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Demons Aren't Real, But People Believe in them Anyway [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

Before I dive in to this week’s response, I just want to say that this series — The Questions That Haunt Christianity — has gone even better than I’d hoped. Over 200 questions have come in, and they are extraordinarily challenging. But, even better, you, the readers of this blog, have been overwhelming in your responses in the comment section. This week, for instance, we’ve already got 90 comments, and most of them are brilliant. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I want to buy you each a beer and talk theology.

With that, I turn to the challenging question put to us by Lee Pendarvis. A recent convert from atheism to Christianity, Lee asks,

Why do Christians continue to believe in the demonic when as far as I have seen, even in today’s multimedia infested world, we have yet to garner any evidence at all other than perhaps some youtube videos or recordings that are not at all remarkable (someone shouting curses in a gruff voice etc.)?

Lee thinks that demon possession belongs in the realm of UFOs and Big Foot, and I have to say that I agree with him.

When I watch one of the YouTube videos that Lee mentions, I think, This is either a hoax or someone is being taken advantage of. But then I read a comment like Joey’s, which seems to be written by a reasonable skeptic — in other words, my brother-in-arms — and I’m stopped short. I don’t know quite what to make of it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that at this point in my theological career, I can best be described as a “Christian materialist.” I don’t mean exactly what my friend Kevin Corcoran means when he uses this term. He’s talking about the relationship between the body and the “soul.” Inasmuch as I understand his argument, he parallels my mentor Nancey Murphy, who holds to “non-reductive physicalism.” In short, we are constituted by our organic, physical bodies, but we are not totally circumscribed by them.

I’m with them in that, but I want to expand the definition of Christian Materialism beyond the human body to the cosmos. That is, what is materially present in the cosmos is what we can talk about. It’s all we know that we have, so it’s our only basis for argument and explanation of what is happening around us. As a theologian, I am interested in what we can see and sense and even measure.

That may seem odd, because theology is ultimately reflection on the Divine, which we (supposedly) can neither see nor touch nor measure. (But that’s not the gist of Lee’s question, so we’ll save that for another day.) But, as I’ve written before, my skepticism is not limited to demons. I’m also dubious about glossolalia (speaking in tongues), miraculous healings (today; I’m not skeptical of Jesus’ ability to heal), and the like.

Most of my fellow Christians will disagree with me on this, and I take that seriously. In fact, I think that any time someone takes a position that is in the minority of historic Christian orthodoxy, as I have with homosexuality and demonology, the burden of proof is one the one in the minority. That’s why the burden of proof is on Mormons to show that their religion should be considered Christian; it’s why the burden of proof is on the Amish that retreating from society is consonant with the gospel; and it’s why the burden of proof was on me when I stated that I Don’t Believe in Demons.

But your question isn’t about the existence of demons. It’s about why Christians persist in believing in them in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

The first reason is that the Bible does talk about demons. Not a lot, but enough to get our attention. And Jesus dealt with demons, which means that we’ve got to take it seriously:

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.

Let’s be clear, Jesus did not teach about demons (John 8: 42-47 is not a teaching on demonology). He didn’t deliver a section in the Sermon on the Mount about what demons are or how they operate. Instead, we have stories of Jesus’ interaction with demons as recorded by the Gospel writers, and that’s quite different than if Jesus himself had spoken up to clarify the issue.

But nevertheless, the Gospel writers unflinchingly record details of demonic activity and of Jesus’ control over those demons. My response to this is that Jesus was dealing in the idioms of his day, using the understandings of his contemporaries. This is not surprising, if you ask me. But a lot of Christians read these sections of the Bible and take demon possession to be normative, even though Jesus did not teach about it. Not me.

Jesus performed physical healings. But I don’t, so it’s not normative Christian behavior.

Jesus walked on water. But I don’t, so it’s not normative Christian behavior.

Jesus told twelve guys to drop everything and follow him. But I don’t, so it’s not normative Christian behavior.

Likewise, Jesus’ ability to cast out demons is not normative behavior for me or for you.

That’s how I read the Bible differently than others.

But that still doesn’t quite get to your question of why people still believe in demons. And here I have to leave theological territory and enter anthropological territory. I think that it’s a common human desire to lay the blame for failure and the give the credit for success to non-human forces. If someone does something “sinful,” it’s easier to blame a demon than it is to take responsibility. And it’s sometimes easier to say that other celestial beings are responsible for the beautiful things that happen in the world (though I hear demons blamed a lot more often than I hear angels thanked).

With the current rise in atheism and agnosticism, I’m betting that belief in demons will continue to decline. But you and I will probably be in the minority for the rest of our lives.

(One more thing: I could be wrong about this.)

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  • Michael

    _I think that any time someone takes a position that is in the minority of historic Christian orthodoxy, as I have with homosexuality and demonology, the burden of proof is one the one in the minority._

    I would say that’s exactly backwards. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. However, Christian orthodoxy has never actually relied on proof – it simply relies on faith. It’s fair to put faith to the question of proof, and the lack of proof can indeed be construed as evidence that something is not.

  • Brian P.

    The ol’ argumentum ad populum raises its head.

  • Charles

    There’s hope for you, Tony! 😉

  • Tony, you wrote:

    In fact, I think that any time someone takes a position that is in the minority of historic Christian orthodoxy, as I have with homosexuality and demonology, the burden of proof is one the one in the minority. That’s why the burden of proof is on Mormons to show that their religion should be considered Christian; it’s why the burden of proof is on the Amish that retreating from society is consonant with the gospel; and it’s why the burden of proof was on me when I stated that I Don’t Believe in Demons.

    I completely disagree with your statement re: burden of proof. For starters, what are the rules of evidence? What is the standard for those rules? If “historic Christianity” is the standard, then 1) what’s the hallmark of that standard, 2) what establishes its validity, and 3) who is/are the arbiter(s) who would hear and judge upon claims within that standard’s purview? (And how could their judgment be binding?)

  • Really? Wow- While I appreciate the occasional pushback against modern day Pharisees, I don’t think becoming a modern day Saducee is exactly progress.
    Not to believe in a spiritual reality beyond what we can see is sub-Christian, man. What did Paul mean when he said “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”? You believe in a God who is spirit (“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth”) and yet deny any other personal, spiritual beings? So the whole idea of angels is right out too? No Annunciation? No angels at the tomb of Jesus? No angels with Christ in the wilderness?

  • Ric Shewell

    “Burden of proof of the minority” is correct. The reason why some of you are disagreeing is because you seem to think that the church’s statements have to fit into another culture’s language game. What Tony is describing is kind of a “family business” session. The church has it’s own language game, wherein demons have been accepted for its entire history. There are those who play this language game that want to challenge something that has enjoyed long-standing acceptance, and the burden of proof is on them. Historic Church statements don’t owe any explanation to other language games no matter how outlandish they are. They’re different spheres, different languages, different sets that do not agree on any particular fixed points. The minority view that Tony is describing (there are no demons) is the minority view in the Church’s language game, and so is burdened there. The “no demons” view is not the minority in western liberal democratic societies, so does not have the burden of proof there. Different sets, different language games.

