The Exorcism of Emily Rose - Part 8
Against the backdrop of the film, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” we’ve been looking at what the Bible says concerning demonic activity and in particular whether or not a Christian can be demonized or indwelt by a demonic spirit. I would like now to conclude with several important observations.
(1) In his excellent book, “Three Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare,” Clinton Arnold makes this important comment:
"Although the Epistles do not use the terms demonization or have a demon to describe the experience of a Christian, the concept is nevertheless present. The ideas of demonic inhabitation and control are clearly a part of the biblical teaching on what demons can do to saints. To limit ourselves to the same Greek words that the Gospels use to describe the phenomena of demonic influence could cause us to miss the same concept expressed in different terms. No one, for instance, questions the validity of making disciples as part of the church's mission. Yet the term disciple (mathetes) never appears in the New Testament after the Book of Acts. It would be quite erroneous to conclude that the concept of discipleship died out early in the history of the church. What has happened is that Paul, Peter, John, and other New Testament authors have made use of a variety of other terms to describe the same reality" (92-93).
Of course, the question remains as to whether the texts we have examined thus far support Arnold’s conclusion.
(2) It would seem the debate reduces to the question of the location of demonic spirits relative to the believer, rather than to their influence. In other words, all must concede that Christians can be attacked, tempted, oppressed, devoured, and led into grievous sin. Satan can fill our hearts to lie, he can exploit our anger, he can deceive our minds with false doctrine. The question, then, is this: Does all this take place from outside our minds, spirits, bodies, or could it arise from a demon who is indwelling us?
(3) The NT does not supply an unequivocal, indisputable answer to our question. Nothing precludes the demonization of a believer. Nor does any text explicitly affirm it or provide us with an undeniable example of a believer who was indwelt by a demon.
(4) What practical significance is there to the question? I.e., will the location of the demonic spirit affect how I pray for and minister to the person who is under attack? Will I use different words, different prayers, different texts of Scripture? Thomas White writes,
"Whether a demon buffets me from a mile away, the corner of the room, sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, or clinging to my corruptible flesh, the result is the same" (44).
Is it, in fact, the same? Is it necessary for a demon to be spatially "inside" a person's mind to infuse or to suggest words, thoughts, or for that person to "hear voices" not their own? In the case of Peter (Mt. 16), Satan put the thought into his mind without indwelling him.
People often report "hearing voices" inside their head, not audibly, but ideas, words, images springing into mind involuntarily. They have the sense that the source is not themselves. Must a demon be inside for this to happen? I doubt it.
(5) What place or level of authority should we give to the testimony and experience of other Christians in deciding this issue? I have known a number of people who were most assuredly born again who insist they were both demonized and subsequently delivered. Although “experiences” such as these carry no intrinsic authority, in the absence of explicit biblical evidence they must be given at least some weight in our decision making.
(6) If I were to tell you that a Christian can be demonized, you might be frightened. But if I tell you that a Christian can be hit by a passing car, you don't get scared; you simply take steps to stay out of traffic! You don't walk into the middle of a busy street. You don't live in constant worry or fear simply because it is "possible" to get hit by a car. And if the car jumps the curb and chases after you, one need only run inside the building for protection.
Likewise, if it were possible for a Christian to be demonized, do not be afraid. Rather, follow the steps outlined in Scripture, employ the protection made available by the Holy Spirit, and if you get chased anyway, seek refuge and protection in Christ Jesus!