Demonic possession can too often be the scapegoat for our own weakness. It most certainly has its place in the toolbox of explaining how wicked this world gets at times, but as a wise theologian once said, sinners don’t need Satan’s help to sin. We can do that all on our own.
We could probably write quite a lot more on demon possession. It is an inexhaustible subject. To that point this will be our last foray which specifically touches on it. We’ll move next week onto more tangible matters for this series on things which goes bump in the night. God is gracious and merciful to us and a thing He warns about in His word is against both an unhealthy obsession with the devil and his ways and spending so much time in them that you actually come to be marked among their number. A danger that police departments monitor all the time with undercover agents is that they do not “turn” in the midst of doing their job, or as Paul warns in Ephesians 5:11 we are to take no part in the works of darkness and that means being wise in our study. It is also a category of theology that probably shouldn’t be majored on by those young in the faith. As we take our leave and enter once more into the fray our focus will be on some of the strategies available to see demonic activity and then how to deal with it in a Biblical manner.
Whenever we talk about the minions of the devil our ideas are far more influenced by Hollywood and the internet than anything noted in the pages of Holy Scripture. The vast majority of that which we would expect to see is extremely rare. No twisting heads and vomiting girls, or superhuman strength on display here. We are much more likely to see the demonic in the deceiving works of the devil’s light than through a straightforward attack. Even Satan knows a fainting flanking maneuver is wiser than an all-out assault on the center of the line. Usually we do not even see it until it has already taken place. There is more truth to the old cartoon trope of the demon on your shoulder whispering sweet things in your ear than a “spirit” controlling you like a robot. A wormtoungue saying who are you going to believe, me, or your lying eyes. Much like other prophets the devil works in the word. He claims to carry with him the testimony of truth and honesty. He convinces by encouragement and encouragers. He leads astray like a pied piper of death. We have much more to fear from well-speakon tellers of the desires of our heart than a crazed maniac shouting insanity. No one was convinced by Hitler who did not already agree with his solutions to the problems of the day. A young man who decides one day he is a young lady is not brought to that place of hope by the conditioning of the media, but through the small leadings of a heart long-since given over to the termination of the image of God.
You Might also like
By Samuel G. Parkison — 2 years ago
Written by Samuel G. Parkison |
Monday, November 22, 2021
The person of Christ is no less than his human nature. That human who lived and died and rose and ascended and will one day return really is Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. He is human, yes, and he is infinitely more. His person is truly human in nature, but his person is not circumscribed by his human nature. Christ exceeds. This is why you should feel absolutely no embarrassment or shame in reading through the gospels while worshiping Jesus Christ, the man—son of Mary, brother to James, cousin to John, eater of fish, drinker of wine. The man who said things and felt things and did things with his hands. You should feel absolutely no embarrassment about longing to hug his resurrected body with your resurrected body—and feel no embarrassment about longing for the day when you can look into his human eyes and say “thank you,” and to watch his human lips curl into a human smile.
In the incarnation, God reveals his Triune beauty for us in language we can understand. He communicates his astonishing beauty with human language, and with skin and bones, and he does this for our benefit. He does this for our worship. I have devoted a rather significant portion of my life considering this idea of Christ revealing divine beauty for our benefit, but for all my attempts to articulate it, nothing I’ve ever written or said holds a candle to this paragraph from fourth century church father, Athanasius:
For since human beings, having rejected the contemplation of God and as though sunk in an abyss with their eyes held downwards, seeking God in creation and things perceptible, setting up for themselves mortal humans and demons as gods, for this reason the lover of human beings and the common Savior of all, takes to himself a body and dwells as human among humans and draws to himself the perceptible senses of all human beings, so that those who think that God is in things corporeal might, from what the Lord wrought through the actions of the body, know the truth and through him might consider the Father.
What exactly is he saying? He’s saying that God, recognizing our inability to lift our gaze up from the created order to heaven, came down from heaven to the created order to stand at our eye level. He’s saying, “Since human beings couldn’t seem to stop worshiping creation instead of the Creator, the Creator became a creature to accommodate their limitations!” This is what I do when I need to get my son’s attention while he is preoccupied with making a mess all over the floor: I drop down to the ground. I stoop to bring myself to his eye level.
