Evangelical Questions: Satan and Jesus are brothers?
by Jennifer Roach, MDiv, LMHC
Welcome back to Come Follow Me with FAIR: Faithful Answers to New Testament Questions. My name is Jennifer Roach and today we’re going to talk about an issue that baffles Evangelicals to their core: Jesus and Satan as brothers.. As you know we’re going through the Come Follow Me readings and addressing common questions that Evangelicals ask about our faith as we go along. Our purpose here is not to fuel debate but to help you understand where your Evangelical friends and family are coming from so that you can have better conversations with them, and perhaps even be able to offer them a bit of our faith in a way they can understand.
So, we’re in 1 Corinthians now, and in chapter 1 we get a lot of talk about unity, acting as one in Christ, that we are all brothers and sisters. I don’t have a specific verse that really sums this up in a tidy way, so I’m just using the overall theme here. There is a lot of corruption and immorality happening in the church in Corinth and Paul is writing to them to basically tell them to get it together. You may know this but Paul basically has 2 modes that go something like this. We see the first mode in the opening of this letter. Paul says, “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints….” But there is another side of Paul that he gets to pretty quickly here and it’s all, “For the love of God, could you little freaks act normal for 5 min?” And this is what we get a lot of in both 1 and 2 Corinthians. And for good reasons. But with both of these modes what he is doing is trying to inspire them to be better than they have been, and treating each other like actual brothers and sisters is a big part of that here.
Now, Latter-day Saints, when I say, “God is the Father of us all,” you nod your head and hear no issue with that. You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, Jennifer, skip past the part I already know. God is the Father of all.” But, let me tell you how it gets a little weird for Evangelicals. They would put a huge asterisk next to the word “all” and in the footnote would be something like, “Well, God is the Father of all humans who choose to belong to him. But not really the Father of ALL.” We’ve talked before on this show about how Evangelicals see God as an entirely different species from humans, so he’s not actually their Father in the way Latter-day Saints think about. And the question that comes up here sometimes from Evangelicals is something like, “Wait. You think God is the Father of both Jesus and Satan?” A lot of Latter-day Saints would respond with, “Umm, yeah, of course. He is the Father of all.” I want to explain to you how and why Evangelicals hear it differently and we’re going to do that by talking about a very old little film called The God Makers.
If you are close to my age, or older, you probably already know what this is. But if not, the brief summary is that it was the most popular anti-mormon propaganda of its day. It’s a movie that was put out in the early 1980’s. It runs about an hour long. You can watch it on Youtube if you really want to. Sometimes its under the title, “Banned Mormon Cartoon!” It was very popular with Evangelicals in the 1980’s. Most of you know I grew up in an Evangelical church and my church showed that film as frequently as they could. We watched it during the church service sometimes, and they would have Sunday School classes where they’d watch it and talk more in-depth about it. The reason I bring up this movie is that it is one of the big sources of twisting truth just enough so that our beliefs seem very unreasonable. It was the CES Letter of its day. As an aside, I will tell you that the author of the movie, and the book by the same name, is from Washington State. When I joined the church 4 years ago I was actually living in the same stake where he had spent most of his life, and where he wrote that book. Which I just found to be incredibly ironic – here I am, this lifelong Evangelical who had received a lot of my early information about the church from this terrible little film, I move into Ed’s neighborhood, and join the church. I just find that amusing. Anyway..
One of the themes in that movie is this idea that Jesus and Satan are brothers. And Evangelicals are scandalized by this. Even though that movie is from 40 years ago – and I’d be surprised if there are any Evangelical churches that are still using it – the slant that he put on it stuck in the Evangelical imagination because of what that means for them. Let me try to explain how they hear it…
One popular Evangelical apologist says it like this, “the biblical witness is clear and convincing: Jesus Christ is the eternal Creator God. Paul explicitly teaches that Jesus is the creator of all.” Now, Latter-day Saints, I know that your brain is going, “Yeah…but what does that have to do with this?” Because Latter-day Saints also believe Jesus is the eternal creator God. He was there at the creation of the world. In Evangelical-speak what they’re trying to say is that 1) Satan is a created being 2) Jesus is the Creator God 3) How can Jesus both create Satan AND be his brother?
