Demon Possession

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OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
I believe strongly that many ppl who have mental illnesses act the way they do bc of a true mental disease. I know that in Biblical times there were demon possessed ppl. I also believe that some ppl who practice pagan worship (I've met some) are demon possessed. I don't believe that every unsaved person is running around demon possessed, and I don't believe that a saved person can be demon possessed. That being said, do you believe that ppl who don't practice pagan worship and are not saved could be vulnerable to being possessed? If so, what do you think makes one person more vulnerable than the next? I only ask this bc I know John MacArthur (not a fan of his teachings but he's a brother in Christ so I love him as such) stated once that he encountered someone who was demon possessed and he talked to the demon and prayed with the person. I get sort of skeptical about claims such as this (I'm in no way saying he was making it up just not sure if the "possessed" person was playing him or not) and was wondering what you all thought on the subject.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I think people can be demon possessed just as they were in Jesus' time. However, in Jesus' time that is when they were at their peak. I think our sin nature can be influenced by a spirit without actually being possessed per se...so sometimes I wonder about what MacArthur says in regard to that sort of stuff. Maybe the guy was just saying that because he was frustrated at God or something.
 

rookie

Puritan Board Sophomore
I echo nearly everything you mentioned Sarah. I remember once, a couple of brothers from the Brethren Assembly (not to be confused with Assemblies of God), I was attending the Gospel Hall in a local town, wanted to reach out with gospel series (gospel messages every night of the week) in a town about 1.5 hrs from where the local assembly gathers. And they were provided with a trailer (more like an older mobile home) that was empty. So they went in to inspect it, wanting to make sure it was solid and that no one would fall through the floors and such.

I remember one of them telling me that when they walked in for the first time, they didn't pray for the location, the time or anything and both confessed after to not reading their scriptures for a couple of weeks, being preoccupied with various projects. When they walked in, they felt a huge "cold" coming toward them, that they could not explain. The kicker, it was in the middle of summer where temperatures are near 95 or higher (35 for us Canadians) where this was taking place. Nowhere near cold. And when they felt it..they said it was almost worthy of wearing a winter jacket....so both, ran out since they didn't know what was going on. So they asked the elders of a couple local churches in communion with ours to pray for the location and such...

When they approached the said mobile home again...they didn't sense anything similar to the previous visit. Temperature inside was the same as outside (still hot) and they did end up using that location for proclaiming the gospel.

To this day, they still don't know what was in that place..they just know they didn't want to stick around to find out. They also say if anyone needs an exorcist..not to call them after what the experienced. That being said...they are of the most faithful brothers to the scriptures that I know.

Somewhat unrelated to the first post...but I can't deny a presence in this world..it's all around us.
 

Supersillymanable

Puritan Board Freshman
I find that we shouldn't be too sceptical or too quick to see demons in things. It's easy to go either way. I don't like it when people talk of Christians being "possessed". The bible teaches that nowhere as I know of. If we are God's child, He possesses us, no-one else. Off the back of that, I do believe demonic influences can still come over individuals who are Christians, who love God.

I see no reason for John MacArthur to lie, either. Some of what he says is good, some not. But I am sure he truly loves God. So unless he was deceived, I see no reason to not believe him. Jesus cast out demons. We know Satan is still active. False religions are the work of the demonic are they not?

Then again, I may be totally wrong. I'm open to correction...
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
What is the definition of demon possession from Scripture, as opposed to being tempted by the Devil or his minions?
 

Elimelek

Puritan Board Freshman
Dear All

Demon Possession is probably one of the most difficult concepts found in the New Testament. Possession and exorcism is quite foreign to a Western mindset. In the Gospel of Mark it seems that exorcism is a very literal way in which Jesus establishes the kingdom of God on earth. The longest miracle that we have, Mark 5:1-20, is a story about Jesus exorcising the demon(s) Legion. It is quite interesting as the demons uses the words one is thought to be placed in the mouth of the exorcist. (Since the discovery of the Greek magical papyri our understand of exorcism has improved tremendously.) The demons are unable to exorcise Jesus. He command them to go into the pigs and the pigs go over a cliff into the sea. Thus all impurity is removed from the land of the Gerasenes. However they choose not to welcome Jesus but to show him the way. One can say that the Gerasenes "exorcised" Jesus from their territory.

