No, Taylor Marshall Children cannot be Possessed by Demons

The controversy begins with the interpretation of a Bible passage.

{20:13} And when the Lord your God will have delivered it into your hands, you shall strike down anyone who is in it, of the male gender, with the edge of the sword,
{20:14} but not the women and young children, nor the cattle and the other things that are within the city. And you shall divide all the plunder to the soldiers, and you shall eat the spoils from your enemies, which the Lord your God will give to you.

The men and teenaged boys were killed because, in that society and time, they would be enemy combatants. As for the elderly men, they did not have many frail seniors. Today, many persons live to a ripe old age because of modern medicine. In those times, not many persons would survive to be elderly, and those men who would survive would be healthy and probably contributing to the war effort. So the above verses instruct the killing of enemy combatants.

{20:15} So shall you do to all the cities which are at a great distance from you, those which are not among the cities that you shall receive as a possession.
{20:16} But among those cities which shall be given to you, you shall not permit anyone at all to live.
{20:17} Instead, you shall put them to death with the edge of the sword, specifically: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite, the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your God has commanded you.
{20:18} Otherwise, they may teach you to do all the abominations which they have committed for their own gods. And then you would sin against the Lord your God.

Why did God order the deaths of women and children in the case of those six peoples? First, God has the authority to decide when each person dies, even young children. He does not sin if he decides that they are to die. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

But the more specific answer is the same as the reason that the Lord ordered the Israelites to institute the death penalty in many cases, even for religious offenses — the Mosaic death penalty. God had an important plan to establish within humanity a just and holy people, to prepare the way for the Messiah, who would extend great mercy, love, and salvation to all. But human persons are so sinful — regardless of their race or ethnicity — that this task required harsh measures. Without the Mosaic death penalty, the Israelites would have fallen away from the Faith established by God, becoming like the pagan peoples around them. (See how something similar is happening today, with Christians adopting whatever teachings are popular in secular society, even abortion and grave sexual sins.) So the death penalty was necessary, at that time, to keep the Israelites on the right path, for the sake of the salvation of all.

Then, when Christ arrived, he did away with the Mosaic death penalty. It was no longer needed, once God became man and died for our salvation.

As for the above six tribes, if their women were permitted to live, they would marry among the Israelites and influence the men to turn away from Judaism to the pagan religions. If the children alone were allowed to live, who would care for them? In that ancient society, it was not easy for families to raise even their own children: no hospitals, not much healthcare, no police force, few laws, harsh living conditions. Many would suffer and die. The infants would not be able to find enough women to give them milk. The toddlers and other children would be too many mouths to feed for the Israelites, who were just now entering the land and had very little food and other resources. It was just not practical to save them.

Then those children who did survive to become adults might try to take revenge for the killing of their entire tribe, thereby harming the plan of God for the chosen people. Some would return to their ancient pagan religions, once they were adults. By then, they would have been living among the Hebrew people, and some would have much influence. Again, the Israelites might be led astray.

And, as I said, God has the authority to decide when anyone’s life would end. The young children all went to the limbo of the Fathers, as they died without actual mortal sin on their souls. They died in the state of grace, since they were given (as I understand soteriology) a baptism of blood before death. So they were much better off, from God’s point of view, than if they were allowed to live, to suffer, and to then harm the plan of God for salvation.

And why were the cattle killed? So that the Israelites would not give thanks for the cattle to the gods of those pagan peoples.

Note well: only God could order the deaths of these innocent women and children. None of the above arguments work as an excuse for human persons to decide to kill innocents. If God decides that today is the day that you die, that is not murder. Our lives are from God, so God owns our lives.

Theory of Taylor Marshall

Dr. Marshall has an alternate theory as to why God ordered all the little children of those six tribes to be killed by the Israelites. It’s just a theory; he’s not sure. But he thinks maybe all the children were possessed by demons. Oh, and also their cattle were possessed.

Dr. Taylor Marshall says this: “Demons can possess children and they can possess animals.”

No, Dr. Marshall, fallen angels (devils, demons) cannot possess children. God does not permit it. Even when a child in not baptized, the innocence of that child, being free from actual mortal sin, means that it would be unjust for God to permit such a possession. In addition, even an adult who is unrepentant from actual mortal sin cannot be possessed by devils, not unless God permits it. (Recall the story of Job, how Satan needed permission for everything he did.)

