I’m sure most everyone has read or heard in last week’s news that the Satanic Temple proposed a seven-foot tall monument to be placed beside the Ten Commandments Monument currently residing at Oklahoma’s state capitol. For those who haven’t see it already, the proposed monument portrays a winged, horned, goat-faced, and goat-hoofed creature postured as a man sitting on a throne under a large pentagram. The goat-creature points upward with the human index finger of his right hand as his left arm (think human arm) rests in a half hug upon the back of a young boy who looks admiringly into the eyes of the goat-creature (a.k.a. Baphomet). On the creature’s right, a young girl, arms outstretched, eagerly waits her turn for the creature’s attention.
Though all the children that I know, and adults too for that matter, would be horror-struck if they saw such a repulsive creature, both the boy and the girl depicted in the monument look as if they are comfortable and agreeably pleased with the situation they are in. To see renderings of the monument, search Google’s images for “Satanic Monument in Oklahoma”
The Economist online magazine used this proposed monument as the jumping off point for their January 9, 2014 post, The Economist explains: What do Satanists believe? In this post, the Economist explained that Satanists’ organizations, beliefs, and rituals are diverse. The post explains that while some Satanist insist that Satan is a real deity, others such as the Satanic Temple and the Church of Satan, deny that Satan is a real personality. Rather, these later groups insist they are atheists who pledge allegiance to a materialistic philosophy that liberates human knowledge and progress and challenges orthodoxy; Satanists generally believe Christian orthodoxy suppresses knowledge. As an aside, I did scan through the information on a the websites of the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple and it appears that a good bit of the information they provide relies on the distortion of knowledge Christian orthodoxy supplies.
After I read the Economist’s post I imagined the goat-man monument next to Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments Monument and I thought, even if more groups propose more monuments (the Flying Spaghetti Monument for example) and the whole capitol grounds are strewn with a plethora of monuments, these two, the goat-creature representative of Satan, whether you define him as a philosophy or as a real spiritual entity, and God represented by the Ten Commandments embody our only two choices of worship.
For Christians, and from a biblical perspective, for everyone, the only worship choice we have is between God or Satan – good or evil. We can choose to worship the God who creates us and loves us; who defines holiness, love, and goodness by his character; and who establishes truth and reality by his existence. Or we can choose to worship Satan who deceives, who calls evil good, and who distorts what is true and real. We are either for the biblical God or against him (Matthew 12:30). There are no more choices; there are only these two. Joshua puts our worship choice this way:
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve … Joshua 24:15 (ESV)
The entire verse taken from Joshua’s longer appeal says:
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15 (ESV)
Notice that Joshua mentions territorial “gods” – plural. That plurality of gods seems to imply a plurality of worship options and the possibility of a plurality of monuments – one monument for each object of worship that might be placed at Oklahoma’s capitol or your state’s capitol. So why do I say these two, (1) the Ten Commandments and (2) the goat-creature are representative of our only two worship choices? To answer, I offer the following four reasons:
1. Only one God is God.
There is only one God and one Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). God is the only true God (John 17:3). He is the one Father (Malachi 2:10; Ephesians 4:6).
2. There are many demons, but they all serve one prince.
Dr. John Blanchard in his article, Demons: Servants of Satan notes that “Satan rules a vast kingdom of evil beings carrying his orders.” Blanchard reminds us that Christian Scripture teaches that demons are angels who “did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling” (Jude 6)” and that, though his reign is temporary, Satan is the “prince” of the demonic kingdom (Matthew 12:24); the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4); and the “ruler of this world,” (John 12:31; John 14:30).
3. Non-Christian world views are rooted in Satan’s power.
In light of Ephesians 2:2, we hear Satan called “the prince of the power of the air” and learn that he is “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” The disobedient sons follow this spirit-prince as they follow the course of this world. These spirit-directed disobedience sons live comfortably in step with their culture in the passions of their flesh, happily carrying out the desires of their body and mind (Ephesians 2:3). They look a bit smitten and taken-in like the children in the proposed monument. They include the epicurean who most highly values physical pleasure, the humanist who assigns highest worth to his own resources, abilities, and accomplishments (who worships the human self), and the atheist who believes he gives worth to nothing and so does not see himself as a worshipper.
In his sermon, Why We Need a Savior: Captive to an Alien Power, by Nature Children of Wrath, Dr. John Piper puts it this way, “the world” as seen by God is …
ruled by an alien prince, blinding the minds of unbelievers, filling them with ungodly desires, holding them captive to do his will, and then causing them to think all is well because they are right in step with the times.
4. Religious idols represent territorial or cultural gods that operate in conjunction with demonic delusion.
While the pagan idolater doubtless saw his idol as expressive of unseen spiritual forces, to Isaiah (and the Old Testament in general) there is nothing behind the idol…. The irony is savage: people, unable to face life unaided, seek help in earthly resources and human ingenuity … (p. 56).
On Isaiah 44:9, 18-20, Motyer added that …
Isaiah was in no doubt about the infatuation they [the idol-gods] inspired (here it is an infatuation of the emotions; in the matching verses 18-20 it is an infatuation of the mind) (p. 346).
