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Minister Fortson.com – Welcome - Spiritual Warfare, Apologetics, and Other Cool Bible Stuff

Is Demon Possession Real or Is It Just Mental Illness?

Demonic Possession or Mental IllnessMaybe the Bible writers got it wrong, and just didn’t know how to diagnose mental illness, so they blamed it on demons. That seems to be the consensus in the scientific and skeptic community, but is it true. A reader wrote in with a question that I’m going to go ahead and address for everyone.

Before we get started, if you have a question about anything in the Bible, feel free to use the “Ask Anything” page to submit your question. I get 6-10 questions per day, so please be patient when waiting for your reply.

“These are some of the things I think are possibly going on where these demons are concerned. I truly believe there are also a lot more people that are mentally ill/demon possessed than what most people realize or wish to admit. You never read of a bible story of anyone being mentally ill, they are possessed with a deaf, dumb, blind, or mute spirit or a mean evil spirit and some of them get healed, some not.” – Michele (website reader)

Michele left this comment on a previous post, Demons – Where Are They Coming From, so I thought I’d make an attempt at addressing it. I’ve actually heard many non-Christians make the argument that demon possession is just mental illness. The part I want to address for Michele is the statement that we don’t see a story of any mentally ill people in the Bible. I believe that the Bible does make a distinction between the two in the Gospels.

“And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” – Matthew 4:24

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Here in Matthew, if we read carefully, we see that those with divers (many) diseases and torments, those possessed, those that were lunatic, and those with palsy were brought to Jesus for healing. The Greek makes a very clear distinction between physical ailments and demonic possession. Here are the words and their meanings in Greek.

  • Sick: kakos – sick, ill
  • Diseases: nosos – disease, infirmity, sickness
  • Torments: basanos – tortured (physically or mentally)
  • Possessed With Devils: daimonizomai – under the power of an evil spirit.
  • Lunatic: seléniazomai, which means “controlled by the moon”. It also referred to people with epilepsy.
  • Palsy: paralutikos – paralyzed

We can see that the above list is not just lumped into the category of demonic possession. The Bible clearly makes a distinction between the physically sick, tortured (physically or mentally), mental illness, paralysis, and demonic possession.

This is just a little bit of “ammunition” for those that may encounter the argument that people back then didn’t know the difference between demonic possession and mental illness. They definitely did.

For a more in depth study on demon possession, check out my book, Beyond Flesh and Blood: The Ultimate Guide To Angels and Demons.

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Category: Bible Q&A

facebook comments:

  • Minister Fortson says:

    That’s actually a scene used to promote an exorcism movie. No need to rethink anything. Furthermore, she’s not under dressed at all. The only thing showing is her arms. You can’t even see her feet in the picture because everything is covered except her arms and neck. If you call that under dressed, you should take a look around the real world.

    If seeing a girl in her night clothes makes you immediately think about rape, you need to pray and seek help.

    February 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm
  • Xalem says:

    Your graphic image of the underdressed girl with the clerical cross superimposed over her looks more like a rape than demonic possession. You might want to rethink the picture.

    February 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm
  • Sfunches says:

    I have to admit that when one is working in the mental health field, it can easily be perceived that everyone of the individuals worked with is possessed. However, I would have to disagree. I haven’t worked in the field for 20 plus years but I think that one does not have to in order to discern spirits, if truly invested in what you’re called to do. I’ve encountered some of the most pleasant individuals who pride themselves by being saved by Jesus Christ, even when this is sometimes frowned upon in this “secular” field.

    What is possession?
    Something owned or possessed.
    A territory subject to foreign control.
    The state of being dominated by or as if by evil spirits or by an obsession

    These definitions show that possession is one being “dominated” by something, according to the subject at hand, evil spirits. Just as in the case of dementia, cancer, or diabetes, mental “diseases” are just that: diseases. And mental illness or disease is not an obsession, rather an oppression. Even if so, oppression/obsession/possession are quite distinct from one another in that they definitely do not mean the same thing.

    What is a disease?
    A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.
    A condition or tendency, as of society, regarded as abnormal and harmful.

