Powers of Darkness (Arnold)

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n many ways this is a shortened version of his dissertation. But it can also function as a supernaturalist, evangelical response to the then (and now) current leftist evangelical fascination with “powers-talk.” It also documents how conservative evangelicals, thanks to some Charismatic influences, are taking the Bible seriously on principalities and powers.

It’s important to read Ephesians. It’s even more important to read the sections in Acts where Paul engaged in “Power Apologetics” against demons, magical grimoires, and riots.

The Stoichea

Arnold follows the RSV/NEB/TEV in reading the elemental spirits as personal beings, and not as abstract elements (Arnold 53). This seems to be the correct reading because it echoes Galatians 3-4 in seeing them as guardian tutors.

He has an excellent section on Judaism. I say excellent in general, for I will push back on some parts. He notes that Jews did have categories for the “demonic,” even if they weren’t as explicit as in New Testament times. This is true, but scholarship has since shed more light on this. Take Deut. 32:16-17. Most translations read something like, “They sacrificed to demons.”

By itself this isn’t too problematic, but it leads Arnold to draw some conclusions that are in tension with the rest of his work. Arnold writes, “Biblical writers attributed no real, independent existence to these deities. Instead they called them idols” (56). I know what he is wanting to do. He wants to safeguard against henotheism, and I commend that. But if he calls these entities demons, then he is forced to admit that they do have some kind of existence.

Sure, Zeus doesn’t exist. But I don’t see what exactly is gained by saying Zeus doesn’t exist, but the demonic presence behind Zeus does exist. But is that even what the text says in Hebrew? It says they sacrified to “shedim.” This is a territorial guardian spirit whose Akkadian root word connects it to the underworld. This doesn’t refute Arnold’s analysis, but it makes it much richer.

And while Arnold does posit some sort of pre-creation angelic fall, he realizes that the Old Testament never really says that. It posits Satan’s falling, to be sure, if only by implication.

Paul and the Powers

Fairly standard NT theology material here. Examines Paul’s use of “powers-language” and makes clear that gnosticism was not involved.

Contra Walter Wink

There has been a tendency in recent theology to equate the powers with socio-economic structures. Earlier theology would have seen the powers as influencing these structures but never identifying the two. He incorporates Paul’s use of “in Christ” language to negate any perceived need for a young believer to go towards angelic intermediaries, power-intermediaries, etc.

Hilariously, Wink commits the “illegitimate totality transfer fallacy” by arguing “that one term can be made to represent all the uses” (quoted in Arnold 199).

The book ends with practical guidelines for spiritual warfare today. He understands that belief in “Powers” and “spirits” today bothers Christians, even professed conservative ones. And he doesn’t back down. The bold believer is one who affirms the reality of shedim, powers, demons, etc., and is willing to engage them in spiritual warfare

The Angels and Us (Adler)

Adler, Mortimer J. The Angels and Us. New York: MacMillan, 1982.

This is not a theological-exegetical treatment of angels. That is neither a criticism or a compliment. Adler’s purpose is to give a philosophical explanation, not a theological proof for angels.  One might ask, “Why can’t we just go by what the Bible says on angels and leave it at that?”  There are several problems with that idea.  I learned the hard way that people really do not want to deal with what the ancient Near East, including the Bible, says about malakim and dark spirits.   Moreover, logical deductions from sound premises are just as binding.  Philosophy is inescapable.

Mortimer Adler limits his analysis to that which philosophy allows one to say about angels.  This means at best he can give only an explanation of x, not a proof.  This is frustrating at times, but I understand why he does it. The philosophical benefit to such an approach is that it allows him to focus on the mind-body problem, since an angel is a mind without a body. One more preparatory note: I am not necessarily convinced of the Chain of Being model. I grant Adler’s rebuttal to Lovejoy, but I am not so sure he adequately dealt with Samuel Johnson’s criticisms.

Ptolemaic societies had an easier time with philosophical approaches to “planetary intelligences.” For Aristotle, these moved bodies which in turn move others seem a lot like what we would call angels. Quite obviously, “an incorporeal agent could be nothing other than a mind or intelligence.”[1] Even though angels are minds without bodies, they can assume corporeality in their missions to earth.[2] The biblical text itself is quite clear, as Abraham’s visitors ate with him and later grabbed Lot and his family.  (We will leave aside, of course, Genesis 6:1-4.)

Not surprisingly, Adler’s main guide is Thomas Aquinas, and his main guide to Thomas is Etienne Gilson.  This is as it should be. Beginning with Pseudo-Dionysius, Christian reflection saw the angels as a hierarchy. I do not think Pseudo-Dionysius is correct in his taxonomy, but the underlying principle bears reflection.  Adler notes: “The descending order of hierarchies…consists in grades of creaturely perfect…The perfection referred to is not moral, but metaphysical—a perfection in the mode of being.”[3] This is the Great Chain of Being, or one series of links in it, anyway.

