I Don't Believe in Demons

As I’ve been writing the posts exploring the possibility of Christian universalism, it’s become clear to me once again that I have a pretty different worldview from Jesus.  Had I lived in his time, I’m quite sure that our worldviews would have been more similar, but a lot of water has passed over the dam since Jesus’ day, and it’s sometimes difficult to build a bridge back there.

I also — no surprise here — hold a different worldview than some of this blog’s readers.  Like about demons, for instance.  I mentioned in yesterday’s post that most of us would see schizophrenia where Jesus saw a legion of demons.  That discomfited a couple readers, and caused a couple more to shout, “Heresy!”

At different points in my life, I’ve been surrounded by folks who were real into demons and demonology.  It first happened when I was in Campus Crusade at Dartmouth.  Then, much to my surprise, I arrived at Fuller Seminary when it was the hotbed of demon-talk.  To the chagrin of the faculty in the School of Theology, two professors in the School of World Mission — C. Peter Wagner and Chuck Kraft — were leading the charge.  Their classes would often turn into spontaneous healing services.  They often, it seemed, lengthened people’s legs.  And they told stories of demon possession and resurrections in far off lands.  I distinctly remember one student playing me a tape on his tape recorder of an exorcism.

Once, while I was at Fuller, I went to a weekend seminar that one or both of them did at a local church.  I can’t remember too many of the details, but I do remember that there was a large map of Los Angeles County on the wall, and it had been marked with the “territorial demons” that ruled over different parts of L.A.  I found it laughable, and I left at the first break.

Then, when I was a pastor, I watched a contingent from my church travel to Argentina where they participated in massive healing rallies put on by a group called Harvest Evangelism.  They returned having seen — you guessed it — leg lengthenings.  And other stuff.  But in any case, they were quickly disaffected with how coolly they were received by the rest of their home congregation, and most of them left the church shortly thereafter in search of a “Spirit-filled” church.

I write all this by way of confession.  I’m not saying that my particular mix of rationalism and postmodern cynicism is the best worldview around.  I’m just saying it is what it is.  It’s what I hold to.  I don’t buy the leg-lengthening or the demonology.  What I’m not saying is that God could not work in this way.  What I’m saying is that she doesn’t.  (See what I did there?) :-)

I hope I’m open to being persuaded otherwise.  Not that I want to be, just that I hope that my hermeneutical horizon is not closed to other possibilities.

To that end, I’m going to be getting together with Greg Boyd later this winter.  He’s the smartest person I know who believes in demons and spiritual warfare and the like.  When I saw him at a conference last fall, we had a great time together, as we always do.  And I said to him, “Sometime you’ve got to tell me how you’re Mr. Open Theist, etc., but you still believe in spiritual warfare.”

“Give me two hours” he said with a smile, “And I’ll convince you.”

So, once the dissertation is in the can, I’m going to take him up on that offer.  I’ll be sure and broadcast the results of his attempt at persuading me here.

  • http://www.rogerflyer.com roger flyer

    God called. She’s mad at you and sending an exorcist over right away. The priest is gonna cast out what’s left of your charismatic evangelical ‘status’.

    (closed circuit–Ask Greg about his early spiritual experiences in an ‘apostolic’ church.)

  • Rob

    Tony,

    One of the best things about your world view, at least that I admire and search for with great dissapointment most of the time, is the need for great and diverse conversations.

    I will be locked to your blog, waiting for your discussions with Greg Boyd. I wish I could be there, because Theology needs to be discovered and explored and tested in conversation and we need more voices and different voices in the mix.

    Peace

    I miss the Emergent Podcast because of the conversations you shared with us regularly. Blogs, Twitter, FB etc. do not and cannot fill that void.

  • nathan

    I’ve never understood what the purpose of leg-lengthening “healings” is.

    It seems to reduce God’s power to a kind of magic and I think the apostles had something to say to Simon Magus about that…

    Go buy a pair of orthotics and serve the poor, say I.

  • http://www.knightopia.com/blog Steve K.

    I’m praying against the demon of your cynicism and skepticism right now, Tony.

  • http://missourimule.blogspot.com Larry

    I think I have to agree with C.S. Lewis on this; there are two mistakes one can make when dealing with this subject, on the one hand you can ignore the demonic completely, on the other you can be obsessed with it. I don’t think either extreme is Christian or biblical. Christians should only be obsessed by the person of Jesus, not by demons or other forms of evil. However, ignoring the possibility of spiritual evil runs the risk of also ignoring the reality of spiritual good.

  • Michael Nielsen

    Tony, I differ with you on the fact that demons exist in this world only in the fact that they walk on two legs and were born of woman! Keep going against the flow, friend!

  • http://lisadelay.com/blog Lisa

    I think if you spent time with Christians overseas, you’d change your mind. In places where the gospel is spreading (most of the world, but esp. the global South, East and African continent) a belief in the Living God as active in everyday life and the reality of spiritual forces is overwhelmingly prevailing. I don’t think we can pull the “oh, but WE are so rational and smarter than the rest of the peoples on Earth, for we don’t fall for nonsense,” elitist bit.

    Your “truth” on demons abides in your mind, but it’s excruciatingly narrow-minded, and American/Western.

    or…maybe YOU are a demon, and you’re trying to trick us all.
    oooo Well played, devilman!
    hahahaaa

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  • John

    On the surface of it, demonology doesn’t make sense. It’s illogical. The danger is always ascribing a meaning to that which we don’t know without reason.

    There are many things that Science can’t explain, but using 2000 year old explanations is no solution, either.

    I like that you confine Jesus to an ancient world view. You are totally correct! But what you don’t see is that, in your correctness, you’ve also exposed the canard.

  • http://www.rogerflyer.com roger flyer

    I like Steve’s comment above. Cynicism is one example of a ‘power’, a ‘principality’ that is palpable and gripping.

  • http://www.mdmcmullin.com michael mcmullin

    I really like your blog. This post felt a little condescending and somewhat dismissive of others’ points of view.

    It’s okay, I’ll put the Holy water and anointing oil away for now.

    I agree with Larry (and CS Lewis). It’s not healthy or helpful to be caught up in obsession of either extreme opinion (on many issues) but especially demons.

  • John

    @michael

    Um, if I *really* believed that their were supernatural creatures lurking about whose mission it was to screw with me, you damn well right I would be obsessed with them! I can’t believe that anyone who believes in them could just simply ignore them. Or maybe they really don’t believe in them, but sorta do because that is what the bible says, after all. And then that is what you end up with: a disconnect between reason and religion. Which is not ideal, to say the least.

  • http://www.davidopderbeck.com dopderbeck

    I believe there are spiritual powers — “demons” — for a variety of reasons: scripture, tradition, and experience, and even, I would argue, reason. Christ’s victory over sin and death doesn’t make much sense without real spiritual powers in opposition that are dethroned and defeated.

    But none of this means that I have to accept uncritically all the crazy excesses you’ve mentioned or the really, really, really bad, dualistic, Gnostic-like theology that so often accompanies spiritual warfare practices.
    (And the fact that I don’t have to accept them uncritically, in turn, doesn’t mean that I have to simply dismiss them skeptically).

    It’s a bit messy and uncomfortable; let it be a bit messy and uncomfortable while remaining sober (in the C.S. Lewis Skrewtape tradition others have mentioned).

  • http://www.davidopderbeck.com dopderbeck

    @John: the reason we don’t need to obsess is because of the absolute victory of the cross of Christ.

  • http://www.mdmcmullin.com michael mcmullin

    hey John – not sure if you’re referring to my comment or the other michael.

    I didn’t really share what my view on the subject was. Simply that I felt the post was little condescending to those who might believe in some form of a demonic presence in the world.

    I don’t think it’s an all or nothing scenario here. There are multiple points along the spectrum as far as what type of activity with which demons would be involved. Some would agree that many situations in the ancient world would be viewed differently now (i.e. mental illness). That doesn’t negate the idea that there might be other “powers” at play in the world.

    I think those who react with obsession to trying to understand demonology, do so out of fear. Regardless, of your view, I don’t think Christ wants us to live in fear of any earthly power (political, demonic, etc).

  • http://jonathanbrink.com Jonathan Brink

    Tony, Gene Wilder once said, “I never thought of it as God. I didn’t know what to call it. I don’t believe in devils, but demons I do because everyone at one time or another has some kind of a demon, even if you call it by another name, that drives them.”

    The problem seems to me that it is easy to simply ascribing human problems to mental or chemical issues, which some are. I don’t doubt that what is happening deeply affects the body. But like many have suggested to ignore it seems to miss something else altogether.

    I like how the Buddha suggests (and I would suggest Jesus goes there too with, “Come follow me.”) that experience is your ultimate test, over dogma and reason, so I wonder if what you are missing is a very real, tangible experience in a culture that reveals it a lot. All Greg can really give you is reason.

  • http://marginaltheology.wordpress.com Annie

    I was going to make a point similar to Lisa’s. I’ve known a lot of missionaries. They tend to adopt non-Western thinking. They tend to believe in the demonic. But they also tend to talk about it in ways that were different from what I heard growing up fundamentalist or what I heard around my evangelical college.

    I rejected the way evangelicals talked about demons, in the end. I learned a new way, more subtle and complex, from the desert fathers and mothers, material I learned under a professor who was a Christian and a universalist and still utterly convinced of the existence of demonic entities in the world. And she had personal experiences to back it up.

  • Scot Miller

    Because I’m a good monotheist, of course I don’t believe in demons or Satan or any other fictional “spiritual” entities. Following Ockham’s razor (“entities are not to be multiplied without necessity”), there is no necessity for ontological entities like demons to exist.

