Torture

Torture. We’ve all watched TV shows or movies that have the soldier, cop, superhero, underdog or you-name-it torturing somebody to prevent some catastrophe. It almost always works, the good guys usually win and they wouldn’t have if the hero hadn’t tortured the villain to save the child or whatnot. My question is, is this right? Is this ethical? Moral? Does the end justify the means? I don’t know. I’m tempted to say yes, of course. If that cop hadn’t tortured that kidnapper’s accomplice then that little girl would have disappeared forever. Or would she? Could the cop have found a better way? Maybe not he had a short amount of time left. If you’ve ever watched 24 you’ve seen Jack Bauer torture just about everybody he’s come across just to find the bomb or whatever that day’s problem was, but could a more skilled detective have figured it out? Is this right? Was Jack justified in torturing these people? I mean they seemed like some pretty bad guys and the information gathered from them did somehow help prevent something terrible from happening. Many people would say yes, he saved many innocent lives from being ended and all he had to do was endanger the life of one not-so-innocent person, plus it’s not like he killed the guy.
24My perspective, as a Christian is that it’s not okay. Every person is made in the image of God, right? Which would mean even the bad guys. So in my Christian worldview I’d have to say no. It’s never ok to torture a person. I suppose someone could argue that it’s self-defense or in defense of the innocent and there is a verse saying that it’s ok to defend yourself and your family. Does that include torture? I don’t think so, although I find myself very conflicted on the subject. I feel that as long as we believe that even the “bad” people are in the image of God, then we can’t torture them. God will provide a different way for the innocent to be saved so long as it is in His plan.
Putting aside my Christian worldview for a few minutes I find that a little bit of torture to somebody obviously guilty to save multiple or even one innocent life… well that seems perfectly justified. You’re not killing the person and all you’re doing is getting lifesaving information. How bad could that really be? It seems like it could be justified. Means to an end, right? I guess you could say I’m conflicted. The Christian side of me says absolutely not. However, it still seems like one guilty person, tortured but not killed to save people… well that seems justified and moral. My final answer is that no, it’s not okay. The Christian in me trumps all else. So it’s not okay, although I understand why people would think that it is.
Other things to read on the subject:
http://www.unmondetortionnaire.com/Rejecting-torture-a-christian#lire
http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2009/05/02/waterboarding-does-the-end-justify-the-means/
http://blog.thehumanist.org/2009/05/religious-views-on-torture/

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What’s wrong with the church today?

What’s wrong with the church today? Throughout church history there have been things that Christians believed then that we now recognize as horribly wrong. An example provided by one of my teachers being the firm belief in slavery found in the south of America less than 100 years ago. So in the future, what will the Christians say that we, today, had completely wrong?

I think that one of the first things that future Christians will see as wrong is our ‘religion.’ I’m defining religion as legalistic and almost Pharisee-like. This is meaning when “Christians” feel that they are Christians because they go to church on Sundays and Wednesdays, always pray before meals and bed, complete their ‘read the bible in one year’ challenge and can sing most worship songs without looking at the projected lyrics (among other things, but these are the most prevalent in my church). What I think future Christians will see in this is a bunch of lukewarm Christians slowly falling into patterns and rarely “fired up” by anything other than a great drum solo by the guy in the worship band. Most Christians are starting to feel that if they fulfill all the requirements, praying the sinners’ prayer and hanging out with their youth group buddies, then they’re going to heaven. Less and less people are having a legitimate heart change, and many of the people who are, are the ones who don’t fulfill all of the ‘requirements’ and go out and go on missions trips and find the true passion, grace and miraculous power of God. Most often those people who don’t fulfill all of the Christian ‘requirements’ are the ones with the most significant ‘heart change’ because they’re the ones who aren’t concerned with following the rules and are more concerned with following God. I have a great video of a young man’s opinion on this subject. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1IAhDGYlpqY However, his opinions are largely good and true and so is his message, but also read this article (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/01/13/does-jesus-hate-religion-kinda-sorta-not-really/) that really dissects the merits and faults of the video. I personally think that future Christians are going to look at us and our lukewarm, legalistic behaviors and severely disagree. I think they’ll have had the kind of reformation that it takes to promote a heart change over rules and unspoken requirements. (For more opinions on this subject read http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/januaryweb-only/religion-vs-jesus.html?start=2)