That’s what God does for us in the incarnation: he stoops and makes himself available. In this way, he becomes intelligible enough for us to worship him. We can identify this human being—Jesus Christ, the most beautiful human being ever to exist—as the central object of our worship and offer all of our praise to him without the fear of dishonoring God precisely because he is no mere human: he himself is God. He has become man in order to accommodate our limitations in worship. We couldn’t reach up onto the top shelf to get God, so God places himself on the bottom shelf—right within our reach—in the person of Jesus Christ, the carpenter from Nazareth.
“Without Ceasing to Be God”
It is precisely at this point, however, that many well-meaning evangelicals go astray. For they often miss the very central point that while, in the incarnation, God the Son brings himself down to the bottom shelf in one sense, there is another sense in which he stays right where he is. Every Christian agrees that the incarnation—with its doctrinal emphasis on Christ’s two natures, one human and one divine, united in one person—is one of Christianity’s central mysteries. But often, this mystery is neglected for the sake of rhetorical convenience. “Christ was so generous he left behind his divine attributes,” is how this point typically appears. And to be fair, it sounds attractive on the surface. Isn’t this how Christ “sympathizes with our weaknesses” (cf., Heb. 4:15)? Doesn’t he sympathize with our weakness by giving up his divine strength? As shocking as it may sound, I want to say no.
Some might object to a very important section of Scripture that appears to make the very point I intend to reject, however. This passage is Philippians 2:4-8, which says, among other things, that Christ, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant, being born in likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” There you have it! What else could his “self-emptying” mean but a relinquishing of his divine attributes or divine prerogatives? But the issue is not as simple as that. For one thing, the central phrase of this passage does not provide its own direct object. Christ “empties himself” … of what? To assume that the answer to this question is, “his divine attributes,” or “his divine prerogatives,” is a bridge too far. The passage simply doesn’t make that point. Instead, we see a grammatical tangle, that very intentionally keeps Christ “in the form of God”—wherein he “did not need to grasp for equality with God” because he already had it—and yet, while being in the form of God, he “self-empties.” Paul is very careful with his language precisely to bring us to the very limitations of language itself. Again, we would expect this verb “self-empties” to have a direct object explicitly stated. Instead, we have to look for the direct object from within the context, and the direct object turns out to be a grammatical paradox—which is fitting, given how mysterious the incarnation is. Christ empties himself, not by giving anything up, but specifically by “taking on the form of a servant.” The way Christ “empties himself” is not actually by emptying—how our self-emptying would necessarily work—rather, Christ “empties himself” precisely by adding to himself a human nature: his “self-emptying” is a subtraction by addition!
So, no, Philippians 2:4-8 (and other similar passages) do not teach us that Christ leaves his divine attributes behind when he assumes a human nature. But we can and must reject such a notion not only because it isn’t taught in Scripture, but also because it contradicts important doctrines that are taught in Scripture. Let me conclude this section with two reasons for rejecting the idea that Christ gave up any part of his divine nature or glory in the incarnation.
Chalcedon and the Gospel
First, to say that Christ “gives up his divinity” or “gives up his divine attributes” (or even some of them) in the incarnation is to misunderstand the hypostatic union (i.e., the doctrine that describes how the divine nature and human nature are united in the Person, Jesus Christ). The fifth-century statement on Christology from Chalcedon emphasizes the hypostatic union by describing how Christ is “truly God and truly man.” It goes on to say that Christ is “consubstantial with us according to manhood,” and “begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead.”
By Kendall Lankford — 7 months ago
One of the most important works you will ever do is bringing family worship into your home. Family worship will disciple your children in the faith, give them ownership that this faith belongs to them, and prepare them for the war they will be engaged with in the years ahead.
Christianity’s Helm’s Deep
If you have seen or read the Lord of the Rings, you will remember that the defense of Helm’s Deep was one of the finest battles ever filmed or written. Today, it seems that Christianity in general and Christian families, in particular, have found themselves where the forces of Rohan once stood, outnumbered, outmatched, and in a battle for survival.