    I think Augustine is closer to the truth when he says that evil is the privation of goodness (as opposed to the dualistic answers of the Manichees and Zoroastrians who believe that good and evil are in some cosmic conflict.) Or, to use Heideggerian language, “demons” are ontic but not ontological (i.e., the reality of the demonic seems to depend on real ontological entities like human beings for its existence). In short, human beings are sufficient to explain the existence of evil/the demonic in the world.

    It’s sort of funny to me that Evangelical Christians are only now worried about this problem, when theologians and New Testament scholars like Rudolf Bultmann (and others) dealt with this in the first half of the 20th century with demythologizing. The New Testament is expressed in what we would call a mythological world view (a three-storied universe, demons, etc.). We don’t need to accept the mythological world view to grasp the message of the gospel.

  • http://www.robsellitto.com Rob

    While I agree with you with the leg lengthening stuff, I do struggle with the concept of demons. I have seen and experienced things that are a good chance fake, but still a small chance real. I agree that probably much of what was called demon possession in scripture was actually mental illness, but I hope that I am open to the possibility that maybe some of mental illness is a result of something happening on a spiritual realm I can’t comprehend.
    Looking forward to your conversation with Greg Boyd. And maybe sometime you can write a blog about those “preachers” who get “gold dust” to fall on them when they speak.

  • http://quefascinante.blogspot.com Lori

    Can’t wait to hear about your conversation with Greg.

    Or, potentially, the conversations with others who read this post and are willing to share their experiences.

  • http://www.davidopderbeck.com dopderbeck

    @Scot Miller — well if you really want to “follow” Ockham’s Razor in this regard, then you also need to elide humans as well — unless by “good monotheist” you mean you don’t accept the Trinity. Because if God is Trinity, then there was no “need” for humans, as God experienced perfect fellowship among His Triune persons, and the creation of humans was sheer gift. But this parsimonious application of Ockham’s Razor doesn’t allow for any such notions as grace or gift. But here we are.

  • Dan Hauge

    Tony, I really appreciate this post. Even though I don’t completely agree, I value that you’re saying “here’s what I believe, and here’s where I’m coming from.” And I would hope all of us are open to being persuaded otherwise, about whatever we believe.

    I attended a weekend conference a few years ago which included an extended healing service with leg lengthenings (and arm lengthenings–equal opportunity for all limbs here). I did find it odd that no matter what ailment the students came up to the pastor with, the result was a leg or arm lengthening. But I will still more or less sympathetic, or at least open, so I went up for healing myself. I have Type 1 Diabetes.

    The pastor started by saying, “Many physicians say that diabetes can be traced to mis-alignment in the spine.”

    Really.

    Nevertheless, that same pastor, later in the evening, spoke a ‘word of prophecy’ to me that really hit on some things he couldn’t have known, and it spoke to me very deeply. And I saw other students have experiences which, as far as I could tell, looked like genuine vital experiences of God touching them spiritually. And, I have known plenty of people who have actually experienced physical healing. So I grapple with seeing how, in the midst of a lot of leg-lengthenings that looked pretty bogus, God can still move in people’s lives in ways that were at least ‘out of the ordinary’.

  • http://quefascinante.blogspot.com Lori

    Dan, I really appreciate your comments. Your post actually made me think of church services – how often the service itself (or components thereof – i.e. sermons, worship, etc.) feel bogus to the participants, but do connect significantly with some, as well. On a hopeful day, I “believe” in church as a sacramental manifestation of the presence and engagement of God in our world, but quite often I unfortunately view it as cynically as Tony views demons.

  • Scot Miller

    @dopderbeck – I guess my remark about being a “good monotheist” was more facetious than funny, but I do think the Augustinian tradition of Christian theism rejects the ontological reality of demons.

    I don’t think the doctrine of the Trinity should be conceived as tri-theism, but as a dynamism within the Godhead (God as eternally creative, eternally redemptive, eternally sustaining). Hence, I don’t think that there is a problem with creation as an act of love overflowing from the superabundance of the Godhead.

    But let me be clear that I do make a distinction between God and how I think of God. God is not identical to what I think or say (or what anyone can think or say). This means there are better and worse ways of thinking of God, ways that are more or less adequate to express God’s reality.

    For better or worse, I can only think of God in human ways. When I think of God (and demons, etc.) as if they were entities which exist, then it’s still pretty clear that God exists, God is good, and evil is the absence of God. And it’s also pretty clear that as metaphysical, ontological entities, demons are not real (but they do have ontic reality). I do live in the 21st century and accept 21st century scientific assumptions about reality.

    But maybe the real problem is thinking of God like a metaphysical / ontological entity at all. I’m actually more sympathetic to the Dominican Meister Eckhart than the Franciscan Ockham. Eckhart famously said, “I pray God rid me of God.” My concepts and my doctrines and my theology can get in the way of a living, transformative encounter with the lived experience of the divine. Isn’t that what matters?

  • Zuriel Barron

    I’ve found Richard Beck’s series on Demons & The Powers very influential on my view on demons.

    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2009/11/notes-on-demons-powers-part-1-how-are.html

  • http://davidpickett.blogspot.com/ David Pickett

    Agree and like, but what’s a tape recorder?

  • Jay

    Haven’t thought about this in quite some time, It’s strange that growing up in the church the only time you heard or saw demons was at church, and by church I mean the buildings on sunday or wednesday not the actual body as in the people. In my later years it seemed a big part of my ministry (late 1990′s) was dealing with very damaged people who had been told they had demons and even tried to have them exorcised. (Mostly they were goth kids who just really liked wearing black) In my personal experience (not Bible reading) demon hunters have done quite a bit of harm, more so than any demons I know of. Then again Jesus didn’t seem to go looking for them ether. Interesting conversation Tony…

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/carlgregg/ Carl Gregg

    I’m on record as not believing in demons as well (http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Are-Demons-Real?offset=3&max=1). However, instead of Boyd, the smartest person I know who believes in demons is Scott Peck — see his book “Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption.” Looking forward to hearing about your upcoming conversation with Boyd.

  • JoeyS

    Tony, I appreciate your voice and writings. I’m currently finishing up your book on the Didache, which is really great. I hope you don’t find this offensive, but on this subject you remind me of Peter in the movie Hook – you’ve forgotten how to fly. Sometimes one must admit that mystery and, dare I say, fantasy (not sure that is the right word, but we’ll go with it) have a place in faith. I hope Boyd can convince you. My undergrad is in Missions and you exemplify what missiologists refer to as, “The Excluded Middle” – that spiritual realm forgotten or ignored by most westerners.

  • http://www.davidopderbeck.com dopderbeck

    @Scot Miller — Augustine can be read to deny “evil” as an entity — an approach I find compelling — but not, AFAIK, “demons.” Like most of the Fathers, Augustine viewed the pagan gods as demonic beings. Demons in scripture and the tradition are not merely personified “evil.” At various points they are presented as entities with identies and histories — though it’s true that this is inconsistent both in scripture and in various apocryphal writings.

    I agree with you on creation as an act of love overflowing from God’s superabundance. And what this means is that creation is not “necessary.” That creation is “contingent” and not “necessary” is basic to any Trinitarian theology of creation. Therefore, the Ockham’s Razor problem remains — if it’s good for “demons,” it’s good for all of “creation,” including us.

  • http://www.MannsWord.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    There are just too many reasons to NOT believe in the existence of the demonic. Here’s one which I don’t think that others have mentioned. All of the major religions acknowledge their existence. In addition to this, all of the more traditional religions — pagan — also claim to had contact. Those who have grown up in spiritistic cultures tend to marvel at the arrogance of the West in their denial of such.
    http://mannsword.blogspot.com/2011/01/spirit-world-revisited.html

  • http://eyesofhope.wordpress.com/ Theresa Seeber

    Tony! Number one, you only blogged about this because you were looking for an excuse to use that sexy picture at the top. I’m on to you!

    Further, you managed to get people yelling heresy at you? You should be more careful in the future. Wouldn’t want to make a trend of that one.

  • Casey McCollum

    Tony,
    Really good series you’ve got going here – I am really looking fwd to the dialogue with Greg. His writings have sustained me in significant ways, as have yours.

  • Casey McCollum

    Oh, i also want to echo what Richard Beck has done on this topic over at http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2009/11/notes-on-demons-powers-part-1-how-are.html

    I have the privilege of being a co-worker and going to church with Richard and his insights are extremely helpful.

  • http://themourningdovecaws.com Andy D

    Thank you for this confession Tony. I mean, there’s nothing here that actually serves as an argument against the existence of demons, but it is helpful to witness your theological journey in real time and we do envy you for getting to meet all these important figures.

    I believe in demons.

  • http://B-logismos.blogspot.com Jacob

    I do not believe in demons Either. I see it the same way you (Tony) mention above… Where Jesus (or the writers of the gospels) saw demons, I think i would see social disorders today…

    Looking forward to the out come of your gathering with Greg Boyd. I also met him last year at the same event. Very cool guy. I was doing online classes from Liberty University (I know i know) and realized at Big Tent that I was reading one of Gregs books for a class. And yes i was confused why a presenter at big tent would be required (or allowed) reading at liberty.

  • http://theprodigalprophet Charlie Boyd

    In my younger days i was a demon chaser as much as any other charismatic of the time. Now in my 50s I’ve another perception of the ‘demonic’ – I believe it to be the result of Self fragmentation caused by trauma, usually in early childhood. They are little survival personalities within the ego that try to defend us against the pain of non-being. I believe that the unconditional love and empathy of Yeshua for the ‘demoniac’ healed the trauma and thus expelled the ego split.

    If they are separate evil entities how does one explain the following verse: Isaiah 45v 7 which says in Hebrew that God created (out of nothing) good and evil. some modern translations can’t bring themselves to translate the Hebrew word ‘bara’ accurately as it flushes evangelical theology regarding evil down the sacred toilet.