The second issue that I think future Christians will not agree with us on is our tendency toward “Antinomianism—long word, simple meaning. The word literally means “against law.” It’s a short jump from an overemphasis on the grace message to complete antinomianism. In practice, it means that “anything goes,” since Jesus has set us free. The problem is, Jesus didn’t set us free to sin; He set us free from sin.”(http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/spiritual-growth/17093-the-7-great-lies-in-the-church-today) This quote pretty much sums it all up. Along with our lukewarm Christianity is this antinomianism. We are told that as long as we “accept Jesus into our hearts” we’re free and our sins are forgiven…so anything goes, right? No. I think future Christians will be horrified to see our “anything goes” policies. We use Jesus as our safety blanket and say we can do whatever we want because He’ll forgive us. this simply isn’t true, this, again is a heart issue. He forgives us, sure. But are we really Christians until our heart changes enough that we sincerely don’t want to give Him another thing to forgive us for? I thing future Christians will have put much more thought into the “anything goes” policy and maybe have come up with a decision. Is it anything goes? Is it anything goes, but you won’t take advantage of that because you’ve changed in your heart? Etc, etc. Maybe they’ll be more set on the heart changes and a relationship with God than our constant, “I don’t want to go to Hell but I want to do whatever I want,” view of forgiveness.

Lastly, I don’t think that the future church will have it all figured out, I think they’ll have struggles of their own. I can’t say for sure what they’ll struggle with 50 years from now. Maybe they’ll struggle with easy crime and sneaking out due to their new instant teleportation wrist watches… or something. I don’t know. but based on recent trends I can make a few guesses. First, I think they’ll struggle with the concept of marriage. Many are viewing marriage as unnecessary unless you want tax benefits. A boyfriend and girlfriend can move in together and live a married life…without the marriage part. I mean, didn’t Isaac marry Rebekah just by sleeping with her? (Disclaimer: this is not my personal belief because I know I don’t really understand Old Testament marriages. Here’s a link to their marriage http://www.makingchristknown.com/daily-verse/genesis/marriage-of-isaac-and-rebekah.htm) so who needs traditional marriage? Secondly I think that they’ll struggle with distractions. Already we struggle with distractions from computers, TV’s, food, billboards, smartphones even watches now apparently work as phones. So I can’t imagine how bombarded people will be in the future. I believe that technology and distraction will be a huge issue for the future Christians. Such as in wall-e, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1BQPV-iCkUso it begins

Christians and Politics

Christians and politics. Even among people of the same religion, there will be disagreement over political issues. There aren’t always “blatantly Christian” answers or opinions to be had over political issues. Sometimes there are very clear instructions in the Bible for issues, but more often than not it’s vague and Christians have to go off of what they believe to be right by their faith. The following are my top five political issues of the moment, I am a Christian and I take my faith into great consideration when forming my opinion on these political debates, but I am just one person and my opinion could be very different from the next.

1)      Abortion

Pro life? Or Pro Choice? One of the most hotly debated topics among Christian circles is abortion. Most agree that life begins at conception, even scientists who aren’t specifically Christian will agree with this fact. (This blog has some interesting information on the subject http://fallibleblogma.com/index.php/when-does-science-say-human-life-begins/) so logically, abortion is the murder of a child. The Bible and the morals of the majority of people are in agreement that murder is wrong. So abortion should be as well. As for rape? Yes, it’s a despicable crime, but so is murder. Don’t punish a child for the crime of its parent. I am firmly of the opinion that abortion is murder and thus firmly against abortion.

2)      Sex education

Sometimes in the heat of the debates over abortion, the economy, illegal immigrants etc, the topic of Sex education is lost. Now, there are many different opinions on sex education, particularly on the concept of abstinence only education (for a forum of people discussing varying opinions go to http://www.democratichub.com/posts/3509/we-need-to-stop-abstinence-only-education.aspx) I believe in abstinence, totally and completely. The need for abstinence is clearly laid out in the Bible.  However, just because people are taught abstinence does in no way mean people will adhere to that principle. I think just the subject of sex education in general is very important, many schools teach abstinence only and leave parents to teach students what exactly they are abstaining from. However I think that sex education should be offered to students because many parents don’t properly inform their children on the subject. In these cases the students are left to teach themselves through google, experience or whatever else they find.  So I think it should be taught in school, along with the pros to abstinence and how to be safe. That’s the part many Christians have problems with, the safety part. We should try to implement a system for teaching abstinence as well as teaching safe sex, not because we want kids to know how to be safe in case they decide to ignore the abstinence part (well, yes because of that, but not just that) but because, what if they’re poorly educated and don’t want to get pregnant until a few years after they are married? Someone should teach them how to do that.