The first time I read through Mosiah and got to 5:7 I was puzzled by what I was reading. Here is the verse, “because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” I really only understood how to read that through Trinitarian eyes. My thinking was something like: Jesus is the Son, but he and the Father are the same, so he is the Father also. But this is not a Trinitarian statement. In Evangelical thinking Creator and Father are identical. When Jesus is functioning as Creator (something Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals do not disagree on) Evangelicals see that as him being “the same substance” as the Father. So they get upset about the idea that Jesus and Satan could be brothers because it drags Satan into the Trinity. To them…brothers are equals (as in “we’re all brothers and sisters”) so to say that Jesus and Satan are brothers is to say that Satan is equal to Jesus. We talked in the early episodes of this series that one of the best characteristics of Evangelicals is that they’re passionately protective about getting Jesus theologically correct. And that deserves respect. But what they can’t quite see here is how extra-biblical teaching from the 4th century obscures the picture. In the 4th Century God the Father and Jesus Christ are said to be made of “the same substance” homioousias is the word there, they no longer know how to make sense of the fact that God the Father is still the Father of all – including Jesus, including every created thing, including Satan, including you and me. But the “same substance” issue obscures how they see Jesus. If you’d like more on this part of the topic I recommend an article by my friend and colleague Ben Spackman called, “Covenants and Kinship: Jesus as the Father.” He gets into more of the technicalities there than we have time for here.
So, all of that to say, when an Evangelical says, “You believe Jesus and Stan are brothers,” it’s intended as a critique. What they mean is: You have an improper view of Jesus. This is at least part of where the phrase, “You worship a different Jesus,” comes from.
Let me pivot a bit and use a different, less philosophical argument. In the Bible, both Jesus and Satan are called, “The bright and morning star.” The name “Lucifer” is a Latin word literally meaning “morning start.” And we know that Jesus is called the morning star a number of times in the New Testament. Both of them are given this title. Another example from the Bible….both Jesus and Satan are called a lion. Satan is a lion who seeks to devour believers, and Jesus is called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. So, they’re both stars, they’re both lions. They’re also both called sons.
If you ask any Evangelical they will be very clear with you: They are not confused when Satan is called a lion, and when Jesus is called a lion. They understand that just because the concept of lion can be applied to both of them does not make them equals. They also easily understand this with the “morning star” phrase – though that one is a bit more obscure and you’d have to have an Evangelical who has studied a bit to get deep into that example. But for those who know about it, they’re not confused about Jesus and Satan being different, even though the term “morning star” is applied to both. The term “son of God” is applied to both Jesus Christ – and to humans. In the book of Job “Sons of God” sometimes means angels, sometimes it means devils, and sometimes it means humans. But no one is confused that 3 different groups are being referred to here.
But it’s a trigger for them to hear that Jesus and Satan are brothers – despite all these other examples where they’re fully adept at language and can see words used in different ways – when they hear “Jesus and Satan are brothers” they really only hear “Jesus and Satan are equals.” We’ve talked a number of times in this series about the “species” problem. Latter-day Saints see God, angels, devils, and humans as all the same species. While Evangelicals see 3 different species there.
So, how do you get out of this corner with them? This isn’t the one and only answer, but here is my suggestion. Go back to the beginning. Non Latter-day-Saint-Christians don’t have the same understanding of the pre-mortal council that we do. But helping them understand that story might be a good direction to help them understand what we’re actually saying about God being the Father of All, Jesus still being the eternal Creator God, and how all of us from Jesus to Satan, to you and me, are all children of Heavenly Father. At least part of the point that teaching is making is that we are all God’s children – and we are given the ability to make choices. Jesus chooses to serve and save all the rest of us not by force, but by allowing us to make a choice. Satan wants to take away choice. Evangelicals want to know that Jesus and Satan are as different as night and day, and the conversation about what happened even before this world was created might help them see what you believe about that in a different way.
Alright, come back next week, we’ll be at the end of 1 Corninithians and we’re going to take about Paul’s great verse regarding men and women needing each other and how that plays out differently in both groups. See you then!
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Jennifer Roach earned a Master of Divinity from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, and a Master of Counseling from Argosy University. Before her conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she was an ordained minister in the Anglican church. Her own experience of sexual abuse from a pastor during her teen years led her to care deeply about issues of abuse in faith communities.