  • Pat Pope

    Tony, what may have happened to you is that you got turned off by the church’s practice re: demons. That can happen on any number of topics and I’ve had it happen to me at different times throughout the years. Often the Church distorts Jesus’ teachings. And yes, I did see what you did (“What I’m saying is that she doesn’t.”), you devil you. :)

  • Paul Glavic

    You and Greg should think about recording/podcasting/live-streaming that talk, so long as you both felt you could be candid in that context. In terms of overlap and difference in your ideas, I think you two make really interesting conversation partners.

  • http://www.turridesign.com Jesse Turri

    Can’t wait for the Jones/Boyd demon discussion! Maybe this should be the main event at the next Emergent Theological Conversation?

  • Sister Marie

    Well it seems to me that the leg-lengthening specialists would be a big hit on college campuses. The basketball coach could invite him in and have him to alternately lengthen the legs of his players. If they could acquire a height advantage, they’d be better rebounders and their overall performance on the court would be greatly enhanced. But this is definitely a task that should not be done half-assed. Imagine the consequence of being interrupted after only one of the legs have been increased!

  • http://theprodigalprophet The Prodigal Prophet

    I practiced the leg lengthening thing back in the 70s and 80s when a charismaniac. Looking back I think it was a bit of a magic party trick that had something to do with muscle relaxation. Amazed that it’s still around!!

  • Scot Miller

    @dopderbeck – I don’t understand metaphysics to be a description of the nature of reality, since I’m pretty sure all we can do is talk about reality as it is meaningful in human consciousness. Metaphysics amounts to asking the meaning of Being and non-being (nothingness). So I take Ockham’s razor not to create some objective metaphysical principle, but as a helpful way of describing how reality is meaningful in human consciousness. Take the simpler explanation, not the most obscure and confusing. It it the case that human beings are purely contingent, but the existence of human beings is not in dispute; hence, although we are not metaphysically necessary, it we are a fact of existence. The belief in demons, on the other hand, does not necessitate the extra-mental existence of some ontological entities. The”demonic” is very real, but it is not the result of “demons.” It can be explained more simply in terms of existing entities (like human beings, who can do terrible things to themselves and to each other). That’s as far as I want to take Ockham’s razor.

    And I have to admit, after I posted my comment about Augustinian theology, I wish I could have re-worded what I said. I’m pretty sure Augustine accepted the existence of demons and angels and other spiritual creatures, too. But I would argue that the Platonic/Neoplatonic/Augustinian/Eckhartian trajectory of thinking would allow for the possibility that demons need not be entities. (In other words, not believing in the ontological reality of demons is not necessarily a heretical position within Christianity.)

  • Scot Miller

    Oops… change “hence, although we are not metaphysically necessary, it we are a fact of existence” to “hence, although we are not metaphysically necessary, our existence is a fact,” (or something grammatically correct….)

  • MattR

    See Walter Wink… great theology and so influential in how I think about the ‘spiritual realm!’ http://www.walterwink.com/index.html

    His trilogy on the Principalities and Powers is classic. Or if you don’t want to wade through all that, just get the one volume summary, ‘The Powers That Be.’

    Too much to explain it all here, but in a nutshell, demons like most envision them, no. I’m convinced most thinking on the subject has more to do with Dante than even Scripture.

    But dark spiritual realities that can oppress humans, yes.

    These are not separate however from the material realm… instead these are the intangible realities that happen when a social system or structure takes on a life of its own, and begins to spin away from justice, peace, and human flourishing, towards human oppression. This = demonic.

  • Daniel Robertson

    Tony,
    I’d love 2 hear ur thoughts on what Phyllis Tickle says about the future of “emergence christianity”. Once I asked her about the role of charismatic/Pentecostal xians in emergent? She said she wasnt sure where the authority/leadership would be but she said she was confident that “the first plank in the line of authority for emergence xianity would be the Pentecostal/charismatic expression” She also said that Pentecostal/charismatic xianity was the one form of xianity that seems 2 be present in almost all other forms & denominations (catholic,baptist,anglican,methodist,etc.). It is also commonly known that charismatic faith is called the “third force” within global xianity. (catholic,protestant

  • Daniel Robertson

    -CONT-

    & charismatic) this “third force” is growing rapidly among the worlds poorest ppl. I think u might be closing yourself off to something that none of us know for sure but I think it’s important not to overlook such a prominent part of our faith. I know u claimed to be “postmodern” in this blog post but u seem EXTREMELY MODERN. I felt like I was reading a completely naturalistic logical positivist. Just because some ppl make believing in demons odd doesn’t mean they don’t exist… Just sayin…

  • http://lemarques.wordpress.com Leandro Marques

    I am not entirely sure whether demons exist or not, honestily. I go forth and back in this regard. Despite my hesitation and lack of conviction, there is one thing I am certain of: it is much less complicated to get rid of the demons of Satan than it is to get rid of the demons of our own souls. That much I know. http://lemarques.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/nossos-demonios/

  • http://intellectualoid.wordpress.com Reader John

    I’m outta here. If this is Evangelicalism today, I’m gladder than ever that I got out.
    I’m not saying that demons are central to the Christian Tradition. But I’m saying there is a tradition, which it behooves one to respect rather than play gleeful provocateur (complete with softcore porn graphics).

  • Michael

    I also couldn’t help but notice how “modern” the rationalistic dismissal of the supernatural was in this post. Parts felt a bit like fundamentalism meets Bultmann. Suddenly “evidence” is a plank in the platform of the emergent?

    A separate point: although Jesus functioned in the historical context of the day does not mean he was ignorant of mental illness or other more 21st century understandings not present in that day. He chose to operate in that context and did so in a way they could understand.

    While listening to someone explain a complex idea in a simple way (e.g. to a child) do we automatically assume that the person is a simpleton and they have no depth of knowledge beyond what we heard? Maybe they simply have the ability to operate effectively within that context.

    Again this all sounded so modern and rationalistic.

  • http://www.alexgamble.blogspot.com Alex Gamble

    I am with you on this Tony.

    Actually, some would say not believing in demons leads to not believing in satan, but for me it was the other way around. I realized after a while that satan, it seems to me, is the name we give our collective brokenness. But I have been surprised in my searching by how hell, demons, and satan are all sort of silent linchpins holding much of Christendom together, and therefore keeping exploration silenced.

    I don’t agree with others that you are being condescending or that you have forgotten how to fly or that you have strayed from Lewisian theology (of which you nor I are fond of in the first place). I think you raise honest, timely questions about the validity of our obsession with misplacing blame onto a faceless darkness.

    Many OCD patients are obsessed with the idea that they are possessed because their seratonin deficiency drives them to mental anguish. They were deemed possessed in the past, but now we know it is merely a deficiency. Or take isolated sleep paralysis. People used to think it was a demon pressing on your chest, but now we know it is caused by the body falling into sleep when the mind stays awake, and it usually occurs after a restless night.

  • http://www.fide-o.com scott

    I was pointed this way by a Facebook link, and tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you seem to happy to say some of the most asinine comments I’ve ever read I don’t really know what to do with it.

    You have a different worldview than Jesus? and you say that like you and Him are both “cool” with that. You also seem to have absolutely know idea the gravity of a statement like “that most of us would see schizophrenia where Jesus saw a legion of demons.” What you are saying is the God in the flesh couldn’t determine the difference a sickness and a demon, but you can. It’s pure flippant snideness. The shear amount of arrogance it would take to even think that statement was ok to write points to a deep rooted problem. The irony is that you labeled the problem yourself and are too arrogant to see the gravity of it when you said “You and Jesus have a different world view.” That’s more true than you realize, and should drive you to repentance. I am confident it won’t.

  • http://openmindedconversations.blogspot.com/ Josh Mueller

    In my own journey on this topic I had almost arrived at Carlton Pearson’s view that most of the so-called demonic manifestations are the result of personal projections and curiously only frequently appearing where the afflicted believed in them. Of course that entire theory could crumble if a certain herd of pigs did go over a cliff, and who am I to say this never happened. So I’d rather be open minded and say: “I don’t know.”

  • J

    I’m a scientist and study the brain, so there is some truth to mental illness or the sort and demon possession. And because of who I am, I need a high dose of empirical evidence for me to believe something.
    I don’t know if this is appropriate for this kind of forum because it seems to be a more intellectual forum than an experiential one, but I thought I’d share my experience when I was 16 years old. I haven’t shared this to anyone except my wife, but this place is anonymous enough for me to just say it.
    Me and two of my immediate family members (sorry, I still feel uncomfortable sharing complete specifics) were coming back from dropping off another family member at a college conference in the evening. I was in the backseat, we were on the Long Island Expressway, and the two were arguing, it was quite animated. The driver was not a Christian, the one sitting in shotgun was, and the argument had to do with the driver’s lack of faith and hatred for the church. It escalated to personal attacks, and the driver said something to the effect that the other was a big fat hypocrite. The other began saying, “I’m not a hypocrite! I’m not a hypocrite!” and repeated that several times. Then all of a sudden out of this person came a deep, freaky voice, that didn’t sound like it could be made by a human in a scary angry language, and the person was hitting herself, bopping up and down. I, like a reflex, started casting the demon out, something i’d never done in my entire life and never since. About 20 seconds later it stopped, the person said, “It’s ok, it’s ok” with their normal voice. I cried and cried, i don’t think i stopped crying for another half hour. No one in the car spoke for the rest of the 45 minute ride. And we never spoke of it again.
    It was a terribly painful incident particularly because I love that person so much, and I sort of felt a betrayal from God for letting it happen. Only recently have I told my wife (I’m 36 now), and recanting this story now still is painful and scary for me.
    I don’t know all the theology behind this incident. I believe God had a plan, that person in the driver seat eventually did become a baptized Christian years later. As for demons, I don’t know what I saw and heard but if that was what Jesus and his disciples experienced and called a demon, then I’d believe it.

