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Believers tend to assert about how God is completely sovereign over everything, including earthquakes, diseases, floods etc. These events are what people would consider natural evil, in contrast to moral evil, which includes murder, rape, torture, human sacrifice, genocides etc.

But it is Biblically possible that there is a secondary, direct cause to this natural evil (excluding all " natural evil" events that are directly caused by divine judgement like the Ten Plagues, the disasters in the Book of Revelation, the hailstones at Gibeon etc.)? Just like how there is a secondary, direct cause to moral evil, such as depraved humans and the demons that influence/possess them, even though God is still recognised as having the ultimate authority over this?

It's a major plot element in the Book of Job and I don't think it's the first time Satan and his forces has done this (Job 1:7, 2:2). After all, don't all natural disasters and illnesses in some way undermine our confidence and well-being and are all under God's will?

Satan is a metaphysical being, like God, and all laws of nature have underlying metaphysical causes, one of which includes Logos (I guess Satan is anti-Logos since He wants to control natural laws to create unnecessary disorder/destroy nature?). He's also recognised as having control over the world and the air, as attested by John the apostle. Some say that I'm attributing too much power to Satan. Yes, I recognise that's he not omnipotent or omniscient and that he does not (nor do any of the angels) directly create. However, I strongly suspect that he can pervert what's already existing.

An analogy I can think of is that God created viruses, the cells that form the basis for cancerous tumours etc. like any other living organism. But Satan swooped in and manipulated them to attack other living beings. Just like how he manipulates the biochemistry of human brains to make individuals commit abominable sins against others and God. If any human manipulated nature to harm others, they would justifiably be called a bio-terrorist. So why can't the same logic apply to beings in the metaphysical realm?

Am I wrong/too superstitous for thinking this way?

  • Can you please edit this to provide a quote which says that Satan is regularly directly causing natural evils, and not just the events of Job? – curiousdannii Feb 18 at 22:01
  • I'm not asserting it like it's a fact. It's my opinion. – AngelusVastator Feb 19 at 9:57
  • Right, but for Biblical Basis questions we only do ones where denominations or Christian groups are teaching something, not individuals. – curiousdannii Feb 19 at 10:17
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Is there Biblical justification for asserting that Satan directly causes natural evil?

Both in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, the answer would seem to be in the affirmative.

The introduction of the Prayer Against Satan and the Rebellious Angels Published by Order of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, makes note that his Holiness Pope Leo XIII believed that the Devil and his agents can cause violent storms and calamities.

The following is a simple exorcism prayer that can be said by priests or laity. The term “exorcism” does not always denote a solemn exorcism involving a person possessed by the devil. In general, the term denotes prayers to “curb the power of the devil and prevent him from doing harm.” As St. Peter had written in Holy Scripture, “your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” (1 St. Peter 5,8)

The Holy Father exhorts priests to say this prayer as often as possible, as a simple exorcism to curb the power of the devil and prevent him from doing harm. The faithful also may say it in their own name, for the same purpose, as any approved prayer. Its use is recommended whenever action of the devil is suspected, causing malice in men, violent temptations and even storms and various calamities. It could be used as a solemn exorcism (an official and public ceremony, in Latin), to expel the devil. It would then be said by a priest, in the name of the Church and only with a Bishop's permission. - A Simple Exorcism for Priests or Laity

As for the biblical basis of this belief, we could go to the Book of Job and the Apostle St. Paul for a definitive answer.

2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. - Ephesians 2:2 (KJV)

Thus we see that for some, St. Paul is referring to the ”Powers” of the air as being no less then the evil spirits of this world.

The fallen spirits also try to impress us with their power of over nature: “The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders” (2 Thess 2:9). St. Paul adduces here the sign for the necessary discernment: “Lawlessness”. The works they do may indeed be impressive, but we have to watch out, first of all, to verify whether the “fruits” are good or bad: Do they submit to the laws? Do they recognize the legitimate authority? Are they obedient, for “the prince of the power of the air… is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2)?

From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you. - Job 5:19

The whole Book of Job deals with God’s servant Job and the calamities provoked by Satan against the Man of God. Job is presented as a good and prosperous family man who is beset by Satan with God's permission with horrendous disasters that take away all that he holds dear, including his offspring, his health, and his property.

Job's Unparalleled Calamities

Everything is done to heighten and intensify the impression of Job's calamities. Let us note their salient features.

I. THEY OCCUR AT A SEASON OF FESTIVITY. It was a feast-day, and Job's whole family was gathered together in his eldest son's house. Then of all times the affectionate father would be least prepared for ominous rumours of calamity. The thunderbolt fell from the cloudless blue sky. Without a note of warning, the fearful storm burnt in an overwhelming deluge. This is a lesson against trusting to prosperity, as though it contained a promise of its own certain continuance. But it is no unmerciful arrangement of Providence that the dark future is hidden from us. We are made sad because

"We look before and after." If we saw all the future, we could not endure the present.

