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I Don't Believe in Demons

As I’ve been writing the posts exploring the possibility of Christian universalism, it’s become clear to me once again that I have a pretty different worldview from Jesus.  Had I lived in his time, I’m quite sure that our worldviews would have been more similar, but a lot of water has passed over the dam since Jesus’ day, and it’s sometimes difficult to build a bridge back there.

I also — no surprise here — hold a different worldview than some of this blog’s readers.  Like about demons, for instance.  I mentioned in yesterday’s post that most of us would see schizophrenia where Jesus saw a legion of demons.  That discomfited a couple readers, and caused a couple more to shout, “Heresy!”

At different points in my life, I’ve been surrounded by folks who were real into demons and demonology.  It first happened when I was in Campus Crusade at Dartmouth.  Then, much to my surprise, I arrived at Fuller Seminary when it was the hotbed of demon-talk.  To the chagrin of the faculty in the School of Theology, two professors in the School of World Mission — C. Peter Wagner and Chuck Kraft — were leading the charge.  Their classes would often turn into spontaneous healing services.  They often, it seemed, lengthened people’s legs.  And they told stories of demon possession and resurrections in far off lands.  I distinctly remember one student playing me a tape on his tape recorder of an exorcism.

Once, while I was at Fuller, I went to a weekend seminar that one or both of them did at a local church.  I can’t remember too many of the details, but I do remember that there was a large map of Los Angeles County on the wall, and it had been marked with the “territorial demons” that ruled over different parts of L.A.  I found it laughable, and I left at the first break.

Then, when I was a pastor, I watched a contingent from my church travel to Argentina where they participated in massive healing rallies put on by a group called Harvest Evangelism.  They returned having seen — you guessed it — leg lengthenings.  And other stuff.  But in any case, they were quickly disaffected with how coolly they were received by the rest of their home congregation, and most of them left the church shortly thereafter in search of a “Spirit-filled” church.

I write all this by way of confession.  I’m not saying that my particular mix of rationalism and postmodern cynicism is the best worldview around.  I’m just saying it is what it is.  It’s what I hold to.  I don’t buy the leg-lengthening or the demonology.  What I’m not saying is that God could not work in this way.  What I’m saying is that she doesn’t.  (See what I did there?) 🙂

I hope I’m open to being persuaded otherwise.  Not that I want to be, just that I hope that my hermeneutical horizon is not closed to other possibilities.

To that end, I’m going to be getting together with Greg Boyd later this winter.  He’s the smartest person I know who believes in demons and spiritual warfare and the like.  When I saw him at a conference last fall, we had a great time together, as we always do.  And I said to him, “Sometime you’ve got to tell me how you’re Mr. Open Theist, etc., but you still believe in spiritual warfare.”

“Give me two hours” he said with a smile, “And I’ll convince you.”

So, once the dissertation is in the can, I’m going to take him up on that offer.  I’ll be sure and broadcast the results of his attempt at persuading me here.

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