  • Right on, Ric. Thanks.

  • Evelyn

    Do we not live in a “western liberal democratic society”? According to the following Washington Post article, it is normative in America to believe in angels and demons:


  • Best answer yet, by far. Thorough. You went on your own tangents, but that’s a good thing. Then you kept coming back to the actual question, and you answered it. Very pragmatically too. I’ve been grading these over at my blog. This one will require some thought on my part.

  • Ric Shewell

    So the majority of people in this country claim Christianity (that is to belong to its language game, which affirms the existence of demons), and we are surprised that a majority of this country believes in demons? The fact that many in this country believe in miracles and demons does not mean that belief in miracles and demons belong in the western liberal democratic language game. I’ll demonstrate.

    When you attend a pentecostal church service, there may be a man who testifies of how a demon has been plaguing him, making him angry, making him laugh, making him lie. And that would make perfect sense to people there. It wouldn’t be outlandish, and others would probably affirm these views by praying for him, even speaking to the demon.

    Last night we had a VP debate. Even though both candidates belong to the Catholic Church, neither of them accused the other of being demon possessed. The Catholic Church exorcises demons. Why shouldn’t Ryan just say that Biden is possessed, as clearly indicated by his laughing one moment and anger the next? Because it’s absurd. They are in a different arena, they are in a different sphere, and speaking a different language. Who knows, maybe the actually believe the other is possessed? But they know that it is not accepted to speak about demons in this language game. It would be incomprehensible; “demon” would need a lot of clarification before it could be used in this language.

    Even though the majority of Americans (and I’d even hold this statistic with some skepticism) believe in demons, most know well enough that an affirmation of demons doesn’t belong in job interviews, courts of law, presidential debates, policy making, parent/teacher conferences, football games, etc. The language game of Western Liberal Democratic Societies does not affirm the existence of demons.

  • Tony – I’m still waiting for your convo with Greg Boyd on this subject! Lets go already!’ it’s almost Halloween, perfect timing 😉

  • Evelyn

    So if it was Sunday between 8 am and 1 pm then maybe Tony could talk about demons and sound sensible?

  • Phil Miller

    Christian orthodoxy has never actually relied on proof

    It certainly has relied on proof, it’s just that it hasn’t entirely relied on proof of a material nature. But Christians have always been rather adamant in insisting that there are certain things that are part of the faith that happened in history. I believe, for instance, that’s why the Gospel writers felt it necessary to talk about actual physical landmarks and dates when talking about Jesus’ life on earth.

    As far as the “burden of proof” Tony is talking about, I assume he’s making the case that if one is going to break from the majority of Christian tradition and thought that has been passed down in various ways over the last two thousand years, and still wants to consider himself part of that tradition, he should be prepared to defend whatever the new position is.

  • Ric Shewell

    It always depends on who is there and what rules have been decided upon before we engage in the language game. But Tony is saying just that, he stands in the company of a community that has long agreed upon the existence of demons, and he and his friends are raising their hands and questioning that assertion. In that community, that question makes sense because there are other things (rules) that have been agreed upon (the rules might be something about the authority of the church, Scripture, worship, etc).

    Any community that is being formed begins to form “rules” of their particular language game.

    Think about this comment thread. I know you and I do not agree on the resurrection of Christ, so in order for us to have discourse, I have to speak as if Christ’s resurrection is not taken for granted. I accept that rule and continue to engage. Through our discourse we create rules that we agree on, and then we can have dialogue. Look how we are creating a new community! beautiful!

  • Evelyn

    I suppose we could say that the majority of people in this country SAY they believe in demons in an abstract sense because it is spoken about in church but don’t ACT AS IF they believe in demons in normal everyday behavior so they don’t actually believe in them because, if they did, they’d have to attribute most people’s behavior to them.

    Apparently Jesus casts out demons in the stories of the Gospel but we have different names for the things that the people of that time attributed to demons.

    I think Tony’s approach to demons is a good one. One should remain skeptical about demons only because once someone identifies something as demonic, they throw up their hands and act as if they can’t do anything about it because it is beyond their control and also it is difficult for some (especially the superstitious) to discriminate between physical/mental illness and demonic activity. We are loath to identify as demons the things that we can control and the only time that we can definitely identify something as a “demon” is when someone gets obviously possessed like Joey’s friend (although I’d call that spirit possession which is a bit different) and then the fact of the demon is outside of our normative experience. It happened once and it isn’t something we rely on in everyday life nor is it something that we can relate to occurrences in everyday life so we treat it as something weird and inconsequential.

    So, most Christians do not actually believe in demons. By the same token, most Christians don’t actually believe in God even though they say they do. They go to church on Sunday and profess to believe in the stories of the bible and the theology of their clergy but, if you asked them what God is, they would have a hard time telling you and would also have a hard time explaining how they live with God every day because they don’t. God is an abstraction. IT is not part of the language game of “Western Liberal Democratic Societies”. And, the truth is that if you can’t really say exactly how you live with God in your life on a day to day basis then IT isn’t real and you should definitely remain as skeptical about God as you are about demons.

  • Pax

    Why are people all uppity for someone accepting the burden of proof for a claim? Someone who says “you should accept my position because it’s the default position” is making a pretty weak argument. Anyone wishing to win someone over to their side needs to give reasons. If the popular position is so unreasonable, then the burden of proof should be very burdensome.

  • Pax

    *should = shouldn’t

  • Keith Rowley

    I don’t know (or even strongly believe) that you are but I LOVE that you admit you COULD be wrong about this. Thank you SO much for that example of humility.

  • Keith Rowley

    Ric, I think you lost me somewhere there. 🙂

    Seriously though, at what point does our faith become more than just a language game? If a language game all my faith in Jesus is then I might as well be a kite in a tree to quote Charlie Peacock.

  • I guess it isn’t “normative behavior” if you haven’t seen it as such. I might suggest spending a year or two in East Africa. Seriously.

    One more thing. If I can pick and choose which language in the NT is nothing more than “cultural idiom,” how can I ever defend what it is that I believe? “Oh — no — I believe that a dude-god with flowing locks rose from the dead — but demons! hah! That’s just a cultural idiom!” Seems like a simple logical fallacy to me, but I guess that’s okay.

    Or… are you saying that the hermeneutical tool of “experience” trumps all others?

