“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” ~ C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters.
Out of the two errors described by C. S. Lewis, it becomes apparent to anyone who follows my writing that I am susceptible to the latter. I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between the spiritual and the physical. People like me are intrigued by accounts of poltergeists moving objects, possessions granting incredible strength, and prophetic dreams. People even more like me ask extreme questions like “could a demon fly a helicopter?”
In Freedom to Die, I’ve given my answer to this question. In order to start building support for my opinion, I think it best to establish what one can “know” about demons by looking in the Bible. I put “know” in quotation marks not because I question the infallibility of the Bible, but because our interpretation of it is fallible. I want to acknowledge that there is a possible—though in most cases, I would argue, improbable in the context of an broader exploration of the topic—chance that certain references of demons in the day were in lieu of more modern and scientific explanations, and may not necessarily represent spiritual beings.
(Although it will not convince any skeptics, I want to admit before going too much further that I am influenced by the accounts of demonic activity outside of the accounts in the Bible. These accounts are from both people I know personally, and from other accounts that I have heard. I am choosing not to list these cases as support because I believe I can make my case simply by using the Bible. I’m prepared to defend the cases in the Bible as true accounts, but I don’t have ample resources to do the same in the other cases.)
Matthew 9:32-33 – While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
Mark 1:34 – and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Mark 9:25-29 – When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Luke 8:27-33 – When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.
A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
Luke 10:17 – The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
From these passages, we can make the following assertions about demons:
- They are real beings, not just medical conditions. Mark 1:34 shows demons as having inside knowledge of the person of Jesus. Someone with merely a medical condition would not be able to have this knowledge.
- They have independent wills and desires. The demons in the Luke 8 story had desires if not emotions as well. They didn’t want to be sent to the Abyss, but rather into a herd of pigs. This proves that demons are more than just some sort of mystical form of negative energy.
- They have control over aspects of the physical world. In order for a demon to make a person strong enough to break chains, it would have to have some sort of connection to the physical realm enough to alter the state of a person’s muscles. The same is true for a demon able to prevent a person from speaking.
- They are utterly outranked by the power of Jesus. Every case of a demon encounter with Jesus in the Bible shows that Jesus had absolute power over them. It doesn’t matter if there was just one demon, or many, like “Legion.”
- Followers of Jesus have some degree of power over demons. Luke 10:17 as well as other passages in the Bible are evidence of this. However, Christians would be naive to think that they have absolute power over demons, like Jesus does. Recall how in Mark 5 the disciples were complaining of being incapable of casting out the demon.
There are many more things we can derive about demons given the evidence in the Bible. I have only listed a few points that I deem to be important.
So, could a demon fly a helicopter?
I’ve shown how a demon has control over physical things, such as muscles and mouths. If demons can take control over sentient pigs such as pigs, given permission, I don’t think it would be a stretch that they could maneuver physical objects required to fly a helicopter.
Possessed helicopters aren’t nearly as scary as possessed people, as the Bible has shown some cases where people themselves were inhabited and inhibited by demons.
But I also showed why one shouldn’t fear demons. At least, not if one is a follower of Jesus. God alone has absolute power over any evil spiritual force. If one is acting according to His will, one doesn’t need to be afraid.
The topic of demonic power is expansive, and I’ve only scratched the surface. I hope, at least, that I’ve provided enough of a basis to understand the reality of demons and the threat it presents. At the very least, I’ve shown the inspiration of the demonic activity in Freedom to Die.