Knowing What’s Worse than Satanic Arts


The Reformed book my title comes from is How Should We Then Live? Should is a law word. If you to go 2 Pet 3:11, you’ll fine about 90% of English translations agree. The have, “Since everything will be destroyed… what kind of people ought/should you be”? The Greek doesn’t have the Law word. It says, “Since everything will be destroyed how necessary to be?” The 10 Commandments themselves can be understood this way. Rather than giving an order, they can be descriptive of God’s people. Someone accuses your child of stealing and you say, “My son does not steal.” Grammatically, that’s the same as “You will not steal” (Fire and the Staff, 204). God’s people don’t misuse His Name not by turning to Satanic arts and worse. Sins against the name of God said Luther are “more serious before God than murder and adultery, but its evil nature is not easily perceived as that of murder because of its subtlety, because it is committed not in gross flesh but in the spirit'" (Peters, Ten Commandments,157). We think we get this because of the mention of Satanic Arts, but like Ezekiel’s vision of the sin of OT church leaders, the further into the explanation the worse it gets. There are two more sins after Satanic Arts, but what’s before is worse too because it doesn’t look that bad.

Without fail, when teaching the 2nd Commandment, in the second half of a 90 minute class, kids who’ve been all day in school have “mush mind” and are adrift. At the mention of “Satanic Arts”, those kids are awake and attentive. Something tells them they’re into something bad, forbidden. They are right; the name of God stakes out all that belongs to God: His Church, His People, His Word, His Sacraments. But also the past that haunts people to the point they want to go back and set things right, and the future that is unknown except to God’s hidden will. Satanic Arts trespass on property marked out by God’s Name. 

Satan and his arts are alluring to fallen people. Remember, Eve correctly stated what God’s Word had said about the forbidden fruit and the consequence of eating it. But, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Gn. 3:6). This isn’t how it is with “Danger” signs at electrical stations. I don’t seek to touch them. In funeral homes, I don’t open doors marked ‘private’. But Satanic Arts are like the Sirens’ song. They aren’t ugly. They’re beautiful, and so said the Nazi when he saw the angel of death come out of the Ark of the Covenant.

We are no match for Satan and his arts. How quickly Eve fell and Adam followed. How quickly Job’s wife and then eventually Job denied the grace of God when Satan tempted them to peer into the hidden will of God. Then there is the glistening gold of Jericho; the shimmering flesh of Bathsheba, and the glimmering silver Satan offers Judas. We sing of Satan: “on earth is not his equal”. Not in raw power but even more so not in craftiness, subtlety, artifice. He seldom tempts with obvious evil but with apparent good, otherworldly beauty. Faust doesn’t just sell his soul for Gretchen’s beauty but for the even more alluring limitless knowledge. Satanic Arts look good but are very bad. The horoscope you consult; the Ouija board you play with; the Magic Eight Ball you ask questions of are not just for fun. They are Satanic and they are leading you away from the Name and intruding on the things that have God’s name on them: His hidden will, the past and the future. But there are worse uses of God’s name than this.

Profaning God’s Name is one. I’m trying to make a distinction here. Profanity is not the same as vulgarity. Profanity is not the vulgar words for body parts or sexuality. This is contrary to what Catcher in the Rye and the movie industry has taught us. PG movies can’t drop F-Bombs. PG-13 movies can. But PG movies can use God’s name as an exclamation, a punctuation mark, or as a way to damn any one or thing. No bigee. This is 18-year-old Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. He can’t speak a sentence without misusing the Name. But when he picks his little sister up from school he sees the word beginning with F scrawled on the wall and he goes ballistic. He can insult God all he wants by misusing His name, but how dare his sweet little sister’s eyes or ears be assaulted with a vulgarity.

Profanity is worse than Satanic Arts. Calling on God to daman something is silly if it's an inanimate object you want damned, and downright satanic if it’s a person you love. And OMG isn’t merely texting shorthand it’s sinning. You think that acronym is modern? It’s not; it’s first use recorded is in a 1917 letter to Churchill (Word by Word, 197). Profanity is treating the sacred not obviously sacrilegiously but as ordinary. Go read why Esau selling his birthright was profane. Go review why treating the Body and Blood of Jesus in Communion as ordinary food brings judgment. We’ve lost the concept of sacred spaces that are able to be profaned. The Vietnam Wall is probably a scared space; the A&M monument to the 12 who died in the 1999 bonfire collapse certainly is. Go to these laughing, talking loudly, or making jokes, and you’ll know you’ve profaned that space. The ire of people is nothing compared to the wrath of God.

