A pastoral NO NO!

Over the last couple of weeks I have heard a couple of stories where the faith of the person has been questioned. One person is going through the devastating situation of watching her father eaten away by cancer. There is a reasonable chance that this year will be the last time the family will get together for Christmas.  The other person suffers from a long term mental illness.

Both have been questioned about their level of faith recently. The person whose father has cancer was asked if she had given up the fight for her father in prayer and therefore giving up on God healing him. My other friend was questioned about their faith; if they had a demon and was asked all sorts of other questions.

I am glad to say that the people involved in asking these questions were not in a position of pastoral oversight. However these type of questions are a slap in the faith and produce doubt and not faith. Both these people have experienced and seen God’s healing power in the past.

The truth is that there is a time to live and a time to die. There is a time to be well and a time to be sick. In the same way there is a time to cry and a time to rejoice. There comes times in life when we need to grieve with those who are grieving and if by chance we feel we have the faith to pray for someone’s healing in the circumstances described; go ahead and pray quietly in your closet or with someone else. But what ever you do; don’t lay a guilt trip on the person or persons involved for not having enough faith.

It could well be the person is afflicted by a demonic presence. Certainly Jesus did say that some illnesses could be caused by such and that the only way to deal with it was through prayer and fasting. If you know a person who is afflicted and believe the problem is demonic, the onus is on you to go and pray and fast in your prayer closet and not place the onus to do that on the person who is afflicted.

I am not saying never pray with the people involved. For praying with and for others is very encouraging if it is done with sensitivity and love. If its not done in a way that builds the person / group up in real hope. If it doesn’t leave then encouraged and feeling loved…..then don’t bother praying with them.

For my friends whom I am talking about and many many more who are going through troublesome times of sickness, trials and grief I pray for you.

Father, I thank you for your mercy and love. I pray that you will cover those who are in need with a blanket of peace. I pray that you will strengthen them with your joy that comes from knowing you love them. I pray that you will lay your healing hand upon their bodies, their minds, emotions and their spirit. I pray that you will sustain them in these times and that they will know your presence working through, over and within them.

I thank you Father God that we can freely cry in your presence. We can freely tell you our doubts, our fears, our desires, our wants and can tell you about the pain and confusion that we have. And I thank you that in doing this we exercise our faith and trust in you and can be at peace in knowing that you love us; that you like us and that you know all that is going on in our lives.

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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10 Responses to A pastoral NO NO!

  1. tildeb says:

    It could well be the person is afflicted by a demonic presence.

    No. This is not true. This is not even possibly true. There is no such thing as a demonic possession.

    Faith does not allow you to make up your own facts, and the fact of the matter is that demonic possession is simply an archaic superstition borne out of ignorance and fear that relates in no way to anything real. Such an assertion that a person might be afflicted by a demonic possession is false. Suggesting as much is identical to promoting a falsehood. To those who respect what’s true, this promotion without an evidential basis to do so is equivalent to intentionally lying.

    I realize, Craig, what a difficult intellectual position scripture puts you in regarding demons. Your choices seem to be limited to two: either disbelieving scripture because the demonic claim is simply untrue OR agreeing to believe a lie on behalf of your faith. I don’t envy anyone who has to give up intellectual integrity and honesty to maintain a faith-based belief set. It’s a terrible choice to have to make if one cares about what’s true. It’s even worse when one is expected to promote what’s not true.

  2. Craig Benno says:

    Hi Tildeb;

    Firstly I didn’t say demonic possession. I said affliction. 2ndly, you seem to be sure of yourself that there is no such thing as a demonic realm. On what basis do you say this.

    Have you read American Exorcism; which was written and researched by a sociologist.

    Thirdly; I myself have been in the situation where at a youth group an altar call was given and a young girl of about 16 went forward. As she was about to pray; her voice changed and she said; “No; this girl is mine” she then went psycho and it took 3 big guys to prevent her from harming herself and others.

    We took authority over that demon and she settled down. She then told us how she had been involved in witchcraft and made a blood pact to the devil. We led her in a prayer of repentance and she was delivered from that demon. Interestingly afterwards she went on to never be plagued with suicidal tendencies in which she had been hospitalised a few times before; for.

    There are many psychiatrists who are not Christians and who will tell you they do believe there is some form of demonic / unknown realm. …There are just as many who don’t believe it…. but for you to say you know empirically that there is no such thing… the proof is on your to prove such a thing.

      • tildeb says:

        I have read The Road Less Traveled but not this one. This is very dangerous nonsense no matter how popular the sales may turn out to be.

        Why dangerous? Let me explain:

        Let’s assume we listen to our friend tell us that she can fly. Short of throwing her out an upper story window to find out one way or another we can appreciate why offering aid and comfort directly to the maintenance of such a belief – pretending it’s true to better be able to relate to her and thus be better able to treat her obvious psychiatric problem – is too dangerous to be left alone. She can’t fly. Acting on such a belief can be a killer You know this and I know this not because we simply believe she can’t fly but because we base this knowledge on our understanding of physics and aerodynamics. People can’t fly without significant technological aid to compensate for our lack of natural ability.