    Thanks for the discussion! Really good stuff to talk about! May the Lord bless the work of your hands! And convict you for your unbelief in the personal spiritual realm! 😉

  • Ric Shewell

    You still don’t understand language games. It’s a metaphor for community relativism. People in communities in which there is no language for an existence of God are not found to be atheists because the community they participate in cannot understand God. Perhaps you believe the only true God-believers are the ones that abandon all communities where God-talk is absurd? That’s silly. You make the rule for Christians that they must only participate in communities where God-language is intelligible, otherwise they are not truly Christians? So Christians enter into communities where talk of God and demons and miracles and resurrection are unintelligible, and rather than sound like idiots, they play by the rules of other communities in the spirit of dialogue and friendship, and you call that faithless?

    Like I said, in dialoging with you, I know that Christ’s resurrection is not a given, or a rule in our conversation, so I don’t talk about it, even though it is the center of my epistemological scaffolding. I don’t use language of the eschaton, even though I believe it is the end goal of theology, salvation, and creation, and the misunderstood piece in much of American Evangelical theology. I don’t use this language because it doesn’t make sense to in the community that you and I are creating here on this comment thread. It doesn’t mean that I feel any less convicted about these things.

    So when Christians do not end their conversations with their colleagues by saying “thanks be to God,” they are not denying their thankfulness to God, but simply entering a community where that language doesn’t make sense.

    You are still believing that there is one meta-narrative, one meta-language, that is available to all humans in all places and to which everyone is mandated to adhere to. Therefore, talk of movement between language games is absurd to you, because all language games participate in one ultimate language game, so that if one thing can be said in one language game but not all others, then it must be actually be false in all places. This is a movement back toward modernity and absolute truth, which is a direction history is not going.

  • Ric Shewell

    Sorry, your last line bugged me a little more. I haven’t and I won’t talk here about how I am living with God because it doesn’t make sense to. This is a blog about progressive theology. So I’ll talk about theology in a postmodern era. That makes sense to do so here. Does that mean I need to re-examine my faith right now? See if I truly do believe in God? How ridiculous. That’s an argument from silence. That’s like saying people don’t love their pets because they don’t take them to work or they don’t talk about them all the time.

    Even now, you and I are talking nonsense to each other because we don’t have clear rules or goals in this dialogue. I began by merely defending Tony’s position that those in the Church who do not believe in demons have the burden of proof to the Church. I defended it by using the language games metaphor from Wittgenstein. You chime in because?? You think demons are the majority view in liberal democratic societies, therefore demon-doubters carry the burden of proof there too? Is that what you are at? I try to show that demons are not acceptable in the liberal democratic language game.

    Then you go after Christians who feel free to speak about their faith in certain communities, but not all (which is reasonable, I rarely mention my faith to restaurant servers), and claim that they must not truly believe in God? Well, I don’t know where to go with you, now. That’s an absurd claim. You have begun to speak nonsense.

  • James Bedard

    The whole thing about the angels is that it is not that they don’t exist but that at what point can they stop doing what they were created to do. They were not created with a open heart as we were but instead they were given a specific purpose and duty thus “worship God”. We though were created with an incompleteness or an openness in our heart so that we were to have an open relationship with God. But here is a interesting question for everyone: Why is our current worship the same as the angels. We weren’t created to worship like the angels we were something better, or something closer. If we go back to the beginning, there is no book to read and no songs to sing, only walking and talking with God. I believe that that is what caused the angels to become of fear. They saw their destruction. The angels were created to literally idolize God, we were not. That idolatry is exactly what separates us from God. The angels sing and praise/worship and pray. We, His ultimate creation, get to walk and talk/worship and pray with Him. If you face the nature of man and examine it with the nature of the angels you will find out that there is much that we seem to have inherited from them. So simply, yes, there certainly are angels and we are working our asses off to become like them. Completely opposite from what we are supposed to so. Cheers.

  • Ric Shewell

    Sorry it got a little convoluted there. What I am saying is that the way you talk about your faith is different in different communities you are a part of.

    So, I’m Methodist. Say I want to discuss what Bishop Talbert means by ecclesial disobedience and his plan for Western Jurisdiction pastors who face disciplinary action for standing against the Discipline.

    I just used Methodist language in this comment thread, where it is probably mostly unintelligible. However, anyone who plays the Methodist language game know immediately that I am talking about affirming homosexual Christians. But here in this thread, I was just say that.

    So the way I talk about church issues differs depending on the community that I am dialoging in. The way that I talk about my faith differs depending on the community that I am speaking in. When I talk about my faith to my close friends who share my faith, I’m more apt to use words like hope, faith, resurrection, conviction, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Scripture, fear, etc. When I talk about my faith with my atheist friend, I’m more apt to use words like epistemology, history, facts, main line, free will, randomness, etc. – words that carry more meaning to my non-Christian friends.

    Hope that helps. This idea of Language Games was developed by Ludwig Wittgenstein, and essential describes “cultural relativism” where reality is agreed upon in a particular community so that conversation can move forward within that community. Different communities are being formed all the time, so the way we talk about different subjects changes based on the community that we are speaking in — or the language game we are playing.

  • James Bedard

    Hahaha. This is awesome. “That which has power only has it because you have given it to them.” -unknown.
    A person was working at a house on day and in the back yard was a dog. The dog stood on the porch barking. Thoughts went through the mans head and he remembered his past experiences with dogs. Not good. Fear was realized and thus in the minds eye of this man he became wary of this dog. Every effort to confront this realized fear and have courage to overcome was met with a image of him getting mauled by this dog. Failure. Going back around and in through the front way, the house cleaner inside assured the dog was harmless. Still having work to do, he went back out and faced the dog. Curious and still barking a bit, it came up to smell him. Fear and panic still surfaced inside him. End result: the dog completely harmless.
    As humans we have begun to give authority and power away at an astonishing rate. When you begin to treat animals like humans, it is the humans that will begin to act like animals. It has been said that all power and authority has been given to us but what is this power. Jesus displayed his true power, humility, and it got him crucified. I’d say that that is fail blog 101. Or that’s what it seems. Our idea of power is the great displays and awesome healings that can prove to the doubters that we ‘know’ God but even Jesus said to doubt these great signs. So it would seem that the power of God is different from what we perceive and believe. What is different? Fear. The power of God that we are seeking is filtered through a filter of fear and by this it changes how we see things. But now let me bring this into the current subject light. We are seeing things in the spirit, right, that is a type of power or sense, this vision is seen through fear and these demonic forces that we are seemingly fighting are what we would call fallen angels but here is the missing fact: These so called fallen ones are angels that were in the presence of God, Truth. They knew the Truth and yet they fell. Really. Then they supposedly take on really ugly forms and start a undermining guerrilla warfare on people that can not see them. Really. If you were to take a way our fear it removes their power. It takes away the masks that we have given them and now it places them in their correct place. They don’t have any power. Only the power that we give them. God’s power though fear. It’s the power that we gave them in the beginning. They gave us themselves and we gave them ourselves. God’s still hanging out somewhere waiting for us to wake up. Seriously.