This chain marks a intellectual mode of perfection. The fewer the ideas, the higher up.  This is simplicity in its classical sense.  A Seraph, for example, has fewer ideas than a malak, but he comprehends more in those fewer ideas. Is this Chain of Being really necessary?  Aquinas thinks so.  There would be a gap in reality without them. But can the Great Chain of Being survive modernity’s attacks on it, particularly in the fine book by Arthur Lovejoy?[4] Lovejoy’s actual, if not intended, target is Leibniz, not Aquinas.

When the Great Tradition speaks of a chain of being, it does not have something like arithmetical sequences in mind. Each links differs in kind, not in degree.[5] Moreover, each angel differs with the next by species, assuming, of course, that one accepts Thomas’s account of the angels.

Hell’s Angels

This is where Scripture is largely silent.  We know Satan fell.  We just do not know when. We know it was before man’s fall but after the “Everything is good” pronouncement. Angels, like Adam, were created mutable. If angels were created perfect, then some could not have fallen for obvious reasons. As best as we can tell, the angels that fell, in choosing evil instead of good, did so in the second moment of their existence. Their wills were then locked in place. The angels who obeyed were confirmed in grace.

The Substance of Angels

If a substance is a conjunction of form and matter, and angels are immaterial, then either all their forms are the same, and hence all angels are the same angel, or they must differ in some other way.  They do so by species. Each angel is its own species.[6] Each angelic species is a conjunction of form and its individual act of existence.

That angels interact with physical matter is clear.  How they do so is not as clear.  Since they are not physical, they cannot do so physically (except when they assume bodies). It does so by means of spiritual power. An angel “occupies its place intensively by surrounding it with its power.”[7] This might make more sense if we contrast it with humans.  When a man fills a place, he does so extensively, by physically occupying that place.  Not so with angels.

An angelic mind is purely intellectual.  It does not know discursively. When a man knows something, he does so by forming concepts and judgments.  Angels know with one act of intuition, but not all angels have the same knowledge. They know by virtue of infused knowledge.

Conclusion

Theologians and biblical scholars will wince at some of Adler’s conclusions. His philosophical reticence to affirm theological truths is annoying at times.  On the other hand, his analysis is on point and he avoids getting off topic. For those who read the Great Books, this is required reading.


[1] Mortimer Adler, The Angels and Us, (New York: MacMillan, 1982), 6.

[2] Adler, Ibid, 12.

[3] Ibid, 45.

[4] Arthur Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being, (Cambridge: Harvard, 1971).

[5] Adler, The Angels, 62. This also eliminates any fear of pantheism between God and man.

[6] Ibid, 126.

[7] Ibid, 130.

Satan Cast Out (Leahy)

Leahy, Frederick. Satan Cast Out: A Study in Biblical Demonology. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975.

This is a decent summary of evangelical scholarship concerning demonology around the time of the 1970s. To be sure, evangelical scholarship on the supernatural has increased a hundredfold since then, but one has to somewhere. Frederick Leahy writes with an easy style and the book can be read without difficulty in one afternoon. I do not agree with everything he says, but what he writes can get the student thinking through the issues.

He correctly says that angels are spirits (Leahy 12). True. What do we mean by “spirit,” though? Does ruach mean something closer to force or does it mean something like Origen’s pneuma?

While he urges us to avoid speculation, he says that each angel fell individually (13). Maybe, but he doesn’t give us any reason to believe that.

He holds to an amillennial reading of “Satan being bound” (27). I agree, but I think a better reading of “not allowed to deceive the nations” refers more to a final assault on the Mount of Assembly.

He says fallen angels are chained in darkness forever (29). This is certainly not the case. If all of the fallen angels are chained in the abyss, then how can Paul warn us about the powers in the heavenly places? It will not do to say that “their chain is really long.” In that case, there chain allows them to roam the whole earth; for all practical purposes they aren’t chained at all. Moreover, in that same paragraph he cites where the demons are pleading with Jesus not to send them into the abyss. Why would they say that if they were already chained?

He correctly identifies the Prince of Persia as a demonic being (52). He also notes that the Nazis were engaged in the occult (54).

He takes Merrill Unger to task for denying that Apollyon is Satan, but he gives no reason to believe that he is Satan.

He correctly identifies the satyr of Isaiah 13:21 as a demon (65).

He says the lying spirit of I Kings 22 is a demon (67). Maybe, but that raises a big problem: what is a demon doing in the presence of God? Moreover, by Leahy’s own reading isn’t this demon chained? If so, how is he in God’s presence?

