In 2009, the Barna Group surveyed 1,900 people who self-described themselves as Christians to find out their beliefs on a variety of Christian subjects. Self-described Christians can include any number of people, some who are not necessarily Biblical born-again Christians.
In an oddly stunning contrast, they found out that while nearly 80% of them believed in God only 41% actually believed in satan’s existence.
59% of the people surveyed “strongly or somewhat believed” that satan was only a symbol of evil — that he does not really exist.
A 2005 Baylor Religion survey had similar results, as they studied the views of born-again Christians.
When asked if they believed demons existed, 66.2% of respondents said they did. But of this group only 43.6% were absolutely convinced of the devil’s existence.
22.6% said demons probably existed and this combined with the 33.8% who did not believe demons existed at all, showing that over 55% of Bible-believing Christians are uncertain about the reality of the satanic realm.
Should these results concern us?
The Bible describes satan as the master deceiver (Revelation 12:9). If he can convince people he does not exist, it gives him free rein to work under the radar, incognito.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was successful because American military leaders didn’t believe it would happen despite repeated warnings from a handful of intelligence officers that an attack was imminent.
Because of their unbelief, there were no military resources available to fight off the attackers. Commanders had bunched key military targets together for easy destruction — ships were lined up one after another like a shooting gallery and planes circled together like fish in a barrel.
Even when a Hawaiian radar facility pick up the Japanese air force, the authorities did not bother to check it out, believing instead it was a group of American bombers.
Unfortunately, hundreds of lives were lost because people didn’t believe there was an enemy or at the very least underestimated its ability.
When we study Christ’s ministry in the Gospels there was one unusual deliverance where Jesus asked a particularly powerful evil spirit what its name was. This was the only time Jesus asked a demon to give its name.
By doing this, Jesus showed that satan is not a force or a symbol but a real being.
Jesus and the disciples had crossed the Sea of Galilee to an area known as the Gerasenes. When they landed they were confronted by a deranged man. Villagers had driven the man out of their town, forcing him to live in nearby tombs.
When Jesus and the disciples landed their boat on the shore, the demon-possessed man immediately confronted them. As soon as the man showed up, Jesus set out to deliver him.
It was during this spiritual battle that Jesus asked the evil spirit what its name was:
9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” (Mark 5:9 NASV)
The reason Jesus asked is that He had been commanding the evil spirit to come out of the man, but it had been resisting Christ’s command.
8 For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” (Mark 5:8 NASV)
Jesus was a bit puzzled by the evil spirit’s ability to initially refuse His authority which led Him to ask its name. In fact, Jesus even had to ask that a couple of times before the evil spirit was finally forced to answer.
Though the evil spirit was more powerful than any He had met to this point, Jesus also knew it could not resist His authority and pressed the deliverance and the demons eventually came out after asking Jesus for permission to inhabit a group of nearby pigs.
As we read the Gospels, we see that people were stunned by Jesus’ authority over the demonic realm:
“And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.” (Luke 4:36 NASV)
But it was an authority that He also gave His disciples:
“And He called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.” (Luke 9:1 NASV)
But now I wonder if have we lost this authority because many of us no longer believe in the demonic realm?
- Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist: Barna Group
- Belief in Demons, The Association of Religious Data archives (thearda.com)
- More Americans believe in the Devil, Hell and Angels than in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (marketwatch.com: December 10, 2008)