Demons, Disease, and Deity: Why We Need A Biblical Worldview To Respond To The Problem of Evil

Oct 19, 2022

Article ID: JAF1022JAP | By: J. Alberto Paredes


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There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.1  —C. S. Lewis

Synopsis

The problem of evil has often been called the Achilles’ heel of Christianity. It presents a real challenge to Christianity by confronting it with the idea of an omnipotent and benevolent God who allows evil to exist. The problem encompasses the question of supernatural evil (demonology) and its activity upon humanity. Increasingly, however, the supernatural aspect of the problem of evil is denied. By rejecting historic biblical authority, especially infallibility and inerrancy, and by attributing demonic events in Scripture — particularly the Gospels — to mental illness, higher critical scholars claim to have “solved” the problem of evil. I show that embracing this critical view on demonology in the Gospels leaves us with more difficulties than solutions concerning the problem of evil. Furthermore, I show how a traditional understanding of biblical authority, which includes infallibility and inerrancy, accords with historical, scientific, and philosophical truth and provides the epistemological basis for a better answer to the problem of evil.


 

Whereas in some places of the world demonology has been overemphasized,2 the Western world seems to be dealing with the opposite end of the spectrum. Naturalistic-materialism has brought with it the notion that what we read as demonic activity in the Bible — especially in the Gospels — ought to be understood as a primitive society reacting to cases of mental illness, unknown to them at the time.3 This approach has been said to be the result of the Enlightenment, and it has greatly influenced the higher critical movement within biblical scholarship.4 “Rising above Christian orthodoxy,” critical scholars disregard the historicity of demonic activity as a cause for disease in Scripture. In doing so, these scholars claim to have solved this aspect of the problem of evil.5 As a result, some maintain a theodicy characterized by human libertarian freedom as the principal cause of pain and suffering.6

However, the way one answers the question of demonic activity has unavoidable consequences. If demonic activity is affirmed, as Scripture teaches and has been historically maintained, we need to give an answer as to why God allows not only human but also supernatural7 evil to occur. Yet, if the historicity of demonic activity in the Bible is denied, as many critical scholars propose, the challenge then is making sense of Jesus’ and the gospel authors’ views toward it, while at the same time providing a good philosophical argument for objective hope. Furthermore, since the objective authority of Scripture is the only sure foundation for understanding and hope (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7, 9:10; Job 28:28; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Pet. 1:19–21), once such authority is rejected, any answer to the problem of evil becomes subjective and relative.

THE CRITICAL CASE AGAINST DEMONS ANALYZED

Critical scholars contend that since the Enlightenment era, two phenomena have occurred. First, physicians disregard any supernatural activity as related to the human body. Second, New Testament scholars view demonic activity affecting the human body in the gospel accounts as nothing more than undiagnosed mental illness. However, these claims about the legacy of the Enlightenment are based on an inaccurate assessment of historical data.

It just is not the case today that all credible physicians are closed to the supernatural; and certainly not all credible New Testament scholars are higher critics. Fundamentally, it is inaccurate to represent the several and heterogeneous Enlightenment movements as one big program called “The Enlightenment.” People who are unfamiliar with recent serious Enlightenment scholarship often fall into this error. What might have been true during the Enlightenment in France, for example, which was remarkably atheistic, may not have been true during this period in the U.S., which was highly Protestant.8 An honest survey of the history of medicine and religion does not reveal a homogenous response toward the supernatural in the eighteenth century. Bearing in mind Protestant countries, we discover accounts of supernatural healings by groups like the Scottish Covenanters amid times of persecution (1774).9 It is true that in places like France the veracity of the Bible was almost altogether rejected, and in England it was somewhat ignored to emphasize reason as the source of truth. However, this was not the case for the American Enlightenment, during which many influential Christian leaders, including George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Witherspoon, maintained the historical reliability and infallible authority of Scripture.10 Hence, the claim that one standardized movement called The Enlightenment changed the way in which we understand the Bible today is not accurate. And, specifically, the assumption that people unanimously denied the historicity of the accounts of demonic activity in Scripture during the eighteenth century is false.11 Yet, among critical scholars, the opinion prevails that, since the eighteenth century, the canonical gospel accounts of demonic activity are reducible to accounts of people reacting to undiagnosed mental illness. Nevertheless, we should ask, does the ancient historical evidence support such a reduction?

