Saturday, April 30, 2016

Demon Possession or Demon Obsession?

Quick, think of an example of demon possession from the Bible.
Got one?
Now, think of one from the Old Testament. Hmmm. Interesting. You didn't find one, did you? That is peculiar, is it not?

Saul was soooo moody. I wonder which Bible college in Chicago
he would have attended....
You could make a case from Genesis 6 of demons possessing humans. You could also say they took human form. That's such a widely debated passage that you could say lots of things. Some may say that the spirit that troubled Saul was a demon possessing him. I wouldn't say that. Regardless, the most liberal estimate drawn from Scripture has precisely 1 demonic possession between the time of Noah and Christ.

When we are faithful to carefully examine the scriptures and study them as they are we soon find out that we don't really know much at all about demons. If you don't know at all what demons are, then you should go to Got Questions? and find an article there about demons or use Grace to You until you know exactly what a demon is. I'm assuming you already have a working knowledge of the basic definition of a demon. So this is kind of like Demonology 201 rather than 101.

The question we're going to investigate is this:
Are people possessed by demons today?
I surmise that they are not and will explain why with the rest of this post.
Disclaimer: I am not saying there is not demonic activity today. What I am saying is that people are not possessed by demons today.

Demon possessions were apparently common enough in the time of Christ that people understood what they were and when they were witnessing one. They were able to distinguish seizures from demonic possessions:
Matthew 4:24  
and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them
Clearly demonic possessions were occurring at a greater frequency while Jesus was alive than at any other point in history. That we don't have any evidence of demonic possession prior to Christ's incarnation is very telling. I'll elucidate that point shortly.

Demons are a higher being than humans. God didn't tell man to take dominion over angels, right? We in our carnal flesh have no authority over angels; nor do we have any authority over demons.

But Tim, haven't you seen the Exorcist or any of its 666 sequels? Hmmm? What say you?

You make a good point and I completely rescind my argument. Who am I to question to theological acumen of Hollywood? Isn't it weird how much theology we unconsciously learn from Hollywood and pop culture? Think of how distorted our images of angels are. What about how westernized we make Jesus in our movies, both in what He says and how He looks? Or how we define miracles? Pop culture has obfuscated the word miracle and trivialized its usage to such a degree we parallel it with mayonnaise. Divine acts of God to authenticate revelation and messengers are now what people who don't like mayonnaise put on their sandwiches.

I stand corrected. This kid had authority over angels.
Since humans aren't higher in authority than angels or demons we can't tell them what to do. Since we can't tell demons what to do, then we can't cast them out of people in whom they've taken up possession. In the book of Jude we learn that Michael, the archangel, didn't even pronounce a railing judgment against the devil but instead appealed to God and said, "the Lord rebuke you." If even Michael (the archangel) felt it wasn't his place to rebuke Satan (a fallen angel), then certainly we don't have the authority to rebuke demons (fallen angels).

But didn't the Apostles cast out demons? Yes.
Luke 9:1And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.
First, we see that Christ is above demons since He clearly had the authority to cast them out. Second, we see that Christ has enough authority to give out authority to cast them out. Third, Christ has all authority. Amen?

So the Apostles didn't have the authority on their own to cast out demons, but received such authority from the King of Kings. The Apostles received lots of authority that we didn't receive. They basically had the authority, as given to them by Christ and proven by their ability to do supernatural works (e.g. casting out demons), to add to the Bible! We don't have that privilege...err, responsibility. There was clearly something unique and significant going on at this time in history.

Let's go back to the point I made about the scarcity of demonic activity prior to Christ's time on Earth. Why is that significant? Well, I believe it's significant because it serves to further prove Christ's authority over all creation and that He was and is the Son of God. People didn't cast out demons before because no one had given them the authority to do so. People performed miracles prior to Christ, but they didn't cast out demons. Do you see how that's significant? He was doing things never done before and doing them in an incredible volume and with considerable ease. Demons listened to Him! Demons!

You can see how the idea of demonic possession is closely related (likely, directly connected) to the cessation of miraculous gifts. By the time the New Testament finishes there isn't any mention of demonic possessions. Paul doesn't instruct Timothy or Titus to cast out demons. Peter doesn't mention demons as being something the dispersed people will have to deal with. I believe the Bible teaches that only a select few had the authority and responsibility to cast out demons. 
Acts 19:11-16
11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. 13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Isn't that fascinating? The demons essentially mocked the Jewish exorcists, understanding that they weren't subject to them. Yet they readily acknowledged they were subject to Jesus and, by extension, Paul. 

