I have a bone to pick. Not with anyone in particular, but with a pervasive ideology that has twisted the truth of the Church. I hear this from the pulpit, from dear friends, and even some mentors.
It is a lie nonetheless.
What is this lie that I’m talking about?
What is a lie that is so readily spread that even some truly devout Christians have either scoffed at the idea or downplayed it?
The truth is that, by large, we have forgotten the reality of demons. We have bought the lie that we can easily explain people’s actions through psychology. We have used depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, et al to describe what is going on as the simple answer when someone acts erratically.
Likewise, there are also good meaning Christians who do not believe in Psychology at all.
Both of these ideas are erroneous.
People truly have suffered from mental illness, I’m not negating the validity of psychological experiences. But that fact doesn’t negate the fact that people truly have been possessed or oppressed by demonic forces. Oftentimes, there is some degree of overlap for both conditions but none are exclusive of the other. And one is not more “real” than the other.
There are still believing Christians that know this fact to be true, that the Lord speaks of the “devil being a roaring lion, waiting for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), that Christ performed exorcisms (Mark 1:32), and was tried by demons in the desert (Matthew 4:1).
This is not merely allegory and it’s not symbolic- it is a Truth given to us by the Lord for our edification!
The belief in demons, in fact, is so strange now for some Christians that it has been relegated to superstition, fanaticism, and fundamentalism; and therefore, these ideas can be easily dismissed. Even bringing up the idea can be controversial.
When did believing and following what God had written for us become controversial? The secular world, by and large, disregarded this fact about 100 years ago and a mass of Christians followed in their footsteps.
Let me break down for all of those reading who are rolling their eyes:
Demons are real, they exist, and they want to take you to hell.
The Devil, Father of lies, the Accuser, Satan, whatever you want to call him, he is real and hates you. From the beginning he was called the Father of lies (John 8:44) and that’s what he’s been doing now, especially to take Christians down.
He is just as real as you and me. He is just as real as this text that you’re reading.
But conveniently enough, he doesn’t want you to know.
You see, it’s much easier to corrupt someone when they do not believe they can be corrupted.
This truth, although scary, must be confronted. When we refuse to acknowledge this truth we are deliberately putting ourselves in harms way, we are defenseless to the wiles of the devil. If we are to grow in holiness then we can’t be closed-off to this truth. We have to confront it with the help of Our Heavenly Father, Christ Our Brother, and the Holy Spirit living within us.
When we accept that there’s an eternal fight for our soul, but that God is our protector, our shield, our defender, our fortress, and our safeguard then we can rest assured. We can belief without fear and full confidence in God’s complete love for us.
Despite this growing “trend”, the Church has never once abandoned it’s stance on the reality of demons (CCC 391- 395). In fact, there is more need for exorcisms due to the rise of demonic activity across the world (USA Today). The occult is running rampant in our society (ABC News) and our dismissive stance of this issue is a core problem.
In the movie The Usual Suspects,Verbal (a criminal) states that “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist” (IMDB). Therein lies the truth. We have fallen for the trick are left defenseless “as sheep to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).
There are so many good and holy Christians that are being mislead. They teach Sunday school, go to Mass or a religious service every week, they read the Bible daily, yet, they are blinded to this Heresy.
This is a critical failure and one that is devastating to the health of the Church.
The sheep are being mislead and they have no idea. And this is exactly what the devil has intended, this has been his plan all along. It’s easy to become complacent against a force that you believe doesn’t exist. Jesus says we need to be aware of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15) and so we must, by recognizing the true spiritual battle we face as Christians.
How can we be the Church Militant- warriors for Christ- if we believe that what we are fighting are just psychological shadows, nothing more than our subconscious fears? We will not be effective because we will not truly know the stakes. And the stakes here are human souls. Souls, made in the image of God, created for God’s Glory, are being blinded, broken and sent to their deaths.
Instead, we are told that Jesus healed someone who was going through a mental illness or that they were suffering anxiety and depression. We explain away these stories. The belief that Christ did not actually perform any miracles is the basest of lies and a modern heresy. To look at Bible stories and explain them away using our more “sophisticated” knowledge of science or psychology is to slowly chip away the foundation of our Faith. If we deny all of the supernatural events that happened in the Bible than slowly we will be faced with a god-less Christ. This is an abomination unto the Lord.
In fact, Thomas Jefferson created his own Bible, taking everything supernatural that happened out of the book. Leaving only that which could be explained only through natural reason (Smithsonian).
Yes, there are people who suffer from real and devastating psychological disorders. I do not discount that in the slightest. Christ does have the ability to cure those who are suffering from these real ailments. As a life-long sufferer of depression, I understand the reality of this all too well.
However, to deny the truth of the spiritual is to relegate Christ to the role of a simple historical figure. A good man, maybe. A strong leader, okay. But God? Never!
If we deny the truth of a spiritual realm of angels and demons, wrath and judgement, salvation then we also refuse to accept the fullness of Jesus and who He is.
“Who do you say I am” is one of the leading questions to figure out this puzzle.
Who do I say Jesus is?
I believe He is Christ, the Messiah, The Redeemer, The Lamb of God, the Paschal Sacrifice, the 2nd Person of the Most Holy Trinity.
I believe that He turned water into wine. That he healed the sick and fed multitudes.
That angels attended him at his birth and that his life was prophecied for centuries.
I also believe that he died on an instrument of torture and through the supernatural and divine Grace of God he was resurrected from the dead on the third day.
If I can believe all of these miracles through faith then why is it so hard to believe that he actually and truly freed the possessed from the ravages of demons?
If I question that then shouldn’t I also question all the other miracles that Christ performed? It’s a slippery slope, and one that very easily leads to a Deistic understand of God.
Mary Magdalene was freed from seven demons (Luke 8: 1-3) . A hoard of demons were sent into a cluster of pigs and sent over a cliff (Mark 5:1-20). Stories abound in the Bible and throughout history of demonic possession. And for good reason- because some of these stories are true.
It is a dangerous thing to discount the devil. The father of lies is more intelligent then us, uses supernatural forces, and knows the Bible more than any living man. As modern theologians we need to arm ourselves with the truth, even if that means facing the reality of such evil.
For someone this is an uphill battle because our religious culture has told people that this belief is okay and good.
However, this is always hope.
Christ has suffered for us, died for us, and has defeated death.
The devil and all the demons that abound are nothing compared to the power of God Almighty. They are powerless against God and the mighty name of Jesus.
St. Therese of Avila once said: When the devil remind you of your past, remind him of his future. This is the perfect response to a true belief in the demonic.
As believers, we know at the fulfillment of time all evil will be vanquished and the powers of darkness will fall. It’s only matter of waiting in Hope and Confidence that the Lord is our protector through all of it.
With all of this knowledge we should remember to not be afraid and remember his words: “Fear not… I am with you until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)
1 Peter 5:8