"Demon Possession and the Christian"
By C. Fred Dickason
The following is the first of three chapters from the book "Demon Possession and the Christian" by C. Fred Dickason. It is published in the UK by Crossway Books, Eastbourne. (ISBN number 1-85684-015-8.) C. Fred Dickason is the Chairman of the theology department at Moody Bible Institute and the author of "Angels: Elect and Evil". These chapters are offered as research into the subject. They must not be copied, republished, recirculated or stored in any manner, either electronic or on paper. I encourage you to buy the book, as it is useful as a whole in studying this subject.
Having considered some necessary preliminary questions, we now turn to the major considerations we must treat to answer the question, Can genuine believers be demonized? Here we will consider three lines of evidence: biblical, theological, and clinical.
Before we actually look at the biblical evidence, we must clarify how we should approach it. This involves our presuppositions regarding Scripture, proper hermeneutics, and the logic of proof and disproof.
PRESUPPOSITIONS REGARDING SCRIPTURE
Everyone has certain basic concepts of the Bible, but they do not all agree. We must define some of these so that we may have common understanding as to the approach taken here.
In approaching biblical evidence on this question, we want to make clear that the Scriptures are considered the revealed word of God with final authority. We refer to the Old and New Testaments contained in the sixty-six books of canonical writings. There are good reasons for this stance, which many readers know. We want to mention a few (1)
The claims of Scripture. There is no doubt that the Bible claims authority from God. The Old Testament prophets pro-claimed 3,808 times, "Thus says the Lord." (2) They knew they were delivering the message of God to men. In many instances, prophets recognized the authority of other prophets, as Daniel did concerning Jeremiah (Dan. 9:2-3). The unity and harmony of the Bible, written over a period of about 1,600 years by forty different authors in various cultural settings, testifies to the fact that God was superintending the process.
The New Testament continues the same claims. Paul writes that all Scripture Is God-breathed and authoritative (2 Tim. 3:16). This agrees with Peter (2 Pet. 1:19-21) and with John (1 John 1:1-5; Rev 1:1-2). We must pay attention to its authoritative message.
The statements of Christ. The Son of God had the highest confidence in Scripture as God's authoritative word. He constantly relied upon it, whether with friends or opponents (John 5:39; 10:34-35). In facing Satan himself, the Lord resisted him with confidence that every word of Scripture came from God as the ultimate source (Matt. 4:4). He held that Scripture was sure and inviolable (John 10:35) and that it must be fulfilled in detail, down to the smallest letter and part of a letter (Matt.5:18).
Such confidence of the risen Savior should also be ours as we come to the Bible. We may regard the Bible as totally inspired in all parts and details and as inerrant. It is thoroughly reliable in all its statements and is the only proper guide to doctrine and life.
We cannot put on the same level of authority any church dogma or creed or any human opinion, conviction, experience, or bias. Reason and emotion cannot rule over God's Word.
Revelation and Inspiration
Revelation. The Bible claims to be a revelation from God. It discloses the truth of God, which men could not otherwise know (1 Cor. 2:9-11). Peter warns that we should heed the scripture even more than one utterance from heaven because no prophetic utterance of Scripture ever came into being by human origination; for the prophets were not self-starters. Instead they spoke only as they were carried along in the process by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:16-21).
Inspiration The Bible claims to be inspired by God. God superintended its authors so that, writing in their own language and style, they composed without error their records in the original languages (1 Cor. 2:12-13; 2 Tim. 3:16). The source of the Scriptures is God; they are God-breathed" (theopneustos), the product of God's creative and superintending work. This includes all Scripture (pasa graphe) without exception. The purpose of God's granting us the Bible is that we may know the truth (doctrine) and be conformed to the truth in practice. The product in view is that Christians may be personally mature and be completely outfitted to have a profitable ministry (2 Tim 3:17).
Hermeneutics deals with the science and art of interpretation. It forms the basis on which we derive meaning from the written Word of God. Everyone has some system of interpretation, whether it is formal or informal; but not all approaches are equally valid. We will take an approach that is widely held by those who regard the Bible as God's Word.
We shall take the approach to interpretation described as literal, cultural, critical. (3) Literal means we take the words and elements in their normally understood meaning, not seeming to read in some hidden or mystical concept. By cultural we mean that all must be understood in the history and culture of the day in which the author wrote. We are not to strip the terms down to match our peculiar worldview and culture, but we must understand the mind-set and historical setting of the author and the meaning understood by the original writers and readers. The term critical indicates that we must submit our interpretation to evaluation from the pertinent evidence, whether from the Bible or from external sources. The interpretation we assign, then, must fit harmoniously with the context and with the rest of the Bible and its setting.
In harmony with the above system, we should then consider the evidence presented in the Bible before coming to conclusions. We should not eisegeteor read into God's word what we might want the passage to say instead we should exegeteor lead out the meaning as far as we are able to determine the author's intent.
