The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Demons - real or not?


If reasons and rationales such as I’ve presented are irrelevant to evaluating whether material is ‘literal,’ that simply appears to be a baseless assertion that everything must be assumed to be literal, or else no material can be seen as literal. But I see no reason to believe that! Many find the contrary evidence overwhelming. Without arguing in a circle, how are you sure that everything is in fact ‘literal’?


Qaz, here is Prof. Grupp’s article in the prestigious philosophy journal Sophia offering a new argument for atheism:
The important point is not how compelling the article is, but rather how convincing his son’s exorcism must have been to help move him to fully embrace the Christian faith.

Qaz and Bob clearly reject Jesus’ teaching that exorcisms usher in the kingdom pf God Period. To argue that Jesus’ belief was the product of His culture is just another way of saying that He was mistaken and therefore that His teaching on the arrival of God’s kingdom was mistaken. Bob and Qaz keep ducking this point; they remind me of Fundamentalists who won’t watch videos on evolution from qualified secular biology professors because Satan must have planted fossils to delude Christians.

Bob cannot provide a single example of a Jew performed an exorcism prior to the time of Jesus. His allusion to David’s musical help for Saul’s depression in which he is bothered by an evil spirit is not an exorcism. Bob’s claim that I’m, imposing MY definition of “exorcism” on Jesus is absurd because in fact I’m simply embracing Jesus’ own view of demonic possession. Why are Bob and Qaz so intellectually dishonest that they refuse to even watch a video that decisively refutes their position? Well. they illustrate the sad truth that you just can’t reason with some people. Ironically, despite my own families experience with demonic possession and exorcism, I’m reviewed around here as a debunker of possession claims. That’s because, as Catholic investigators know very well, most claims of possession are disguised forms of psychopathology and great harm has been done be trying to exorcise victims of mental illness.

So why do I persist in exposing the intellectual dishonesty of these skeptics? Because this site does have some open-minded seekers and I want them to see who is and is not willing to embrace tha hard work of critical thinking.


Prayer for casting out demons:

I renounce my love for power, money, and any fears holding me in bondage. Heal, O Lord, all those wounds that have been the cause of evil rooted in my life. I ask you Lord to send forth an assignment of angels to destroy every demonic influence that contributes to my sinful behaviors. Forgive me for resentment, pride, rebellion, unforgiveness, manipulation, deception, dishonesty, retaliation, lust, and idolatry. Spirit of Almighty God of the Most Holy Trinity, descend on me. Purify me, mold me, fill me with Yourself. Banish all evil forces from me; destroy them, vanquish them, so that I can be healthy and do good deeds. Banish all curses, hexes, spells, oppressions, possessions, all that is evil and sinful. I command and bid all the powers who molest me - by the power of Almighty God in the name of Christ my Savior to leave me forever and be destroyed.


Thanks. I’m still not convinced in the least. Did you ever consider the possibility that Grupp was already a theist when he decided to write a paper against theism, specifically so that he could later “prove” the supernatural under the guise of being someone who didn’t already have an agenda to prove theism (or perhaps if we’re being cynical, sell books)? It’s such a transparent strategy, I’m surprised someone of your education would so easily fall for it. It’s so amateurish. “Look at me! I can prove I was an atheist! Therefore when I say I saw demons, I can’t POSSIBLY be lying!”


You display an appalling bias here, consider that, unlike myself, you have not even heard his life story. Your penchant for pontificating from ignorance is also confirmed by your unwillingness to read extensively in the documentary literature on exorcism and your failure to join a prayer group that exercises the gifts of the Spirit and deals with spiritual problems at their most severe.

But I think the main reason for your impoverished experience of God’s power is similar to the reason why many on this site get freaked out by modern paranormal and supernatural manifestations: in other words, you fail to grasp the experiential basics of the Gospel. So I will focus on this oversight one of my next planned posts, beginning with Paul’s theology of baptism and doctrine of the Holy Spiirit.


