The Chthonic Unmentionable


Demonic stareThe Evangelical branch of the Church today has one biblical issue it doesn’t want to discuss much anymore. Charismatics can’t seem to shut up about this for even one second, but Evangelicals—perhaps put-off by their charismatic brethren—can’t bring themselves to preach or teach about it at all. I know that in the last ten years this rarely mentioned topic has become to Evangelicals what the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is to the swamps of Arkansas: You knew it’s there, and while people want to see it, those who have seen it can’t reveal it lest some yahoo take a potshot at it.

I’m talking about demons.

I can’t remember the last time I sat in a non-charismatic church and heard someone speaking forthrightly about the demonic. I side with C.S. Lewis’s thinking that too much talk about them is not healthy, nor is too little. It’s that “too little” part in Evangelical churches that has me bothered.

Evangelicals simply do not take the issue of demons seriously enough. In a time that can be categorized by its unrelenting dereliction of truth, sources of deception and darkness must be exposed for what they are. Failure to shine the light on this infernal darkness means that it will necessarily increase in boldness.

Folks, I read the Book, too. I know how it all ends. But this doesn’t give us a pass on confronting evil. To ignore it imperils even those in the Church, because while Christians possessed of the Holy Spirit cannot be simultaneously possessed by unholy spirits, demons still oppose Christians. There are reasons why Paul wrote about the weapons available to Christians in our battle, just as there are reasons why our fight is not merely against flesh and blood.

The man I consider my spiritual mentor took me to a revival meeting out of town many years ago. During the speaker’s message, my mentor dropped a bomb on the young, impressionable Dan. “See that woman in the second row, the one in the red dress?” he said casually, his head nodding that direction. “She has a demon.” He turned back to his bulletin as if he’d said there was a great old Andy Griffith Show episode on the local UHF channel that evening, leaving me staring. He didn’t know her; we weren’t from around there. So how did he know? After a few minutes, I also sensed something in the room—and it came from that woman. For all appearances she remained calm and collected, but the second the speaker stopped speaking, she lunged for his throat. It took eight men to wrestle her to the ground. Trembling, I accompanied my mentor when he went up to pray over her. I heard her speaking in a disembodied man’s voice. I witnessed her fingers and limbs moving in directions even a first year med student could tell you were physically impossible. I felt the coldness in the air. And the sense that there was something horribly, awfully awry right in front of me was unshakable.

Through all that I learned something: They are out there and they have a signature stench that the Spirit readily reveals to those fully attuned to what He is saying.

We are doing a great injustice to folks in the Church when we shy away from talking about demons. Again, an unhealthy preoccupation is wrong, but so is leaving the chthonic unmentioned. We have too often treated the demonic like bogeymen, thinking that if we ignore them they’ll leave us alone. But rest assured of this one thing: they do not exist to leave us alone. And for this reason, we ignore them at our peril.

Since that day in that little rural church in Nowheresville, OH, I’ve had numerous run-ins with demonic powers. A friend and I praying in my car outside a psychic’s parlor experienced the chill of a demonic force that finally let loose with a moan when its power was broken. The psychic, who had been in that location for as long as I could remember, closed up shop less than a week later. Beyond personal accounts like that, I’ve heard several stories from friends who have served overseas as missionaries, telling of encounters that left former naysayers hospitalized when they casually took on what was ultimately a demonized individual.

As the time nears for their end, the demonic powers and principalities out there will grow increasingly desperate. We American Christians, who so easily live off our cultivated scientific rationalism, need to be diligent. Christians are coming under increasing attack and either don’t realize the true source for their problems or are lacking in the wisdom needed to confront real demonic oppression when it occurs.

If you never hear messages and teachings on how to deal with the demonic, ask your pastor why not. More to the point, ask him about his own personal encounters with the demonic. Truthfully, if he claims he’s never had any, then something’s wrong. Christians will be opposed. Demons hate it when we take back what they’ve stolen, expose their practices, or reveal their lurking about.

Along with the weapons of the Spirit in Ephesians 6:10-18, we also must know the saints of God

…have conquered [the accuser of the brethren] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
—Revelation 12:11 ESV

Adhering to the truth of the Gospel not only defensively prevents the Enemy from piercing the chinks in our spiritual armor, but it has offensive power as well. Therefore, we stray from the truth or use it carelessly to our own disadvantage. To our persecutors, the very human tools of the demonic, bearing that Gospel truth to our own deaths is their ultimate defeat.

Yet too many of us aren’t fighting the battle wisely or even at all. Nor do we cover each other’s backs as effectively as we could. Pray for the defeat of the demonic forces that may plague people in your church. Learn the signature of the demonic in people’s lives. Make certain the Lord’s revealed the chinks in your own armor and let Him patch them before you do serious battle against the demonic; they never abide by the rules and are far more vicious than we can understand this side of heaven.

