Here's a controversial position: I think Christians should be opposed to summoning demons.
I know we're perpetually lowering our expectations for Christians in this part of the world, but I will stubbornly cling to the insistence that we all ought to refrain from condoning or participating in Satanic rituals. I mean, we have to set the bar somewhere, right? Can I at least set it here? Please tell me that "opposition to demonic seances" is one area where, at a minimum, every Christian can agree. We can't agree on much, I know, but maybe there can be one unified voice speaking out against people inviting demons into their living rooms.
Tell me that isn't too much to ask.
Please tell me it isn't too much to ask.
Dear God, it's too much to ask, isn't it?
I am a hopelessly optimistic sort of person, so I've actually been quite shocked over the past few days by the sheer multitude of my fellow believers who deny the existence of Hell, Satan, and evil, and therefore dismiss the dangers of kids playing games with demons. I guess if I'd been paying closer attention, I would have seen this poll from a few years ago, revealing that a majority of U.S. Christians don't believe that Hell or Satan are real.
Which is to say, a majority of U.S. Christians are not Christians.
If I'd kept up on my survey data, I would have been prepared to face this fact.
Hopefully I learned my lesson.
My personal encounter with these heretics started on Thursday when I wrote something on Facebook about the viral "Charlie, Charlie" game. This charming activity has apparently swept through our schools and made its way all over social media. In the "game," kids draw a sort of makeshift version of a Ouija board on a piece of paper, place two pencils together like crosses, and attempt to raise a Demon who can answer their questions and tell them the future.
It turns out that the resurgence of this trend started, most likely, as a viral marketing ploy to promote an upcoming horror film. There are some who think the entire advertising industry must be run by Satan, and this latest ad campaign would seem to lend credence to that suspicion.
In any case, no matter how or why it started, there is nothing cool or cute about it. I tried to make this point on social media last week, and I figured that, among my Christian readership, it would easily be the least controversial thing I've ever written.
After all, demons exist. Surely, every Christian must know this. Evil forces are at work in our world. As a Christian, you have to believe this. To deny it is to deny Scripture and to deny Christ's saving work on the Cross.
When you play "games" like this, you are inviting them in. That's not a good idea. The Devil is prowling around the Earth like a lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), and the forces of Truth are fighting always to protect us from that hideous fate. This is war, not fun and games. To giggle over some demonic rite is like walking behind enemy lines during World War II to play pat-a-cake with Adolf Hitler. It's beyond foolish. Beyond reckless. Far, far beyond stupid.
Demonic possession is real and has been documented on many occasions. The possessed have levitated, exhibited superhuman strength, spoken in dead languages, etc. There was even a horrifying situation recently in Indiana in which several objective observers -- police officers and social workers -- investigated a home that was allegedly infested by demons. These unbiased witnesses came away convinced that something supernatural was happening in that house.
Interestingly, the afflicted family sought spiritual help from the religious leaders in the community, but were turned away by most of the churches. Only a Catholic priest tried to help. Finally the bishop, after investigating the claims, officially authorized an exorcism.
You can be skeptical about that case, or about any other specific case, but all Christians still ought to tell their children that occult rituals and witchcraft are not a great way to pass the time. Literally anything would be better. Like, maybe they can play a game of pick up, or Hearts, or Parcheesi instead? There are so many things to do that don't involve summoning ancient evils from the netherworld.
It's not good. It's bad. Don't do it.
That's the message I tried to get across last week.
I knew, of course, that such talk would bring out the usual anti-Christian trolls. These are mostly small, immature, bored people who make fun of religion in order to feel better about their misdirected, aimless lives. They dutifully chimed in with helpful comments like these:
Lillie:....haha...hahahaha...AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA YOU'RE ALL F**KING IDIOTS. The most evil (and, alternatively, good) thing in this world is man, not some lurk in the dark ne'er do well. Take some responsibility for your actions, people.
James: And the ones of us who have a brain have lost a few more brain cells after seeing this....dumb f**king religious bullshit
Joel: Holy sh*t you Christians are f**king stupid!! You actually believe this sh*t is real, I hope you don't have f**king kids!! Grown ass adults believing in demons WTF!!! Btw it's called gravity you morons, the pencils are gonna move no matter what because of the position they are in. Shame on you grown ass adults scaring children by telling them demons exist.
Adults communicating like 10-year-old bullies on the playground.
But not as sad as the responses from many Christians. Christians who believe, allegedly, in God and Heaven but who often speak with the same mocking tone about Hell and evil. They are worse -- far worse -- than the average atheist. At least the atheist rejects Christ and faith outright. These Christians, on the other hand, accept Christ -- only to turn around and mock what He teaches. The atheist turns his back on God; the heretic Christian looks God in the eye and spits in it.
I don't think I need to show you examples of Christians who dismiss what Scripture explicitly and repeatedly says about evil spirits and Hell, but here are a few for the record:
Ellen: You lost me and hopefully many others when you wrote " You have to believe this or your a bad Christian" Who are you to decide what one should believe? Who are you to judge others. Was not Jesus all about Judge not less ye be judged? So the question is what is worse kids playing with pencils or going against one of the most important lessons that Jesus gave to Christians
Andrew: I have to believe in Demons or I'm not a Christian? That is so far from the biblical basis for being a Christian I don't know whether to laugh or cry. The requirement for salvation is only that I confess Jesus as Lord and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead.
David: Unbelievable Matt! Come out of the dark ages. The ancients had little understanding of mental illness and everything that could not be explained went into the category of evil spirits and demon possession... When Christ "drove out evil spirits," he was healing them of whatever mental illness they had.
