Monday, April 26, 2010


A few weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a late night text. She was house-sitting and became worried when she noticed that a closet door had opened all on its own. Calmly, and with nary a pause, I responded that we don’t believe in ghosts; it could either be a demon or a vagabond child star from the 80’s—either way her only recourse was to rebuke it. She was encouraged by the answer, her fears allayed, and that was the end of it.

What you just read was a typical experience among Pentecostals; where “the world” ascribes spooky, seemingly supernatural phenomena to ghosts, Pentecostals know better and correctly identify the work of satan’s minions. I must admit that, raised under the influence of my Arabic Greek Orthodox Grandmother’s superstitions as a child, it took me some time replace her foolish mysticism with the hard, fact-based, theologically rigorous rationalism of Pentecostal doctrine when I encountered it as a teenager. In places like campouts or sleepovers I was regularly disappointed when my new friends didn’t tell ghost stories—and they didn’t want to hear mine (their loss because I still have a great story about the time my Grandpa was flayed during his sleep by the ghosts of a graveyard he was building an apartment building on top of).

It was explained to me that all of those times I’d read about ghosts in the bible were wrong, err, well, not wrong because the bible is infallible, but mistranslations, yeah! The apostles who thought they were seeing Jesus’ ghost in Mat 14:26, Mark 6:49, and Luke 24:37? Nope. Jesus in Luke 24:39? Negative. The ghost wife (Jonathan Kirsch translation) Saul uses to summon Samuel’s ghost in Samuel 28? Easy, familiar spirit! All of this spooky confusion is the fault of reading various PERversions of the bible, like the one by that rascal papist King James I (virtual cookie if you can see the irony!) and the same lesbian translators that tried to delete Jesus entirely from the NIV.

Even as I struggled to internalize this, my disappointment was short lived, however, because in the place of ghost stories came a lexical peculiarity I hadn’t encountered: demon stories. They sounded an awful lot like ghost stories, the demons acted just like ghosts, with the haunting and such, but, as I was constantly and forcefully informed, ghosts didn’t exist, only demons and familiar spirits. I found that nearly everybody had a demon story, some with several. They ranged from the mundane, like an ominous feeling, to the titillating, like naked demon-women who tempted pastors, to the horrifying, like bodiless furry claws that grabbed feet in the middle of the night, to the heroic, like full on Greco-Roman wrestling with demons over the control of some local town or county (Ephesians 6:12—literally!). As an aside, my personal favorite demon stories come from people who spent time at a certain Midwestern bible college that is, for some odd reason, absolutely infested with perverted sex demons.

Over the years I’ve found that there are among the rank and file of every church those poor victims who cannot for the life of them go more than two days without being besieged by the forces of darkness. Anytime, anywhere satan springs a trap on them, trying his darndest to hinder or even kill them because if he didn’t they’d probably single-handedly pray the whole world free from disease, mental/emotional affliction, and on through to salvation. The rest of us less-spiritually threatening brethren can repay these brave souls for bearing the brunt of demonic fury for us by listening attentively to every wild-eyed weekly installment of their battles (call it Joe vs. the Fiery Pit of Hell).

I’ve occasionally wondered aloud why it is that some of the most God-oriented people I know or heard & read about rarely ran into demons—and when they did it was dismissive and short. I’ve also wondered why super-spiritual demon wrestlers rarely see angels, since we believe in their intervention about as evenly as demons. Stupid questions, I am only coming to realize! Hopefully if you’re similarly simplistic in your understanding like I am, we will come to know the truth better by and by.


  1. what bible college r u talking about?

  2. I'm not gonna name the college because that would be rude (or something like that, i'd say unprofessional but that doesn't quite fit).

    Suffice it to say that I was once forced to listen to a lengthy, rather licentious, and completely (shocking to me) serious story by a former student at the college about the various demons inhabiting it and his battle with them was point of pride for him. I was able to keep a straight face long enough to find out that others who are familiar with the college have heard similar stories.

  3. Interesting run of topics lately- lobby groupies, facebook probing, and now, demons? This is turning into stuff apostolics DONT like.

  4. There is another Bible College in N America where a "fertility" angel did some acts of questionable morality in a dorm room. After reading your post I am convinced this was actually a disguised demon.

  5. Anonymous two above, while entitled to your own interpretations, I think your assessment is a rather disingenuous one.

    The point of the lobby post was not the lobby groupies. Rather, lobbies were spoken of as something we liked (for all it's opportunities). Also within the context of the "lobby groupie" you speak of, I wrote the following line: "I have found all lobby rats as very hospitable and pleasing people to talk to." I do not see anything negative about this.