  • Ric Shewell

    Oh Good Question! What is the language game of the New Testament authors and church? Good question. It’s pretty clear that we don’t speak it today, not even in church communities. So, yes, we have to interpret it for the communities that we are currently a part of. Yes, it means that some things will probably be left by the wayside. I think of some of the violent and horrific psalms that I wish weren’t in there. I haven’t heard a pastor preach on any of them, so most pastors interpret them away with the omission, basically saying that this particular group of words do not have meaning for my community, does not fit in this language game. Pastors also have interpreted the language of slave and master in the New Testament. In fact, most English translations have already removed the word “slave” (doulos) and replaced it with “servant” to be more palatable for English readers. Before you even get the Bible in your hands, experts have made decisions for you when they translate from the original language game into your language game.

    Anyway, the art of translating the language game of the New Testament authors and church into our language games in a very difficult task. It’s not a task that anyone can do. That’s probably American Christians’ biggest mistake. Thinking anyone is entitled to their interpretation of Scripture and that anyone is just as qualified as anyone else to interpret the story of Jesus casting demons into pig is simply ignorant. I don’t think just anyone is qualified to perform surgery on my child, and I don’t think just anyone is qualified to interpret Scripture.

    The hermeneutical tool that I rely on most is the community of the Church. What I mean by that is all of the excellent interpreters that have come before me, including interpreters from before the Constantinian era, interpreters from the middle ages, the enlightenment and reformation, 20th century, and today. I also think you should probably know some Greek if you are going to really interpret.

    Anyway, I think that interpreting Scripture is a difficult and time consuming task, not everyone can do it. This is why I think we should trust our pastors and encourage them to do their best.

    As always, sorry for being wordy, but I just don’t feel like editing these comments on a blog, which are here today and gone tomorrow!

  • Evelyn

    Sorry Ric, I didn’t mean to offend you. I was only trying to understand the logic of your argument. I’m not the one “going after” Christians. I don’t go around evangelizing my God to other people. It is Christians who come to my house, knock on my door, and try to convince me that I am a bad person because I don’t go to their church. I attend their church and they start talking about some religious system of “redemption” that has no meaning to me because I am not a Jew from 50 A.D. and I have never sacrificed an animal thinking that God wanted me to. Personally, I don’t know why “Christians” who don’t properly understand what their purported “savior” was trying to tell them see fit to try to convince me that I am bad because I don’t worship this Satanic God that they have designed.

    As far as the “language” game, I understand that but the language game seems to rest on the assumption that nothing exists unless we can talk about it in community and if we are in a community where only I, for example, believe in something and no one else does, then that thing doesn’t exist because I can’t talk to the community about it. This is not true and it is not true of God because God is a highly subjective experience.

    You are right, we are talking “nonsense” because “postmodernism” and the “language game” are just games and fabrications. They are not real.

  • Sven
  • …. I don’t think just anyone is qualified to interpret Scripture. … not everyone can do it ….

    Considering the Bible itself says John and Peter — two of the men who are believed to have been among the progenitors of the Christian faith — were “unschooled and ordinary” (Acts 4:13) in terms of training in scripture, what, then, would you say is the standard for qualification?

    You mention a pedigree of Bible interpreters from several periods of the last two thousand years. How (and why) were they qualified, such that you would behold them as the foremost examples which inform your hermeneutics?

  • Marshall

    Nobody here seems to have mentioned Walter Wink, I am surprised. His idea is more or less that there are coherent tendencies which are latent in our “language games” that act as real forces in the world. “Language games” actually get expressed as socio-political “entities” such as nation-states. Eg, nation-states have an irresistible tendency to go to war with each other. Corporations have an irresistible temptation to exploit workers. There really are forces in the world that take decision-making out of the hands of persons, so that ethical people making “the best choice possible under the circumstances” contribute to atrocious acts.

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  • Ric Shewell

    Great questions. First, I can tell by our posts that we disagree on the uniqueness of the Apostles. But I will say that the Apostles are unique Christians with a unique task and unique authority. Paul goes on to say as much in many places (Rom 11; 1 Cor 9,12; 2 Cor 11-12; Eph 2-4; 1 Thess 2). Church history affirms the apostles’ uniqueness, and we have an authority called Apostolic Tradition alongside Scripture as a result. So, even though Peter and John were “unschooled ordinary men,” they were uniquely gifted for setting a foundation for the church (Eph 2-4).

    Why are other commentators throughout history qualified to interpret Scripture? Well, not all of them are, I never said they were.

    What I mean to say is that good interpretation cannot be done without diligent work, including knowing the original languages, being competent in the entire cannon (knowing the contents and arguments of every book and possibly every chapter), learning about original literary forms, knowing context, listening to voices from history and theological schools today, and using the book in worship. What makes anyone qualified to interpret Scripture? Merely their devotion to the process which must include at least all of these. Historical theologians like Irenaeus, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, did all of these things to the best of their abilities in their times, and so are qualified to be heard still today.

    The task of biblical interpretation is a huge job, and can’t be left to people who are merely zealous. It is hard and time consuming work, and I suppose its not that most people are too stupid to do it, it’s just most people have to make a living and have to use their time doing other things. That’s fine. They’re not bad people. I just don’t want them to interpret the Bible and preach the Word of God to me.

    I hope that helps. There’s no innate qualification for biblical interpreters, just a lot of work.

  • Ric Shewell

    Heh, I’m not offended. I was just lost and unsure of where we were going. I’m sorry that you’ve been harassed or insulted by people that I have to call brothers and sisters.

    Anyway, I think there needs to be clear distinction between words and the things that words point to. When we enter into a community that does not a word for a thing, we either don’t speak of the thing or we teach a new word. The thing never stops existing. For example, some indigenous language in Central America do not have a word for snow. So translators, rather than teaching people what snow is, or inventing a new word for the thing that the word “snow” points to, they just avoid using the word and idioms like “white as snow.” But it never means that snow doesn’t exist. They just don’t talk about it.

  • Ric Shewell

    Thank you for speaking English! haha. It’s really interesting that “language games” tend to want to invade other “language games.” Is that what Wink is saying? (probably not those words).

  • Making a change between δουλος meaning servant or slave, and αδελφός meaning “brother” or “brother and sister” (as has often been done, and rightly so), or even in translating Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a way that better serves the receiving culture while maintaining the truth of the trinity (as is normative for Wycliffe and Frontier), is altogether different from saying that the writers of the NT were simply mistaken in their belief in the spiritual realm of angels and demons. It isn’t a language game. The demons of the gospels *spoke*! They really did stuff, they really were personal entities. Just like they are today. This is not a simple language game. The NT writers believed that demons were powerful personal entities, as did the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many believed that they descended as spirits from the Nephilim of Genesis 6.

    And if your number one tool of hermeneutics were the historical Church, then you’d believe in the existence of demons as such. So I don’t really buy your argument there.

