Tag Archives: possession

Demons: Can We Still Believe in Them?


In 1998, four psychologists interviewed twenty hospitalized psychiatric patients from the Hebei province in China.

Chinese physicians diagnosed these patients as hysterical.

The patients, however, believed their bodies were .

In other words, possessed.

Samples of Spirit Possession

One woman spoke of her dead aunt walking through her house as “a white person, but without a head.”

At times she actually believed the spirit occupied her body.

Another women–a 40-year old peasant women with five children and a Buddhist background–complained of chronic possession (some one suggested by a turtle) in which she blacked out and couldn’t remember the episode.

Here’s the million dollar question: Are these patients really possessed? Or severely psychologically disturbed? Let’s explore.

Dismissing the Doctrine of Demons

In today’s world, belief in demons is usually brushed aside as primitive–in company with elves and a flat earth.

In fact, one of the conclusions from the study above was that individuals who lacked education were more susceptible to folk beliefs.

They also raised the question of “whether the possession experience is a socially sanctioned mechanism that allows individuals in an oppressed social role to act out intolerable socio-psychological conflict.”

Both interesting points. Then this shouldn’t come as a surprise: While possession is a common experience in many cultures, in Western industrialized cultures such experiences are not the norm.

As Christians, then, what are we to do when skepticism about angels and demons is contrary to biblical testimony? Let’s see.

Biblical Testimony to Demons

Satan appears in the first book of the Bible and his activity doesn’t let up until Revelation.

And while demonic activity is somewhat subdued in the Old, the frequency of demonic appearances increases during Jesus’ ministry.

We even have a demonic proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah.

But outside the biblical assumption of demons, we have other reasons to affirm their existence.

  • Science ultimately can’t answer this question. Science seeks to observe and describe natural phenomena. Like it’s inadequacy in answering questions of morality, science isn’t fit to answer the spiritual.
  • Purely natural explanations of evil in this world are not adequate. The horrors of the  or a mother roasting her child in an oven imply a powerful force at work–not a mere chemical imbalance.
  • Learn from the broader sweep of history and culture. When you explore the cultures in Asia, Africa, Haiti and the Pacific Islands, you see a belief in evil spirits is a deep part of their culture. We need to respect that native soft knowledge. They may be on to something our science can’t reach.

In the end, this topic deserves a LOT of sensitivity. We certainly don’t want it to lead to uncritical views on demons. Nor do we want to open the door to bizarre practices of extreme individuals or groups.

Instead, we need to carefully craft a complete view of reality–one that balances both the natural and spiritual.

C. S. Lewis warned in the Screwtape Letters that we can give the topic too little attention–and too much attention. Both are mistakes.

The goal is to seek balance. Let me know what you think.

By the way, got a question you’d like me to answer in a post? Email me.

The Demoniac Proclamation of the Messiah


You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.

Demon possession fascinates me. Perhaps that’s the reason I’m drawn to the story of the .

It’s not a healthy fascination. More likely it’s a weakness.

A bad sift in the broken human mind. Forever drawn to the smoking wreckage alongside the road.

Yet there’s something more potent in this story. That drives the heart of a Christian to it.

The Demon-Possessed Man

You have a man. In broken chains. Who lives among the tombs. Who roams about the mountains.

He shrieks, barks, growls. And gashes himself with stones. Strips saplings of bark. Sleeps under sycamores in pouring rain.

Women toting water jars steer clear. Children heading for the sea taunt and run. And young men tease, fists clenched tightly around driftwood.

All fear him. But Christ.

The Confrontation with Christ

When Jesus and his disciples climbed onto the shore, the demon-possessed man rushes them. He falls to the ground and rivets his eyes on Jesus and asks:

“What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore you by God, do not torment me!”

The man confesses he’s possessed by a legion of demons: “We are many.” Perhaps 4,000. Maybe even 6,000. A legion of Roman soldiers were known to be that large.

But maybe as low as 2,000, since that’s the number of pigs they eventually possess.

What can’t be missed, however, is the immeasurable power of the man–the demons.

Perhaps it rivals the cyclone Jesus just conquered. But in a supernatural sense.

The Real Fascination

Which brings us to the point of the narrative: Who is this that natural storms obey? That vast, supernatural armies cower beneath?

An unregenerate mind fixates on the demon. The suffering. The horror.

The regenerate mind, on the other hand, sees through to the real fascination: Jesus, the Son of God.

The one to whom all thrones, dominions, authorities and powers–whether natural or supernatural–bow down to.


And a Savior with teeth. One worthy of worship. Veneration. And adoration.

So, the question for you is…who do you obey: Your mind? The market? Or the Messiah?

**Part of The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark series.** You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.