Knowing the Difference
Between God and the Devil
Spiritual manifestations tend to alarm and puzzle us unless we have some way from sorting out the good from the bad from the indifferent. This is actually a Christianized version of an in-service I took a few years ago when I spoke to the psychiatrist and staff at Townsville General Hospital about demons, exorcism and religious ideation. I'm afraid some medical terms have been left in and it may sound a touch clinical. I was very well received by them and enjoyed the hour or so we had together.
That may help with an understanding of spiritual perspectives - Rev. Dr. Martin Israel (Lecturer in Pathology, Royal College of Surgeons) and author of Summons to Life, Precarious Living, The Pain That Heals, Smoldering Fire and The Spirit of Counsel. Dr. Paul Tournier Swiss -based physician and counselor author of The Meaning of Persons, The Strong and The Weak, Guilt and Grace, A Place for You, Marriage Difficulties , et. al. and a leading exponent of the "medicine of the person" movement. In North America Dr. John White -Christian Psychiatrist -author of The Fight, Eros Defiled, The Shattered Mirror et.al. On the Australian scene Dr. William Wilkie - Christian psychiatrist author of Understanding Psychiatry, Understanding Stress Breakdown and Dr. Kath Donovan Growing Through Stress present credible combinations of Christian insight and medical practice.
HELPFUL BIBLE PASSAGES
The Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness - Mark 1:12,13, Matthew 4:1ff, Luke 4:1 ff
Jesus and the Gadarene Demoniac - Mark 5:1-20
The 144,000 - Revelation 7:1-8, 14:1-5
The Two Witnesses (Prophets) of Revelation - Revelation 11:1-14
The Psychic Servant Girl - Acts 16:16-21
The Unpardonable Sin - Matthew 12:30-32, Mark 3:29,30 , Luke 12:8-10
The Ill and the Demonized - Matthew 4:24
Exorcism : Matthew 8:16, 12:22 ff. , Acts 19:13ff, Mark 9:17-27
Authority : Luke 9:16ff, Matthew 10:17
Not just mental illnesses: Luke 13:11
Results of demonic influence (Obsessiveness etc.) : I Timothy 4:1ff
Tests for demonic influence: Matthew 7:16-23, 1 Corinthians 12:3, 1 John 4:1-6
Sorting out the possibilities
(A) If the person has been involved: in the occult or an extreme sect, or in gross sexual promiscuity, or in drugs or alcoholism.
(B) And can speak in a voice other than their own or know a language they have not been exposed to.
(C) And find great difficulty in prayer or Bible-reading and react strongly against Christianity.
Then classical demonization is a possibility. Seldom are healthy, normal people obsessed or possessed by the demonic. As a rule of thumb there must be some pre-existing instability.
Bizarre conduct is insufficient evidence.
Voices and visions are insufficient evidence.
Violent fits are insufficient evidence.
Intractable guilt is insufficient evidence but frequently accompanies it.
Absence or presence of reaction to treatment/medication is inconclusive.
Real guilt disguised as demonization
The person comes from a religious background. They have not been involved in the occult, speak in voices other than their own, can still pray and read the Bible. However they hear voices and claim demonization
Generally it is sexual sin, either pre-marital sex, adultery or masturbation that haunts them and which they cannot resolve. Often they cannot admit to themselves their character flaw.
Depression and religious ideas
Those from a Christian background can, during bouts of depression, turn to Scriptural passages on judgment, Old Testament prophecies and the book of Revelation being favorites along with "the unpardonable sin". It generally will pass with the depression. It can be very acceptable to guide them to new beliefs consistent with their faith e.g. if a person with depression has the belief " I am utterly worthless..' the it is quite acceptable to guide them to " for you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God..."(1 Peter 2:9). Countless other examples are possible.
Wilkie (see references at start) sees schizophrenia as a form of minimal brain dysfunction and in the majority of cases I find this argument convincing. Most people with schizophrenia do not speak in other voices , neither are they hostile towards the things of God though they may be confused, sometimes terribly confused in this area. Some seem to be especially sensitive to demons and are preyed upon by them though not actually possessed.
What the cure has to say about the disease
If a patient hearing voices is cured by normal treatments then we can say that no occult subjection was involved. If however a pastoral interview, with thorough confession, renunciation and a trusting appropriation of salvation, leads to a wonderful liberation then we can say occult subjection was involved. (procedure from Dr. Lechler)
When is it God?
Jesus was often accused of being demon possessed (e.g. Matthew12:30, Mark 3;29) and many great men of God -the prophets and mystics have seen visions and had special revelations, hearing voices. The following are indicators of whether a person's experiences are from God or from an inferior source. As a preliminary note it is best to make these observations over time.
The following is a check list that can help determine whether a person is hearing from god or from "inferior source" such as a demon or a repressed and split-off part of their own personality.
|AREA||FROM GOD||FROM INFERIOR SOURCE|
|Freedom||Increases||Decreases becomes obsessive|
|Need for control||Gradually Lessens||Increases dramatically|
|Quality of work||High-benefits society||Indifferent, often socially deleterious|
|Personality||Integrates, Peaceful||Coarse, Clamant|
|Social||Increasingly Loving||Increasingly Divisive|
|State between visions||Healthy, disciplined||Desperate, addicted to visions|
|"Correction"||they give Specific-Aims to bring healing||Vague-Mere condemnation|
|Creativity||Often very creative||Exacts conformity|
|Money||Not important||Frequently demanded|
|Food||To be enjoyed||Lists of forbidden foods|
|Marriage||To be enjoyed||Sex seen as sin, often forbidden or perverted.|
|Salvation||Of all who believe||Of the leader and his chosen|
|Fear and dependency||Decreases||Increases|
|Magic/superstition/idols||Not allowed||Sometimes Used|
This is by no means a total treatment of the topic but I hope it has given you "a few things to think about" and a few tools for working out when a person is demoniacally subjected, when they are just having a bad time with their body chemistry and when they might be one of the Lord's more unusual servants. If you have someone you know that may need pastoral help or specialist counseling feel free to send me an e-mail at email@example.com and I will do what I can to help. I will at least pray with you. God bless.
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