  • Robb Blackaby

    If Jesus does not transcend “worldview” then our gospel is in vain.

  • Jim W

    I begin to see the problem. Tony, you’re the Pharisee of our day. You are so smart, so educated, that you refuse to humble yourself and learn from the one true God-the God you mock by your supposed learning and man-made intelligence. You have never learned that the first must last, and that to lead, first you must serve. You’re a Pharisee.

  • John

    @Jim W Might I suggest that you continue to look at the problem, because your conclusion is flawed.
    To start, your first comment is an ad hominem attack, which is never a good beginning for a critique.
    Secondly, I would suggest that one never criticize someone for being too smart, or too educated, because the implication is that, while they are too smart for their own good, the one leveling the critique is even smarter for knowing this. And now they have been hoisted by they own petard. Never a good strategy, in my humble opinion.
    Thirdly, don’t make assumptions, because you know what that makes! Further, it sounds very close to a judgment– and we all know how Jesus felt about those!
    And lastly, you end with another curt, ad hominem, which was already a bad idea when you started out with it.
    What I am trying to tell you is this: while you may disagree with Tony’s view, you really need to re-evaluate how you express your disagreements so that they are constructive, instead of just ignorant.

  • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

    I’ll break my usual weekend silence for a minute to clarify those who think I’m too modern in this post. What I’m doing is actually admitting my bias toward explanations for phenomena that make sense to me. I’m not claiming that scientific rationality is some kind of absolute arbiter of all truth.

    But, of course, I think that my understanding of the phenomena that surround me is relatively better than those of, say, the global south who believe in and have seen the activity of demons. If I thought theirs was a better explanation of said phenomena, I’d believe like they do. But I could be wrong, and so could they.

    I will admit that I am stopped short when I read anecdotes like @J’s comment (53). That’s why I want to talk to Greg Boyd about this stuff. And, yes, if he agrees, I’ll record our conversation and podcast it.

  • http://rahabsattic.wordpress.com/ Daniel Robertson

    Tony,
    First off I want to say thnx 4 commenting, I appreciate ur honesty. Also I would agree w/ J’s comment by saying that too have witnessed unexplained phenomena during the 25+ years that I spent growing up in the Assemblies of God. Being a Pentecostal denom. we witnessed lots of craziness. Now that I don’t attend “church” I look back at that time & some things about it seemed genuine while others were a bit shady. Either way I believe Phylis Tickle was right in her assumption. I think Pentecostals have been at the forefront of things like equality for women, civil rights, placing authority w/ the living holy spirit as opposed to SOLA SCRIPTURA, & believing that God still speaks 2day. These r important things among emergents (which I consider myself a part of) I don’t attend Pentecostal church any more but being a pastor’s son at that type of church I had a crazy front row seat for all the “prophetic, dynamic, trippiness” & overall I am thankful 4 it more than I am suspicious of it. I’ve spent the last 5 years in Bible college & if all I had in my Xian faith was the scripture I would probably left this faith COMPLETELY. Thankfully Pentecostals have lead the way into an EXPERIENTIAL faith while many other Christians were clinging 2 their ancient texts we were in prayer services where women were openly prophecying over men. I think Peter Rollins is a great example of a former charismatic who has shown an emergent way 2 take that energy & transform it into something palpable for ppl outside that camp. Demon possession is a part of many Pentecostals church experience & though it may seem weird I think there’s more below the surface. I really would LOVE to hear ur thoughts on Pentecostals involvement in emergence. Maybe you could talk 2 Phyliss or Greg & do a blog on this topic. I think it will b very important 2 our future as xians struggling 2 emerge. Love ur books. Thanks 4 all ur hard work.

  • Chris

    An anecdote I once heard (and found highly credible).

    A priest who was a scholar of ancient and dead languages had an occasion to visit a small, eastern European (can’t remember which country) village where a woman was purported to be demon-possessed. Upon encountering this woman she did of course exhibit the typical odd behavior that could be interpreted as mental illness. But there was something inexplicable that for this priest, pushed the encounter from one of mental illness to demon possession. That being the fact that the woman would regularly break out in rages of a foreign language no one in the area could identify. As it turned out the priest recognized it as the Etruscan language. A dead language that would be known to virtually no one (especially a peasant woman from an Eastern European country) except a person with scholarly knowledge of said language.
    Granted, this is one of those anecdotes that can be dismissed for lack of substantiation. But I found the story and the teller to be convincing.

  • http://Taddelay.com Tad delay

    Tony,
    I appreciate you putting your perspective out there on demons and cosmology. Here at Fuller, I feel pretty at home among students also on the PhD track. But (at the risk of sounding condescending, which I don’t mean to be) I have felt a lot of consternation for my views among the MAT and MDiv track students. It seems like there is a line drawn in the academic sand where, depending on how high up the academic ladder you intend to climb, it is no longer acceptable to believe in certain things (demons, creationism- neither of which I can hold to). I really do get the feeling that higher education bifurcates what is acceptable.

    I’ve also told people that Boyd is the smartest person I know who believes in demons, so I’m eager to hear what comes of that conversation.

  • Linda

    Too bad many professing Christians do not believe in demons and Satan, the Word of God says they are real.

    Enjoy the song about Satan…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E47YH4i5dQ8

  • http://matt-doyle.livejournal.com Matt Doyle

    As someone who has seen a person close to me struggle from paranoid schizophrenia, I don’t see too much of a contradiction in Jesus’ perception of a demon. As a teacher who employed parable and metaphor, and who communicated to those around him in ways they could understand, labelling such a pernicious and damaging affliction as schizophrenia demonic seems perfectly reasonable to me. Schizophrenics can greatly change in personality, so that the person you knew pre-illness and the person you see in front of you seem to have little but a body in common. And certainly Jesus would have been more than capable of healing mental illness.

    I suppose I am not saying that I definitively believe that ‘Legion’ was a mental illness and not a demon. But I am saying that simply because it was one of the two does not mean it wasn’t also the other. It’s a complex and mysterious world that we live in.

    Also, a quibble: do you mean schizophrenia? Or dissociative identity disorder? While ‘schizophrenia’ as a pop culture term often refers to the two interchangeably, they are very different — while schizophrenics may hear voices and experience complex hallucinations and delusions, they do not lose control of themselves to other distinct alter egos as people with DID seem to (and modern psychologists are often as skeptical about the existence of DID as you are about demons — so it seemed a relevant point, as they might be equally bad explanations for what went on!).

  • http://themourningdovecaws.com Andy D

    This truly is an important discussion here, not least because it transcends the issue of demonology and leads us straight to the issues concerning Bultmann’s project of demythologization, as someone was insightful enough to reference earlier. Though some would herald his approach to Scripture as the modern, objective (read, unprejudiced) way of doing historical study and theology, all it ended up revealing was his own ideological assumptions. As you explore this topic, Tony and others, remember that you may find yourself jumping through hoops as you call into question the authenticity of certain narratives. No doubt you will find much help in textual criticism, but certain narratives such as the plurality of demons who entered the herd of swine do not lend themselves to such a naturalistic paradigm. Unless, of course, one believes there was a herd of pigs nearby who against all odds was suffering from a condition that Jesus was able to traumatically trigger (miraculously?) and have them run off the bank and into the water to their destruction. Or, was Jesus so confused about what was happening in the dynamic between the demon-possessed men? Some good questions to be asking, and I am looking forward to the possibility of hearing your conversation with Greg Boyd.

  • Scot Miller

    The Land of the Gadarenes: Home of the original deviled ham.

  • http://theprodigalprophet The Prodigal Prophet

    Linda

    Are you aware that Satan makes his first appearance in Persian Zoastrianism – a ‘pagan’ religion in the Christian mindset!!!

    Just thought you’d like to know.

  • John

    @Robb Given your assertion, I’m curious: have you ever wondered why Jesus never condemned slavery?

    @Linda I enjoyed the video immensely, although the reason you linked to it puzzles me. I’m pretty sure that it was intended as satire. Was that your intention as well?

  • Jim W

    John, quit talking down to people, you look ignorant. Is that what you meant to say to me? As I said elsewhere, Tony deserves only mockery for his beliefs. He has elevated his supposed intelligence above the Creator of the universe. Yeah, that requires mockery. And while you decry my “tone”, you are just as judgmental towards me-so the shoe does fit on you, too.

  • John

    @Jim W No, Jim that is not what I’m saying to you. I am talking about the process of engaging in constructive dialog. I’m saying that you are not doing it right. If you want to call that judgment, fine. At least I am supporting my assertions. You, however, simply throw about mockery and name-calling without any substance in your reply. All I am suggesting to you is that if you want to engage in this dialog, or any dialog for that matter, you should first consider bringing something of value to the discussion, or not bring anything at all.

  • Keith

    Amazing comment… having a different view of life, of the world, and or of things than Jesus. Let’s rationally carry this idea through to its logical conclusion. Jesus is God. He believes in demons.

    The Bible is God’s word. It distinguishes between things like epilepsy and demons and sickness and demons.

    You Tony doesn’t believe in demons. He sees things differently than Jesus and the Bible.

    If Tony is right, then Tony is God. If Jesus is God, as the Bible says (John 1:1 for beginners, Colossians 2:9; John 8:58), then Tony is wrong.

    If Jesus is not God because the Bible is wrong and Tony is right, Tony is wasting his time and ours writing about theological topics and issues.

    If Tony is wrong on this, and fails to understand who Jesus is and the implications of His deity, then reading Tony is not worthwhile, because he’s wrong at the most basic levels.

    If as Tony implies, Jesus was an undiscerning embicile and the Bible is as unreliable and undiscerning as Jesus, then Tony is wasting our time talking about “theology (theos = God; logos = word/study).”

