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What makes a demon a demon?

May 12, 2011

In a phone conversation I had today, which in some ways parallels other topics that have been on my mind lately, an old friend who is still in the reformed church gave me some more food for thought. In the continues attempt to preach the law/gospel too me over the phone, he professed how much sin he has committed in the past few weeks. Sexual fornication, drugs, drunkenness and the like, yet, he still knows Christ fulfilled the law on his behalf. This is his out of tune symphony that he thinks will convict me of my sin, and get me to stop believing in works righteousness I guess, but it only gives me sorrow for his plight.

The question naturally raised to the surface, and I asked “What makes a demon a demon?”.

Interestingly enough, this coincides with the recent botch of John MacArthur and R.C Sproul who made the very bad assertion, that “Eastern Orthodoxy has no theology” (paraphrased)  Keep this in mind.

“When the OT speak about “instruction” or the NT about “doctrine”. This includes teachings about both confession and conduct, both theology and ethics.  A seperation between them is fatal, a distinction unavoidable, just as in the NT itself “faith” and “works” are distinguished without being separated. Indeed at the risk of oversimplification, the specification of what is meant here by Christian doctrine may tentatively be said to proceed from such NT distinctions. When it is said that “Even the demons believe” and presumably believe  aright it is their “doctrine” in the churchly sense of the term that is being referred to. But when the NT speaks of “doctrines of demons” it seems to be referring chiefly to distortions of the standards of Christian conduct. An ancient collect addresses God as the One “in Knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life who’s service is perfect freedom” distinquishing between the knowledge of God and the service of God. Christian doctrine maybe defined as the content of that saving knowledge derived from the word of God.

Already in the early centuries, Christian thinkers began to distinquish between that instruction, which was intended “to make known the word concerning Christ and the mystery regarding him” and that instruction which was intended “to point to the corrections of habits” at least in part the distinction was suggested by the procedure of the NT itself. Theodore of Mopsuestia noted that both in the Epistle to the Romans, and in that to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul, first set forth “dogmatic sermons” defined as “sermons which contain the account of the coming of Christ, and indicate the blessing which he has conferred upon us by His coming”  and then went onto “ethical exhortation”.  The great commission in Matthew 28:19 likewise was seen as a division of Christian discipline into two parts “the ethical part and the precision of dogmas” the former being contained in the commandments of Jesus, and the latter in the “tradition of baptism”. This meant that “the method of Godliness consists of these two things, pious doctrines, and virtuous practice” neither of which was acceptable to God without the other. Both forms of instruction belonged in the pulpit and in books about Christian teaching. The standard manual of doctrine in Greek Christianity, the Orthodox Faith of John of Damascus discussed not only the Trinity and Christology, but also such matters as fear, anger, and the imagination. Its latter counterpart in the Latin church, the Sentences of Peter Lombard, included in its third book, a treatment of the virtues created by Grace.” Jaroslav Pelikan “The Christian Tradition” VOL 1 pages 2-3

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” -James 2:19-20

“And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,  “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God.” – Mark 1:23-24



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