He correctly notes that the occult is a gateway for evil spirits (72).

He correctly rejects the view that demonic possession was simply what the ancients called mental illness (79). In fact, that view is liberalism.

He did some good research in his chapter on demon possession in church history. I m surprised he didn’t mention the famous case of Lutheran pastor Johann Blumhardt. He does mention John Wesley’s poltergeist experience at Epworth (91 n.12; 119).

He gives an excellent rebuttal to the arguments of Jay Adams and others who say that because there was a cluster of demonic activity in Jesus’s day, it can’t happen now. Leahy responds, “It is fallacious to argue that because there seems to have been an intensification of demonic activity especially in the form of demon-possession, during our Lord’s earthly ministry, that the same phenomena are now either non-existent or extremely rare” (144-145). Well said.

The book is worth getting if you see it. It doesn’t replace Clinton Arnold’s two books on the subject, but it does give a good snapshot of evangelical thinking on the subject during the 1970s.

Review of Michael Heiser, Demons

Heiser, Michael.  Demons.  Lexham Press.

I’ve been preparing this review for about 4 years.  True, Heiser’s book has only been out around a year or so, but I knew he would write this book and I wanted to be ready.  He does not disappoint.  It is the only book of its kind.  There are evangelical texts analyzing what the Bible teaches on demons, but they either repeat cliches or only engage with a surface level reading of the text.  Unger’s is good, but he doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.  Clinton Arnold’s work is fantastic, but only focused on the New Testament.  Heiser’s is one of the first that deal with the best of critical scholarship, yet from an evangelical standpoint.  

Demons and the Dead

Early OT language about the demonic overlaps with terms used for the realm of the dead.  The key concept is that of the Rephaim.  The Rephaim could be giants or shades of the dead (1 Chr. 20:4; Isa. 26:14; Job 26:5).  At least at death they are seen as “supernatural residents of the underworld” (Heiser, loc. Cit. 345).  They were part of the giant clans specifically targeted by Moses and Joshua (Deut. 3:11, 13; Josh. 12:4; 13:12).  They are linked to the Anakim (Deut. 2:10-11).  The Anakim, as you no doubt remember, descended from the Nephilim (Num. 13:33; Gen. 6:4).

Heiser later does linguistic analyses on “Spirits,” the ob, obot, oberim; “those who have passed over.” While there are locations such as Oboth and Abarim in the Transjordan, a tantalizing clue is given in Ezekiel 39:11, The Valley of the Travellers.”  Archeology has shown the remains of megalithic minutes referring to the dead and the underworld.

Knowing one: Deut. 18:9-14 condemns sorcery, which is no surprise.  One practice would have been “utilizing the services of so’el ob we-yiddeoni” (440).  Lev. 19:31 links these knowing ones with the spirits of the oboth (side point: the KJV is actually a better translation on this one).

Azazel.  One reason Azazel simply can’t be the goat offered in Leviticus 16 is that a goat is offered for Yahweh and another for Azazel.  Leviticus 17 gives a bit more information, as it mentions “goat demons.”  The key point is not that a sacrifice is being offered to a goat demon.  Rather, the sins of Israel are being banished outside of the holy realm.

Original Rebel

This is largely a recap from his earlier works dealing with the passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel.  He acknowledges that the passages originally address a human king.  The point, though, is that the prophet’s speech draws upon elements of a primeval rebellion.  Yes, he is talking to the king of Tyre/Babylon, but no one seriously believes the king of Tyre was in the garden of Eden at the beginning of time.

Some say it refers neither to angel nor king, but to Adam in the garden.  There are some weaknesses to that approach.  For one, Adam doesn’t appear anywhere in the texts.  Further, as Heiser notes, we would have to presume “things about Adam that are not in the Genesis episode of the fall” (loc. 1497). Nor do we have any evidence that Adam ever served in the divine council or fancied himself a god.

As to the figure being thrown down to “earth,” Heiser notes places where eretz can mean the underworld (Jonah 2:6) “where ancient warrior-kings await their comrades in death” (Ezek. 32.21, 24-3o).  The divine rebel was sent to the realm of the dead, the underworld.

Satan in Second Temple Judaism

Interestingly enough, Azazel in 1 Enoch functions as the Satan figure.  The OT really didn’t make an overt identification between the Serpent and Satan.  The Serpent was seen as God’s arch-enemy, but as satan was more of a common noun, few made the connection.  This connection, however, is clearly seen by the time of the NT writers.

On the other hand, Azazel could function as the leader of the Watchers (Gen. 6:1-4; 1 En. 8:1).  On the other hand, Azazel is the tenth fallen angel listed, so he probably isn’t the leader.

While the name Belial never refers to a personal being in the OT, it clearly does in the NT. How would NT writers and readers have made the connection?  They did so by means of the intertestamental worldview (Martyr. Is. 2.4; 4.2, etc).  By the time of the NT Belial is more or less the same as “Satan.”

Demons in Second Temple Judaism

This chapter summarizes largely technical concepts and reception of texts like 1 Enoch in the intertestamental period. The one new point that I noticed was his reference to the 3rd century African bishop Commodianus (ch. 3) who linked “the disembodied existence of the giants after their death” to the existence of demons.  Does the Bible, though, say this?  Not directly, but it does give a hint that any early reader would have seen. The Rephaim lived in the underworld and were the spirits of warrior-kings.

Third Divine Rebellion: Chaos in the Nations

As in his earlier works, he links the Tower of Babel incident with the “Deuteronomy 32 worldview.”  I won’t repeat the arguments here. One question that always comes up with his take on Psalm 82 is “when” did this happen?  When did God decide to judge the corrupt elohim?  The Bible doesn’t directly say.

Cosmic Geography

Deut. 32:9 says Israel is Yahweh’s portion and “his allotted heritage.”  With reference to Azazel, deserts are often thought to be the realm of demons (something the early church echoed).  When David has to leave Israel, he says he has been “driven away from the inheritance of Yahweh” (1 Sam. 26:19).

Daniel 10:13, 20 gives the clearest, if briefest reference to cosmic geography.

The Devil and His Angels

If the Hebrew term shaitan was ambiguous, the Greek term Satanos is not.  It clearly refers to the arch-rebel.  It is interesting, however, that “Beelzebub,” the god of Ekron (2 Kgs 1:2-3) is now identified with Satanos. On the other hand, the lemma ba’al in the name could refer back to a more generic Hebrew reading, meaning prince on high, referring to Satan’s leadership.

It is not arbitrary that the devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness, as that is the home of Azazel and Lillith.

What is a demon?

One problem is that we think we already know what this term means.  The fact that we don’t connect biblical dots and that we get our theology from post-Catholic pop culture only makes it worse.  This lets Jungian gnostics and others reinterpret demon as “dark psyche” within all of us.  And if you get your theology from pop culture, it’s hard to argue with them.

A demon is an evil spirit (Matt. 8:31). It’s also called “an unclean spirit.”  Note that it is not called a fallen angel.  Unclean spirit is far more precise and calls the reader back to how “clean/unclean” functioned in a biblical worldview.  Something is unclean when it is an unnatural mixture and/or was in contact with dead corpses (hint: Nephilim).

The Ruling Powers

Paul’s language of “rulers, principalities, powers, dominions, thrones, world rulers” echoes the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.  These are geographical terms. While they sometimes denote physical rulers, Ephesians 6:12, linking them to heavenly places, makes that impossible here.

Application

Heiser correctly notes that a Christian can’t be “possessed” by a demon.  He also points out that possession is the wrong word, in any case.  He also rebuts the Peter Wagner school of Strategic Level Warfare Ministry.  Wagner correctly notes that the bible speaks of cosmic geography.  The problem is that the NT authors never seem interested in casting out lieutenant demons before getting to the generals.

I agree with Heiser that the NT never lists exorcism as a weapon to use; the fact of the matter is that the NT does use it.  But in any case, neither Heiser nor I would sanction the bizarre types of exorcism seen in Roman Catholic culture.  The best antidote to demonic activity is simply spiritual hygiene.

Some Criticisms

While the book is easily the best of its kind, it does run into a few difficulties. There is a lot of repetition in this book, both from his earlier works and from within this work.  Some of that can’t be helped.  He assumes–with reason–that not all readers will have been familiar with his earlier works.  That said, if you have read his earlier works then you more or less know the arguments relating to Enoch, apkallu, and the like.  

That’s not to say there is no new material in the book. There is, and it is good.  

Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men (Hugh Ross)

Image result for lights in the sky and little green men

Samples and Ross cogently argue against any sort of “alien visitors” while acknowledging the reality of eye-witness reports.  They are able to maintain this tension by reducing the question from “UFOs” to “residual UFOs” (RUFOs). With this move they are able to move the questions regarding abductees from the scientific realm to the spiritual realm.  They are quite successful.

Samples and Ross suggest it might be better to speak of “UFO phenomena” rather than “UFOs.”  

  1. It is hard to distinguish between UFOs and the phenomena.
  2. Paradoxically, in attempting to define a UFO we are defining that which isn’t identified.
  3. We can’t do a direct study of a UFO.
  4. The meaning of the terms change over time.

Most of the UFO sightings can be explained away.  But that still leaves thousands of RUFO (residual UFO) sightings that aren’t so easily explained.  Making matters worse, there is still overwhelming evidence against “extraterrestrials.” 