In Mark 5:1-20 the power of demons are nothing to Jesus, He doesn't heed them, but Jesus gives men a choice to follow Him or to turn from Him. We don't always accept the consequences of our decisions.

Personally, I don't think it is right to equate demon possession with mental disease. Demons inhabit a "sane person," not someone that needs psychiatric help. There is in all exorcisms a return to the person's original state. Many mental illnesses are a person's original state. Futhermore, I would ask, today, does the exorcism bring the kingdom of God or facilitate the spreading of it, if not, I am not sure how genuine it is.

Kind regards
 

Zach

Puritan Board Junior
I don't remember who it was that said it (maybe it was Dr. Sproul?) but I think his approach was a good one and can apply here. Regarding the existence of Satan he said something along the lines of we shouldn't pretend that the evil one is unreal and give him no attention in our fight against sin and we also shouldn't see the evil one everywhere and let him already be the center of our attention. Likewise, I think we should not pretend that demons do not exist nor should we see them everywhere and in everything and make them, rather than Christ, the center of our focus.
 

No Name #5

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm noticing remarkably little Scripture in this thread. Where is the Scriptural support for your guys' contention that people can still be possessed by demons following the closing of the Canon?
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
I'm noticing remarkably little Scripture in this thread. Where is the Scriptural support for your guys' contention that people can still be possessed by demons following the closing of the Canon?

Ok, first.....the closing of the Canon means you don't add (subtract) from Scripture. But what I think you mean is that we are not experiencing the miracles of healing etc, "your young men and woman prophesying", etc. However, I really don't find one can equate the time of when Christ and his disciples performed miracles and also the time of Pentecost with demon possession. People being freed from demon possession was one of the miracles seen just like the healing of ppl with illnesses that we have today. You wouldn't deny that we still have the same diseases/disabilities they had back then would you? Just bc the miracles performed by men ceased doesn't mean the illnesses ceased.
 

Rufus

Puritan Board Junior
I'm skeptical of 95% of "demon" possessions. Usually because people end up associating the oddest things with "dark spirits". Sometimes it comes across as Witch Doctorish and hardly Christian. Just my 2 cents.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
It seems somewhat mysterious. Are there any good Reformed books out there on the subject.

I think that although we shouldn't equate mental illness with demon possession, it is the case that when someone is mentally ill their minds are weak and more susceptible to demonic attack. Once they are healed of the mental illness they are not susceptible in that way. I don't know if this accounts for some cases of demonic possession in Scripture.
 

JennyG

Puritan Board Graduate
Does the Bible ever mention mental illness/insanity without an evil spirit's being involved? I can't think of anywhere.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Does the Bible ever mention mental illness/insanity without an evil spirit's being involved? I can't think of anywhere.

Did they call it mental illness or demon possession is how I would look at it and answer your question. I'm not sure about every case in the Bible and what they called each one.
 

JennyG

Puritan Board Graduate
The Scriptures are by no means exhaustive.
no. It's striking though, if the Bible only ever refers to mental troubles under the heading of demon intervention, while modern psychiatry only ever does the opposite, and has no category for possession except perhaps as a species of religion-induced delusion.

I haven't thought it through, but I'm interested in what wiser people think. For myself, I'm very conscious that my knee-jerk discounting of possession accounts is first of all a hangover from earlier secular and sceptical habits of thinking
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
Something I'd like to point out is the fact that demon possession is almost always exclusive to the new testament. There are only a few occasions in the OT that might be considered demon possession. This is important because Christ and His apostles dealt specifically with demon possession. No one else within that time period were said to have dealt with demons. The elders in Ephesians weren't commissioned by Paul to get rid of demons, nor is that part of an office bearer's job. I think this too is key. If there is anything significant to demon possession, it was to show as a sign from Christ and His apostles the power of God at work in the early Church. Now, I'm not going to sit here and say, dogmatically, that demon possession is non-existent, nor am I going to say that it's real. I will say this: I don't see scriptural evidence to suggest it having a purpose after the period of the early church.