3)      Gay Marriage

Another heavily debated topic is Gay marriage. Should it be legal? I personally think that yes, it should. Whether or not it is right or a choice or in agreement with Christianity is a whole other discussion that isn’t relevant at the moment. The simple question being should it be legal should be answered as a yes. many Christians say that it is a sin and should be illegal. Even if it is a sin, it would be wrong to make it illegal. As long as it is not hurting anyone and is between consensual adults, it should be legal. Christians can’t regulate things like that. If it is a sin let people make the choice to sin. If it’s not a sin, great! Legalize it! If it is, still legalize it! We can’t make people be Christians and we can’t make people conform to our ideas of right and wrong, because that wouldn’t be true agreement, it would be forced.

4)      Gun Control

The topic of gun control is difficult to approach. (Interesting opinions http://www.democratichub.com/posts/8932/gun-control.aspx)  In light of tragedies recently it’s become an extremely hot topic. I don’t know much about guns, I don’t know much about crime rates. I do know that there have been a lot of crimes recently involving guns. I also know that many have been thwarted by citizens with conceal and carry, in one case that I specifically remember an off duty cop prevented a gun tragedy with the assistance of their personal weapon. I think that the “bad guys” will always find weapons and so why should we be stripped of ours? The Bible tells us to defend ourselves and our families (check this out http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+22%3A2-3&version=ESV). I think that we should have gun control meaning we’re more careful about who we give guns to and the selling/purchasing/ permits process. But I don’t think we should limit law abiding citizens from protecting themselves.

5)      War on Drugs

The war on drugs. This one I don’t have much to say on. The Bible says that our bodies are temples and that we should take care of them, drugs do not do so. Either because drugs cause people to do stupid things or because they are harmful to a person they are still damaging and go against taking care of the temple that is our body. Therefore I’m all for the war on drugs. I want drugs to be gone from availability for recreational use.

A political leader that fits the bill for my current view of political issues is difficult to think of. I fully admit that I haven’t been very observant when it comes to politics. I don’t know who is out there and what they stand for. I know that especially after writing this, I’ll be paying much more careful attention to these things. I do remember that Tim Pawlenty had many things that I agree with, especially his policies on sexual offenders. So I’d have to say that if I had to pick a political leader to stand with it would be him.T paw

Christians and War

soldierMany Christians have debated whether or not Christians should partake in war for their country. There are many factors to this debate and many parties debating. Some think that Christians (as well as the rest of humanity) should be entirely pacifist and find diplomatic solutions to problems between countries.  Some believe in “just war” or war that is justified based on whatever they are fighting for. For example a just war might be fighting for the freedom of our brothers and sisters in another country. Some believe that it’s up to the individual Christian and God’s calling specific to that person. Others think that because our Government is ordained by God, so also are the wars of the government. The possibilities are endless as to the differing beliefs of Christians on the topic of their participation in wars.

 When I asked a person in my life whose faith I look up to about their opinions on war they referenced David and Gideon and said that War can often be God ordained. I find that many Christians look to the Hebrew Bible when faced with the question. However, when asked about war through a purely new testament perspective, many people are stumped. Although the popular consensus seems to dictate that the “just war” perspective is most popular. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, (http://ethics.sandiego.edu/Books/Texts/Aquinas/JustWar.html) “Wars are lawful and just in so far as they protect the poor and the entire common weal from suffering at the hands of the foe.”

Other opinions range from drastically different to extremely similar. Some people range on the side of pacifism, saying that no matter what the cause or government Christians should not in any way participate in war. They like to state that we are to turn the other cheek. We are to love our enemies. God is the one who should take vengeance, not us. Innocent lives will be taken. There’s no such thing as a just war since each side thinks that it is just.  They have many reasons to promote pacifism. In an ideal world that would work perfectly. Diplomacy would solve all problems and there would be no violence, ever. But the fact of the matter is that this is not an ideal world. It’s full of sin and sinful people and if no Christians rise up and help, minister to the dying and participate in assisting their government (who was ordained by God) then the world will only fall to more violence and the soldiers will have no one to minister to them in the hardest moments of their lives.

