This conflict arises out of "The Great Conflict" instituted by the triune God and attested to in Genesis 3:15. This conflict is brilliantly described by the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen in a lecture given at Westminster Seminary (http://www.reformed.org/webfiles/antithesis/), excerpted below.
"The Antithesis is Crucial to the Biblical Understanding of Man
A. The Biblical Narrative1. Geneis 3:15 -- We read in this verse, "I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel." A correct view of man, his historical setting and problem, and God's resultant relationship to man is tied up with the Biblical presentation of man's Fall and God's response to it. Genesis 3:15 is often designated the protoevangelium, the first proclamation of good news for man's salvation. However, that good news of the victorious confrontation of the Saviour with Satan cannot be understood except against the background of what precedes it. There is preceding it, of course, (1) the fact that man's guilty conscience created alienation between him and his wife, as well as a desire to flee from the presence of God (vv. 7-8), and (2) the fact that God's curse was pronounced against the serpent precisely because he dared to beguile man into repudiating the self-establishing authority of God's word (v.14). Both of these facts point to the spiritual antithesis inherent in the present human situation.
But more pointedly, the antithesis is explicitly declared by God in verse fifteen, where He said that He "will put enmity" between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent -- between the children of God (who are united with their Savior, the Messiah: cf. Gal. 3:16,29) and the children of the devil (cf. John 8:44). It is worth noting that the emphasis falls upon the word "enmity" as the first word in the Hebrew of Genesis 3:15 ("Enmity will I put"). And God himself is said to constitute, establish, and deliberately impose this enmity between men.
The opposition and antithesis between followers of God and followers of Satan is not simply predicted by God and is not simply commanded; it is sovereignly inflicted as God's judicial curse. The distinction and antipathy between the two seeds must and indeed will be maintained. Only in that light do we properly understand and hope in the Messiah's crushing defeat of the tempter. Were that antithesis disregarded, diluted or dispelled, the very meaning of the gospel of salvation would be lost -- either by consigning all men indiscriminately to the perdition of Satan, or by neglecting the discriminating love of God, which Paul says in Colossians 1:13, "delivered us out of the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved son."
The entire Biblical message of redemption and the historical establishing of God's kingdom both presuppose "the antithesis," then, between the people of God and the culture of unbelief, between the regenerate and the unregenerate. Therefore, throughout history Satan has tempted God's people to compromise "the antithesis" -- whether by intermingling in ungodly marriages (Gen. 5:2), or by showing unwarranted tolerance toward the enemies of God (Joshua 23:11-13; Judges 1:21,27-36; Ps 106:34-35), or by departing from the authority of God's word so that "every man does what is right in his own eyes," (Judges 21:25), by committing spiritual adultery with other gods (e.g. Ps. 106:36,39; Hosea 2:2-13, 4:12; Exek. 16:15-25), by trusting in some power other than God (e.g. Kings 18:21; Chron. 16: 7-9; Isa 30:7, 31:1; Ezek 16:26-29), or by repudiating the Messiah along with the world (John 1:10-11), or by bowing the knee both to Christ and to Caesar (cf. Acts 17:7; Rev 13:8,11-17).
In fact, Satan even dared to tempt Jesus, the Son of God, to achieve God's ends by compromising the antithesis with Satan himself. In Matt 4:8-10, you remember how Satan showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world, and he said all of them would belong to Jesus if He would just bow his knee to Satan. (Of course, they belonged to Jesus anyway. Satan was proposing a shortcut.) So if we would live up to Paul's assessment that Christians "are not ignorant of his [Satan's] devices" (II Corinthians 2:11), then we must be sure not to ignore the tempter's persistent device of suggesting that we can tone down or disregard the antithesis which God has imposed between His people and the world.
2. Genesis 4 -- In the fourth chapter of Genesis, we read that Cain murdered his brother, Abel, because God had respect unto Abel's offering instead of Cain's. The antagonism between those who please God and those who do not was already at work then in human history. And John tells us specifically that this event illustrated the enmity which arises between the two seeds, for he says, "Cain was of the evil one." He was of the seed of the serpent, and he slew his brother precisely "because his works were evil and his brother's righteous" (I John 3:12).