    I don’t think Jesus is an embicile, undiscerning, or the Bible is mistaken about demons, Satan, etc… I think Tony is the one in error, albeit confidently in error…

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      @Keith(72), it’s spelled imbecile.

  • Mary

    What one person sees as a demon another person, in our post-modern age, may believe is a virus, mental illness, or alcoholism.
    There is evil.
    Sometimes that evil places a person out of that which they would normally do, say, think. Devout friends in the Baptist church have cast doubt on the existence of demons by saying … each person is responsible for their actions and claiming”demon” is simply denying personal responsibility.
    Evil has a character all its own, is palpable, can be seen when it enters a room, settles on people like a black cloak.
    The end result (of faceless evil or demons & Satan) is the same. Separation from the love of God, separation from sanity, etc. The remedy can be an antibiotic or anti-psychotic medication or it can be the healing power of God.
    The supernatural is just that, more than real… more than what we can see… I believe God has all under control whatever name we give to the adversary.
    A little lighter note, see the movie “Fallen”, with Denzel Washington. It is quite a study in how evil moves through people. (How many times have you heard “I don’t know what came over me?)

  • Scot Miller

    @Keith– It may be that you are attributing knowledge to Jesus that even Jesus didn’t have. If you recall Mark 13:32/Matt. 24:36, Jesus said about the coming Son of Man, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” So there’s at least one thing that Jesus didn’t know. And if Jesus didn’t know this, then Jesus wasn’t all knowing, was he?

    Does this mean that Jesus was not divine? No, of course not. To say that Jesus was divine is to affirm that the eternally redemptive activity of God was incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, that encountering Jesus was encountering the human face of God. Whether Jesus of Nazareth (or the writers of the gospels) believed in demons or not is irrelevant to the lived experience of the presence of God in Jesus. (At least Mark and Matthew had no problem with Jesus’ lack of knowledge about the return of the Son of Man.)

    Even if your argument against Tony is deductively valid (and you need a few more explicit premises to make it valid), I don’t think it’s sound because I think some of your premises are mistaken, in particular, that Jesus could be mistaken about demons and not be God incarnate.

    Fortunately, whether someone believes in demons or not is not essential to being a Christian. I find no scripture which explicitly links belief in the demonic to one’s eternal salvation. So we shouldn’t fear this discussion, or condemn someone who disagrees with us.

  • Scott M

    Well Mr Jones if you want blog traffic you’ve certainly found a way to get it. If you don’t believe in demons then you must not believe in the prince of demons. So who did Jesus wrestle with in the wilderness? Or was he he just struggling with his inner (sorry) “demons”? When someone says they don’t share the same worldview as Jesus Christ, or hold to the universally accepted orthodox tenants of the faith; then that person, for all intents and purposes cannot call themselves or be considered a Christian. Consider this “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness he is conceited and understands nothing; but has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words.” I urge you to repent and return to your first love. In Christ, Scott

  • Keith

    Tony,

    Re: Keith(72), it’s spelled imbecile.

    Tony… powerful rebuttal… next time I’ll spell check.

  • Keith

    One must ask the question, if Tony is right and Jesus was mistaken about demons and their existence… then when Jesus said, “Come out of him (her)…” and when the Word of God said that Jesus cast the demon out… well… just what did he cast out? What did He heal them of?

    Do you believe He healed, supernaturally? Or are the miracles just part of story and myth… you know… religious truths but not factual?

    If Jesus was mistaken, not having Tony’s worldview and everything, what came out of those who were misdiagnosed by Jesus? Did Jesus in His ignorance, yet with His “divinity” supernaturally transmit spiritual digitalis… just what?

    What else did those ignorant, supernaturalist scripture writers get wrong… Jesus, too? “I am the way the truth and the life… no one comes to the Father but by me?” Or what about “there is one mediator between God and man… Jesus Christ?”

    Maybe Jesus was divine and not deity? May be all those references to the devil and “evil spirits” are just poor misguided souls with a skewed world view. I’m glad we, with our seminary educations can add our light and enlightenment to those morons, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—-the devil didn’t enter Judas—demons don’t exist… Judas just had a case of poor self-esteem.

    I’m glad we have greater lights like you, Tony, to guide us. It takes great self-confidence to indicate, intimate, or imply that Jesus was less informed and spiritually aware than you, Tony because He believed in demons.

    Your quite right. You do have a different world view than Christ. But, as you grow, you’ll become less like yourself and more like Him—that’s why they call it “progressive sanctification.”

    Think about it and I’ll work on my spelling.

  • CP

    I have always assumed stories such as that of Legion are meant to be read as parables. That seems to be much more enlightening and applicable than to assume these stories are historical accounts.

  • http://B-logismos@blogspot.com Jacob

    To say that one has a different world view than Jesus did, seems like common sense to me. Jesus lived 2,000 years ago. Unless you believe that the sun moves around the earth and at one point stood still then you have a different world view than the bible portrays.

  • Keith

    We are an enlightened bunch. For almost 1900 centuries the accounts of Jesus’ miracles have been understood as “gospel,” er ah… truth. But now, some looking back on them can reclassify them as parables. Of course, parables have a single point and are identified by the writer…

    Does Tony believe in… angels? Or were those who called themselves Gabriel in Daniel and Luke not the same individual. Is Gabriel in Daniel Gabriel in Luke.

    While we are at it… is Jesus divine or deity? You see where this is going… We are more “enlightened” than the mAN Jesus.

    Does Tony believe Jesus got anything else “wrong?” Are we going to eisegete any other ideas into Jesus’ Philippians 2:5 self-limitation…

    Are the miracles true, you know like walking on the water… healing the sick… casting out demons?

    Many of these speculations remind of me C. S. Lewis’ “Great Divorce” where the “theologian” is still working on his paper regarding his speculation that if Jesus would have lived longer His “worldview” would have changed.

    Think about it, brothers and friends… I’m done posting… you are free to speculate… but I would appreciate simple, straight forward answers to the questions I posed about angels, miracles, and Gabriel(s).

  • John

    @Keith Can you honestly look at this text from Matthew and say that Jesus did not get this wrong:
    16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

    But Jesus contradicts Paul! Or Paul contradicts Jesus. Either way, something doesn’t jibe.

    16:28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

    Did Jesus already come and establish his kingdom? And if he already did, in a spiritual sense or something, then why does he need to come again? Again, something stinks in Palestine….

    All of you literalists, take warning: if you live by a literal interpretation of the bible, you will most certainly die by one.

    (And I’m sure you meant “19″ centuries, or 1900 “years”:-)

  • Scott M

    @Scott Miller re Jesus’ lack of knowledge about the return of the Son of Man

    I believe you are confused as to the position Jesus took as a servant speaking only what the Father told him to speak. As a member of the Godhead, Christ IS omniscienct in fact the gospels are replete with examples of this. A reading of Phil 2: 6,7 will clarify.

  • dopderbeck

    When I hear stories like J’s (#53), in all honesty, they scare me. I worry about my own lack of faith, and whether I’m open to being “possessed” myself. And because of that fear, I want to discount those stories, and not believe at all in demons. Yet when I know that my inclinations are being driven by fear — particularly a core fear of mine, the fear that I don’t truly have enough faith — then I know my reasons for taking that direction aren’t good. Better for me to admit that my faith really is pretty weak much of the time, to accept the reality of forces I can’t explain or control, and to trust in the God whose Spirit casts out fear. That’s at least where I settle on this.

  • http://johnvest.com John Vest

    As part of a sermon series on Mark, I’ve recently preached on both demons and miracles and come down pretty much in line with Tony. You can read the sermons here:
    http://johnvest.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/My-Mother-Brothers-and-Sisters…Are-Watching-the-Bears-Packers-Game-1.23.2011.pdf
    http://johnvest.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/A-Finger-Pointing-to-God-1.30.2011.pdf

  • Scot Miller

    @Scott M — Are you claiming that Jesus really KNEW when the Son of Man would return, but just LIED to us about it? Or are you saying that the Father told Jesus to lie to us about his knowledge? (Unlike a mistake or an error, a lie happens when someone knows the truth and deliberately puts a falsehood in its place.) I find that rather implausible, but maybe you’re right. (Of course, that kind of God would best be avoided instead of worshipped, since God could lie to us about the nature of salvation itself…. but I digress…)

    Or maybe you’re using Phil. 2 to mean that when Jesus was incarnate, he temporarily was not God at all, and so really didn’t know (or maybe he forgot) something that he did know before the incarnation and now knows after the resurrection. If that’s your position, then I, a heretic, have a higher Christology than you, because I affirm that the incarnation is the historical event in which the eternally redeeming activity of God became human flesh (which has nothing to do with omniscience or other extra-biblical, philosophical concepts invented centuries after the New Testament was written.)

    As for Phil. 2, I’m not sure it actually speaks to the omniscience of either God or Christ, but it does appear to support my contention (in entry 71 above) that the incarnation means that the eternally redemptive activity of God was made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.

    The fact remains that neither Matthew nor Mark seemed too bent out of shape when they reported that Jesus admitted he didn’t know when the Son of Man would return, and unless you know something that is not in evidence in the text, neither Matthew nor Mark seem to know Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

  • Chris

    @John,

    “All of you literalists, take warning: if you live by a literal interpretation of the bible, you will most certainly die by one.”

    The same could be said of all of you mataphorists. If you reduce every miraculous event to metaphor or primitive cultural lore there is also a cost.

    Regarding the idea that Jesus declared that “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” A possible, and I think sound explanation is the fact that at Jesus’ transfiguration there were those present to whom Jesus was speaking. This would be an in-breaking or foretaste of the Kingdom of God, which has yet to be fully realized, hence the need to come again. Of course if you want to metaphorize the transfiguration as well, then I suppose that changes things.

