Part 5: Biblical Demon Possession and Haitian Loa Possession

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An analysis by Howard Culbertson of the parallels between Haitian voodoo loa possession and Biblical demon possession

Conclusion

     The question now is: How to interpret this data from the Bible and from anthropologists and missionaries? There are a lot of similarities between biblical demon possession and loa possession in today's Haiti. Are the parallels strong enough to conclude this is the same phenomenon?
     Arguing from a biblical perspective, Joe Schubert says no: "The solution which is most consistent with the total biblical teaching is that demon possession, though a first century reality, is not present in the twentieth century." 51 On the other end of the spectrum, Tippett says that all the characteristics of possession in Haitian voodoo "line up with the New Testament experience."52
     In this search for a conclusive answer, one encounters a caution by Henry Virkler, professor of psychology at Palm Beach Atlantic University. In an article in Journal of Psychology and Theology, Virkler says: "Nearly every symptom thought to be an indicator of demon possession is also found in psychopathology of nondemonic origin."53
     Approaching it from a non-dogmatic phenomenological angle, Graham Dow says: "A coherent understanding of certain behavioural phenomena is given by the demonic model . . . There is sufficient correspondence between the demonic model of perception and the data of human behavior."54
     Granted, there are some differences between the cases of biblical demon possession and the descriptions of Haitian loa possession. The similarities are so striking, however, that it may easily be concluded that loa possession is demonic on the model of the New Testament cases. Haitian believers and missionaries working in that country identify it unquestionably as demon possession. This identification has enabled them to deal with loa possession in an effective manner. The weight of the evidence does tip the scales in favor of viewing loa possession as a twentieth century equivalent of biblical demon possession. . . . [ continue reading ]


51 Joe Schubert, et. al. The Devil You Say? Perspectives on Demons and the Occult (Austin, Texas: Sweet Publishing Company, 1974), p. 22.

52Tippett, p. 164.

53Virkler, p. 99.

54Dow, p. 207.


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