II. THEY OCCUR IN RAPID SUCCESSION. So closely do these calamities follow one upon another that, before the first messenger has told his tale, a second herald arrives with more evil news, followed as speedily by a third, and he after no more delay by the last, with his most dreadful message. It has often been noticed how troubles come in batches. In Job's case we can see the reason. One fearful power of malignity is behind the whole series.

III. THEY COME FROM VARIOUS QUARTERS. Though Satan is the ultimate cause of all the calamities, he does not inflict any of them with his own hand. He keeps that hidden, and finds means to send emissaries from all quarters - Arabs from the south fall on the home farm; lightning from heaven smites the sheep on the downs; three robber-bands of roving Chaldees from the north swoop down on the caravan of camels that carries Job's wealth of merchandise; and, worse than all else, a hurricane from the desert smites and fells the house where Job's sons and daughters are feasting. Who can dwell in security when trouble may come in so many directions? It is impossible for the strongest man to fortify himself against it. None of us can do more than make reasonable preparations, which may all prove useless. But all may trust the providence of him who rules wind and storm and heart of man, and without whose permission not a hair of our head can be touched.

IV. THEY ARE AGGRAVATED AS THEY PROCEED. The worst comes last. It is terrible for a rich man to see his wealth melting before his eyes in a few moments. This was Antonio's trouble when his fleet of merchandise was destroyed ('Merchant of Venice'), but it was not so fearful as Malcolm's, when all his children were murdered at once ('Macbeth'), or the late Archbishop Tait's, when one after another his children died of an epidemic of fever. Let the impoverished man be thankful if his family is spared to him.

Job’s unparalleled calamities obviously came from Satan, but Satan tries to as usual hide the fact of his involvement.

Characteristics of Evil Spirits

According to the prayers of the Church, evil spirits are bodiless, and immaterial created spirits. The Holy Scripture reveals to us what characteristics they possess. Evil spirits have mind and will (2 Corinthians 2:11). They know God, and this knowledge fills them with fear: "You believe that there is one God...the demons also believe and tremble," writes Holy Apostle James (2:19). More than once, evil angels confessed Christ the Savior as the Son of God (St. Matthew 8:29; Saint Mark 1:24, for example).

Evil spirits know themselves, of course, for if the spirit of man is conscious of what it knows, then certainly the same must be said of evil spirits. Evil spirits know the condition of the present world, as we see in the Book of the Prophet Job. The evil one traversed the world and observed all people, and spoke of this to the Lord. The Lord did not refute these observations as false (Job 1:7-12), though clearly, the devil did not know the soul of Job; just as he and his demons can never approach the nature of our souls and know them. He can only judge from our deeds, actions and inclinations what the condition of our soul is, as the Holy Fathers tell us. Saint John Cassian says, "But the demons cannot possibly come near to those thoughts which have not yet come forth from the inmost recesses of the soul. And the thoughts too, which they suggest, whether they are actually or in a kind of way embraced, are discovered by them not from the nature of the soul itself, i.e., that inner inclination which lies concealed so to speak in the very marrow, but from the motions and signs given by the outward man." (First Conference of Abba Sereneus).

Saint John the Solitary also tells us:"the devil cannot touch the nature of the soul, nor can he draw nigh it at all to harm it..." The devil does not touch or see the soul, but the members of the body only...and by harming one of the members he disturbs the thoughts which are active within them. For indeed, if he could draw nigh the soul so as to harm it, then he would also be able to harm it after it departed from the body, but this he would have to do while being unable to see it and having no power over it, because his power extends only as far as the body." (Sixth Dialogue With Thomasos).

The fallen spirits know something of future events, but not from real knowledge or prophecy. They can surmise what will occur when it is going to take place from definite, unchanging causes. The general future is known to them from God's revelation (3 Ki. 22:21-22 Orthodox Bible), and also from the observation of man's character. Once, a demon drew near to Saint Andrew the Fool-for-Christ and told him of the moral disorder of Christians in the last days, "In those days," the demon said, "people will be more evil than I am, and little children will surpass old people in wickedness. Then, I will not teach people anything; they themselves will fulfill my will." Saint Andrew responded: "How do you know this, for a demon does not know anything by prophecy or forevision?" To this, the demon replied: "Our father, Satan, conjectures these things and passes it on to us."

Though they have a mind, evil spirits have distorted it so much that, instead of the basic quality of the mind striving toward truth the main characteristic of the demon's mind is hatred toward truth. For this reason, the evil one is called "the father of lies" in the Gospel (Saint John 8:44) and "deceiver" in the Book of Revelation (12:9). Having hardened their will in unyielding evil, the demons now direct their activity toward evil alone, but demons also have a certain freedom, because they can select one evil out of many. Instead of love, the being of the devil is filled with irreconcilable enmity toward and His works. We have a constant enemy in the evil one, and therefore the Holy Apostle Paul advises Christians to array themselves in complete armor for struggle against the devil (Ephesians 6:12-17), and Christ commanded us to pray constantly to God, our Father, "...deliver us from the evil one."