As the world heats up, it will be demons stoking that fire. Our confidence despite that flame is that the Lord has already overcome them. Remember that, abide in Christ Jesus, and deal with the demonic soberly.

18 thoughts on “The Chthonic Unmentionable

  1. Great post! I recently read “The Light That Was Dark” which is the biography of Warren Smith. His encounters with demons while he was involved in the New Age and the occult were chilling.

    I wonder if you could recommend some books that discuss this subject (even if they are several hundred years old).

  2. I can. The best book I have read is “Deliver Us From Evil” by Don Basham. Fortunately, this book has just been reprinted as it was written in the 1970’s at the height of the Charismatic Renewal. Please do not read anything by the current crop of Charismatic crazies (red that Third Wave revivalists).
    Note: Yes, I know Basham was one of the “Ft. Lauderdale six” but in their early years they were really right on.

    Lester Sumrall is another good read as he was a missionary for many years and ministered deliverance to a lot of people overseas from outright demonic possession.

    Beware though….when entering this subject, the Charismatic-Pentecostals will introduce you to “demonic oppression” (not possession) in Christians. I happen to agree with this but many do not.

    Dan..thanks..another award winning post to which I add my hearty amen.

  3. Anonymous

    Good and necessary post, Dan.

    My first (unpublished) novel deals explicitly with the demonic. I took the opportunity, even in that fictitious endeavor, to right a few wrongs I think have crept into evangelical thinking about spirits and spiritual warfare, brought on mainly by the popularity of another fiction, This Present Darkness, and its sequels.

    I went to great lengths to depict the spiritual warfare in my book biblically, modeled on the biblical depictions (ie. no angels and demons duking it out with swords and what-not). The Peretti view of warfare persists today, despite the lack of real biblical precedent, just as the Miltonic inventions about the Fall persist today.
    Never underestimate the power of fiction to capture evangelical imagination, and consquently stear us, even if only slightly, away from real theology and biblicism.

    Anyway . . . I ramble.

    Good post!

    — Jared,

  4. Anonymous

    I also think something C.S. Lewis illustrated in his Screwtape applies here, as well. He intimated that Christians can commit two errors as regards the demonic — either to obsess about them and thereby assign them more power and thought than they have and deserve, or to not regard them or think about them at all and thereby grant them more power than they’d have if they were simply dealt with seriously, as a biblical, and therefore an earthly, reality.

    — Jared

  5. Anonymous

    About 7 years ago, I met a woman in a chat,who asked if I would talk with her. Many weeks of instant messages followed, some of them several hours long. She would not give me her name, but asked that I call her, “Jennifer.” She was born to satan-worshipping parents, dedicated to satan as an infant, and was raised in that unholy atmosphere all her life. I believe was twenty-something at the time we talked together. She was in a Christian chat one night, when she noticed me, and so I felt she might have been trying to escape the evil of her days and utterly terrifying nights. She told me only that she lives in CT and would not even give me a zip code so that I could send her a small book to General Delivery. We spoke together for about six weeks. Sometimes I praised the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, separately. She always cried outin pain when I did this. “Stop,
    please stop! You are hurting me,” she said. I told her, “Jennifer, how could I hurt you? You are in CT and I am in CA! The demons are hurting you. Please place your faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God,and reject all of satan’s works and all those demons!” I called a church in CT and said to the secretary, “Do you know that in your town there is a temple to satan, and that people are entrapped in this evil, to their peril?” Well, I used more colloquial words than those. She answered me as if I had said, “Do you know there is a little boy digging in the dirt in the vacant lot across from your building?” “Oh, really,” she answered me, cheerily. I left my phone number and said I wanted to talk to the pastor and that he could call me collect. About a month later, an assistant pastor called, and I told him what I told the secretary, and asked him if someone could watch out for her if she comes to church there, and be cordial and kind to her. He spoke to me as if I were a raving maniac, attempting to calm me with his bland voice. “Sometimes a phone call…” I interrupted and said, “This woman is unable to give me any identifying information! She is utterly ensnared and inhabited by evil spirits!” “Well,” he said, in his oily voice, “I fail to see what we…” I’m sorry to say I put down my phone at that point. Doubtless, my dial tone was more comprehensible to him than anything I said. Jennifer did attend a church meeting, (not the same church), and said that she suffered dreadful pains all the time she was there. She told me at last, that she could not be a Christian because there was just too much to learn, and she went back into the darkness, left AOL and she is lost to me, and I am very angry about this, angry at the evil one because he won the day. I grieve for her and pray for her. And she is not the only demon-bound person I have found online; I am happy to say that there have been better results with others. Oh, by the way, the writer of this comment is Diane’s, (Crossroads), somewhat impolite and perhaps improbable missionary friend.