To do this we must consider key factors that are common to any proper interpretation. Words must he considered In their etymology and usage along with their synonyms. We must notice the details of grammar,which involves the parts of speech and their connections. This governs the logic and emphasis of the words in their setting. Contextis a major consideration. The immediate context presents connections and flow of thought. The book with its purpose and development of theme must be taken into account. The whole testament and then the Bible in total must be used to see that setting. Then the context of the historical, cultural setting puts things in proper perspective. Another key factor is the matter of cross-reference.Here we do not mean passages that have a mere appearance of speaking to the same topic, but we mean genuine parallel passages where the same topic is treated and the words are used In similar connotations.
All of this is to guide us as we consider the evidence for any interpretation and to guard us from presumption and precipitous conclusions. We have a responsibility to God and to God's people in Interpreting and teaching His word. Personal or group positions should not allow us to slant or twist the Scriptures. The honor of God and the good of man is at stake.
To illustrate the importance of choosing a consistent system and method of interpretation in the matter of Satan and demon oppression of believers, consider the difference of opinion on the binding of Satan. Revelation 20 says that Christ has Satan bound during the millennial kingdom. If we were to understand the millennial kingdom In the allegorical sense, such as does the amillennialist, then the kingdom would be now-spiritual and In effect between the first and second comings of Christ.
Since Christ now reigns from heaven over the church, there would be no future thousand-year kingdom. In that case, Satan would now be bound in some serious sense and could not seriously affect the Christian.
On the other hand, if we are to take the picture in Revelation 19-20 in normal fashion, it is only upon the Second Coming of Christ to earth, when He defeats His enemies and sets up His kingdom, that Satan (and demons) are bound. This fits the normal use of the terms, the sequence of events in the passage, and agrees with the parallel passage in Matthew (24:15-31 and 25:31A6), not to mention the hopes of the Old 'Testament and gospels of the Messiah's ruling in righteousness upon the earth over a restored nation of Israel. In this case Satan is now free and actively continues his destructive work with all men, saved and unsaved, and we must be presently on guard (1 Pet. 5: 8-10).
THE LOGIC OF PROOF
Human logic is a good tool if properly used and governed by the word of God, but it cannot take precedence or even equal position with the Scriptures and their proper interpretation. We will discuss this further in chapter 9, where clinical considerations in determining the possibility of the demonization of Christians require that we consider the place of reason and experience.
Nature of Proof
The concept of proof is actually the adducing of evidence for support of a particular statement. Proof may take various forms and may be of varying degrees of strength. Proof does not always mean that a definite and accurate conclusion has been reached. That depends upon the accuracy and completeness of the facts and the proper logical handling of the information.
Approach to Proof
Inductive method This approach starts with the particulars and moves toward a general statement as conclusion. This fits the concept of the scientific method of investigation of facts, classification of facts, organization of information, presentation of conclusions, and evaluation. This is also the way to build a biblical doctrine.
Deductive method Starting with a generally accepted or previously proved general statement, this approach moves toward a statement regarding a particular. A form of this approach is the syllogism, a three-part series of related statements. This form includes a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion drawn from the two premises. Here proper statement and definition of terms is Important. We might illustrate in this manner:
1. Angels are limited in time and space.
2. Demons are fallen angels.
3. Therefore demons are limited in time and space.
Problems of Proof
Argument for a positive statement. To support a positive assertion there must be sufficient evidence. If varying types of known evidences agree and contrary statements have been properly rejected, then there is a good measure of support. The validity of the conclusion depends upon the weight of the support. We have used this type of argument regarding the reality of Satan and demons in chapter 1.
Argument for a negative statement. Again, as with the positive statement, the validity of a negative argument depends on its support. However, the proof of a universal negative may be more difficult. For instance, to support the fact that a genuine Christian cannot be lost requires a clear universal statement to that effect, or good general support with all contrary statements shown to be false or weak. We have used this type of argument in treating the security of the genuine believer in chapter 3.
When one states that a genuine believer can never be demonized, he must produce a clear statement from the Bible that says so specifically If he does not have such a statement, then he is In a predicament. Now he must produce all the evidence from all sources through all history to show that no Christian under any circumstances has ever been demonized. That is obviously impossible.
We have briefly and informally treated the matters of the authority of Scripture, approach to interpretation, and the use of human logic at the outset because it deals with evaluating the evidence, whether biblical or clinical. Too many who have treated this subject have merely quoted a Bible verse or two, which did not directly or even indirectly deal with demonizatlon, to prove their point. Even some who sought to deal in more depth with the scriptural evidence have strayed beyond proper hermeneutics and logic. Theological arguments on both sides need to be evaluated, for here again, many reason imperfectly. We need more objectivity in approaching this vital issue.FOOTNOTES
(1) For a thorough treatment of the authority, revelation, and inspiration of the Bible, see Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, "A General Introduction To The Bible" (Chicago, Moody 1986)
(2) Ibid. p.69
(3) For further explanation, see Bernard Ramm "Protestant Biblical Interpretation" (Boston, W. A. Wilde 1956)
© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.