Upon the horizon of Western Civilization, the storm is raging, howling like a tempest on the open sea, and threatening to engulf the Kingdom of God and all its soldiers in a torrent of doubt and misery. Under the spell of the Dark Lord’s command, the forces of liberalism, secularism, and moral relativism have been amassing armies for years, bending the education system to their will, employing the entertainment industrial complex as propaganda for their perversions, and strong-arming government to execute their commands. This warfare has been aimed squarely at the home, marriages, sexuality, children, and the faith.
Like the valiant defenders of Helm’s Deep, we are tempted to look around and notice that there are but few upon our walls defending compared to the advancing legions. As a result, many have abandoned the fight, convinced themselves that there is no fight or that the Uruk Hai prefer our niceness. Yet, this small and embattled group, the covenant home, though vastly outnumbered by the forces of darkness that assail them, will likewise triumph. Not because our weapons and defenses are so great but because our God and His promises are greater than the walls of Hornburg.
This means we are not defenseless. On the contrary, God has armed our men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, to wield His weapons, which are as ancient and powerful as the faith we hold dear. The sword of truth cuts through the lies and deceptions of the enemy, illuminating the darkness with a bright and piercing light. The shield of faith protects the heart of the believer, deflecting the fiery arrows of doubt and the blows of temptation. Our banner of love waves high, even above the castle walls, as a symbol of the divine affection that sustains and strengthens us for every battle. And like the men of Helm’s Deep, an abiding conviction to protect our women and children will be how this battle is won.
Today, an all-out war is being waged to snuff out the light of the Gospel and plunge this world into chaos, moral perversion, and ruin. That fight is coming for you, your home, your faith, your children, and you must be vigilant to stand. This post is for our men to wake up, remember that there is a battle, join the ranks, and do everything we can to protect our women and children from the enemy’s encroachment. Our family is our future. The next generation’s church will be filled with our children. And if they take the Kingdom deeper and farther than we did, we will need to prepare them well. To do that, we must recover the ancient discipline of family worship!
What Is Family Worship?
Quite simply, family worship is daily Biblical worship that occurs within our homes. It is the male-led, wife-aided, Spirit-inspired, truth-bound, faithful, and joyful morning and evening adoration of a family unto their God. It is the hymns we sing, the Scriptures we read, the thanksgivings we share, the blessings we heap, the service we render, the prayers that we pray, and the commands we commit to both memory and action that echo from the covenant home and prepare our children for the future battle.
By Bradford Littlejohn — 12 months ago
Conservative Christians, however, got it in their heads for decades that politics was about property rights and school vouchers; and now that we have wholly lost the public sphere, we frantically hide behind the protective sheet of “religious liberty,” now reconceived as a sphere of private self-expression, not realizing that this protective sheet turns out to be a white flag.
When I told people that I was preparing for this debate on religious liberty, the most common response was, “Wait, which of you is arguing against religious liberty?” In modern America, saying you’re against religious liberty is a bit like saying you’re against kittens.
Now, I love kittens in fact, but just because I’m in favor of kittens doesn’t mean that I don’t think there’s something amiss in a culture where people refer to their cats as their “children.” And just because I am unabashedly pro-kitten, that does not mean I cannot support reasonable restrictions on kitten rights for the sake of the common good. I am glad to see, for instance, that none of you have brought kittens to this debate. If you had, we might have had to ask you to leave them outside. Finally, I refuse to hold my ancestors in contempt just because they did not value kittens as highly as we do.
At this point I will leave the kitten metaphor behind, lest it should become strained to the breaking point. But, tongue-in-cheek though it is, it does gesture in the direction of three main points I want to make tonight. I have three main concerns about religious liberty discourse:
In contemporary usage, it has left the door wide open to relativism and anarchy. The more we invest in it without interrogating it, the more we will undermine our own cause as Christians committed to the conservation of our society and human nature.
A one-sided emphasis on religious liberty—at least as currently conceived—blinds us to the inescapably moral and religious character of government, and the proper God-given task of the government to promote right religion.
