If the messages in our media are often opposed to the Christian world view, then the unveiling of a satanic statue in Detroit recently must surely rank highly among the most blatant? Satan certainly knows how to get good PR.
The Independent, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, and The Guardian amongst others, all carried the news of how Satanists in America had unveiled a 9ft tall bronze image of Baphomet, in a “secret” event organised by the local Satanic Temple. The plan is to have the statue eventually installed outside the State House in Oklahoma City, right next to a monument to The 10 Commandments. The official invitation promised, “a night of chaos, noise, and debauchery at The Unveiling, a hedonistic celebration introducing the controversial Baphomet monument accompanied by provocative performances and installations.” What that means is that they had sexually explicit performances and once they unveiled the statue, two men were kissing passionately in front of it. How could our media possibly refuse?
It sheds an interesting light on modern society in Western countries; in American and in Britain as well. Whilst at the surface level this appears to be just some small group successfully trying to grab a bit of publicity, when you look at the symbolism that is being expressed through the statue, when you consider the messages that they are trying to put out, you find that what they are saying is very mainstream in terms of secular worldview thinking. It’s interesting, and to some degree disturbing, to note that the BBC chose to cover the story first on their youth news brand, Newsbeat. However, the BBC didn’t just report the story. They actually went into great detail explaining all the symbolism – BBC – Decoding the symbols on Satan’s statue. Perhaps the BBC might allow the same time and space for a similar explanation of the other statue in the story, The 10 Commandments; what they mean, and how they would apply in terms of modern society? Perhaps one day?
“It’s a testament to plurality and the power of collective action.”
Lucien Greaves, a spokesperson for the Satanic Temple
Collective action? The $100,000 statue was paid for by an internet crowd-funding campaign. But there’s a clear parallel with that comment in Scripture. The story of the Tower of Babel was not just about human societies, through collective action, seeking to build a temple which was a multi-story building. Rather it was an expression of their desire to be like God; to be divine, to reach God, to be ourselves worshipped. What the Satanists are seeking to express now is nothing more than what human beings in pagan societies have been doing for millennia. This is about wanting to be God. It’s about an unwillingness to be limited to the position of a created being, made in the image of God. It’s about removing any sense of restraint; casting off moral control. It’s about people being able to do whatever they wish and celebrating that “diversity and plurality,” as they would see it.
Of course, this is not too far removed from the rhetoric and the language that we hear in the UK and Scottish Parliaments when issues like same-sex ‘marriage’ or other social legislative initiatives are being debated. This is the philosophy that many of our political leaders have signed up to and believe in, even though they may not themselves understand the philosophical and spiritual roots of what they are doing.
“The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.”
The seven fundamental tenets of the Satanic Temple.
One of the names of Jesus Christ is that he is the Word of God. Our understanding of scripture is that it is the written Word of God. It is the revelation of God and of his character. Jesus believes it is true (The Gospel of John, Chapter 17) and he holds people responsible for reading, understanding and obeying it (“Have you not read what was said to you by God:”) And so God has spoken into human history. He has exemplified his Word in a human being. It is not a symbolic act. It is a real act. Jesus was a historical figure who expressed the Word of God, and was the Word of God and spoke the Word of God. That is fundamentally what is being rejected here. It is a desire for righteousness but leaving aside Jesus. It’s about how we all seek to establish our own righteousness by redefining what righteousness is for ourselves, rather than submitting to what God has declared to be righteous. It is setting up our own value system rather than submitting to what God has defined as being good and evil, as being compassionate, wise and just.
Despite it being a none-too-subtle attack on the authority of the Bible, keen observers of Scottish politics may spot that they hit on three of the four values inscribed on the Mace in the Scottish Parliament. The word they missed is integrity. Of course, what really matters is what we understand by the terms compassion, wisdom and justice. The changes we’ve seen over the last few decades in Western society testify that when language is subverted, meaning is inverted and righteousness is perverted. “Compassion” now means allowing people to do whatever they like. “Wisdom” now means having some sort of esoteric scientific knowledge about the way the universe operates. It’s been divorced from any concept of righteousness or right living which wisdom is connected with in Scripture, where we see that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” “Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly, but those who despise him are devious in their ways.” And “justice” is no longer based on what is right judgement; what is right according to God’s law. Rather it is now based upon personal liberation from the law of God. “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.“ These concepts, which are of God, and characteristic of God (God is compassionate, God is wise. God is just. And God obviously has integrity, just as his people should have), have been subverted, turned on their head and used for an evil purpose.
