As one would expect, the New Testament treats the subject of demons in concert with some of the contemporary thought of the day. Demons were “unclean spirits” believed to have personalities with the ability to inhabit waste places and possess individuals where the afflicted individual’s personality was perverted and sickness could be inflicted (Matt.10:25; Luke.11:15-19).1
However, no matter how independent in their actions these demons might seem, these lesser spirits are in subjection to the “prince of this world.” Satan is the chief demon who is in direct opposition to God and God’s anointed people (Mark 3:22; Matt.10: 25; 12:24). The purpose, according to Jesus, in Satan’s opposition is to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
As such, an especially important aspect of Jesus’ mission was to “destroy the works of the evil one” (1 John 3:8). Jesus demonstrated this integral aspect of his ministry repeatedly as he cast out demons and healed the sick by his own authority (Mark 9:24; 8:16) as “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). Further, as the kingdom of God displaced the kingdom of darkness Jesus also empowered the apostles and disciples of that day and believers in general, to cast out demons and heal in his name (Matt.10: 1,8; Luke 9:1; 10:17; Mark 16:17).
Exorcism in Church History
The early Church Fathers, especially the Apologists, were fond of pointing to the efficacy of exorcism in Christ’s name as a proof of the true religion, “As they (the pagans) could not be exorcised by those who used incantations or drugs.” 2 As in the days of the apostles, early Christian exorcism consisted of the invoking of the name of Christ, that is to say, “a simple and authoritative adjuration addressed to the demon in the name of God, and more especially in the name of Christ crucified, was the usual form of exorcism.”3 As well, though not alluded to in the New Testament book of Acts or the Epistles, the making of the sign of the cross is also remarked upon by the Fathers.4
Later in the early Church’s liturgy, Holy Baptism (both for adults and infants) included the making of the sign of the cross over the one being baptized, accompanied by the use of exorcised salt, oil, and water, as well as breathing (exsufflatio) signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the laying on of hands. The rite of exorcism was performed primarily as a healing rite for a possessed person and as a vital aspect of the sacrament of baptism. The remnant of which can be seen in the renunciation of “all the forces of evil, the devil and all his empty promises” in the baptismal liturgy of the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).
Catechumens in the early Church were also exorcised as “a preparation for the sacrament of baptism,” as they were seen to be subject to the effects or power of the devil from the consequence of original sin.5 Exorcism was powerfully seen as part and parcel of the Christian mission validating the message of God’s reconciliation (2 Cor.5: 17-21) and healing in Christ to a humanity suffering from the ravages of the flesh, the world and the Devil. It was and is the gift of God freeing all afflicted from the effects of evil and intimately concerned with God’s mercy and grace to the afflicted, “a continuing sign of man’s Redemption.”6
The emphasis on the healing focus of exorcism is evident from a Gallican prayer of blessing of the minister of exorcism. “Holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, vouchsafe to bless by our servant N. in the office of exorcist, that by the office of the imposition of hands and mouth [you may deign to choose him, and] he may have power to curb unclean spirits and be an acceptable physician of your Church, strengthened by the power of the grace of healing.”7
Priests were not the only ones authorized to perform exorcisms in the early Church. Although in the Western church exorcists were ordained as priests to that position, in the Eastern Church priests were allowed to perform the rite without special permission from the Bishop.8 Laity as well were encouraged to pray against evil and exorcise evil as part of the priesthood of all believers.9
The rite of exorcism had not changed significantly during the Medieval and Reformation periods. It was included in the Roman Rituale of 1614. As of 1998 the Rituale has been “updated” and in 1999 translated into English. It is not without its critics from within the school of exorcists. Critique of the new rite of exorcism could be another article, however, and I will not go into it here.
The Rituale Romanum of 1614 was essentially the same in content as in the early Church with additional prayers for deliverance from the evil one included.10 The Roman Ritual included the traditional sacramental signs; the use of oil, salt, and consecrated water as aids to faith as well as the litany of the saints. The sign of the cross and oil was normative as well as the three-fold imprecatory exorcisms interspersed with deprecatory prayers for deliverance from evil.
