We now turn to an argument which is probably more popular than either of the other two. This argument is more often insinuated than stated logically, but it goes something like this: "People who believe in a personal devil tend to use it as a convenient excuse to avoid taking responsibility for their sins." The catchphrase that is often placed on the lips of these guilt-shirking Christians is, "The devil made me do it!"
(3) Therefore, no person is influenced by an evil tempter too powerful to resist.
In this case, the conclusion (3) really does follow from the premises. However, it will be seen that premise (1) is not valid. Regardless of belief or disbelief in a personal devil, all Bible believing Christians would agree that human beings are influenced by the carnal mind, or sinful flesh. Paul is quite clear in Romans 6-7 that 'sin that dwells in us' is an evil tempter too powerful to resist, try as we might. We who are of the flesh are enslaved to sin, "sold under sin" (Romans 7:14). Paul is also clear throughout Romans (especially chapters 1-2, and see Romans 14:10) that God holds all people morally accountable for their sins.
Here is an inconvenient truth: all human beings, left to ourselves, are powerless to resist the temptation to sin which is built into our nature through no fault of our own. And yet God holds all human beings morally accountable for sinning. This is why, apart from faith in Jesus Christ we are utterly lost.
'The flesh' therefore serves as a counter-example to premise (1), and proves that sources of temptation - whether internal or external, powerful or weak - do not absolve human beings from guilt should they yield to the temptation and sin. In short, the existence of a personal devil is no more problematic for the issue of human moral responsibility than the existence of a fallen human nature. Said another way, if the syllogism above rules out the existence of the devil, it also rules out the existence of the carnal mind. Therefore, whoever believes in the carnal mind and in moral accountability cannot use this argument to disprove the devil's existence.
This is no different from human legal systems. The intentional criminal act of a sane person incurs guilt before the law, regardless of what pressures and influences the person faced. A judge might show leniency in sentencing a youth who ‘fell in with the wrong crowd’, but such circumstances do not remove the guilt.
1 Swatos, William. (1988). Picketing Satan enfleshed at 7-Eleven: A research note. Review of Religious Research 30(3): 73-82 (September).↩
2 Wilcox, Clyde, Linzey, Sharon & Jelen, Ted G. (1991). Reluctant Warriors: Premillennialism and Politics in the Moral Majority. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30(3): 245-258.↩