Monday, November 07, 2005

Demons, sickness, and sin

Keith Plummer has posted some valuable insights on demons, sin, and sickness from David Powlison's Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare.


Anonymous Keith said...

Hi Milton
Thanks for commenting on Yusuf's story. Part 2 is now up

9:17 AM, November 07, 2005  
Blogger Dan Edelen said...


I take exceptions to some of what was said from Powlinson's book.

While the Bible does not explicitly say that sinful acts are caused by demons within the demon possessed, I'm not sure that a conclusion can be drawn from the lack of examples. I'm not trying to dismiss the dinstinction between suffering caused by demons and moral failure, but I wonder if Powlinson goes too far in his own dimissal.

Modern accounts of people who seem to have something demonic going on in their lives certainly point to them committing atrocious acts as a result. David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer (who is now a Christian, BTW) attributed his murder spree to demonic activity in his life. Even the Biblical accounts refer to the demonic trying to cause people to destroy themselves. Is there any greater moral failure than attempting to destroy oneself? Legion cut himself with rocks and cutting is rampant in many of today's youth. Demonic? Possibly. Moral failure? Certainly.

Many would claim that psychics are possessed. The medium at Endor was summoning spirits. Was the demonic involved? Certainly divination and the summoning of the dead are sins. Paul cast out a spirit of divination from the female slave that hounded him during his missionary journeys. The result of her possession was divination and "prophecy," but the source was not God, and therefore she was committing a sin.

The greater problem here is that of chicken and egg. Was the possession a result of the God-forbidden acts the diviner enegaged in, or were the God-forbidden divinations the result of being possessed? Same goes for the Mary out of whom seven demons were cast. While problems exist with the sheer number of different Marys and prostitutes encounters in the NT, but could it be assumed that this Mary enganged in prostitution, and if so, was it the cause or the result of her possession? Does Powlinson make that distinction in any of his contentions?

Generally, Powlinson's commentary is true, but I don't believe it encompasses the entirety of the subject of whether moral failures accompany possession or not.

1:59 PM, November 07, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

You bring up some very good points, Dan, and you make a good case. What struck me about Powlinson's ideas was how strongly demonic possession is associated with sickness in the NT while we tend to think of it as relating more to sin today. Thanks for your comments. Peace.

2:06 PM, November 07, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks, Keith. I look forward to reading it. Peace.

2:07 PM, November 07, 2005  
Blogger KP said...

Thanks for the link, Milton. I wish I could tell you how that "Create a Link" feature works but I'm clueless too.

Dan, Powlison does in fact address the two instances you raised of the demoniac who cut himself and the slave girl out of whom Paul cast the divining spirit. I considered including that paragraph in my post but in the interest of time, decided against it. So, here's what he has to say:

"But [in the case of the demoniac] Scripture emphasizes his bizarre behavior and restless sense of torment. He might have been socially unacceptable, demented, and miserable, but is Scripture emphasizing his sinfulness? Did the demons have as a "ground" some sin pattern in him or his family? In no place does the Bible warrant such speculations about why this man - or anyone -suffers a case of demons. In the case of the slave girl, Scritpure emphasizes how annoying the girl's truth-speaking eventually became, but assigns no moral evaluation. Obnoscious behavior is probably not always sinful."

Powlison goes on to state that Scripture nowhere identifies sin as the cause of demonization.

What Powlison is reacting acting against is the trend in so much popular literature about spiritual warfare towards accounting for sinful patterns in terms of demonization. Peronsally, I think the Christian proneness to explain horrendous acts in terms of demonic activity is the spiritualized counterpart to the secularized medicalization of evil. Both are void of a robust doctrine of depravity and the fallen heart's capacity for inventing evils.

Again, I wish Powlison's book were more readily (and inexpensively) available as it would be good to read through and discuss it with others.

3:14 PM, November 07, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks, Keith, good insights viz. the parallel between blaming egregious sin on either demons or medical issues.

9:47 AM, November 14, 2005  

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