Ultimately I think that the just war theory is the most probable. John Piper offers up his opinion saying that I, “know that’s a huge issue, but I think the Just War theory is an appropriate biblical reflection on which wars are warranted and which aren’t. Almost everybody agrees that in World War II it was right for the Allies to engage in violence against the aggressors, Germany and Japan.”(http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/was-dietrich-bonhoeffer-wrong-to-plot-against-hitlers-life )Greg Boyd says, “But suppose, for the sake of argument, we grant that political freedom is a just cause worth killing and dying for. This doesn’t yet settle the matter for a kingdom person contemplating enlisting in war (or not resisting being drafted into war); for one has to further appreciate that there are many other variables alongside the central criterion of justice that affect whether or not a particular war is ‘just.’” (See more at: http://reknew.org/2008/01/does-following-jesus-rule-out-serving-in-the-military-if-a-war-is-just/#sthash.xioywnfq.dpuf)

Just war is much more akin to my personal beliefs. I think that God ordained the government and can exact his vengeance through them. I think that it’s good to follow our government as God ordained (except for specific cases of being extremely ungodly). Also there are cases, such as the aforementioned world war two case, where it does seem just for a Christian to go to war to defend those people that Hitler was unjustly killing.  I think that in the case of defense it’s just for a Christian to participate in a war. So I guess ultimately I’m more for just war, and it seems that many other Christians are as well. When it comes to cases like the war in Iraq where it was a preemptive strike, it’s harder to justify. Some say it was wrong and Christians should not have participated due to the lack of justice, others say it was defense, just going on the offensive before we needed to be defensive. I think that along with just war there are a lot of gray areas.  It would be a lot easier to be pacifist and say no violence ever, but because I believe that it is sometimes necessary, I can’t choose to think that way. I know that sometimes the issue of war can be very gray, so in the end each Christian needs to rely on God to help them make the choice for how much they will participate.

What IS Hell?

What IS Hell? What is its purpose? Who goes there and why? What does the Bible say about it? What does the Hebrew Bible say? Does it say anything? What does Jesus have to say about Hell? Every Christian, despite whether they have been a Christian their whole lives, are new to the faith or are even pastors, speculate over the concept of Hell.

First thing’s first, what is it? What is Hell? Hell is not mentioned in the Bible using just one word. It is written in many different ways, in both the Hebrew language and the Greek. Some of these are Sheol, Hades and Gehenna. (For more in depth information on this see http://urqa.com/page789.html) It isn’t known for certain if Sheol (a term used in the Hebrew Bible) is “Hell” or even if they are remotely related. It is translated as “grave” “hell” and “pit” but many people debate whether or not it ought to be translated as our current Hell, seeing as Christ’s “Gehenna” (also translated as Hell) seems like it could be very different.  According to the site provided above, “As to the rendering ‘hell,’ it does not represent sheol, because both by Dictionary definition and by colloquial usage ‘hell’ means the place of future punishment. Sheol has no such meaning, but denotes the present state of death. ‘The grave’ is, therefore, a far more suitable translation, because it visibly suggests to us what is invisible to the mind, viz., the state of death. It must, necessarily, be misleading to the English reader to see the former put to represent the latter.”

Paul uses Hades, the Romans’ post-mortem destination, as his name for the afterlife aside from Heaven. This may not, indeed, actually be what Hell is, but rather Paul’s attempt to describe the afterlife in a way that would be familiar to the Romans at the time. (For a detailed research paper on Paul’s views of the afterlife go to http://www.nazarene-friends.org/pubs/thedead/009.php)hell

Jesus uses the word Gehenna. Gehenna was a disgusting landfill outside of Jerusalem where all the trash was burnt. This could be considered a metaphor for burning in the lake of fire. http://www.concordant.org/expohtml/DeathAndJudgment/TheGehennaOfFire.html has a detailed look at the translation they have a good description of the parallel. They say, “The Lord explicitly identifies Gehenna with Isaiah 66:23,24 by speaking of it as the place of “unextinguished fire, where their worm is not deceasing[3] and the fire is not going out” (Mark 9:46). All whose bodies are destroyed in Gehenna will be raised to be judged at the great white throne, and go into the lake of fire. Gehenna is the capital punishment of the kingdom, without burial.”

The Hebrew Bible, Paul and Jesus all use different words, but all of them seem to mean similar things. This is why it seems reasonable that each word was translated as Hell. Based on these different translations it can be concluded first and foremost that “Hell” is an afterlife. It is also very separate from Heaven. This could be debated because according to Greek mythology Hades has many levels, reaching from burning torment all the way up to paradise. So ultimately exactly what Hell is, is unknown. Whether it is a lake of fire, unconscious torment or simply the grave, we don’t know for certain.