Martin Luther certainly accepted the reality of the devil. While he was deadly serious about the existence of the devil, his earthy sense of humour was grounded in the gift of grace in Christ allowing him to temper his profound theological insight with such sound advice as, “Mr. Devil, do not rage so. Just take it easy! For there is One who is called Christ. In Him I believe. He has abrogated the Law, damned sin, abolished death, and destroyed hell. And He is your devil, you devil, because He has captured and conquered you, so that you cannot harm me any longer or anyone else who believes in Him.”11
In his Order of Baptism of 1523 Luther included, in keeping with the early Church, the exorcism of evil spirits from the initiate as well as the admonition for the baptized to renounce the “works” and “ways” of the Devil. 12 He also retained the acts of exsufflation with the admonition of “depart thou unclean spirit and give room to the Holy Spirit,” the placing of the consecrated “salt of wisdom” [upon the tongue], the anointing of oil and the anointing of the ears and nose with spittle while with the adjuration “but thou, devil, flee; for God’s judgment cometh speedily.”13
Unfortunately, all that remains of the early Church’s and Luther’s baptismal liturgies against evil is seen in the Lutheran Book of Worship’s Rite of Baptism “Do you renounce all the forces of evil, the devil and all his empty promises” (p.123). Even in the Roman Catholic Church, the opinion of the chief exorcist of Rome, Father Gabriele Amorth, was, “I believe that taking most of the exorcisms out of the baptismal ritual was a grave mistake. I am convinced that allowing the ministry of exorcism to die is an unforgivable deficiency to be laid squarely at the door of the bishop. As a result of this negligence, we now have lost what was once the school; in the past, a practicing exorcist would instruct a novice.14
As scripture and human experience attests, evil, and more specifically, the devil exists along with those angels that followed his rebellion against God before the fall of humanity. He has many names; father of lies, accuser of the brethren, Satan the adversary, the great deceiver, and many others. Throughout the ages the devil has been the enemy of humanity, especially the people of God. Jesus, the promised one of God from the beginning (Gen. 3:15) confronted Satan in the wilderness and resisted his temptations (Lk 4:1-13); expelled demons throughout his ministry (Mk 1:24; 8:16; 9:24) and “disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them” on the cross (Col 2:15).
The Reality of Sin and Evil in Human Life
On the cross and in his resurrection, Jesus destroyed the power of sin, hell and death and brought “faith, hope and love” to all of creation that had been until Calvary “groaning in labour” (Col. 2:13-18; Rom 8:22). In fulfillment of the promise given in Genesis chapter three we have been given the supreme gift of grace from God “who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).
The reality of original sin exists in our hearts and actions in the world through societies, institutions and nations. If anything, original sin is the most clearly seen truth of Christian doctrine and faith. The after affects of 9/11, child prostitution, street gangs in L.A, serial killers, theft, adultery, gossip and character assassination continue to plague our lives reaping the bitter fruit they have sown. Evil has always had its willing accomplices.
The Devil and his angels are unmitigated in their relentless pursuit and their goal “the destruction of those God loves. As Father Amorth reminds us, “Satan’s true goal is not to make you suffer or to harm you. He does not seek our pain but something more. He wants our defeated soul to say, “Enough. I am defeated; I am a piece of clay in the hands of evil. God cannot liberate me. God forgets his children if he allows such suffering. God does not love me; evil is greater than he is.” This is the true victory of evil.”15
In order to combat demonic evil we must first understand our own sin. As the Book of Concord relates, “Knowledge of original sin is a necessity. For we cannot know the magnitude of Christ’s grace unless we first recognize our malady” 16. Original sin, simply put, means that despite our priceless freedom our human nature remains fundamentally vulnerable to self-centred, egotistical actions. Our innocence is past. Eden is but a memory.
As Dr. Ted Peters observes, “Evil exists within us, outside us, and before us.”17 We are all cracked cups. And though Satan pre-dates the garden in his rebellion against the Creator, humanity is volitionally related to our first cousin, all of us “absolutizing the relative and relativizing the absolute” (Fr. Biztyo 1993)18 in our post-fall quest for power, control and status. Thus, as Dr. Peters puts it, “If we choose to get what the self wants, we are implicitly placing a higher value on what the self wants than on the good itself. We place ourselves in the position of God, who would otherwise determine and define what is good.”19
Consequently, there is a tapestry, so to speak, of evil woven between the realms of the visible and invisible, the natural and supernatural describing in a limited manner the “diverse manifestations of a seamless web of reality opposed to God.”20 It is a tapestry woven by a common rebellion to God, but not united by concerted intent. Sin or evil, of course, is not limited to Satan. Sin is experienced primarily in the negative acts and attitudes of humanity, which separate us from God, each other, creation and even from ourselves. It keeps humanity ensnared in guilt and spiritual blindness. In short, sin alienates and estranges us from our source of “life and well-being.”21
As the Book of Concord teaches, “Concerning the cause of sin it is taught among us that although almighty God has created and preserves all of nature, nevertheless the perverted will causes sin in all those who are evil and despise God. This, then, is the will of the devil and of all the ungodly.”22
Because of our wretchedness before God, the recognition of our darkness invites contemplation on the mystery of sin and human weakness in light of God’s reconciliation in Christ. Consequently, our ability to counter sin and evil, whether of our design or demonic, lies in our understanding of grace and our powerlessness apart from God.