  6. Mark Bubeck is the closest thing that Evangelicals have to an expert on the demonic. He has the added imprimatur that his books have been published by Moody. Even then, his works have been controversial in the Evangelical community. I have read (and own) The Adversary, the book that started it all for him and also Overcoming the Adversary which I loaned out and never got back. 🙁

    Anyone who has read my blog long enough knows that I heartily endorse anything by A.W. Tozer. He has a book that is a series of sermons he preached on becoming deeper in the faith so you don’t fall prey to the Enemy’s wiles (though it isn’t focused on the topic of demons like Bubeck’s books) called I Talk Back to the Devil. I’ve got it and it’s typical Tozer quality, but not a primer on the subject of demonology. He also has a book called The Warfare of the Spirit that I have not read, though it deals with this subject at least in part (though I wonder if it’s a repackaging of the I Talk Back to the Devil book, since Tozer’s been sliced and diced for years by publishers trying to carve yet another niche out of his massive body of writings.)

    Apart from the Bubeck books that specifically address the issue of the demonic in full, most of the rest of my reading has been a part of smaller sections within other author’s greater works. And even though I consider myself a charismatic, I don’t really endorse the works of folks like Rebecca Brown, although her He Came to Set the Captives Free is supposedly one of the bestselling books on this topic in the charismatic community. She’s got an iffy reputation. Another big name is Neil T. Anderson who wrote The Bondage Breaker and has contributed several books on this subject, but since I have not read them, I can’t personally vouch for them. Still, he’s with Harvest House and their books are usually of good quality.

    So sadly, I don’t have a ton of recommendations outside of Bubeck. Diane recommended a Don Basham book and I know that Basham’s normally a well-considered source—especially if Diane gives it a thumbs-up. My experience has largely been learned through personal encounters, though I readily admit there is more I should know. There’s a relatively recent addition to the pantheon of books by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones that is a compilation of some previously unpublished sermons he did on spiritual warfare called Not Against Flesh and Blood: The Battle Against Spiritual Wickedness in High Places that caught my eye and I may read, since Lloyd-Jones is one of those trustworthy authors I routinely read. Lloyd-Jones also wrote what is considered by many to be the best book on the discerning of spirits, but it notoriously difficult to locate and has an almost mythical quality about it. One of these days, though, I will successfully track it down.

    Hope this helps. If you find some books I have not mentioned on this topic that you read and like, please send them my way.

  7. Jared, et al.,

    While I was at Wheaton (from 1990-1992), I started visiting local churches trying to find a semi-regular church home. A friend invited me to a church in Naperville (pretty far away, actually) and the place freaked me out because every adult carried a copy of This Present Darkness along with his/her Bible. I’m not joking, either. To these folks there were demons lurking EVERYWHERE and I actually witnessed some guy trying to exorcise a demon from the chair he was thinking about sitting on! Now while I was very familiar with the denomination the church belonged to, I had never once seen a church within that denomination so utterly and hopelessly obsessed with the demonic. I never went back, of course.

    In a completely different direction, several of the demonic encounters I’ve had occurred within Christian singles groups or Bible studies that were primarily singles. I once was sitting next to a friend of mine at a meeting and he scooted over one chair to talk with someone near him. In between us sat this guy we’d never seen before, but he looked like a regular guy. The leader immediately started the meeting. After about five minutes, at the exact same moment, my friend and I independently leaned forward and stared at each other because God had tapped both of us on the shoulder telling us this guy sitting between us had something demonic going on—big time. The guy never looked at either of us, just staring ahead at the leader of the group. Anyway, with the first chance to get up from our seats, all three of us got up at once. My friend and I were going to take this guy aside and just talk with him to see what was going on, but the group leader waylaid us and before we knew it the guy had vanished. My friend and I compared notes and we agreed there was a major demonic thing going on in that guy, but unfortunately we never saw him again.

    One of the most sobering things that I encountered that wasn’t specifically a demonic manifestation but still gave me pause was when I was assistant manager for a Christian bookstore. One day this fresh-faced young couple came in and told me they had been part of a local coven of witches that met about seven miles from the store. Both of them had recently become Christians (you could see it on their faces, too) and they felt compelled to tell me that the coven actively prayed that our bookstore and everyone in it would be destroyed. I was a lot younger at the time and though I’d already had some encounters with the demonic, I had never heard anyone confess something like this. I’d once heard a story from Leighton Ford about a plane trip he took where he sat next to a guy who prayed through the entire trip. Ford at first thought the guy was afraid to fly, but when they started up a discussion the man confessed he was a Satanist and was praying against a list of Christian leaders. He even showed Ford the list, not knowing who he was. Ford relayed to our group that in the two years since that encounter, every person on that list had suffered a moral failure and was no longer actively in the ministry. So when the couple who owned the bookstore saw their marriage crumble and their chain of boostores go belly up, the Lord recalled to me what that young couple had told me a few years before. I had since moved on, but what happened to the bookstore chain was a series of misfortunes that were too hard to ignore.

