Do Christians Believe That Demons Are the Cause of Illnesses?

Angelic Beings That Have Rejected God
While angelic beings were originally were created to love God, some have rejected him entirely. Sound familiar? In many ways the story of angelic beings parallels our own experiences as humans. Demons have rebelled against God in much the same way that many of us have. While angels choose continually to worship and honor their creator, striving to help reunite all of creation with God, demons have rejected God and strive daily to oppose the spiritual understanding and development of humans (Ephesians 6:12). How do they do it? By attacking the bodies of those who might otherwise receive the Gospel of Grace:

They Attack the Body’s Ability to Comprehend the Truth of God
Demons inflict illnesses that prevent us from hearing, seeing or speaking the truth. They are focused on these sorts of attacks because these sensory illnesses are the greatest inhibitors to humans being able to receive or express an acceptance of the Gospel:

Mark 9:25
And when Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”

Matthew 12:22
Then there was brought to Him a demon-possessed man who was blind and dumb, and He healed him, so that the dumb man spoke and saw.

Mark 9:17
And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute”

They Attack the Body’s Ability to Act on the Word of God
In addition to this, demons will often attack the body and make it nearly impossible for people to act on what it is they are about to hear:

Luke 9:39
…and behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth, and as it mauls him, it scarcely leaves him.

Acts 8:7
For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed.

They Attack the Body’s Ability to Represent the Image of God
Finally, demons will sometimes possess people and manipulate their actions, bringing shame on the individual and discrediting their witness as humans created in the image of God. The Bible records demon possessed individuals who appear foolish and who act out in a way that does not honor the God who created them. The outside world watches people like this and may even conclude that there is no God at all.

Luke 8:27-28
And when He had come out onto the land, He was met by a certain man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.

Now it’s important for us to make a distinction here. The Bible does not attribute all illnesses to demons. That is NOT the Biblical teaching. Many non-believers would like to characterize Christians as people who believe in the superstitious existence of demons and as people who try to attribute all physical ailments to the presence of these demons. But this is not the Biblical record at all, and this is not what Christians believe. Demons ONLY attack the body with the express purpose of inhibiting the spiritual growth of those who would otherwise come to faith in Christ. Just as angels love us enough to want to help reunite us with God, demons dislike us enough to want to prevent this from happening. As Christians, we do NOT believe that all illnesses are attributed to demons. Non-believers who accuse us of taking this position often point to passages like these:

Luke 13:31-32
Just at that time some Pharisees came up, saying to Him, “Go away and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.” And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.

Luke 9:1-2
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Acts 5:15-16
Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.

But these passages don’t make the case that those who were sick were sick because they were demon possessed. These passages identify two separate groups, joined together by the word, “and”: the sick AND the demon possessed. One had nothing to do with the other:

Luke 6:17-19
He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

Luke 4:40-41
When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.

Keep in mind that Jesus healed MANY people who were sick and the scriptures describe these healings clearly. In NONE of the following healings is ANYTHING mentioned about a demon:

  • The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant (Matthew 8:5-13)
  • The Healing of the Woman Bleeding (Matthew 9:19-20)
  • The Healing of the Blind Men (Matthew 9:27-30)
  • The Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand (Matthew 12:9-14)
  • The Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law (Luke 4:38, 39)
  • The Healing of the Leper (Luke 5:12-16)
  • The Healing of the Paralyzed Man (Luke 5:17-26)
  • The Healing of the Immobile Man (John 5:1-16)
  • The Healing of Daughter of the Phoenician Woman (Mark 7:24-30)
  • The Healing of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19)
  • The Healing of the Woman with the Spirit of Infirmity (Luke 13:10-17)

Demons Are Specific!
Christians do NOT believe that all illnesses are the result of demons, but it is clear that demons are continually doing what they can to keep God’s chosen from a relationship with Him, and this often takes the form of some sort of bodily attack. The dark angelic forces that oppose God are just that: forces that oppose God! Demons are focused in their attack. They are trying to STOP god’s work, trying to STOP the growth of the Kingdom, trying to STOP men and women from hearing the Good News, responding to the Gospel, acting in response, or representing the image of God. These are the areas in which the demons are interested. A battle is raging for the hearts and minds of all of us. But we worship a God who is strong enough to reach us, transform us and keep us:

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

J. Warner Wallace