Medicine and Psychiatry in the Roman Empire

In order to address this question, it is necessary first to recognize that belief in the demonic causation of disease had virtually no connection with first-century Greco-Roman medicine. Indeed, historian of medicine Ludwig Edelstein has shown that ancient Greco-Roman physicians, philosophers, and other educated people unanimously rejected the demonic origin of disease.12 Natural causation had been the preferred answer to disease since the advent of the Hippocratic Theory in the third century BC.13

Mental illness also was a recognized disease since Hippocrates, and even before him. Mania, as it was called, is well attested in both philosophical and medical writings from the Ptolemaic era. For philosophers, mania was caused by a “calamity of the soul” and was cured by exposure to culture, art, beauty, reason, and rhetoric. For the medical community, mania was more of a bodily disease. Just as a broken bone or a stomachache, mania had as its cause something going wrong with the body. Thus, a somatic ailment required a natural treatment.14 Among the Greek physicians writing on these diseases, perhaps the most prominent were Aretaeus, Aetius, and Rufo. These authors described the symptoms of mania as including the tendency to walk around naked and even dwell among tombs, and that the madness occurred intermittently.15

A Special Physician

It is of the greatest significance to understand this ancient Greco-Roman approach to medicine and, specifically, mania. For Luke, a Gospel author, was a Greek physician.16 New Testament scholar Robert J. Cara describes Luke as a Gentile and an educated person.17 These data fit the categories brought forward by Edelstein’s research and, as such, Luke would not be expected to forward a demonic etiology (origin of disease). However, Luke’s Gospel uses the word demon (δαιμόνιον) twenty-five times, more than any of the other three canonical Gospels, and in many cases as the cause of physical disease (Luke 4:33; 8:27; 9:42; 11:14).

The higher critical response to the demonic activity recorded in Luke’s Gospel is typically that Luke was relying heavily on Mark’s Gospel and the Q Source. Since we find stories of demons there, such stories found their way into Luke’s account as well. But this is a red hearing. Even if true, such an answer does not explain why an educated Greek physician would suddenly come to write as if he believed in demons. Regardless of its hypothetical interaction with other sources, Luke’s account strongly suggests that this Greek doctor had robust reasons to deviate from the standard Greek medical conventions and wrote as someone who, contrary to what he had been taught, was convinced of demonic etiology for specific cases. Something must have happened that led a Greek physician to believe in the demonic, and his writings require an explanation.

Phenomenological and Philosophical Questions Unanswered

Though critics explain away demonic activity in the Gospels as mental illness, this solution cannot fit every account. In the Gerasene episode (Matt. 8:28–34: Mark 5:1–20; Luke 8:26–39), Jesus is said to have allowed demons to enter a herd of pigs, which then killed themselves by drowning. Higher critical scholars forward various explanations. Some say that while the encounter with the demon-possessed was, again, a case of mental illness, the real miracle was that Jesus executed some kind of power over the pigs so as to “continue the delusion” the men were having, thus, helped to heal them by “giving them a framework to believe that they were freed from demons.”18 Others maintain that Jesus genuinely believed in demons, but He was mistaken in holding that belief.19 Still others deny the episode altogether, or claim that the herd ending is a later addition. In any of these cases, the infallible and inerrant authority of Scripture is questioned or abjectly rejected.