The Dwelling Place of Evil Spirits

While Satan was an obedient angel of God, he dwelt in heaven. He exalted himself higher than all spirits and thought to become an independent power. Because of this, the Lord cast him down from heaven (St. Luke 10:18), together with the angels which had followed him in his opposition to the Creator (Ephesians 6:12; Rev. 12:7). Since then, the abode of the devil has been the "abyss" or "space", which, in common usage, is called "the air." The correctness of this idea is evident from the Holy Scripture. In the Book of Job, the devil himself testifies that he went round about the whole world, passing through the air (Job 1:7; 2:2). The Holy Apostle Paul speaks of the fallen spirits dwelling in the air: "For we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). Here is how Saint Athanasios the Great explains this place: "The devil, the enemy of our race, having fallen from heaven, roams in the space of this lower air where, ruling over other demons...with their cooperation, he deceives people with visions and strives to hinder those who struggle higher, or which Saint Paul says, "According to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). In the interpretation of Psalm 41, Saint John Chrysostom says, "How many demons are borne in this air? How many adverse powers? If God were to allow them to show their countenances, we would all be driven insane" (Works, Vol. 1, p.722). Saint Anthony the Great says simply that "demons are born in the air" (Works, Pt. 3, p.22). If evil spirits fill the air, then it is clear that they surround us from all sides. Saint Theophan the Recluse says of this: "The usual form of translation and understanding of the word "sky" signifies that spirits fly in the air, and just as air embraces us everywhere, so also do the spirits of malice draw near us, like mosquitoes in a damp place" (Interpretation of the Epistle to Ephesians, p. 412). Thus, in the Lord's Prayer, we are taught to pray, "...deliver us from the evil one." - Concerning Evil Spirits and Demons - Internal Demons

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I am not convinced there is Biblical justification for asserting Satan is the direct cause of natural evil.

The first difficulty, it seems to me, is the label, "natural evil." If evil is that which is a violation of the law of God, what "law" has a flood, tornado, hurricane, or earthquake broken? They are all creations of the forces and elements that comprise them: they form, move and cease under certain atmospheric, geologic, rotational and gravitational influences. It is true these events are frustrating, inconvenient, troublesome, disruptive, dangerous, and often deadly, particularly for humans. Evil? No.

Another consideration is what the Bible itself teaches about the sovereignty of God and the power of Satan. To my knowledge, Scripture never attributes the direct cause of any disaster to Satan; indeed, God assumes responsibility for all of them.
Biblically, the greatest natural disaster was the Flood of Noah's day. God repeatedly claims "credit" for the initial idea, the rationale, the beginning and ending dates, and the ferocity of that Flood. Satan is never referenced. [See Genesis 6:7, 13-19; 7:4, 10-12, 17-24; 8:1-5, 15-22]
This case is strengthened when we consider the Ten Plagues of Egypt: God predicted them before they occurred; described the intensity and consequences of each; gave Pharaoh an opportunity to choose wisely; and ended each on His terms, and in His way. Again, Satan is never referenced. [See Exodus 7-14]

I see Job's case as the clearest delineation between the abilities of God and of Satan. A careful reading of Job 1 and 2 reveals:

  1. Satan answered every question God asked of him.

  2. Satan did not have the ability to read Job's mind; Satan thought Job would curse God when he lost his possessions; then, he thought Job would curse God when he lost his health.

  3. Satan, though certainly desiring to destroy Job, fully obeyed every boundary God set for him.

  4. Satan is not God's opposite; he is God's opposition--an essential distinction.

    Whatever power Satan has was granted him by God, and is fully under God's control at all times. He is "the prince of the power of the air" [Ephesians 2:2, KJV]; God is the King.

Thanks for your question!

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    I added some formatting to get this answer out of "wall of text" presentation. Welcome Alan. Tour and help center are a good intro to this site's format. The SE sites use Markdown for text editing and formatting. You can click on the question mark at the top of the text window to see what choices Markdown gives you. The big thing to adapt to is when you hit enter/carriage return, you need to place two spaces at the end of the line or you won't get the line break. – KorvinStarmast Apr 6 at 12:47
  • The natural evil you've listed are either justified (ie part of divine judgement) or really just part of the sustaining process of the Earth and thus, not actually evil. By natural evil, I mean evil, caused by nature alone, that causes unnecessary suffering, which obviously goes against God's traits of impartiality and mercy. – AngelusVastator Apr 6 at 14:06
  • Thank you for your comment! The point I tried to make is that there is no "natural evil," because nature never violates a law of God. This, it seems to me, is the definition of evil. The suffering caused by natural events comes because we happened to be--or live--in the path of a given storm or situation; not because such an event is evil. I trust this helps. – AlanD Apr 7 at 6:26
  • I'm pretty sure natural evil like diseases violate the biblical principles of impartiality (the righteous are afflicted with this), not endangering a persons life per Leviticus 19:16, not afflicting people with physical harm per Exodus 21 and indirectly spreading discord as these events tend to break people's faith in God. If a human perpetrated a disease, they'd be rightly condemned by God. – AngelusVastator Aug 28 at 6:50

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