        The same is true for the person who believes he is possessed by a demon. You know and I know that there is no such thing as a demon not because we simply believe no such critters exist but because we base this knowledge on our understanding of physics and mass and the resulting hallucinations from impaired brain function we know through neuroscience and medicine. Acting on such a belief can also be a killer.

        So why have I bothered to make an issue of this?

        I think we do more harm to the sanity of people by pretending to hold a similar cognitively impaired belief that is untrue in reality and in direct conflict with our knowledge. In addition, we do a great deal of harm to respecting what’s true based on knowledge in the name of ‘helping’. When we forget that we are pretending to believe and make room for a similar unjustified belief in contrast to what is true, we commit ourselves to what amounts to lying in the name of offering aid and comfort where no aid and comfort is offered truly.

      • Craig Benno says:

        Tildeb, you say!

        You know and I know that there is no such thing as a demon not because we simply believe no such critters exist but because we base this knowledge on our understanding of physics and mass and the resulting hallucinations from impaired brain function we know through neuroscience and medicine. Acting on such a belief can also be a killer.

        Perhaps its better for you to say “that in your own limited experience and knowledge of what happens on this earth; you have no reason to believe that the existence of the demonic is true” As for putting words in my mouth; you know only a little of what I both know and have experienced. It’s been my personal experience that demons do exist and therefore you are not speaking for me.

        Again I ask; what are you qualifications that cause you to be a leading expert on the subject of demons for you to emphatically deny their existence?

      • tildeb says:

        I am truly sorry to hear that you believe in demons. You have no cause other than attributing agency to that which you do not understand. You seem far too willing to insert belief into ignorance and calling it knowledge. Your answer, therefore demons, is not an answer that you can prove with any supporting causal evidence but is nothing more than an attribution you make of human behaviour you believe indicates a foreign magical malevolent agency.


        So the next step is to figure out what evidence it would take to change your belief when faced with identical behaviour. For my part I’ve already admitted that I would change my mind not based on my beliefs of attribution but by a presentation of compelling physical causal evidence that such an unseen invasive critter could be shown to consistently increase the mass of the subject, for example, or that the mass of the subject was reduced by a successful exorcism. But no such evidence is ever forthcoming. And, not surprisingly, this lack of evidence is always presented by the superstitious to somehow be science’s fault.

        Without any corroborating causal evidence – or insistence on having corroborating causal evidence before drawing any conclusion- belief in demons causes harm. The latest is a dozen women in Haiti hacked to death by superstitious people who believed these women were witches inflicting evil spirits by incantation on others and causing them to be sick. And sick they were… with cholera. And after the local women were murdered some of the afflicted got better. See, evidence of witchcraft! But, of course, it’s no such thing.

        By lending your support to this kind of acceptance of superstitious belief because you also happen to attribute power and agency to realm of the magical, you fail to uphold a rational approach to understand what is really going on by dismissing any need of evidence of causal effect in order to jump to the conclusion you want, that spirits and spooks really do exist because that’s what it looks like to you. That’s neither respecting the need for causal evidence nor respecting how we go about finding out what’s true. That’s superstition.

        Either demons exist or they do not. You say they do. I say they do not. This is no longer a claim based on opinionated belief of attribution but a truth claim. I base mine on an absence of corroborating causal evidence. There is no good reason to believe that demons exist and interact in our world through inhabiting their victims. None. ‘Demons’ cannot be shown to ’cause’ any ‘effect’ even by those who champion such superstitious beliefs and make their living from it. But you’ve seen disturbing human behaviour that looks like another agency has taken over a person and you’ve seen a person return to normal behaviour after performing a rite that supposedly sends the demon on its way. What you fail to appreciate is that that is no causal evidence for ‘demons’ at all. You fail to grasp that attribution you make that seems to fit does not equate with granting you the right to assume that your attributions are factually correct about what is real, what is true, what is knowable. That requires corroborating causal evidence. And there is none. That means you are simply making up your own facts about the matter without showing any causal evidence of the reality of such critters themselves. That means you have confused your attributions to be equivalent to facts without justification other than your belief that the two are equivalent. This is a problem of thinking that leads directly to supporting and empowering superstitious beliefs while dismissing the avenue of inquiry that can lead to knowledge. And this means your beliefs cannot be taken seriously about demonic possession and you seem content to remain no better informed in your attributed conclusion than those Haitians who attributed a knowable, understandable disease process to malevolent evil spirits.

        Treating women as witches will not offer us any answer to our quest for knowledge about cholera any more than treating demonic possession to bizarre human behaviour will will offer us any answer to our quest for knowledge about the workings of the human mind.

        We do, after all, have a bicameral brain. Might that have anything to do with reports of ‘possession’? Gee… whoda thunk?