If we deny the existence of any real demonic possession episode, we assume that the Bible is historically inaccurate. If we suppose that Jesus merely went along with what the Gerasene men were thinking, we’re saying that He not only allowed a lie to be told, but He promoted and participated in the lie (Mark 5:18–20; Luke 8:38–39), thus denying His divinity. If we hold that Jesus was mistaken about demons, then again, His divinity cannot be affirmed. He cannot be the Son of God and God incarnate. If we say that this episode is a later addition, we go against the available manuscript data and disregard serious scientific manuscript research to accommodate an a priori anti-demonic position.20

Furthermore, once we question infallible and inerrant biblical authority, there is no good reason to trust one passage over another. If the whole text is not true, then we have no reason to believe a specific portion to be true (Num. 23:19; Ps. 119:160; Prov. 30:5; Isa. 40:8; Matt. 5:18; John 3:12; 10:34–35, 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; Jas. 1:17; 1 John 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:23–25; 2 Pet. 1:19–21). It is either all or nothing. To see this, we must understand that the concepts of biblical infallibility and inerrancy follow from the doctrine of inspiration. That is, since Scripture is inspired by God, it cannot err in what it teaches, for Scripture bears the truthful character of God Himself.21 Thus, by rejecting infallible and inerrant biblical authority, we compound uncertainty. For instance, what do we have as a standard of evil if the revealed standard for goodness has been discredited?22 As Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov, an atheist, famously asked, “Without God….all things are lawful then?”23

The uncomfortable fact is that rejecting Scriptural teaching is to renounce any objective ground for hope and embrace instead a subjective and therefore weak alternative. Consequently, far from “solving” an aspect of the problem of evil, a higher critical approach to demonology in Scripture makes the problem impossible to solve and leads to despair. We are left with the reality of an inconceivable amount of pain and suffering in the world, yet without any objective basis for believing that things are ever going to get any better.

Some Modern Medical Remarks

As a physician, I see clearly that the shift from demonic etiology to mental illness is in fact a shift from supernatural uncertainty to natural uncertainty. Natural sciences can neither prove nor disprove spiritual reality.24Since the object of study of the natural sciences is the material realm, then the supernatural is — by definition — out of bounds. The scientific method is not suited for supernatural investigation. Scientific method is characterized both by its methodology and its object of study. The method consists in the repeated observation of physical phenomena through the process of experimentation to derive logical conclusions. However, whereas the scientific method presupposes immaterial entities such as the laws of logic and the stability of nature, the object of investigation is always either matter or energy — physical phenomena. On the one hand, it may be that some conclusions about the world that were reached through the scientific method might aid in establishing premises in arguments for or against the supernatural. Nevertheless, immaterial entities cannot be a matter of scientific observation per se. Whenever scientists make claims about the immaterial, we ought to understand that such claims were not reached through regular scientific methodology. Instead, such scientists are stepping into the realm of philosophy, or even theology. In other words, the honest scientist would need to approach the supernatural with different tools — immaterial tools such as reason and logic — to make any claim either for or against its existence. Alternatively, a scientist would recognize that there is no way to know anything about the existence of the supernatural — at least not from natural observation.25

It is precisely this epistemological uncertainty (from a naturalistic-materialistic worldview) that drives the materialist to opt for a natural explanation (mental illness) rather than taking the biblical texts at face value (demon possession or demonically induced illness) — the idea is that “we cannot explain, prove, disprove, understand, or know the supernatural; hence, a natural explanation will be best.” Yet, when we analyze the science of psychiatry, we discover that there is no unanimous consensus regarding the origin or physiopathology of psychiatric disorders.26 Instead, we have a plethora of competing (and sometimes contradicting) hypotheses about what causes mental illness.27 To the question: “What is the objective cause of any given mental illness?” The honest answer is: “We don’t know.”

Hence, an objective naturalistic explanation remains inaccessible. Objectivity and truth — the pursuit of which is the reason for shifting from a supernatural to a natural explanation — cannot be reached by attributing biblical episodes of demonic activity to mental illness. Put differently, even when we change the framework from the supernatural to the natural, we have the same problem: we do not know of any objective physical causation to help us explain what is happening. This shift then provides no rational or epistemological gain and requires the high cost of giving up infallible and inerrant biblical authority — the only rational standard for objective epistemology.