The result, according to Motyer, is that
The heart is seduced! … The idolater is ‘hooked’ on the idol and has lost all capacity to free himself. The idolater holds his idol, the product of his own strength … but the reality is that the idol now holds him and he cannot break from the bondage of the lie … this actual ‘false thing’ (p. 349).
In his online article, Territorial Spirits: Some Biblical Perspectives, Dr. Vern S. Poythress offers a similar but slightly different perspective. He notes that particular “peoples and territories” found in the Bible “often have ‘patron’ gods” represented by idols that may be associated geographically or culturally.
“Demons,” he explains, “operate in conjunction with idols and idolatry,” (1 Corinthians 10:19-21) and “because of their idolatry, the worshippers [associated with specific locations or within specific cultures] come under the power of demons [associated with the same locations or cultures]” so that even though “‘the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (1 Cor 10:26; Ps 24:1), within the sphere of God’s comprehensive rule, God gives idolaters over to the deceits, torments, and confusions of demons, as a judgment on their unbelief” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:25-26; and Revelation 9:4-6). (Information in brackets is added for clarification.)
Two World-Views and Two Worship Choices
The Apostle Paul, after surveying their objects of worship and noting an inscription to the unknown god, explained to the men of the Athenian council that their unknown god is …
- “The God who made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24, ESV).
- The “Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24, ESV).
- The Lord “who does not live in temples made by man” (Acts 17:24, ESV).
- The Lord who is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25, ESV).
- The God who “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27, ESV).
- The God who is “actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27, ESV).
- The God in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, ESV)..
- The God whose “offspring” we are (Acts 17:28, ESV).
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:29-31, ESV).
On January 8, 2014, The Gospel Coalition published a post by Sarah Flashing titled, Satanists Seek Spot on Statehouse Steps. In her post, Flashing made the point that in a pluralistic nation like ours where “fairness, equal access, and freedom to practice religion,” are valued, we need to “come to grips” with the understanding that when we argue “for Christian symbols in the public square on the basis of historical tradition,” we are opening ourselves to the exhibition of different worldview beliefs.
I imagine if this happens our experience will be very similar to Paul’s. And like Paul, we will be able to lump all these images into two categories – the true God and the idols that represent untrue gods since ultimately there are only two basic world-views – two categories of belief systems.
There is the Christian worldview that gives ultimate worth to the one true and holy God who graciously, at his own expense, redeems a sinful people for himself, and there is the deceptive counterfeit worldview, abetted by Satan, that doesn’t. This second worldview is a system of belief that reduces to the idea that man, if he needs saving at all, is his own Savior. This self-salvation worldview, though sometimes hidden under a thick veil of false humility, empowers self-sufficiency, self-centeredness, self-assurance, self-confidence, self-control, self-indulgence, self-reliance, self-seeking, self-improvement, and self-actualization – it empowers pride. It is a worldview that accepts Satan’s first invitation to humankind to know good and evil – to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5).
World views must be guided by valued beliefs and so worth must be given to something. This assignment of worth may emerge as worship of the biblical God. Or we may suppose we worship another god or ourselves or nothing at all while all the while we are worshipping something generally unaware that the something we are worshipping is influenced by the power of Satan. At least the Satanist, from what I’ve read on his websites, whether he understands Satan to be a real spiritual entity or a philosophy, understands this choice to some degree.
So, even though I’m sure the Ten Commandments were the underpinning for our country’s basic rights and corresponding laws, I, like Sarah Flashing, am not advocating for state monuments. But I do think that to see a physical representation of the glory of God’s character represented by the Ten Commandments juxtaposed with the horror of the goat-creature welcoming comfortable and agreeably pleased children to come to him might possibly serve to make that choice clearer.
Flashing appeals to Christians to find godly, purposeful, and meaningful ways to respond “to the underlying ideas that are finding a platform.” Perhaps the thought of these two monuments standing side by side will spur us on to do that and hopefully prevent us in some way from making the passage below our cultural epitaph.
They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:17-18 (ESV).
Blanchard, John, Demons: Servants of Satan, accessed Jan 13, 2014 from ligonier.org.
Flashing, Sarah, Satanists Seek Spot on Statehouse Steps, accessed Jan 13, 2014 from TheGospelCoalition:Voices.
Motyer, J. Alec, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary, Dowers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. Commenting on Isaiah 21:9, Motyer equates Babylon’s gods with their national ideology.
Piper, John, Why We Need a Savior: Captive to an Alien Power, by Nature Children of Wrath, Dec. 15, 1985, ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission retrieved January 14, 2014 from desiringGod.org.
Poythress, Vern S., Territorial Spirits: Some Biblical Perspectives, retrieved 10/13/2014 from frame-poythress.org In this article, Dr. Poythress offers the following biblical references to territorial gods: Chemosh (1 Kings 11:7); Molech and Chemosh (1 Kings 11:7; Judges 11:24); Dagon (1 Samuel 5:2-7); Baal (1 Kings 16:31). References to a plurality of Baal gods include: Baal-meon (Numbers 32:28); Baal-hermon (Judges 3:3); Baal-hazor (2 Samuel 13:23); Baal-peor (Numbers 25:3). Some gods may be attached to land (2 Kings 17:26-28) while others may be attached to social, cultural, or national groups (2 Kings 17:29).
Scripture quotations were taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.