Recently two articles came out where the person being interviewed affirms the belief in spiritual warfare. In fact both men boldly declare their belief that the devil is real, and that what we battle against isn’t simply the human condition but evil.
The first, an interview of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the New York Magazine. Justice Scalia is known for being one of the more approachable members of the Court, but this interview is quite candid even for his standards. The interview is long, but a worthwhile read.1
Here is the section on the Devil. [BOLD is writer Jennifer Senior; regular typeface is Justice Scalia]
You believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?
Does that mean I’m not going?
[Laughing.] Unfortunately not!
Wait, to heaven or hell?
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.
But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it?
Of course not!
Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?
Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
It’s because he’s smart.
So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.
Well, you’re saying the Devil is persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.
What happened to him?
He just got wilier.
He got wilier.
Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
I was offended by that. I really was.
I’m sorry to have offended you!
Have you read The Screwtape Letters?
Yes, I have.
So, there you are. That’s a great book. It really is, just as a study of human nature.
This conversation is such a summation of truth and reality, as it relates to this issue and our culture. When Justice Scalia points out that the Devil is smart, by making people disbelieve in him and in God it reminds me of the saying, “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”
Then, when he explains that throughout most of history, even some of the smartest and most learned people believed in the existence of the devil, you can sense his dismay and disbelief that the author is, as he puts it, “so out of touch” that she is surprised by his belief. In fact, it “offends” him.
Similarly, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty shares the belief that the devil does indeed exist and that we are wrapped up in a battle of good and evil.
You gotta remember, it’s spiritual warfare. I mean, you’ve got people with no moral compass. It ain’t there. So what I tell people is be patient.
They’re the ones, they own the network and we’re filming the show.
We signed the contract with them, ok, and it’s a workhouse, but what people have to understand is, the people of God have to understand, you’ve just got to be patient. You don’t turn that ship quickly. It’s a big ship. A lot of depravity and a lot of heathen and a lot of the evil one. He is entrenched in the United States.
He speaks about it in a very matter-of-fact way. To him, the idea that this is a battle not of flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities is a reality. Just like it is for Justice Scalia.
Two very different men, in very distant parts of culture and society, but they share a common set of core beliefs about good and evil, and the reality of the devil.
- There is also a section where the Justice addresses the most recent comments by the pope. [↩]