Finally, it is an error to assume that every disease has only a natural cause. To reach such a conclusion one must begin with an a priori denial of the possibility of the supernatural, which is impossible to prove from a naturalistic-materialistic worldview.28 Instead, what is scientifically true is that there are diseases for which we do not yet know the cause. This phenomenon is so common within medical practice that physicians have a technical term to describe it: idiopathic.29 When applied to a disease, the adjective idiopathic describes a medical disorder with an unknown cause, often of sudden or spontaneous origin. And though it is almost certainly true that some of these disorders could be explained by our lack of natural scientific knowledge, without an a priori rejection of the supernatural, it would be unwarranted and dishonest to assert that all these diseases have a natural causation.30 Thus, I do not think that there is a compelling case to sustain any naturalistic interpretation of the relevant biblical passages from historical, phenomenological, philosophical, or scientific grounds.

A Biblical Response

It is not enough to give negative evidence against a worldview to draw people toward our own. Negative arguments against A are not positive arguments for B. One must demonstrate that that upholding the infallible and inerrant authority of Scripture when interpreting the relevant biblical passages accords with the historical, phenomenological, philosophical, and scientific evidence.

Aiming for Concordance. Luke’s account is heavy in its historical importance. His deviation from the ancient Roman-Greco norm strongly suggests the personal conviction of an author who, apart from encountering compelling phenomena, would have no reason to believe in demonic etiology.

While it is true that exorcisms were commonly practiced (though, not by physicians) in first-century Rome, the way they were performed was through magic and the use of certain amulets and incantations31 supposedly left behind by King Solomon.32 Thus, the authority with which Jesus cures demon-caused diseases and casts out demons was novel (Mark 1:27).33 Jesus’ tool was His word. Thus, the authorities’ opposition to the way Jesus performed healings is consistent with historical expectations.34

Hence, how do we explain Luke’s acceptance of demonic causation as registered in his gospel? As a physician — indeed, a man of science — he would have been trained to follow the evidence he encountered wherever it led. Luke explicitly expresses his methodology for historical investigation prior to writing his gospel (Luke 1:4). His aim is to produce a compiled account of the things accomplished among Christians (1:1). These things were handed down by those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning (1:2). After having investigated those things with eyewitnesses, he wrote it down in consecutive order (1:3). As a result, he produced a document portraying the exact truth of the facts that took place (1:4). There is no doubt that this investigation impacted Luke’s worldview itself. Further, there is good reason to believe that Luke himself experienced at least some first-hand encounters with the demonic. Luke, who is also the author of the book of Acts (Acts 1:1), occasionally uses the personal pronoun “we” to refer to instances in which he was part of Paul’s crew. Chapter 16 of Acts uses the “we” reference abundantly (16:10, 11 [x2], 12 [x2], 13 [x3], 16 [x2]). Also, chapter 16 narrates the encounter of Paul with the demon-possessed girl (16:16–18). In addition, there is another account in Acts of demon possession (19:13–16), and it seems to be a fair assumption that Luke was with Paul at that time (20:1–12).

The fact that Luke was a close companion to Paul is evident from Paul’s pen as well (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). Hence, in addition to Luke’s investigation and personal encounters with the supernatural, it is fair to assume that Paul would have trained Luke in the knowledge of the Tanak (Old Testament writings) and shown him how the life of Christ and the development of the church would be a fulfilment of the promises found therein. This would have given Luke a theological framework to embrace supernatural alongside natural causation for disease.35

Furthermore, the gospel manuscripts and papyri are considered historical documents.36 Since we consistently have these stories from the earliest manuscript traditions, the science of textual criticism shows that there is good reason to think the extant manuscripts accurately reflect what the New Testament authors originally wrote.37

