Legions Brain Was Actually On Fire or Where Have All the Demons Gone? By Karen Butler, April 24, 2013
It seems evil spirits have gone and hidden themselves these days under medical and psychiatric diagnoses. Because the fascinating etiology of poor Legions brain disease was discovered in 2004 we now know Legions true name, and it was definitely many, look at all the words used to describe the auto-immune disease he likely had: anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. But because even Dr. Luke would have been really confused when collating this history later, our Lord preferred to call it a demon and perform and exorcism instead well, at least thats how I imagine well see this interpretive puzzle explained to us. But unlike our modern theologians, Luke wasnt perturbed by these rather medieval causes of psychic or bodily pain, as in the case of the patient with scoliosis in Luke 13:11-16. He, inspired by the Holy Spirit, called it a demon:
and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all
ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? It is so interesting to me that her curved spine was an organic disorder with a medical etiology, but the underlying cause was spiritual oppression. Jesus calls her a daughter of Abraham, too an indication she was a believer!
And in Matthew 17:15, the Greek word used describes the epileptic boy as a lunatic a medical belief that epileptic seizures were affected by the phases of the moon, a theory as outdated now as the recently discarded chemical imbalance explanation for brain disorders - but, notice Jesus doesnt use ancient medical terminology, and doesnt diagnose the young man with a moon imbalance, but again frees the sufferer of an organic disease from a demonic spirit.
Matthew Henry comments on this passage, There was also something in the malady which rendered the cure difficult. The extraordinary power of Satan must not discourage our faith, but quicken us to more earnestness in praying to God for the increase of it. Do we wonder to see Satans bodily possession of this young man from a child, when we see his spiritual possession of every son of Adam from the fall!
No, I am not suggesting that every parent of a epileptic kid is showing a lack of earnestness in faith when giving their child Depakote. But when is this relabeling of brain diseases going to stop? When the contrast is so stark between the biblical narrative and the scientific explanations we are offered of even a classic case of demonic possession, as in this reporters gripping tale of the florid psychosis, guttural speech, violent, inappropriate behavior and seizures that occurred when she had, in her doctors words a Brain on Fire, (http://m.npr.org/news/Science/165115921) due to a rare case of that auto-immune disease, anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, I linked to above.
No one would be lacking faith in giving steroids for this disorder, and it would be foolish to refuse the common grace of cutting edge neurological research, and effective remedies. She was rightly infused with plasma and healed within months, rather than dosed with Haldol and hidden away in a locked psych ward, which she acknowledges would have been her fate had she suffered her illness a mere five years earlier. Now, let me think, what is the better choice? Effective therapies or a straightjacket life? So hard to choose, right? But I do think these treatments make it much easier for us to ignore or minimize the spiritual components that Jesus makes very clear in the passages I highlight. That is our real lack of faith our unbelief in the spiritual etiology of some diagnosable mental disorders.
Can it be that the wily deceiver can mask his evil work with physical symptoms that present as chronic diseases, particularly the idiopathic cases like scoliosis and cryptogenic epilepsy and until classic demonic possessions actual cause was recently discovered in 2004, anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis? That our Enemy can induce a body to generate these harmful antibodies that attack the NMDA receptors and manifest this disease, just as he gets nerve cells going rogue with seizure disorders, and the bones of the spine to curve in scoliosis? Because Jesus clearly names these organic body disorders demonic. Will we be as presumptuous as Peter, and seek to correct Jesus understanding of the nature of the beings he has created?
The fact that scripture makes these spiritual connections clear makes us very uncomfortable, and some of us wish these passages were not in the Bible. I worked in special ed with autistic children, some of whom presented exactly like the lunatic. That is when I began to ask these hard questions, and no one has ever satisfied my queries except the Vineyard pastors in the churches we attended, who at least acknowledged the difficulties, and some were praying for greater faith in dealing with them. If the Reformed community want to seriously reach out to confused Charismatics, theologians need to seriously grapple with these scriptures too, and stop ignoring them, or publishing equally confused answers like Kevin DeYoungs response to the evil of the Tuscon shootings, Gods Gift of Moral Language. He first declares about the shooter: no doubt Loughner is messed up, crazy, off his rocker, and out to lunch. It seems that hes needed help for a long time. But at the end he mourns a world that thinks in these therapeutic categories:
The world, and to a large extent the church, has lost the ability to speak in moral categories. We have preferences instead of character. We have values instead of virtue. We have no God of holiness, and we have no Satan. We have break-downs, crack-ups, psychoses, maladjustments, and inner turmoil. But we do not have repugnant evil as the Bible has it. And this loss makes the world a more dangerous place. For the words may disappear, but the reality does not.
I agree with Mr. DeYoung, the church has lost the ability to speak in that category, but he has forgotten one. The demonological one. The words, demonic have largely disappeared from Reformed websites . Check out this Theopedia article where there is not a single entry for Satan or Demons to be found. But the reality of a demonic presence in the world has not disappeared, and so that extinction of that category is dangerous.
For when Legion comes, crying piteously and running naked through our graveyards, cutting himself with stones as he demands, What have you to do with me?, will we ask him his name? Will we like it when he answers, Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis so neat and tidily settled!or when he says, Legion! will we respond like Jesus, with a stern come out of him! or do we identify him as a paranoid schizophrenic, a danger to himself who is then forced into emergency treatment with neuroleptics? And a diagnosis of a lifetime disorder hopelessly intractable, and difficult to treat without a course of many different drugs responding to each iatrogenic effect?
Because Legion was many, and he was me, once. But a servant of Jesus spoke my true name, and I was set free. It is the truth that will set our many Legions free. Let us be bold to speak their true names, and set them free.