Demons and Disease in Biblical and Apocryphal Lore

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This week, demons and disease entered the national spotlight after President Donald Trump and his son Donald Jr. retweeted a viral video featuring Dr. Stella Immanuel, who also believes demons play a role in disease.

Scientific worldview vs. religious worldview

Before we get into any conversation about demons and disease, we first must start with the differences between the scientific and the worldview of Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam).

Science only focuses on what can be understood under the scientific method of things that can be measured, recorded and reproduced for establishing something as a fact.

But God exists in another dimension. It’s a dimension that humans have no way of applying the scientific method to.

However, the more physics advances, the more scientific worldview and the religious worldview find themselves at a crossroads. For example, for the last half-century, modern physics postulates that the world is multidimensional and the universe operates with 10 dimensions, the Smithsonian reports.

Science has yet to explain why we do not experience these dimensions or have not detected them.

Despite this seeming congruence in believing we live in a multiverse, science still rejects religious notions that within one of these other types of dimensions, God and angels can exist in a place called heaven.

Religious view does not negate scientific view of disease

With the proceeding explained, here’s the premise… Because people of the Abrahamic religions believe that a supernatural world exists, and that God exists, therefore, they also believe that what Scripture says about the existence of demons and their ability to inflict mankind as real.

This belief does not negate that other types of diseases exist and can be treated in the way that modern medicine alleviates disease. Rather, the existence of demons and their ability to harm mankind is simply another level of reality.

Demons and disease in Scripture

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

–Ephesians 6:12

Science and the secular world, despite what physics formulates, currently refuse to believe that the God of the Bible exists. Scriptures told us long ago about things that, only now, science is begrudgingly reaching the same conclusion on.

From the very start of the Bible when Satan tempts Adam and Eve, until its final pages, Scriptures tell us that the story of mankind, our very existence, is a continual battle against evil and sinful spiritual forces. There are numerous stories of demonic possession and exorcism, particularly in the New Testament.

In the Old Testament book of Job, Satan received permission from God to inflict Job with disease as a way of testing his faith. The book of Job shows us some of the powers and Satan, as well as how God puts limitations on them.

The Bible tells us that Jesus exercised a demon spirit that was causing a boy to be deaf and mute, as well as foam at the mouth, grind his teeth and have seizures.

This is also an important lesson in authority, because the disciples tried to exercise the demon before Christ had given them authority to do so. We will examine authority shortly.

At first, Jesus criticized the crowd for their lack of faith. An interesting comment to note, given our current scientific worldview has also blinded the faith of modern generations.

“And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”

– Mark 9:19

“And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

– Mark 9:25

Demons and disease as viewed by modern exorcists

Forget what you know about exorcism from television and movies – the reality is profoundly different. First of all, modern exorcists also work with modern medicine. Exorcists exhaust all medical explanations before deciding on the route of exorcism to bring about a cure.

In fact, when it comes to conditions that could be deemed psychological, exorcists first referred the person to a psychologist, preferably an atheist, to examine and exhaust all psychological possibilities as an explanation. The same goes for medical conditions that can be diagnosed by a doctor.

The cases that are seen by an exorcist are screened by a criteria where medical explanations have been ruled out, or the person speaks in a language they’ve never heard or learned, knows things they could not otherwise know and other factors that imply something supernatural is involved. What follows are two excellent sources of reference.

In his book, “An Exorcist Explains the Demonic: The Antics of Satan and His Army of Fallen Angels,” Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, explains the type of maladies demons can bring upon humans and what it takes to alleviate them.

In another book, “Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans,” by the late father Malachi Martin, the Vatican Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, linguist and exorcist explains three different ways in which demons can afflict humans. One is harassment, the next is obsession, and the third is possession. Martin explains the ways in which people can encounter the demonic and how it can be combated.

The authority to banish demons

In the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, Jesus drives out demons and gives the disciples the authority to do the same.

“And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.”

–Mark 6:7

Jesus casts out a demon, his authority recognized

“And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent and come out of him!’

And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!'”

–Luke 4:33-36

Authority is a key concept when it comes to removing demons. Some of the world’s leading exorcists such as Father Gabriele Amorth, Malachi Martin, and even non-Catholic theologians such as John MacArthur, all agree that demons cannot be driven out without authority.

It is not the words of the ritual nor the prayers or even the name Jesus Christ that banishes demons. All of these experts agree – it only comes through the authority of Christ.

Therefore, someone attempting to drive out a demon that isn’t holy, is likely to fail. The demon may even turn on them. Often, exorcists will fast before performing the ritual. The exorcist must be someone who is truly one with Christ, in order to have the conviction and holiness to wield such authority.

“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

–1 John 5:18