Ever since—well, ever since “the beginning”—Satan has been the consummate master of the half-truth, twisting God’s words for his own devices. Go back and read the story of the Fall in Genesis 3, and you’ll see what I mean. Satan says to Eve: “You certainly will not die [if you eat the fruit God has forbidden]! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.” This statement can be read as literally “true”: Adam and Eve don’t die immediately upon eating the fruit, and they do, in a sense, obtain greater “knowledge” of good and evil by doing so. But, of course, Satan fails to tell Eve the rest of the story—that, even though they don’t die as soon as they eat the fruit, Adam and Eve will live the remainder of their lives in the light of approaching death, and their new “knowledge” will bring only shame, guilt, and misery.
Reading the story with the advantage of knowing how it ends, I confess to wanting to shout at Eve: “Make Satan define what he means when he says you’ll ‘be like gods, who know good and evil.’ You don’t want the kind of ‘knowledge’ he’s offering!!” But, of course, that’s not what happens, and Adam and Eve accept Satan’s offer on his terms and exchange the priceless freedom of innocence before God for the cheap and tawdry knowledge of what it means to be a sinner.
Satan hasn’t abandoned this tactic of deceiving God’s children with ear-tickling words and phrases. He continues to use it to this day to keep people away from the Christian faith in general and particularly to keep them away from the fullness of Truth available in the Catholic Church. In this and the next couple of posts, I want to decipher a few of these “code words” he’s using nowadays to trick Christians (both Catholics and non-Catholics, but—at least in my experience—particularly non-Catholics) into settling for an imitation Gospel that, in the end, only leads to misery in this life and makes it more difficult to achieve the Heavenly Kingdom. These code words are: (1) “assurance” or “security”; (2) “dialogue”; (3) “community”; and (4) “freedom.” I’ll address in this post how Satan has contorted “assurance”/“security.” I’ll discuss the others in subsequent posts.
Before turning to the specific words, though, it’s important to note first that none of them are bad in and of themselves. Just like the word “knowledge” that Satan used in the Garden is a perfectly fine word, so are all of these when they’re used correctly. Satan, unlike God, is not a creator. He is, in a very literal and fundamental sense, uncreative. As a consequence, he is incapable of coming up with anything on his own. He can only take words that, when properly understood, point toward the Truth, and twist their meaning so that they end up pointing in another direction. God Himself is “the Word”—Satan is merely a deceitful plagiarist.
Now, for the first of the code words: “assurance”/“security.” With these words, Satan has had a field day in the modern era, getting people focused on whether they were “assured” of Heaven or possessed “eternal security.” And, of course, on the surface, it sounds great: “You can be sure, no matter what happens between now and when you die, that you’re headed to Heaven. No more worries—you can be set!!” How can that be bad?
The truth is, though, that Satan’s “assurance”/“security” pitch is very bad to buy into because it tends almost-inevitably to lead in one of two directions: (1) blithely assuming that, since you’re set, you now no longer have to worry about “sin” and have become an infallible source of doctrinal truth; or (2) endlessly worrying about whether the event that “saved” you in the first place (whatever it might have been) was “real” or not. In other words, this supposedly comforting “assurance” actually leads, in practice, either to presumption or despair.
And that’s exactly what Satan wants. What he doesn’t want is for people to take a Catholic approach to the question of their eternal destinies—which is a position of hope, one of the three theological virtues. Hope of Heaven, unlike either presumption or despair about one’s eternity, is founded in acknowledging two fundamental realities I believe many Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) intuitively recognize: (1) what matters in making it to Heaven is not merely the efficacy of some past event but also how I live my life here and now and how I end it; and (2) God’s grace—provided most certainly in the sacraments—is more-than-sufficient to help bring me safely home. By taking this view, I am encouraged to keep on persevering toward the finish line, rather than complacently assuming I’ll make it or nervously frittering away my time wondering whether I got off the blocks just right because that’s all that mattered. See Philippians 3:13-14; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
Satan’s offer of “assurance” and “security” that we’ll make it to Heaven (before we’ve gotten there) entices us with a certainty God did not intend for us to have and deprives us of the healthy hope we need to see our courses through to their ends. That does not, however, mean that there’s nothing of which God wants us, in faith, to be certain. As I said above, a word (like “assurance” or “security” or “certainty”) isn’t inherently bad simply because Satan twists it to hurt us. But because Satan hates us and hates the thought that we’ll have anything God created us to have, he of course tries to deprive us of that certainty, while selling us his imitation “assurance” and “security” of reaching Heaven. How he attempts to do so will be discussed in my next post. Stay tuned.
 For current purposes, it is not necessary to get into whether the first sin was committed by persons named “Adam” and “Eve” by the literal eating of forbidden fruit, and the Church doesn’t teach that the Genesis account of the Fall must be read as literal history. Rather, it is sufficient here to posit that there was a first (i.e., “original”) sin by mankind’s common father and mother and that the Genesis account accurately captures the substance of the Satanic temptation they experienced—that, by sinning, they would acquire new god-like knowledge.
 I recognize this primarily applies to the Reformed branches of Christianity that trace back to Calvin. Those branches, however, have dominated Protestantism in America.
 In this post, I’m not going to get into the various non-Catholic prescriptions given for how one “gets saved” in the first place.
 Faith and love are the other two.
 Which is why Catholic’s pray for a happy death.
 I’m not saying that the beginning of the Christian life—baptism—is unimportant. Indeed, I believe it is the sacrament that washes away the stain of original sin. Just because I’ve been baptized, though, doesn’t mean I’m on a one-way, non-stop trip to Heaven.