Marva Dawn beautifully reminds us, “Even as Christ accomplished atonement for us by suffering and death, so the Lord accomplishes witness to the world through our weakness. In fact, God has more need of our weakness than of our strength. Just as powers overstep their bounds and become gods, so our power becomes a rival to God. As the Psalms and Isaiah teach us, God’s way is not to take us out of tribulations, but to comfort us in the midst of them and to “exchange” our strength in the face of them. By our union with Christ in the power of the Spirit in our weakness, we display God’s glory.”
C.S. Lewis wrote in his Screwtape Letters that there are two extreme responses to the question of Satan and/or demonic affliction: one will either believe in Satan’s existence or dismiss the question out of hand with some sort of naturalistic rationale. Despite the suspicion of many regarding the reality of demonic affliction,23 there are also a significant number within the Church today who not only accept the reality of Satan and the fallen angels, but are too quick to attribute events and circumstances to the demonic. Both extremes need to be avoided.
Failing to discern the true presence of the demonic or to ascribe demonic affliction where there is in fact none, is unjust and unhealthy for the afflicted in question. A faulty, superficial diagnosis doesn’t address the core issues of distress and runs the risk of possibly condemning the presenting afflicted to further torment. Seeing a demon behind every bush will not allow the individual to receive proper spiritual and psychological counseling and healing where it is truly needed. In either case there is the risk of possible spiritual and psychological damage to the afflicted.
Furthermore, in believing too easily in the dangers of the demonic and its supposed ubiquitous presence one runs the risk of being spiritually gullible. An unfortunate by-product of the North American Evangelical experience seems to be the phenomenon of the highlighting and extolling of the stereotypical “ex-satanic high priest turned Christian Evangelist.” The Church’s desire is to see evil defeated and people freed. However, this desire often overshadows the process, which includes the necessity of asking the hard questions in order to determine integrity and truthfulness. Being comprised of frail humans, simul iustus et peccator, the Church loves its superstars that have supposedly escaped the clutches of the satanic underground and cults.
Unfortunately, some churches and Christian publishing houses have learned their lessons the hard way as some well known Christian authors and speakers have been revealed to be at best unreliable, if not downright damaging to the faith. The ensuing debacle caused by Cornerstone’s reporters Hertenstein and Trott in the book Selling Satan regarding the well-known speaker and evangelist Mike Warnke is a case in point. The Church was simply too gullible. We have not always been “as wise as serpents” (Mt. 10:16).
It is my conviction, in accord with the tradition of the Church, that Satan and his fallen angels are indeed spiritual realities that can and do afflict humanity in various ways. It is well taught in the gospels, the epistles and by tradition, that those who are afflicted can be discerned as such and delivered from evil by servants of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Though we may be sure that our life in this fallen world is at times influenced by the demonic, it is most likely not as often nor as pervasive as some would assert. Many instances described as demonic affliction by various recent authors are most likely not.24 Many reported cases of demonic possession or oppression are examples of physiological or biological disorders and/or dysfunctional life choices (addictions), and their consequences.25 Nonetheless, it is especially important for those called as pastoral leaders to accurately discern the possibility of demonic influence amidst the pain of emotional, spiritual and physical woundedness.
As Christian exemplars, the clergy have a responsibility to be obedient to God’s calling and to the church at large to rediscover the biblical mandate to deal effectively with the reality of evil in its various forms, including the discipline of apologetics. Apologetics and knowledge of World Religions and New Religious Groups can inform and help in the process of discernment, which is both a spiritual gift of God as well as a discipline or tool refined through prayer, biblical and interdisciplinary study. The mutual encouragement and wisdom of the saints enables us to discern the influence of various cultic group’s theologies and practices upon people that may allow them to be influenced by the demonic.