Did you not read the passage from Scripture which you yourself cited, Taylor?

{8:31} Then the demons petitioned him, saying: “If you cast us from here, send us into the herd of swine.”
{8:32} And he said to them, “Go.” And they, going out, went into the swine. And behold, the entire herd suddenly rushed along a steep place into the sea. And they died in the waters.

The demons were unable to enter the swine without permission from Jesus. Even the lower animals cannot be possessed by devils without permission from God. And why were these cattle permitted by the Son of God to be possessed? Jews should not be raising swine, as they are unclean animals. The cattle were (in all likelihood) being raised by Jews to make money by selling pork to the Romans. They chose making money over following their faith. That’s why Jesus permitted the swine to be possessed, knowing they would rush into the sea.

Jesus also permitted this as a teaching parable, in which the swine represent human person who live unclean lives. They end up being led astray by evil and so they destroy their spiritual lives.

Can devils possess children? No. They would need permission from God. For we see that even unclean animals can’t be possessed unless God specifically permits it.

So Taylor Marshall’s great idea is that God permitted all the children of all ages, from prenatals in the womb to infants and young children to be possessed by devils. He thinks that is why the Israelites had to kill them. And their cattle were possessed, too. That is one very foolish idea.

Taylor Marshall: “God ordered the deaths of children and animals in the last case because the men, women, children, and animals were possessed by devils. It would not be fitting for Israel to adopt demon-possessed children and demon-possessed livestock.”

God would have to be extremely unjust to specifically permit all children of those six tribes to be possessed by devils. And there would be no reason at all for God to permit this to innocent children. The idea of Marshall that their parents worshipped devils is wrong on two counts. First, the sins of parents do not reflect on the children, and so their sins do not cause God to hand over their children to literal demon possession. Second, the parents were not literally worshipping demons. They held to ancient pagan beliefs, which were very disordered. But the Centurion whom Jesus said had great faith also held pagan beliefs, that of pagan Roman. That is not the same as devil worship.

Dr. Marshall has decided that he has a better understanding of the Catholic Faith than Pope Francis. You know, it’s literally possible for a lay person to have a better understanding of the Faith than a particular Pope. But even if that were true, as in the case of John the Evangelist who had a better understanding than Peter, it does not justify treating the Pope with disparagement, nor speaking as if you have the role to judge and correct the Roman Pontiff. And in the case of Taylor Marshall, he absolutely has NOT understood the faith better than the Pope. His version of Catholicism is riddled with foolish errors, such as the discredited idea of perfect natural happiness in the limbo of Hell.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
* My books of theology
* My translation of the Bible
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5 Responses to No, Taylor Marshall Children cannot be Possessed by Demons

  1. Joshua says:

    But wasn’t there a case in the New Testament when, after His Transfiguration, Our Lord came down and cast a demon out of a man’s son, and the man said that his son has had this from his youth? What are your thoughts on that?

    • Ron Conte says:

      {17:14} And when he had arrived at the multitude, a man approached him, falling to his knees before him, saying: “Lord, take pity on my son, for he is an epileptic, and he suffers harm. For he frequently falls into fire, and often also into water.
      {17:15} And I brought him to your disciples, but they were not able to cure him.”
      {17:16} Then Jesus responded by saying: “What an unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I be with you? How long shall I endure you? Bring him here to me.”
      {17:17} And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon went out of him, and the boy was cured from that hour.

      The boy had epilepsy, and the assertion that “the demon when out of him” is figurative, calling disease to be like a demon.

  2. jbbt says:

    Ron, Mark 9: 14-29 appears to speak of a young man with a deaf and dumb spirit since childhood. Am I maybe misunderstanding this passage.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I believe that Jesus was speaking figuratively. Instead of explaining to the people how seizures and various medical disorders worked, He simply spoke to them in the terms that they would understand: {9:24} And when Jesus saw the crowd rushing together, he admonished the unclean spirit, saying to him, “Deaf and mute spirit, I command you, leave him; and do not enter into him anymore.” That’s a figure for removing the illness, which appears to be epilepsy. Diseases are not caused by fallen angels.

  3. Joshua says:

    But when His disciples asked Him “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” He responded, “This kind can only be cast out with pray and fasting.” That sound like a real spirit, not a figure of speech.

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