The Great Deceiver

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:13)

All Orthodox Christians are historians – that is, we take seriously events of the past and apply them to contemporary situations. When that does not happen, we are bereft of the lessons that took place at various times and situations, lessons that have molded and shaped the truth as the Holy Spirit has been working out salvation in the people of God through Jesus Christ.

One such truth of sacred tradition is the omnipresence of Satan as the constant adversary of Christ and those baptized in His name. This is an ongoing warfare through history. The strategy in any war is to cut off the enemy from the source of his supplies. When that happens, a pincer movement surrounds the target in order to conquer him. In modern times society has provided Satan with an instrument he has been using quite effectively. In effect, he does not exist; or better stated, ordinary people, even believers, accept the truism that the devil is only an obsolete myth.

What about all the references to him: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky,” said the Lord [Luke 10:18]. With whom was He conversing in the wilderness, if not Satan? Was that all a figment of His imagination? Quite the contrary. The holy apostle Paul wrote: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). When we lose our balance in dealing with moral and ethical absolutes, when we enter into discussions with those who have erased all traditions of the Church, wiping away the entire record of engagement between light and darkness, “life and prosperity, or death and destruction” (Deuteronomy 30:15), our base is lost, we lose our bearings and drift into the swamp of uncertainty. All becomes relative, open to human reason without benefit of divine inspiration and recourse to the faith of our fathers and mothers.

Suddenly what had been clear becomes foggy. Our culture is obsessed with sexuality. It is termed liberation, and what do we find but all acts demanded to be recognized as normal – even somehow natural; but what do we do with such admonitions from St. Paul: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you…as is not even named among the Gentiles” (I Corinthians 5:1). The Bible is precise as to what constitutes passion, greed, hatred, sins of the flesh, the will and the mind. Again St. Paul: “Put to death…fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness…” (Colossians 3:5). The Church also is clear regarding what constitutes normal and abnormal sexual relations, what constitutes evil and other transgressions. Those are expanded by her traditions, her canons and doctrines. They may and indeed ought to be exercised wisely and appropriately, taking into account the situation. We who plead for mercy must always be charitable to those who have fallen in sin, but it doesn’t mean that we pretend to a confusion regarding truth and falsehood, virtue and vice, falling prey to the demands of our culture to agree with its rejection of ethical standards of the Holy Bible, Holy Church and Holy Tradition.

Each Orthodox, whether of the clergy or the laity, must decide whether to confront society’s abandonment of Christian values, ignore them, or enable those who are intent on replacing them with what is called a liberal amoral civilization. Let us be aware also of the formidable powers that wage war against Christ and His holy Church.