“Demon” and “demonic” are terms that were given a good working-over in the so-called ‘liberal’ theologies of the mid to late 20th century (some of which I have been enormously enriched by). Some used the terms as a metaphor for forces in human nature and human structures, power structures, ecclesial structures, that were considered to be de-humanizing and idolatrous, in the name of God.
Here’s a short sample from one of my favorites, Paul Tillich:

“Self-affirmed greatness in the realm of the holy is demonic. This is true of the claim of a church to represent in its structure the Spiritual Community unambiguously. The consequent will to unlimited power over all things holy and secular is in itself the judgment against a church which makes this claim. The same is true of individuals who, as adherents of a group making such a claim, become self-assured, fanatical, and destructive of life in others and the meaning of life within themselves. But in so far as the divine Spirit conquers religion, it prevents the claim to absoluteness by both the churches and their members. Where the divine Spirit is effective, the claim of a church to represent God to the exclusion of all other churches is rejected. The freedom of the Spirit resists it. And when the divine Spirit is effective, a church member’s claim to an exclusive possession of the truth is undercut by the witness of the divine Spirit to his fragmentary as well as ambiguous participation in the truth. The Spiritual Presence excludes fanaticism, because in the presence of God no man can boast about his grasp of God. No one can grasp that by which he is grasped — the Spiritual Presence.”

Any thoughts? I realize this is a bit off the main focus of the thread, but I think it is related at least tangentially.

One other tidbit elucidating the above:
" The Protestant principle is an expression of the conquest of religion by the Spiritual Presence and consequently an expression of the victory over the ambiguities of religion, its profanization, and its demonization. It is Protestant, because it protests against the tragic-demonic self-elevation of religion and liberates religion from itself for the other functions of the human spirit [culture and morality], at the same time liberating these functions from their self-seclusion against the manifestations of the ultimate. The Protestant principle (which is a manifestation of the prophetic Spirit) is not restricted to the churches of the Reformation or to any other church, being an expression of the Spiritual Community.


Obviously much in the bible is not literal except in the case of Angels there are numerous different contexts with interactions with numerous different people on numerous occasions including Jesus and his ultimate test with Satan.

But to keep in the spirit of this topic i have decided Moses isn’t literal, because it resonates with me Moses is an idiom for,

The Law
No now it resonates with me Moses is an idiom for Jewish obedience to God
No, i think Moses is an idiom for Jewish hope
No, Moses is an idiom for fallen man
No, Jewish rebellion to God
No, Jewish hope for the promised land
No, idiom for faithful Israel
No, idiom for faithless Israel
No, idiom for the Messiah

And when Satan and Michael battled for Moses body , it was two idioms fighting for one!
That one was an idiom for the Parable of the Hidden Treasure!


Steve - first, :rofl: Good one!
Second - I don’t think Tillich was ‘correct’ if we view his statements as statements of the reality of the actual demonic, where the demon is an actual entity that can act somewhat freely.
But his attributing the word ‘demonic’ to those effects of those forces is pretty good nonetheless.
I don’t see a reason, yet, for thinking first century people were ignorant of actual Reality. And I think the effect of demonic activity is much more subtle, for the most part, than actual raving possession. Paul talks about ‘powers’ that are dark influences on individuals and societies.


So do you see biblical evidence of this, OR by what measure is your belief informed in the present? OR is this more a non-evidential hunch?

True enough… but are these mentioned the ethereal devils assumed, OR could there be another reasonable rationale?


Some call it bias, I call it a bullshit defector :stuck_out_tongue:. That you think previously making public statements that one doesn’t believe in some unverifiable phenomenon somehow verifies any future claims to the contrary, is laughable. Claiming not to believe X in the past is not proof that one’s claims affirming X in the present are true. I’ve seen many people tell lies. I’ve never seen a demon/werewolf/vampire/bokoblin. But if they’re as ubiquitous as you seem to claim, you shouldn’t have any trouble trapping one and presenting him to a scientist for study. You could become famous!


