This is not the place to consider various doctrines of the Christian faith, but some reference ought to be made in a course in “preaching”, especially to Native American audiences, to the “problems” of evil spirits, satan (worship), sickness and other evils, etc. REASONS: Much preaching ignore these important matters; others over-emphasize them; many have wrong “answers”.
FIRST thing that should be said; God is not the author, the cause of sin or anything bad, be it bad weather, death, sickness, war, depression (mental, economic), etc. The Bible blames this directly onto Satan: see Job, Luke 13:16, II Cor 12:7, I these 2:18, I Tim 1:20. The DIFFICULTY is in trying to figure out how sin could start in a perfect world, or continue in a world with a loving, all-powerful God. (Plato did not know what to do with “sin” in his system of “ideals” in “heaven”.) Many non-Christians excuse their unbelief with this criticism of God and the evil he allows.
It is not helpful to say that “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts” if that means that our black is his white, and what we think of as unjust (transferring guilt to the “innocent”) is all right with him; he can do what he wants. That makes a monster or an absurdity of God. No; his thoughts are “higher” than ours (rather than contradict them) just as mathematics is higher than arithmetic, or an airplane is superior to the law of gravity. (Miracles, God’s special and unusual way of working in this world, are involved here.) It may be HELPFUL to say that sin is really “nothing” in itself, or is something good which is spoiled, mis-used, gone “bad”. Killing cold is “only” the absence of heat; darkness is the absence of light. Weeds are flowers in the wrong place; poison is mis-used medicine. Cancer cells are really “healthier”, stronger, than the normal tissue they displace. Satan is a once-pefect angel who now uses his power and “smarts” for a wrong purpose.
Every RELIGION (and ALL men are religious) recognizes the existence of evil (Satan) and tries to fit it into its system. Some missionaries make the mistake of trying to ignore this important matter (or even denying Satan’s existence). Some religions teach that two equally powerful principles (light and darkness, etc.) are in an eternal conflict, and the outcome is uncertain or good will finally win through. CHRISTIAN ANSWER is that God once made millions of good angels (spirits without bodies) some time previous to creation. (Job 38:7). Some time later a large number of them rebelled against God under the leadership of Satan. For them, ever since, black IS white, good is bad, life is death, etc., and it is they who are responsible for all the wrong in the world. (Happily, God over-rules even their evil – and ours – for a good purpose, so that even death becomes a blessing for a belieber, etc.)
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, Satan could do all his mischief “legally”; man, the superintendent of earth, had sold out to him. This does not mean he had free rain, but he had the “right” to kill anybody (see Jude 9) because the wages of sin is death. The reason the Old Testament “soft-pedals” the role of Satan, and almost makes God the author of sin and temptation, is that all false religions (including those surrounding Israel) over-emphasize his power, and pre-Christian readers of the Old Testament had to be reassured of that, despite the problems, Satan is not autonomous.
THE REST IS HISTORY. Jesus Christ, the second Adam, did not succumb to Satan’s constant attempts to destroy him (even before his birth!) or seduce him. He, rather, “destroyed” Satan by living a perfect life and graduating to become the new, real Prince of this world. (Satan continued to be called that, on account of the many people who still serve him) but at Jesus’ ascension Satan was expelled from heaven (not “bliss”, but power), for having killed a perfect Person (Rev. 12). He sealed his own damnation by over-reaching himself. (While Satan is terribly smart, like all sinners he is blindly stupid, for crucifying Christ should have been the last thing he would do.)
EVER SINCE THEN, Satan has been “bound” (Rev 20), his power curtailed but not completely destroyed as it will be at the “end”. One aspect of this is that in the “Christian era”, “Christian” nations have dominated history; the rise of powers like Russia may indicate that Satan is being let loose for a “little season” (Rev 20:7-10). A more important fact is that every individual Christian now has the power to overcome Satan in any form he chooses to take, just as Jesus did while visible on earth, because we have Christ in us; no Christian ever has to sin. We can even order him around, tell him what to do (in Jesus’ name.) Perhaps the reason why exorcism, expelling Satan from a human being, is not mentioned amongst other gifts of the Spirit (though Paul did it) is that the miracle of regeneration has that same result; Satan is permanently thrown out when Christ enters. Both can sometimes be present or resident in a Christian, but both can never be president at the same time.