The following “Question” was asked by a member of the congregation at Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California, and “Answered” by their pastor, John MacArthur Jr.
It was transcribed from the tape, GC 70-3, titled “Questions and Answers” —
A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing,
Word of Grace,
P.O. Box 4000,
Panorama City, CA 91412 or by dialing toll free 1-800-55-GRACE.
Copyright 2001 by John MacArthur Jr., All Rights Reserved.
To what extent do you believe that cases of epilepsy and lunacy, today, are due to demon possession, and would it be possible to cure these illnesses by casting out these demons through exorcism?
I think, personally, from just understanding the New Testament record, and knowing that demonic forces are powerful, strong, and the fact is that we do “wrestle against, not just flesh and blood, but principalities and powers,” according to Ephesians six–I think a lot more mental illness and a lot more aberrant and abnormal behavior can be attributed to demonic work than we ever imagine.
I think a lot of it is “functional disorder.” A lot of it, such as epilepsy, can definitely be due to a physical problem, rather than a spiritual problem. But what can be diagnosed as epilepsy can usually be diagnose as such by virtue of some physical things. Today, we have sophisticated enough diagnostic techniques to do that. But, I think that there is behavior that might appear to be epileptic that definitely could be demonic.
The answer to the question, “Do I feel that a lot of it could be eliminated by casting out demons?” I don’t believe necessarily, today, that the Lord calls us to cast out demons. I believe anyone who comes to Christ will be freed from that, and any Christian who is obedient to Christ will be freed from that. It’s not a question of having to go around and cast those out–that was a very unique ministry of Christ and the Apostles in a sovereign way. Christ just spoke to demons and they left, and the Apostles as well. I think today, we have no such ministry existing in the Church, but the promise, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” and we come to Christ, “Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.”
Yes, I do believe that much of mental illness is a result of demonic and Satanic activity, but it is hard to just isolate it, because it is a result of sin, it is a result of willful choices made by human beings, and it certainly involves Satan. If we knew the truth, then we would know that standard psychological answers don’t solve that problem. I think, we basically, in our contemporary psychological approach to these problems have come to the fact that, for the most part, psychology doesn’t help. So, if you have severe problems, what will happen–and I can tell you that I have been in mental institutions all around this area, calling on people and visiting people and so forth–inevitably what happens when a person goes in there is, they don’t have any cure–they just give them medication to calm the symptoms–they can’t deal with the problems.
I just got an article the other day across my desk, which I have started to read, which basically talks about psychology and its inadequacy. There is another new book called “Psychological Seduction” written by the man that is the Chairman of the Psychology Department at Boston College (I think it is), who is a very respected academician who says psychology, as such, the whole business is “bunk,” because it has shown now that they can’t get to the problems just through psychological means. As a solution it doesn’t really work.
So, I think the reason it doesn’t work in many cases (sometimes it does–people just need guidance), but the reason it doesn’t work is because the forces there are greater than can be dealt with, with just human information or human technique–and I think that it is supernatural. But I think the answer is to “Come to Christ” and then to live an obedient life. I don’t want to oversimplify, but I think that that’s it.
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