The problem with interstellar travel: 

Traveling at half the velocity of light, it would take nine years to reach the nearest star.  But we aren’t going to the nearest star. We have to find an earth-like one that could support life.  That would take at least fifty light years.

The faster you move through space, the more damage debris does to the craft.  The slower you move, the longer it takes. That’s the insurmountable problem. If you armor the craft, then you need extra propellant. That makes the craft faster, which means you need more armor, which means you need extra propellant for the extra propellant.

Kenneth Samples does an excellent job outlining the supposed UFO experience, tying in “contactee” accounts with similar accounts by Swedenborg and Blavatsky. Ross and Samples note that the contactee accounts sound almost identical to demonic oppression.  They end with a fervent evangelistic appeal.

Defeating Dark Angels (Kraft)

Image result for defeating dark angels

Kraft, Charles.  Defeating Dark Angels.

After John Wimber’s Power Healing and Power Evangelism, this is the best book on inner healing and deliverance.  I would also recommend you read it in conjunction with JP Moreland’s book on Anxiety, whether you have anxiety or not.

Demons can attach themselves to wounds.  As Jesus brings healing to the wounds, the demons get weaker.

He makes an identification between demon, angel, and evil spirit.  I don’t think that is exegetically warranted, but that’s not where Kraft’s real strength is, either. He sees these as “the ground troops,” which are distinct from the principalities.  That much is correct. I think demons are “ground troops” as well and that is a good way of putting it. I just don’t think demons are fallen angels.

Can Christians be demonized?  We need to be clear that demonize does not mean demon-possessed. Kraft makes a very subtle distinction:  a demon cannot live in a Christian’s spirit–the deep core of a person–because Jesus lives there. Very true.  But the Christian’s spirit is not the whole person.

>>A demon cannot indwell a Christian in the same sense as the Holy Spirit can.  A demon is a squatter and subject to momentary eviction. 

>>Do demons “cause” events?  Not really. Normally they will simply “tag along” with a bad event and exploit it.

>>Demons will often “bluff” because they know while Christians have the greater power, they usually don’t use it.

>>Not only will demons attach themselves to sin, but also to damaged emotions.  In order to enter a person (but not a Christian’s spirit), a demon either has a legal right (e.g., the occult) or an entry point via an emotional or spiritual weakness.

Marx and Satan (Richard Wurmbrand)

One only has to read Marx’s analysis of Hegel to see that Marx is clearly demon-possessed.  But Wurmbrand suspects there might be more to it. Wurmbrand is not saying Marx made a pact with the Devil.  He is saying he used Luciferian categories, language, etc. And later Marxists were openly Satanic.

For further reading: North, Gary. Regeneration through Revolution.

Satanic Evidence

Marx speaks of “building his throne against God” in language reminiscent of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.

Background:

One of the rituals of the Satanist church is the back mass, which Satanist priests recite at midnight. Black candles are put in the candlesticks upside down. The priest is dressed in his ornate robes, but with the lining outside. He says all things prescribed in the prayer book, but reads from the end toward the beginning. The holy names of God, Jesus, and Mary are read inversely. A crucifix is fastened upside down or trampled upon. The body of a naked woman serves as an altar. A consecrated wafer stolen from a church is inscribed with the name Satan and is used for a mock communion. During the black mass a Bible is burned. All those present promise to commit the seven deadly sins, as enumerated in Catholic catechisms, and never to do any good. An orgy follows (Wurmbrand 8).

We will now consider Marx’s drama “Oulanem” (which is an inversion of the name Emanuel, a specifically Satanic move)  Marx writes,

The hellish vapours rise and fill the brain, Till I go mad and my heart is utterly changed. See this sword? The prince of darkness Sold it to me. For me he beats the time and gives the signs. Ever more boldly I play the dance of death.  

Wurmbrand comments: These lines take on special significance when we learn that in the rites of higher initiation in the Satanist cult an “enchanted” sword which ensures success is sold to the candidate. He pays for it by signing a covenant, with blood taken from his wrists, agreeing that his soul will belong to Satan after death (9).

Marx writes in a letter to his father, “A curtain had fallen. My holy of holies was rent asunder and new gods had to be installed” (10 November 1837).

Instead of telling his kids fairy tales at bed times, he told them stories of men who sold their souls to the devil.  Seriously. Who the *&%% does this? Wurmbrand quotes Robert Payne, “There can be very little doubt that those interminable stories were autobiographical. He had the Devil’s view of the world, and the Devil’s malignity. Sometimes he seemed to know that he was accomplishing works of evil.”

