Most helpful critical review
27 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Dickason is Dead Wrong: Christians Cannot be Demon Possessed (or demonized)
on July 30, 2005
The New, Unbiblical Teaching
The idea that Christians can be possessed or "demonized" or have a demon indwell them is a relatively new development in Christian theology. I have read books on the subject advocating this view, but none were as seemingly scholarly and well reasoned as Dr. Dickason's book. This fact, however, makes the thesis of this book all the more dangerous.
Dr. Dickason seems to be a well-educated man with a Ph.D. from the evangelical Dallas Seminary. But educated men have been wrong before, and such is the case for Dr. Dickason in this more erudite attempt to argue that genuine Christians can be demonized.
Exchanging Biblical Truth for Clinical Experiences
The central flaw in Dr. Dickason's approach to the topic is how he arrived at his conclusion, and how this conclusion influenced his reading of, and disregard for, the Bible. Did the Bible teach him that Christians can be inhabited by demons, or did the Bible PLUS something else teach him this?
After analyzing 21 passages in the Bible in chapter 7 "Biblical Evidence Supporting Demonization of Christians," Dr. Dickason himself came to the conclusion that every one of them did not prove conclusively and without reasonable doubt that Christians could be demonized. Dr. Dickason said on page 127: "Thus we cannot conclusively say that the Bible clearly presents evidence that believers may be demonized." So if the Bible doesn't say Christians can be demonized, where does he get this idea? Let's have a look.
After rationalizing away a number of passages which clearly show that God indwells the believer and is "greater" than satan and demons outside of believers (in chapter 6 "Biblical Evidence Against Demonization of Christians"), we find that Dr. Dickason easily comes to the conclusion in chapter 7 that, "The Bible does not evidence that believers cannot be demonized. Thus we are left to look for other types of evidence that may contribute to answer our question: Can genuine believers be demonized?" (p. 127).
The flaw in Dr. Dickason's reasoning is evident in that he had to misinterpret certain passages in such a way that they could not destroy his thesis that was ultimately based on "clinical evidence," not the Bible. He assumes that because the Bible is not clear in his mind, then this must mean the Bible is not clear. This kind of reasoning is flawed and is called non sequitur.
For example, are we to assume that because Genesis 2:24 only directly says that a "man" leaves his father and mother and is joined with his wife in marriage, that this must mean that a "woman" does not leave her father and mother to be joined with her husband in marriage? There is such a thing as axiomatic truth or implied truth. If a man must leave his father and mother to be joined to his wife in marriage, it is obvious that the woman must also do the same. We don't need explicit statements to realize this.
The same is true regarding the issue of demonization of Christians. If the Spirit of God indwells believers as Scripture teaches (1 John 4:4; John 14:17; Romans 8:10; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:17), then it stands to reason that the same Spirit would not allow the darkness of demons to invade the Light of God illuminating the spirits of His followers. If this same Spirit IN believers is "greater" than those outside of them who are out in the world (which must include satan and demons), then it stands to reason that their power cannot overpower the Spirit of God.
Can God be Demonized?
What Dr. Dickason and others do not realize is that in teaching that Christians can be demonized, they have unwittingly advocated the ridiculous and theologically bankrupt notion that God Himself can be demonized. How so? Because if the believer is "one spirit" with God's Spirit as it says in 1 Corinthians 6:17, then it means that in order for a demon to enter a believer it must ALSO enter and demonize God's Spirit. Now how crazy does that sound? Obviously, Dr. Dickason and others have not thought through the spiritual implications of what they teach.
Experience No Indicator of Truth
Since the Bible is deemed "inconclusive" to settle the question of whether or not Christians can be demonized, Dr. Dickason thinks that clinical experience with people who seem to have been genuine Christians who were demonized must be the final court of arbitration. But he fails to realize the inherent dangers of using an approach that uses the Bible plus experience. This can be viewed as the sin of adding to God's Word (Proverbs 30:6).
To illustrate Dr. Dickason's fallacy, let's look at some Mormon theology. Mormons believe that Jesus appeared in America sometime after His resurrection. The Bible can be said to be "inconclusive" about this because there are no explicit statements for or against this notion. Therefore, would Dr. Dickason be willing to argue with the Mormons that this validates trusting the experiences of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon about Jesus appearing to native people in America? Is this a Biblical way to arrive at truth? As Thomas Ice and Robert Dean, Jr. remarked in their book on spiritual warfare called "A Holy Rebellion":
"The burden of proof lies with those who believe Christians can be demon possessed, since the Scriptures do not support that point of view. Valid proof must flow from the Scriptures, not from experience." (p. 122, Harvest House Publ., 1990).
