You’ve heard it, I’m sure. Someone is going through a hard time and reaches the conclusion it’s a demonic attack. I’ve heard people pray to bind demons – or even Satan himself – from interfering in their lives. Never mind that binding demons is nowhere found in the Bible. (See, Mark Driscoll’s Demons – the false doctrine of the Mars Hill demon trials.) The prayers can range from binding the demon of sickness to binding the demon of traffic jams, and no I am not making that second one up.
Recently I’ve seen blogger a claim that a concentrated attack on her by those who disagree with her is an indication of coordinated demonic action. I’m not saying that’s not the case, but I can’t help wondering how to determine when something is an indication of Satan’s direct planning (a coordinated demonic attack) and when it’s an indication that a whole lot of people can be jerks without acting under Satan’s direct assignment.
The difference is one of first cause versus direct cause. Sin is in the world because of Satan’s work in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. This is the first cause as well as a direct cause. He directly tempted them to sin and they did. Much sin afterward is due to the first cause in the Garden but is not directly caused by Satan. We live in a fallen world and people sin without Satan putting any of his demons on direct assignment.
Then again, I would not go so far as to say that whether it is Satanic or human means that this also divides the cause between being spiritual and non-spiritual. We are all spiritual beings – demons and humans both – so anything any of us do has a spiritual component. That’s why sin is serious business. Every time you sin at least two spirits are involved: yours and God’s. If your sin reaches others, then add their spirits to the number as well.
Ultimately, though, we need to keep in mind the first cause even if it is not always the direct cause. The people around us, after all, are acting in their fallen nature when they hurt those doing God’s work. Who to blame for that fallenness goes back to Satan and the first cause in the Garden:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12.)
This verse says more than just where to put the blame, though. It tells us where to expend our efforts. And in those efforts we can rely on Jesus, the one who has already defeated Satan and all that he wrought.
He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15.)
And what does it take in this struggle against Satan?
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7.)
Submit to God, resist Satan, and Satan runs the other way. That’s what it takes.