Where are the demons?

There has been a discussion going on on Facebook about why the demonic is not as evident today. I was reflecting last night. I realize that experience tells us that there are three avenues by which people become demonized: (1) trauma, (2) repeated/habitual sin, and (3) involvement in idolatry/occult/etc. I also think that C. S. Lewis was correct in the Screwtape Letters in saying that the demonic often finds it most helpful when it influences people without their knowing that they are present. In fact, is is even more ideal when people do not believe in the devil/ demons. So all has the dark side disappeared, or just pulled the wool over our eyes? First, trauma is still around, and there can be significant behavioral changes because of it, but we treat trauma and its effects with psychological counseling. And, as those who have dealt with the demonic know, when one heals the underlying trauma, the demonic often leaves. Indeed, the demonic is often the least of the person’s problems. We do not notice it, for we are not looking for it, and perhaps that is just as well. Second, likewise habitual sin is still around, and perhaps some of the compulsiveness that people experience is indeed demonic influence. But confession and absolution makes the situation rather uncomfortable for the demonic, and cognitive behavior therapy seems able to deal with the compulsive aspect. I would suggest that often do not recognize the presence of the demonic in that (1) we do not realize that some of the resistance to confession is demonic rather than just the person (of course, many pastors do not encourage the sacrament of reconciliation, so they are not around to observe this) and (2) we do not realize that it loses its power once the person turns from their behavior. Finally, we do not recognize the presence of the idols in our presence, for we are so used to them. We do have Mammon around, but we tend to celebrate those addicted to money or focused on making it. Indeed, it is national pastime listing the richest or envying them, rather than praying that they would get free. We have, of course, freedom and liberty for which we are willing to sacrifice, and that is an idol, for from the Christian point of view we have true liberty from the one sacrifice done once for all by our Lord. Then we are a nation born in conflict via Mars and forged together in war. We are addicted to conflict, having been involved in 70+ since World War II (many via proxy, but it is still our method of choice). We sacrifice and we sacrifice others. Is the flag really anything that different than the Roman eagles? Or the devotion to the nation that different from devotion to Augustus? So perhaps we do see the demonic especially in fanatical devotion? This would fit with C. S. Lewis’ view that the demonic prefers to be under cover.

However, the absence of the the evident demonic is a very Western perspective. Go to virtually any developing nation and talk to the pastors there and see how evident the demonic is. Our personal experience in SE Asia were something like 100 on a scale of 1 to 10. But of course, one does see it in North America.I have often been involved in praying for healing and sensed that something was there and often knew what the something was. And then there have been times of revival when the demonic was exposed by a move of the Spirit. I should add, that virtually all of my experience with driving out demons has been with believers, ranging from elders of the church to staff to home missionaries to ordinary believers. And my experience has been minor compared to some of my friends. But often it has been a surprise. One starts out praying for sickness (which is part of a presbyter’s job description according to Jas 5) and the behavior starts to be strange and one realizes that something else is there. So I have never gone looking for it, but if one is alert, one will see that it does get exposed.

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About Peter H. Davids

I am Director of Clergy Formation for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, a professor at Houston Graduate School of Theology, and a Catholic priest (and former Episcopal priest for 34 years). I am also a husband, father, and grandfather.
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2 Responses to Where are the demons?

  1. Thanks very much, Peter, very helpful perspective. Have you written more on this topic elsewhere? I’ve read Neil Anderson, Ed Murphy (1st ed.) … are there others you could recommend? – Kirk Ruch

  2. Reblogged this on River, Wind, Fire and commented:
    Peter Davids is a highly respected NT scholar who`s also had significant ministry experience in the Spirit. I highly recommend his writings. Enjoy!

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