3. Subsequent Portions of Genesis -- The antithesis continues to be pressed in the literature of the Bible as the descendants of Cain and their accompanying culture are now distinguished from those of Seth in the fourth Chapter of Genesis. The family of Noah is set apart from the rest of mankind for preservation through the flood in Genesis 5-9. The seed of Shem is set apart from the seed of his brothers in Genesis 10. The ungodly attempt to unify all mankind at the tower of Babel is thwarted by God in Genesis 11. Abraham and his seed are specifically chosen out of all the other families of the earth in Genesis 12-15. The line of Isaac is chosen over that of Ishmael in Genesis 16-18. The line of Jacob is chosen over that of Esau in Genesis 25.
4. Exodus through Joshua -- Eventually the children of Israel are called out of the land of Egypt, as the Book of Exodus shows us, to displace the Canaanite tribes and be established as a holy people unto God (as we read in the Book of Joshua).
Accompanying these Biblical stories, we read repeatedly of the hostility which exists between God's children and those of the world. We see this whether we look at Ishmael's persecuting mockery of Isaac in Gen 21:9 (cf. Gal 4:29) or Pharoah's harsh and murderous oppression of the Jewish slaves in Exod. 1:18-22 (cf. Heb. 11:23-27), or Israel's military campaigns against Canaan's abominable places of worship in Deuteronomy 7:24-25, 12:2-3.
5. The Psalms and Prophetic Literature -- The theme of antithesis thus runs through the Biblical drama like a subtle, unifying thread. We hear the theme of antithesis in the imprecatory psalms against God's enemies, and in the prophetic denunciation of the nations, especially against the ruthless empires of Assyria and Babylon which took God's chosen people into captivity.
6. The Law -- The necessity of living in terms of "the antithesis" is buttressed by the Mosaic laws' demand that God's chosen people be a "holy" people, separated from pagan unbelief and practices (e.g. Leviticus 11:44-45; I Pet 1:15-16). On this basis Peter says in the New Testament that we are to be sanctified in all manner of living. It was reiterated in the call of the prophets to "come out from among them and be separate" and "touch no unclean thing," (Isa 52:11; Jer 31:1), which is quoted by Paul in II Corinthians 6:17-7:1. We're to be cleansed from all defilement of flesh and spirit. Now both of these moral injunctions assume and endorse an antithesis between the lifestyle of believers and unbelievers, and both injunctions are repeated for us in the New Testament. We had better take them seriously.
7. The New Testament -- In the New Testament we see further evidence of, and a demand for, the antithesis between the church and the world. Jesus emphasized and called for a clear observation of that antithesis when He proclaimed "he who is not with me is against me." (Matt. 12:30), because, he said, "no man can serve two masters" (Matt. 6:24). And Jesus identified "the enemy," (that language is conspicuous), the enemy of the Kingdom (Matt. 13:39), as Satan. Peter called him the believer's "adversary" (I Pet. 5:8).
And Paul utilized military imagery to rouse us to withstand the principalities and powers and spiritual hosts of wickedness (Eph 6:10-17). There is, according to the New Testament outlook, clearly a hostile encounter taking place in the world.
A graphic illustration of the antithesis, or enmity, between the seed of the serpent and the seed which belongs to God, is found in the account of Elymas the sorcerer, whom Paul denounced as "a son of the devil," because he "opposed" the apostles by trying to turn aside Sergius Paulus from the faith, and by always "perverting the right ways of the Lord" (Acts 13).
We must call Genesis 3:15 to mind again when Jesus calls those who oppose the kingdom of God, "the sons of the evil one" (Matt. 13:38), and when Paul identifies them as the "enemies" of Christ's cross who mind earthly things, in contrast to the Christians' heavenly citizenship (Phil.3:18-20).
The apostle John reinforces the necessity of the antithesis by issuing the following command to believers in I John 2:15: "Love not the world...If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." And James drives home the antithesis pungently by declaring, "whoever would be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
To end our short survey, we can finally observe that the antithesis will, once and for all, be ultimately confirmed by the eternal separation of all men into either heaven or hell, as Jesus taught in Matthew 25:31-33,40....
The Systematic Nature of AntithesisIn terms of theoretical principle and eventual outworking, the unbeliever opposes the Christian faith with a whole antithetical system of thought, not simply with piecemeal criticisms. His attack is aimed, not at random points of Christian teaching, but at the very foundation of Christian thinking. The particular criticisms which are utilized by an unbeliever rest upon his basic, key assumptions which unify and inform all of his thinking. And it is this presuppositional root which the apologist must aim to eradicate, if his defense of the faith is to be truly effective.