    As to facebook probing, I most definitely argued the point of the post from the stance as probing being something apostolics like doing, and something we all do.

    Lastly, Chady pointed out that apostolics do enjoy discussing and struggling with demons and not qualifying them as ghosts.

    Anonymous, I pray for your interpretation skills to improve greatly in future comments. I think this was rather poor form on your part, and will just assume you were having one of your off days when you wrote the comment.

    Best wishes in your journey of learning,


  6. Spirirtual warfare is no joking matter. Few apostolics actually deal with it though. I Agree that too many people use demon stories just as the world uses ghost stories. But when there is a counterfeit then there is a real. I think the adversary uses all these stories etc to get us talking and off track. The real battle is always fought on our knees and not spread abroad. I also would suggest the book. He Came To Set The Captives Free. By Rebecca Brown.

  7. i always wear my holy ghost tee when demon slaying.

  8. Anonymous above: I agree that spiritual warfare is no joking matter, which is the point (somewhat obliquely) of my post. Because we don't believe in ghosts we are, at the level of language and consciousness, encouraged to interpret certain phenomena that would pass for ghosts among non-pentecostals as demons.

    The idea here being that it waters down our understanding and perception of the actual spiritual world, per se. Further, when we have resorted to these sorts of rhetorical games, substituting and blurring signifiers, it is entirely possible that we can lose track of any sort of cogent meaning. By this I mean that the overblown performances of "spiritual warriors" who see and battle demons constantly have shifted the mooring between what the Bible holds to be spiritual and what we as believers say is spiritual. Dangerous ground, I would argue.

  9. Mr. Hosin,

    You may consider spiritual warfare "dangerous grounds" for entrusting the believer and his/her revelations over that of what the bible may offer regarding the matter. But is this "danger" not the beauty of pentecostalism and the infilling of the Spirit and the possible revelations that implies? For godsake, we could update the canon if we wanted to under guise of newer revelation (as what in the bible says the canon is closed outside of those trinitarian heathens of the 6th century?

    Rather as the bible is not just our only source for Truth as pentecostals, but also the spirit that resides in us (which fundamentalists soundly reject in their appraisal of God's word). You call such a circus dangerous, I call it a very beautiful circus for much potential of chaos, and in this even more possible truths through the Spirit are revealed to us.

  10. In short, you sound like a fundementalist Mr. Hosin in your fear of "revelation," and such a view I find very disconcerting to what I believe is at the heart of the pentecostal message: The power for further revelation.

  11. Just a couple of comments. First one is, the picture used for this post is disturbing in its content and the context in which it is used. If I understand correctly, this post is the author mocking his encounters with Apostolics who have not had real experiences with the supernatural. That said, the picture seems to lack relevance to the post. Secondly, I would have to agree with anon. The spiritual realm is not something to be mocked. It smacks of an odd personal spiritual life: if you had experiences with devils etc, it is not something to be joked about or mocked in any manner. But perhaps my experiences as a conservative Apostolic are less than valid because we do not joke about such things, nor do the people within our circle. Once again, I question the stereotyping of Apostolics and its context within the greater Apostolic movement.

  12. I fear I've been misunderstood in this post, which is an indication of my weaknesses as a writer. Allow me to clarify.

    To Lynne: I used the picture because the point of my post is that in a context where a non-apostolic individual might attribute a certain phenomena to a ghost/dead people (as in the sixth sense) an apostolic is generally wont to say it is a demon/familiar spirit. My argument being that this is a de-contextualized, de-narrativized appropriation of symbols that lacks the development necessary to an experiential adaptation. If you read my above comment, I do NOT trivialize spiritual warfare, but I do question the employment of signifiers without any solid connection to their referent--even though the justification for that signification is generally the concrete connection to that specific referent itself!

    Example: Jacob's physical encounter with a man/angel/God in Genesis 32 is occasionally referred to when some individual describes their own wrestling match with a demon--the argument being that because spiritual figures have in one instance wrestled with a man in the bible, it can and does happen. I do not seek to categorically deny this, however, what I argue this does is turn the text into a repository--bereft of any static meaning/context--from which believers can return to for signifiers that can strategically construct a narrative in service to the subjective self. The bible, then, becomes a meaningless collection of plots to be used at the discretion of any individual or group who need validation for their practices. (Read: the pertinent criticisms of religious skeptics who’ve always argued religion serves as nothing more than justification for a given lifestyle under the guise of a higher authority).

