“Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.” – Lev 19:31
Shakespeare’s Macbeth is famous for its witches. These three crones are not out producing butterflies and gum drop forests. They are cauldron-fillers who consult with evil spirits, who use baboon’s blood, nose of Turk, and Tarta’s lips in their foul brews. In the end, their words deceive Macbeth and direct him on a path that eventually leads to him to murder his king, his friend Banquo and the wife and children of a man who had done him no harm. In the end, Macbeth’s wife commits suicide and Macbeth himself is slaughtered, losing all he had so bloodily gained.
People are fascinated with the occult, and young people think it is “scary” to visit graveyards and conjure spirits, to play with ouija boards and consult the dead. It’s vital we remember that these spooky pursuits may seem like harmless fun, but can open doors that allow in evils far more real than Macbeth’s witches.
In 1973, The Exorcist terrified audiences by portraying a little girl possessed by demons and the efforts of two priests to cast out the spiritual forces and free her. William Blatty’s tale was inspired by a teenage boy from a Washington suburb in Maryland who was reportedly exorcised in 1949. The Washington Post offered one of many reports on the story August 20, 1949 in an article entitled, “Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil’s Grip.” In it, Bill Brinkley writes:
“…In all except the last of these, the boy broke into a violent tantrum of screaming, cursing and voicing of Latin phrases—a language he had never studied—whenever the priest reached the climactic point of the ritual, ‘In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I cast thee (the devil) out.’”
Despite the horrifying content, movie goers flocked to The Exorcist as well as to other movies like Poltergeist (1982) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005). Demon possession and the paranormal fascinate audiences.
The Evil Dead
A movie coming out later this month offers an attempt at producing the most in-your-face bloody horror flick of all time. When a group of young adults hide out in a cabin in the woods, one fellow foolishly unleashes a demon through a book of witchcraft. The film depicts sacrificed cats hanging from the ceiling and a demonic tree that strangles and rapes a young woman. From amputations and throat slitting to shooting each other with nail guns, the movie lets blood flow as it shows the obcene horrors that demon possessed human beings can commit against each other. As bloody and horrific as the movie is, movie-goers are expected to pack the theaters for the thrill of being terrified.
Even without focusing on complete gore, a second Insidious movie will come out later this year, glorifying the occult and the demonic haunting that already had victory over the Lambert family in the first movie. Another movie to be released this summer, The Conjuring, portrays the efforts of two paranormal investigators to help a family dealing with spirits haunting their New England home.
It is easy to get too interested in demonic activity. In the Bible, Jesus told demonic forces to be quiet before he cast them out (Luke 4:35). He did not engage them in conversations past finding out their names (Mark 5:7–13). The law repeatedly orders the children of Israel to stay away from occultic activities:
“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.” (Deut 18:10–12).
The Truth About Evil Spirits
- Evil spirits are smart. Remember the shrewd serpent in the Garden (Gen 3:1). Just as Satan knew how to trick Eve, demonic forces know exactly how to get to us. It’s foolish to even talk to them, let alone ask them questions for the sake of knowing the answers.
- Evil spirits can know unexpected amounts of information about us and our loved ones. About history. Which means they can pretend to be anybody. The girl possessed with the spirit of divination in Acts 16:16–18 was not putting on a show. When Paul and Silas cast the demon out, the girl’s masters were angry that their source of income had been ruined.
- Evil spirits are amazing at deception. Satan is an expert liar and can appear as an angel of light (John 8:44, 2Cr 11:14).
- Jesus and Satan are not equals. Jesus has all the power and authority of the universe and we can have authority over evil spirits in Jesus’ name (Luke 4:36, Luke 9:1; Phil 2:9–11). Satan is overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev 12:9–11).
Messing with spiritual forces we don’t understand is dangerous and completely foolish. We might be able to win a fight with demonic powers, but it doesn’t mean the wrestle won’t leave scars.
One of the most telling lines in Macbeth is spoken by Banquo shortly after he and Macbeth first encounter the witches. The witches correctly called Macbeth “Thane of Glamis” out on the heath, and Macbeth soon learns he’s been named Thane of Cawdor, just as the witches predicted. Certainly, he would therefore be king as they promised as well? Banquo recognizes the supernatural power at work, but he’s suspicious. He says, “And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.” Banquo’s distrust turns out to be well founded. Macbeth is tricked with honest trifles, which sends him on his way to the dragon’s mouth.
Macbeth is just a story, but the same tactic is found in the Bible. Satan tempted Jesus in the desert using the scriptures themselves, but Jesus quoted the scriptures right back. This is why it’s so vital we study the whole word of God and test the spirits as 1 John 4:1 describes.
As Christians, we do not have to fear demons. Jesus Christ has authority over all spirits. Yet, we should absolutely not allow ourselves or our children to treat spiritual things lightly, even if they are packaged as an innocent-looking cardboard game from Parker Brothers. As 17th century Dutch jurist Hugo De Groot once said, “Ignorance of certain subjects is a great part of wisdom.”