    I think you may have just decided, by experience, that demons are not real and therefore we must find another way to explain it. That’s a *really* bad way to begin the process of interpretation. Experience is only ever a guide *after* the other primary tools have been employed.


  • Ric Shewell

    John, I never said I didn’t believe in demons. I was never trying to make that argument.

    I only said that the belief in demons is the majority view in the Church’s language game, and therefore, Tony does have to burden of proof if he wants to say that demons don’t exist.

    As I look back at my posts, I haven’t interpreted any Scripture (MAYBE Eph 2-4 with that uniqueness of apostles business I was saying). I have not been trying to interpret Scripture. I’ve only been talking about the proper method of interpretation, which it seems like you and I agree on. Can I just say again that I haven’t given my view on demons at all yet? I haven’t read my experience into any Scripture in this blog yet. And I don’t intend on doing so, because as you said, “That’s a *really* bad way to begin the process of interpretation.”

    And I introduced this language of “language games” that seems to have gotten everyone here riled up. The ironic part is that we are using that phrase differently and, so, are talking past one another.

    I clearly suck at explaining language games. What I am trying to say is that there is no universal rule that innately match words to the things they refer to. The relationships between words and their referents must be learned, and it is taught by a community that has agreed upon their usages. Therefore, each community creates a language with rules, and participants in a community agree on the rules before speaking to each other. This is similar to a game. All participants must agree on the rules before playing. That is way Wittgenstein labeled this “language games.” Different communities form different rules for their language game. Individuals, like you and me, go between communities and are able to “code switch” between the different language games.

    I hope this makes sense. “Language games” is not another word for double-speak, rhetoric, semantics, or mysterious language. It’s just a way to describe how conversation happens: in communities that have decided on certain rules. Every community plays a language game.

  • Nice. I agree. So what, then, do language games have to do with demons?

  • Evelyn

    I think everyone is entitled to interpret scripture for themselves but there are only certain people who we are drawn to grant outside “authority” to. Anyone can read a bible verse and find meaning and resonance however their meaning and resonance may be “primitive” and/or badly thought-out compared to your own. Anyone we grant authority to should give us food for thought but at the same time the authoritarian interpretations need to be treated with skepticism if they are to mean anything to the hearer.

    Problems arise when people give so much credibility to ANY interpretation such that they fear and lash out at people who don’t agree with them, close their minds to personal growth, and spread hate in society.

  • Evelyn

    P.S. I don’t care how much “work” anyone has done. If their interpretation means nothing to me, it means nothing to me. Each person has to walk their own path.

  • Evelyn

    I think you’re talking about memes.


  • Ric Shewell

    I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier. Thanks for the idea.


  • Ric Shewell

    Imagine the Church as a community. 😉 Now, that community has agreed that the word “demon” would refer to those things that Jesus spoke to and cast out of many people. Because this community agreed on that simple rule, it was able to talk about demons more and more, and even establish a narrative for the origin of demons, and give boundaries to what demons are and what they can and cannot do. This universe of demon talk (demonology) belongs squarely in this community because those participating have agree to the same rule (including the lordship of Christ). Now if you come into this community and say “No, that’s not what demons are,” like Bultmann, Tillich, or even Tony Jones here, then you are challenging the community and the way the language of the community should work. The burden of proof is on them.

    However, other communities that engage in conversations, like the medical community, play by a different set of rules. If you want to play the language game in medical communities, you are kindly asked to leave demonology at the door. There may be a lot people in the medical community that believe in demons, but while they are playing the medical communities language game, say in exams or diagnosis, they don’t mention them, because that’s the agreed upon rules. Now, if a demon-sympathizer entered into the medical community and demanded that a course on demonology should be required to pass med school, that being a minority view, that demon-sympathizer would carry the burden of proof in order to convince the other players in that language game.

    (I hope that you see that I use “demon-sympathizer” as a joke, nothing more intended).

    Anyway, the concept of “Language games” is a philosophical tool used to help understand how different communities link words to their referents. When language games invade eachother’s spaces, that’s when conflict erupts.

  • I hear what you’re saying, I have understood you from the beginning. But Tony’s position — that demons are not personal spiritual entities — does not fall under the Wittgensteinian category of “language game.”

    I guess I must clear up something first. The postmodern idea that objective reality only exists for the subject is something I disagree with. I think there’s an objective reality distinct from the subjective observer. Buddhists don’t like my philosophy here. But the way I see it, the only objective reality is as it exists from the subjective position of YHWH. That is, God’s perspective on the world is the only true one. And if one enters into the NT with the belief that it is, at least doctrinally, what God intended to communicate, then an unbiased observer would find it quite difficult to imagine that demons were *not* personal spiritual beings with power. Unless that reader decided that the NT writers were just mistaken, or that they lied.

    That they lied would probably have to be the case because we read record of demons actually speaking. They call out to Jesus, “Son of God.”

    As far as your idea that the Church came up with demonology through the ages, I might suggest that you do a bit of reading in ancient Judaism as well as ancient Greek religion, both of which include personal spiritual entities that we would call demons. So does pretty much every culture in the world. Except the west. Interesting. Who’s wrong? Do we have so much faith in science and reason so as to disbelieve in something that can’t be tested for? What does that do with angels? Or the hypostatic union of man and God in Jesus?

    Anyway, good times! It’s Saturday night and I’m gonna go to a Matisyahu show!


  • Kien

    On the anthropological explanation, I’d add that there is a very strong impulse to personify abstract ideas. Nature programs are full of explanations couched in terms of purpose and intention. Evil (an abstract idea) is personified into Satan. And obviously we also think of God as a person whom we can relate to. The impulse to personify is understandable. After all, how do we know we are nothing more than chemicals and atoms. We assume there is a person behind each individual and not just a biological machine. The tendency to personify is a gift to be used wisely.

  • ME

    Sorry if I missed it, but, if you don’t believe in demons does that mean you can’t believe in angels?

  • Evelyn

    If you are a dualist and you think that demons are the opposite of angels then you can’t believe in angels if you don’t believe in demons. If you are a monist or a pluralist then you can believe in angels if you don’t believe in demons.

  • Lee P.

    I guess it isn’t “normative behavior” if you haven’t seen it as such. I might suggest spending a year or two in East Africa. Seriously.”

    Gah! There it is! Never fails.

  • I especially enjoyed the “seriously” part. Did you also notice how he took the logical fallacy of accepting the entire Bible as true if any one part of it is true and tried to claim that not doing that is illogical? Then he ends with a modern way of saying you will burn in hell for your unbelief.

  • Oh I don’t think you’ll burn. I guess I fall in with Tom Wright in thinking that each time we chose away from God we become something less than human. I guess hell is a place without goodness where creatures live who were once human but by their own choices became something less. Jesus was the second Adam. He was truly human in his communion with God. We become more truly human in communion with God. If we avoid that communion we become less human.