    Granite, the argument is made that diseases, being ‘harmful and abnormal’, are not caused by GOD, which is ‘mostly’ true regarding scripture (‘Mostly’ is implied because of references to individuals who had defied GOD and HE caused these things to come upon them). But, we should be able to agree within the Body that GOD does allow disease. Does it mean that every person with a disease is possessed? No. So can we say that every person with a mental illness or disease is possessed? No. At the end of the day, scripture makes a clear distinction to separate disease and possession as Minister Fortson pointed out. And we can’t know without a shadow of doubt that all people (millions) with mental disease are possessed; the where-with-all to have this ‘knowing’ capability is not humanly possible and it is not backed by scripture.

    Does possession exist? Definitely. To disclose, I have a family member who currently is possessed and has a mental disease. Did the possession bring on the mental illness? I believe it did. Or did it heighten what was already dorment? I don’t know, maybe or maybe not. To make things graphic, I find it hard to believe that all mentally incapacitated individuals, not to mention all people with “any” type of disease, has a demon attached at the tip of their spine, changing their DNA/facial features and driving them to do very harmful things to self and others while trying to re-live its life that it once had before the flood. That’s the very, very short version of what’s going on in a possession.

    Nonetheless, I pray the “we” can come to always go back to scripture, text and verse as my Pastor says and not conform our own beliefs or what man says to fit whats in the Living Word. I speak this to myself as well as this is what I also once believed in the very recent past: everyone with mental illness is possessed. I say this with genuine love and in honest debate, as I know is hard to see when seeing words verses hearing them. Yes, “we” are in a battle for our minds but “we” don’t have to necessarily be possessed to lose the battle and if possessed, there is still hope in Christ to overcome. At the end of the day, Christ has gotten the Victory already in the War which is why, as Ephesians 6 eludes to, “we” must put on “our” armor when in spritual warfare against any harm that the enemy may sling “our” way. This scripture does not talk about mental illness, but it is talking about a daily mindgame. I pray this topic doesn’t become one.

    God Bless always and again, thanks Minister Fortson and others for all the hard work you are doing in these last days!

    January 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm
  • Michele says:

    Definition: LUNATIC
    1. thoughtless: considered thoughtless, ridiculous, or reckless
    2. offensive term: an offensive term meaning affected by a psychiatric disorder ( archaic )
    3. [13th century. Via French< late Latin lunaticus "moonstruck" < Latin luna "moon"]
    moon·struck [ mn strùk ]
    adjective
    Definition: Moonstruck (follower of the moon)
    1. in daze: acting in a rather irrational, dreamy, confused way, often out of love ( informal humorous )
    2. wildly confused: behaving in a wild or confused way

    Defintion of: Torment
    (plural tor·ments)

    Definition:
    1. torture: severe mental anguish or physical pain
    2. cause of anguish: a source of severe mental anguish or physical pain
    3. cause of annoyance: a source of annoyance or anxiety
    [13th century. Via Old French< Latin tormentum "catapult, torment" < torquere "to twist"]

    Who is the causer of these torments? Is it God? Or is it Satan?
    What does it mean to follow the moon? Isn't that worship of the stars & planets?

    I have been involved in the mental health field for over 26 years and I know that some may find it hard to swallow and want to diagnos with the words mental illness, because it sounds so much better than demonic torture or demonc possession. But the truth is, any mental anguish is a spiritual battle! Reguardless of how you word it.

    This is why Paul states that there is a battle for your mind!
    Ephesains 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    Mental Illness is a battle for the mind!

    January 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm
  • Minister Fortson says:

    Thank you very much for the response.

    January 21, 2011 at 6:03 pm
  • Sfunches says:

    I definitely agree with you Minister Fortson and I’m glad you brought this scripture and topic to light. I work in the mental health field where I see those who are simply mentally ill and those who one may question, a sincere christian of course, if there are those that seem possessed. I’ve found that those who seem possessed tend to constantly and I mean constantly make spiritual references, dabbling in the occult, and other things that people who aren’t mentally ill do that may also cause possession to come upon them. The other personal indication for me is “just knowing” from spiritual discernment that something sinister is there, not to mention, like they “know who I am” kind of thing, if you know what I mean.

    Nonetheless, there are many individuals that just battle with various mental incapacities as spoken of in scripture who are simply not possessed. One who pays attention can tell the difference, at least, one who cares.

    Again, keep up the great work!

    January 21, 2011 at 5:53 pm

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