Occasionally Christians come across an individual who does not believe in God. Depending on where the Christian lives, such an encounter may be rare or frequent. However, some Christians come across an atheist who refuses to believe in God but acknowledges the existence of the Devil (I have only come across such a situation once). Can you believe in God and not believe in the Devil? Can you believe in the Devil and not believe in God? Does one necessitate the other?
One insightful young man, who may have run into such a person, asked, “Is it a sin to not believe in the Devil? And what about not believing in Hell, like, you just believe in Heaven and that no one goes to Hell because there is no Hell?” The young man presented an interesting conundrum. The Christian world has always been focused on fighting the battle to defend the existence of God and His Word that few have asked if it is a sin to not believe in the Devil.
On the surface of this question one might say, “No.” The Bible commands that people believe in God and His Son and obey His Word. The Bible does not directly say that one must believe in the Devil to be pleasing to God. However, one should consider the ramifications and effects of not believing in the Devil and Hell.
If one does not believe in the Devil or Hell, what would this imply in one’s faith? The Heavenly Father commands the world to believe in Him and obey His Word (Heb. 11:6; 2 Thess. 1:8). Those wanting to go to Heaven must believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and that God’s message is the “perfect law of liberty,” and what God includes in the message must be the truth (1 Tim. 3:16-17; James 1:25; John 17:17). If Satan does not exist, then God has lied to the world by telling everyone that Satan does exist, and if God lied and His Word is not truth, then why should anyone obey God’s Word?
Christ reveals that He was tempted in the desert by Satan (Matt. 4:1-11). God warns Christians that the Devil is the enemy of the faith (1 Peter 5:8; Eph. 6:11; 1 John 3:8-10). It is Satan who tempted Adam and Eve (Gen. 3), Job (Job 1:8-9), and all those who fall from the service and admonition of the Lord. John writes, “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1 John 3:10). If one does not believe in the Devil, then one does not believe in all that God has said, which leads to disobedience.
Furthermore, if people do not believe in Satan and Hell, then by implication, they would have to believe that no matter what they did, they would not go to Hell because it does not exist. Why would anyone repent of their actions if they think that no matter what they do they will go to Heaven because it is the only place to go after death. God says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). God further commands, “all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30b). Why obey what God commands or give anytime to the study of His Word if the only place one can go after death is Heaven? Christ says, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Christ also states after the resurrection to the apostles, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). How can people be damned if there is no Hell? Why should people convert the world from darkness if there is no Devil? Not believing in the Devil and Hell leads to a number of disobediences to God’s Word, which is sin (1 John 3:4).
On the other hand, what if a certain skeptic likes the idea of the Devil (an entity who encourages every self-indulgence) but resents the idea of God (An omnipotent deity who will judge the world according to His Law). Could an atheist find creditable witnesses and sources to prove the existence of the Devil separate from God and the Bible?
While the Bible in both the Old and New Testament provide the foundation for the identity of the Devil, there are other ‘sacred’ books that mention the Devil and contribute to the Satanic mythology. Iblīs (alternatively Eblīs, Iblees, Eblees or Ibris) is the leader of the devils/demons (Shayāṭīn) in the Quran (the Muslims’ sacred text). In the Apocrypha (a section of the Bible still included in some versions), the Devil is mentioned in the book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus. The books call the Devil Samael and acclaims his coming into the world with woman, i.e., with Eve; so that he was created and is not eternal. The Apocrypha depicts Samael as one that flies through the air, and can assume any form, as of a bird, a stag, a woman, a beggar, or a young man; he is said to take his famous appearance in the form of a goat. The evolution of the theory of Satan keeps pace with the development of Jewish angelology and demonology. In the Talmud and Midrash (The Jewish sacred texts), official Judaism, beginning perhaps with Johanan (d. 279), absorb the popular concepts of Satan. The later midrashic collection more frequently mentions Satan and his hosts. The Palestinian Talmud, completed about 400, is more reticent in this regard.
While other books than the Bible do give credit to the existence of the Devil, these other books likewise give credit to the existence of the Almighty Father in Heaven. There exists no reliable source for the Devil’s existence that doesn’t likewise admit to the existence of God the Father. One can’t begin to prove the Devils existence without proving the existence of God.
Ultimately, one cannot believe in God without likewise believing in the Devil, and one cannot believe in the Devil without likewise believing in God.