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Mark 5; Matthew 8:28-34, 9:18-26; & Luke 8:26-56

10.07.2010

Time for some healing, but not the Marvin Gaye kind — the Jesus kind!

After calming the storm, Jesus and crew disembark on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, where they meet a man possessed by demons.*  Demons, or evil spirits, are essentially rebels against God.  Their goal is to oppose God in everything.  So demon possession is where these evil spiritual influences attempt to destroy a person from the inside out, striking out at the image of God in man.

Like with future prophesies, it’s hard to talk about demons and demonic possession without forfeiting a ton of credibility.  But, setting that aside, I’m curious about the connection between what Christians call demonic possession and what everyone (including Christians) calls psychosis or mental illness. 

Modern observers would see this man and call him crazy (probably schizophrenic).  Is he also possessed?  Are they the same thing?  Always?  Do Christians believe that every psychotic is possessed?  What’s the connection between the chemical imbalances that are the proximate cause of psychosis and the supposed spiritual, ultimate cause?

On the one hand, it’s plausible, from a Western,  materialist perspective, to say that modern medicine has explained the causes of psychotic/demonic behavior in a way that was unavailable to previous human history.  What to an ancient person with limited medical knowledge may seem behavior unexplainable aside from demonic possession can now be explained by changes in dopamine and/or seratonin levels and the like.

On the other hand, the contrary perspective is that Western science has (as is typical) discovered proximate causes and declared them comprehensive.  A more honest and open quest for understanding these phenomena would want to know why these chemical levels are altered and what biological purpose is served.  At some number of ‘why’s’ back the chain, the only answer left is spiritual.

I could go on about this for a while (mainly questions, though, and not insights), but I’ll save something for the future.  The other story from today’s reading that I really appreciate is the woman who touches Jesus’ robe.  It’s a beautiful display of reaching out to Jesus in desperation and receiving healing.  As is commonplace, Caedmon’s Call has a great song referencing this episode.**  It’s called Love Alone, and the chorus is below:

And love alone is not enough to hold us up;
We’ve got to touch Your robe.
So swing Your robe down low,
Swing Your robe down low.

————

* Matthew says there were two.  Since Mark and Luke do not say there was only one, it’s highly probable that these are the same incident.  Matthew’s focus on Jesus’ teachings and relative glossing over His miracles explain why he would focus less on the interesting case here than did Mark and Luke.

** You wouldn’t know it from the blog thus far, but I swear I listen to other bands.  Really.

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From → [canon], [music]

2 Comments
  1. Sharon Eberhardt permalink

    I find it interesting that mental illness would still be considered the work of evil spirits in a time when few would credit these same evil spirits with causing other bodily ailments. But, if what was once believed to be the work evil spirits can in most part be explained to have chemical origins, is there still a place for evil in explaining any human actions expressed through our “free will”.

    • I think that’s the core question. Does modern science explain away the previous belief in demonic presence? What is ‘evil’ aside from such presence?

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