Kevin: Wow what a load of pure BS, and I'm a Christian! Leaving aside the argument that Satan may or may not even exist... You don't have to believe anything specific to be a Christian, especially not in demons...you only need be a follower of Christ. Stop making Christianity into something it's not...it only makes it harder for people to follow all YOUR rules, and they give up or don't try.
Philip McCorkle Usually, I agree with 95% of what Matt posts, but I have to ask - where the hell does Jesus talk about possession and/or demons?
And then there were many private messages along the lines of these two:
Matt, I'm a Christian but you've lost me with this silly "demon" stuff. Are you going to tell me that there's monsters in my closet next? People like you make all Christians look bad. There are no "demons." There are bad decisions and mental illness.
Dear Matt, you remind me of the fire and brimstone preachers that I try to avoid when I'm looking for a church. You people think you can bring people to Christ by telling them about hell. A loving God would never send someone to hell or make a "hell" in the first place. Hell is a state of mind...
According to this Christian camp, there is at best "an argument" about whether demons exist, but more likely evil spirits are really just mental illness. When Christ drove them out, he was actually engaging in intense psychotherapy. He was treating behavior disorders, not demonic presences. Jesus was like the world's first Dr. Phil. He only called them demons because He either A) didn't understand the human mind, or B) lied. But I guess you can call God a liar because, as one of those comments pointed out, "you don't have to believe anything specific to be a Christian."
So you can believe that our God is a dishonest ignoramus and still be a Christian in good standing. Fascinating.
It's terrifying that this belief is so prevalent among Christians in this country. Yes, there have always been heretics, but the denial of Hell, demons, and evil goes deeper and is more bold and more arrogant and more dangerous than most heresies. Hell and Satan are not ambiguous subjects in Scripture. They are clearly addressed over and over again, in both Old and New Testaments, by prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself. Read 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Peter 2:4; Luke 8:2; Luke 11:14; Leviticus 17:7; Genesis 3:1-7; Matthew 10:1, Matthew 12:22; Matthew 25:41; Mark 3:11; Mark 9:38; 1 Corinthians 10:20; James 2:19, Revelation 20:10.
Demons are mentioned 63 times in the New Testament. Satan is mentioned over 30 times.
Have you read Matthew 4?
"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."
What follows is a detailed story about Christ's interaction with Satan. The Devil tries to tempt Him, but is ultimately rebuked:
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’"
How do you read that and come to the contradictory conclusions that Christ exists and is Lord, but Satan doesn't exist and is an aberration? It's incomprehensible.
In Luke 8 Jesus comes across a possessed man. He speaks to the demons. They beg Jesus not to be cast back into Hell, so Christ sends them into a herd of pigs, and the pigs run off a cliff and are drowned.
In Ephesians we're told that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
From Genesis to Revelation, the spiritual forces of Hell are named, referenced, admonished, battled and warned against. It could not be any more clear than it is. And these aren't just random little anecdotes and parables (although Jesus does give us a terrifying illustration of Hell in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus); these are themes that lie at the very center of Christ's mission on Earth.
He came here to free us from the powers of Hell and give us the Way, the Truth, and the Life, which is Him. If demons and Hell and Satan are wacky superstitions, why did we need to be saved? And why did Jesus talk about these things? When He was being tempted in the desert, was He just hallucinating? What was it -- heat exhaustion? Was God suffering from some kind of paranoia when He sent His only Son here to die for our sins?
Whoops! Turns out sin and evil don't exist! Well, that was a whole buncha fuss over nothing, wasn't it?
I suppose you could randomly assume the parts of Christ's work in the Gospels that seem especially troubling or outlandish didn't happen. The writers of the Gospels made a mistake or lied, you might propose. But if that's your verdict, then Scripture cannot be entirely inspired by the Holy Spirit, and if it's not inspired by the Spirit, why would you believe any of it? There are many other religious texts out there. Why not believe one of those instead? Why not put your faith in the Bhagavad Gita or the Koran or the Sutra? If the Bible is so flimsy and fallible, why do you take any of it at its word?
You can't. And if you reject the reality of demons and Hell, you don't.
"But I only have to love Jesus," you protest.
Sure, that's right. That's all it takes. You have to love Jesus. Just like you "only" have to love your spouse in order for your marriage to work. But if your idea of "loving your spouse" includes perpetual adultery and abuse, then you don't love your spouse. Your "love" is a sham and a show. It's a word, that's all. You could love your spouse and still fall short of that love, but if you tell me that betraying your spouse is in and of itself love, then you don't love them.
Same goes for Jesus. If your "relationship with Jesus" includes disbelieving His teachings, making a mockery of His word, and insisting that His commands are illegitimate and negotiable, then your relationship is bogus. You want to treat him like a moron and a fraud and still "count" as a Believer, but the only fraud in that equation is you.
Satan, Hell, evil, demons, dark forces, possession, punishment, condemnation -- these are scary things to think about, I know. Especially scary for a culture of cowards who, in many cases, have never been made to take responsibility or face consequences for anything, ever. We've been raised to think that we can do whatever we want and be however we want and all we'll ever get in return is a pat on the head and a free cookie. We think all a child should get is positive affirmation and a packet of stickers as a reward for existing. For a parent to punish a child is vulgar, we believe, so naturally for a human to face an eternal consequence is obscene and unimaginable.
And it is hard to imagine. All of these things are beyond our ability to totally comprehend. But just because we can't wrap our heads around them doesn't mean we get to toss them to the side.
Jesus tells us that we should not demand physical "proof" before we decide to believe.
You might say this is especially true of Hell.
But if you really want to see it for yourself, just keep pretending it doesn't exist.
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