The main training against evil human and preternatural occurs in daily prayerful reflection upon God’s Word, mature discipleship and humility in order to resist temptation in the face of life’s struggles. The one called to confront evil is well advised to know the territory before confronting the enemy, and he must know not only his weapons especially well, but especially himself, his sin and his saviour. As Jesus admonishes his disciples, “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt. 10:16). It follows that the exorcist ought to be a humble, mature person of faith. The exorcist must understand we are vessels of clay, weak and nothing apart from God’s grace (1Cor. 4:7).
Consequently, the exorcist must be aware of his own frailties and weaknesses. He should not too easily believe that a demon is present. It is important to the exorcist to search his own heart as to why it might be important for demonic suffering to be the desired diagnosis. Pride and fascination must be avoided at all costs.
In order to understand and minister effectively to those suffering demonic affliction, one must first have a biblical understanding of the human condition. Not understanding the dark nature that resides within the human heart of both the afflicted and the one called to heal is to be potentially open to demonic deception. According to scripture “there is no one who is righteous, not even one” (Rom 3:10-18), for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23) and all the good we do is but “a filthy cloth” in his eyes (Isa. 64:6).
Since the Fall (Gen.3), humanity has followed its own narcissistic impulses. As Paul reminds the Romans in his letter, humanity has “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Rom.1:25). Idolatry lies at the centre of the human heart. For as Jeremiah relates, “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse, who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).
As the Brief Order of Confession reminds us “we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” 26 “Moreover, the hearts of all are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead” (Ecc. 9:3). We are, as Luther reminds us in his commentary on Romans, curved in upon ourselves.27 Truly, by grace received in faith alone in Christ Jesus we are simul iustus et peccator. As saint and sinner, we continue to struggle against the desires of the flesh, the temptations of the world and the passionate hatred of the devil as he “prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (2 Pet.4:8).
Each person has a weakness, an Achilles heel if you will (often more than one, as addictions, like sin, tend to cluster, for sin and addiction are like kissing cousins)28 As Gerhardt Forde notes, “As sinners we are like addicts—addicted to ourselves and our own projects (On Being, p.94). We are all predisposed to our own dark predilections. Unless exposed to the Light of Christ in the life of faith, i.e. regular prayer, confession and absolution, and communion, these predilections are extremely likely to pop up to the surface like a balloon held under water and released. Periodic indulgences eventually lead to habitual, unrepentant sin and spiritual indenture and eventually addiction comparable to substance abuse, and equally as difficult to overcome.
Once tasted, sin’s dark pleasures are an intoxicating aphrodisiac, as addictive as crystal meth or crack cocaine. Habitual sin especially becomes closer than an old friend and we are equally reluctant to let go. If we are honest with ourselves, there are moments in our lives when we plan, not out of our naivete, but by dark design to “get away” with some secret sin, to indulge ourselves. We count on God’s forgiveness, the cheap grace that we confer on ourselves, to see us through to our next dalliance with sin (Cost of Discipleship, p.44).
For once we have entertained the possibility of sin, we have already lost the battle. Sin has gotten a foothold as Paul describes in (Eph. 4:27). We try to rationalize, “Maybe just this once and then it’ll go away” I can control it.” As Churchill was once reported to have said, “I’m not addicted to smoking, I’ve quit a thousand times.” Once it has a foothold in the doorway of your heart, getting rid of sin without Christ is like trying to get red wine off linen. One cannot entertain sin in the dining room of our hearts without its leaving its stain.
Succumbing to sin’s deadly sweet seductions we can find ourselves walking either of two paths. We can become either i) a person whose conscience, by the grace of God, convicts us of our sin, thereby urging us to seek forgiveness through confession and/or restitution or; ii) a person whose conscience becomes as if “seared with a hot iron” having neither empathy nor loving truth, self-sacrifice or authority (1 Tim. 4:2).
Our natural, human proclivity toward sin coupled with our society becoming increasingly estranged from God and the mushrooming of our desire, contributes to a momentum of evil within us, leaving us potentially vulnerable to demonic influence. As Father Amorth asserts regarding this day and age, “The first factor that influences the increase of evil influences is Western consumerism. The majority of people have lost their faith due to a materialistic and hedonistic lifestyle.”29 In our delusion of being able to control or manipulate sin, we falsely believe we have acquired power. But it is empty. It has often been said that “more” is Satan’s favorite word. In our quest for illusory success we seek more and more power, control, and knowledge—continually living to ourselves, sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire of self.
