23 August 2021  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

I have been wondering whether evil spirits have a body. Satan appeared in person to Jesus. But other demons “possessed” people, and once Jesus sent them into pigs. It seems this may have implications for our view of the soul, not to mention people’s belief in ghosts and spiritual warfare. What do you think, Aunty?

Signed, Spirit Curious


Dear Curious:

Aunty doesn’t claim to be an expert on the demonic realm, but here’s what she believes.

  • What the Bible describes as demon possession sounds an awful lot like what we today would call mental illness—and Aunty believes such symptoms are better treated as mental illness than as demon possession. A mentally ill person is not demon possessed. Mental illness is demonic only to the extent that Satan is responsible for all our suffering. 
  • Aunty has done some reading about “deliverance ministry,” a modern Christian demon-expulsion movement. While some people claim to have received relief, other stories range from silly (expelling “the demon of chocolate”) to downright dangerous (trying to exorcise “the demon of cancer” rather than going to a physician). You decide, but Aunty isn’t interested in solving life problems that way. 
  • Also, you might be interested to know that today’s exorcism rituals owe more to medieval Roman Catholicism than to the Bible.
  • Aunty believes that much of what Adventists label Satanic is trickery, taking advantage of human gullibility. This goes for “cold readers” like John Edwards, palm readers, tarot card readers, astrologists, witchcraft, and much else in the so-called occult genre. The famous magician Houdini exposed spirit mediums in the heyday of spiritualism simply by turning on a light during the séance, revealing wires and hidden mechanisms. 
  • Whether participating in such things has a psychological benefit, as some say, is beyond Aunty’s expertise, but she knows she doesn’t want to put her trust in them. 
  • As for casting demons into pigs, Aunty advises you to ask someone wiser than her. What the pig story in Matthew 8 means Aunty doesn’t pretend to know, though she questions whether animals, who according to Christian teachings don’t have souls, can technically be demon-possessed.
  • Nor does Aunty have personal knowledge of whether demons take flesh-and-blood form. Her major experience of evil has always been with flesh-and-blood human beings, with whom she has sometimes been the victim, and sometimes (to her shame) the evil-doer. 
  • Aunty has never felt the need to do a personal deep dive into occult phenomena. Her view is that the most dangerous temptations are ordinary ones like anger and dishonesty and greed and lust. She believes that hardly anyone will be lost because Satan showed up to chat with them over their Ouija board.
  • Aunty believes we should concentrate on God, not Satan. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, try to be like Him, and you will be saved. Don’t make Satan the major player in your spiritual life. Satan is a defeated foe. “Little children, you are from God and have overcome [the devil], for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Take it for what it’s worth.

Aunt Sevvy


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