Can Believers be Demon Possessed?
by David Dunlap
The doctrine that teaches that believers, although owned by God, can be indwelled by a demon. Representative of this view is C. Fred Dickason of Moody Bible College:
"A genuine Christian may become possessed (by a demon) at least to some degree, even to the point where they speak with strange voices and in foreign languages." (Angels Elect and Evil, Chicago, Moody, 1975, p. 191)
Merrill F. Unger (Demons in the World Today), Spiritual warfare author Neil Anderson (Bondage Breaker, Victory Over Darkness), C. Fred Dickason of Moody Bible College, author Mark Bubeck (The Adversary, Moody Press) and Timothy Warner (Spiritual Warfare) of Trinity Evangelical Seminary.
This view has been developing only since the late 1960's. Early charismatics were the first to set forth this view. Don Basham's best-selling book, Deliver Us From Evil, served to stir tremendous interest in demonism. Other leading charismatics such as Bob Mumford and Derek Prince authored books espousing the same view. In the 1970-1980's, dispensationalists from Dallas Seminary and Moody Bible College set forth their view of demon possession in a spate of books. Their approach was more restrained, and utilized private pastoral counseling and warfare praying, in contrast to the sensational and often bizarre charismatic method "casting out" of demons. In the 1990's the Vineyard movement and Fuller Seminary joined hands and introduced what they termed the "third wave of the Holy Spirit". This approach linked demonic deliverance with church growth and third world missions. Currently, fictional books from authors such as Frank Peretti (Piercing the Darkness)and self-help books from Neil Anderson (Bondage Breaker) have rekindled further interest in demon possession.
For many who teach that Christians can be possessed by a demon, the repeated experience of demonic possession is held up as the most significant factor. Numerous cases are cited of people, who by all appearances, seem to be genuinely manifesting characteristics of demon possession. Merrill F. Unger writes,
In Biblical Demonology I stated "to demon possession, only unbelievers are exposed." Later I wrote, "Since the first publication of Biblical Demonology in 1952, I have received many letters from missionaries from all over the world who question the theory that true believers cannot be demon-possessed...The claims of these missionaries appear to be valid." (Demons in the World Today, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers 1986, p. 117)
However, personal experience must submit to the authority of the Holy Scriptures. Where the Word of God clearly speaks, experience, irrespective of its persuasiveness, must remain silent. Many of these demonic occurrences may be attributed to mental illness and also to the power of suggestion. In other occurrences, it may be that the individuals in question were not truly regenerate. How can one determine with 100% accuracy those who are genuine believers (2 Timothy 2:19)? We must conclude that to base biblical doctrine on personal experience is dangerous. Counsel should be given to others to proceed cautiously in basing their belief on the condition of Christians who seem to be demon possessed, when the weight of biblical doctrine leans against that view.
Biblical Support Against
A comprehensive study of the Scriptures should lead us to the belief that a true believer cannot be possessed by a demon. The Word of God lays down certain truths and principles which support this teaching. Firstly, the Scriptures teach that a believer is kept by the power of God. "The Lord is faithful and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one" (2 Thessalonians 3:3); also "He who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him"(1 John 5:18). New Testament Greek authority W. E. Vine writes,
The word haptomai, rendered 'toucheth', here signifies 'to lay hold of.' The evil one assaults, but he cannot sever the vital connection between the believer and Christ. (The Epistles of John, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, ND, 107-108)
Although a believer is subject to the attacks of Satan, his status as a child of God and a possession of God sets limits as to what the world of demonic forces can do. Secondly, a believer is called the "temple of the living God" (2 Corinthians 6:16). At conversion the Holy Spint indwells a believer and makes him a temple of the living God. In this temple, light has no agreement with darkness, and there is no concord between Christ and Belial. The apostle John adds, "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world"(1 John 4:4). How then would God, who is greater than Satan, allow a demon to reside along with Him in this sanctified temple?
The clarion call today should be to allow the Scriptures to direct our battle plan. We have seen that the Bible teaches that a believer cannot be inhabited by a demon. We should not trust in these undiscerning teachings for deliverance, but rather we should rest completely upon God's resources in our warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil.