[asa] RE: Demonic possession

From: Jon Tandy <tandyland@earthlink.net>
Date: Tue Sep 09 2008 - 17:40:34 EDT

Murray,

I appreciate and agree with much of your response.

I do believe in the reality of demonic forces, having experienced them firsthand on a couple of occasions (not possession, although I know others who have had to confront those situations). I also believe there is a need to be cautious of over-diagnosing the spiritual forces when in reality there may be strong biological and chemical forces at work in the individual, which either display the same symptoms or cause their soul to be more susceptible to demonic influence. And, further I believe there is a very distinct possibility of interplay between the physical and spiritual causes, so that there may be a similar overlap between the sources of potential cure.

I hesitate to suggest that cases of true demonic possession could be cured simply by psychotherapy, but I think a useful analogy could come from considering physical diseases. In Jesus' day, medical practitioners were lacking most of the knowledge of modern medicine, and Biblical miracles are often recorded in healing diseases that are well-known today. In today's medicine, many of those diseases can be cured or greatly helped by medical practice without reference to spiritual healing.

What is a Christian to say about these things? That the age of miracles is over, or that today's miracles consist solely in modern technology? Far from it, IMO. Just as we wouldn't hesitate to consult a doctor for a technological cure to a disease, praying in faith for God's blessing, I believe we should be just as diligent in praying for a true "miraculous" cure. If God blesses through one means or the other (or both), it is still God who brings the blessing and gets the glory. Specifically in psychotherapy, I can see cases where medical practice could help an individual overcome chemical dependencies or mental/biological defects that affect the symptoms, while at the same time praying for a spiritual healing and release from the demonic influence, if such is reasonably believed to play a part. Not ruling out the possibility of a purely supernatural cure in either physical or spiritual afflictions.

Jon Tandy

-----Original Message-----
From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf Of Murray Hogg
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2008 3:37 PM
To: ASA
Subject: Demonic possession (was Re: [asa] The Big Sleep)

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

james000777@bellsouth.net 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):
> http://www.reasons.org/tnrtb/2008/06/09/testing-demonic-possession-2/
> Testing Demonic Possession
> As an Emergency Psychiatrist myself, the refereenced article (original
> here: http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=0308-gallagher)
> 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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Received on Tue Sep 9 17:41:21 2008

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