Accommodation theories are very popular today when it comes to the Scripture. No matter what the issue, if it seems to folkish, bizarre, or mythological, we can explain it by saying that God was simply “accommodating” to a contemporary way of thinking, not actually affirming the detailed reality of this stuff. Whether it be the story of creation, the flood, Paul’s admonition to women not to teach, a donkey speaking, the “fire from heaven” that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, or Christ and Paul’s reference to Adam and Eve, these all can be tagged with a nuanced view of truth: “Yeah, its true, but not really.”
Before you fall back in your chair, my conservative friends, we need to know that all Christians must accept accommodation theories. For example:
- We don’t really believe that Heaven is up and Hell is down (Mark 16:19). After all, which side of the earth do you have to be on for heaven to be up?
- We don’t really believe the sun really raises and sets (Josh 10:13). We call this “phenomenological” language and we are cool with it.
- We don’t believe that God has eyes (2 Chr. 16:9). After all, God, in his essence, is not material or spacial. He does not really have eyes. We call this “anthropomorphic” language.
- We believe that the Mosaic code (Law) was accommodated from a suzerain vassal treaty. This means that the code of the law as well as the way it was given was often culturally sensitive and not eternal ideals.
- We don’t believe that God’s language is Hebrew or Greek. We believe that when God gives us his word, he accommodates by speaking through man and the language of man.
The difficulty is that when it comes to accommodation theories, while we believe that God does accommodate, we don’t really know when to draw the line.
Here I introduced the specific subject of the post:
It is popular these days to give an account for the happenings in the New Testament concerning demon possession by reference to modern science. The idea here is that what the New Testament writers (and Jesus himself) described as demon possession was really nothing more than medical conditions that could today be described and treated by modern medicine.
Those who believe this and, at the same time, seek to maintain a high view of Scripture would say that the New Testament is not really teaching that these people were demon possessed, but accommodating the the prevailing notion of the day that they were demon possessed. Christ’s miracles, in this instance, were miracles indeed, but not in the way we think.
In this view, there probably is not such a thing as demon possession. Many would scoff at those who still believe in such saying, “Why are demons so scared of Zoloft?” They would look to the neglectful abuse of many Christians in the past who have sought to blame every disease, psychotic episode, and depression on demon possession when, in reality, they did not need archaic religious remedies, but modern medicine.
“Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end of divine things.” -Hippocrates
A couple of questions:
1. Do you think it is viable to say that demon possession was an accommodation to the prevailing worldview and not representative of the way things really were?
2. Where do we draw the line on accommodations?