I think it's crystal clear that demons aren't possessing people today IF we base it on Scripture and not our experiences and the 2nd, 3rd or 4th hand experiences of people in other countries. I would assume there still is demonic activity today. I just don't think it's at all accurate to say it's as prevalent or as intense as it was 2,000 years ago.  

Furthermore, Christians cannot be possessed by demons (Matthew 12:26).
Homes with at least one regenerate parent are sanctified (1 Corinthians 7:13-14). I can't be dogmatic here but I think it's hard to say a home seen as sanctified by God would also house demons in any way. 

Do with this information as you please. If you have a clearer and more biblical understanding of this, then please correct me. I wanted to touch on this topic because of the rampant false teachings about the supernatural in Charismatic churches and because many of us have been duped by Hollywood! Perhaps some of us were walking around terrified of the wrong type of spiritual warfare! I would say that this post itself was, conveniently enough, a response to spiritual warfare that is going on around us. Think about that for a minute...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Are We Missing the Mark With a Target Boycott?

Do I need to rehash this situation? Are you already familiar with what's going on? I'd like to save myself some typing, so I won't bother summarizing the hullabaloo with Target's bathrooms.

Isn't that nice? You would have just skipped the summary anyhow. I feel refreshed. Don't you?

Boycotts tend to be emotional (over)reactions to what a business says or does. Think of how irrational it was when folks boycotted Mozilla a few years ago. Think of how irrational it is for city governments to ban tax-funded travel to states who have passed laws protecting the 1st Amendment. We look at them and laugh. Don't they see how unsustainable their efforts are? Don't they see the hypocrisy?

But it's not just the secular left who has tried to use cultural cronyism or bully capitalism to propel their causes; has not the religious right also done much of the same? I remember receiving chain emails about what businesses I should boycott because of their allegedly pro-homosexual stances. Home Depot and Target were among them. I immediately wanted to boycott such businesses. I'm a Bible believing conservative and by golly I'm not giving my business to any company that's opposed to God. Amen?

1 Corinthians 5:9-13(NASB)I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

This is the verse we have to deal with.  We have to read this verse and interpret Target's nonsensical understanding of biology in light of this verse. To avoid this verse when making a decision about boycotting a worldly company would be to make a catastrophic mistake.

Look how shady this businessman is!
Let's first establish that this verse isn't saying we aren't allowed to judge the actions of the world and determine whether or not they are good or bad. It's saying we can't judge the actions and then take action (church discipline) against them. We don't walk around town and find a shady businessman and kick him out of the church, right? BUT if there's a shady businessman in our church and he refuses to repent, THEN we kick him out.
Paul's use of  so-called brother is important because he's making it clear that people will be Christians in name only, hoping to glean some type of worldly advantage, ostensibly. It's also clear he's speaking about individual persons (v.9 immoral people; v.11 immoral person).
Target does not now and has not ever claimed to be a Christian store. Target is also not an individual person. Target can't be put under church discipline because A: Target isn't a member of your church and doesn't even claim to be Christian and B: Target is a company, not an individual person. You're not going to go to Target and say, "Hey red shirts! Until you repent, you're under church discipline!" They'd all look at you and either say, "I don't even agree with this policy!" or "I don't even go to your church, bro!"

But can this passage apply or assist us in whether or not we should boycott Target?
Do you really wanna boycott me? :(

Remember the Starbucks Christmas cup fiasco? The controversy that wasn't a controversy. The thing that Christians were outraged about despite my inability and your inability to find any Christians who cared? We collectively agreed that we wouldn't expect Starbucks to be pro-Christmas since they are a secular company (often citing the passage at hand). Is that a similar situation? Can we use the Starbucks nontroversy as a barometer for Target's bathroom free-for-all?
Starbucks using its Illuminati power to destroy Christmas

Maybe. Sorta. Kinda not. The difference to me is that we don't expect Starbucks to be pro-Christmas. We don't expect them to be handing out nativity scenes and copies of the New Testament or printing tracts on their cups. We don't expect to hear John MacArthur sermons when we walk in there. Nor should we. They're an ultra-liberal company. I don't expect any of those things for the same reason I don't expect Steelers fans to paint their houses brown and orange.

