Satan is the father of lies, clever yet deceitful, hating God and all God loves. He leads the charge in the spiritual battle that exists for our souls with Satan always opposing God at every turn and trying to turn us against God. But God has given us a glimpse of Satan’s playbook in the first three chapters of Genesis so we can better know our enemy and recognize some of the ways he has continued attacking humanity since the beginning.
The Sacredness of Creation and Dignity of Man
In the beginning, God created all things good. God blessed the living creatures (Genesis 1:22) as well as man (1:28), revealing the sacredness of all life. To man, God gave dominion over the living things (1:26f), demonstrating the hierarchy of life. Man was also a unique creation in the material world as he was made in the image and likeness of God (1:26), being given the gifts of reason and free will. God breathed His own life into man (2:7) further elevating the dignity of the human person and bestowing into man His own divine life.
Man and Woman – For Marriage and Family
In the creation narrative, the only time God says something “is not good” was when man was alone. God revealed man was created to be a social creature but the relationship with animals was not adequate. The relief for man’s solitude was another human, and particularly a woman (Genesis 2:18f). To be in a relationship with this woman, man had to be willing to give up everything for her, even giving his own life in loving protection. With his consent, God formed woman from the side of man – not from his head to be superior to him, nor from his feet to be subjugated to him (2:21-24). They then formed an indissoluble covenant with each other (becoming one flesh). This relationship was not one of pride, selfishness, egotism, possession or subjection. It was to revolve around love, not lust (2:25).
Made for Communion with God
In the Garden, God walked with Adam and Eve (3:8), revealing a harmonious friendship. This relationship with God was what man was ultimately made for but God wanted this communion to continue for all eternity. For man to fulfill his purpose, he only needed to respond to God’s love with love. Wanting to illuminate the path for man to achieve this, God gave man a few laws, not acting as a dictator but as a loving Father (2:18). These commands were:
- Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion over it (1:28).
- Man was to guard and labor in the Garden of Eden (2:15).
- They were given access to everything in the Garden of Eden with one exception – they were not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil or else they would die (2:16-17; 3:2-3).
Losing Trust and the Slippery Slope of Sin
Genesis then shows how Satan cleverly and deceptively entered into the life of this first man and woman (3:1), hoping to lead them to doubt God and His loving plan (3:5). In their interaction, the devil immediately distorts God’s truths (3:1), implying God is a liar (3:4-5). Satan insinuated God was restricting their access to goodness, pleasure, power, wisdom and the fullness of life (3:4-6). Satan distorts the nature of God and the truth of who God created man to be. Satan wants them to revolt so tries to convince Adam and Eve God is a despot. Satan prods the pride, selfishness, greed and envy within man, telling them there is something they deserve to have (to be like God) that God is withholding from them (3:5).
Satan also demonstrates part of his plan of attack is to destroy their relationship with each other. First, he humiliates Adam by the sheer fact of his presence in the garden because this indicates a failure in Adam to lay down his life in loving protection of Eve. Then, even though both Adam and Eve are present in the garden, the serpent isolates them by speaking only to Eve (3:1).
Satan also tries to manipulate Adam and Eve by convincing them there are no negative consequences to their actions. The sly serpent tells them, despite God’s warning, if they eat of the forbidden tree, “You will not die.” No, rather “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:4). Satan, having rejected God, personally knows with certitude what happens when you turn away from God, yet this truth must remain hidden in order achieve his goal. Instead, he veils his lies with the appearance of compassion and concern giving the illusions: God lies. There is no truth. Satan, not God, has the means to our happiness.
Adam and Eve freely succumb to the temptations of the devil. But the impact of Satan’s war does not stop with this act. Immediately after they sin, their guilt causes them to hide from God, or as in the Hebrew chaba – to withdraw from God (3:10). And rather than repent, they refuse to accept responsibility for their disobedience merely blaming one another (3:12-13). Finally, prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve did not bear children as God had commanded so this encounter with Satan impacts all their descendants – though not inheriting the guilt of the first sin, all humanity will experience the consequences.
Deceptive Snares Then and Now
Our first parents fell into Satan’s traps but we continue to hear echoes of these same deceptions in our lives today.
Just as Satan distorted truth about God from the beginning, lies and deception continue:
- “There is no God. We are here by chance.”
