demonized

Can Christians be Demon Possessed?

The Greek word that is usually translated “demon-possessed” in the Gospels is demonizomai, which literally means “to be rendered passive toward a demon.” It’s unfortunate, in my view, that the term is usually translated “demon possession.” “Possession” implies complete ownership whereas the concept of being rendered passive toward a demon can be reflective of many degrees of passivity. A person can be a little passive or completely passive toward a demon. And a person can have one area or many areas of their life rendered passive toward a demon. But “possession makes it sound like demonization is an all-or-nothing thing. For this reason I prefer to simply transliterate demonizomai as “demonized.”

This point is of some importance, for the question of whether or not a Christian can be “demon possessed” is at stake. One school of thought cites numerous examples throughout church history of Christians who have needed, and benefited from, exorcism. On this basis they argue that Christians can be “demon-possessed. The other school of thought argues that this is impossible, for Christians are owned and indwelt by God, a fact that rules out the possibility that they’re also owned by Satan and indwelt by demons (1 Cor 6:19-20, 1 Jn 4:4).

In my view, there’s truth to both sides. Christians can be, in varying degrees, demonized. They can have areas of their life rendered passive with regards to a demon. Despite the fact that we are owned and indwelt by God, we can give the devil a “foothold” and can have demonic “strongholds” in our life (Eph 4:27; 2 Cor 10:4). This demonization may, on occasion, be strong enough that it leads to a person manifesting bizarre behavior—the sort often associated with exorcisms—when the stronghold is being confronted.

At the same time, however, I think the other school of though is correct in maintaining the impossibility of a person being simultaneously owned by God and owned by demons. A person whose life is authentically surrendered to God may continue to have significant strongholds, but they cannot have every area of their life rendered completely passive toward a demon. In other words, Christians can be demonized, but not demon possessed.

And when Christians are significantly demonized, it’s appropriate, and sometimes necessary, to engage in deliverance prayer (exorcism) on their behalf.

Image by Darren Johnson / iDJ Photography via Flickr

Category:
Tags: , , ,
Topics:

Related Reading

What did Jesus mean when he said he came not to bring peace, but a sword (Mt 10:34)?

Given Jesus’ uniform teaching about loving enemies and abstaining from violence, and given that his followers were known for their refusal to engage in violence for the first three hundred years of church history, it’s obvious that Jesus wasn’t saying he came so that his disciples would use swords. The context of Jesus’ comment makes…

Get LIFE!

We must always be aware of the fact that there is a constant lure toward idolatry in our demonically-oppressed world. It is profoundly easy to be getting all one’s LIFE from Christ and to be completely free of idols one day, but begin to be gripped by idol cravings the next. It’s also profoundly easy…

Following Jesus as You

Rachel Held Evans posted an insightful blog today (it was actually a repost from 2011) engaging the problem of discouragement as we encounter various ideals of what it means to be a Christian versus the reality and limitations of our particular lives. I think we all struggle with this at one time or another. Rather…

Should churches have armed security guards?

Question: Recently (December, 2007) a security guard at New Life Church in Colorado Springs shot and apparently killed a man who was shooting people in the church parking lot. The pastor (Brady Boyd) hailed her as a “real hero.” Do you think churches should have armed security guards and do you think the pastor was…

What do you think of “confrontational evangelism”?

Question: In The Myth of a Christian Nation, you emphasize our need to sacrificially serve others. But you didn’t emphasize our need to “preach the Gospel to every living creature.” I’ve been intrigued by the movement known as “confrontational evangelism,” associated with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. They stress the need to get people to…

Sermon Clip: Brain Reign

In this short clip, Greg Boyd discusses the 3 parts to who we are to help understand the brains role. What does role does the mind, body, and spirit play in who we are? In the full sermon we look at the New Testament teaching on reigning over the relational brain. Understanding how God wired…