And so, impenitence embodies the spirit of rebellion prevalent today that leads to the increased possibility and susceptibility to demonic influence. Thus, where Satan gains entry into the living room of our hearts he unpacks his bags making himself at home. After all, to a certain extent he is family. In terms of what can be done; the person whose conscience is troubled and is not experiencing obsession or oppression of any type is a good candidate for spiritual counseling, whereas the one whose conscience is seemingly dead may be labeled a socio/psychopath (among other things) or, possibly an afflicted person requiring deliverance through exorcism. Some may require both as the presence of the demonic certainly leads to mental illness that may be difficult to distinguish from demonic affliction.
The Diagnosis of Demonic Affliction
One possible doorway for uninvited demonic guests in the living room of our hearts is unconfessed, nurtured, and rationalized sin. However, it is especially important to be sensitive to and watchful for the person who cannot or will not receive forgiveness—believing that God cannot or will not forgive him. This falsehood comes straight from the lips of the father of lies and those who in their ignorance or malice would deceive and lead others to despair.
As the Apology of the Augsburg Confession relates, “The consciences of the godly will not have sufficiently firm consolation against the terrors of sin and death or against the devil’s inciting them to despair, unless they know that they ought to stand firmly upon the fact that they have the forgiveness of sins freely on account of Christ. This faith sustains and enlivens hearts in their most bitter struggles with despair.”30
Of course, those actual sins drawn from the well of original sin are as varied as the multitude of humanity. Our sin manifests itself out of existential fear, anxiety, dread and our felt need for power, control and status in a world of fellow gods in the making. Sin operates primarily in the spheres of the relational (God, others and self), as well as in relation to the rest of creation. Without the grace of Christ it manifests itself through self-serving gratification and self entitlement, exploiting others and seeking after esoteric power often through involvement with the occult.31
Confession and Forgiveness vs. Therapy
As Dr. Lee Griffin contends, because of our present day infatuation with most modern psychological theory—a naturalistic understanding of the Christian faith that excludes the miraculous, and embraces a love of whatever is new—many pastors have abandoned the heart of the gospel, and neglected the life-giving power of confession and forgiveness. In the latter part of the 20th century ministers began to see themselves as pastoral professionals and as counselors. Problems were understood in the context of psycho-social dysfunction or fractured relationships — “mistakes” to be dealt with through understanding and resolution rather than confession and forgiveness.
Sin has become an archaic theological term even to the point where eminent American psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger decades ago asked the question in the title of his significant work, Whatever Became of Sin?. A therapeutic approach to sin is akin to putting a band aid on a broken arm, whereas confession and forgiveness brings miraculous life and healing.32
Most therapeutic models concern themselves primarily with the intricacies of human personality rather than with the core disfigured entity which human beings truly are. False knowledge about some “thing” replaces true knowing of “someone,” that is, Jesus and the power of life giving forgiveness through his gracious sacrifice. The essential problem of a secular therapeutic model to spiritual problems in relation to supernatural evil is that it is more problem-oriented than life-oriented. In stating this, I mean to point out that even the best therapeutic models tend to be inadequate. Because our human proclivity is to avoid pain rather than to promote true life through pursuing an uncompromised allegiance to that which brings wholeness, they all attempt to reconstruct, reconstitute or splint that which in reality needs confession, forgiveness, re-creation or re-making.
As such, one can confidently assert that we are more often in love with our crutches in life than we are with Jesus who invites us to carry our cross, die to self and follow him. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer so succinctly points out “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”33 It is threatening to confess our sin, for to do so admits our loss of control and power and reveals our weaknesses through our sin, sin which unless confessed acts like a teredo boring through our souls.34
No, therapy won’t do; only confession which admits sin and offers forgiveness which destroys guilt and brings freedom and life will suffice. Self-absorption is our foremost enemy. Exorcism is primarily a healing rite completely based upon God’s declaration of forgiveness in Jesus Christ through his passion and resurrection. Forgiveness and reconciliation are central to the cross of Christ. It is the power of God that destroys the influence of the devil and quells the power of all evil whether angelic or human. Forgiveness of sin is the only thing that can bring freedom to a soul that has as its core need: agape love through acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation with the Creator. It allows us to say what we are unable to say by ourselves, “Yes, Lord.”
History of the Individual (Family of Origin)
As the exorcist begins the task of discerning whether there is a need for exorcism a time of pastoral teaching and exploration will be required as many people are unaware of what is evil, being deceived by the enemy and blinded by their own sin. This being the case, the ensuing pastoral conversation should explore the family’s history in terms of any emotional, physical, verbal, substance or sexual abuse within the family or relationships with friends, clergy, and/or other authority figures. In addition, any history of family involvement with cults or occult beliefs and/or practices should be noted and formally renounced. If the afflicted has articles 35 used in occult practice present, they should be destroyed.
