As the French philosopher Voltaire lay dying, a priest made one final attempt to snatch this notorious apostate from the pit of hell by urging him to renounce Satan before it was too late. "Now, now, my good man," Voltaire reportedly quipped, "this is no time for making enemies." Although not a believer, Voltaire was well-schooled in the orthodoxies of his day. He would have known that if there were a Final Judgment, Satan would stand as his accuser. Voltaire was hardly the type for deathbed conversions. But if humor sometimes masks an underlying truth, perhaps he was not above hedging his bets.
Satan is usually vilified as the father of lies, but he is also adept at using the truth to devastating effect, laying bare the souls of those who come before their Maker. The prophet Zechariah has a vision of the high priest Joshua standing before the Lord dressed in filthy garments, with Satan at his side to castigate him for his sins. In the prologue to the Book of Job, Satan's task is to wander to and fro upon the earth to ferret out human iniquity. His name comes from the Hebrew for "adversary," but his role early on is more nearly that of a prosecutor.
Based on his treatment of Job, Satan will resort to slander if it will help make his case. However, it is generally not his lies but the truth that we fear. Job was innocent of the charges leveled against him, but Joshua was not -- and, chances are, neither are we. How do we defend ourselves when our accuser has access to our innermost secrets? Perhaps the best defense in such circumstances is none at all. Perhaps we should simply acknowledge that we are guilty as charged. In doing so, a vast edifice of pretension, prevarication and rationalization comes tumbling down. And once the dust has settled, our accuser is nowhere to be found. Where did he go, and who was he, anyway? Who else has such intimate access to my innermost secrets? My accuser is none other than myself.