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Answering The Atheist
January 28, 2007 / Volume 7, Issue 4

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Can the devil capture us at will? 2 Timothy 2:26 says he can, but James 4:7 indicates that he cannot. Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
First, we must acknowledge that the texts are talking about folks who are in two different circumstances. Those mentioned in 2 Timothy 2 are in opposition to God, and do not know the truth (2:25), and thus live in the snare of the devil (2:26). Those mentioned in James 4 are described as "brethren" (1:2, 16; 2:1, 5, 14, 3:1), Christians, who have come to the Lord and have heard the truth. That said, throughout the writing of James, we see warning after warning for those who are Christians, that they should refrain from sin, and indeed see instances where James points out sin which may exist among God's people (1:26; 2:3-4, 9; 3:14-16; 4:1-4, 17; 5:9). Sin is a universal problem, but, those who have received the knowledge of the truth as revealed in God's word are urged and prepared through the teaching of Scripture to refrain from sin.

With regard to 2 Timothy 2:26, the word "at" as rendered in the KJV might better be rendered "for" or "unto" (NKJV, ASV). The idea is not that Satan has taken men captive against their own will (ie. that they had no choice), but that Satan has taken men captive to do his will (and sadly, they are happy to do so).

The solution for sin, whether those who are Christians or those who are non-Christians, is identified in James 4:7-8, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, he double minded." It is God's desire that we all should resist the devil, and thus flee from him. However, to do so, we must not oppose the Lord (2 Timothy 2:25), but submit to God (James 4:7).

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible