Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Can a Christian be Demon-Possessed?

[I am diverging from our John 3:30 theme to answer this question from an email]. First we must recognize that the term "Demon-Possession" is not biblical. The bible simply uses the term 'demonized'. This term is appropriately fluid and can mean everything from tempting, to attacks, to psychological manipulation, to physical control. Obviously, then, Christians can be demonized at some level. Second, to say that a Christian cannot be 'possessed' by a demon because God owns (or 'possesses') them, is to use the term 'possess' in two different senses—one being 'influence' the other being 'ownership'. Third, 1 John 4:4 is often used as a proof-text against Christians being demonized: "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." Contextually, however, this verse is claiming that Christians (plural) will ultimately win the Spiritual battle because Jesus is more powerful than the anti-Christ(s). It does not really address the issue of an individual's struggle with a demon. Fourth, the claim that the Spirit of God indwelling us 'fills' us so completely that there is no room for an evil spirit is to place physical constrictions of our world on spiritual entities. It does not appear that the spirit world operates under the same physics as we do. Thus, the metaphor of 'filled-up-and-out-of-space' is inadequate. Fifth, the common misperception that God will not dwell where sin is (i.e. the Holy Spirit would not inhabit the same physical body as an evil spirit), neglects the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit. If he is everywhere, then how can he not co-exist with evil at some level in this world? Furthermore, since my old man is still quite active, how can he indwell me? Sixth, our Western assumption that life must be fair and that innocent people should not suffer is, at best, counter to reality. One ought not to expect the spirit world to operate under common expectations of Democratic Capitalism and Western 'rights' of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Having said all that, I'll now state my opinion quite clearly. (Please recognize this is my opinion based not primarily on Scripture, which is virtually mute on this question, but on testimony of others and personal observations.) A Christian can be demonized. While it would be virtually impossible for an obedient Christian, steeped in Scripture, worship, and community, to be vulnerable to full demonization (i.e. 'possession'), one could be demonized prior to conversion through occult practices, drugs, sex, or even ancestral pledges by those involved in such things. Baptism promises the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit; it does not necessarily exorcise demons who have a stronghold in a person's life at the time of conversion. This requires renunciation of vows and release of spiritual 'rights' a demon claims on the victim. How such exorcism takes place is a whole other question.

4 Comments:

Blogger stephen said...

Wouldn't the renunciation that you are talking about be taken care of in the traditional baptismal inquiry, which is still practiced in more liturgical traditions? "Do you renounce Satan and all his works?"

I think that if someone who was demonized became a Christian, then they are no longer demonized. I would argue this based off the fact that baptism is a sacrament in which a reality more real than the present is embraced. In this "more real reality" the person dies and is raised again by the Spirit. It seems to me that if someone were to literally die a physical death, that the demon would leave that person. I see no reason why that does not apply to baptism.

Cheers.

October 3, 2007 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger David G. Fish said...

Since Mark is well-versed in how believers in other parts of our globe view the Christian life (re: Politics of Jesus) contrasted with our long-cherished beliefs in the particular sub-culture that is distinctively Ozarkian, based upon the testimony of others and my observations, I will answer affirmatively.

Stephen's comment about the renunciation of Satan as a pre-baptismal confession my help relieve some of the challenges in the prior demonization (or since we are talking about perspectives of those beyond the borders of the U.S., perhaps we should say demonisation) of a convert to Christianity. My experience would say that the act of baptism does not remove all vestiges of demonic activity or pressure in the life of a believer.

Indeed, how such exorcism takes place is a whole other question.

October 3, 2007 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Mark Moore said...

Stephen,

I understand the logic of what you are suggesting. My disagreement is not theological but actual--based upon my experiences in ministry (meager though they may be in this area), I would suggest that a Christian can be demon-possessed. That baptism 'might' or 'should' substitute for exorcism does not mean that it 'does'. I will be interested to hear your experiences in Africa this next year. Often our theoretical theology is mocked by the illogic of lived experience.

October 7, 2007 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...

Mark,

Thanks for the correction. I appreciate it.

Humbly,
Stephen Lawson

December 14, 2007 at 9:53 PM  

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