A FORMER Jesuit turned university professor has set himself an ambitious project: rehabilitating the devil.
Henry Ansgar Kelly says Satan is the most maligned figure in history and has endured 17 centuries of unjustified character assassination.
"For 1700 years Satan has been the enemy of God, whereas in the Bible he works for God, he’s his prime minister or attorney-general, in charge of policing the world," Professor Kelly said.
"He is one of God’s angels, and his job is to test people."
The 71-year-old University of California professor has played devil’s advocate for four decades, and is the author of many books and scholarly articles.
The devil did not have a kingdom, did not rule over hell, and did not try to damn people, Professor Kelly said. These ideas had developed from the second to the fourth centuries AD, and were refined for the next 1000 years. Professor Kelly said it was important to recapture the biblical understanding of Satan to combat the doctrine of original sin, "in which the whole human race is delivered to Satan".
"That’s the most immoral doctrine in Christianity, that the whole of the human race is doomed to hell for something they didn’t do. Once you get rid of that, Christianity becomes less unreasonable."
As if the devil needed anybody else doing PR work for him. He already has so many people volunteering their services. The diatribe against the doctrine of original sin is even sillier and the whole human race doomed to hell is a straw man argument against the doctrine. This doctrine was one of the easiest ones to understand as I moved away from atheism since it explains so much and can be frequently observed. As Fr. Groechel says to people who don’t believe in original sin that he invites them to come to the Bronxs.
Seems like 85% of all Priests and Bishops in the USA have been trying to accomplish this project for over 30 years. Who does this guy think he is, trying to grab all the credit!
Can I list all the Priests I know who have been working on this too? I hate it when someone comes in at the last moment and takes all the credit. There are so many more priests who deserve the credit.
By the way they have done a great job! I haven’t heard about sin or hell in Church in decades. Way to go Fathers! Christianity has become “so much more reasonable!”
Jeff – perhaps you could share what exactly it was about the doctrine of original sin that seemed so clear to you. Some non-Catholic (and for all intents and purposes agnostic) people that I know find the doctrine to be “absurd” as in “how can an innocent baby be considered a sinner” or “why punish me for something someone else did?” I am embarrassed to admit it, but the truth is that I can’t answer these questions in a way that makes sense to them. Any advice?
Suggest you reference CCC para. 404 and following.
Peace be with you!
Hmmm… I wonder if ol’ Moloch might have something to say on the subject? Doesn’t he blog?
You may also find these para. from the CCC helpful:
1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.
1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.”63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
Heh, why is it that the only thing I find surprising about this story is that it is coming from a former Jesuit? 😉
What happened that caused there to be so many X-Jesuits running around and causing trouble? Historically, wasn’t this Order one of the most intelligent, powerful, largest, and orthodox orders within the Church? Is this an instance of the “Spirit of Vatican II” destroying what might have stood in its way?
It’s the same old song. Chesterton laughed about it 100 years ago:
Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin – a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. Some followers of the Reverend R. J. Campbell, in their almost too fastidious spirituality, admit divine sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams. But they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.
[GKC, Orthodoxy CW1:217]
Just reading the top few sentences leaves me thinking he is into a bit of Theosophy. A friend of mine whose grandmother was a theopohist left a poem in one of her books that basically made Satan the brother of Christ. Both had a job to do in helping to educate and advance humans, and at the end of the day (world as we know it), they both sat on either side of the throne of God, a he was well pleased with the two of them.
Yes, once you get rid of original sin, it becomes a lot easier to understand why Christ came to die for mankind.
I know there are good Jesuits out there (Fr. Mitch Pacwa at EWTN and Fr. Fessio at Ava Maria U. & Ignatius Press being two that come to mind). But what the frell is it with Jesuits being so obnoxiously arrogant and dissenting in their theology???
This is satire, right?
It is not satire.
It is a new book from Cambridge University Press, due out in August.
Satan: A Biography by Henry Ansgar Kelly, University of California, Los Angeles. Hardback. Est. $55.00.
Publisher site has cataloging info, cover art, description and contents.
Except it to be required reading in university religion departments, right up there with DaVinci Code and Judas Gospel.
Trubador, this man is at least a FORMER Jesuit.
Sounds like Kelly is a relative latecomer to all this–the ex-Hicksite Quaker, current Atheist, Freethinker, spiritualist, and all-around curmudgeon Kersey Graves wrote and published The Biography of Satan back in 1865, which made essentially the same case. It was published by the Banner of Light, the Boston-based spiritualist newspaper, and was later a favorite of both Freethinkers and Theosophists.
