Thomas Aquinas

On the Wickedness of Demons

Introduction by Courtney Roby

Thomas says: "The assault itself comes from the malice of the demons, who out of envy strive to impede man's progress; and because of their arrogance they assume a pretense of the divine power, by assigning chosen ministers to assaults on men, just as angels serve as ministers to God in chosen tasks pertaining to man's salvation. But the ordering of the assault itself is from God, who knows how to make use of the bad in an orderly way, by ordering it to good things. But on the side of angels, this charge, and the ordering of the charge, is referred back to God as its first author.

"The Devil always tempts in order to do harm by driving men to sin. And in accordance with this, it is his proper task to tempt, for although man sometimes tempts in this way, he does this insofar as he acts as the Devil's agent. God, on the other hand, is said to tempt in order to know, so to speak in that he is said to know what he makes others know. Thus it is said in Deuteronomy 13.3, 'The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him.'"

Original Latin

Dangerous Tempters

According to Thomas Aquinas, demons are fallen angels, and can influence humans like angels do. He says that demons may try to tempt people to sin, although people can also sin of their own free will. By contrast, all our good deeds are done through divine assistance, mediated by angels. Demons can amaze people with tricks that seem to be miracles, but they cannot perform real miracles.

Are good or bad angels more powerful? Luckily for us, the good angels have the power to restrict the activities of the bad ones. Thomas Aquinas says that this is because the bad angels are further from God and so less perfect. You can compare this idea with Bartholomew, who says that their distance from God makes them unable to concentrate on completing any one temptation.

Thomas Aquinas tells us that the temptations offered to people by demons are God's will - why do you think God allows the demons to continue in their activities?