Dealing with Demons (a progressive take)

In the weeks since Pentecost I have posted 2 blogs about the Bible (A Funny Thing Happened and Poetics)  and then 2 about personal prophecy (Why didn’t God tell me? and Process). I love the conversations that have ensued and am amazed at the number of questions that have been generated.

Recently I was asked about ‘casting out demons’ in the past and how I reconcile that now. This is one of my favorite things to talk about, but it does require a little set-up so I will be a concise as possible and then get to it.

In ‘What had changed since I was your Pastor” I explained ‘why the natural is super’:

I am convinced that the church has made a major mistake in adopting the language of the super-natural. Since the epic flub with Galileo and Copernicus the church has allowed science to have the natural (things that make sense) and has been relegated to watching over things that increasingly don’t make sense and retreating into words like ‘mystery’ and ‘faith’ as cover for that which is just not reasonable.

I do not believe in a realm (the natural) that is without God. As a Christian, I believe that God’s work is the most natural thing in the world. I am unwilling to concede the natural-spiritual split and then leave less and less room for God as science is able to explain more and more. The church is foolish to accept the dualism (natural-supernatural) and then superintend only the spiritual part.

I would prefer to reclaim the language of the ‘miraculous’ (surprising to us or unexpected) and ‘signs’ from the Gospel of John (that point to a greater reality).

SO inside that expectation, what do you do with demons and the devil?

I no longer believe that demons are ancient fallen creatures that work for some cosmic bad army in unseen realms and attached themselves to people’s souls… or something.

I believe that demons are the ‘shadows’ that result from injury, brokeness, and scar tissue in a fractured psyche (or spirit or soul). Those ‘dark’ elements or places can manifest in the exact ways that we used to describe ‘spiritual oppression’.

The Devil is a poetic-literary device for when corporate evil is so big and bad that we outsource it (personify it) to an anthropomorphic bad guy envisioned as some overlord type.

[now, I have done this enough to know that two pushbacks are coming, so let me just say: A) Don’t quote Job. The ‘hasatan’ or the satan is not the New Testament ‘Devil’. Plus you have to read Job as the ancient play that it was (it is more like a manuscript than a newspaper report). B) The temptation of Jesus plays an important role in the gospels. stick with me, it will make a lot more sense if you don’t read the devil as ‘an ancient fallen being now terrorizing the earth’. The temptation of Christ was about identity. Not if he was Messiah, but what kind he would be. ]

When we kick demons out of people (through deliverance, exorcism, or guided prayer) we use something called “Open Doors & Broken Windows”.  We invite God’s Spirit to walk them through their ‘house’ – every area of their life – and look for places that the ‘enemy’ could have gained access. Doors are opened from the inside (you have the lock & key to your own heart). Windows are broken from the outside. That is our imagery.

  • Open Doors are decisions that you make (sin, weakness, participation, etc.) that leave you vulnerable and susceptible.
  • Broken Windows are injuries from others (abuse, neglect, violence, etc.).

Sometimes we do this topically (verbally go from room to room) sometimes we do it chronologically (starting from when you were young). Once we have find something, we take back the authority that has been given away (renounce sin) or we invite the Spirit into that place of injury to repair what has been broken and fractured.

Within Deliverance circles that are two primary schools: Authority (or power) and Truth. I am a Truth guy. I simply speak truth into that place of hurt or brokeness. The words of Christ are very powerful for healing and release. Within the Authority school there are two groups: a group who talks to (interviews) the demons; one that doesn’t but simply ‘takes authority’ over them. The theory is that you have to figure out how they got in in order to take away that root of their power. I never liked that, demons lie – they work for ‘the Liar and Father of Lies’.  I even thought that back then …

 How do I process this now? I still do deliverances but much prefer ‘guided prayer times’ without the deliverance element. The only time I will do it is if the person is convinced that there is a demon present. If this person grew up in an environment where this was taught, or has bought into a place where this is the religious teaching – I never introduce the idea, but if that is what they are being tormented by, then I help them out and meet them where they are at.

I believe that demons are the ‘shadows’ that result from injury, brokeness, and scar tissue in a fractured psyche (or spirit or soul). Those ‘dark’ elements or places can manifest in the exact ways that we used to describe ‘spiritual oppression’.

This can affect every thing from internal dialogue, to relationship, to social behavior. Gone far enough, it can even look like possession. Two important things:

  1. As Christians, we believe in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the world.
  2. The deliverance style prayer works just as well on shadows in fractured souls.

When someone walks into my office and they are convinced that they are being a tormented by a demon, I’m not sure that is the best time to explain to them how the ancients viewed the 3-tiered universe and the metaphysics behind it that allowed for demons. It is a time to care for that person and just translate for them.*  What they have been taught to call a demon is a personification with anthropomorphic characteristics. When we have injuries, there can emerge shadows from the fractures and scar tissue. Pastors do all sorts of counseling and this can be a way of caring for a hurting person who is really struggling inside.
I can still do 80% of what I used to do and operate in integrity. I can:

  • invite the Holy Spirit’s presence
  • walk with the person through their life
  • speak the words of Christ into that place of hurt
  • help them renounce the origin, impact and collateral damage
  • take authority over that situation and for themselves
  • confess trust in God and the power to live differently in the future
  • celebrate the freedom that is in Christ and in Christ’s work

I would love to hear your thoughts, concerns, comments and questions. This has been  long journey for me and though I no longer believe in ‘the boogie man’, I understand that this language of demons is powerful in some traditions so I work with people where they are at – I don’t need to first convince them of my perspective.

* I have at times said to the person “What if I told you that there is no such thing as a demon and that what you are experiencing is something else?” Just to test the waters. About 50% of the time the person is open and was simply told by someone else (usually the person who referred them to me) that it was a demon – which terrified them. Some times they insist, so I just go with it.

originally published at HBC

7 thoughts on “Dealing with Demons (a progressive take)

  1. Pingback: Dealing with Demons (a progressive take) « navigating between the … | Nail It To The Cross

  2. Pingback: Explaining Evil: 3 Unique Takes « navigating between the everyday and theology

  3. Pingback: Driving out or driven by demons? « Sojourn Into Exile

  4. Pingback: Driving out or driven by demons? « Sojourn Into Exile

  5. I have been thinking about your post all week. I am running a little behind because my inlaws were in town and I am out of my normal routine. Looking forward to the conversation ;) -Bo

  6. Pingback: Who Believes in Miracles? I sure do! « navigating between the everyday and theology

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