I think John put it best when he spoke of the purpose of signs during that time: "30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20). The purpose of signs and miracles is this: that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing you have life in Him.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Don't try and create a dichotomy between mental illness and demonic scheming. Because demons have very little power (after the cross) they rely on our own fears and superstitions to leverage the illusion of great power. Because of this, they will use mental illness (an abnormal pattern of behaviors) and/or other disabilities (allergies, chronic fatigue) to help create an illusion of dominion or influence. In the sovereignty of God, He will use this to discipline believers or move them into greater dependence upon him or to punish the non-believer. Satan has no real dominion, but anyone who practices willful rebellion puts himself UNDER the dominion of sin and that is the dominion of Satan.
 

calgal

Puritan Board Graduate
Sarah pardon me while I detour the discussion for a minute. The following physical disorders were called demonic possession until medicine advanced (or God guided the doctors to find a cure or at least stop said disorders):
1. Epilepsy/any seizure
2. Deafness/Blindness/Muteness
3. Club foot
4. Birthmark
5. Cleft Palate
6. Downs Syndrome
7. Physical Illness

Now saying this to a mama of a child with any of the above will not end well. And using this logic with a patient or doctor will most likely earn one a nice long chat with their licensing board. Can the above conditions be demonically enhanced? Absolutely. And mental illness is not possession by a demon (could it be? Sure! But is it? Most likely not). Just sayin'
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Don't try and create a dichotomy between mental illness and demonic scheming. Because demons have very little power (after the cross) they rely on our own fears and superstitions to leverage the illusion of great power. Because of this, they will use mental illness (an abnormal pattern of behaviors) and/or other disabilities (allergies, chronic fatigue) to help create an illusion of dominion or influence. In the sovereignty of God, He will use this to discipline believers or move them into greater dependence upon him or to punish the non-believer. Satan has no real dominion, but anyone who practices willful rebellion puts himself UNDER the dominion of sin and that is the dominion of Satan.

I couldn't agree more! Mental illness has nothing to do with demon possession anymore than physical illness does. Also, let's not forget that not only do I not see the Scriptures equating mental illness with possession I did find a physical disability that was due to demon possession so if anything there's a better case (not that I'm making it "just say'n") for physical disabilities to be that of demon possession if we are looking for Scriptural "proof" which I don't think we should since that's not what this thread is about.

Luke 11:14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Be careful about trying to build a doctrine around a narrative portion of Scripture. Jesus cast out many demons in order to demonstrate that the Kingdom had come and to display the Glory of the Father. There was greatly increased demonic activity throughout the earthly ministry of Christ, beginning with the birth (Why did God send an ARMY of angels in advance of and to attend the birth?)

As for disabilities God is quite clear on the cause in Exodus 4:11: Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

God used a demon to bring about muteness so that the message of Christ, the Gospel, the coming of the Kingdom, the Glory of God would be validated. These were signs and wonders to accompany the Kingdom coming with glory, majesty, dominion and authority.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Be careful about trying to build a doctrine around a narrative portion of Scripture. Jesus cast out many demons in order to demonstrate that the Kingdom had come and to display the Glory of the Father. There was greatly increased demonic activity throughout the earthly ministry of Christ, beginning with the birth (Why did God send an ARMY of angels in advance of and to attend the birth?)

As for disabilities God is quite clear on the cause in Exodus 4:11: Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

God used a demon to bring about muteness so that the message of Christ, the Gospel, the coming of the Kingdom, the Glory of God would be validated. These were signs and wonders to accompany the Kingdom coming with glory, majesty, dominion and authority.