    • tildeb says:

      Technically, you wrote “afflicted by a demonic presence,” which I shortened to demonic possession. In other words, you suggested an actual presence of a demon. This is absurd.

      I can safely state categorically that there is no such thing as a demons (a demonic realm amounts to nothing more than providing an excuse for these critters to hide from detection) in exactly the same way that I can safely state categorically that the sky is not a blanket with holes poked in it to allow light to appear as dots in the night sky. Not only is there no physical evidence for either claim but stands opposed to evidence we do have that offers a better explanation. For a demon to be real and a separate creature from the subject who experiences this so-called ‘possession’ means that the demon must take up space and have mass to inhabit human bodies, but there is ample evidence available that such imaginings are brain-based attributions from neurotransmitting impairment.

      No, I have not read American Exorcism.

      When someone states that such-and-such exists without good evidence, the correct response is to assume that the claim is false until good evidence is provided. The person next to you may claim to be able to fly but until that ability is demonstrated no such claim need to be taken seriously nor ‘disproved’ by the skeptic. No such evidence has been forthcoming about demons. Time and again, we have found that such claims are merely attributed but have no other evidence beyond attribution. The correct response is not take any such claim seriously, but to be polite as well as honest we should admit in the absence of compelling evidence that demons do not exist but are created by mind as a representation of a biological problem.

      One can easily find ample evidence that hallucinatory drugs, for example, oftentimes produce demons reported by the drugged subjects. To them, these demons are quite real because the neurocurcuitry in their brain is impaired to correctly differentiate what’s real from what is merely imagined (attributed). Symptomatic treatment can appear effective (stop taking the drug), but that does not mean the demons were ever real. For that claim to hold up, separate evidence is required. No such evidence is available. The best we can do is agree that the subject believes these demons are real. That’s it. For any 21st century educated person to believe the demons are real because people report such things are real is nothing less than believing in superstitious oogity boogity.

      • Craig Benno says:


        Firstly; what are your qualifications to emphatically say there is no such thing?
        2ndly, have a read of this link

        It is written by Amin Muhammad Gadit, M.D., who is a professor of psychiatry at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.

        His conclusion is particularly note worthy;

        Scientists continue to argue against possession as an etiological factor responsible for mental illness, but the fact remains that refuting something that science cannot prove is inappropriate on the basis of our limited understanding of the world and its creations. There should always be room for new ideas, theories, and beliefs. In the aforementioned context, it may be acceptable to say that jinni may be a scientific entity, which, if understood by more psychiatrists, could revolutionize the field of psychiatry and human behavior. So let’s continue the journey in search of a scientific basis for demonic possession. ▪

      • tildeb says:

        Firstly as I’ve previously explained, non belief of an extraordinary claim that has no extraordinary evidence to back it up is the default. Show me a demon! It’s not my job to disprove demons any more than it’s my job to prove to you why you can’t fly. It falls to those who MAKE an extraordinary claim to back it up. Again, show us a demon. Explain of what it is made, how it moves, how it takes over neural circuits, how it brings new knowledge, how it manipulates, and so on. Don’t just wave you hands and say we are infested by magical beings that come from a magic realm, that they have no bodies and require no source of energy but seep into people for evil purposes and you can’t prove they don’t so my belief is legitimate. I’m sorry, but your belief is only that: just another superstitious belief. If you want it to be taken seriously, then provide compelling evidence that such magic creatures exist.

        This guy’s mind is befuddled. It is truly unfortunate that attaining higher education does not inoculate one against superstitious beliefs. But to address his terrible conclusion, it IS the job of science to inquire, to investigate, to establish cause with effect by means of a mechanism. That’s what science does. It’s exactly the same method we trust on a daily basis when we operate in the real world. Failure to follow this method in the real world always leads to disaster.

        It is absolutely typical that when an inquiry occurs and no cause can be linked to effect because of an absence of a mechanism for all kinds of claims, supporters claim that it is SCIENCE that has failed. This is as true for eating albino children for their ‘medicinal properties’ as it is for dowsing, the foundation for the anti-vaccine believers as it is for flying yogis, the same argument for homeopathy as it is for naturopathy, chiropractics, raiki, acupuncture, tarrot card reading, astrology, and so on. There is no end to the list of what people will believe in the absence of evidence. But the solution for all these empty claims to be is so very easy to overturn: all supporters need to do is gather evidence that links cause with effect by means of a mechanism! Nobody is stopping this inquiry! Nobody is impeding this ‘journey’ in search of a scientific basis for demonic possession… what’s so obviously lacking, however, is evidence to SUPPORT it!

        The only ‘revolution’ going on with demonic possession here is Doctor Gadit’s suggestion to remove the discipline of honest intellectual inquiry that informs science! And that’s why his thinking here is so befuddled; he wants a certain conclusion to be reached without doing the necessary heavy lifting to reach it. He’s trying to cheat.

  3. Pingback: Ghosts; demons and exorcisms: What are we to believe? | Trinitarian Dance

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