    We can’t be ignorant about these kinds of goings-on. Even now, after a couple months of non-stop illness in my family and a few odd things that have happened in our house late at night, I am beginning to see that there may be a demonic component to what has been occurring around here and I’ve been praying accordingly. Those of us who write Christian blogs that get a decent amount of traffic need to understand that there are people out there who seriously wish we would go away because we are hindering their work. If that sounds paranoid, believe me, it’s a healthy paranoia. I get a lot of untraceable hits on this site and it wouldn’t surprise me if someone in league with the demonic was tracking what was being said here. All of us bloggers for God need to seriously consider this to be a possibility. I didn’t consider it enough until all this sickness hit us. Now I’m taking it more seriously.

  8. Interesting Post, Dan.

    It�s strange but this morning I had a startling dream that dealt with this very subject. I won�t bog you down with the details of my dream, but the interpretation seemed pretty clear to me: the situation is worse than you can possibly imagine.

    If it weren�t for the power of God that is energetically protecting us from those principalities and powers out there�and I think I got a metaphoric glimpse of what they look like, and believe me it�s quite frightening�if it weren�t for God�s almighty power, we would be wiped out faster than fat, lazy opossum trying to hold a picnic on the interstate.

  9. Oengus,

    In a week filled with some very odd happenings in my house that have got me wondering about some demonic manifestations, I had a dream on Wednesday AM of this last week that was one of those where I just kept pleading the Blood of Christ over and over within my dream. It was that bad. I can’t ever remember having a dream that nightmarish. I think that if I were to turn it into a movie it would actually scare some people to death. That dream was one of the reasons I felt I needed to talk about this subject this week. Took me a few days to distance myself from the dream before I could write on the subject.

  10. John D

    How wide can you define these demons?

    I mean – most Christians that I’ve been talking to lately believe in Free Will.

    No one possesses you with a demon. I think CS Lewis was more talking about an immoral tendency. You reject the �demon� by rejecting immorality. Jesus�s removal of demons was also probably removing sickness or curing someone of psychological problems or something.

    The person you saw doing those gyrations at church was either caught up in this whole demon thing (I’ve been to churches where people in the congregation get “possessed” by demons on the time.) Or it was a paid actor or something. And they were trying to get money out of you.

    Nothing else makes any sense.

  11. John D


    “I didn’t consider it enough until all this sickness hit us. Now I’m taking it more seriously.”

    What sickness? Are you referring to personal encounters with people possessed? Or are you referring to a real situation in the real world?


  12. John,

    Two things:

    1. The sickness I’m referring to is in my household. My wife, my son, and I have been chronically ill with one cold, infection, rash, or virus after another. In fact, today was the first time we were able to make to church in almost a month. That’s highly rare. I’m still suffering from a persistent sinus infection even after three rounds of antibiotics. My son has a skin problem the doctors are unable to diagnose. And my wife and I are recovering from a cold that whacked us both hard this last two weeks.

    2. Your view and mine on the demonic are quite different. I believe that real fallen angels are out there opposing the saints and controlling some of the actions of unbelievers. The woman who attacked the speaker at the revival I attended was not a believer. She was not insane nor the victim of some disease. She was not acting or playing games. She was not manifesting pschological tricks. She was literally possessed by a demon just like Legion, the man who had the demons cast out of him by Jesus. And while demons can whisper immoral thoughts and be associated with immorality, people who repeatedly engage in immoral acts can find themselves oppressed or even possessed by demonic forces. Still, even the righteous can be assaulted by demons—it is the nature of he battle we fight. Demons cannot possess a believer, but they can oppose him. As spiritual beings, they can only be opposed with spiritual weapons, the very weapons Paul writes about in Ephesians 6. Paul himself cast real demons out of real people, including the female oracle of Acts 16:16-19. Paul wasn’t commanding a psychological condition or immoral temptation to come out of her, but a demonic spirit of divination.

    Hope that answers your questions.

  13. Eve Thirkle

    My friend and I have been in prayer for the past seven years regarding a psychic shop and two more shops dealing with various demonic warfare figures so your post about this really resonated with me.

    Two down now and just one to go!

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