of the cross. “And there was war in heaven..” [similar misunderstanding occurs where people believe Jesus literally wept or sweated blood in the garden].
“Every man is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is led and enticed…” God tempts no man – why would this even be necessary to be said if the devil was the known obvious tempter? And the obvious “every man is tempted when..he is led and enticed by the devil” does not appear. In fact “the devil” is from “diabolos” meaning to accuse, or unjustly accuse. “The accuser of our brethren is thrown down..” *
The word “satan” is simply an untranslated word that means “adversary”. In the bible, people are called satans and devils. There is little doubt that these words are associated with evil, and so people who are evil are also connected with these words. “Get thee behind me satan” Jesus said to Peter. Any forces of “the enemy” arrayed against what was good are connected with the words “satan” or “devil” [or “demon”]. Just because we may find it hard to understand the nature of some of Jesus’ encounters with those who were mentally deranged, does not necessarily mean we should “go with the flow” and accept the common version of events. [it also doesn’t mean that there are no spiritual influences present].
It does not help the traditional viewpoint when we look at how Jesus managed to “destroy the works of the devil”, without first understanding that it was man’s corrupt nature he had come to destroy, by destroying it firstly within his own body, so that this victory could then be applied to others who followed him.
“Their hearts were cleansed by faith”. This is the giant shift from captivity (to do the works of the devil) to freedom and release from fear of sin and death. The law of sin and death found its fulfillment in Christ’s body, and so the law was “abolished”. The power of sin to bring man into, and to maintain him within, that state of captivity, and to do the works of the diabolos, was destroyed.
Of course, if this is indeed an error within Christian theology, then what a large error it is! Not that it may make a huge difference to Christians who truly believe anyway. [one thing about it is it does “polarise” the opposing sides and gives evil an easy identity?] There are many errors “out there” which will not exclude people from eternal life, but many errors there are all the same.
This particular subject is one that is nigh on impossible for people to accept, because we have all been taught for so long about it, and it is widely accepted by most religions and denominations, but only because for one thing it is very “natural” to think this way, and it also follows probably eastern religion with the idea of a natural balancing force of evil against the good. [probably suits karma and yin yang].
Judaism may not be so accepting of the concept of a “devil”, although again this could vary within Jewish “denomination”.
But as I have said, most will be unable to even begin to think about the idea of there NOT being a devil, because we have all been so thoroughly conditioned to it.
[ * because we were made “in God’s image”, we have within ourselves all the components that enable a judgement to be made against ourselves, which then results in self condemnation, which then results in inner conflict.][so the source of this conflict is due to the “inner diabolos”, the accuser, which Christ has now disabled] Later edit [the “inner accusation” may actually be true, only being “false” now because of God’s forgiveness.]