In the ensuing relationship, the pastor must explore past or present relationships, family history, involvement with false religions or cults, as well as unhealthy coping mechanisms and behaviours which may influence the presenting problem, such as addictions or family history of mental illness.36 Addiction, one might say constitutes the basic ontology of sin.37 It can be understood in terms of moral failings such as habitual lying, lust, blasphemy, etc. and not only in relation to substances, though one can and is often tied to the other as addictions tend to cluster together. The task of sifting through all of the above is daunting, as it will confront our own fascination with evil and the possibility of our own vulnerability to demon affliction.
Note that the presence of abnormal behaviour including any type of addiction, does not necessarily confirm a demonic presence per se, but neither does it exclude it. Furthermore, as the individual’s relationships are examined any unconfessed sins should be dealt with by pastoral conversation including the rite of confession and forgiveness.
Usually, the misdiagnosis of demonic affliction typically occurs when the classic or parapsychological marks of demonic presence are minimized in favour of the more easily manufactured psychiatric indications. Both types of criteria; parapsychological and psychiatric must be seen from a holistic perspective and not set against one another.
According to Father Corrado Balducci, one of the world’s leading demonologists, misdiagnosis normally occurs “when the source of a temptation is not immediately evident.”38 When ordinary temptations in life arise and slowly become overwhelming and constitute a disruption in a person’s life or a family’s life, there exists within us all, a proclivity to dismiss our responsibility and accord blame to others or to the demonic. Flip Wilson’s old line “the Devil made me do it!” becomes especially pertinent here. Balducci differentiates between those temptations, the sources of which are so obvious so “that they do not require a diagnosis” and those, which “without any precedent, (a temptation) arises suddenly and violently…”39
Again, as Balducci quotes G. Cavalcoli, “The thoughts and impulses that come from our own ego are experienced as our own; we recognize ourselves in them; we meet our own vices and evil inclinations…. On the other hand, thoughts suggested by the devil are experienced as coming from another ‘ego’ different from ours; that is, from another personality that on its own initiative speaks to us and proposes ideas or projects that we experience as new and foreign to our customary habits and inclinations.”40
Aside from understanding biblically and psychologically the reality of human preternatural evil, we must pay close attention to the need not only for proper and effective confrontation with demonic evil, but especially for the aftercare of the afflicted. All too often we are concerned more with the battle than the care of the person afterwards. I provide more pastoral guidance in my manual, Deliver Us From Evil, which treats exorcism from a Lutheran perspective and which contains my reflections from being in Rome for the course on exorcism in April 2015.
The territory of demonology and exorcism is a shadowland with great potential for misunderstanding and misdiagnosis, both for the pastoral counselor and the afflicted. So much more needs to be said in greater detail. For example, Dr. James Friesen claims that Multiple Personality Disorder “is most often found to result from satanic/ritualistic abuse”41 There is as well as the concern for proper documentation and evidence of demonic affliction.42 For instance, according to Father Malachi Martin, Henri Gesland, a French priest and diocesan exorcist in Paris, stated in 1974 that, out of 3,000 consultations since 1968, “there have been only four cases of what I believe to be demonic possession.” T. K. Osterreich, on the other hand, states, “possession has been an extremely common phenomenon, cases . . . abound in the history of religion.”43 The truth is that little official or scholarly census of possession cases has been made. While the assertion by Osterreich is true that cases “abound in the history of religion”, what is surprising is the percentage: .0013% of 3000 cases diagnosed as demonic possession in six years by the Roman Catholic Church. This is surprisingly low considering the frequency of demonic affliction reported by many in various charismatic and Pentecostal deliverance ministries.
Due care and attention must be given to the mandate our Lord gave regarding the demonic. The skills needed to address true demonic affliction are in dire need of acknowledgement and honing because of the lack of serious attention to the subject of exorcism in recent years—although I should add that the Roman Catholic Church has begun in the last dozen or so years a course dealing with the demonic and exorcism.44 Nonetheless, we need to preserve and teach the recognition of the distinctions between ordinary evil (everyday temptations and personal predilections to sin), and the extraordinary diabolical activities of obsession, oppression, infestation of a place and possession of people. Too much evil has been relegated to multi-national corporations.