Spiritual Beings Exist and Can Influence Physical Bodies. A high view of Scripture’s infallible and inerrant authority provides the necessary philosophical and theological framework to maintain that spiritual beings can indeed influence physical bodies; this high view of Scripture also provides grounds for an objective solution to the problem of evil. Scripture teaches that demons are spiritual in nature, like angels,38 having special powers as demonstrated by their titles.39 One of these powers is the ability to affect human minds and bodies.40 There are many testimonies in Scripture of spiritual beings directly or indirectly affecting human health (Job 2:7; Matt. 8:28–34; Luke 4:40–42, 13:16; Acts 12:23). Moreover, only a view of Scripture as inerrant enables us to make sense of the pig herd affair without disrupting the true natural interpretation of this text.41 Since a biblical worldview maintains that spiritual beings exist and can influence physical bodies, there is no problem in holding that some of those unclean spiritual beings went into a herd of unclean animals.42

A Legitimate Appeal to Mystery. The traditional interpretation of Scripture as inerrant has been criticized for its appeal to mystery when explanations for the spiritual affecting the physical are required. However, while it is true that a biblical worldview may not have exhaustive answers, mystery is not dishonesty, contradiction, or inconsistency. Mystery might be analogous to the term idiopathic. Nonetheless, while idiopathic is often used within a worldview that embraces irrational and unfounded a priori beliefs — denying the supernatural — mystery does not require such an intellectual sacrifice. When theologians use mystery to describe the influence of the supernatural upon the natural realm, explanations are open to primary or secondary causation. Scripture seems to sustain both as feasible.

2 Chronicles 32:21 describes one angel directly killing all the mighty warriors, commanders, and officers of the Assyrian army. On the other hand, the narrative in Acts 11:23 affirms both that it was an angel who caused King Herod to die, while at the same time maintaining that there were worms that ate his body as a secondary cause for his death. A biblical appeal to mystery does not force the interpreter to engage in false dichotomies, having to choose between either the natural over the supernatural, or vice versa. It affirms and gives a framework to maintain both without contradiction.

Philosophical Consistency and Hope Assurance. Upholding infallible and inerrant Scriptural authority allows real objective hope to prevail. The Bible repeatedly states that all pain and suffering have a specific purpose. This purpose is to bring a greater good that could not have been achieved otherwise. In short, the greater the evil, the greater the victory over evil. And yet the Bible also affirms that God is just and good. He will not treat anyone unjustly. This has come to be known as the greater good theodicy.43 God allows all the pain and evil in this world for his own glory, and for the ultimate benefit of His people (Rom. 8:28).44 This brings hope. Not an empty and subjective hope that comes from the individual’s imagination, but an external objective hope that is grounded in the revealed word of God.

Furthermore, this hope goes beyond self-caused pain and suffering. It applies not only to human libertarian-freedom-caused suffering but to supernatural-caused pain, too. This is of the utmost importance. Not all evil can be explained by personal human sin. Such an explanation would not accord with the biblical teaching of the book of Job, a book in which demonic activity and physical pain are a main theme.45 Thus, holding that the Bible is authoritative and true in all that it teaches provides the foundation for a consistent, cogent, and coherent response to the problem of pain in general by regarding demonic activity as historically real. In contrast to the narrow critical view of pain as almost confined to human free-will causality, the recognition of real demonic activity welcomes a greater category of evil, one which is completely out of human control and for which human beings may not always have direct responsibility.

God has promised to destroy every evil. This “every” is larger in the biblical inerrancy view than in a higher critical approach. It is a word that, in a classical evangelical approach, encompasses not only self-caused or human free-will-caused pain, but also externally caused pain. It does not entail only natural pain but supernatural pain, too. That God is interested in ending supernatural pain may be seen precisely from the way in which Jesus interacted with demon-possessed individuals and those whose health was affected by demons.46

This fact leads us to see that for God to free the world from all evil — both natural and supernatural evil — He must have sufficient power and dominion over all forms of evil. A high view of Scripture’s authority leads to a stronger, higher, and more robust view of God’s sovereignty. In contrast, a higher critical view not only reduces the evil with which God must deal, but often radically diminishes God’s power.47

