Why Believe in Satan?

By James M. Rochford

Many Christians do not believe in Satan today. George Barna writes, “Four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan ‘is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.’ An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they ‘agree somewhat’ with that perspective. A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement: one-quarter (26%) disagreed strongly and about one-tenth (9%) disagreed somewhat.”[1] Thus it seems that the fictional character Verbal Kint was prophetic in saying, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

Does Satan exist? What reasons do we have for affirming the existence of such a malevolent being?

1. Evidence from the soul

Most people believe in dualism (the belief that we are both physical and spiritual beings). That is, most people already believe that humans are endowed with a spiritual component—a mind or soul. This isn’t just a common belief. As we have argued earlier, there are very good reasons for affirming the belief that humans have an immaterial component—apart from their physical selves (see “The Mind and Brain: Is Freewill an Illusion?”). For instance, if a person believes that they live after death, in what sense is the case? This must affirm the existence of a mind or soul for this to be true.

If we believe that God has created humans as spiritually endowed, free moral agents, then what would stop us from believing that God could have created other spiritual beings (that were unembodied for instance), who also rebelled against God? It might seem strange that God would create Satan—a wildly evil, spiritual being in rebellion to him. But we already witness evil tyrants (e.g. Hitler, Pol Pot, etc.), and the like, who do the same. If we believe in the one, it is just as consistent to believe in the other. Theologian Charles Hodge writes, “There is every reason to presume that the scale of being among rational creatures is as extensive as that in the animal world.”[2]

2. Biblical Evidence

The Bible contains 196 verses about angels (103 in the OT and 93 in the NT). Moreover, 34 (of 39) books in the OT refer to angels, including the earliest books we have (e.g. Job, Genesis). Additionally, every NT author (though not every NT book) mentions spiritual warfare. Consider just a few of the many passages from the NT:

The “strong man” (Satan) is fully armed (Lk. 11:21-22).

Jesus came to bring the sword (Mt. 10:34).

Jesus came to proclaim liberty to captives (Lk. 4:18).

The demonized man had a legion of spirits (Mk. 6:9, 15).

Jesus led the evil powers in a triumphal procession (Col. 2:13).

Jesus stripped the evil powers of their weapons (Col. 2:15).

Jesus took captives (Eph. 4:8).

The Christian life is a struggle (Col. 1:29; 2:1; 1 Tim. 4:10).

The Christian life is a struggle against evil forces (Eph. 6:12).

The Christian life is a struggle against sin (Heb. 12:4).

The desires of the flesh wage war against the soul (1 Pet. 2:11).

Christians are called to struggle for the faith (Jude 3).

Paul struggled for the gospel (Phil. 1:30).

Paul “fought the good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7).

Christians are soldiers (Phil. 2:25; Philem. 2; 2 Tim. 2:3-4).

Christians need to wear armor (Eph. 6:12-17).

Christians engage in warfare (1 Tim. 1: 18; 6: 12; 2 Cor. 10:4).

Christians wield weapons of warfare (1 Tim. 1:18; 2 Cor. 10:4; Rom. 6:13; 13:12).

Angelic war in heaven (Rev. 12:7).

The beast and kings of the earth will make war (Rev. 19:19).

Satan gathers the nations for a final battle (Rev. 20:8).

Of course, we shouldn’t take the Bible’s teaching on blind faith; there are many good reasons to believe in the veracity of the Bible (see Evidence Unseen: Exposing the Myth of Blind Faith). But if we think that there are good reasons to believe in the Bible’s account of God, forgiveness, and salvation history, why would we excise its teaching on Satan and spiritual warfare? The Bible claims to be a window into the nature of spiritual reality, but on what basis do we purge its clear, repeated, and emphasized teaching on Satan? If we can trust the Bible at all, we should trust that Satan is very real.

3. Personal Experience

One way to know that something exists is to directly perceive it as real. This method of knowing can be applied to Satan. When we are ineffective for Christ, we usually do not draw much attention from Satan. But when we make a dent in Satan’s foothold on people’s lives as Jesus commanded (Mt. 16:18), we begin to draw fire from Satan. Demons know believers by name (Acts 19:15), and they are acutely aware of those who are making an impact for the cause of Christ. When we begin to dedicate our lives to Christ, we see very quickly the reality of Satan in the world.

In a 2014 article in Scientific American, arch-skeptic Michael Shermer recounts that a strange event deeply affected his skepticism. He writes, “I have to admit, it rocked me back on my heels and shook my skepticism to its core as well.”

Shermer—who is the publisher of Skeptic magazine—married his wife Jennifer in late June of 2014. Jennifer had mailed her belongings from Germany to California, and one of her cherished belongings was her grandfather’s 1978 transistor radio. Jennifer had a close relationship with her grandfather, who had been a father-figure to her. But he had died, when she was 16. She lamented the fact that her grandfather couldn’t make it to hand her off in marriage.

Shermer tried to fix her grandfather’s old 1978 transistor radio, but couldn’t get it to work. Three months later, at the wedding, the transistor radio inexplicably began to work. The following day, it broke again, and hasn’t worked since then. He concluded his reflection of the event by writing:

The emotional interpretations of such anomalous events grant them significance regardless of their causal account. And if we are to take seriously the scientific credo to keep an open mind and remain agnostic when the evidence is indecisive or the riddle unsolved, we should not shut the doors of perception when they may be opened to us to marvel in the mysterious.[3]

It’s odd that Shermer’s skepticism would be unaffected by the numerous and cogent arguments for God existence, and that instead, he would be shaken by a mysteriously working transistor radio! Yet at the same time, his anecdote shows that one line of evidence for knowing something is real is to directly perceive or experience it. A direct experience of Satan’s work in our lives is one way to know that he’s real.


In conclusion, we should ask, How could 60% of Christians in America think Satan is imaginary? We think that there are two possibilities: Either Satan is imaginary, or else, 60% of Christians are being deceived by him! Given the nature of Satan, we shouldn’t be surprised at all that many Christians are deceived on this vital issue.

Return to “Satanology”

[1] Barna Group. “Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist” April 10, 2009.

[2] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), vol. 1, p. 636. Cited in Erickson, Millard. Christian theology. (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. 1999. 461.

[3] Shermer, Michael. “Anomalous Events That Can Shake One’s Skepticism to the Core.” Scientific American. September 16, 2014.