I think at least it’s as well-informed as any other opinion 'round here. I’m not concerned if anyone believes it or not. Who will disprove it. Who will prove it??


Opinion… that’s cool. I just wondered IF you had something in particular in mind.


Actually, no more than you do :slight_smile:


I try to keep this hat on as long as I can:
“But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

IF there are good people doing God’s work in alleviating the suffering of the truly possessed (if that is true) - God bless 'em. There is enough doubt in my mind to just let them be.


However, good intentions are not enough in attempting to minister deliverance from demonic oppression or possession. Genuine power and discernment from the Holy Spirit are necessary. As Berserk pointed out,

Also, we recall the fateful results when the seven sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva presumptuously attempted deliverance:

Acts 19:15
One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?”

They were all then beaten and bloodied by the man with the spirit.

Further, deliverance is not the end, but a means to the end—to help people recognize God’s love, turn to Him in repentance, and personally receive the Spirit of Christ inside them (their “house”). As Jesus warned,

Matthew 12:43-45
43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.
44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.
45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first."

(Side note: in my experience, the Roman Catholic Church does not challenge people to a place of absolute surrender to God, and a definitive born again experience through inviting Christ to come into them to live and rule. So I am dubious of their long-term success rate in the deliverance ministry.)


Written by a Catholic who believes in abandoning oneself to Divine Providence

It’s also in my Devotional of the Carmelites by Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen O.C.D. and their conception of God. I mention the book because the mystics of the Carmelite tradition include such holy figures as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avilla. They lived exceptional lives of holiness because they were surrendered to God in total trust. They had a humble faith in God’s providence as they abandoned themselves completely to Him. Here’s what it says on page 693:

Nothing exists without a reason, nothing in the world happens by chance; everything, everything, without the least exception, is part of the magnificent plan of divine providence. In this plan every creature, even the lowest, has it’s definite place, it’s end, it’s value. Every event, even the most insignificant, has been foreseen from all eternity and regulated even to it’s slightest detail.

When my future is in the hands of an all powerful and loving God who promises to work out all my circumstances for good because I love Him, anxiety is broken as the heart opens up to love. The desires that lead to sin are pushed out of my heart as God infuses me and covers me with His righteousness. Faith - Hope - Love

From pages 708 - 709

One who lives by faith can repeat the beautiful words of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity: “Everything that happens is a message to me of God’s great love for my soul.” To attain this living and profound gaze of faith, we must accustom ourselves, in our relations with creatures, to pass over secondary causes in order to reach the first Cause, God, who by His providence rules and orders everything for His own holy ends. Since we know and believe that He who directs all things is our Father, we will entrust ourselves to His direction with absolute confidence, and thus we will remain serene even in adversity, strong in the conviction that He can make use of evil, of man’s errors, and even sins and malice for the good of the elect. "To them that love God, all things work together unto good! (Romans 8:28). The gaze of faith is most comprehensive and real because it takes into account the total reality of creatures and events considering them not only in their maternal entity, but also in relation to their dependence on God. The more we know how to look at everything in this light, so much the more closely will we approach the eternal thought and infinite wisdom of God, judging everything according to God’s infallible truth. With this view of faith it will be easier for us to accept the painful situations and hardships of life, for we will be able to see in them God’s paternal hand ordering everything for our sanctification


I’d implied Jesus might share a 1st-century understanding of demons. You attacked me, based on the sheer assertion that: "There are NO examples of exorcisms of demons in the Ancient Near East."

So I responded that scholars widely document ancient beliefs in demons and exorcisms, mentioning accounts in Mesopotamian tablets and Zoroaster’s accounts. Davo and I cited Josephus on Jewish accounts of exorcisms. Also N.T. references to exorcists (Mt 12:27; Lk 11:19; Acts 19:13f). So if you are not alone in claiming Jesus was the 1st & only exorcist, I was inviting you to offer authorities who challenge those I cited.