If we are to serve the world, we must take into account the harm, both religious and psychological, that the ill informed and ill prepared can inflict upon a person when misdiagnosis prevails. If we are to serve the church effectively as ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we of necessity must be daily ensconced in the means of grace and in the life of prayer. In the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians, “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
Being healed of demonic possession or obsession is one thing, but maintaining this freedom is quite another. By disregarding the spiritual snares by which one was afflicted in the first place, the individual could be afflicted yet again and possibly more seriously (Mt. 12:43-45); for the devil hates to give ground to the kingdom of God.
And yet, ultimately, he cannot help but do so.45 The Light has indeed entered the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). The Lamb of God has decisively won the war, but battles are yet to be waged by the servants of both kingdoms. But this is the Good News that the dark kingdom cannot bear to hear, Jesus is Lord and his Kingdom will have no end.
- ^Judaica, p.1526
- ^New Catholic Encyclopedia, p.748
- ^Nauman., p.36
- ^New Catholic, p.748
- ^Nauman., p.38
- ^New Catholic, p.749
- ^Bradshaw, Paul F., Ordination Rites of the Ancient Church, East and West, pp. 222 – 224
- ^Bradshaw, p. 222
- ^Nauman, p.51
- ^Nauman, pp.209-215 It has last been updated in 1999 and approved by Pope John Paul II.
- ^Gritsch, Eric, The Wit of Martin Luther (Augsburg Fortress, 2006), p.55
- ^Leupold, Ulrich S., editor, Luther’s Works (Fortress Press, Philadelphia., 1965) Vol. 53, pp.96-101.
- ^Amorth, Gabriele, An Exorcist tells His Story, (Ignatius Press, 1999), pp.54-55
- ^Ibid., pp.108-109
- ^BOC., Article II: Original Sin, p. 117:33.
- ^Peters, Ted, Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994), pp.108-109.
- ^In conversation with Fr. Biztyo when I was at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. While I was in my first year in 1993 we were to choose a rite of the Church to research in our Liturgy and Homiletics class. I chose exorcism since only three out of the fifteen students polled informally one day in September believed in radical, raw evil forces opposed to God and his kingdom known as demons or fallen angels. Father Biztyo became a good friend who, as the diocesan appointed exorcist endeavoured to help me in my paper as well as my practical understanding. We had wonderful conversations as I coveted his library. May God be merciful to me, a sinner.
- ^Peters, p.27.
- ^Dawn, Marva, Powers, Weakness and the Tabernacling of God (Wm. B.Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2001), p.19; quoting from Yoder Neufeld’s, Put on the Armour of God, pp.123-24
- ^Peters, p.28
- ^The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans.Kolb, R., Wengert, T.J. & Arand, C.P. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000),.Conf.: 2, XIX
- ^The use of the terms, “afflicted” or “affliction” will be used in a general sense referring to all degrees of demonic influence, from the lesser of temptation through to oppression/obsession to the greater of full possession. In relation to the more formal categorization the terms infestation, oppression, obsession and possession shall be used.
- ^Rebecca Brown, Bob Larson, Lauren Stratford, Mike Warnke, etc. Each of these authors has been thoroughly discredited by competent counter-cult groups such as The Christian Research Institute, The Trinity Foundation and others. For example, in the video series The Final Battle, by Bob Larson, he supposedly exorcises probably the most polite demon I have ever witnessed, read or heard about. In this portion of the video I’m referring to, he is supposedly exorcising a demon from a woman. It seems that the demon has no knowledge of English curse words as the best the demon can come up with is, “I don’t like you, Bob,” in response to Bob’s questions and adjurations. The demon never curses or insults (let lone spin its head around or spew anything as it probably has to follow FCC regulations) and has the presence of mind to scratch its host’s nose during the expulsion, adjust the host’s blouse as Bob leans in and finally, smoothly flows between mental states and conversation from demon to host and back again as the demon and Bob discuss books (how the demon got the woman to get interested in the occult) and the demon’s techniques in manipulation and deception (one wonders if Bob remembers that Satan s the father of lies? I would also like to point out that not all deliverance ministries exhibit the simplistic viewpoint I decry. Many pastors or Christian psychologists such as Frs. Frances MacNutt, Corrado Balducci, Gabriele Amorth, Drs. Ed Murphy and James G. Freisen also place tremendous emphasis upon psychological and physiological evaluation in concert with spiritual counselling (see bibliography).