If we go along with the critical interpretation of demonic activity, which is based in a flawed interpretation of historical, scientific, and philosophical data, we end with an impotent god, unreliable Scripture, and philosophical inconsistencies leading to subjective hope. Alternatively, adopting historic biblical authority, including infallibility and inerrancy, has its own consequences. First, we embrace as true that we live in a world partially handed over to satanic forces. Second, we understand that these forces can produce physical pain among the saints. However, the ultimate truth is that Jesus Christ has already defeated all powers and principalities and will come again victorious.48 As a result, we center our hopes in Him, we hand Him even our physical suffering, and we eagerly expect His second coming, when He will wipe away every tear and heal every pain — natural and supernatural — and whatever has caused such pain. This is a real, objective, and glorious hope.49

Alberto Paredes, MD, is currently finishing MDiv and MATS degrees at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is a student member of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), and a member of the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM). He also is founder and chairman of Enviados México Ministries and author of Virtual Communion: Revisiting the Arguments (Guatemala: Dort Publicaciones, 2022).

 

Notes:

1 C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1941; Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1990), 9.

2 Adogame holds the common belief in some African nations, the HIV epidemic was caused by demonic forces; Ayegboyin expounds on the case of the Aladura, an African Christian movement that is characterized by healing physical diseased by casting out demons; and DeRogatis criticizes a book which maintains that sexually transmitted diseases are demons hidden in faulty genetic code form. See Afeosemime U. Adogame, “‘A Walk for Africa’: Combating the Demon of HIV/AIDS in an African Pentecostal Church — the Case of the Redeemed Christian Church of God,” Scriptura 89 (2005): 399; Deji Ayegboyin, “‘Heal the Sick and Cast out Demons’: The Response of the Aladura,” Studies in World Christianity 10.2 (2004): 236; Amy DeRogatis, “‘Born Again Is a Sexual Term’: Demons, STDs, and God’s Healing Sperm,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 77.2 (2009): 275.

3 Ragy R. Girgis, On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry: Exploring Mental Illness in the Bible (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2020), 48–61.

4 Porter suggests that the Enlightenment shifted the whole view in which mental illness was conceived. See Roy Porter, ed., The Cambridge History of Medicine (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 244–46.

5 Munro claims that the best way to deal with this problem is to deny the existence of demons and the Devil altogether. See Howard Munro, “Are Demons Real?,” St. Marks Review 145 (1991): 38–39.

6 Douglas Straton, “God, Freedom, and Pain,” Harvard Theological Review 55.2 (1962): 143–59.

7 In this article, supernatural refers to orders of being beyond the material world.

8 See Gertrude Himmelfarb, The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments (New York: Vintage Books, 2005).

9 Gary B. Ferngren, Medicine and Religion: A Historical Introduction (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), 138.

10 This is the very principle on which universities were founded in the United States.

11 See John D. Woodbridge, “Some Misconceptions of the Impact of the ‘Enlightenment’ on the Doctrine of Scripture,” in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon, ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986), 241–70.

12 Ferngren, Medicine and Religion, 69–72.

13 To read how the Hippocratic Theory changed the history of medicine, see Porter, The Cambridge History of Medicine, 50–55; and to read a good example about natural causation in ancient Hippocratic literature, see Hippocrates et al., Hippocrates, The Loeb Classical Library 147–50, 472–73, 482, 509–520, 538 (London: Heinemann; Putnam, 1923).

14 Porter, The Cambridge History of Medicine, 238–243.

15 William Kirk Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2004), 13–14.

16 Hobart’s whole purpose in his work on the medical language used by Luke is to show how that language is particularly telling of a man who knew the art of medicine from the Greek tradition. See Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke.

17 Robert J. Cara, “Luke,” in A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized, ed. Michael J. Kruger (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 94–95.

18 Girgis, On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry, 60–61.

19 G. E. Ladd points to G. B. Stevens as one of such critical scholars. See George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 50.

