Nightline Face-Off: Does Satan Exist?

27 Mar

I finished watching the debate over the existence of Satan this morning. I watched half of it yesterday and the other half of it this morning. Apparently the debate was edited when it was aired, but you can watch it in its entirety here:

Be prepared to endure commercials before and after each clip. A couple of times the online media player started over at the beginning of the first clip. A bit annoying, but well worth it.

I wish every follower of Christ would watch this. I thought it was a great cultural/philosophical clash. It would be so helpful for Christians to watch and think deeply through the issues presented in this debate. And the greatest issue for me was not the existence of Satan, but the reality of truth.

The players in the debate formed two teams: Mark Driscoll & Anne Lobert on one side and Deepak Chopra and Carlton Pearson on the other side.

When I watched the first half, I thought Driscoll was the winner. He did have home field advantage however because the debate was at his church. Thus, the many rounds of applause after Driscoll’s comments. But the TRUE WINNER of the debate was “Red Shirt Guy.”

As you watch the debate, pay attention to the interaction between the audience and the panel. In particular, pay close attention to two audience members and how they address the Deepak. The two audience members are “Red Shirt Guy” and “Pony Tail Girl.” A please, please understand that if we are going to engage culture we all need to be “Red Shirt Guy;” he got it. He understood the underlying issues and gave the best rebuttal of the night. (See below for my transcription of “Red Shirt Guy’s” comments.) “Pony Tail Girl” took things way to personal and misunderstood the deeper implications of Deepak’s comments. She was right to become angry, because Deepak was saying she was at a “lower level of consciousness.” But for her to say that Deepak was attacking Jesus was the wrong way to respond. Deepak was attacking the nature of truth (which of course we know is Jesus). She would have done better to take a lead from “Red Shirt Guy.”

So here is my reaction to the debate. At the end I will sum up my thoughts about truth, but here are my random thoughts and observations:

“All belief is a cover up for insecurity.” — Deepak Chopra

I did not plan on taking notes, but this is the first thing I wrote down. I am glad “Red Shirt Guy” addresses this later on, because this is an attack on all people of faith.

“If something is real then you don’t need to believe it. You just experience it.” — Deepak Chopra

This is THE ISSUE in the debate for me. I know it was supposed to be about Satan and evil, but this is the issue. What is truth? What is reality? How do we know it? Deepak says that reality is that which we can experience. I agree. But what if we experience something inauthentic? What if two people experience the same thing and interpret it different? How we discern right reality and evil reality?

“The Bible is not the inspired Word of God it is the inspired word of man about God.” – Carlton Pearson

Oh how the mighty have fallen! Pearson’s descent into heresy began with a denial of hell and eternal punishment and it has led him to reject the authority of Scripture all together. Pearson did make a few (emphasis on “few”) good points, but for the most part his comments were wondering, off-topic, etymological, self-involved rambling. I know it sounds like I am hating on Pearson and really I am not. Often the moderator cut Pearson off, because he was headed off into la-la land. I feel so sorry for Pearson.

“Perception is the ultimate reality, but it not necessarily the ultimate truth.” – Carlton Pearson

Yeah, I know where Pearson is coming from. There is a difference between truth and perception. He is wrong to say perception is reality. Perception can be a “perceived” reality, but reality is that which is really real. This goes to the very definition of truth. Truth is that which corresponds with reality. More on truth below.

“Fairytale-like good god and bad god” – Carlton Pearson

The Devil is the “bad god” by the way. Oh and earlier Pearson called the Devil “hairy and horny.” I think he was referring to the caricature of the Devil who has horns, but I did laugh out loud when he said “horny.” My, my, the bishop is off his theological rocker.

Red shirt guy: “My question is for Deepak and the Bishop, You said, ‘All belief is a cover up for insecurity?'”

Red shirt guy: “Do you believe that?

Deepak: “Yes”

Red shirt guy: “Thank you”

Audience laughter

This was the best moment in the debate. Pearson laughed and looked at Deepak. Driscoll smiled. Lobert seemed to miss it. And Deepak tried to explain himself, but he never addressed the implication of Red Shirt Guy’s comment. And don’t miss this, but this is the leverage point in the argument of truth between Christians and pluralists.

Deepak is arguing that “belief” is somehow a more primitive way of knowing. Evolution, he is arguing, has brought us to a higher state of consciousness were we know by experiencing in a way that is consistent with science and philosophy. But here is the deal….DEEPAK’S ARGUMENT IS A BELIEF!

He is using a belief to devalue beliefs. In other words, he is using a belief system to say belief systems are no good. Tim Keller is right, “Every doubt is based on an alternative belief.” (Read Tim Keller’s Reason for God for a fuller explanation of these issues.)

As soon as you define god, you limit god. — Deepak

This is true, but it shouldn’t stop us from exploring God should it? Deepak is no atheist. He contends that there is a high probability of an intelligent being out there. So sure, for finite beings to try to define god we do limit him, but for followers of Christ, we believe Jesus is God and came to reveal to us (in part) who God is.

At one point in the debate a woman question’s Driscoll on how he reconciles the evil of pride with the exclusivity of his position. I don’t have the exact quote, but Driscoll is right to go to the heart of the matter, “But what if it is true.” This whole debate is about truth.

“My experience is more consistent with what we know about biology, evolution, and the laws of nature, in my opinion.” — Deepak

This was his response to “Pony Tail Girl” and it is a sophisticated way of say you are wrong, but in Deepak’s worldview you cannot call anybody wrong, because there is no constant, no fixed point of reality, no frame of reference.