Abraham Kuyper well understood that all men conduct their reasoning and their thinking in terms of an ultimate controlling principle -- a most basic presupposition. For the unbeliever, this is a natural or naturalistic principle, in terms of which man's thinking is taken to be intelligible without recourse to God. For the believer, it is a supernatural principle based on God's involvement in man's history and experience, notably in regeneration -- perspective that provides the framework necessary for making sense of anything. These two ultimate commitments -- call them naturalism and Christian supernaturalism -- are logically incompatible and seek to cancel each other out. They must, as Kuyper argued in Principles of Sacred Theology, create "two kinds of science," where each perspective (in principle) contradicts whatever the other perspective says and denies to it the noble name of "science." The natural principle develops its science, and the supernatural principle develops its science -- and the two will not honor each other as being genuine sciences. And thus the unbeliever is bent on distorting, reinterpreting, or rejecting any evidence or argumentation which is set forth in support of, or which is controlled by, the believer's ultimate commitment. To be consistent, the unbeliever cannot even allow for the possibility that the Christian proclamation is true.
There are two fundamentally different worldviews in terms of which men conduct their thinking and in terms of which they understand the use of reason itself.
Let's just take that word "reason" for a moment. In the generic sense "reason" simply refers to man's intellectual or mental capacity. Christians believe in reason, and non-Christians believe in reason; they both believe in man's intellectual capacity. However, for each one, his view of reason and his use of reason is controlled by the worldview within which reason operates. A worldview is, very simply, a network of presuppositions which is not verified by the procedures of natural science, but in terms of which every aspect of man's knowledge and experience is interpreted and interrelated.
The unbeliever's worldview, according to Kuyper, is characterized by being autonomous. That is, it is characterized by self-sufficiency or an independence from outside authority, especially any transcendent authority (one that originates beyond man's temporal experience or exceeds man's temporal experience). The autonomous man, as Van Til puts it, wants to be "a law unto himself." And this leads, then, to what our society calls, "secularism" or "humanism:" the view that man is the highest value, as well as the highest authority, in terms of knowledge and behavior, rather than some transcendent reality or transcendent revelation. Rationalism is humanistic or autonomous in its basic character, maintaining the general attitude that man's autonomous reason is his final authority -- in which case divine revelation may be denied or ignored in whatever area a person is studying."
(end of excerpt)
The conflict is easily seen in the antagonism that communists have toward Christianity. Worldnetdaily.com has an article about the persecution by the North Korean communists, of a Christian pastor (http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45170) which gruesomely describes the "emnity" in graphic and objective terms. Evil has not only ideas about reality but it also has a face and arms, legs, hands, and tools of torture. The Great Conflict is not an abstraction, relegated to the realm of mere ideas, it is a flesn and blood struggle that encompasses all of history and every thought and action of man, personally and corporately. it is as comprehensive as the effects of the fall and only resolved with the comprehensive effects of the gospel: comprehensive redemption.
The comprehensive effects of the gospel are seen in the comprehensive repentance of men who "bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." Ideas having inescapable consequences, yield actions and institutions that relfect the comprehensive nature of true repentance: "every thought" affects every institution, every nation, and every act of men.
Bahnsen gives the Biblical foundation for understanding the various (sub)conflicts noted throughout human history, including the conflict between Islam and the gospel, which has its roots in the unfaithfulness of Abraham in failing to initially take God at His word.
The failure of the American Christian Church to take note of this major biblical theme has resulted in various forms of compromise to the faith. One failure is that failure to understand that education and the institutions created to transmit the worldview, faith, and culture of a people is inescapably religious. the question is not "is education religious?" the question is what religion/worldview/faith governs the presuppositional foundation of education and the institutional structure that flows from it!
American Christians continue to willingly fund and participate in an institution that is, not surprisingly, hostile to it (Gen. 3:15). Ostensibly because our children need to be "missionaries" in this God-hating institution. Ignoring the fact that the triune God overthrows all institutions created in rebellion to Him (Gen. 11; Psalm 110:1; et. al.) and that Christian parents have a duty to "train their children in the nuture and admonition of the Lord" including Monday through Friday, 8am to 3pm, September through May.
The recovery of a biblical mind, including the recovery of the understanding of "The Great Conflict", will turn our understanding in a number of ways. It will lead Christians to understand that no area of human thought or action is neutral. All human thought and action is driven by a desire to embrace and submit to the gospel, comprehensively, or rebel against it and the triune God who gave it, in both thought and life.
We must learn to think biblically about "The Great Conflict" of history as well as the lesser ones that are but a reflection of the greater one.