The Adversary

She-DevilWhat is our fascination with the devil? We all have heard the famous story of Robert Johnson, who supposedly made a deal with the devil at the crossroads, exchanging overnight guitar mastery for his soul. In truth, the man practiced incessantly “in his shed” for years, and in truth died from overindulgence in women, boozing, and drugging — excesses like any modern rock star, but whenever we hear his name we can’t help but think of that muggy summer night some eighty years ago where two strangers met on a road and made an infernal trade.

The word “satan” originally derives from the Hebrew word meaning ‘the adversary” or “the prosecutor.” Millions of books, articles, films, and other creations have told stories of the opposer, veiled in one form or another. But why?

I recently read an analogy which describes the situation perfectly. Say you are on a baseball team, and you always win. No matter how much or how little you practice, you always score ten times as many runs as the other team. The game would quickly become pointless and boring. Only with a challenging opposer does the game become interesting.

The opposer challenges us and makes the game worth playing.

When our favorite team is playing against the team from that other big city, we shout epithets, we curse them, even loathe them. Aren’t they becoming our opposers, our devils?

We pay to go to baseball games; we pay to challenge the “devil.”

And in fiction, doesn’t the same hold true? Would Lord of the Rings be such a great epic if Sauron was a wimp? Would the armies of Middle Earth have united if not for such an evil opposer? Isn’t the mark of a good story where the protagonist is challenged every step of the way? (the root form of protagonist actually means to “contest” or “contend”)

We are fascinated with the devil and his many forms because he challenges us to be better than he, and in so doing, we define ourselves as something greater.

3 Replies to “The Adversary”

  1. In large part, I think I our fascination with the devil stems from our own inner conflict between “good” and “evil.” I think we’re all tempted every day to do the wrong thing. What could be more fascinating than the physical manifestation of that temptation and our struggle to get the better of him/it?

  2. I’ve always found the Devil fascinating based on his “secret origin” so to speak. He leads a revolt against God–Almighty, all-powerful, ever-lasting God–which, in theory, stood as much of a chance as me leading a revolt against God.

    So, why did he do it? Either the Devil thought he had a chance, or he knew he had no chance, and did it anyway. “Never say die” against insurmountable odds, and all that…

  3. Don, I think you’re caught in a logic trap there. Number one, the “devil” as we have come to know him is derived from Milton’s take on the Fall in “Paradise Lost.” Again, it makes a good story with a “challenger.” Also, I think in a universe such as ours, opposites are necessary for growth. The “opposer” is thus part of the grand plan (with or without religion).

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