“Angels and Demons: Demons,” by Andrew. J. Schatkin
This essay, as a follow up to my essay on angels, will focus on and there will be a discussion of demons and of what they do and are revealed to do in the bible but this much can be said: Belief in angels is belief in one aspect of the true and historical Christian faith and system. One cannot choose to throw out the baby with the bathwater or, better put, believe what you will and choose to disbelieve in the reality and existence of angels. The fact of the matter is that there are many appearances of angels in the bible and accounts of the events in which they engage and their presence in heaven and earth at all times cannot be argued against. If one chooses to deny the supernatural realm, then all events and beings described in the bible can be dismissed. Unfortunately, to do that is to dismiss everything that the bible says happened including the birth of Christ by a virgin; his resurrection and ascension into heaven; his claim to be divine; and the creation of the world as described in the first chapter of Genesis by the fiat and thought of god.
At one time, I taught a bible class in a church I will not name. When we spoke of angels and demons, several parishioners informed me that they thought the reference by St. Paul to angels and demons was a reference to the government or a political reference. I had the unfortunate responsibility to inform these individuals that angels and demons cannot be translated or transformed into our secular world and cannot be politicized. The Bible operates on a thought plane that we can choose to accept or reject; but we should be honest in our rejection of it and if we find the claims of the bible of the existence of a supernatural realm, supernatural events, and supernatural beings to be funny or absurd then we are not understanding the particular claims and thoughts presented in the bible about the world and us. Angels are as much a part of the system of the world and how we need to understand it We can simply choose a materialistic vision of the world and this may be true but that is not the bible’s message—whether that message is about angels, the nature or existence of god and where he resides in another world beyond our comprehension, and where the bible states, we are given the opportunity to dwell with god in eternal love and joy.
In a previous blog and in my book “Essays on Faith, Culture, Politics and Philosophy,” I discussed the existence and role of Satan. I will now attempt to explain and discuss demons which in fact are equally said to exist and do their work in the world. We can choose, as I mentioned, to disbelieve in the existence of angels and in the same way we can choose to disbelieve in demons or, to put it another way, fallen angels. The New Testament is quite clear as stating that Satan exists. Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by Satan for forty days and forty nights in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.The devil also appears in the book of Genesis in the guise of a snake and brings about the fall of man.
What I want to discuss exactly here and attempt to understand and explain is he existence and role of demons. Jesus is very frequently represented as casting out demons in the New Testament. In Mark, Jesus casts out demons from a possessed person in the synagogue. Jesus commands the demons to come out of the man. There are 13 references to Satan or to casting out demons in the gospel of Mark. In Matthew 4, Jesus is said to heal demoniacs. In Matthew 8, Jesus is represented as casting out demons. In verse 16, we are told that people were brought to Jesus who were possessed by demons and he cast out those spirits with a word. In verse28, Jesus casts out demons from two demoniacs and places them into swine. In verse 33 the herdsman are said to have fled and told everything about what happened to the demoniacs. In Matt 10, Jesus casts out a demon from a dying man. In Matt 10, Jesus tells his disciples to go and cast out demons. Demons are mentioned in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6 . In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians 2, there is a reference to demons as power and authorities. Again the existence of demons is noteworthy and apparent and very real in the New Testament.
Many people in the modern secular world will counter and say that the events in the New Testament concerning demons and Jesus’ casting out demons are the product of a culture without science and medicine. Better put, the secular society will say that these are instances of people with mental illnesses. Once again, however, the bible is quite clear in articulating and stating the existence of Satan, demons, and devils. Those persons who say this is nonsense, mythology, and the product of a primitive culture fail to understand that the bible tells us different things about our world and one of the things the bible tells us is that there are evil forces in the world and in particular that there are specific beings loose in the world called Satan and his followers. The demons referred to in the gospels are very real and do take over people’s personalities causing them to do evil. Those who reject angels and demons implicitly or explicitly reject the possibility of a world beyond this world as well as values and thoughts that move beyond the materialistic secularism which presently informs our thinking.
In a sense to reject the existence of angels and demons is ultimately to reject the existence of the Son of god and the trinity and the concept of something beyond this world in which we are headed as persons. To reject these concepts is to reject the potential that we can attain as persons and as human beings and the endless possibilities that are offered us, and to confine ourselves to our immediate material world and to think of nothing else is to engage in a gross limitation of thinking that will lead us nowhere. To believe in the biblical worldview and concepts is to grow as persons. To limit ourselves to materialism will ultimately cause spiritual death and destruction. Faith in them material world alone has no end product and in some sense offers us only death as well as personality and personal destruction. This may be what many people see as true but this truth make us all nothing.
This essay is taken with modifications and alterations, from chapter 26 of my book “Essays on Faith, Culture, Politics, and Philosophy,” pp 68-78, pub. by the University Press of America, 2016.