By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
Words are powerful. The words individuals or a culture use can unconsciously impact a person's beliefs, even effecting their worldview. Much of this can occur on an unconscious level. The word that has caught my attention, and my concern, is the word "entity".It may be my imagination, but it seems that it's usage is growing in Christian circles that deal with demonology.For example, I read frequently on Facebook of an "entity" affecting a person or place. I dealt indirectly with this issue 4 years ago when I discussed who populates the spirit realm according to the bible. Also, if we don't know the answer to a question, we should not act like we do. And so when I see "entity" used, I realize that humility may lay behind why that word was chosen.However, may I humbly suggest that the bible is clear enough on what/who populates the spirit realm, that we do not, and should not, use an ambiguous word like "entity". When the bible is clear, then we should be also!
Take for example Matthew 10. In verses 1-4 Jesus is commissioning His twelve apostles for a short term ministry to Israel, which includes authority over "unclean spirits" (pneumaton akatharton) and to cast them out. In verses 5-15 Jesus elaborates on this mission, which in verse 8 includes the casting out of demons (daimonia). The point being that unclean spirits and demons are one and the same...just as Satan, devil, Evil One are synonyms.
What particularly troubles me is when I read that Christian demonologists (or whatever term you prefer) refers to an "entity" that is oppressing a family/place.Nowhere in the Gospel accounts are supernatural beings referred to as merely "entities".Jesus never cast out an entity....the disciples never cast out entities--they were very specific in that they were casting out demons/'unclean spirits.We need to use biblical terminology lest we introduce confusion where the bible is crystal clear. Word choice is vitally important.
Perhaps the main reason the word "entity" has become in vogue is due to the growing belief amongst some Christians that deceased human spirits can haunt (or possibly haunt) or oppress the living. I ask this gently but firmly--show me one place in the bible where a deceased human soul is oppressing living humans.(the Samuel account is not applicable to my question) I can say with confidence that there is no such recorded incident.Why introduce ambiguity where the bible is clear? Dozens of exorcisms are recorded in the gospels, and IF deceased humans could oppress us, then why are they NEVER mentioned?
Someone may reply, "Perhaps that may be true, but the bible does not tell us everything about demonology...so we can discern their presence with the help of the Holy Spirit?" I admit their are incidental things we can learn that are not recorded in the bible, but to say/imply that the bible omits significant demonological details is an affront to the sufficiency of Scripture, and elevates fallen human reason to the same level as sacred scripture. Now, do you not think that who populates the spirit realm is a very significant issue? Of course it is! Put another way, we must know our enemy and how can we be spiritual warriors if we are not sure who we are even fighting against? In human warfare this is certainly true,how much more so in spiritual warfare where our enemies are invisible (usually)?
Perhaps one replies, "Well, if it is human or demonic, the means of getting rid of them is the same." Again I say this gently but firmly, that comment is an evasion of the main issue--there is not a single incident in the bible in which a human spirit is said to have been expelled from a person or home. It assumes that the bible is not clear re this issue. However, from Genesis to Revelation, it is manifestly clear that there are only two kinds of beings that populate the spirit realm--good/elect angels and fallen angels/demons/unclean spirits. Appealing to Genesis 6 as primary "proof" of another kind of being existing today flies in the face of all rules of proper hermeneutics. We certainly never see Jesus dealing with beings who are somehow explicitly tied into whatever happened way back in Genesis 6.
Sure, there are differing ranks of angels and demons (cf Ephesians 6; Daniel 10), but that is all. In the US Army there are different ranks, but they are all essentially US Army.
The continued usage of the word "entity" is not helpful. Indeed, it is infusing confusion or lack of certainty where the bible is clear. A discussion of extra-biblical authority (eg pope) is beyond the scope of this article. Lastly, regardless of your experience, do you think it wise to "discern" the presence of a human spirit when--Jesus never did, and demons have thousands years of experience in knowing how to make Christians feel whatever they want?
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.