By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
I want to take a break from our series on worldviews and The New Paganism, and discuss some issues that have been brought up recently...I hope you find this informative!( though replies are abbreviated of necessity).
1. Can demons say (via EVP, disembodied voice, or though human "host") "Jesus is my Savior and Lord."? Is it not impossible for a demon to say out loud: "Jesus is Lord."? That is a very popular notion..... Some use that "test" to distinguish between demonic spirits and human spirits, while others, who do not believe in ghosts, use it as a test of possession. 1 John 4:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 12:3 are usually referenced in this regard. Some Christian demonologists, who do believe in ghosts, say that they have talked to spirits who affirm this personal creed--thus, PROVING they cannot be demons...and must be human souls here on earth. So, I need to reply!!!
I also need to say this in preface---if you are a Christian, then it is vital that we let scripture interpret our experience, instead of interpreting the bible through the lenses of our experience. In addition, it needs to asked from the outset--why are you speaking to spirits when God condemns the practice? We do not "talk" to demons, we COMMAND them! So, from the starting gate, something ain't right about this...
"...I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, 'Jesus is accursed!' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except in the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor.12:3)
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist..." (1 John 4:1-3)
First, the context of the Cor. text is a discussion of the spiritual gifts within the diverse Body of Christ. Let me quote the first three verses so we can get the context right... "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore, I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:1-3)
This text is primarily where folks look to in support of the idea that demons are unable to verbalize "Jesus is Lord." Are they right?
At the outset, Paul is telling his audience that we should seek to know all we can re: the spiritual gifts...not be ignorant of the matter because, as we shall see, the gifts are important for the proper functioning of each member of the Body. (v.1) Because of their background in pagan worship services (v.2), some Corinthians seemed to have had concerns about speech gifts (particularly tongues) empowered by the Holy Spirit in the church worship service. They had seen and heard a lot of weirdness "back in the day', and were rightly concerned about this gift of tongues, which also fascinated them. Verse 3 begins with a "therefore", so we know Paul is making some logical inference regarding their concerns about tongue experiences and the blasphemous junk that was uttered via the demonic influence while they were idol worshippers. That is, evidently Paul is assuring them that they don't have to worry about uttering blasphemy while speaking in tongues ("Jesus is accursed"). He discusses later how the mind is unaware of what is being said while speaking in tongues.
The second part ("Jesus is Lord") is assuring them/us that all who genuinely profess Christ have the Holy Spirit in them--and none should be excluded because they all have valuable gifts for the benefit of the church. In verse one Paul tells us that he does not want them/us to be uninformed regarding spiritual gifts, and by the end of this extended discussion of gifts he has made it clear that all true Christians have an important role to play within the Body. Did you get that?
This entire twelfth chapter of 31 verses is devoted to explaining spiritual gifts--their nature and importance in the Body. That is, nothing in this context is about discernment of demons...or what they can or cannot do or say. To use it in that manner undermines the Holy Spirit's intent. It is eisogesis and not exegesis..reading into the text what is not there.
Second, it is recorded in the gospels, especially John, that people made false professions frequently. It says they "believed" but later it turns out that it was a spurious belief. This grieved Jesus immensely. We know that folks who are not Christians are enslaved to Satan/demons (Eph. 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 4:4, ect). In addition, many people publicly go forward in church and proclaim that they believe Jesus is their Savior and Lord, but later reveal that theirs was a false confession (James-no fruit). That is, millions of humans say, "Jesus is Lord" but they are unsaved and still enslaved to demons.
Hence, it follows that demons themselves should have no problem verbally confessing "Jesus is my Savior and Lord" as a means of deceiving folks. If demon enslaved humans can say "Jesus is Lord", then why can't demons do the same? Some Christians (even demonologists unfortunately) have this belief that a demon is simply UNABLE to utter those words. Which raises a question: what exactly would happen to a demon if they said that confession as an act of deception? Evidently nothing. Unconverted humans do it painlessly all the time, so why not demons? Do we think they will start foaming at the mouth and begin to melt like wax, like a Hollywood vampire exposed to daylight?! I am not trying to make fun of anyone, but this mistaken belief has caused much mischief, and even harm in some circumstances.
"You believe God is one; you do well, even the demons believe--and shudder!" (James 2:19) Satan and demons are supremely accurate and massively knowledgeable theologians. However, a chief concern of James is exactly what we are talking about--loud professions of the pure gospel, but which emanate from an unregenerate heart. Mere head knowledge accompanied by verbal profession is insufficient to save. Good works don't have meritorious value but they do have evidential value (of true faith). And of course he says that even demons have a biblically accurate "belief" in Jesus, but they do not EMBRACE Him in trust. It is as if James said, "Hey, even demons can say 'Jesus is Lord', but that does not make them born again."
By the way, the "shuddering" James mentions has to do with the demons fear of God because they KNOW how awesomely holy and infinitely righteous He is--it is not referring to some incapacitating allergy to saying "Jesus is Lord."!!
Satan is the consummate opportunist: he knows that many Christians hold to this unbiblical belief, and he will milk it for all its worth in deceiving them...even sincere, but mistaken Christian exorcists.