Speaking of the anarchist Bakunin, Wurmbrand has a very interesting paragraph: “Bakunin reveals that Proudhon, another major Socialist thinker and at that time a friend of Karl Marx, also “worshiped Satan.” Hess had introduced Marx to Proudhon, who wore the same hair style typical of the nineteenth-century Satanist sect of Joanna Southcott” (Wurmbrand 16).

Marx’s favorite daughter Eleanor married an avowed Satanist, Edward Eveling.

Marx’s behavior on his deathbed was rather strange.  His housemaid and whore, Helen Demuth, said he prayed before candles the week before his death.  Marx never practiced Judaism and he openly rejected Christianity. So what was happening? More interesting is that he had a statue of Zeus.  Zeus, as those who aren’t enamored of a Bowdlerized Greek classicism know, is Satan. Plain and simple.

Wurmbrand: “Britain’s center of Satanism is Highgate Cemetery in London, where Karl Marx is buried. Mysterious rites of black magic are celebrated at this tomb. It was the place of inspiration for the Highgate Vampire, who attacked several girls in 1970” (35).

Wurmbrand then has some observations on Lenin’s Satanism. The rest of the book (from about page 40 onward) is a litany of Marxist crimes, especially in connection with Satanic themes.  It is a supplement to Solzhenitsyn’s never-sufficiently-praised Gulag.  It’s not easy reading.   It’s necessary, though. If anyone is tempted by Wokism or Cultural Marxism, then he/she/xir/xim needs to read it.  And own it. Because that’s exactly what is going to happen.

The last chapter is a snapshot from a Satanic mass by a person who later escaped.  I won’t mention it here for obvious reasons.

Some criticisms

This is one of those issues where it is “document or die.”  Wurmbrand will refer to the titles of Marx’s works, but often not any more specific than that.  I guess that can’t be helped, since most of these were pamphlets which wouldn’t have any consistent pagination.

 

Demons in the World Today (Unger)

Image result for unger demons in the world today

Unger, Merrill. Demons in the World Today. Tyndale.

Merrill Unger writes with much force and energy and in a clear style.  While he gets many details wrong, the general thrust of his argument is correct.  This book is an update (but by no means a replacement) to his classic Biblical Demonology.  In this work Unger (correctly) recognizes that “possession” is a misleading term (and one the Bible never actually uses).  This allows him to bring pastoral insight to Christians who are struggling with the occult.

My main problem with this work is that Unger lumps all “bad” spirits as “demons” and all good spirits as “angels.”  While he equates demons with fallen angels, he realizes that his position isn’t self-evident and a number of plausible theories are advanced.  He rejects the idea that demons are the disembodied souls of fallen Nephilim (Unger 12-13). He says it is pure speculation. Modern scholarship has shown it is anything but that.  I’m not 100% sold on the idea, but one can make a case for it. Nephilim are not fully human or divine, so it makes some sense that their souls are earth-bound.

Unger says, alluding to Revelation 12, that demons are connected with the primordial fall of the dragon and his angels (13).  But when we look at Revelation 12, the “fall” is happening at Christ’s birth, not in some eon past. On another note, following the plain reading of the Bible and numerous scholars today, Unger agrees that the “sons of God” are semi-divine beings who copulated with human women (12).  And then he argues that demons are incorporeal beings (22), and that the two are the same; how, then, can an incorporeal demon fornicate with a woman?

There is a way out of this.  It is something along the lines of when angelic beings enter the realm of time, space, and matter, they can take on the properties of matter (this is obvious from Abraham’s encounter with the angels).  Nonetheless, I agree with Unger that demons are invisible spirits. I simply reject the equation with fallen beney ha-elohim. Strangely enough, Unger seems to entertain the idea elsewhere (28).

Unger has some sage comments on the supernatural and the demonic.  He writes, “When men ignore God’s warnings and enter a forbidden realm, they may witness materializations, levitations, and luminous apparitions, as well as experience spirit rappings, trances, automatic writing…” (27).  His chapter on magic, while good, reads sort of like a series of horror clippings from a magazine. The pastor can probably use these as sermon introductions.

What is “demon possession” and can Christians be demon-possessed?  Unger defines possession as “a condition in which one or more evil spirits inhabit a body and take complete possession” (140).  A key indicator is when a possessed individual “blacks out” and doesn’t remember anything. This seems to indicate that Christians cannot be possessed, as defined above.  

However, the occultic attacks on disobedient Christians are far more insidious than merely chanting “oppressed, not possessed.” Unger then documents probably close to 100 cases.