    An aside. There is some seriously ugly condescension going on at this blog.
    Pointing out grammatical errors or misspellings is juvenile at best and rather pompous to say the least. Is this really the shining example of Godly leadership coming out of the liberal seminaries? Is this how you behave when confronted with people you disagree with? I’m not giving the ad homenims from conservative responders here a pass, but the so-called educated here seem to always want to claim the high road. I’m beginning to think it must be true what they say about PhD students, especially those coming out of the liberal seminaries.

    http://www.mrlocke.net/phd-students-at-princeton-theological-seminary

  • Keith

    John @ 79,

    “All of you literalists, take warning: if you live by a literal interpretation of the bible, you will most certainly die by one.”

    Such harsh language… perhaps figurative all that dying and what? Don’t be so angry… it’s like yelling… it doesn’t make you more persuasive… but indicates a nerve has been touched.

    I’m John curious, where did Paul contradict Jesus? Where did Jesus contradict Paul. How about a few examples?

    I don’t have time, nor is there space, here to deal with your misunderstandings… it appears they are ‘legion;-)”

    However, Paul and Christ, never contradicted one another. As we understand, there are from time to time apparent contradictions, or some texts, that on initial examination, are less clear to us than others. However, the problem is not with the text of Scripture, it’s inspiration, or the non-deity of the Holy Spirit, who moved men to write them… the problem is with us… partly due to the noetic effects of sin and partly due, sometimes, to our lack of care in handling the text—or our presuppositions. However, if we put enough sweat and spade work into the effort, we’ll arrive at the proper understanding. When I’m exegeting a text, one of the safety valves I employ is taking 10 or 15 commentaries and checking my conclusions. The questions you raised about Jesus’ coming, His kingdom… were raised by 19th century liberals… spend some time really thinking through the text…

    Red herrings aside… let’s get back on point. Does Tony believe in angels, since he doesn’t believe in demons? What about Gabriel? What about Jesus’ miracles?

    What does one do with Ephesians 6… that we war not with flesh and blood but spiritual forces?

    Does Tony (do you) believe that Jesus was a good man, a man with a touch of divinity or God in the flesh?

    If Jesus was just a good teacher, or partly clueless, then why bother with him? If, He, as He claimed to be, was God, then perhaps Tony would do well to humble himself before His God and be a little more careful by humbly admitting that, yes, they do have different worldviews and we need to conform ours to the Son of God, God the Son.

    Most of what I’m reading on these posts simply avoids such questions, smacks of Socianism.

  • Keith

    What would Wayne Grudem think about all this, or Don Carson?

    Do they count since they didn’t get their PhD’s Fuller or Princeton—or because they are not “hip?”

    Let’s not assume everyone who differs doesn’t have a PhD… Remember, however, PhD’s as terminal degrees have vary narrow areas of specialization and their work doesn’t make them an expert in all things.

    At the end of the day, we don’t validate (or invalidate) Scripture with our discoveries or opinions. Scripture invalidates or validates ours.

    And if the Scriptures are unreliable, rife with error, who possesses the hubris to be the final arbiter of divine truth? And if Jesus got it wrong… what’s the purpose of this blog… speculation like Aquinas’ “how many angels can dance on the head of a needle (paraphrase)… becomes an exercise in vanity…

    There is one final authority and we are not it. Certainly the Bible is not a science book, but when it speaks to science, it is authoritative. It’s not a history book but when it addresses history it is authoritative.

    We should seek to conform ourselves to the image of Christ rather than to conform Him to our image, elevating ourselves to God-hood and demoting Him to simple humanity.

    I like Sam Harris comment to liberal theologians in “Letter to a Christian Nation.” He tells them he’s not writing to them but to what John labels “literalists.” The liberal theologians already disbelieve but simply haven’t had the candor to admit it. Harris is right. Liberals are Socians not theists. They’ve already given away the store but don’t have the courage, or integrity to admit it.

  • http://taddelay.com tad delay

    i’m beginning to suspect Darius has been reincarnated into Keith, lol

  • Scott M

    @Scott Miller
    Scott I never called you a “heretic” so let’s not muddy the waters with name calling please. I’m just trying to figure out where you’re coming from. You may affirm the incarnation, so do I, but I’m not sure what you mean by the “eternally redeeming activity of God became human flesh” You seem to be well educated. Most of my theological learnin’ is from reading on my own. I understand the incarnation as Jesus the only begotten son of God, a member of the Godhead became flesh to die for our sins (a concept which I hear is not too popular in emergent circles). Without going into a long post about the Trinity, Jesus is not an “activity of God”, He is God. Inasmuch as God the Father is God and God the Holy Spirit is God. All three members are co-equal, co-eternal are one in substance, and share the same attributes, omniscience being just one, however they exist in deference to one another Btw the attributes of God; omniscience, omnipotence, omniprecense are quite biblical.
    Having said all that, the incarnate Son of God was fully God and fully man, the Hypostatic Union. I pointed to Phil2:6,7 in my last post. Jesus being God, humbled himself as a servant, he walked as a man, talked as a man, suffered all the temptations of man etc. and more importantly relied soley on the God the Holy Spirit. As a man the Holy Spirit did not reveal to Jesus the exact time of His return and being dependant on the Holy Spirit Jesus cooperated within the confines of his humanity. So he did not lie. God cannot lie (another attribute). Yet Jesus accepted worship as God and forgave sins, which confirmed his divinity. All that being said the incarnation is a mystery, however the bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God. He is “I Am”.

  • John

    @Chris “The same could be said of all of you mataphorists. If you reduce every miraculous event to metaphor or primitive cultural lore there is also a cost.”

    Really? What cost is that? Relevance to a 21st century world view?

    “Regarding the idea that Jesus declared that “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” A possible, and I think sound explanation is the fact that at Jesus’ transfiguration there were those present to whom Jesus was speaking. This would be an in-breaking or foretaste of the Kingdom of God, which has yet to be fully realized, hence the need to come again. Of course if you want to metaphorize the transfiguration as well, then I suppose that changes things.”

    You are dodging what the text actually says. Classic eisegesis.

  • Matt

    this post= Tony has been too busy with his dissertation and hasn’t gotten any attention since his pro GLBT approval so he is looking to stir the pot and get people commenting on his blog again. He loves the attention… and we play into it. The power of self promotion.

  • John

    @Keith “Such harsh language… perhaps figurative all that dying and what? Don’t be so angry… it’s like yelling… it doesn’t make you more persuasive… but indicates a nerve has been touched.”

    No anger here; it was simply a turn of phrase. But I will admit that I don’t have a lot of respect for literal interpretations of the bible where it is theologically convenient.

    “I’m John curious, where did Paul contradict Jesus? Where did Jesus contradict Paul. How about a few examples?”

    Um, I thought my cite was example enough! Again:

    Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; *and then he shall reward every man according to his works.*

    Contrast that with Romans 3:28 (among other passages)
    “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works”

    But I’m sure that if you put in enough sweat and spade work into the effort, you’ll arrive at the proper understanding– one that somehow erases the contradiction, because you have already made up your mind that there can’t be contradictions in the bible.

    As to all of your other questions: what does it matter what I or Tony believe on other topics? Does it in any way affect what is said on the topic at hand? You say red herrings aside, but yet you are the very one to introduce them!

  • Scott M

    @ John said You are dodging what the text actually says. Classic eisegesis.

    John you’re forgetting classic exegesis: what does the scripture say, what does it mean and most importantly how does it relate to the rest of the Bible. For this particular passage; context, read the whole chapter not just one scripture. And remember the explicit always interprets the implicit. Finally, while we all may have some difficulty with some passages, the Bible never contradicts itself.

  • John

    @Scott M

    So you are saying that if I read the context of these two verses, somehow this will change the meaning of one of them to agree with the other, instead of directly contradicting it, as it does now? Sounds like magic!

    If you come to the bible* with the idea that it never contradicts itself, I don’t think that you will be able to perform proper exegesis.

    *Of course, this all assumes that we are talking about the same bible (manuscript, version, language, etc). Which I’m sure that we are not, because which one is the true BIBLE?

  • http://matt-doyle.livejournal.com Matt Doyle

    The text of the Bible explicitly contradicts itself, many times. Starting with the disparity between Genesis 1 & Genesis 2.

    Now, human interpretation may (or may not) be able to reconcile these contradictions, but I doubt anyone here would disagree that human interpretation of Scripture is fallible — since we’re arguing about what scripture means.

    Now, you’re right to say that a contradiction in text does not necessarily imply error — that there may be a meaning we can understand that would put the textual contradiction in a greater context and unify seemingly disparate statements. But especially if we insist on literal interpretation, then the contradictions are impossible to deny.

  • Scott M

    The text of the Bible explicitly contradicts itself, many times. Starting with the disparity between Genesis 1 & Genesis 2.

    Matt I don’t mean to be rude, but do you even know what a contradiction is? Do you know the law of contradiction? A disparity is not a contradiction. Anyway, I’ve had fun posting however that’s it. There is a clear bias here against the Bible and orthodox Christianity. Lots philosophizing and arguing over words. If your goal is to tear down the Bible and the Faith good luck, it’s been tried. Thousands have gone before you and His Church and His Word are still here. God’s Word will never perish and it is truly illuminated by much study and prayer to born again believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit. If you don’t believe in the Bible and our Lord’s “world view” please don’t try to hijack my faith. Don’t call yourself a “Christian” because your not. Make up your own religion. Because you’re trampling on Jesus’ Blood; God’s Blood that was shed as a ransom for you. If this is “emergent conversation” perhaps you should stop talking amongst yourselves and talk with God. Asking forgiveness would be a good place to start.
    In Christ,
    Scott

  • Michael

    Wow – these comments are getting pretty rough, a lot of theological posturing and exaggerated contempt (I hope it’s exaggerated).

    For what it’s worth, I’m still a fan of Tony and the blog even if we don’t agree on every issue.