- “Religion consoles and comforts people but it is not based on truth.”
- “Even if there is a God He cannot be good and loving since there is so much suffering and evil.”
- “I believe in God but He has done nothing for me, why should I listen to Him?”
Just as in the Garden Satan attacked who it was God created man to be and the dignity of human life, this is still everywhere under attack:
- “Humanity is depraved, wretched, unredeemable.”
- “Dog, cow, man – we are all the same. A creature’s level of consciousness or his usefulness to society determine its value, therefore, pigs and chickens are more valuable than a human fetus or newborn.”
- “Pregnancy is an inconvenience, a burden, a mistake.”
- “The fetus is simply a clump of cells.”
- “A woman has a right to do what she wants with her body since the child in the womb has no rights of its own.”
- “A person should have the right to end their life if they feel their situation is too burdensome.”
- “Once a person is merely a burden on society, we have the right to end their life.”
As with Adam and Eve, the reality that it is God who is the source or our goodness and happiness has been rejected in favor of a counterfeit idea that we are to take what we desire and find happiness apart from God:
- “Seize the day. Do what makes you happy.”
- “What is true for me may not be true for you but let’s live and let live.”
- “If you hold to universal moral truths, declaring what is right and wrong for all, you are an intolerant bigot.”
- “Don’t impose your views on me.”
- “God’s moral laws are examples of imposed tyranny, you do not need to succumb to this.”
- “You do not need God or any church to do be happy.”
We hear a constant attack on marriage with propaganda denying the complementarity of the sexes:
- “If you marry, divorce is always an option if it does not work out.”
- “Why get married at all when I can enjoy the benefits without the commitment?”
- “It is about me and my body. Why not explore the different options? There should be no limits on satisfying my needs.”
- “There is no such thing as complementarity of the sexes – it is just whatever feels right in my marital relationships.”
- “There is no such thing as being born male and female – you get to decide for yourself.”
Since the beginning, Satan has been promoting a denial of the reality of sin. As we see in the Garden, this often leads to a refusal to repent:
- “Sin is when I go against my own personal values. You cannot decide for me what is and is not sin.”
- “You are an intolerant bigot for even suggesting what I did was wrong since it is only wrong in your eyes.”
- “A loving God would want me to be happy. He would not condemn me for living however I see fit to achieve this.”
- “God is a loving Father. I cannot imagine He created a place like hell but, if He did, my merciful Father would not send me there.”
- “That wasn’t my fault.”
Knowing Our Enemy
We see the fingerprint of Satan throughout history and all around us today. He is powerful and cunning, always trying to convince us to doubt and lose trust in God like with our first parents. Father Vincent Miceli, in his book The Antichrist writes, “The intention of Satan is to make a physical and spiritual wreckage of all God’s creation.” We must be aware that Satan always mocks God, breathes contempt on anything sacred and ridicules all God has revealed. The father of lies wants us to believe he will leads us to true happiness more than any teachings of Christ. Father Miceli describes how Satan, with the help of men and his demons, has “succeeded in contradicting Scripture, denying dogma, popularizing immorality.” He will try to deceive us in subtle ways, hoping to lead us further and further away from God, so we can never become presumptuous or let our guard down. Wanting to help us take care to not fall into Satan’s snares, God has given us many warnings and insights into Satan’s playbook with one example being in these first three chapters of Genesis.
As we become more aware of our enemy, we then must heed the words of St. Pope Leo the Great, in his Sermon 39 on Lent (III):
…let us prepare our souls for fighting with temptations, and understand that the more zealous we are for our salvation, the more determined must be the assaults of our opponents. But ‘stronger is He that is in us than he that is against us’ (1 John 4:4), and through Him are we powerful in whose strength we rely: because it was for this that the Lord allowed Himself to be tempted by the tempter, that we might be taught by His example as well as fortified by His aid…He fought then, therefore, that we too might fight thereafter: He conquered that we too might likewise conquer. For there are no works of power, dearly-beloved, without the trials of temptations, there is no faith without proof, no contest without a foe, no victory without conflict. This life of ours is in the midst of snares, in the midst of battles; if we do not wish to be deceived, we must watch: if we want to overcome, we must fight.