In wake of the shootings at the Century 16 Cineplex in Aurora, Colorado, many news stories are now bringing up “Mental Illness.”
From a purely secular standpoint, they are on the right track. From a Biblical standpoint: Close, but no cigar.
Let’s call this what it really is: Spiritual forces of wickedness.
Jesus cast out demons, (also called devils, unclean spirits, or evil spirits). It is impossible to give an exact percentage for how much of his ministry dealt with this for a couple of reasons. Many times the Bible records the healing of “infirmities” without identifying the source. These could be organic or they could be demonic—we cannot know. Another reason is that passages like Mark 3:10 &11 simply refer to “many” demons being cast out. The point is, Jesus knew demons existed and He told His disciples to cast them out. It is likely that His ministry attracted more demonic activity than an average person might encounter, but nothing indicates that demons ever stopped tormenting people.
The apostle Paul delineated four categories of demonic activity in his letter to the Ephesians. These are:
1. rulers (principalities)
2. powers (authorities)
3. world forces of this darkness (the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age)
4. spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places (spiritual powers of evil in the heavenlies; spiritual wickedness in high places)
Because different translations vary slightly, the first term is the one used in the New American Standard, and I have given additional names used by other translators in parentheses. Additionally, earlier in this letter (1:21) Paul had itemized another similar listing, “Far above all rule, and authority, and power, and lordship, and every name having been named, not only in this age, but also in the coming age.: In the King James, it reads, “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”
The evidence shows that at least two categories of unclean spirits were at work in Aurora.
One level was personal concerning James Holmes. While not all mentally ill persons are demon-possessed, most violent psychopaths are. Our secular courts do not acknowledge that, but there is a lot they miss. The Batman shooter was wearing body armor, so I rest my case for the violent psychopath charge.
Another level has to do with upper-level forces of darkness. There is a demonic hierarchy. This is demonstrated several places throughout the Bible, but perhaps the best known example is in Daniel chapter 10 which describes an encounter between God’s angels and the prince of the kingdom of Persia. This shows that upper-level demons are assigned to geographic areas and oversee large populations. This is different than possession of just one person.
The Dark Knight Rises shooting is fairly conclusive: There is a demonic ruler of darkness assigned to this region of Colorado and its preferred Modus Operandi is guns. The Columbine school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, in April of 1999 left 15 people dead. Then in December of 2007, a gunman attacked the Youth With A Mission center in Arvada before fleeing 75 miles to the south and opening fire at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The death toll for these two incidents was 4. Quick action by Jeanne Assam, who carried a concealed weapon, was credited with keeping the count from going higher. It is interesting that Littleton, Arvada, and Aurora form a triangle around Denver.
It is probable that every major city has a demonic “world force” assigned to it. Because Denver’s seems to show up in the use of firearms and thereby attract heavy media coverage, it may be easier to see it at work there than some other places. For example, it would be harder to identify the influence of an evil or unclean spirit via pharmaceuticals because that method of destruction is more individualized— its mixture with legitimate drug use is more obscure, whereas illegitimate use of a firearm is fairly easy to determine; and because different individuals metabolize drugs with differing effects.
In Western culture, demonic activity continues to be labeled “mental illness.” Jesus told his disciples to pray for deliverance from evil. Matthew 6:13 A literal translation is deliver us from “the evil one,” and would by extension include all that Satan has influenced.
The Church gets pounded from both sides in this. On one hand she is harshly criticized for merely pointing out a connection between mental illness and demonic activity, and on the other hand she is criticized for not stopping it. A Dark Knight has Risen over Denver, and it isn’t Batman.