Unger’s dispensationalism mars his treatment at points.  While there are strong cases for the cessation of spiritual gifts, Unger’s arguments are just bad  He argues throughout the book that the super gifts ceased because the perfect has come (1 Cor. 13), which of course means the New Testament canon.  There are several huge problems with this (huge enough that modern cessationists no longer advance this argument). According to 1 Corinthians 13, whenever the perfect comes, other conditions will also obtain.  Do you know in full? Has faith passed away? Do you still see in a glass darkly? The most obvious problem is that 1 Cor. 13 doesn’t identify the perfect with the New Testament canon.

Dictionary of Demons/Deities in the Bible: Anat

A friend of mine provided me with….access to this classic standard.  Each entry is on an entity/concept that has divine connotations and is found or alluded to in the Bible.  As a reference work of its kind, it simply has no equal (sadly, neither does its price).

Dictionary Of Deities And Demons In The Bible, Second Edition

Anat. Female Canaanite deity.  She wasn’t necessarily Baal’s consort, since the Keret Cycle seems to clearly imply that Ba’al had sex with a cow, not with Anat (KTU 1.10 iii: 33-38).

And remember that Ba’al = Satan (per Jesus’s words about Beelzebul), and since Jesus also says that Satan’s throne is in Pergamum, and the only notable architecture there was Zeus’s altar, that means Satan = Zeus.

Kind of ruins “going back to the classics.”

3 Crucial Questions about Spiritual warfare

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Arnold, Clinton. 3 Crucial Questions on Spiritual Warfare. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1997.

Continuing with the material in his dissertation on Ephesians, Clinton Arnold gives top-level scholarship combined with practical application for the church. In this text he steers a middle path between animism and deism. His three crucial questions:

1) Should we engage in spiritual warfare?
2) Can Christians be possessed?
3) What about territorial spirits?

Arnold begins with a simple (yet for some, baffling) observation: “ Foundational to spiritual warfare is a belief in evil spirits and a desire to get the upper hand on them before they get it on us” (Arnold, [it’s hard to cite the page number, since I am reading this on an epub]).

1. The concept of spiritual warfare reflects a primitive, prescientific worldview

2. Demons and evil spirits are not very prominent in the Bible. Even if this were true, it had force only if we limit the term to daimonia.

Supernatural Opponents

archai = Principalities

exousiai = authorities

kosmokratores = world rulers

pneumatika = spiritual forces

Arnold makes one observation with which I disagree: “These terms probably do not represent the so-called territorial spirits that we find in Daniel—that is, a demonic prince with responsibility over a country or region (see Dan. 10:1320).”

It’s hard to see how they couldn’t be territorial spirits. But maybe they don’t have to be. Arnold doesn’t mention it, but these could be the shedim and rephaim mentioned in Deut. 32. In discussing Ephesians 6, I do like how Arnold emphasizes the corporate nature of prayer.

Can a Christian Be Demon-Possessed?

After the 1970s better texts on spiritual warfare moved away from speaking of “possession” (given its connotations with the Exorcist) and more on demonization (which is actually what the Greek word says). The problem is that terms like “possession” mean “to be totally the Devil’s control.” Of course Christians aren’t totally under the Devil’s control, but in terms of bodily motions, neither are most unbelievers. Arnold then clinches the argument: ““Demon possession” is always the translation of a single Greek word, daimonizomai. Words for ownership or possession (e.g., huparch , ech , katech , ktaomai, or peripoie ) are absent in the original text.”

However, not all arguments to the effect “Christians cannot be demon-possessed” because ________ are very good. While we are a temple of God, there is no reason why demons cannot “latch onto the outer court,” to extend the metaphor. In fact, we can “give turf” to the Devil. “In your anger do not sin; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” The term translated “foothold” is the Greek word topos, an expression that was commonly used for inhabited space.

Further, we can allow evil to reign (Romans 6:12).

Did Paul Exorcise Christians?

Arnold writes that Luke tells of a massive exorcism *after* some Jews and Gentiles were converted to the Lord (Acts 19:10). Arnold: Luke then tells us that “many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds” (Acts 19:18, italics mine). The result was a massive ceremony of renunciation involving the burning of 50,000 days’ wages worth of magical papyri. These were Christians burning their occultic texts!

And Arnold documents that the type of magic they were doing involved invoking a daimon to come to one’s aid. So you have born-again Christians invoking demons to come to them.

Can a Christian Exhibit Altered States of Consciousness?

If by altered states one means “dissociative identity disorder,” and as long as that is understood by what the govt did with MK-ULTRA, and not because a spiritual entity, then yes.

Can We Imitate the Gospels on Exorcism?

The gospels are manuals for us on how to live. This is how the earliest Christians (and common sense) understood the gospels. Further, in Luke 11-12, the coming of the kingdom is also attended by exorcisms. Further, in the Great Commission Jesus commands us to teach and do all.

The early church exorcised new Christians. 

