It is quite obvious we live in a culture very different from that of the biblical authors. For them, everyday life was filled with interaction with spiritual realities, and their lives revolved around these realities.
We, however, live in modernity — a world of high skepticism, Scientism, and even nihilism. The prevailing worldview isn’t a supernatural one, but a radical worldview of Naturalism.
We’ve grown in the knowledge of our environment, psychology, and medicine, and we understand that environmental issues, psychological trauma, psychiatric illness, and various physical illnesses that were once seen as evidence of demonic activity are in actuality very organic in nature.
With this in mind, should we then worry about demons today?
Are Demons a Reality?
While it is indeed true that we have a better understanding of the world around us and the
frailties of the human condition, none of these scientific breakthroughs has in any way impacted the reality of the supernatural realm and the interaction we all have with it, whether knowingly or
unknowingly, on a daily basis.
In fact, it has helped those of us involved in exorcism ministry to fine-tune our own diagnostic skills when confronted with claims of demonic activity. For example, we’re better able, with the aid of psychologists, psychiatrists, and medical health professionals, to determine what isn’t demonic activity.
Conditions like manic states, Schizophrenia, Geschwind Syndrome, and Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, for example, all manifest certain symptoms that can easily be confused for demonic activity, but under the close examination of mental and medical health professionals prove to be organic and treatable.
It also narrows down the possibilities for demons to evade detection when truly present. This has meant that exorcists have had to gain not only a knowledge of these organic issues but also sharpen their discernment and the tests by which we determine whether demonic activity is really occurring.
How Do We Know?
It will perhaps help my reader understand this if I explain the process that we use to investigate such claims. First, we interview the claimant, looking for a detailed explanation of what they believe themselves to be experiencing.
This interview will then be followed by a requirement to submit to a full psychological and physical examination by the appropriate professionals. If these reveal nothing of an organic nature that would contribute to the perceived activity, then we interview family and friends.
The questions asked can be deeply personal and are designed to detect such things as a penchant for lying, attention-seeking, abuse (sexual, physical, etc.), personal habits, the family dynamic, etc. We also look for independent corroboration of claims, if any can be found.
It is important to note that a belief in demonic activity, as my reader can likely see from the process followed thus far, isn’t an unthinking conclusion in the face of all claims. We believe what Scripture teaches with regard to the reality of demons and their ability to affect man in various ways, but we don't assume, therefore, that all claims are legitimate.
We require a high standard of evidence. What is this evidence? The evidences we look for are very specific and generally difficult to fraudulently produce. For example, in claims of demonic possession, we look for an ability to speak a language or languages that the claimant would have no possible knowledge of.
Usually, these are dead languages. In those rare cases where this ability is manifest, exorcists have seen languages such as Akkadian, ancient Egyptian, Koine Greek, Latin, etc. Such languages are rare to find outside the halls of academia, so to find a 12-year-old child from Corbin, Kentucky speaking Egyptian in a possessed state is certainly a strong indicator of demonic activity.
Another symptom of demonic activity is the exhibition of strength well beyond the physical capabilities of the claimant. There are cases of young girls who, in the possessed state, have been easily able to throw several strong men who attempted to simply calm them.
In one such case, a six-year-old-girl threw a 212-pound man across a room, breaking his arm. Again, this is not a feat accomplished by the average six-year-old girl. Something extraordinary was clearly taking place. These symptoms even extend to the claimant knowing things about others, or of distant events, that they could not possibly have a knowledge of.
A man in a small farming community who was determined to be demonically possessed and was in the midst of an exorcism was reported by the exorcist and others involved in his case to have told them of a car accident a member of his family was in at the very moment he spoke.
Within a half-hour, a phone call was received that indeed the very family member had just been involved in a car accident and had been taken to the hospital. A good guess? Perhaps, but I think most will agree that to mark this down to mere guesswork is a stretch.
As you can see, the standard for evidence is very high, so for skeptics to claim that Christians who believe in demons today are somehow unreasonable or unscientific is quite simply myopic. Demons are very much at work in our world on various levels, including:
- The socio-political, meta-political, and cultural (John 15:18-27).
- The personal (and by extension familial) (Galatians 5:16-26).
Should We Worry?
That said, my answer to the question of whether we should worry about them would be no. At first, this might seem a contradiction to everything I’ve already said, but it really isn’t. We have no need to worry, per se.
Worry is often a state of anxiety over situations we have no power or influence over, which is also a symptom of fear. Christ hasn’t left us without an assurance of victory over demons when we act in faith and in the name of Jesus (2 Timothy 1:7).
When it comes to spiritual warfare, fear and worry shouldn’t be a factor. Every faithful disciple of our Lord has a measure of derived authority over demons (Luke 10:17; Acts 8:4-7), granted by Christ Himself (Luke 10:19-20).
With prayer, the sacraments, and the fellowship and intercession of other disciples, you’ve been given all the tools necessary for success as a combatant in the Church.
So, worry? No. Instead, recognize the reality of the spiritual war around you and resist the Adversary with all your strength, and you will be victorious (James 4:7).
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Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Tiago Bandeira
J. Davila-Ashcraft is an Anglican priest, Theologian, and Apologist, and holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from God’s Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a recognized authority on the topic of exorcism, and in that capacity has contributed to and/or appeared on programming for The National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNN. He is the host of Expedition Truth, a one-hour apologetics radio talk show.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.