The other day I found myself watching a special on Hell on the History channel. On most History channel shows, or specials on other channels, they almost always draw from the same pool. Elaine Pagels, known for her expertise on the gnostic gospels, usually swims in such pools. With the exception of the deeply southern, southern Baptist 4th generation preacher, the other “scholars” (some looked a bit too young to be too scholarly) most seemed to adopt Pagel’s condescending attitude that the bible is simply an ancient text which tries to explain everything away by demonology.
Of course, if you can look at the bible intellectually as an ancient irrelevant text, it makes it a ton easier to ignore the personal claims Christ makes on all mankind.
But there is a problem with Elaine’s accusation; it’s just don’t find it accurate. Demons gave people some “fits,” in the N.T., but the gospel writers don’t blame everything on demons.
Matthew’s worldview included the presence and oppressive activity of demons, but certainly did not connect evil “evil” with demonic influence. Chapter 8 gives us a rather balanced picture of demons and just good old fashioned sickness. The Roman centurion is in need of Jesus to heal his daughter. So Jesus says OK, and simply states “be healed.” There were no demons to get rid of. Then in the next verse (8:14), Jesus visits Peter’s mother-in-law who had a fever. Not a demon induced fever, but simply a fever. He touches her and she’s good to go. No demonic activity recorded in either case.
Then the demons come out.
“Matthew 8:16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.”
Yes, Jesus did toss out many a demon who oppressed folks. But he also healed those who were sick, and it seems like there’s a distinction made here.
I think the gospel writers have a clearer picture of demons than we do. They didn’t blame their flu season solely on demons and we shouldn’t either. But they also didn’t ignore the fact that there is still a spiritual battle going on, which we often forget. Perhaps the fierceness of the battle or oppression is depends upon geography and gospel breakthrough, but it is nevertheless real (and at times can get physical as it did with Job).
Just a good reminder that both extremes seem to miss the properly balanced biblical worldview.