Hippolytus, Apostolic Traditions. Moreover, from the day they are chosen, let a hand be laid on them and let them be exorcised [exorkizein] daily. And when the day draws near on which they are to be baptized, let the bishop himself exorcise each one of them, that he may be certain that he is purified (20.3).

But if there is one who is not purified let him be put on one side because he did not hear the word of instruction with faith. For the evil and strange spirit remained with him (20.4).

The leader would anoint the person with oil and say, “Let all evil spirits depart far from thee” (21.10).

Tertullian: Because of the omnipresence of idolatry, Tertullian asked rhetorically, “What man is there to whom an evil spirit does not adhere, even at the very gates of his birth, waiting to ensnare his soul?” Of course, Tertullian has a lot of issues himself, so take this with a grain of salt.

Pseudo-Clement, Recognitions 2.71, as cited in Kelly, The Devil at Baptism, 124. “Everyone who has at any time worshiped idols and has adored those whom the pagans call gods, or has eaten of the things sacrificed to them, is not without an unclean spirit; for he has become a guest of demons, and has been partaker with that demon of which he has formed the image in his mind, either through fear or love.”

Origen: “Anyone who vanquishes a demon in himself, e.g. the demon of lewdness, puts it out of action; the demon is cast into the abyss, and cannot do any harm to anyone. Homily on Joshua 15.5, as quoted in Everett Ferguson, Demonology of the Early Christian World, Symposium Series 12 (Lewiston/Queenston: Edwin Mellen, 1984), 128.

Cyprian. and although he [the demon] often says that he is going out, and will leave the men of God, yet in that which he says he deceives, and puts in practice what was before done by Pharaoh with the same obstinate and fraudulent deceit” (Epistles 75.15).

Apostolic Constitutions. “Ye energumens, afflicted with unclean spirits, pray, and let us all earnestly pray for them, that God, the lover of mankind, will by Christ rebuke the unclean and wicked spirits and deliver His supplicants from the dominion of the adversary” (Apostolic Constitutions 8.6).

What about Deliverance Ministries?

Properly glossed, it is line with the practices of the earliest Christians. He does give some warning about excesses, though:

* When in doubt, cast it out!

* Uncritical acceptance of testimonies of demons.

Arnold downplays the reality of Satanic Ritual Abuse, however. Granted, he wrote this when many aspects of the “satanic panic” were being exposed. But he is wrong if he says no evidence of Satanic rituals have been found. Yet he admits that murders have been carried out in the name of Satan. So which is it? I think he is rejecting the idea of an international Satanic conspiracy cult. Well, when you put it like that, then no, they probably aren’t real. But there are other ways of framing the issue.

Are We Called to Fight Territorial Spirits?

The acronym SLSW, strategic level spiritual warfare, is what he is talking about. At the most basic level, the concept of territorial spirits is biblical. Daniel 10. And given the fact that God alloted the nations to the beney ha-elohim per Deut 4 and 32, it is legitimate to think that fallen spirits (whatever we want to call them) control (or did control) some countries.

The controversy is when we get to “spiritual mapping.” According to George Otis, it is “superimposing our understanding of forces and events in the spiritual domain onto places and circumstances in the material world” (Otis, George Otis Jr., The Last of the Giants: Lifting the Veil on Islam and the End Times (Grand Rapids: Chosen, 1991), 85).

The second aspect isn’t as problematic: dealing with the corporate sin of an area. This seems biblical. The final question is the main one: can we pray against these spirits?

Arnold’s response:

The first point is utterly biblical. And Arnold corrects the flawed translation of Deut. 32:8 with the correct one from the Dead Sea Scrolls. And while the LXX translates Deut 32:17 as “demons,” the better reading is the Hebrew shedim, which is a territorial spirit of the underworld.

Church Fathers on the topic:

Justin Martyr (2nd century A.D.) makes reference to “the power of the evil demon that dwelt in Damascus” (Dialogue with Trypho 78). “for the princes in Tanis are evil angels” (Dialogue with Trypho 79).

Clement: Well, now, let us say in addition, what inhuman demons, and hostile to the human race, your gods were, not only delighting in the insanity of men, but gloating over human slaughter (Exhortation to the Greeks, 3.1).

But can we name and discern these spirits? Arnold asks us to pause on this point. Scripture really doesn’t say we should. And if Jude is any indication, as he quotes from the Assumption of Moses, we need to be very careful in how we address these fallen territorial spirits. Arnold makes the very perceptive insight: “We do not have the right to tell a spirit to leave if it has an invitation to stay.”

And when Paul was in Ephesus, he no doubt encountered the territorial spirit of the City (i.e., Diana). He didn’t engage in SLSW against her, but in deliverance for the demonized in the city.