    The “seriously” part only referred to experience. If you base your exegesis on experience and have only experience in the Western world, well you’ll only take the experience of less than half of the world into your study of a book that was written by (and largely *for*) that majority half of the world. Most good theologians are well traveled and have lived among the impoverished of the world. God hangs out with those people and those people necessarily place more trust in him, even for simple things like food. We can appreciate what the early Christians wrote about because time in rural east Africa is not so different from time among the early followers of the Messiah.

    Kein: You would enjoy “Minds and Gods” by Todd Tremlin (2006, Oxford). It’s all about how the human mind actually *wants* to find agency in the world (which would be, of course, an anthropological explanation of angels and demons).

    Lausten: I’m not sure what I did that made you so angry, but I’m sorry for the comments that caused you offence. I’m curious where you found the logical fallacy that you’ve pointed out.

    Oh, you run a blog called Religious Atheism. So you like to argue against the existence of things like demons, I’d imagine. Why people who don’t believe in God spend so much time talking about him and getting so flustered by his followers has always intrigued me to no end. I don’t believe that aliens created the earth but it doesn’t really annoy me that others do. I don’t really think that scientific atheism is correct, but I don’t spend countless hours typing up how and why. It seems to show doubt in one’s own beliefs when one is upset by those of another. If people who believe that Jesus rose from the dead are as wrong as the people who believe in aliens, wouldn’t you just laugh or find it sad? Why spend so much time arguing against a contrived book of myths?

  • Chris


    your posts are informative and I enjoy reading them. If I could just offer a critique, or maybe ask for clarification.

    First, I think I get what you describe as Wittgenstein’s theories regarding language games. But here’s what bothers me. These language games, and other forms of postmodern literary criticism (deconstruction) as I understand it are probably the most eccentric form of literary criticism in academia and are significantly on the wane. That it’s on the wane in and of itself is not reason to totally disregard it. Rather the reason for its lack of support has to do with the contradictory and inherently self-refuting nature of its claims.

    You had said to Evelyn:
    “You are still believing that there is one meta-narrative, one meta-language, that is available to all humans in all places and to which everyone is mandated to adhere.”

    But isn’t that precisely what Wittgenstein and other deconstructionists are doing when they assert their theories? That there is an actual meta-language which can be appealed to for purposes of clarity, cross-talk, and universal application and understanding and thereby avoid confusion and non-sensical talk?

    I find it interesting that in certain posts you seem to promote the idea of a postmodern ethos and in others you really don’t sound like a good postmodern at all as you seem to advocate for things like authorial intent, which is its complete antithesis.

    Anyway, interesting comments.

  • You ask good question Mr. Hundley, but not sure how much we can resolve across the divide. I’m not angry. If you didn’t understand the explanation of the fallacy the first time, I don’t think I can improve on it. I spend time with such things, because the current trend toward irrationality is dangerous. We have nuclear weapons now, we can’t afford that anymore.

    The Bible is myth, and if we all treated it that way, we would be much better off. I would like everyone to be better off. There is only so much one person can do. I spend some of my time directly feeding starving people and some of it having this conversation. I think it’s what the world needs. And it keeps me out of trouble.

  • Okay. Well, I’m sorry for the misrepresentation of Christianity that you’ve seen.

  • You didn’t misrepresent. You gave your representation, which is valid in the sense that it has historical and theological precedence. That doesn’t make it logically sound, technically accurate, provable, healthy, useful, or anything else. It may have some degree of those characteristics, but discussing them with you is beyond my interest.

    Anyone who suggests if you don’t believe in superstition you should go immerse yourself in a superstitious culture, then you’ll see, is not someone I want to try to have a logical conversation with. Anyone who says, “May the Lord bless the work of your hands! And convict you for your unbelief in the personal spiritual realm!” obviously has some real barriers to an open minded discussion. Bill Hicks put this type of statement into a much more straight forward context, “The Lord loves you and wants to take care of you forever. If you don’t accept that love, you will burn in hell.” “Burn” or “convict”, it’s all the same.

  • Richard Jones

    I would LOVE to agree with Tony about this. And if the questions I raise have been raised in previous posts, I apologize. I tried to wade through them, but there were so many and mostly seem to be about churchy language.
    Here are my problems:
    As far as the Christian materialist thing goes, if there are no demons, does that mean there are no angels? Jesus did talk about angels. If all there is is what we see, where does that leave God? I know Tony said that was another question for another time, but that is a big problem to this approach, I think.
    The Gospels do record Jesus talking TO demons (maybe not teaching about them). Are these Gospel accounts false? Then which are not? How do we know? Or was Jesus just punking the disciples?
    No demons? Does this mean no devil? Just wondering.
    Like I say, I would really like to follow this line of reasoning. In some ways it makes Christianity less “way out there” and more reasonable.

  • Richard, it really would be worth your time to read the comments, these questions have been addressed.

    Lausten, here’s what Dostoevsky said a couple hundred years ago: “If there is a God, if He exists, then, of course, I’m to blame, and I shall have to answer for [my sin]. But if there isn’t a God at all, what do they deserve, your leaders? It’s not enough to cut their heads off, for they keep back progress.”

    It’s true, what you say. If Christianity is a lie then it’s a monster of a thing. But if it is true, if Jesus really died and rose from that death, then it is the most glorious thing in all history. So what it all comes down to is this: did the resurrection happen? And for that, I will refer you to http://www.historicaljesusresearch.blogspot.com

    It is authored by a couple of very reasonable and brilliant scholars who approach the topic of the resurrection from a largely materialist perspective.


  • Richard Jones

    Sorry, John, I must disagree. I went back and read through the comments and they do not address my questions. Consistent with my first impression, they are mainly about how to talk about theological issues.

  • Hi Tony, I see the road of reason upon which you are basing your thoughts, but Luke 8:30-33 completely disproves your assertions. If Jesus is dealing with idioms or debilitating psychological issues and NOT with an actual entity, how is it that that Jesus can have conversations with those entities and they themselves have desires? (ie. not to die) demons and angels are heavenly beings and not fiction and I don’t think you can disprove them or their significance throughout genesis to revelation without rewriting many passages of scripture. A feet worthy of Thomas Jefferson or other philosophers that would want to write out parts of he bible because they simply don’t seem modern.

  • Really John? Pascal’s Wager? Is that the best you’ve got? You seem to be assuming that I have not spent the majority of my free time for the last 3 years exploring this question. Maybe it is you who should read some Richard Carrier or some Bart Ehrmann.

  • that’s not pascal’s wager…. pascal said that if we’re wrong then it really isn’t a big deal. Dostoevsky said that it is. Wikipedia on P.W. “It posits that there’s more to be gained from wagering on the existence of God than from atheism, and that a rational person should live as though God exists, even though the truth of the matter cannot actually be known.” That isn’t at all what I just said.

