After Church: Demon Talk

The whole demon possession idea bothers me a bit.

Not the one found in the Bible, mind you; the idea that demons just openly possess people for no apparently reason other than for fun. Let’s say I’ve heard it more than a few times that “someone I know can see demons” or “I heard a woman with a monstrous man voice” or “a Christian can be partially possessed”. Do they happen? Sure. But I can’t imagine they’re happening as often as people want to think it happens.

All human beings have a flair for the dramatic. We want something to be exciting and interesting all the time without any of the lull points. Thus, in certain segments of Christianity, to make “spiritual warfare” into a real open battlefield is the way to handle it. We’re “on fire for the Lord”. We fight with our breastplate of righteousness and we cast out demons with the spiritual gift of prophecy, or something to that effect.

Of course, distracting people like this is all part of the devil’s plan in the first place. Unfortunately, we’ve taken the form and not the content of the various instances where we get to see what the devil does in Scripture. The serpent in the Garden of Eden, for example, doesn’t possess Eve and make here attack Adam; it’s subtle as in Genesis 3:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.

Notice we’re not given a statement that the devil is “all-powerful” or “has an army” or something to that effect. The fall of man doesn’t begin with a bang, but with a whimper. A crafty snake, words smooth as honey, convince the human being that he/she knows better than God about the one command he gives them. Satan appeals to your vanity. He doesn’t overtake you by force. The Enemy is cunning, malovolent, and underhanded. He’s not going to attack you in a form that you can easily relate. Idolatry, as Charles Stanley would say, takes different forms today than just worshipping an idol itself. Our modern society gives us many, many ways to go down the wrong path.

Let’s investigate a bit further, here. See how the serpent plays on Eve’s vanity:

And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”  The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

We can think of this in two ways: first, Satan’s call offers short term gains. Sin, in effect, overpromises and underdelivers. Surely, the serpent is correct in telling Adam and Eve that they will gain the knowledge of God if they eat from the fruit. God, also, was correct in saying they would die if they ate from the tree (although, obviously, he didn’t say they would die instantaneously, now did he). Just because the devil tells the truth doesn’t mean he doesn’t leave the important details out, you see. That’s what deception is: a half-truth. A lie isn’t always a blatant falsehood – a good one that convinces other people that you’re correct always has an element of truth to it in the first place. That’s what makes the enemy so effective – he muddies the waters of your reason by appealing to your emotions and what your fallen nature desires rather than your mind.

In traditional Christian theology, it is pride that takes Satan down from his status as a fallen angel along with another third (which I can’t find in Scripture directly, but there you have it). It’s the reason why the Bible implores Christians to be humble: pride kills and destroys. In I Peter 5, we see the need for humbleness:

 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit,be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Even when Jesus is tempted in the desert, Satan tries to appeal to vanity and pride, yet falters because Jesus can’t be prideful. God isn’t prideful, and Jesus is the very definition of humility. Satan is the exact opposite of this. Scripture gives us this insight in the most straightforward way possible.

If Satan’s smart and can only be in one place in one time (as the beginning of Job would suggest), then he’s going to use his resources (whatever they are) in the most efficient way possible. That way is not only to convince you he doesn’t exist (for non-Christians), but also to create a reputation wherein he is strong, almost like the evil power in Manicheism. This is the fault of Christian denominations today – we give Satan too much credit. He’s not as strong as you think he is. And that’s exactly what he wants you to think so you can be an ineffective, quivering mess of a Christian, always worried about the next demonic attack.

Time to man up, guys. You’ve got God on your side! Living in constant fear of evil forces isn’t going to help anyone. Live in the power of the Holy Spirit, and know enough to do the right thing. That’s why you have Scripture. I’m tired of people living in fear when they believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God who can save the universe but apparently hasn’t given them the tools to avoid sin (or the devil made me do it!). Seriously? Stop passing the blame on demons and look at yourself. It’s still YOUR decisions that get you in the hole – Satan and his friends just help you along. You learn through Scripture and understanding Christianity to resist and suceed.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
  • I agree and I would emphasize the “Yes, and…”  To emphasize the practical and neglect the supernatural is one-sided. Certainly one doesn’t get posessed for no reason. But often those reasons are things people have no control over: abuse, rape, and various forms of persecution (not necessarily for being a disciple of Christ, but just being different). These can imbue spirits of shame, lust, and inferiority. All demons. And yes, speaking words of “exorcism” over them are far less than productive. Speaking scripture over them is powerful and effective. But never forget the most powerful tool of deliverance: love. Most of the people I know that have been the most severely demonically inflicted are so because they’ve not been loved out of that infliction yet. And it takes time. 
     
    Yes, there’s certainly an occasional blame shifting. And Charismaniacs can be a problem. But there’s some of us Charismatics that are actually a bit more practical: living by the Scriptural mandate of love and knowing the Word. 
     
    Moreover, have you seen in your own experience a lot of people you know personally that have been blaming the demonic? How have those relationships gone?

    •  @Mjoshua I’m more talking to those that believe that Satanic forces are actively attacking everyone all the time – not in the subtle sense I mention, but out in the open. You obviously understand what I’m talking about, but they do not. They’re fine in terms of abuse and whatnot, but they’ve made the universe into a Manichaen one, basically making God one of the good guys rather than the Creator.
       
      I am, in no way, intending to neglect the supernatural element of this. I just don’t think it’s in the form that American pop culture (The Exorcist and its many cousins) have perpetrated onto our national consciousness. It is much more subtle and evil than that.
       
      Love is the answer to deceit any time of day, but it’s having people realize that God gives them that strength that is the key. That doesn’t happen for some, and it’s quite sad. When you try to dig them out of the hole, they think you’re an atheist or some other “denomination” they don’t particularly like. It’s these preconceived notions (some not in Scripture, like the ability to see demons) that I want to break, not the ultimate solution.

      •  @Zachery Oliver Cool. Sounds like we’re on the same page then. But I still feel like there’s a story that prompted this that I still don’t know. What prompted this post in particular? You needn’t use names. I just want to connect more with THAT story.