By Barney Zwartz, Religion Editor, April 12, 2006
Henry Angsmar Kelly has an ambitious project, rehabilitating "the most maligned figure in history": the devil.
According to Professor Kelly, the devil — aka Satan, the Accuser, the Prince of this World, the Father of Lies — has endured 17 centuries of unjustified character assassination.
Better the devil you know, the saying goes, but, according to Professor Kelly, who lectured on the subject in Sydney on Monday, we only think we know him. In fact, we don't — our image was shaped from the second century church fathers to the Middle Ages. The biblical picture is quite different.
"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. He is one of God's angels and his job is to test people," Professor Kelly says.
The professor, 71, has been the devil's advocate for more than four decades, publishing books and scholarly articles. The former Jesuit turned University of California professor calls himself a "diabologian". He says the devil doesn't have a kingdom, doesn't rule over hell, and doesn't try to damn people. These ideas developed only after the second century.
Professor Kelly says it is important to recapture the biblical understanding of Satan to combat Augustine's doctrine of original sin, "the most immoral doctrine in Christianity" by which the human race is delivered to Satan.
He would like his theories to attract more hostility, he says, so they would be better known.
An interesting slant on the darkside of the mythology.