Can demons abide with the Spirit in the human body as God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16)?

Job 1:6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.

Shandon L. Guthrie writes on 1 Corinthians 3:16 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

Traditionalists use this passage to counter argue that demons cannot inhabit the same area(s) as God (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 where Paul tells the Corinthians that God does not have fellowship with wickedness and darkness). Since God is present in the believer and the demonic and the divine “can never exist in the same place . . . [and] cannot exist in the same heart,”[32] then the demonization of Christians is impossible. These counterarguments used against deliverance proponents seem to center around this anthropomorphic idea that God’s Spirit literally permeates the physical body. It’s as if every Christian has God living ubiquitously inside them much like blood. But God is neither a physical mass nor a spatial being. His presence in every believer is best understood in the traditional way: that God is immediately present and experienced within every believer. It no more signifies the literal spatial inhabiting of a physical presence than the references to the kingdom of God dwelling inside us (cf. Luke 17:21). The primal significance is that God’s Spirit has a unique relationship with each Christian believer.

Traditionalists typically assert that because God literally and physically permeates the physical bodies of Christians, then there is essentially no room for a demonic presence. I think this is naïve. Now, I’m not insinuating that there is permission for demonic cohabitation. What I am suggesting is that this passage may not be the evidence the traditionalist can appropriate. Put simply: the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

The significance of being God’s temple is that God “indwells” and subsequently “fills” believers in the sense that He communes with each of us and grants us direct spiritual awakening, encouragement, and power.[33] Clearly the usages of “dwelling” and “filling” are meant to signify a metaphor with a literal truth at heart.

So, the problem must be addressed in terms of the following question, Can a demon conceivably exist in the proximity of God? I think we have some precedent for thinking so. In the book of Job, we are told quite vividly of Satan “[coming] before the LORD” when he accompanies the angels (1:6). The first dialogue that ensues concerns one of the greatest tests of faith a man of God could possibly receive (the conversation continues in Chapter 2). And then we are told that he “went out from the presence of the LORD” (v. 12). If God’s presence were of a literal attendance or inhabitance of every literal square inch of heaven, then I find it quite difficult to imagine how Satan could inhabit the literal presence of God. However, if God’s presence is His propinquity or proximity, as traditionally understood, then the self-contradiction does not occur.

Regarding the analogy to our bodies being the “temple” of the Spirit, even the physical temples of Jewish antiquity from which 1 Cor. 3:16 is the antitype could also be in the “presence” of a non-elect. Since the Ark of the Covenant was said to house the “presence” of God, then it should have been impossible for the non-believing Philistines to steal the ark and place it into Dagon’s temple (not to mention that it raises another problem with anthropomorphism: How does one actually steal the presence of God?).[34] The solution must be that the “presence” of God in the temple (whether the temple refers to a physical structure or the Christian body) is a reflection of God’s proximity, not His inhabitance.[35]

Now, if being demonized entails having a demon take ownership over the Christian believer, then this passage and others like it would be relevant and would preclude the idea that Christians can be demonized. However, the slight-of-hand revisionist wants daimonizomai to mean merely “to have a demon.” And neither 1 Corinthians 3 nor 2 Corinthians 6 will settle the demonization of Christians purely on that assumption.

Therefore, I find that the traditionalist who utilizes 1 Corinthians 3:16 to establish that demons cannot be in the presence of God are relying upon an unfortunate anthropomorphizing of God’s indwelling of believers. If the traditionalist first accomplishes a univocal definition of daimonizomai that entails the actual possession of a person by a demon, then 1 Corinthians 3:16 poses some relevance.

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