Mainline Protestant Channel
Are Demons Real?
It is widely believed that the Gospels offer a theological basis for the existence of devils or demons. They record interactions between Jesus and a tempter, or "satan," and even lend Christ's voice to the theological assertion that a real devil fell from heaven (Lk. 10:18). But we must remember that the Gospels were written by an ancient people with a variety of theological agendas.
When we search beyond the history of the early Church, we find that demons and the devil were different from the pictures painted by modern theology. Ancient Israel believed that both good and evil came from God. In fact many Jews still believe this today (Is. 45:7). Christian theology has attempted for centuries to explain this ancient belief away.
Satan was known as a "tempter" in the Old Testament, but was certainly not believed to be the source of all evil. The stories of a "satan" who fell from heaven in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 were written about the Kings of Babylon and Tyre. When Israel penned chapter 3 of Genesis during its captivity in Babylon, the snake in the garden was the embodiment of temptation and human struggle. The serpent didn't become our theology's "devil" until several centuries later.
While I don't believe in the existence of an actual entity named "Satan," I cannot deny that evil exists in the world. I believe that while the nature of evil can be understood with spirituality, but it should not be misunderstood as a force emanating from one source.
Crystal S. Lewis is a Master of Divinity student at Wesley Theological Seminary and blogs at Jesus Was A Heretic, Too.
My first impulse is, "No, in this age of reason, I do not believe in demons." But experience has taught me, along with Shakespeare's Hamlet that, "There are more things in heaven and earth . . . than are dreamt of in your philosophy." The best argument I have seen for the existence of demons is Scott Peck's 2005 book, Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption. Perhaps science can explain much of what has been attributed historically to demonic possession, but if demons exist in some form, then our hope is that so, too, do angels.
The Rev. Carl Gregg is an Alliance of Baptist Pastor of Broadview Church in Chesapeake Beach, MD and blogs at Patheos.
So what do you think? Are demons real?
Read more reflections, from multiple faith traditions, on the Devil at our What Do I Really Believe? Series here.