“this inversion is Satan’s perception. It asks people to reconsider their cultural grounding, look at the evidence and reconsider their values. You have this one-sided vision with institutionalised religion as the arbiters of moral correctness. It prevents them considering whether they could be incorrect today on issues such as gay marriage and reproductive rights.”
Lucien Greaves, The Satanic Temple.
At the international level we saw an attempt made recently to get the sort of language and philosophy of what is called “sexual and reproductive rights” into the United Nations sustainable development goals. The language is a euphemism for promoting abortion and promoting gay rights and an understanding of the family which would be in line with the ideologies of radical feminism and the radical gay rights movement. These goals are important because set the international development agenda for the next 15 to 20 years. The primary drivers for the inclusion of this language were the United States and the European Union, with Britain a strong supporter. Fortunately the more conservative nations in Africa and the Middle East managed to prevent that from happening. The reason why it’s important that the change was prevented is that it would have shifted attention away from the fundamentals; clean water; stopping preventable disease, preventing maternal mortality, the lack of access to life sustaining health care, etc. These are the big killers in the developing world.
But it’s also about promoting a particular ideological view. A secularist ideological world view in which not only is religion seen as private, but also is perceived to be to be problematic; particularly the biblical view of gender and marriage which has been the predominant view across many cultures throughout history. It perceives this as preventing people from expressing themselves. It’s a view that is all about expressing personal identity, with that identity being found in sexuality. It’s also about a materialistic view of the world whereby the rights of the unborn are sacrificed in order to facilitate material prosperity. What we are talking about is the exporting abortion and same sex ‘marriage’ to countries where they are culturally unacceptable using Western aid money to do so.
The argument fundamentally is about giving people control over their own fertility. It’s that argument which has dominated Western thinking for the last 40 years. Although it is good to help people in developing countries to be able to pursue education and find employment, this should not be at the expense of human life. We are not saying that everything about those societies is perfect. There are cultural expressions within other societies which we would not defend such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Nevertheless, where you promote killing unborn babies as an expression of Western materialistic culture, then the desire for economic development has obviously crossed a boundary which should not be crossed.
There is a more fundamental question that must be asked. Is this actually about helping people to develop economically? Or is this actually about saying we don’t want to share the worlds resources with developing countries because that would negatively impact on us in the West?
This goes back to a Malthusian view that somehow the world has has a limited amount of resources and is unable to sustain the population of human beings that currently exist. The counterargument is that there are actually plenty of resources to cope with the size of the global population, provided they are more evenly distributed. Now Malthus was proved wrong in the past due to the technological improvements. Starvation has never been due to the fact that there are insufficient resources in the world. There have been starvation and droughts in some parts of the world due to the failure of rain, etc, but there has always been plenty of resources to feed the world’s population. There still is today. Problems arise when you want to hoard resources in certain geographical areas, i.e. if you want to consume as much as we consume in the West. When the burgeoning population in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia also aspire to the same standard of living and level of consumption that we enjoy then that is what Western societies find difficult. The challenge is not to promote abortion. The real challenge is how to redistribute global wealth to ensure that everybody has sufficient to live and to ensure that we are not consuming so much ourselves?
“For us it symbolises reconciliation of the opposites – such as having a satanic Monument opposite Christian one. We think that’s a powerful message when it’s sitting opposite the 10 Commandments – you can have these dualities, differences without conflict.”
Lucien Greaves. The Satanic Temple.
You can’t have dualities without conflict, can you? It is one or the other. You have to choose between the two. You cannot merge the 10 Commandments with rebellion against His law. You cannot worship both God and mammon. These two things are not able to be united. They are distinct because God is holy, God is set apart. It is the desire to corrupt heaven. To make God like us, rather than for us to align ourselves with the Holy Spirit and to be transformed by the power of God and to be made into the image of Christ.
“But we are not about indoctrinating children. For the most part children are forced into religion. That’s something we definitely don’t care to do.”
Lucien Greaves. The Satanic Temple.
Who is actually forcing children to think in a certain way? What we are seeing now in Britain is parental rights being eroded in relation to what children are being taught in schools; in relation to sex and relationships education. We have an attack on religious education, an attack on religious observance in schools. We have an attempt by the State to basically force everybody to think the same, to not critique same sex ‘marriage’. Last week even saw one Conservative MP, Mark Spencer, being quoted as saying that teachers who do not agree with same-sex ‘marriage’ and who teach that marriage is between a man and a woman should potentially be caught under the government’s counter extremism and hate crimes legislation. They would become subject to an Extremism Disruption Order. That’s not to say that the UK government think this; it might just be one individual. However it does show the mindset; that everyone is expected to sign up to the prevailing view. If you’re not willing to sign up you will at least be ostracised, and branded an extremist, and potentially lose your job and possibly end up in prison.
“The Satanic Temple holds to the basic premise that undue suffering is bad, and that which reduces suffering is good. We do not believe in symbolic evil.”
The Satanic Temple website
This is the same argument that is used in relation to the euthanasia / assisted suicide debate, isn’t it? People are suffering and we should help them to end their suffering. However that suffering is often not due to any form of physical pain. It is an existential suffering; it is due to the fact that they have lost control of the circumstances of their life. They are used to being in control and they are are no longer in control because they have an illness of some kind. And now it’s happening when people do not even have an illness. Last week we had the case of Gill Pharoah, the retired palliative care nurse who went off to Dignitas in Switzerland and committed suicide even though she wasn’t terminally ill at all.
This is very much the philosophy that’s being articulated behind the assisted suicide campaign. Let’s change the law and allow these people to die with the help of the government, with the help of the state, with the help of doctors and nurses or people who work for the state. Let’s not worry about good and evil, right and wrong. Let’s not worry about the fact that people will find themselves in a difficult position in terms of their conscience. Let’s not worry about the fact that people who will object to being part of it will find themselves being drawn into the part of the process. Let’s not worry about the law of God, the 10 Commandments, ‘though shalt not kill.’ What we are hearing is that suffering is something that must be avoided at all costs. Yet we know that suffering, although it’s not pleasant, is something that can be used to enrich us and to enrich our relationships and to bring people ultimately into our relationship with God. Jesus himself suffered more perhaps than anyone else has ever done in history because he didn’t just suffer the physical pain of a horrific death which other people suffered. He also suffered the spiritual pain of being separated from God, of his very nature being torn apart. Suffering, although awful, is nevertheless something which is part of the human condition. The point about suffering is how we approach suffering and the hope of a future where there will be no more suffering through faith in Jesus Christ. That is of course what is missing in terms of the whole debate in relation to Parliament and the assisted suicide debate; any sort of sense of eternity of what lies beyond death.
“We embrace blasphemy as a legitimate expression of personal independence from counter-productive traditional norms.”
The Satanic Temple website
That’s essentially throwing out the Judaeo-Christian worldview; the 10 commandments; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; though shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness, etc. All these norms of Western societies over the centuries are being rejected; not only by the people who made this statue but also by people right across society.
“as above, so below.”
On the statue, two fingers on the right-hand point out and two on the left hand is a point down, meaning, “as above, so below.” It’s an inversion of the Lord’s prayer. Rather than having the will of God “be done on earth as it is in heaven” it’s about having the characteristics and behaviour of earth in heaven. It is about seeking to export the rebellion into heaven. Essentially what this symbolises is the desire to subvert heaven, dethrone God and corrupt heaven; to make heaven like Earth rather than the other way around which is ultimately God’s purpose. Yet God will bring about a new heaven and a new earth. In the book of Revelation were told that a new Jerusalem descends from heaven to earth, so God’s purpose ultimately is to restore and renew the earth, and indeed to dwell with redeemed humanity. What “As above, so below” is about is the rejection of God’s redemptive plan for creation, and the rebellion against that. Again it comes down to this whole worldview that we are talking about. This secularist worldview where human beings can do whatever they like without any moral restraint.
“We understand the Satanic figure as a symbol of man’s inherent nature, representative of the eternal rebel, enlightened inquiry and personal freedom rather than a supernatural deity or being.”
The Satanic Temple of Detroit.
They see Satan as a symbolic expression of humanity and our search for independence and our rebellious nature. Unwittingly they partially get it right when it comes to talking about man’s nature. Man’s nature is eternally rebellious against God. By nature we do want to express our autonomy rather than submit to what God reveals as best. And whilst we think ourselves enlightened, we are endarkened.
Not a supernatural being
These Satanists claim that they don’t believe in a personal devil, i.e. they say they don’t believe that Satan is a person. Perhaps the desire to avoid the implications of the promised endpoint to history by Christ is partly why they are denying the existence of a personal Satan? One of the errors in the BBC article was stating that Satan usurped the power of “binding and loosing” from God. Satan himself was bound, he was thrown out of heaven because of his rebellion. Certainly there is, in Scripture, a picture of the angel coming down and binding Satan. Whilst Satan is certainly limited in his ability to express himself in the world today, the truth is that Satan is not symbolic, he is a real being.
These Satanists elsewhere say they do not believe in symbolic evil. Yet we only need to look at human history to see the effects of Satan’s activities throughout it. There is real evil in history. We see real evil today. We’ve seen real evil in 20th-century Europe. Nobody would say that the Holocaust was not an expression of evil when it quite quite clearly was. There is no debate about whether or not there is evil and good in society. Quite clearly there is.
Essentially this is just what was called Gnosticism. It was one of the earliest Christian heresies. If you look in the book of 1 John where it talks about the Antichrist, you’ll see it talks about the spirit of the Antichrist already been present in the world. That is often understood to be an expression and forerunner of the Gnostic heresy; people who were seeking some sort of esoteric knowledge, some sort of revelation, but divorcing it from any sort of morality about how they should behave.
There were two main expressions of Gnosticism. One lead to sexual immorality because it saw the spirit as being divorced from the physical body and matter. All matter was considered to be evil and therefore it didn’t matter what you did with your body. You could go out and be sexually immoral and it would not get in the way of your spiritual enlightenment. The other main expression of Gnosticism was an over emphasis on asceticism. The body was seen as being evil, so they denied themselves things that God had created to be good. They would ban people from getting married, for example. So something that God intended for good was seen as something that needed to be prohibited and stopped.
Interestingly what we’re seeing behind the language of “enlightened inquiry” is a re-emergence of that Gnostic heresy expressing itself in new ways. For example, the new atheist view of science and origins as a closed system, insisting that everything must be explained by naturalism. There cannot have been supernatural intervention in the world, either today or ever in human history. They would argue that the world was not created by a supernatural being. There is no redemption through the Incarnation, and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, this is worship of the creation rather than the Creator, something that secularists and satanists hold in common.
“It contains all of these binary opposites. Above and below. Part animal, part human. Male and female. It embodies opposites and celebrates contrasts.”
Lucien Greaves, describing the statue in the BBC article.
The whole philosophy is one of seeking to combine opposites. This is seeking to bring unity where their cannot be unity. In a sense it’s about Satan’s desire to be God but also it is seeking, and this is characteristic of ancient paganism, to unite the opposites. Interestingly enough, there has been a discourse developing, in terms of the whole sexuality rights agenda, of talking about “non-binary” understandings of gender. In other words, it’s no longer about male and female, but we now have a whole variety of expressions of gender. Indeed this is something that is even enshrined in legislation introduced by the Scottish Parliament where there are now five or six different definitions of transgender identity. We will increasingly see over the next few years a move away from the language of male and female in legislation and in public policy. Already government is using what they call “gender neutral terminology.” Gone are any mention of fathers, mothers, husbands or wives in any policy documents. We will increasingly see a move away from an understanding of two created genders in mainstream discourse, both in the media and also through government legislation. As any good propaganda consultant will tell you, as language leads, so public perception will follow. What will eventually happen is that those who choose to hold to the view that there are two created genders will find themselves marginalised for example in the education system. For now, it expresses itself in unisex toilets in schools. Whenever a new school is built in Scotland they will no longer designate some toilets for boys and some of them for girls because that would play into the gender stereotype of there being two fixed genders.
Of course when Jesus was asked about marriage, he started off his response by saying, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” Why did he say that? He said that because he was referring to the created nature of humanity. He was contrasting God’s intent and purpose with the culture of the pagan worldview which predominated whereby the mixing of the genders was seen as the ideal expression of pagan spirituality. And it’s this mixing of the genders that the statue is meant to represent. It’s interesting that the depiction of Baphomet in the original 1856 drawing had female breasts. The Satanists decided to leave the breasts off, presumably because they understood that they would have been a step too far in terms of cultural acceptance given where we are right now as a society. The original depiction is a figure which is both male and female. Philosophical and spiritual connotations to paganism are involved here
“Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty.”
Satanism 101, The Satanic Temple.
One of the most interesting aspects in the media coverage of the Baphomet statue is that this is not just a group of people who are on the fringe of new age spirituality doing their thing. Actually it reflects mainstream secular thinking and is quite revealing about the re-paganisation of Western society. The values that the Satanists are expressing and articulating through the statue are the values of atheistic secularism. Remove the ‘Satan’ references and it could be a values statement of any of the secularist or humanist groups which are so vocal in our society today. This is the spirit of the age in which we live. This is what we hear in the media all the time. The good news is that we already know how this story, how history ends.