Re: Demonic possession (was Re: [asa] The Big Sleep)

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue Sep 09 2008 - 16:43:43 EDT

I mentioned this book once before, but Nigel Goring Wright's "A Theology of
the dark Side" addresses these issues in I think an excellent way, much
along the lines of Murray's comments below.

On Tue, Sep 9, 2008 at 4:37 PM, Murray Hogg <> wrote:

> Hi James,
> Thanks for the contribution!
> As a first approximation it seems, then, that we have a few lessons to
> learn from this;
> 1) That extreme psycho-pathology and demonic possession result in the
> exhibition of largely similar symptoms.
> 2) That distinguish an instance of demon possession from one of extreme
> psycho-pathology thus requires deep familiarity with the later (and an
> obvious willingness to allow possibility of the former!)
> 3) That the ability to make such a distinction is not reducible to rule.
> That is, just as with any clinical diagnosis there is a tremendous onus upon
> the skill of the clinical practitioner such that it may not be possible to
> fully describe why a particular diagnosis is the appropriate one in a given
> instance.
> 4) That there is, at least, an extensive process of elimination of
> well-recognized psycho-pathologies.
> 5) That there is need to investigate the alleged para-normal aspects of the
> case in order to eliminate potential deceit and/or error.
> 6) That when assessed from the perspective of a person (a) trained to PhD
> level in clinical psychology and (b)with extensive experience in the
> treatment of extreme psycho-pathologies and (c) who allows the possibility
> of demonic possession; the instances of demonic possession (as opposed to
> extreme psycho-pathology) are rare.
> Which brings me to my "what should a Pastor do" conclusion;
> C1) When faced with an instance of apparent extreme psycho-pathology refer
> same to a trained and experienced clinical practitioner.
> And,
> C2) If said clinical practitioner is not able to identify a known
> psycho-pathology (or three!) AND if there are accounts of para-normal
> activity associated with episodes of pathological behavior THEN, in
> conjunction with the clinical practitioner, the pastor may be justified in
> considering the possibility of demonic possession.
> As an addendum to the above...
> It strikes me as obvious that the instances in Mark to which Vernon alluded
> were NOT diagnosed by a trained clinical practitioner - and I am moved to
> ask whether a diagnosis of demonic possession might not be possible as the
> outcome of a process of spiritual discernment? This is not to imply that the
> Markan cases are really instances of extreme psycho-pathology misinterpreted
> as demon possession (without great elaboration, I believe that possibility
> is eliminated by the fact that Jesus himself "diagnosed" the cases and that
> the "case reports" were selected for inclusion in the Gospel record under
> the influence of the Spirit). Perhaps the obvious response here is simply
> that "we're not Jesus" and even given a genuine case of demonic possession
> the Lord's reading of the situation and ours is likely to be at variance
> (cf. Mark 9:14-29).
> This later passage also suggests that even if we have legitimately
> identified an instance of demon possession, how we go about responding to it
> is hardly a trivial question given to simplistic answers.
> Your comments?
> Blessings,
> Murray Hogg
> Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
> Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology
> wrote:
>> > Tell you what, Vernon, rather than play the hypothetical game - why
>> don't you
>> > cite a contemporary case of demon possession of the sort encountered in
>> Mark,
>> > and your reasons for believing it to be just that sort of case, and
>> then we'll
>> > talk some more.
>> This is a fascinating topic to me, and when I read this, I had to reply.
>> Please see my article on the TNRTB site here (yes, that's my ugly mug):
>> Testing Demonic Possession
>> As an Emergency Psychiatrist myself, the refereenced article (original
>> here: by
>> Gallagher who is himself an Emergency Psychiatrist is quite interesting. He
>> is Catholic, and of course the Catholic Church is the only one (that I am
>> aware of) still involved in exorcism. Dr. Gallagher was not invovled in the
>> exorcism per se; just the psychiatric evaluation that came beforehand.
>> Now given, you won't find this kind of research in the American Journal
>> of Psychiatry. :) But still, to the Christian, this is pretty good stuff.
>> Kind regards,
>> JP
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David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Tue Sep 9 16:44:19 2008

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