    I’m sure it’s difficult not to take some of these comments personally but I think many of them are just hotheads showing off.

  • http://www.postmodernegro.com Anthony Smith

    Hey Tony! For the record I just want to say that I believe in demons.

  • http://B-logismos.blogspot.com Jacob Beaver

    Oh, if Anthony believes in demons then I do to.

  • http://rahabsattic.wordpress.com/ Daniel Robertson

    Wow. Things have gotten heated since I was last here & the half naked, bikini clad, horned & tailed, demon girl picture has been replaced by Jesus & a fallen angel of sorts… Alot has changed. Interesting 2 c the varied opinions on this topic. I haven’t made a definitive decision about demons…or much else for that matter. I grew up being told demons were real & they regularly “casted them out” at church. If demons were real- it wouldn’t shock me. I feel so inadequate to answer a question like that. I feel confident saying there is definitely EVIL in our world. Does it come from us? Demons? Satan? All of the above? Who can say for sure? Maybe one day well know 100%. I’m not so concerned w/ proving anyone here wrong or trying 2 prove that I’m right. Im just glad that some ppl from diff. Xian traditions r talking bout stuff like this. I’ve met a few of the ppl commenting here at the s.e. emergent gathering & during the insurrection tour. Im glad to be a part of this conversation & I hope we can continue the peaceful, respectful dialog. Maybe I have 2 much faith in the “conversation” but I believe we need 2 listen to each other…truly listen.

    In the name of Jesus:
    May NO DEMON (literal or metaphorical) be able to put an end to this conversation!

    Hopefully those of us who want 2 b a part of this generative friendship/conversation will not focus on things we cant prove. I propose we don’t get caught up in defending someone elses “sacred cow” let’s continue to work together in the spirit of unity.

  • http://matt-doyle.livejournal.com Matt Doyle

    Personally, I think this anti-Biblical bias is being displayed by the people who are ignoring the text, rather than embracing it. We might disagree on who that is, however. Scott M, I am a Christian. I have asked God for forgiveness every day of the past fifteen years, though what is between me and God is no business of yours or anyone else’s. I do not have a bias against the Bible. I have no wish to tear it down. I have studied scripture, and I have prayed. There is not an objection you have raised about my Christianity that I cannot confidently meet or deny.

    But asking hard questions about religion, complex questions with ambiguous answers, has always strengthened and never weakened my faith in God. Strong faith is capable of confronting confusion, contradiction, and doubt, where weak faith will turn away from it. If your response to these questions is ad hominem attacks, condemnation, and immediate denial without true consideration of the discussion points being raised, I would ask you to look again, and think not as if you and your beliefs are being attacked, but simply as if you are being asked to confront and come to understand things that have made many faithful people doubt, and many people who do not believe turn away when Christians cannot give them satisfactory answers.

    You are my brother in Christ, and I hope that I am yours as well.

  • http://www.postmodernegro.com Anthony Smith

    Many Christians confuse belief in the demonic with a belief in the correct ‘ontology’ of the demonic. Jesus doesn’t give us, nor any text that I know of, the ‘ontology’ of demons. We have guesses as to the constitution and actual ‘being-ness’ of demonic powers. What we do know is that the ‘demonic’ has a certain ‘effect’ to it in our social world. Alot of Jesus’ encounter with the ‘demonic’ in the gospel narrative is connected with larger political, social, and religious forces impinging upon individuals. For example, Legion. Legion is the ‘name’ of the ‘presence’ or ‘thing’ that has captured a man’s soul. We are not given his name. The fact that he is named “Legion’ speaks to the social reality of Jesus’ day. The way political, social, and religious powers, systems, institutions, neighborhoods are setup will determine how or if a community or individuals has turned demonic. The politics of fear that we see growing in our current social climate is coming very dangerous (if not already) close to the demonic. We have already seen a major political figure nearly killed along with actual people being killed. Granted, the individual that pulled the trigger, we know, has mental issues. But there’s a correlation between the ‘way’ a culture organizes itself towards the demonic that leaves people open to become ‘sites’ or ‘agents’ of that particular demonic. Just my two cents on the demonic. So, yes, I believe in demons.

  • Scot Miller

    @Anthony– I’m right with you until your last three sentences. While I agree with you that the demonic is “real,” (i.e., we have experience of horrendous evil in our world that almost has a personality), demons as existing entities are not needed to account for the demonic. As I said earlier, I think it is better to say the demonic is ontic but not ontological (i.e., the reality of the demonic depends upon really existing things, like human beings, as opposed to fictional things, like demons).

    As an analogy, the stock market seems to have a “personality” and a “mind of its own,” and people talk about the stock market as if it were an existing entity. But in realty, there are only individual human beings that exist, and the “personality” of the stock market depends upon those really existing individuals. There is no need to posit the existence of the Stock Market as some existing thing. We just need to think of the reality of the Stock Market as a social construction. In the same way, there is no need for ontological critters called “demons” to explain the demonic. “The demonic” is a theological way of describing the experience of the evil that seems to “possess” individuals and situations and groups.

    So from a theological perspective, I can affirm the reality of the demonic, but from a philosophical or metaphysical perspective, I deny the ontological reality of demons. (As for the anecdotal reports of “possessed” individuals speaking in different languages or uttering inexplicable things, etc., I remain skeptical. Anecdotal reports, while spooky and persuasive to the ones who experienced them firsthand, are still merely anecdotal and do not amount to sufficient evidence for the evidence of demons. I would imagine that if they were studied better, a non-mysterious explanation would suffice.)

  • http://www.postmodernegro.com Anthony Smith

    @Scot. Thanks for responding. I’m with you. I”m not sure of my view of ‘demons’ in a ontological sense. I like the term ‘ontic’ because there is a ‘reality’ to the demonic on the site of an individual’s being or personality or soul. What some deem to be individual ‘demon possession’ I consider to be an individual ‘site’ of these larger forces at work. In the case of legion or the Madoff’s of the world. Madoff was ‘possessed’ by Mammon. Is Mammon a demon critter? I don’t think so either. But apparently he was ‘possessed’ by an ontic reality called Mammon that apparently possesses alot of people on Wall Street and in our broader culture. I agree with you. I don’t know if I believe in demons as little critters hanging out in Harry Potter books. But I do think, as I think ecumenically, that it is good that all parties involved on this thread not become ‘possessed’ with the ontic reality of rage. What would Rage’s name be?

  • http://www.postmodernegro.com Anthony Smith

    @Scott. I’m Pentecostal, so I’ve seen alot of the spooky stuff you are describing at the end of your comment. In my experience I’ve only seen these kinds of phenomenon in the margins of society. Demonstrative displays of the ‘demonic’, in my experience, tends to happen at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder. Which may say something more about our society than it does about the individual displaying spooky-ness. In my own neighborhood and city I’ve seen ‘possessions’ and have actually participated in what some would call ‘exorcism’. But the thing of interest to me is the social location of these realities. I am curious as to why there is a suspicion of such realities the closer one gets to the centers of cultural privilege and more of an embrace and affirmation of these realities as we approach the margins. I’m wondering if there is something wrong on both ends of this spectrum. Suspicion, while it may be legitimate, can be another form of blindness to ‘ontic’ powers that impinge on persons and societies. And uncritical embrace of strange spooky beliefs about the demonic which can blind one to the larger forces at work in persons and society.

    I believe there’s a danger on both ends of this.

  • Scot Miller

    @Anthony — Totally with you now. And I have to say that the way you approach the demonic is far more frightening than believing in little red creatures with horns and pointy tails and pitchforks. Rage, Mammon, etc., are far more difficult to confront, especially since the “larger forces” at work in the world aren’t individual THINGS but social constructs that no one person or thing controls.

  • http://www.postmodernegro.com Anthony Smith

    @Scott. You said:

    “And I have to say that the way you approach the demonic is far more frightening than believing in little red creatures with horns and pointy tails and pitchforks. Rage, Mammon, etc., are far more difficult to confront, especially since the “larger forces” at work in the world aren’t individual THINGS but social constructs that no one person or thing controls.”

    Agreed. It is scarier isn’t it? That’s why there’s something about that basic confession Jesus is Lord and not Caesar that is both terrifying and awe-inspiring. Our frail human souls cannot confront, in their own powers, these larger forces, even if displayed on the site of an individual person. That’s Jesus said some can only ‘come out’ by prayer and fasting in the name of Jesus.

  • Scot Miller

    @Anthony– Brilliant (104)! I have a lot to learn from you.

  • http://B-logismos@blogspot.com Jacob

    Anthony, Great insight on this subject. Also, liked our discussion last night on the world view of Jesus. Of course we have a different world view than Jesus did. I dare say most of us posting on this blog would be considered wealthy, privileged, and safe living within the wealthiest nations in history while Jesus was a “wandering” Jewish Rabbi living under one of the most oppressive systems in history. (yes I am stealing all of this from you, thanks).

  • Bill

    @ John

    “Really? What cost is that? Relevance to a 21st century world view?”

    Since you can’t seem to think of any I guess there would be just no cost at all. You might want to consider this one from Marcus Borg.

    “the primary limitation of a metaphorical approach is the danger that the imagination will roam too freely,” He also states “if an interpretation makes sense to nobody other than the individual who offers it, it is unlikely to have any meaningful significance”.

    There are others even more serious that you might want to consider, but it might require you to just step outside yourself and drop your fundamentalism for a minute.

  • John

    @Bill Well, trust me on this one Bill, I am no fundamentalist! Further, I believe that we cannot let our imaginations run freely enough, because no matter how much theology we can conjure, it ultimately won’t even remotely resemble the truth. Any other assertion is pure vanity and/or dishonesty.

  • Bill

    @John.

    “Any other assertion is pure vanity and/or dishonesty.”