By valorizing expansive religious liberty rights as self-evident universal human rights, we encourage the very chronological snobbery that is destroying the foundations of the church and our civilization. We will not be able to resist thinking of our ancestors as benighted bigots who persecuted people for kicks. The myth of American exceptionalism plays in here, as we have often told ourselves the tale that our forefathers came to this country fleeing religious persecution in Europe and set up a new nation dedicated to liberty for the first time in history. The truth, of course, is much more complicated, and although I cannot elaborate on this history here, the mere fact that it is more complicated suffices to rebuke our casual haughtiness towards past ages.
In what follows I will focus on elaborating the first two points and then offer a brief positive exposition of the historic magisterial Protestant view of the relation between politics and religion.
Avoiding the Relativism of Religious Liberty Run Amok
My first main point then is that unless properly defined, “religious liberty” opens the door to relativism and anarchy. Consider the case of Guy Fawkes, whom our British cousins commemorate every fifth of November with a bonfire and fireworks, celebrating his failure to carry out his deeply-held religious conviction: a determination to blow up Parliament, the King, and all the lords and notables of England in one fell swoop. Such religious terrorism, of course, is hardly out-of-date; the 9/11 bombers were similarly motivated by deep religious commitment. Why should they not have liberty to follow through on it?
People will quickly object, “Well sure, but there’s never a religious right to harm others.” Oh sure, that’ll solve the problem. What about spanking then? Should Christian believers who consider corporal punishment to be part of God’s prescription for parenting be permitted to spank? Or should they be restrained on grounds that they are harming their children? What about “conversion therapy” for gays and lesbians? In some countries, this has already been banned on grounds of harm. What about simply preaching the Bible’s unpopular truths about homosexuality? Won’t this inflict incalculable psychological harms, and maybe lead to suicide? Countries like Canada and Australia have already begun to infringe such baseline religious liberty on the grounds—to them eminently plausible—that it inflicts harm on others.
Ultimately, at stake in such debates are disagreements about what is actually harmful in the final analysis. There is no religiously neutral ground for making these determinations.
On the other end of the spectrum, consider the case, discussed by John Perry in his excellent 2007 study of religious liberty, Pretenses of Loyalty, of the man who appeared in court in a chicken suit, and insisted to the judge that he did so out of religious conviction. People will quickly object, “Yeah, but he just made that up.” So? Says who? How do you know what is and isn’t a sincere religious conviction? Does a religious conviction have to be widely held to be considered genuine?
In any case, even if it is genuinely held, can it be automatically accommodated? In between these extremes of the terrifying and the ridiculous lie all kinds of concrete religious liberty issues that have troubled judges over the centuries. John Locke was well aware of this problem, warning of the danger that citizens would evade legitimate civil obligations out of “pretenses of loyalty” to divine authority (thus the title of Perry’s book). In his own time, Quakers were a prominent example, refusing to take oaths that were prerequisites to serving on juries or to holding civil office, and refusing to serve in the military. The question of military service has been a particular sticking point for religious liberty objections over the past few centuries, since it does indeed represent a deeply-held conviction for some, but it is also easily abused—if we allowed everyone claiming to be a pacifist to evade the draft, wouldn’t every draft-dodger claim such protections? Then there are those willing to serve in the military whose religious convictions conflict with various standard obligations, such as Sikhs’ insistence on wearing beards or those requesting exemptions from certain vaccination requirements.
Do we accommodate such requests? Maybe, maybe not. Our jurisprudence has evolved a number of rules to try and answer these questions, based on some of the criteria noted above: how great a harm might be inflicted? How widely held or historically attested is this conscience demand? etc. But the point is that it is a matter of prudence. Claims of religious liberty are not automatic trump cards or blank checks; they may or may not be accommodated, but it will take some hard work and hard decisions about what the common good demands. Living in society simply means accepting constraints on the ability to live out our religious convictions—at least, unless we are fortunate enough to be the majority religious group in a society. If you are a worshiper of Ishtar and think that she should be honored with temple prostitution, you can be free to believe that, but sorry, you can’t practice that.
This becomes more urgent to the extent that we blur the lines between “religion” and “conscience,” as we increasingly have in the modern West.