The Faulty Cancer Analogy
The fatal flaw in Dr. Dickason's reasoning in his book was when he tried to illustrate how we should answer the question of the demonization of Christians in the same manner as we answer the question of whether or not Christians can have cancer (pp. 154-160). But here Dickason fails to realize that he has committed the fallacy of a faulty analogy, since we cannot reasonably compare a living, sentient, spirit being (a demon) with genetic defects in human somatic cells that cause cancer. Of course Dr. Dickason realizes this flaw but never addresses it in his book. So there is no excuse for him not knowing the inherent weakness in such an analogy. His flawed analogy also disregards the fact that the Bible makes clear that Christians can be afflicted with bodily sickness (1 Timothy 5:23; Acts 9:18), which is what cancer can be called. But as he himself admits, the Bible does not support the idea that Christians can be demonized.
In the final analysis, the greatest weakness in Dr. Dickason's thesis is revealed in this statement he made: "I have encountered...at least 400 cases of those who were genuine Christians who were also demonized...I would not claim infallible judgment, but I know the marks of a Christian and the marks of a demonized person. I might have been wrong in a case or so, but I cannot conceive that I would be wrong in more than 400 cases." (p. 175).
To this I responded back in 1989 by writing on the title page of my copy of his book: "Anyone who believes that he cannot be greatly deceived, is already greatly deceived."
Has Dr. Dickason ever considered that maybe, just maybe, he was dealing with demonized UNBELIEVERS pretending to be Christians? This is not an unlikely scenario, especially in light of what the Bible says about false believers and pretenders (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:13; 4:3,4; 2 Corin. 11:13-15). This Biblical alternative was never addressed in the book.
But ultimately in all his clinical studies and the studies of others relying on flawed human discernment and ability, Dr. Dickason forgot to read 2 Timothy 2:19 and Matthew 13:28, 29. Both of these teach that only God knows who among us are "genuine" Christians or not, because only God knows the heart.
Those who teach or believe that Christians can be demonized, based on books like this or "deliverance" experiences, have to realize that this is not a Biblical doctrine. It is a false doctrine based on misreadings of certain Bible passages and overemphasis on flawed clinical studies by people who apparently think they have discernment abilities that Scripture says only God has.
Christian readers of this book are cautioned not to take what Dickason and others say at face value, especially when he himself admits that the Bible does not support his position. If you've read this book or plan to read it, please make sure that you also read "A Holy Rebellion: Strategy for Spiritual Warfare" by Thomas Ice and Robert Dean, Jr.
Thus I end this review with these appropriate words from Ice and Dean on the subject: "Since the Holy Spirit lives in the house of a believer, then every time a demon knocks at the door the Holy Spirit answers."
Edited/added comments: Those who would attempt to justify the thesis of this book from Scripture are hard pressed because not one says that Christians can be "demonized." Nowhere in the Bible do we have Peter casting a demon from Paul, or James casting a demon from Mark. The apostolic Church did not teach this doctrine and nor did they practice it.
Appeals to Luke 13:10-17 as evidence that a Christian can be demonized are weak for several reasons. First, the term "spirit of infirmity" does not necessarily mean a literal "spirit" meaning a demonic spirit inhabiting a person. If I said someone had a "spirit of joy" that would not mean the person had a literal "spirit" being in her called "joy."
Second, the text itself shows that the woman did NOT have a demon "cast out" from her but that she was HEALED from her satanically caused physical sickness (infirmity). No demons cried out and left the woman in that text. She was simply healed.
And lastly, the phrase "daughter of Abraham" could simply be a synonym for a descendant of Abraham, as most scholars and theologians would point out. In fact, Luke 19:9, written by the same author as Luke 13, gives indication that phrases like "son of Abraham" and "daughter of Abraham" refer to ethnic ancestry, not salvation status (notice here the salvation is separate from ethnicity)
Regardless of what this phrase means, it is clear from the context of Luke 13 that this is not an instance of a demonized believer but a possible believer who had a physical problem healed.
One of the main problems with trying to detect demons without Biblical guidelines is that we fall into error too easily. Nowhere does the Bible indicate that voice changes are demonic. Having "super" strength and "super" knowledge are biblical indicators because they can't be faked or easily produced by regular humans who are not demonized. And needless to say, as I've already pointed out above, only GOD knows who truly is a Christian and who is not. People saying they are Christians doesn't prove it. The book I reviewed is well written and argued, but it fails to prove its point because of the many unbiblical assumptions made, and those who would try to support this book also fall into the same errors as Mr. Dickason.