Moral Issues: Hannibal Lector and Demon Possession
Posted on Monday, February 20, 2006 @ 00:00:00 EST
Topic: Modern Moral Issues
Modern Moral IssuesThis insanity issue won't go away. Bob writes:

"So, does demonic possession serve to absolve one from the civil consequences of one’s actions while possessed, assuming the possession is exorcised and the person is returned to his “normal” state? Stated another way, is demonic possession a form of coercion? The Wikipedia says Specific coercion may be used as a legal defence in criminal cases for acts committed under threat of injury. Does this principle open the door for demonic possession as a legal defense for behaviors not considered by an individual absent the possession?

"Maybe I need to read M. Scott Peck's book The Road Less Traveled."

Since I'm not a lawyer, Bob, I'll not attempt to respond to the legal side of your question. You'll have to drop that in lap of one of your legal consultants. However, there is a theological side to what you ask. What you imply is that one can be captured by a demon in the same way one might be assaulted and captured by a robber. In other words, what is demon possession? I looked at that somewhat in an earlier BLOG, but not adequately. So I'll go at it again today. Another day I may have occasion to discuss the practice of exorcism. Perhaps at that time we can look at Dr. Peck's Glimpses of the Devil : A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption.


Hannibal Lector

For starters here are a few passages that speak about the influence and power of demons.

Speaking about how the Israelites did not follow the commands of the LORD, Psalm 106:35-37 says, "But they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshiped their idols: which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons."

The point here is that lying and destructive demons are behind all kinds of idolatry or the worship of false gods.

The Apostle Paul makes the same point when he warns the Corinthian believers to flee from idolatry, because "the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the LORD and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the LORD's table and the table of demons" (1 Cor. 10:20-21).

In the verses prior to this quote Paul reminds his readers that even believers who have experienced the grace and blessings of Christ can be tempted and led away from Him. The entire history of God's people as recorded in the Old Testament is there to provide examples of what can happen. These stories serve as warnings. Set your heart on whatever you think your particular false god has to offer, indulge yourself in the sexual immorality these false religions promote and you will be influenced more and more by the demons behind the idolatry. Eventually you may even become possessed by them and lose all control of your own mind and heart.

A major feature of Jesus' earthly ministry was the casting out of demons who had possessed people. Read particularly the accounts in Matthew 8-10. We are not told how it happened that the men so freed came to be possessed in the first place. The major point in these and other New Testament accounts of Jesus' ministry is that He has authority over the demons. Where He is in charge, where His kingdom and reign are operative, the demons must flee. So the Twelve were sent out to proclaim the Word about Jesus' kingdom. Where that Word was proclaimed Christ promised to be present to continue His ministry through them. Consequently the sick would be healed, dead raised, lepers cleansed and demons driven out.

Getting back to your question, Bob, I want to emphasize that demonic possession does indeed imply coercion. The one so possessed is not in control of his/her mind and heart. The demon or demons use and abuse the one so possessed. Accounts of such possession in Biblical days or in our days indicate that the possessed are driven to all kinds of horrific acts, acts harmful both to themselves and to others. Look about you and make your own decisions about the work of such demons.

How the courts treat such people is a whole other question. In my observation (as a layman in this area) the courts will avoid calling them demon possessed and will rather base decisions of incompetence upon the medical establishment's declaration of their being psychotic or, to use an old term, insane. I'm thinking of the serial killer Albert Fish portrayed by Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs. I would view such a diabolical (note the word) killer as one possessed, but declared by the courts to be a paranoid psychotic. In other words, I believe there is something beyond psychosis.

This article comes from Alvin H. Franzmeier

The URL for this story is: