Lucifer, the Morning Star, Satan, The Devil, ruler of hell, fallen angel . . .
There are a lot of different ways to talk about the theological bad guy, and a whole lot of incorrect “common knowledge” references that are more dramatically useful than theologically sound. Being dramatically useful and theologically incorrect doesn’t make them evil or irrelevant, but we do need to know the difference; sort of like how there’s nothing seriously wrong with the idea of “dead people are angels,” as long as we are aware of it.
For an example of the dramatically useful, my impulse was to use “the Big Bad” in the intro paragraph for this article – and it’s true enough, in that he’s the head villain, but given that the same impulse I would refer to God as “the Big Guy” to set up the opposition between the two. This reference implies a similarity of power that is incredibly wrong – it incorrectly describes the battlefield. The best way to describe it might be to think of God as light, and all evil as a lack of light; but this light will let you choose to utterly remove it just by choosing – which is what the fallen angels (C&C: Demons ) did. They’re evil because they were given the choice of the God they knew (in mind-blowing detail), and chose the “no God” option. Lucifer isn’t on par with God, he’s just the leader of those angels who chose against God, more like an evil St. Michael with half the army.
That comparison leads to another dramatically powerful storyline: Reconversion – the idea of converting Lucifer back into a good angel, usually by the love of a good woman, or of an angel becoming fallen because of the love of a woman. While I do appreciate that they usually use St. Michael (a summary of their traditional opposition; I don’t know enough to fact-check the Jewish sources) for those stories, God is outside of time and the angels are with Him. (The same not-in-the-time-stream that we’ll be in when we’re dead.) Not happening. And my head hurts just thinking of how much of the various stories we’ve been granted that God Himself is trying to explain concepts in a way that we can grasp the important parts, to promote understanding.
Understanding is another thread; some popular stories try to fit Lucifer into the “just on different sides” pattern, rather like how in war movies they’ll emphasize that the guy in a different colored uniform is still a human. You might note that this perspective is not all that commonly done with someone like the Nazis, and even more rarely than with those who chose to actively do, on screen, all the things that make the Nazis such popular stand-ins for personified evil, even in an age that doesn’t much care for calling things evil. The worst of the Nazis, the worst of the Japanese soldiers in their treatment of the people of the Philippine Islands, the worst of any group of humans doing things so horrific will give you nightmares. Still a human who can repent and try to make up for it. Any living person can repent and change. We all should be familiar with how easy it can be to fool yourself.
The fallen angels knew exactly what they were doing and still made their choice. The Nazis and other similar groups most likely were lied to, even if mostly by themselves and their own willful blindness. This fact is not to make their evils any smaller or less horrific, only to try to convey that the gut-level horror we feel when considering them is to the part of them that is like the fallen angels. That a Nazi can change his mind on finding out more information doesn’t make him any less horrific, it just means that a demon, who already had all that information, is even worse, and the better they were, the more horrible the result. Lucifer was very, very good, and now he is the Father of Lies; maybe it’s like how eyes in absolute dark will seem to see light, a person must imagine some good when faced by a literal person of evil.
Father of Lies. There’s another name for Lucifer; or maybe “another title” would be the way to put it. Lucifer isn’t a name-name, it’s a description-name, a title. It’s his Morning Star description as rendered by the Vulgate – a description that’s also used for Jesus and other exceptionally bright, shining things, such as Venus. It has a sort of poetic meaning along the lines of “he who was awesomely brilliant and now laments that loss.” Angels do tend to have fittingly descriptive names, but I couldn’t even assure you that Raphael is a name, rather than a description. (God Heals.) This clarification is actually rather important, since names are a big deal; Adam naming all the animals is an example, and the way we’re not supposed to presume to name our guardian angels.
The “father of lies” aspect is especially important since he, and his demons, are often shown in stories as offering information.
Considering the question of how the heck you expect a demon to be held to a bargain – who are you going to call to enforce it? The FBI? Jesus? Holy I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it further, Batman, perhaps. Seriously, we know from the Bible that Lucifer doesn’t have superior knowledge. He tried to tempt Jesus.
The only way to clarify this assertion is… well, I’ll quote Aquinas, who was quoted in the Catholic Answers link right above:
The minds of demons are utterly perverted from the divine wisdom; they at times form their opinion of things simply according to the natural conditions of the same. Nor are they ever deceived as to the natural properties of anything, but they can be misled with regard to supernatural matters. For example, on seeing a dead man they may suppose that he will not rise again, or, on beholding Christ, they may judge him not to be God. (ST 1:5)
So the old “deal with the devil” thing is about as sensible as doing a deal with a drug smuggler, alone, in the middle of nowhere.
I’m sorry I’ve got to cut it off here, but I must either cut it short or double the length; sorry it’s so abrupt. Next time, I plan to do the Devil’s Advocate!
As always, if you’ve got something you’d like me to look up, please comment on it here. I may not be able to find enough to justify my finger-flapping, but I’ll try.