All right, everybody. It’s time to go off the deep end. We’re talking about demon possession today.
Before I continue, it’s important to address the caveat: how, if I don’t believe in magic, do I believe in demon possession? To that, I cite the Bible, which references magicians and magic but not the process, the extent, or the scale of the magic. The magicians described in the Bible are frequently inept, and those who are “successful” do so to entertain an audience. If you replace the so-called magic with the simple parlor tricks of a cheap Vegas act, it would still fit completely in context for every reference in the Bible. The Bible makes it very clear that power comes from God alone.
Demon possessions, however, are much more explicit. Though references to demons are almost exclusive to the New Testament, we witness demon-possessed people. We hear the demons talk to Jesus. We see Jesus casting out the demons. There’s significantly more evidence, and the evidence that exists is significantly less disputable.
This is not to say, however, that demon possession is commonplace. I listened to a sermon this past Sunday that talked about demon possession, in the context of Jesus casting out a demon, touting a different perspective on life. Instead of looking at oneself as being ridden with fear, anxiety, hostility, etc., one could imagine oneself as being possessed by a demon of fear, a demon of anxiety, a demon of hostility, etc. Jesus reaches out to all of us with an offer to cast out the demons, and so we are cleansed.
I personally advise against this perspective. Even if we ignore the scientologist nature of the analogy, it is woefully inadequate in describing and addressing sin. Despite temptation or faulty reasoning, the responsibility of the sin (or similar imperfection) lies on the sinner, either through incompetence, weakness, or malevolence. While Jesus takes away the repercussions of sin, the source is still there while the mortal body and mortal mind remain. One must remain ever vigilant to keep from sinning, since it was hardwired into human nature to sin. It’s not as simple as taking away a demon. Jesus helps, and helps more the more one relies on Him, but blaming everything on or consolidating everything into a so-called demon is not helpful.
So, then, if not everything is demons, what is? The symptoms of demon-possessed individuals as recorded in the Bible vary, but all of them point to unusual behavior and/or physical properties. One was mute. One was blind and deaf. One could break shackles and chains, and cut himself with stones. Nowadays, certain mentally ill people might fit the description of demon possession, as might those on certain kinds of drugs. I personally can think of a few that I’ve briefly met in my past who could fit the description, and I’m sure that you might think of one or two as well.
It really speaks to the power of Christ, and by proxy the power within us, how He was able to cast out the demons inside of the afflicted. Even today, we have some remedies but few cures for mental illness, since we’ve only scratched the surface of the complexity of the human mind. By not only eradicating the symptoms of demon possession in mental illness but also removing the source itself, Jesus displays His reality and His power and knowledge for His many witnesses to see. Jesus knows and can do things we can’t even comprehend, let alone have tried and failed to do. In that sense, Jesus can help us with our troubles, even if they aren’t demon possession.
I don’t have a good conclusion for a topic this alien… So the next time your toaster malfunctions: it’s not demon-possessed, but it does need Jesus!