I wasn't trying to build a doctrine around physical disabilities (and that's why I said "If anything there's a better case (not that I'm making it "just say'n") and demon possession. I was using that Scripture to show how silly it is to say that mental illness is bc of demon possession. Ok I'm getting to be a really bad writer when even bawb misunderstands me :um:
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
My caution wasn't directed at you personally, dear one, I was just throwing it out as a general rule of caution. Bottom line is, sometimes sickness may be influenced by a demon (by the way, following Scripture, I never use the word possession) and most times it's not. In the same way, Jesus said that sometimes sickness is the direct result of personal sin and most times it is not. Either way, it's a very tough call.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
I would like to quickly point out that not every instance of illness or disease in the New Testament was a result of demon possession:

Mark 1:32-34 (NASB)
32 When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed.
33 And the whole city had gathered at the door.
34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

In such examples as the woman with the flow of blood, this was not a case of demon possession.

Now even though I agree that we as a society are more aware of epilepsy and other diseases, this does not at all mean that all such diseases were believed to have been caused by demons. In other words, it seems that demonic possession could manifest itself in ways that looked like diseases.

Matthew 12:22 (NASB)
22 Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw.

Here we see that in this instance of demon-possession, it was manifested in the man as blindness and muteness. We see later on that Jesus does heal other blind men, but scripture does not at all say that those other instances of blindness were the result of demon possession (John 9:1-4). Blindness and muteness could have been the result of either natural causes, or a supernatural influence (demonic possession).

As for whether demonic possession in the New Testament still exists in the exact same form today is a question that I have not fully reached a conclusion on. I would certainly agree that demonic influences still exist today, but to say whether full possession still exists is a different question that I have yet to fully study.

What I will say though is that when I see events like the Miami man who was eating another man's face I cannot help but think of demonic influences (and possibly possession). Here is the news article for those who have not heard of it: Rudy Eugene Identified As Naked Miami Man Who Chewed Victim's Face (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

I would like to quote some interesting parts of that article:

"But Vega said when the police officer yelled at Eugene to back away, the naked man merely raised his head "with pieces of flesh in his mouth," growled, and began chewing again."

"The officer reportedly then shot Eugene once, but Eugene still continued to attack the man's face, prompting the officer to shoot multiple times until he was dead. The shooting and its aftermath were captured on surveillance video from the Miami Herald's parking garage, but police are still trying to piece together details and are asking witnesses to come forward."

"Aguilar says authorities have seen several such cases of delirium in which people have taken off their clothes, seemingly displayed superhuman strength, and have used their jaws as weapons. One such assault allegedly occurred after the Ultra Music Festival in March when a naked reveler Evan Oberfelder attacked a good samaritan and first responders after being hit by a taxi. 14 police officers were treated for blood exposure or injuries after managing to subdue Oberfelder."

Finally, after reading a bit more about the shooter in the Colorado town of Aurora, it seems obvious that something was wrong both 'mentally' and 'spiritually' with this man. I won't deny the possibility that demonic influences were involved in that man's decision to do what he did. Yet it seems to be very difficult to explain it from a purely natural or psychological perspective (he was a PhD student, no criminal background, seemingly normal parents, etc.). Perhaps there were drugs involved, but nothing has come out yet about that possibility. For that reason I cannot rule out the possibility of demonic influence. Thoughts?
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
Interesting article, Kevin, and I have often wondered in re: schizophrenics and similar - why don't they tell the voices, "no?"

For example, a terrible voice is shouting at them to, say, burn themselves with an iron. I don't understand why the schizophrenic or disturbed person does not say something like: "No, I will not do that. It is not God's will for me. If it is not God's will, I will not do it. I hear you shouting, but you have no authority over me, I don't have to obey you, I will not obey you. Shout for days, it does not matter, I will not do that or any other sinful thing."

