Born-again Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, cannot be possessed by demons, theologians have argued.
One of those theologians is Stephen Wellum, professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
"My answer to that would probably be no," Wellum said in a recent video, responding to whether Christians today can be possessed in ways similar to the accounts described in the gospels.
"To be demon-possessed would mean one is outside of Christ," he explained.
"When you think of Christian salvation, it is depicted in Scripture as a transfer. It is a transfer from being in Adam, and the entire age controlled by sin and death and the devil, and being transferred into Christ. In Christ we are no longer dead in transgressions and sins, we are born of the Spirit, we have new life, we are forgiven of our sins, we are joined to the Savior, we have the power of the Savior," he stated.
Wellum affirmed that "Satan is real, demons are real, in our sin they can greatly influence us and even contol us," reminding viewers that in the Bible, Jesus casts out demons.
He argued, however, that "to think of now in Christ those who are forgiven of sins and born of the Spirit and have new life as being possessed by an evil, demonic spirit, is quite unthinkable. In a fallen state, yes, but in Christ, no."
While those in Christ cannot be possessed, Wellum noted that Christians do face battles against Satan. He cited the Apostle Paul, who says in Ephesians 6:12 that Christians wrestle not just against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers — those powers include that of the demonic realm.
Through Christ, believers have power over the "evil one," Wellum stressed.
"Even though we still battle in this world until the end, we still face trials and persecution and sufferings, Christ's Church is victorious, the gates of hell cannot prevail against individual Christians and the entire Church," he affirmed.
Robby Waddell, professor of New Testament at Southeastern University, an Assemblies of God-affiliated institute in Lakeland, Florida, told The Christian Post in an email on Friday that he agrees with the argument that born-again Christians cannot be possessed.
Waddell said that the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor "makes a good case for a Christian belief concerning demonic activity."
"His references to the various passages of scripture are sensitive to their historical and literary contexts, and (equally important) his readings are faithful to the Christian tradition. Rather than demythologizing the texts, Wellum accepts the enchanted worldview of the first century," he stated.
The Southeastern University professor noted that one point he might "quibble at" is the word "possession," which he said may not be the best term to describe characters in the Bible who were demonized.
"The differentiation between possession and oppression (or battling evil forces) is not as clear in the biblical narratives as in later theology. This is a matter of degrees of influence," he stated.
"So, according to Wellum, a Christian may be influenced or affected by a demon but not fully possessed. I wouldn't disagree, though Christian scripture doesn't explicitly make such a differentiation. Again, in my opinion, Wellum has provided sound theological reflection."
A detailed analysis of the question on the AG website notes that most writers have agreed that genuine Christians "cannot be possessed or indwelt by a demon," even though it pointed to some Christian voices, such as a medical doctor, who have offered cases claiming that Christians have suffered from demon possession.
The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry also stands by the argument that Christians cannot be demon-possessed.
"Possession implies ownership, and Christians are not owned by the devil. Instead, we have been bought with a price, the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28, 1 Cor. 6:20, 7:23). Also, a demon cannot dwell in the house of the Lord because of the surpassing greatness of God's glory and purity," the ministry wrote in an answer to the question on its website back in 2009.
"Darkness flees from the light. As Christians, we are the house of God (Heb. 10:21, 1 Tim. 3:15). We are indwelt by God when we receive Christ (John 1:12; 14:23)," it added.
"So, it would make no sense to affirm that demonic presence could actually inhabit a person who is also indwelt by God."