People who know the name of Jesus has been exalted by God for redeeming sinners; people who know God so exalted it that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven, on earth, and in hell itself; people who know that every tongue in all 3 places will confess Jesus is Lord know why kneelers are in churches; they know why heads are bowed in the creed and in doxologies. What those at Judgment Day and in hell will forcibly do we do willingly because we’ve been given the only name under heaven by which we must be saved. We’ve been given the name to call upon in every trouble. We’ve been given the name to be forgiven of all our sins by. We have put on that name as a wetsuit in Baptism. We not only eat and drink in Jesus’ Name, but we eat and drink Him in Communion for the salvation of our bodies and souls.

Profanity on the lips, in the heart, on the mind humiliates the name of the one who humbled Himself by taking on your flesh and blood by means of a human womb and went to the cross burdened by the sins of all men. Profanity whether written, spoken or thought does not only reject the saving Name as those builders did, it drags it through the mud. You do that now and you think you’ll call upon that name on your deathbed? Think again. But like Ezekiel, I bid you go farther into this still. I will show what is worse than even profaning the Name.

We confess in the Large Catechism that “the greatest abuse occurs in spiritual matters, which pertain to the conscience, when false preachers rise up and offer their lying vanities as God’s Word” (I, 54). Putting God’s name on what God has not said doesn’t seem that big of a deal till you think about someone putting your name on a loan application or an email or text. You didn’t say that about this person. You didn’t agree to pay this or do that. God never said, “Pray to my mother.” “Don’t baptize your babies.” “Redemption in My Son is only for some.” God never said, “Anyone who wants to commune should be allowed.” “You can join your prayers to pagans and I will still hear them.” “All dogs go to heaven” , or “Go ahead; choose your own works; Ill be pleased whatever.” God never said these things. It’s blasphemous to attribute them to him.

False teaching is a worse misuse of the Holy Name than Satan’s arts, but  so is false living, being a hypocrite. That is covering a sinful life with the Christian name. Confirmation kids almost always miss this question. “It is obvious who is a hypocrite and who is not.” It’s not. Judas could hide from the 11 even though Jesus said there was a devil in their midst a full year earlier. No one knew Achan stole, David fornicated and murdered, or Absalom plotted rebellion. I can’t tell when the person who has absented himself for months and returns is really repentant or going through the motions. I can’t tell who among you are Confessional Lutherans and who are Cafeteria Lutherans picking and choosing which Lutheran doctrines you believe. I can’t tell; God can. The truth will out on the Last Day. Hypocrites receive some of the sharpest judgments in Scripture. 

Psalm 29:2 says, “Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name.” Lord here is Yahweh. The glory of God in Christ is to save the unsaveable, forgive the unforgivable, to give life to the dead. The improper use of God’s name, muddies this. You’re not going to call upon His name in every trouble if you think He’s mad at you. If you think all of His wrath hasn’t been satisfied, finished by Jesus’ suffering and death, you won’t pray, praise, or give thanks.  If His name is regarded as an exclamation point, not sacred, not powerful, not saving, why would anyone call upon it? Our Large Catechism confessed the true honor of God’s name is to look to it for all consolation (I, 70). Do a simple Concordance search of “name”; limit it to the Psalms. It’s there 96 times. See how the OT Church basked in the name of God that can be in your ears, heart, and on your lips. Psalm 20:”The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee (1); “We will rejoice in Thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners.” (5). “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (7).

How could we forget it? We’ve been baptized into the name; How could we forget the name? We’ve bee absolved by that name. How could we forget the name? We’ve been bodied and blooded to that name. Some 3,500 years ago the Lord commanded that His name be put upon His people. We still do that in the benediction using the same words Aaron was commanded to use. Harry Potter has the name that shall not be mentioned. Aladin has the name that opens doors. We have the only name before which all creation bows and by which we must be saved. Therefore, unlike Harry we do mention it often and boldly and like Aladin we too open doors with it, those of heaven and of all good things. Amen

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Midweek Vespers (20231206); 2nd Commandment