In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is mental illness ever related to demon possession?


If you've read this blog much you know that I have a heart for mentally ill adults. Since I have a sister who is a paranoid schizophrenic, and I'm a CA licensed nursing home administrator who has ran secured psychiatric facilities serving the chronically mentally ill for the past 9 yrs, I've had lots of experience with mentally ill folks.

I've seen up close how much mentally ill people can suffer.

There are some groups of extreme belief type Christians who think that all mental illness is caused by demon possession. On the other hand you get folks like Michael Spencer over at the Internet Monk who wrote a post entitled Is mental illness demonic that cautions us as to how we should read the gospel accounts where Jesus cast out demons. Spencer states:

"The Bible was written in the narrative world of ancient, prescientific cultures that often interpreted reality and events through a grid quite different from our own way of looking at the same reality. When the Bible speaks to us from its ancient setting, it does not “update” its cultural interpretations of causation for commonly observed phenomenon. Instead, it speaks in the cultural norms of the time. Those cultures tended to see most of what we call mental illness as the result of demonic influence or as a punishment for sin. Now, Christians have been entirely free, in their own settings and cultures, to appropriate, interpret or re-interpret these Biblical explanations. "

I see Spencer's point and agree with the principle. Just as the Bible parables relate to a different culture, so do the accounts. So it may be that some of the people we read about in the Bible who acted in ways we see Schizophrenics behave today, may have been healed of Schizophrenia and it was explained in terms of demons because that was the understanding of the day.

But I do not think it's an either or situation. It's very difficult for me to separate out the physical and spiritual so completely. I think it may be that we have both physical and spiritual phenomena occurring simultaneously. The fact that the voices that many Schizophrenics hear talking to them in their heads (I've met at least 300 individuals on whom I'm basing this statement) are always negative, leads me to seriously question the origins of these voices.

My guess is that in some instances, mental illness is almost exclusively a physiological phenomenon. In these cases the person has a physical anomaly that is causing the mental illness, and the enemy tries to use against the person , as well as his loved ones, just as in any other serious physical illness such as cancer. I would also guess that this is the most frequent case for mental illness.

But I'm also quite certain, from many situations I've observed through the years, that there are cases where what is manifesting as mental illness is almost exclusively spiritual.

But, if I'm being totally candid here, I would never let some religious group come into my facility and start casting out demons.

I really don't have any great insights or answers to this issue, just thoughts and questions.

What do you think, is mental illness ever related to demonic possession?

11 comments:

Denise said...

I would say yes.

RCUBEs said...

I've seen some unusual behavior especially from those suicidal. How would you explain it if they said that they were hearing the devil's voice telling them to hurt themselves? And to witness that a particular person had calmed down after a soft prayer after being so drunk and howling with 7 voices?
There are those who are mentally-ill but I believe the spiritual enemies are using these conditions to hurt that person the more...There are always a lot of "why's" but in His perfect time, it will all be revealed. Blessings.

Deborah Ann said...

Interesting. I have often wondered that very same thing. For myself, I ended up having to take meds for depression. I prayed about that for a long time. I wanted God to just heal me, but in my case the pills won.

Tracy said...

I'm with you Rcube, there's things I've seen that make me pretty certain the enemy is involved, and there's plenty I do not know or really even understand. But I too am grateful that I can rest in a trustworthy God.

Deborah Ann, I'm so glad that God has blessed physician's with the ability to help us when we need it. There's both research and a large quantity of anecdotal accounts of how depression can definitely be a physiological problem totally managed with medication. So, for what it's worth, I see taking medication for depression as similar to taking medication to mange diabetes or any other physical problem.

Lolli said...

I would certainly lean more towards the physiological explanations. However, I believe in God and consequently believe that there is a devil, and do believe that some people are heavily influenced/possessed/whatever by him.

photogr said...

I am not scientifically inclined to expouse any heady positions on mental health or demon possession.

Comsidering some of the atrocities done by criminals lately, I certainly hope their attorneys don't cop out by pleading insanity.

Only some one with a demonic mind could have done those atrocities. Mental health is another issue. Many with mental health do not go around committing horrendous crimes.

BeadedTail said...

I don't have any experience whatsoever with this but I would tend to lean towards mental illness being physiological. But, it's certainly something to question.

Ely Biado said...

When one is mentally ill, the devil or demon is definitely out. For deceit can only enter in the mind of those who can determine what is right or wrong.

Revelations 12:9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

The retarded, the moron, the authestic child whether grave sins are committed are considered babes in the word of righteousness.

Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.

Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

What I mean is, you are to be judged when you are in the right mind, excluding those deeds created when one went out of his mind.

Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

Who will know it?

Jeremiah 17:10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

Chosen1 said...

I would say yes. It starts as a demonic thought that is meditated on and then leads to possession in which the person can no longer function normally. But I would say that anyone who is so far gone in any area whether it is theft, lust or violence, that they cant control themselves is under some sort of demonic oppression. Im talking about repetitive to the point they dont know right from wrong. you do need the word and the power of christ to help in these areas. Since you have access to them. Pray to God and read the scriptures, so that you can find a way to fight for these people in the spiritual realm through prayer. Weapons of our warfare are not carnal

~*Michelle*~ said...

Hmmmmmmm......I am on the fence here, but I love and agree with what RCubes said "but I believe the spiritual enemies are using these conditions to hurt that person the more"

great thought provoking post!

Happy Thanksgiving, btw, my friend!

JD Curtis said...

I think we live in an age where more and more people cop to such labels as "depressed" whereas in previous generations, people were made of a stronger mettle and would have no choice but to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and avoid any medication, even if it were available. We are the most prescribed generation in the history of the world.

I don't rule out that demon possesion might be a factor in a small minority of the cases.

And to witness that a particular person had calmed down after a soft prayer after being so drunk and howling with 7 voices

RCUBE, would you mind fleshing this out a little and describing what you saw? If you don't want to, thats understandable. I just found what you posted to be interesting.

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