Jesus would cast out evil spirits in people. Do we have the same type of evil spirits in today’s world that are described in the Bible? If so, how are they cast out and if not, what stopped them?
I’ve been expecting this question ever since assigning Mark as the gospel to read. I’m going to re-word your question in what I hope will be a friendly amendment. If it isn’t then please re-ask it next week and be as specific as you can. Here’s the rewording I’m going to work from:
What’s the deal with angels and demons in the book of Mark, and all this casting out of evil spirits? Is that something I should be worried about as a Christian today?
The book of Mark has many references to Jesus’ confrontation with those who are under the sway and power of demons/evil spirits. The author of the book of Mark clearly wants you to know that there is no contest of power between Christ and the radical evil in the world. It flees from the presence of the son of God.
From the beginning of the story of mankind in scripture there has always been mention of extra characters, the snake in the garden (Genesis 3), the angels who are sent by/or work for God (mentioned over 300 times in the bible), and the demons you mention in the gospel of Mark (even as early as chapter 1). What is often frustrating to many Bible readers is the lack of information about them. Scripture doesn’t give us their creation story, doesn’t give us an essay on how they work, and while there is reference in the Bible to some of them “falling”, we don’t have a play-by-play account of that story either. Yet they seem to play an important role in the Old Testament, here they are in the New Testament – in Mark’s gospel, and in the book of Revelation (which speaks of future things) both angels and demons are mentioned.
This nebulous amount of information has been the cause of a lot of good study and scholarly work, a lot of informed speculation, and mixed in with all of that, frankly what I would consider to be a lot of guesswork by a variety of authors in church tradition. To be quite honest, a lot of it makes for fascinating reading, but I won’t bore you with a long list of book reports. Instead let me answer the question by saying that after having read a good amount and having at least a bit of experience working in the church, that no, I don’t think you need to worry about them.
In fact, I would argue that a position of “not worrying” may be the best answer to this question, and here are the reasons. 1) There’s enough in the Bible to say that these ‘others’ do exist, but 2) There’s not enough in the Bible to explain in detail how they work, what their specific functions are, etc. Sometimes scripture reads like demons have a sort of personality to them (Mark 5:1-20) and other times they seem to represent the spirit of something (Ephesians 6:10-20). It is difficult to pin down what exactly is meant by that (one, or the other, or maybe both). 3) It is pretty safe to say, Biblically speaking that angels work for God, as disciples of Christ, we love God, God loves us, ergo—we don’t need to worry about angels, 4) I have yet to find a passage in scripture where a demon/devil/Satan-character wins in a contest against God. The take-home lesson seems to be: the closer we walk with God, the less we need to worry about whatever those things are. 5) All who have made a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ walk in the way that leads to life, they try as best they can to stay as close to God as they can so… they don’t need to worry about angels and demons.
Speaking for myself for a moment, there’s a reason why I don’t worry about these things. And that is because if I did worry, I imagine I would constantly want to know about spiritual beings. I would read and read, and I would worry about whether I was in danger from evil spirits, and whether or not this or that person that I visited with was an angel. If I did worry, I think I would be profoundly distracted from the two goals that Jesus sets out for us in the gospel of Mark: to love God with everything we have, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-34). Those goals have little to do with angels and demons, so I choose to let God do the caring about angels and demons instead of me. Just to make this answer as clear as can be, choosing not to worry, and choosing to be ignorant are two different things. I am not ignorant on the topic, but the topic remains a secondary concern.
I have had times, and know that there will be times in my ministry where I will be prompted to pray for someone’s protection, or to ask God to intervene when a situation seems supernaturally difficult. In those times I unapologetically use the biblical language of casting out what does not belong. But I trust that God will let me know when it is time to pray like that, and that Lord will provide the words when it is time to pray like that (honestly most of those words are provided in scripture anyway, so the more familiar we are with scripture, the better). Adopting this attitude, I believe, best allows us to be about what is most important (loving God and loving neighbor). It allows us to put the first things first in our walk of faith.