There are pieces of how I came to faith that I don’t talk about a lot. Mostly because when I do, someone looks at me like I’ve got two heads. (But that’s kind of what you come to expect when how you came to faith includes being physically attacked by demons.) It’s not just the non-Christians who get antsy about it, though—Christians more often than not are caught off guard by it.
And I get it. We don’t really know what to do with that whole side of the Christian faith… y’know the supernatural side of it. But we can’t not talk about it. Not if we’re going to really express what Christianity is all about. And make no mistake: Christianity is inherently supernatural. Remember, we believe that the Creator of the Universe took on human form by being born to a virgin girl, took all the punishment we deserve for our disobedience and sin upon himself, died and came back, left the earth by being carried up to heaven, sent his Spirit to live in us and give us new life, and has promised to come back and completely remake the world.
Nope, nothing supernatural there at all…
But there’s not just that. The Bible speaks of spirits who exist in this world who are either God’s servants or his opposition. It speaks of demonic oppression and possession, of spirits sent to frustrate, of thorns in the flesh, and more.
But we don’t like to talk about that. So, why? Here are a few suggestions:
We don’t believe it. That’s really what it comes down to—unbelief. We’ve bought into chronological snobbery on this issue, having heard lots of alternative explanations for demonic possession in the Bible (including epilepsy) and having been inundated with naturalistic explanations of the world. When Emily was on a radio show recently talking about her experience coming to faith, it was obvious the host had a hard time processing what she was saying. He often brought up common objections—power of suggestion, hallucination, mental break, mental illness, and so on. Whether he believed her or not, I can’t say, but you could tell it was outside of his comfort zone.
We fear people. Remember how I said I’ve had people look at me like I’ve got two heads? Well, that’s created a tendency to shut down when talking to people because I want them to like me. But interestingly, many people are open to the supernatural, at least judging by the rise of belief in ghosts, angels and various spirit beings that aren’t the God of the Bible (and there’s the rub). So why would we not want to point to a greater power than those things they have no trouble believing?
We don’t want to be associated with the charismatic movement.1 Or more correctly, with the more extreme elements of it, whom some cessationists equate with all charismatics. But not all charismatics are whack jobs, charlatans and false teachers (though some have found of all the above have a home in that movement, to be sure). And recognizing the supernatural doesn’t mean you have to even be a charismatic (and I should know, because I certainly don’t consider myself one. Granted I don’t really consider myself a cessationist either, so…), any more than you have to be talking about punching demons in the mouth and performing exorcisms. Which brings me to my last point…
We don’t want to glorify evil. This is probably the most compelling reason, in all honesty. We don’t want to be the folks who are always talking about the demonic at the expense of the gospel, and as a result inadvertently glorifying evil. And it’s a tough thing to do well, as anyone who has seen a charlatan talk about kicking people in the stomach to exercise a demon will tell you.
When I’ve spoken on my own experiences, I try not to linger on what happened, and I don’t (over) dramatize it (and sometimes it’s tempting to do, because I can spin a good yarn when I want to). But I don’t make light of it, either. My goal is not to tell a story that competes with The Exorcist. My goal is to explain what happened in my experience in such a way that Jesus Christ is glorified. For me, that means explaining clearly that yes, I did experience actual, physical attacks. Yes, I did experience psychological oppression. But what overpowered that was not me saying the right words, but believing in the right Person: Jesus Christ, the One whom demons fear, my rescuer and redeemer.
Friends, let’s not forget: the Christian faith is a supernatural faith. If we believe Christianity is true, we cannot not ignore this aspect of it. We need to embrace it—and more importantly, rest in our Savior’s power over such things.
- I added this point after publishing based on Ben’s helpful feedback in the comments. See below for that discussion. ↵