A couple of months ago I was given a passage about a demon possessed man to preach on. Having no idea what I believed about demons I was a little daunted by this.
My instinct is to put them in a box with vampires, werewolves, goblins and ghosts. It’s a box marked “great topics for horror films, but not stuff we need to worry about in real life”.
I spent a weekend reading everything I could find about demons in Christianity - from thoroughly researched theology textbooks to random crap on the internet. I even read a bit of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to see if it might add some light relief (it didn’t).
In doing all that I learned a lot, most of which ended up in the sermon. Hopefully it wasn’t too dry, but once you start talking about a topic like that you have to cover all your bases. If you don’t it’s quite easy for someone to go home with the wrong end of the stick.
For me, the most important thing that came out of my research is that I’m now convinced God believes in demons. For the God of the Bible demons are a fact of life. They show up too often in too many places to be dismissed easily, so frequently that I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re mentioned more than Jesus’ relationship to God. If you’re going to cut demons out of the Bible then it raises serious questions about how you treat the rest of it.
The result of all this is a direct conflict between my worldviews. The Christian in me says I should be agreeing with God, while the scientist in me says that I shouldn’t believe in supernatural forces like demons without proof.
As a Christian it’s a big thing when your opinion about something is different from God’s. It usually (or perhaps always) means that you’re wrong. If you’re speaking purely theologically then God can see everything, God has perfect judgement, and God knows better than you.
Life would be so much easier if my faith were that strong, that unquestioning, that blind. But it isn’t, I live in a world of nuances and of doubt. A world where, for so many questions, blind faith is a get out clause and not an answer. It’s a world where Robin Ince shouts almost as loud as God.
It is blind faith that I protest against – if you hold your position solely because your ancient book can be interpreted to tell you so, or your purple bishop has declared it true and you haven’t stopped to use your own reason to think it through – then your opinion is worth little.
What should I do when the Bible doesn’t quite match up with what I believe? I don’t know. I wish I did. What I do know is that question is probably the defining question of my faith at the moment.