Gretchen, I used to teach Baptism classes for parents of babies, so I know where you’re coming from! I think CCC 404 & 405 really spell it out in terms most people can understand– original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.
(405) Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice
To put it another way (and to steal an image from I don’t know how many countless writers) we were designed from the beginning to have God dwelling in our souls. When Adam & Eve lost that through their disobedience, they could no longer pass on what they themselves no longer possessed. Since A&E, everyone has been born with a “God-shaped hole” in their soul. The sanctifying grace infused at Baptism fills that hole.
Does that help at all?
Sadly a current member of the clergy has beaten this man to it in the form of fiction. One of the sub-plots within Fr. Andrew Greeley’s “Angel” trilogy is that Lucifer, The Light Bearer, was turned into Satan through the absorption of the worshippers at Mazda into Christianity. Sadly many people will take the time to read books by Fr. Greeley and former Fr. Kelly than they will Sacred Scripture or the writings of men like Chesterton, Belloc, or the early Church Fathers.
This is actually more or less the position Judaism takes on the person of Satan. No malevelonce, just a fella whose job it is to test you. Sounds like our Fine Former Father is taking another regressive step in his spiritual journey.
Then I think of what Fenton Hall, a 1920’s Protestant missionary to Brazil, said in his journals: “The devil is clever at hiding!”
Like any good assassin.
3 For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears:
4 And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. 4 5 But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry. Be sober.
Ok, Satan was given the role of a collaborator of God in the Book of Job, but that’s about it, and it was an exercise of literary style.
Rick, Chris, et al,
It pains me to see so many members of the order of my elementary school days (I studied in a Jesuit school then) just plain going against Church teaching. I have a tremendous respect for the Ignatian spirit and will be always be grateful for the education they gave me, but it breaks my heart to see this once orthodox order wandering off. And I see it first-hand.
Ray from the Philippines
Kelly “left the Jesuits after completing two years of theology, in June of 1966,” which would have been ten or twelve years after he joined as a novice, some years after he “noticed that the theological and academic study of the Devil was in disarray,” and a year or two before he would have been ordained.
An ironic coincidence: The Washington Post’s Style Invitational contest this week has the following, as a sample Fibonacci poem (lines with syllable counts corresponding to the Fibonacci sequence):
know the truth!
If Judas was good,
Is Satan just misunderstood?
Man, for a second there, I thought this was one of your parodies, inspired by the recent Gospel of Judas flap. Then I noticed it wasn’t a parody. 🙁
Henry Ansgar Kelly has not been in the Jesuit order since 1966 and was NEVER a Jesuit priest and NEVER took final vows. It just makes him seem more interesting if you associate the idea of being a Jesuit with his name� It also serves to reinforce a negative image some people have of the whole Jesuit order � and that�s too bad.
For Fr. Kelly, courtesy of Hilaire Belloc:
“The Pelagian Drinking Song”
Pelagius lived at Kardanoel
And taught a doctrine there
How, whether you went to heaven or to hell
It was your own affair.
It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,
But was your own affair.
No, he didn’t believe
In Adam and Eve
He put no faith therein!
His doubts began
With the Fall of Man
And he laughed at Original Sin.
With my row-ti-tow
He laughed at original sin.
Then came the bishop of old Auxerre
Germanus was his name
He tore great handfuls out of his hair
And he called Pelagius shame.
And with his stout Episcopal staff
So thoroughly whacked and banged
The heretics all, both short and tall —
They rather had been hanged.
Oh he whacked them hard, and he banged them long
Upon each and all occasions
Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong
Their orthodox persuasions.
With my row-ti-tow
Their orthodox persuasions.
Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.
And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.
And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Especially barley brew!
Been curious about reviews of this book. This has to easily be the WORST one I’ve seen. I’m not even sure you can call it a review …
Is Miller, and the rest of these Commenters, seriously going to demonize (pun intentional?) a book simply for 2 sentences!? Does that mean the rest of the contents of the book are completely invalidated? Maybe Henry Ansgar Kelly makes some good points? Is Kelly being a former Jesuit really a big deal? Simply saying “This Kelly guy is crazy because he goes against the Church” and “He was never a true Jesuit) reeks of Appeal to Authority and No True Scotsman logical fallacies.
Did Miller even read the book? Did the rest of you for that matter? How about you read the Book before you begin criticizing. And if you’re going to criticize it, do so on more then 2 sentences or because of his previous history (and instead on the Contents of the Work itself).