Pony-tail girl: “Why would you come here tonight if not to attack him [Jesus]?”

This was the worst thing she could have said. The only thing worse thing for her to say would have been to say that Deepak’s mom is a prostitute. Antagonistic attacks on non-Christian people will never lead them to Christ. This is a good time to love our enemies. Deepak wasn’t attacking Jesus. He was attacking truth. As I stated above, we know that Jesus is the Truth, and so maybe by inference he was attacking Jesus, but in responding to a pluralistic culture we need to respond to people’s statements, and the worldview behind their statements, and not the inferences we draw from those statements, because like Pony Tail Girl we are then arguing against an idea in our minds that may not be in theirs. She had all the best intentions in the world, bless her heart, but she didn’t help our cause.

“You need these forces [creativity/evolutionary and entropy/destruction] to keep creation going.” — Deepak

Driscoll needed to push the issue with Deepak over why he would call Anne’s story “evil” and more importantly why are these entropy/destructive forces necessary for creation to go on? Maybe he should have asked “How is it both evil and necessary?” Anne had been brutally gang raped and Deepak agreed that this was evil, but he wanted to brush it off as the fault of cultural psychosis. As he described his worldview he said destructive forces are necessary. So does that imply that evil is necessary? Or that Anne needed to be raped and tortured? I wish Driscoll would have pushed this issue. It would have clearly shown the inconsistencies of Deepak’s worldview.

“I don’t trust my mind. I trust my spirit which is beyond all this” – Deepak

Driscoll did a great job in questioning how Deepak believed in the evolutionary process and yet Deepak admits that he doesn’t trust his mind. He trusted his spirit! This was a clear contradiction in Deepak’s form of pluralism. If he doesn’t trust his mind, then why use his mind to study biology, cosmology, and philosophy? Why not just meditate and stop writing books?

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: This debate was not about Satan. The existence of Satan is what got the debate started. This was a debate about truth. What is there in the world of philosophy, religion, and theology that is true? What is it in those areas that corresponds with reality? For those of us who follow Jesus, we believe that he is the way, the truth, and the life, the only way to God the Father and eternal life. Jesus did speak these words in Aramaic, but when he spoke of “me” or “God” he was not referring to the “circle within the circle” or the great “spirit” in the sky. Deepak’s interpretation is not consistent with First century Judaic thought. It sounded intellectual, but his interpretation of Jesus is not consistent with what we know theologically or linguistically about the first century. What his followers heard him say is “God” and “me.” When Jesus said nobody comes to the Father except through me, the gospel writers wrote the word eimi in Greek. There only way to interpret that is through the very simple meaning “me.” Jesus was simple at this point. It takes a lot of religious and philosophical wrangling to make it more completed than that. For those of us who are Christ followers it is simple:

Jesus is the Truth.

He is our philosophical constant.

He is our moral framework.

He is what corresponds with reality.

He is not our experience of cultural/philosophical influences.

He is really real.

He really lived.

He really died on a Roman cross.

He really was buried in a borrowed tomb.

He really rose up from the dead.

He really sent the Holy Spirit to live in the hearts of those who are his.

He is really coming back.

Mark Driscoll did a great job of reading Scripture as his closing remarks. He read 1 John 5:19-20. I am closing this blog with that text:

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (ESV)


Posted by on March 27, 2009 in Theology


Tags: , , ,

2 responses to “Nightline Face-Off: Does Satan Exist?

  1. Zack

    March 27, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Good words…

    I wish I had time to write such a well-thought analysis!

    I completely agree about ‘red shirt guy’ and ‘pony-tail girl’.

    In my opinion, the low point of the entire debate was ‘pony-tail girl’, and the way she made it so easy for Deepak to make Christ followers look like judgmental idiots. And yet, you can see it comes from a passionate love, just without the right tools in her belt…

    And red-shirt guy… I actually never saw him…

    But I had the same problems with the online viewer.

    Here’s a tip for everyone: if you download the (free) firefox plugin called ‘Add Block Plus’ you can watch the whole debate with no commercials.

    I mostly appreciated that Driscoll made the conversation mostly about God, rather than about the devil. I think if just he and Chopra had been in the conversation, more useful dialog would have resulted. At one point, Driscoll paints a picture of what happened to Lobert (brutal rape, etc), and asks Chopra (paraphrase) ‘what do you attribute those kinds of actions?’

    If that line of dialog had continued further, I think Chopra would have been up against a wall, but someone changed the subject quickly and they never returned to it…

    Anyways, done venting.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. derekvreeland

    March 27, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Thanks for the Firefox tip. I would add that plugin.

    Yeah I would love to listen to Mark and Deepak go head to head. It would have made a better debate. I like Driscoll a lot…maybe even to the point of a man-crush. 🙂 {insert awkward gulp here}

    For Driscoll it always goes back to Jesus and the Scripture and you are right. He did a great job drawing the conversation back to God/Jesus.

    I don’t know if my post was as much of a well-though analysis as much as it was rant. I would tie down everyone in my church and make them watch this debate if I could!

    At first I thought Anne was there as provocative eye candy, but then I really saw the impact of her point of view. She complimented Driscoll well. He arguments from experience are necessary but limited. I tell our congregation to tell God’s story by telling their own stories. But the truth is that arguments from experience will only go so far. As you saw, her arguments from experience drew in the guys on the other side. They agreed with her experience.

    At the end of the day Christian experience doesn’t challenge pluralism as much as the preaching of the gospel/the exclusivity of Christ and biblical teaching.

    Thanks for the comments.



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