When I was younger I imagined Hell as the other end of the tunnel, the end without the light. I imagined a lake, with the souls of the Godless being shoved in by demons, their necks laden with millstones. I thought that those in heaven could see to the lake, could see the brimstone and ash raining down on those who managed to claw their way to the surface. I imagined that the demons ruled this hell lake and mercilessly beat and bruised those souls who were already anguishing in the lake. It was as horrific an image as my childish imagination was capable of producing. But now, now I no longer have that clear of an image in my head. After looking at translations and researching I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know exactly what hell is, except a Godless land. I have a hazy picture in my mind the only thing I know for certain is that Hell is not somewhere I want to be.

Who did Christ die for? What did His death actually do?

There are many different views on who Christ died for. He died for sinners, this much is made very clear, but who receives this is not as clear. Who you think receives redemption depends on many different factors of your beliefs. For example, if you believe that God already knows and has chosen who will accept Him and his redemption, and that redemption only comes to those who accept it, then you might believe that redemption comes only to those already predestined to receive it. Perhaps you believe that redemption is only for those who repent, then those are the only people who receive. The big question with that is, do people have a choice whether or not they repent. Could repentance be predetermined and predestined by God? Does He even know who will repent? Does He have the ability to know and choose not to? Is it completely free with little to know influence from God? These are many questions that need to be asked before we can even begin to ask more complex questions on redemption.

Once you have a stance on repentance, and who repents, then you can start more reasonably asking questions on redemption. Is Jesus’s death solely for those who repent? If he died for all of us then should we be automatically saved? If this is not the case, then how did He know who to die for in the first place? Did He die for everyone but then withhold redemption from those who chose not to repent and accept it? I personally think that this is such the case. I believe that Jesus died for all of us, but we don’t receive redemption unless we choose to repent and accept this gift. Probably the most oft-quoted verse on this subject is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This verse would seem to indicate that redemption is given on a belief-based system. He gave Jesus so that Jesus could save and bring eternal life to whoever believes, to whoever repents.

Another important question to be asking is what did Jesus’ death actually do? There are more than just a few theories. Some of the most prominent of which are the Ransom Theory, Penal Substitution, Christus Victor, Moral Influence, Satisfaction and Governmental Theory. Some are extremely popular, some not so much, but all extremely prominent theories.

Probably among the most popular views and most likely (based on scripture) today is the Ransom Theory of Atonement. It states that Jesus paid a ransom for our sins. Not everyone agrees on who the ra

nsom is paid to. May believe Satan, even more still believe that He paid the ransom to God, our final judge.  Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This is the verse that many use to prove the theory of ransom. That Jesus was a form of payment for our sins.  (For more information on this see http://www.theopedia.com/Atonement_of_Christ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ransom_theory_of_atonement)

Another popular belief is Penal Substitution. This Theory is very similar to the one preceding it. It believes that Jesus wasn’t merely a ransom for sins, but he was the ransom. Jesus actually took the penalty of the law for sinners. He took our place. He took our sins as His own and paid the price for them. So it’s very similar in that He paid for our sins, except in this case He took the punishment instead of simply paying the ransom for them. (For more information on this see http://carm.org/dictionary-penal-substitution)

For video go to http://marshill.com/media/spiritual-warfare/christus-victor

 
For video go to http://marshill.com/media/spiritual-warfare/christus-victor

Christus Victor is also along these same lines.  It teaches the victory of Christ. It teaches that He did not ransom us or take the pr

ice of our sins for us, but He rescued us. We were under the influence of Satan and his demons and Jesus ripped that power away from the Devil in a holy victory. This is done through the death on the cross. (For more information see the first 5 minutes of the video provided Christus Victor and http://www.theopedia.com/Christus_Victor)

The next three take different approaches to the theory. The first of these is Moral Influence. This says that Christ did not die to take our place, to ransom us or to vanquish an enemy, but to warn us. It says that God chose to have Jesus die on the cross in order to teach us to be more moral, to repent and to improve ourselves, lest we suffer the same punishment. (For more see http://www.theopedia.com/Moral_Influence_theory_of_atonement)

