Satan is Very Clever . . . But God is Much Smarter

Satan is the original obstructionist and the archetype of intellectual wickedness. Jesus said about him, “[He] does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

In the book of Revelation, the Lord states that Satan is the “deceiver of the whole world” (12:9). Paul wrote about him, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4).

The names attached to the devil demonstrate his perversity: “enemy,” “evil one,” “spirit of the antichrist,” “great dragon,” “liar,” “deceiver,” “murderer,” “adversary,” “tempter,” “Beelzebul,” “angel of light,” “lawless one,” “prince of demons,” and “Mammon.”  The devil is the master obfuscator, for he insinuated to Eve, “Did God actually say?” (Gen 3:1).

Likewise, his attributes and authority manifest his vast influence: “The devil took him [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me’” (Matt 4: 8–9). Other passages testify to his influence in the world. The devil is “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), and as John said, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Satan has “the power of death” (Heb 2:14).

How, then, do we withstand him? Since his main strategy is deception and falsehood, it is imperative that we become very careful with our minds. We should evaluate every intellectual influence we permit to enter our consciousness. We should change what we focus on, listen to, watch, and read―if it does not cause us to grow in faith, understanding, and wisdom.

We must learn the biblical worldview. We ought to understand the worldviews that capture the minds of unbelievers. Most importantly, we should ask God for a “renewal of our mind” (Rom 12:2), so that we can become productive agents of change.

Practically speaking, we could join or create a Bible study, participate in church education, and form book clubs and movie discussions.

Honestly, many of us should simply return to primary school in theology and the Bible. We must become students of the smartest Being in the universe.

Basically, we should ask God to teach us to love him with our mind, which Jesus told us is part of the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28–30).





Sometimes God is an Enigma

Often, when we first become a believer, our conversion is akin to a child’s birthday party. There are lots of gifts, party favors, cake, celebration, and affection. And perhaps we think to ourselves, “Wow! Knowing God is like a big party! Why didn’t I convert sooner?!”

But, after a few years, when we reach spiritual adolescence, real life begins to press in upon us and demands our attention. Now, there are expectations placed upon us, such as obligations at school and responsibilities at home. We struggle with rebellion and yearn for personal authenticity. Life is more complicated and perplexing. It’s not simply a party anymore.

This image of personal growth from childhood, through adolescence, to adulthood is a metaphor for the process of spiritual maturation and sanctification. Sometimes, the adolescent stage can be quite turbulent. During this period, perhaps we say to ourselves, “Wow! If knowing God is like reaching puberty, pimples, overwhelming desire, and personal insecurity, then why did I even convert?!” It is often, while we pursue maturity in adolescence, that God often seems quite enigmatic, even hostile.

Fortunately, however, we possess the prayer book of ancient Israel, who knew their share of enigmatic experiences with God. In the Psalms, we witness their affliction and learn patterns of prayer for spiritual darkness and perplexity. Consider how Israel lamented when God was enigmatic:

“Why?”–When God Makes No Sense
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (10:1)

Why do you hide your face?  Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? (44:24)

“How long?”–When God Delays
My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long? (6:3)

How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions! (35:17)

“Where are You?”–When God Is Silent
They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them. (18:41)

To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. (28:1)

When God seems to us incomprehensible (inexplicable, perplexing, impenetrable), when he delays (through apparent inaction, impediment, setback, interruption), or when he is silent (seeming to ignore and reject us or appear non-responsive and impassive), we know that such experiences are not unique to us. We know that the saints of the Old Testament passed through similar trials.

And we should listen carefully to their prayers and learn to think like they thought.






We live in an age in which the intellectual, spiritual, and social movement towards relativism and syncretism are converging with great power and influence. So often, we hear outside―and even within the church―“gospels” that proclaim “Jesus in addition to (for example Marxism” or “Jesus less than (for example naturalism).”

In this pluralistic era, religion and worldview are quite unclear. Devotees approach the sacred realm as a sort of buffet meal, selecting ideas and practices according to spiritual taste and desire. In this syncretistic context, beliefs are mixed and matched according to fad, fashion, and psychic need. Tolerance and inclusivism are creedal assumptions.

For many, especially of a secular mindset, Christianity is no longer viewed as justifiably unique or exclusive. It is simply another, particularly noxious, “weed” in the “garden of god,” merely one variety of generic spirituality. As a result of this outlook, for most people today Christianity is no longer plausible. It no longer compels. It does not make sense anymore. It is not relevant for daily life.

How are we, followers of Jesus Christ, to respond to this situation? How can we demonstrate the intellectual plausibility and existential credibility of our faith? How is the absolute God to get a hearing in our generation?

First, we should learn to use our minds in God-honoring ways. We should gather information (learn), pursue understanding (study), and seek discernment (reflection) according to our biblical assumptions. Similarly, we must also look for worldly and erroneous thinking in our own understanding.

Second, we should always try to discern the assumptions in other worldviews and reasoning.

We can learn to how to evaluate other positions from within our own worldview―and also how other worldviews analyze our position with their presuppositions. We should learn to compare and contrast, discern and refute, when necessary. We should declare with David: “How great you are, O sovereign Lord!  There is no one like you and there is no one but you” (2 Sam 7:22).

Third, we ought to cultivate a healthy skepticism. We must no longer passively consume data delivered to us by popular culture. The writer of Genesis did not passively observe its surrounding Mesopotamian culture. The apostle Paul did not passively affirm unbelieving thought within his eclectic context. When he was in Athens, “his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.”

We should seek the same Spirit-inspired motivation.

We should cultivate our cognitive capacities and a discerning heart to communicate truth in compelling and compassionate ways.





The intellectual character of the book of Job is clear. A commentator said: “By vigorously lamenting his bitter feelings, [Job] comes to grip with his anguish and channels his mind to seek some solution to his predicament.” Clearly, the book invites its readers to think deeply. In fact, the text contains many terms associated with knowledge. The common verb “know” occurs over 60 times.

Additionally, specialized vocabulary occurs in connection with at least two themes. First, terms associated with legal disputation appear, such as contend, case, argue (a case), argument, answer, prove, acquit, plead, arbiter, brought a complaint, plead the case, and show (partiality).

Second, several terms linked to wisdom occur, for example knowledge (11 times), understanding (23 times), counsel (9 times), purpose (2 times), and wisdom (18 times). In particular, “wisdom” and “understanding” are coupled with the “fear of the Lord” in Job’s discourse about wisdom in chapter 28.

Further, the use of questions underscores the deliberative nature of Job’s debate with his friends—and with God. Questions begin with “can” (30 times), “do” (31 times), “what” (2 times), “when” (16 times), is there” (7 times), “should” (4 times), and “how long” (4 times). Job also posed many “why” questions specifically addressed to God, for example:

Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? (3:21)

Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? (7:20)

Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? (13:24)

Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? (21:7)

In these ways, the dialogue contains argumentation between Job and his friends (chapters 4–37). The friends perceived in Job intellectual snobbery and asked: “Why are we counted as cattle? Why are we stupid in your sight?” (18:3). They argued against Job vigorously: “You are doing away with the fear of God and hindering meditation before God. For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; your own lips testify against you” (15:4–6). But Job’s answers were just as severe: “As for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all. Oh, that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!” (13:4–5).

The lesson for you and me is this: We must bring our brains to the text. Do not expect Bible interpretation to be easy. Sometimes, the study of Scripture requires a lot of intellectual effort. But the rewards are great. We learn to think better. And most importantly, we come to know God more deeply and understand more clearly the world from his point of view.