    Apparently you are a literalist because my use of the term “fundamentalist” was metaphorical.
    Fundamentalism comes in many flavors. The kind of fundamentalism I was referring to was the kind that says: Anyone that asserts anything other than what I assert is either purely vain or a liar.

  • John

    lolz Okay, Bill. Whatever. Literally. When I hear someone say, “my use of the term ‘fundamentalist’ was metaphorical,” my head explodes.

    My initial admonishment to literalists who believe in demons only because the bible says there are demons (ergo, demons must exist) was saying that they must deal with all OTHER passages literally as well (in order to be consistent). I cited two examples of literal inconsistencies which require some theological dancing about to reconcile. Otherwise, they stand in condraction to each other. And nobody likes that in the bible!

    Further, my assertion, “Any other assertion is pure vanity and/or dishonesty” (thanks, BTW, for lifting my quotation cleanly out of context!) applies to my previous statement, which in essence means that the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. If you want to call that kind of assertion a “flavor” of fundamentalism, so be it. I couldn’t care less, because it doesn’t even make sense to me. Whatever. I call it more along the lines of logic and reason. And I still hold to the assertion that if anyone claims to KNOW anything about the infinite, he/she is either vain, dishonest, or both.

  • Mac

    I took a class on spiritual warfare with Greg Boyd while attending Bethel. I think you’ll be convinced.

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  • http://www.lightbygrace.com Helen Ann

    I respect your honesty, and your willingness to be open to being convinced otherwise on this topic. I admit to not having any certain answers to it, though I have seen what I have seen and therefore I do not dismiss demons as being fiction or a pre-enlightened understanding of things. Still, really, who knows for sure? Most demonology and deliverance training comes from experiences and not solid Biblical teaching – the Bible does not give step by step instruction on how to deal with a demonized person – Jesus usually just said ‘you, demon, leave’ and it did (or begged to be allowed to possess pigs instead). No mention of being sure to get its name, use oil or holy water, to make sure there is only one main deliverance minister, to know what ‘open doors’ allow demons access, etc. That has all developed over time by people engaging in this kind of ministry.

    The one thing that I disagree with is your comment that Jesus would have called schizophrenia a demon. This is a question I have asked myself in the past. And this was what I discovered..In Mark 4:24 it states:

    24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.

    Clearly seizures (a common manifestation of demons) were understood to come from physical illness as well as from spiritual issues and Jesus knew the difference. Also, unless you see most of these stories as being just stories (or exaggerated stories retold with added drama to prove a point), how would the mental illness from the “Legion” story move into the herd of pigs? I never knew schizophrenia or epilepsy to be contagious…So I ask myself, did Jesus himself transfer a mental or physical illness from man to pig to keep people believing in demons? I don’t see that as a plausible answer since Jesus clearly taught that truth was important…So I have concluded that Jesus did know that not all manifestations came from demons and he knew when he was healing the sick and when he was casting out demons. Did he and the rest of society clearly understand the multi-faceted world of mental illness? Maybe not, but I am fairly certain Jesus was not working deliverance out of ignorance.

  • http://www.lightbygrace.com Helen Ann

    @Mac – Bethel rocks! I helped bring the Sozo ministry here to my local Vineyard church…Great stuff…I’d like to visit there sometime…I’d also like to have heard Greg’s thoughts on the warfare issue.

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  • Ben

    I know that this blog post is very old and the last comment was left months ago, but in reading through all the comments I began to wonder…

    Since the incident of the exorcism concerning the pigs keeps coming up in the discussion and seems to be one of the most difficult to reconcile from a non-fundamentalist demonology…does nobody take seriously Richard Horsley’s (and others) suggestion that the incident only makes sense when framed in an anti-imperial narrative against Rome?

    The demon self identifies as “legion” which was obviously a common name for a division of Roman soldiers.

    The demons were the “occupying force”…a hostile enemy occupying a place that isn’t rightfully theirs–which speaks to the hostile occupation of the ever-widening Roman empire which leveraged debt policies to make ancestral land owners tenant sharecroppers on the land they used to own.

    The demons were “cast out” into pigs which were a ritually unclean animal under Jewish law.

    The pigs charge (military term) into the sea, which not only suggests that the Romans ought to go back from whence they came (from across the mediterranean) but also fits well into the Jewish liberation story of the Exodus, where the enemy of God’s people were drowned in the sea.

    When I first heard this explanation, it made perfect sense to imagine how a Jewish peasant suffering under oppressive rule would have understood the exorcism as an anti-imperial parable.

    Another case where factuality might have very little to do with the truth, especially in the historical context of Jesus’ day.

  • Isaac Mendoza

    very interesting opinionated blog. Its OK to not believe in all the demons and legs growing out, but I encourage you to go with an open heart and spirit to meet with Greg Boyd, you’ll learn a lot. I have seen legs grow out, tumors dissolve, cancer healed, etc. God is God, we can never put a limit on His authority and love.

  • Joel

    Hey Tony, admire your conviction. I stand with you when it comes to the irrevelance of demons in our daily life. The Spirit of Love will always cast out demons/darkness. I believe in demons not just out of “sensing that there are demons” (which is primarily why I do), but also because demons are a pivotal step away from Calvinism. Let me explain. In the old testament, most all the Jews were sovereignty to the extreme, so that God made this happen, God made that happen and so on. What Jesus did in the Gospels is show that God is not the only one in the picture. Demons are a kind of scapegoat for why the world isn’t more good. This also allows us not to blame humans for everything that is wrong avoiding total depravity, anthropological viewpoints. It allows for God not to be totally blamed for all things wrong. It allows for people not to be blamed for all things wrong. Belief in demons still doesn’t have to give up the possibility that natural disasters are chance occurances of a “fixed laws of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25), but demons in the theology of Jesus provided a way out of a Calvinistic view of God’s “mysterious” sovereignty which brings good out of a hurricane that destroys cities and lives. Something to think about.

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  • Lucy

    Speaking as someone who’s had a mental illness and been a Christian for over 10 years, I wanted to comment that I found it extremely damaging to view the symptoms I had as being linked to the demonic. It is only now in my mid-forties that I am getting some recovery after realising the connection between them and abuse and neglect in my childhood. Hearing voices and psychosis can be caused by trauma.

  • Worthless Beast

    *Shrug* – About time I found someone who seems to think along the same lines about the subject as I do without sneering at the “poor superstitious fools” of the Bible. People who outright dismiss the things of the Bible will often point to “Demons! Ha!” and… uh… I kind of would love to remind the world that the people back then didn’t have the knowledge and framing devices that we take for granted – such as psychology and nueroscience.

    Long ago, when I still went to church, my old church had, for a while, a very Fundamentalist spiritual-warfare type pastor. He flat out said he “didn’t believe in mental illness.” I am glad I lost contact with this person long ago, because some of the panic attacks I’ve suffered influenced by my bipolar disorder would probably inspire that man to try to exorcise me, even though even during the height of one, I know I’m the only one inside my head. I met a schitzophrenic once, one in a bad state as I met her at a suicide-prevention inpatient clinic. For her… her demons were real because she was shouting at them to leave her alone. Of course, we frame that all as issues with the brain now, but ancient people did not have that theory.

    And people who demand modernity from Jesus? Oh, don’t get me started! I’m sorry, misothiests of the world, but I’m pretty sure if Jesus tried to give the people of his time Germ Theory he would have been hung up quicker than he was. This brings me to another idea I have: That God maybe does a lot of “A form you are comfortable with” regarding people. Maybe amazing miracles happen in faroff lands because that’s what the people really need and what they believe in. For us in the developed world, on the other hand, we need something more along the lines of discoveries in science and the slow path of study and scientific inspiration eureka! moments where it looks like “God” isn’t working at all in order to preform or miracles.

    I don’t know. I just think the idea that “demons are really mental issues that ancient people didn’t have any other framing device for” is excessively plausible.

  • Alice McGregor

    I read a book called “This Present Darkness” back in the late 1980s when I was part of a charismatic housechurch, which purported the existence and power of territorial spirits (and also stated that meditation, esp transcendental meditation was actually being filled, not with a divine light, but with a demon. Nasty stuf, but as i was 13/4 at the time, hard to unpick. I did so and returned to my parents less radical (but still fear based) church. I then went on an evangelistic camp at 17 and ended up with a group I knew nothing about, called Horizons, in France, who approached evangelism with the territorial spirits approach (binding satan; praying against the demon of madonna/jezebal who ruled France as it was well known for being a feminist country) and told me to be wary of the demonic influences in English Lit and in Biblical Studies, both of which I was to study at university. In my heart I new this was wrong, but I was young so found such authority hard to resist. It caused me to have a mini breakdown that lasted several months and resulted in the break up of my first love affair. I moved on from this and into various Anglican Churches and became largely liberal in my approach to theology. 17 years later, at 35, I had a psychotic breakdown, triggered by many factors, and involving many beliefs, but not only was I prevented from killing myself, not by belief that suicide is a sin, but by the belief that I was somehow so tainted I would go to hell but also in some part of me felt I was suffused by the devil. I thought this proved me crazy but realise now it was a logical progression from what I was taught in my youth. I have only recently been able to fully understand this, and that I could not previously, deep down, see God as loving and good as the logical conclusion of territorial spirits leads to a belief that the Devil is so powerful that he is effectively God. And indeed, if non christians go to hell, as my parents and their church believed, how can, as Julian of Norwich says, “All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”, which I believed in my head, but not my heart.

    The reason for such a long biog, is to demonstrate that not only is demonology wrong it is also spiritually and psychologically destructive and should be challenged on those grounds as well as theological grounds. I imagine there are many people in need of indepth psychological support due to this approach.

  • http://thedemonhuntersociety.webs.com/ Demon Hunter Society

    Interesting, but the Bible clearly shows a defined difference between those that were demon possessed, and those that were merely ill.

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