- ^RAD (reactive attachment disorder), OCD (obsessive- compulsive disorders), borderline or narcissistic personality disorders, etc or subsequent issues caused by family dysfunctions or abuses (verbal, emotional, sexual or physical), or simply an aversion to dealing with difficult personality faults or sins (control issues, reluctance to forgive, harbouring anger, lust, jealousy, etc) which may manifest themselves in violence, pathological sexual behaviour, and/or addictions (not an exhaustive list I’m sure.)
- ^Lutheran Book of Worship (Augsburg Publishing House & Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978), p.57
- ^LW, American Edition, 25:245, “If we examine ourselves carefully, therefore we shall always find in ourselves at least vestiges of the flesh by which we are afflicted with self-interest, obstinate over against the good, and prone to do evil. But it is easy, if we use any diligence at all, to see the depravity of our will in our love of sensual evils and our flight from things that are good, if, for instance, we are drawn toward lust, greed, gluttony, love of honour, and we abhor chastity, generosity, sobriety, humility, shame; but it is easy, I say, to understand how in these things we seek our fulfillment and love ourselves, how we are turned in upon ourselves and become ingrown at least in our heart, even when we cannot sense it in our actions.
- ^Dr. Gerhard Forde powerful book, On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, is an excellent resource articulating the brilliance of Luther’s theology of the cross. Pulling no punches, Dr. Forde likens sin to addiction admonishing us and distinguishing the theologian of glory and the theologian of the cross, “The theologian of glory is like one who considers curing addiction by optimistic exhortation. The theologian of the cross knows that the cure is much more drastic theologians of the cross know that we can’t be helped by optimistic appeals to glory, strength, wisdom, positive thinking, and so forth because these things are themselves the problem the truth must be spoken thus again Luther’s statement of the radical cure in his proof for Thesis 22: ‘the remedy for curing desire does not lie in satisfying it, but in extinguishing it.’ The cross is the death of sin, and the sinner. The cross does the “bottoming out.” The cross is the intervention. The addict/sinner is not coddled by false optimism but is put to death so that new life can begin.” (pp.15, 17)
- ^Amorth, Gabriele, An Exorcist Tells His Story (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), p. 53.
- ^The Book of Concord, trans. Kolb, R., T. J. Wengert, & C. P: Arand, Apology: 1, VIII, 85.
- ^And so, deep within, we nurture our sins, winking at ourselves in the mirror of our ego while sinning in the shadows. The light and freedom of confession is exchanged for the night of secrecy and dark fulfillment. As the Apostle John wrote, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).
- ^In conversation with Dr. Lee Griffin over two periods of study, in January of 2005 and 2006 in Port Angeles while writing this manuscript.
- ^Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995), p.89.
- ^A favourite analogy of Dr. Griffin’s: A “teredo” is a sea worm, which has historically been known to bore holes through the hulls of wooden ships. A long held negative emotion or sin can bore a hole through the hull of a human personality; an invitational opening is created that can beckon a spirit of the same dark ilk. Therapeutically, one does not exorcise a biological, a psychological or a characterological disorder; neither is it efficacious to attempt to counsel away a demonic affliction, though counseling should certainly be part of the aftercare.
- ^Candles, knives (athame) used in satanic and wiccan ritual, runes, crystals, tarot cards, books, diaries (book of shadows or record of ritualistic advancement and practice), etc.
- ^See Appendix A in my manual, Deliver Us from Evil
- ^“As sinners we are like addicts, addicted to ourselves and our own projects. The theology of glory simply seeks to give those projects eternal legitimacy. The remedy for the theology of glory, therefore, cannot be encouragement and positive thinking, but rather the end of the addictive desire.” Forde, p.94
- ^Balducci, Corrado, The Devil: Alive and Well in our World, (Society of St. Paul, 1990), p.105
- ^Ibid., p.105
- ^Ibid., p.106
- ^Friesen, James G., Uncovering the Mystery of Multiple Personality Disorder (Here’s Life Publishers, 1991), p.66.
- ^Peck., Scott, M., Glimpses of the Devil (Free Press, 2005).
- ^Martin, Malachi, Hostage to the Devil (Bantam Books, 1977, p.11).
- ^Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum, Rome
- ^“God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom cannot co-habit the same persons. Christ’s arrival means Satan’s expulsion. Wherever Jesus goes, one by one people are freed at His command from this grotesque form of bondage to the evil one.” (Article “The Decisive Encounter” by ELCiC Bishop Robert Jacobson.)