    It doesn’t really matter what really smart people say. Logic only paves the way to experience.

    The cross is foolishness for those who don’t believe. It’s just the way it goes. I can understand that, I was an atheist for many years. The thought of the reality of Jesus made me mad. I couldn’t get over it.

    Then he met me in jail and proved me wrong.

    That was years ago. More and more and more his reality is proven in my life. What Ehrman says can’t convince me. Because I know Jesus personally. It would be like Ehrman arguing with me that I didn’t actually know my wife. He would be the crazy one. Or, at least he’d be fighting with no hope of victory.

  • I don’t know what you’re saying. The Brothers Karamazov is on my reading stack, but I haven’t cracked it yet. I read a few pages online, but I can’t figure what the drunken Pavlovich is trying to say. If you are going to fall back on personal experience as proof, then there isn’t much point in a discussion with you.

    You do understand that your example of Ehrman arguing about your wife is ridiculous don’t you? He would simply say, if she exists, show me. If you continued to argue, without presenting a shred of evidence, other than tales of your personal experience, you would be the crazy one.

  • Well, when there are over one billion adherents to a given religion who claim to have had experiences of the divine, and I try to tell the whole billion of them through my logical evidence that they are just terribly mistaken, I think they might look at one another curiously and ask each other quietly, “does he not think that we think about stuff? does he think we’re all completely mentally unstable? if all billion of us claim that we’ve had personal experiences with the divine and he doesn’t believe us, what more can we do?”

    And they’d have a point. Sorry, that’s all I can do. I am a thinking individual, just like you, and I have experienced God with all the closeness of a friend. All I can do is tell you that, and tell you that there was a God who came as a man to die on our behalf and rise again on our behalf. His name was Jesus and he is alive. That I do know. It is self evident to me, as self evident as my own existence.

    There is no objective proof of anything. If Bart Ehrman began to believe that Jesus was alive would you take his word for it? If you saw somebody get raised from the dead would you believe it or would you try to find the fault in it? What we do with the Bible at the outset really has nothing to do with what it says. It has to do with whether or not we *want* it to be true or false. Only after we make this decision can we then analyze what it says.

  • Because if I go into the Bible believing that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, I’m going to get a whole different story out of it than if I went into it believing that he did, and that he is still alive. It isn’t a scientific question, at least not the science we have today. It is an experiential question. If you haven’t ever experienced God then I don’t blame you for your disbelief. I actually feel empathy.

  • Because the presence of God is really, really wonderful for the human soul.

  • What about the other 6 billion people John? What does it mean that they don’t share your experience? And of the 1 billion, many don’t claim to have had any direct experience of God and most argue about what their experience means, some even to the point of taking up arms. You don’t understand “objective proof” or “science”, so you should stop using those terms, or go learn what they mean.

    I don’t think anyone is mentally unstable based on their religious claims. The beliefs come from culture. People choose the gods of their ancestors. Small changes happen over generations and the gods change, some die off. We live in a rapidly changing world, with an unprecedented mix of cultures. Throwing up our hands up and saying, “what more can we do?” or “It is self evident” or “wonderful” or “there is not objective proof” or believe first, then analyze or it’s just my experience; those are all unhelpful conversation ending statements.

  • Well, you haven’t convinced me 🙂

  • oh Tony, i do wonder about the person that asked if you believe in Angels? I’m sorta wondering on this verse….
    21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out[d] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”- from Mark 9.
    Kinda loved the disciples question there…. and even the point that Jesus makes on “THIS KIND”- which to me implies that there are more than one kind of demonic influences.
    I get the projection part and the lack of taking responsibility for our own crap…. but i do think, according to Scripture that there are outside influences at work. just say’in.

    I can’t deny the entire “other” realm on matters..


  • Callie Lou

    Then to what was Jesus referring in Mark 9:29?

  • Ric Shewell

    Holy shit! I don’t know what possessed me to come look through these (looking to see how I’m responsible for pissing people off on this blog), anyway, Chris, you are busting my chops!

    I’m not a good Wittgenstein scholar or student, I just think that his categories of languages games is an extremely helpful way to talk about specifically churchy jargon like demons.

    I’m not a good postmodern, how can you be? I suppose I do believe in a meta-narrative and meta-language, but I don’t think its accessible, and the only reason I believe its there at all is God’s revelation in Christ.

    I’m not sure how I can be a good postmodern and rely on the resurrection of Christ to be my archemedian point for epistemology. Regardless, I don’t think going back to modernity is going forward… and I’ve been out of school for several years now, I hope awesome things are still being taught. Thanks for busting my chops and getting me thinking.

  • “…what is materially present in the cosmos is what we can talk about. It’s all we know that we have, so it’s our only basis for argument and explanation of what is happening around us. As a theologian, I am interested in what we can see and sense and even measure.”

    Your theology lacks faith, you know the evidence of things not seen.

    And how can you define what is or is not normative Christian behavior based on your sample of one – what you can or cannot do? What’s normative is common experience for Christians worldwide and those in Africa, Asia and South American are having many more healing and demon casting experiences than Christians in the US are having. Numerically, you could probably prove that American Christianity is not normative in any way.

    Look broader on this, and try putting some faith back into the equation.

  • Giovanni

    Well of course someone who hasn’t witnessed these things will think they’re not true.
    Ive heard these demons, not at choice, at random. The sounds that came from them were so foreign, unrecognizable.
    It was three, two small children and an adult, if you will.
    The two small children spoke, one after the other and then the adult. After that was complete silence.
    Ive never witnessed anything like it, and I don’t try to. The area felt so damp, and chills ran down my body when i realized what I had heard. Its not something you want to hear but when it is heard, or seen( I’ve never seen anything only heard) everything around feels weird.

  • I believe them to not be real due to two factors:
    1). The common understanding is that demons are fallen angels. Cast from heaven to wander the earth for being so bold as to not blindly follow God and (gasp) ask questions and exhibit free will.
    So why would an entity (some believe them to be the Nephillum), who wants nothing more than do do it’s own thing and likely whatever got it kicked out, want to torment you and possess you?
    Why would it not want to ignore you and keep doing that which had it kicked out?
    2). The common description we adhere to of a demon is not from what I interpret what the bible describes as demons. The current pop culture idea comes from the dark ages when to keep the masses in check, and destroy paganism Rome developed this vision of an evil entity meant to torment and force you to sin and damn you forever. It is a scare tactic, nothing more, simple uneducated peasants intimidated into following.
    Which to me is far more sinister and evil, and any modern Christian organization perpetuating this is obviously afraid of the truth themselves and insecure in having the substance and content to keep people engaged and interested in their message.

