Does God Need Satan?

Question: Does God NEED satan to fulfill his role? Does satan provide a contrast to God’s love? That is to ask – if there was no devil would God’s love/grace matter or be noticeable?

Response: That’s such a great question, but it’s hard to talk about God needing anything. It does help me to think of satan as the presence of the void – I have a lot of reasons for saying this. I think he’s more like an absence than a substance. I don’t think he’s really like demons, which are fallen created realities, but more like this presence of an absence. So God is Beingness (I Am) and satan is more like the manifestation of nothingness (I am not); a shadow. God is Light and satan is a shadow. God is Good and satan is the manifestation of the absence of the Good, that is, evil. I think he’s defined by what he’s not, rather than by what he is – like a shadow. When you look at a shadow, you’re looking at nothing but the absence of light. So the shadow is defined by what it’s not, even though it can move and act like a person.

Well, if God is to create people who “choose the good in freedom” (Karl Barth’s words); if God is to create beings capable of love, it makes sense to me that those beings would have to know “not love,” that is evil. I think our encounter with evil in this fallen world is part of our creation in the image of God, which is “choosing the good in freedom.” God is “the Good” and choosing the Good in freedom is Love. God is Good and also Love, for in the dance of the trinity, each person is constantly choosing the other, the good. So anyway, I’m uncomfortable with ascribing “need” to God, but, at least, for my small brain, I don’t see how God could make beings that would freely choose him (the Good), if those beings had no knowledge of his absence (the evil one).

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