The text in 1 John is simpler to explain. One brother said this, "Why would there be that test of discernment in 1 John if he was not wanting us to discern between human spirits and demonic spirits?" Because the issue is discerning between unclean spirits and the Holy Spirit!!! (not discerning 'tween ghosts and demons, or 'tween ghosts and the Holy Spirit!) They have missed the entire meaning of the passage...and again, done violence to the text.John is not discussing what demons are ABLE to do or say themselves, but he is giving us doctrinal tests of human teachers regarding the divine/human nature of Christ. If they affirmed the Incarnation, then they were not heretics.Whereas James was accenting right behavior (orthopraxy), John is accenting right belief (orthodoxy) in discerning if teachers were of God or not. And behind false teaching/teachers is demonic influence.
Bottom line--there is no text in the bible to support the popular notion that demons are unable to verbalize the Lordship of Christ or express a seemingly sincere sounding profession of faith in Jesus. That people are talking to spirits to apply this "test" means they are disobeying God's command to not address the spirit realm. (Deut. 18, Lev. 19,20). Sadly, this can quickly lead to demonic attachment/oppression for Christians who are sincere, but sincerely wrong. It strikes me as odd that a Christian would actually seem to WANT to believe in ghosts.... after all the damage that wretched belief has done...
2. Next, I am sure you have heard of the incident where King Saul visited the medium (not witch) of En-dor, and attempted to summon the deceased prophet Samuel.(1 Samuel 28) Due to space constraints I cannot quote full text here, and I can only give short reply. The point made to me was that this text shows us two things: God sent Samuel on a mission to earth and, so God continues to do that again and again to help people; also, we must not TELL God what He cannot do. The second point was made as a reply to those who say that God does not allow human spirits to be on the earth.Of course that would include me! Being told that I was TELLING God what He can do, needed a response as well.
I asked if they believed that ghosts were trapped spirits, as that is the common definition of the term. However, as it turns out, they have a very idiosyncratic definition of ghosts. Instead of a ghost being a trapped spirit, they said that ghosts were human souls sent from heaven (like Samuel) to assist humans on earth. That is NOT the common definition...and it appeared to me that these "ghosts" were defined in such a way as to be tailor made to fit in this person's belief system. However, let me reply.
First, all judicious theologians and biblical commentaries on this text insist that this passage is clearly odd and unique, from any vantage point. There is nothing else similar to it in the entire bible. Hence, virtually all commentators on this singular experience rightly point out that we must not use it as a basis for supporting any belief...other than God's judgement.. The main point of the text is simple--God's judgement on King Saul's disobedience. Beyond that, we must adhere to basic rules of hermeneutics (rules for interpreting the bible properly)--do not construct doctrine based on historical narrative texts, especially ones that are abnormal and that are difficult. It is very unwise to attempt to derive a general principle from this highly unusual text--namely, that God sends people to earth to help them. Sound interpretive principles have to be followed...clear texts interpret less clear texts, and doctrinal passages interpret historical narratives.... and above all else, do NOT derive any principles from a historical narrative that is highly unusual.
So, we have a very idiosyncratic and personalized definition of a ghost, based solely on this singularly bizarre text. Does that sound wise to you? One can prove anything from the bible with that approach.
Given the significance of this issue, do you not think that God would have clearly explained that to us in the New Testament epistles IF IT WERE TRUE? God sending heavenly humans to help us is enormously important to know, if is true....don't you think?! Don't you think God would have prepared us for it as He did clearly re the angels?The notion makes God look like a very inept communicator. My main point is this--red flags should shoot up anytime someone appeals to this singular text in support of their belief in what occurs in the Intermediate state--which is clear in every other regard.
The notion of God sending glorified human souls to assist living humans is usurping the role given to angels. In Heb.1:14 angels are said to be ministering spirits "...sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation." That is the job description of angels. That "base" is already covered...But the way these humans are said to help us sounds exactly like the role given to angels.
As to the point that our position is basically TELLING God what He can and cannot do--I reply...hogwash! To say that God is all-powerful does NOT imply that he can do everything. His character will not allow Him to sin...He cannot lie, eg. I have,in my book and in this blog, given dozens of biblical reasons why the notion of ghosts is impossible. I'm not telling God what He can and cannot do....He has told us what He will and will not do!! One could use that argument to attempt to justify virtually anything. It seems that any time one is bold and certain of God's promises and truth, someone complains that they are not being humble...hogwash again!
When a man and woman get married they make a covenant before God to be faithful. Within the security of that marriage covenant, they are bound by oath to not do certain things, like adultery. Similarly, we are married to God--we are the Bride of Christ--and HE has given us innumerable blessings and promises which prohibit God from doing certain things as well. He cannot and will not break His covenant vows. To assert that there are no ghosts is simply to recognize His covenant faithfulness as it applies to the Intermediate state.Entering heaven is entering our eternal rest....
Finally, if (for argument's sake) we accept the premise that God does send human spirits to help people, then how can we discern the difference between them and demons? There are no criteria. Remember, we dispensed with the "Jesus is Lord" test...Plus, it puts God in the unacceptable position of speaking out of both sides of His holy mouth. Since He commands us to not speak to dead humans, then why would he send heavenly humans to interact with us and tempt us to sin?
Next week....why are demons inhabiting people-less places?, and one 2 other issues..
Blessings in Jesus....Mark