  • Isaac Foster

    I believe that demons are truly reflections of ourselves in the mirror of are mind. we are the true demons we kill animals destroy there homes and hunt and kill many other animals to extinction and we don’t care we even kill our own kind for no reason but anger or for money,power etc but if demons do exist they probably kill because its there nature or something else. but we kill animals,people,create virus’s,start wars simply because we are too smart or too stupid to think of sharing resource’s that we don’t need and could trade that for what we need. but we act like idiots. Hitler thought he was making the world better in his own image but he didn’t notice the flaws he created he simply tried to create something that wasn’t meant to be. we are the true demons of this world one day the world will take its revenge and claim whats rightfully is its. We are more like demons then the creation of god. if god wanted us to be great and be kind to all then why are we killing the earth destroying species arguing among ourselves when we could be talking about the real dangers to us not things like “its not real” “yes it is” when we could be changing the world into something for our children the future generation so they don’t have to live in a corrupt society by governments who don’t look at the real problems only the ones they are interested in and usually they don’t do things for us but to stay in power or other things you may say I am wrong I could be but I know we are all slowly being consumed by the taint known as corruption.


  • Harold New

    I also was a nonbeliever in demons. Prior to Sept. 2, 2012 I believed as you did. Demons did not exist and no one was going to convince me otherwise. But now I know otherwise. On Sept. 2, 2012, after asking the Lord to please just kill me because my life was not working He had mercy on me and granted me a gift of revelation about the reality of demons in my life and how they were at the root of my strongholds that were ruining my life. He delivered me and now I am free. I don’t think anyone can be “convinced” one way or the other. I believe now it is simply divine revelation at a time in one’s life when they are desperate for change. I have put my testimony on a Youtube channel for anyone who wants to see it ….it’s the best way of communicating my experience. I don’t know if that is allowed on this site but the link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbZIDsK9Awo
    Thank you for the article. Harold

  • kljkl

    Of course “demons” don’t exist lmfao.
    Why do nutjob idiotic eccentric Christians (I’m not talking about the normal kind who are just nice decent people) have to overcomplicate things and overcompensate by talking as if the “Bible’ is to be taken at its word.
    People are “evil” as it is. Stop watching scary movies, and get real. Get a life, get a job, get laid, w/e.
    And to the freakshow retard below me (Harold new), uh what you’re describing is SCHIZOPHRENIA! Aka, get your shortbus ass to the doctors kiddo, you need meds…..and a seriously strong kick in the ass for being so f*ckin stupid to not realize you actually HAVE a mental disorder.
    Religion is what causes stupid ass superstitions like this (notice I said religion, not spirituality). Guess what, angels don’t exist either lols. People and animals do PERIOD. MAYBE some of you need to get a life and appreciate the nice things in life instead of living in the freakin MIddle Ages like some creeps…

  • EMC

    Of course demons don’t exist. In our culture it’s just another fairy tale of the Bible and a lie. Ah, but that does sound ridiculous to those of us who claim to be believers, doesn’t it?

    On Demons and other Western Fairy Tales: One has to go abroad and see cultures where pagan religions thrive and Christians are tortured in order to see these fairy tales come to life, and to see Westernized “truths” deflated.

    Give away all your comforts and go abroad to them. Then you can sit down with those blessed believers in Christ and tell them about your religiosity and your take on God. They have much to teach we who tread in the water of shallow spiritual doctrinal belief.

    I’m sure they will not use fluffy American legal terminology such as, “burden of proof”; and it is doubtful that they’ll make an attempt of theological acculturation, trying to conform Christ to their personal point of reference as you have done. Try and resist your ingrained Westernized inclination to see them as too uneducated to expostulate on Biblical truth — give them more courtesy than you’ve given Christ, who you’ve speculated was merely a product of his age.

    Probably, though, there will be many more pressing realities that intrude upon their daily life that will prevent them from engaging you on your theories that diminish your character of faith.

    But I’ve already spent too much valuable time on those who see their world through the curved, smudged glass of the faded, modern Western civilization. It is a tired vision you share; neither new nor clever. It has been used for thousands of years by foolish men in an attempt to intellectualize Christianity. Thank God He never changes and forebears us with patience. It is the only hope in a world that holds its truth higher than His. Romans 1:21, 22

  • EMC

    so much anger, so little time…

  • Chad Fisher

    Your understanding of Judaic idioms is faulty. The teaching of Jesus about casting out demons in Luke 11, as one example is non-figurative but a literal response to his opposers, who did not discredit that he cast out denons, but his method, assuning he did so by the piwer of Satan. In other words it is not a figurative expression, but the language if the text makes it clear that Jesus was respinding to an accusation that was contextually presented as an actual event. It is sad that atheists get advice by an individual that has not had extensive courses in Biblical literature, to understand the distinctions of the genres by the same author in tge same book.

    Also, I might add that yes, there are hoaxes. Not every video about demons being cast out is true. Yet, that is where real discernment exists. You discern against demons because you see hoaxes. But the problem us that without demons, there us

  • Marc Harris

    Demons do exist, it’s God I’m not sure about.

  • Drake

    The moment people forget that demons are not even original from Christianity. There is a reason of why people believe in these “fairy tails” similar to UFO. Too many people offen seen something abnormal that goes beyond our understanding. Whatever if we think that they are real or not it will not matter. Just because I decide to think that butterfly are not real , it doesn’t change the reality of the world

  • DJ Zhuge Meng

    It is pretty sad with this article and some responses of others. How easy it is to simply say that he was using terms of the day to describe certain things. Thinking that if Jesus were to describe these things in with modern terminology it would sound differently. This is erroneous. In the book of Revelations it talks about a third of all angels were cast out along with Satan (Revelations 12:4). What do you think they became? Satan’s minions, i.e. demons.

    I grew up on the mission field and have seen heard to many stories to not take this topic seriously. I have family members that have experienced things that cannot be explained away by science. Example, When he was printing out the Gospel of John, claw-like scratches showed up almost constantly on the printing plates. When running the printing press rollers started removing themselves twisting back and forth just like when we try to remove one tube from within another. It wasn’t one roller but several of them. My father and others realized Ephesians 6:12. When they realized this the whole print shop went to all the equipment, laid their hands on it and prayed for God’s intervention and protection on themselves and the equipment. Once finished, scratches disappeared and rollers stayed in their proper places.

    For you skeptics a question, can you use science to prove math?

  • DJ Zhuge Meng

    Have you ever asked someone if they can use science to prove math. It is quite interesting to see them try. Science is unable to prove math. If we cannot use science to prove math, might there be other things that we also can’t prove with science. You and I would agree with the answer to that.

  • DJ Zhuge Meng

    Can we use science to prove math?

  • sarah

    So, you believe in a God but not demons? Is that what I’m getting from this? I mean, the title alone.

  • sheckyshabaz

    Jesus is a Jew. The ancient Hebrews did not believe in the spirit world like western christiantity does.

    Western christianity has a lot Greek philosophy like platonic dualism and babylonian mysticism interpreted throughout. If you want to understand the bible, see it through the eyes of ancient hebrew, not post babylon.