I find puzzling your failure to offer any evidence, and your insistence that the burden is all mine to prove what scholars universally recogize. I’ve presented my transparent views here since founding this site, and your reliance on ad hominem accusations of my dishonesty feels uniquely desperate.

P.S. On the contention I disputed, I realize the one argument you do repeat is that the video on Catholic exorcism “decisively refutes” my contention. But as I watch it, I’m not seeing anything relevant to my claim that exorcisms were familiar, and have no idea how this is germane to the evidence I cited. As I said, many of my fellow pastors practice exorcism, and I respect them and their views. But I don’t understand your hostile insistence that every honest person must agree with yours.


Bpb, you read some general claim about ancient Mesopotamian exoricms. But I’m asking you to think for yourself and provide one example that fits Jesus’ conception of exorcisms. After all, it’s Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God that you dismiss. I have repeated made the point that you continuall duck; so I’ll repeat it again: Jesus conceived of exorcisms as an expulsion of malevolent evil demons sent by Satan. So find me one example prior to Jesus’ lifetime of an exorcism tha presumes Satanic involvement.

Also, you continually duck my challenge to defend your view that you can follow Jesus without believing in His core tenet that His exorcisms uniquely demonstate that God’s kingdom has come upon the faithful. To dismiss this as a cultural error is to dismiss Jesus’ teaching. You might garner some sympathy from readers if you displayed a willingness to watch the documentary demonstrating the evidence for modern demonic attacks. By contrast, I’d watch any YouTube video you posted that you imagine supports your position.


Actually, your point is well taken, but from my view out of context. The idea that the view of Satan and demons are told about numerous times is well established, and that many believe (and believed in the past) such is true, so true, but if we look at it from a ‘where they were vs where we are’ scenario, I tend to think that those beliefs were part of the times… The history of how people thought at a given point in time.

The literalness of these ideas will be debated for a long time, but we have to ask where is the logic and synchronicity of such thoughts with a God of love?

So maybe they were a way of telling a story to a particular group of people. Who the hell knows. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


[quote=“Berserk, post:78, topic:13894, full:true”]
(1) “Find me one example of an exorcism tha presumes Satanic involvement.”

(2) “You continually duck my challenge to defend your view that you can follow Jesus without believing in His core tenet that His exorcisms uniquely demonstate that God’s kingdom has come upon the faithful.”

(3) “You might garner some sympathy from readers if you displayed a willingness to watch the documentary demonstrating the evidence for modern demonic attacks.”

Bob’s responses:

(1) I don’t see HOW one could satisfy your first question. Who in Josephus and the Bible’s references to Jewish exorcisms, etc do you assume they presumed was being exorcized? I see no reason to be sure they didn’t assume some sort of Satanic demons, but if your case somehow needs every exorcist to say “I’m exorcising the exact kind of demon Jesus will confront later” (?), or else you win, I guess you win.

(2) Tho this is a different issue, I already repeatedly explained how I see Jesus’ powerful deliverance ministry as a grand sign that the reign of God is present in Him, and don’t grasp your assertion that I don’t or can’t.

(3) As I said, though I have no interest in “garnering sympathy,” out of curiosity about your insistence that it “decisively refuted” historian’s claims about exorcisms before Jesus, I watched your video, and it seemed irrelevant to that contention, or even to what I’ve concluded from a lifetime among folk into exorcism.

This topic, about which I have little investment, seems to press your buttons. So I’d repeat that if this is pivotal for you, and you fear that I can’t have a deep allegiance to our Lord, unless I agree with first century understandings of demonology, that’s fine. As universalists, we soon get used to being called heretical when a view of ours doesn’t conform to others more conservative.

P.S. I know you keep emphasizing that the rest of us aren’t “intellectual” enough, but I honestly perceive your insistence that there’s no evidence of belief in demons and exorcism before Jesus to be eccentric. Did your profs at Princeton find your belief that Jesus originated this belief to be convincing?