I suppose it is easy for me to say, since I have never heard voices, thank God, but it seems to be an unexplored part of the "schizophrenic" situation: why don't they answer back?
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
The scriptures do not have a term that directly translates as demon possession. There is being demonized and having a demon, which are used interchangably in the Greek. Possession is an extra-scriptural concept and probably is not valid. The scriptures are totally silent on whether believers can or cannot be demonized. However, in Luke 11, Jesus implies that casting out demons from unbelivers is not a good idea; it may leave the patient in a worse way. Hence, I'll never ever attempt or refer for exorcism if the patient is an unbeliever.

Last year I had a patient, a woman who went crazy right after childbirth, first baby. She was totally catatonic, refused to nurse the baby who was critically malnourished. I have pictures. We "borrowed" the baby to care for her, and promised to have a pastor come pray for the woman. There was a delay. After 6 months the woman showed up at the clinic after the family got tired of waiting and found their own exorcist. She was totally sane, wanted her baby back (which she got). She was a believer, both before and after.

When I had a clinic in an occult-ridden area, I hired a local pastor part-time to deal with demon problems, we had so many. I had three events where patients were thrown into a fire by a demon (two patients, happened twice to one of them) resulting in extensive burns.

The labels on mental illnesses are merely descriptive, not etiological. To say that someone has post-traumatic stress disorder is merely to say that his problem originated temporally after some event. It's not a diagnosis analogous to pneumococcal pneumonia. Same with schizophrenia or bipolar or whatever, in these cases descriptive of the symptoms but silent as to the cause. To say someone is demonized is indeed analogous to saying someone has pneumococcal pneumonia. It defines an etiology and suggests an approach to the problem. Hence, saying that someone is schizophrenic because he is demonized is analogous to saying that someone has intractable vomiting due to stomach cancer. It is a useful label which may be right or wrong in any particular case.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
Mary,

Granted that one of your patients might have changed due to an "exorcist" doesn't give reason for demon possession. Also, I'd like to note that even though scripture doesn't particularly have the phrase "believers can't be possessed" it would be wrong to suggest they can. As we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (according to 1cor) and the Spirit does indwell within us, keep in mind that this is God. Knowing that God is amongst us, do you think scripture implies He would let an evil spirit possess one of His children? Also, I'd be interested if you could point me to a passage that shows a believer being possessed, since I'm pretty certain a passage like that is non-existent. I could be wrong though.

Like I said before, I'll say again, demon possession, within scripture, was done most specifically during the time of Christ on earth and His apostles. It was to demonstrate the power of God at work. Before and after that time, there would be no reason for demon possession.
 

Loopie

Puritan Board Freshman
I suppose we need to develop a clear definition of what we mean by demon possession. I think perhaps different people have a different idea of what would constitute demonic possession (how does this affect the human will, decision making, etc.?). How do we differentiate demonic influences and demonic possession? It is very important that we all are on the same page regarding the definition of 'influence' or 'possession' in order to proceed further.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I think you're right, Eric. We first need to define our terms. I would say demon possession proper is when one's volitional faculties – and consequently one's actions – are under the control of a foul spirit (aka devil, demon), at least some of the time. Demonization may also be of lesser degrees, such as causing hallucinations (visual, auditory, olfactory), bodily sensations, physical infirmities, mental images, unwanted feelings, etc.

What people in the Western countries (the "civilized" world), including the genuine Christians, categorically deny, missionaries and Christian workers in primitive cultures take for granted, i.e., that occurrences of the full spectrum of demonization exist today, and manifest often.

Christ came to set the prisoners of Satan free through the preaching of the Gospel in the power of the Spirit of God; His coming did not automatically release all the devil's prisoners from the time of His appearing; the laborers in His vineyard carry on His work. Here in the West, when a person starts showing signs of that mental deterioration that comes with demonization (note: not all such deterioration is directly from demons) they get incarcerated and/or sent to a psych ward and given various kinds of drugs that deaden such activity. In some circles this is called "chemical restraints". That's why we don't see more of it.
 
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