6. The doctrine of devils or demons, then, has grown out of the ancient belief in the two principles of good and evil. We will examine that doctrine only from the Christian point of view, and inquire whether, as embodied in the creed of Christendom, that doctrine is conformable with the clearer knowledge that, at the present day, we have acquired in relation to the attributes of the Divine Being.
The idea which we form to ourselves of those attributes is necessarily the starting-point, the basis, of our religious belief; dogmas, modes of worship, ceremonies, usages, codes of morality, all are shaped by the idea, more or less true, more or less lofty, which we make to ourselves of God, from the lowest form of fetishism to the purest conception of Christianity. Although the essential nature of the Divine Being is still a mystery unfathomable to our human intelligence, it is nonetheless true that, thanks to the teachings of Christ, we are able to form for ourselves a clearer conception of the moral attributes of that Being than was possible in the earlier period of the world’s development. Those teachings, in accordance with the inductions of reason, assure us that: –
God is one, unique, eternal, unchangeable, non-material, almighty, sovereignly just and good, infinite in His perfections.
As we have shown elsewhere (chap. VI. Eternal Punishment, Item 10), “The attributes of God, being infinite, are not susceptible of increasing or of diminishing; otherwise, they would not be infinite, and God would not be perfect. If the smallest particle were taken from any one of God’s attributes, God would no longer be God, for there might be some other being more perfect than the one we call God.” These attributes, in their most complete and absolute plentitude, are therefore the criteria of all religions, the test of the truth of each of the doctrines taught by them. No doctrine of any religious creed can be true if it were in contradiction with any of the perfections of God. Let us see whether the doctrine of demons, as commonly taught by the various churches of Christendom, can stand the application of this test.