The next of these is the Satisfaction theory. Basically this states that all humans can do is what we’re supposed to do. we can’t do anything more than that and when we sin we do much less than that. So if God wants to be satisfied, honored and glorified He had to make an alternative way to do that. He chose to do that through making someone more than human yet still human, Jesus. All God, and all man. That is how He got his satisfaction, through Jesus. (For more go to http://www.theopedia.com/Satisfaction_theory_of_the_atonement)

The last theory is the Governmental theory. This is an interesting one. This says that Christ’s did nothing. In this way it is similar to the Moral Influence theory. Christ’s death did not ransom, did not pay the penalty for or in any way atone for our sins. He took a blameless person, his son and punished him, made him to suffer, like a sacrifice. Except this sacrifice was a demonstration of the penalty for sin. It showed God’s seriousness concerning and abhorrence for sin.  (Dig deeper at http://www.theopedia.com/Governmental_theory_of_atonement)

Ultimately I believe that John 3:16 and Romans 10:9 (If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.) show that the Ransom Theory and Penal Substitution are the most likely to be correct. However nobody can truly know unless God reveals that to them. What we know is what the Bible says and at the end of the day, that’s all anyone really knows.

The Fall and the Problem of Evil

There has bfond-ecran-qaund-le-serpent-voit-rouge1een speculation on the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Who was the serpent? What was he? Was he Satan or just a clever, talking snake? The possibilities are endless. It could be that the serpent was a form of Satan. It could also be that the serpent had absolutely nothing to do with Satan at all. It could be that it wasn’t Satan but it was a demon. Theologians have struggled to answer these questions. Many have come up with their own theories and answers, some crazy and some plausible. Although each of the plausible answers has facts and verses to back it up, some seem more likely than others. A few main theories seem to be more hotly debated. Whether the serpent is just that, a serpent; whether the serpent is the devil or whether the serpent is simply possessed. Although many made excellent arguments, the majority came to one agreement. The general consensus seems to be that the serpent was a snake possessed by the Devil.  This doesn’t mean that the serpent was the Devil, but that the Devil controlled the serpent.

I think there’s a possibility that the serpent was Satan in a different form. Revelation 12:9, 12:15, 20:2 all reference Satan as a serpent. 2 Corinthians 11:14 says, “…[Satan] masquerades as an angel of light”. Focusing on the word “masquerades” it seems that it is plausible that he can take the form of a serpent, if he can take the form of an “angel of light.” It’s unknown the extent of his ability to lie and disguise himself. It could be very possible that he is able to change to any form, based on the masquerade, however the masquerade may just be him putting on a guise of righteousness.

It could also be metaphorical. Satan could have been referred to as a serpent because of his sly trickery and other snakelike attributes. This could be the reason for the references in Revelation. The curse on the serpent could also indicate that the serpent was not an animal. The curse was this, “on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The only dispute is that the part talking about knocking the serpent on its belly seems to speak of an actual serpent. Spiritual connections could be made to this part by saying that it means Satan will be humbled.  Jesus defeated Satan by coming back to life when Satan thought Jesus had died. Because the curse was fulfilled through spiritual means it could very well mean that the serpent was also a spiritual creature, most likely Satan.

Based on the fact that no other animals in the garden were said to have had the ability to talk and because of the trickiness of the serpent, a logical conclusion would be that Satan used the serpent. Demons have possessed people as seen by Legion. They have possessed herds of pigs and many other things, all referenced in The Bible. This being the case, possession of the serpent is the very likely. With the combination of the spiritual elements laid out in the fulfillment of the curse and the description of the serpent in The Bible seeming so much like it’s talking about an actual serpent, the best conclusion is possession.  I’m not the only one who thinks so, Theologian Henry C. Thiessen said, “… The serpent is neither a figurative description of Satan, nor is it Satan in the form of a serpent. The real serpent was the agent in Satan’s hand. This is evident from the description of the reptile in Genesis 3:1 and the curse pronounced upon it in 3:14 [… upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life].”  Theissen simply lays out his evidence and opinion towards possession, calling the serpent the “agent” of Satan. The only thing that is not known based on these conclusions is whether or not the serpent was possessed by Satan or by just any demon. It is said that Satan is the father of all lies, so it would seem reasonable that the fall of man was caused by him. Although there is not a definite answer for the question, we can estimate based on biblical knowledge and logic, as demonstrated by Thiessen. However, we can’t know for sure.

Sources:

http://www.godspointofview.com/public/qanda/was_the_serpent_the_devil.htm

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/09/05/feedback-satan-lucifer-serpent

http://creation.com/who-was-the-serpent