Another difference I see is that this is a pretty aggressive and rebellious anti-God move by Target. To deny common sense in light of both Scripture ("God created them male and female") and science (biology 101) is a brazen display of rebellion. It isn't merely Target attempting to be neutral toward God, it's Target openly rejecting God's design.

So the case is clear, right? We boycott Target because of their open rebellion. They've transitioned from "neutral" (the concept of neutrality is a theological impossibility, just so we're clear) into open rebellion.

Sin makes a gigantic mess of everything, doesn't it? It's why the world refuses to accept the reality of the sexes. It's why the world refuses to accept the teachings of Scripture. It's why the world can't see its own hypocrisy. It's why Leonardo DiCaprio flies across the globe in a private jet to lecture you and me about the dangers of fossil fuels and people are confused why we'd call him a hypocrite. Sin makes our business dealings a bit more complicated than we'd like.

I don't care if you boycott Target or if you keep shopping there. But I want to ask some questions to help you come to a personal decision:

  • What verse or doctrine would you cite as to why you are boycotting Target?
  • What will you do when most every retail store adopts similar bathroom policies?
  • Do you ever eat at a restaurant that serves alcohol and permits people to get drunk?
    • How is that restaurant not facilitating sin and mocking God in the same way Target is?
  • Are you boycotting because of genuine conviction and concern for safety or for outward piety?

  • What would it take for you to stop shopping at Target? 
  • Are you convinced it's permissible to shop at Target? 
  • If many others are boycotting, having been genuinely convinced it's a Christian duty, and would be offended that you keep shopping there, will you be willing to no longer shop there? 
  • Are you refusing to boycott because you just looove Target?

I get the safety concern. I understand that aspect. But I have a couple thoughts about that, too. One solution would be to use Target's family restroom. Another would be to not use their restrooms at all. I don't think either of those are unreasonable solutions. I'm also wondering if the increased instances of men creeping in bathrooms is evidence of a sensationalized media or evidence of an increase in the crime. I don't want to underestimate the depravity of the human heart, especially the male's inclination for perversion, but I also don't want to slide down a slippery slope. I'm not convinced either way here. As a man who understands the male mindset I tend to lean toward this crime actually increasing rather than it just being reported on more but I'm willing to admit I could be wrong.

What else would we expect from a Steelers fan?
Along the lines of safety I'd also add that that safety is the very reason I don't take my son to Wal-Mart. Amen? So if I'm putting my cards on the table here, that's where I'm at with Wal-Mart. I think it's an unnecessary risk to take my son to Wal-Mart. That's probably me over exaggerating some stereotypes more than anything else, but, at least until recently I considered Target a significantly safer option than Wal-Mart. You know what I'm talking about. 

I'll conclude by citing Romans 14 and the principle of conscience. If you're not fully convinced you should keep shopping at Target, don't! Don't go there! Don't take the first step in searing your conscience. 
If you have a Christian brother or sister who is shopping at Target and you're boycotting, don't judge them according to your standard. The only thing black and white about this issue is that it's a gray area so it wouldn't be wise to rebuke people for shopping there. You can offer loving correction, instruction or counsel but we're not within our rights to tell people where they can and cannot buy kitchen utensils. 
Don't flaunt your freedom if you do keep shopping there. This is the issue I take when Christians sometimes flaunt their freedom to drink. That's such a divisive issue and when we post pictures of our favorite brews or mixed drinks online, are we considering how sensitive of an issue this is? The same could be said of movies. I, for a long time, didn't pause to think about the effects of me talking positively about a movie many Christians would find offensive. 

My aim is to encourage us all to weigh our motivations. Why are we making the choice we are making? Is it wise? Is it biblical? Does my decision honor God? Does my decision interfere with my testimony? Am I putting an unnecessary stumbling block on the ground? Is my decision stemming from a lack of faith in God?

Obviously much more could be said about either side. People have better cases for boycotting or not boycotting than I have put forth. This wasn't meant as a comprehensive argument, so please weigh in and offer correction where I may have erred in my thinking!