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The Exorcism of Emily Rose - Part 2

One of the questions I raised in part one of this study was the issue of terminology. Throughout the film, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” Father Moore spoke of her as being “possessed” by the Devil. As best I can recall, I don’t think anyone used the language of “demonization” or of her being “demonized”.

I think we should forever abandon the use of the term “possession” when it comes to spiritual warfare. I have three reasons for this recommendation.

First, the phrase "demon possession" or “possessed” by the Devil nowhere appears in the Greek NT. It was popularized by its appearance in the King James Version of the Bible, although it had appeared in other English versions prior to the 1611 edition (see Clinton Arnold’s book, “Three Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare,” p. 205, n. 11). I must say that I find it regrettable that the new, and otherwise excellent, English Standard Version, occasionally employs the term “possessed” (see Mark 7:25 and Acts 8:7 for two examples).

Second, the emotional impact of the phrase detracts from an objective discussion of the subject. It is difficult for many to dissociate the concept of demon possession from scenes in both “The Exorcist” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”

Finally, the term "possession" implies ownership, and it is questionable to say that Satan or a demon owns anything. Certainly they cannot exercise ownership or absolute possession over a Christian who has been redeemed and purchased by the blood of Christ.

When we turn to the NT we discover that there are four primary ways in which the authors describe what I am calling “demonization”.

(1)One of the more common terms is best translated as “demonized.” This is a translation of the Greek term, “daimonizomai”, which is used 13x in the NT (all in the gospels). It is, unfortunately, always translated "demon possession" in the KJV. See Mt. 4:24; 8:16,28,33; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22; Mk. 1:32; 5:15,18,26; Lk. 8:36; John 10:21 (a disparaging remark concerning Jesus).

What’s especially significant is that every case where “daimonizomai” is found it involves someone under the influence or control, in varying degrees, of an indwelling evil spirit. The word "demonization" is never used in the NT to describe someone who is merely oppressed or harassed or attacked or tempted by a demon. In every case, reference is made to a demon either entering, dwelling in, or being cast out of the person. Matthew 4:24 and 15:22 at first appear to be exceptions to this rule, but the parallel passages in Mark 1:32ff. and 7:24-30 indicate otherwise. Hence, to be "demonized", in the strict sense of that term, is to be inhabited by a demon with varying degrees of influence or control.

(2)To "have" a demon is used 16x in the NT. It is twice used of John the Baptist by his accusers (Mt. 11:18; Lk. 7:33). Six times the enemies of Jesus use it of him (Mk. 3:30; Jn. 7:20; 8:48,49,52; 10:20). Eight times it describes someone under the influence of a demonic spirit (Mk. 5:15; 7:25; 9:17; Lk. 4:33; 8:27; Acts 8:7; 16:16; 19:13). In each of these eight occurrences the demonic spirit(s) is either explicitly portrayed as indwelling or inhabiting the person or as being “cast out” of the individual by Jesus or an apostle.

The case of the slave girl described in Acts 16:16 is especially instructive. She is said to have “had a spirit of divination.” Although the term “demonized” is not used, when Paul sets her free he commands the demon to “come out of her. And it came out that very hour” (Acts 16:18). This would appear, then, to be another case of demonization or an indwelling spirit that is cast out of a person. I conclude, then, that to "have" a demon is to be "demonized" or inhabited by a demon.

(3)On two occasions (Mk. 1:23; 5:2) we find reference to a person "with" (Greek preposition, “en”) a demon or unclean spirit. In both instances the demon is cast out of the person. Thus to say there is a person "with" a demon is to say he "has" a demon which is to say he is "demonized" or that he is indwelt by a demon.

(4)The terminology of being "vexed" by or “afflicted with” (ESV) an unclean spirit is used only once in Acts 5:16. Nothing explicit is said about whether or not the unclean spirit is inside or outside the person.

In summary, if a demon indwells or inhabits a person he/she may be said to be demonized. Merely to be the focus of a demonic assault is not itself demonization. Demonization always entails indwelling. All Christians, at one time or another, come under demonic attack, whether by temptation to sin or accusation or whatever, and that in varying degrees. But this does not suggest that they are indwelt by the demon.

This is important to remember, lest someone say that when a person is the object of Satan’s “flaming darts” (as described, for example, in Ephesians 6:10-20; esp. v. 16) he/she is therefore demonized. That simply isn’t biblically accurate. Satan and his minions have a variety of ways in which they tempt, divide, harass, accuse, deceive, and oppress Christians without this entailing an abiding presence within them.

Undoubtedly there are varying degrees of demonization. The extent to which an indwelling spirit exercises influence or control over how a person thinks, believes, or behaves is dependent on any number of factors. This will also have a great impact on how difficult or prolonged the ministry of deliverance proves to be.

To be continued . . .