20 Peter J. Williams argues for the reliability of the Gospels. He recognizes that evidence seems to show two passages that appear to be later additions, however, neither includes the pig herd pericope. The passages in question are the longer ending of Mark (16:9–20) and the pericope adulterae (John 7:53–8:11). This means that both Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, dating approximately AD 350, contain the complete Gerasene passage in all Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s accounts. See Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 116–22.

21 The distinction between the concepts of inspiration and textual criticism is crucial. The claim of Scriptural inspiration is that anything that is part of the original writings of the books included in the biblical canon has God as its ultimate source. The task of textual criticism is to determine what was originally written by the authors of those books. Therefore, textual variants do not represent a challenge for inspiration.

22 After a lengthy review of various perspectives in Scriptural authority and reliability, Van Til concludes that Warfield’s perspective is the only one that allows real — as in, objective — science [knowledge], philosophy, and theology. See Cornelius Van Til, “Introduction,” in The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, ed. Samuel G. Craig and Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2020), 3–68.

23 Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Part IV, Book XI, Chapter 4, trans. Constance Garnett, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, https://www.ccel.org/d/dostoevsky/karamozov/karamozov.html#B11Ch4.

24 In philosophy of science, there are two common approaches (among many) when it comes to defining science. The first — a broad definition of science as emphasizing knowledge — allows the use of philosophical investigation after observing the material world to lead scientists to some conclusions that would involve immaterial entities or agents. Hence, in this model, after observing the universe some scientists conclude that it must have come about by the work of an immaterial, personal, powerful agent existing outside time and space. This is part of the scientific argument for Intelligent Design.

A second model, however, defines science in a narrower sense. This second model constrains science in both its methodology and its object of study to the physical world. This approach is known as methodological naturalism and is perhaps the majority position in the scientific milieu since modernism. In this article I assume this second narrow sense of science as a working definition. And it is this definition that is likely assumed by critics who believe that the Gospels deal with mental illness rather than real demonic encounters.

To read paradigmatic works from the broad-sense definition of science perspective, see Stephen C. Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (New York: HarperOne, 2013), and Stephen C. Meyer, Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries That Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe (New York: HarperOne, 2021).

25 C. S. Lewis makes the same observation in C. S. Lewis, “Religion and Science,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014), 66–70. For a more technical analysis on the interaction of scientific and Christian presuppositions, see John M. Frame, Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015), 72–73; Vern S. Poythress, “Science and Hermeneutics: Implications of Scientific Method for Biblical Interpretation,” in Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation, ed. Moisés Silva (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 430–531; Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, N.J: P&R Pub, 1998), 311–404; On epistemological humility, see W. Jay Wood, Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 61–66. For some good introductions integrating all of the above categories between science, scientific method, and faith, see Michael J. Kruger, Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 119–132; Ken Ham, The Lie: Evolution/Millions of Years, revised and expanded (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2012); James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 5th ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 66–93.

26 DSM-5, the gold standard manual for psychiatric diagnosis, states, “Until incontrovertible etiological or pathophysiological mechanisms are identified to fully validate specific disorders or disorder spectra, the most important standard for the DSM-5 disorder criteria will be their clinical utility for the assessment of clinical course and treatment response of individuals grouped by a given set of diagnostics criteria.” Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2013), 20. See Michael R. Emlet, Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2017), 12, 22-23. See also Charles D. Hodges, Good Mood, Bad Mood: Help and Hope for Depression and Bipolar Disorder (Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 2012), 23–36.

27 American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 20. Psychiatrist Allen Frances, Chair DSM-IV Taskforce, has written a best-selling, withering critique of the DSM V’s approach, which turns almost anyone into a plausible candidate for a mental illness diagnosis. See, Allen Frances, Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life (New York, NY: William Morrow, 2014).

28 Virklet defines an a priori fallacy as that which “start[s] out with conclusions first (a priori) and use[s] them to decide whether to accept certain facts.” See Henry A. Virkler, A Christian’s Guide to Critical Thinking (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 196.

29 Melloni’s Medical Dictionary defines ‘Idiopathic’ as ‘denoting a disease of unknown cause. See Ida Dox, Biagio John Melloni, and Gilbert M. Eisner, Melloni’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary (Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1979), 214.

30 Wood has an interesting segment about intellectual dishonesty in which he brings the example of this phenomenon in the medical sciences. See W. Jay Wood, Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 61–62.

31 Ferngren, Medicine and Religion, 71–72.

32 Josephus lays out the instructions supposedly left behind by Solomon to cast out demons, and which were the common practice of Jesus’ time (Ant. VIII.II.5). See Flavius Josephus, The Complete Works of Josephus, ed. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1993), 173.

33 Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 49.

34 Paul W Hollenbach, “Jesus, Demoniacs, and Public Authorities: A Socio-Historical Study,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 49.4 (1981): 582–84.

35 To examine both the close relationship between Luke and Paul, and the influence this relationship had on the physician in terms of worldview and theology, see Jakob Van Bruggen, Paul: Pioneer for Israel’s Messiah (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Pub. Co., 2005), 139–155; F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, Rev. ed., [Repr.]., NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 6–17; J. A. Alexander, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Repr., The Geneva Series of Commentaries (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1980), vii–ix; William Kirk Hobart, The Medical Language of St. Luke (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2004), 292–297.

36 The reliability of Scriptures may be approached both in terms of its content, and its transmission as written documents. On the content of the Gospels, their nature as Greek biography (βίος), and the methodology through which these documents were written, see Craig S. Keener, Christobiography: Memory, History, and the Reliability of the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2019); Richard A. Burridge, What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2004); Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007).

On the reliability of the text according to its transmition, see Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism, trans. Erroll F Rhodes (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995); Bruce M. Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 4th ed. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005); Tommy Wasserman and Peter J. Gurry, A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method, Resources for Biblical study number 80 (Atlanta : Stuttgart: SBL Press ; Deutsche Bibel Gesellschaft, 2017).

37 This is why most of the debate centers in the interpretation of the events rather than their historical authenticity.

38 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 415–16; Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 653; Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 189–91.

39 Erickson, Christian Theology, 411; Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 440–441; Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament.

40 Graham A. Cole, Against the Darkness: The Doctrine of Angels, Satan, and Demons (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 120–31; Merrill Frederick Unger, What Demons Can Do to Saints (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977), 99–154; Erickson, Christian Theology, 418–19; Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology, 191.

41 W. M. Alexander holds to what he calls a “natural interpretation of the text.” However, this should be qualified as the natural classical interpretation of the passage. Alexander concludes that, while both the Gerasene and Jesus believed that a demonic possession was going on, there was only mental illness, and the herd of pigs kill themselves because of all the noise that was taking place. This is a clear example of eisegesis, for there is nothing in the text that points to such interpretation. See William Menzies Alexander, Demonic Possession in the New Testament: Its Historical, Medical, and Theological Aspects (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980), 209–12.

42 See William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1983), 447–48.

43 For a simple and precise exposition of this theodicy, see Greg Welty, Why Is There Evil in the World (and so Much of It)? (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2018).

44 Agan argues that this is precisely why Jesus healed those that were affected by demons. See Jimmy Agan, The Imitation of Christ in the Gospel of Luke: Growing in Christlike Love for God and Neighbor (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014), 57.

45 Derek Thomas, Proclaiming the Incomprehensible God: Calvin’s Teaching on Job, Mentor Imprint (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2004), 99–105.

46 Agan, The Imitation of Christ in the Gospel of Luke, 89–94.

47 See Don Flowers, “When Bad Things Happen: Blame God! Job 1:1; 2:1–10,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 46.2 (2019): 141–44.

48 Sydney H. T. Page, Powers of Evil: A Biblical Study of Satan and Demons (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995), 137–82.

49 To read a compelling case about the relationship between Christus Victor and our present hope, see Cole, Against the Darkness, 141–162.

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