    This leads me to my next line of thought.

  13. To Joel: This is assuredly the first time I've ever been suspected of fundamentalism, which I find amusing to no end. Let's take up the issue of revelation: I certainly believe in it, but you're correct in seeing my reservations regarding its occurrence, or rather, its deployment. To say that the apostolic experience is efficacious because of its exceptional claim to revelation is problematic at best and arrogant at worst.

    Every denomination, to my knowledge, makes use of revelation for the development of their doctrine and practice (though not necessarily at the level of explicit linguistic expression). All the same, this does not stop apostolics from condemning/trivializing them as improper--but how is this done? How do apostolics challenge the false teachings of other denominations? The bible. As your earlier post on the misuse of scripture attests, it’s performed ad nauseam with verses taken out of context. See the inherent flaw/hypocrisy?

    Apostolics pound on the bible as THE sole foundational ground for the rebuttal of foolish practices among other denominations (confession to a priest, baptizing in the name of the father, son, and holy ghost, rejecting spiritual gifts, etc.), but will retreat into the shifty and convenient world of "revelation" when their own non-explicitly biblical practices are challenged. Yes, I find this dangerous.

    Let's play this out reductio ad absurdum. If we employ revelation as a means of circumventing non-specific or inconvenient concepts/justifying practices not explicitly mentioned or diagrammed in the text, the foundations of one's faith can be eroded and some highly suspect phenomena/doctrine can (and do) emerge--especially when aesthetics (the "beauty" of this circus, as you say) becomes a factor in our discrimination. Within this logic, you've lost any authoritative means to challenge anything: welcome to postmodernism.

    God blessing exceptional worshipers with gold dust/gold teeth/angel feathers? How about getting high off of Jesus, taking spirit-hits off of a small baby Jesus figurine, or snorting glory lines off of the graves of deceased saints who are perceived to have been especially close to God? No scriptural basis? That's fine, it's revelation. All of this might sound ridiculous, akin to the slippery-slope theory, and I concede this, but these are indeed only a few examples from the realm of possibility created by carrying de-contextualized revelation to its logical conclusion.

    Have we forgotten that one of the primary faults Paul saw in the Corinthian church was an excessive (and ultimately divisive) reliance on the unfounded experiences/revelation of a group within the church who used this to exclude their brethren and preclude the entry of new followers in the community of faith?

    I must reiterate, I believe revelation is necessary for the continued development of individual and group faith, however, I also believe we should strive to contextualize it within the framework of a pragmatic faith. Jesus and Paul continually referred back to scripture in their discussion of seemingly new and radical spiritual practice; the reason being that they were, in fact, building on the word of God. Revelation, it seems to me, is the careful mediation between previous knowledge of Truth and new experience. Alas, this is ultimately a heuristic effort on my part and only what I can perceive in my admitted (un-ironic) imperfection.

  14. Chady,

    I think in essence we agree (as usual). As you said "welcome to postmodernism." I think pomo is the idea of apostolic revelation taken to it's true ends.

    You mentioned that apostolics point to the bible for their justification of belief but yet proclaim to the hills of the power of revelation. I see this as contradiction as well. You can not live by a closed box that the canon provides and use that as the only source of revelation/authority and the allow for revelation from God that is not found in scripture. This is a contradiction. Also, while many denominations allow for further revelation, the older denominations certainly do not. At the heart of fundementalism (which is prevalent on many fronts) is that God no longer needs to reveal anything since all that is necessary in revelation is found in The Word.

    Yes I want revelation based on scripture. But I also believe, ideologically in the ability for even extrabiblical revelation as long as it is not in contradiction of scripture (I realize that what is deemed as being in contradiction with scripture is also a subjective venture as well).

    I think we take one of the central messages of I John for granted: We can know by what the spirit tells us. We have discernment and essentially play judge over what kinds of revelation are permissible or not. Of course, postmodernism in such a sense makes this problem quite subjective as well...

    I guess where I disagree if there is any place is in that as much as I want scripture to be the objective foundation for our revelations, the subjective interpretations of scripture make such a concept of an objective truth within the Word troublesome as well. It is not that the Word is not objective of course, but rather in our fallible interpretations that the Word kind of loses a sense of it's objectivity. And with this I look to the chaos of our movement, and disdain many aspects of it, but at the same time, I know I cannot assuredly say my discomfort is of any merit in the extent to which revelation may be revealed to the spiritual.

    P.S. I won't be rereading this post that I just wrote because I'm tired and I know I was too wordy. I apologize for any lack of clarity or confusion in my writings.