Skip to comments.On Exorcism and Exorcists: An Evangelical View
Posted on 11/17/2010 10:49:20 AM PST by wmfights
A flurry of media attention was directed in recent days to a meeting on exorcism organized by Roman Catholic bishops. The meeting, held in Baltimore, drew fifty bishops and sixty priests who learned how to discern if an individual is truly possessed by a demon and how to conduct an exorcism when needed.
Rachel Zoll of The Associated Press reported that the program of the meeting was intended to outline the scriptural basis of evil, instruct clergy on evaluating whether a person is truly possessed, and review the prayers and rituals that comprise an exorcism.
Major media reported two different angles on the story, with some, such as Zoll, outlining the lack of enthusiasm among American Catholics for the rite and others, such as Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times, explaining that the handful of priests now qualified to be exorcists are overwhelmed with requests from people who fear they are possessed by the Devil.
Goodstein did report a significant hesitation on the part of many American Catholics and cynicism about exorcism on the part of many priests. Still, there is a growing demand among grassroots Catholics.
Not everyone who thinks they need an exorcism actually does need one, explained Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, the main force behind calling the event. Its only used in those cases where the Devil is involved in an extraordinary sort of way in terms of actually being in possession of the person.
R. Scott Appleby, a professor of American Catholic history at the University of Notre Dame, told Goodstein that the effort is, in effect, a way of the church stressing its hierarchical spiritual power, since only priests and members of the hierarchy can perform the rite. Its a strategy for saying: We are not the Federal Reserve, and we are not the World Council of Churches. We deal with angels and demons.
Bishop Paprocki said: But its rare, its extraordinary, so the use of exorcism is also rare and extraordinary . . . . But we have to be prepared.
So, why is there no evangelical rite of exorcism? We deal with angels and demons, too, right? The media attention to the Catholic meeting raises this issue anew.
Evangelical Christians do believe in the existence, malevolence, and power of the Devil and demons. About these things, the New Testament is abundantly clear. We must resist any effort to demythologize the New Testament in order to deny the existence of these evil forces and beings. At the same time, we must recognize quickly that the Devil and demons are not accorded the powers often ascribed to them in popular piety. The Devil is indeed a threat, as Peter made clear when he warned: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. [1 Peter 5:8]
The New Testament is also clear that very real cases of demonic possession were encountered by Jesus and his followers. Jesus liberated afflicted individuals as he commanded the demons to flee, and they obeyed him. Likewise, the Apostle Paul performed exorcisms as he confronted the powers of evil and darkness in his ministry.
A closer look at the crucial passages involved reveals no rite of exorcism, however, just the name of Jesus and the proclamation of the Gospel. Likewise, there is no notion of a priestly ministry of ordained exorcists in the New Testament.
The weapons of our warfare are spiritual, and the powers that the forces of darkness most fear are the name of Jesus, the authority of the Bible, and the power of his Gospel.
Evangelicals do not need a rite of exorcism, because to adopt such an invention would be to surrender the high ground of the Gospel. We are engaged in spiritual warfare every minute of every day, whether we recognize it or not. There is nothing the demons fear or hate more than evangelism and missions, where the Gospel pushes back with supernatural power against their possessions, rendering them impotent and powerless. Every time a believer shares the Gospel and declares the name of Jesus, the demons and the Devil lose their power.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no New Testament evidence that a believer in Christ can be possessed by demons. Tormented and tempted? Sure. But never possessed. Once we are united with Christ by faith and given the gift of the indwelling Spirit, there is no way a demon can possess us. As the Apostle John reminds us, Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. [1 John 4:4]
So, we should respect the power of the Devil and his demons, but never fear them. We do not need a rite of exorcism, only the name of Jesus. We are not given a priesthood of exorcists for every believer is armed with the full promise of the Gospel, united with Christ by faith, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Let the final word come from the Apostle Paul:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. [Ephesians 6:10-20]
“Not exactly- the gay and pro-choice groups are dissident at the minimal, to the point of de facto schismatic in some cases. Jesuits/Franciscans and all the other religious orders have different charisms or missions, but they all believe in the same faith. “
But we’d say that the Unitarians and the liberal Presbyterians and the homo staffed Episcopalians are dissident at minimal, absolutely to the point of de facto. We’d say that Bible believing Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc have different “missions” in a sense but we all believe in the same essential faith.
That was my point.
Roman Catholics often seem to hold that they are unified and Protestants are not. I don’t agree.
From my point of view your post #20 contained much wisdom.
But in terms of raw spiritual danger, I think religions which borrow Christian verbiage to dress up what amounts to a naked appeal to spiritual or theological pride are the most dangerous of all. Remember that it was pride that lead to Satan's fall in the first place.
Having seen the results of people who tread into the spirit world one can get a general overall view of where that road leads. Unfortunately many all too easily today are mislead to travel that road..and it is increasing in numbers who are willingly going there...and that who claim Christianity yet are not grounded in what God requires and or warns us about. Therefore many are targets and fall easily into counterfeit belief systems, who breath just enough Christianity to hook and then indoctrinate the masses.
The church needs to be warning of these as their are many infiltrations occurring in the body of Christ..... yet are today so preoccupied with building the programs and buildings on the backs of the saints they have lost sight of their mission to “equip the saints”. As a result without the “armor of God” and knowing what that entails and how to use it many more will fall prey to the wiles of the enemy of God.
Thank you for your post.
“Protestants — that umbrella terminology that is used by groups as diverse as calvinists, unitarians, anglicans, lutherans, pentecostals, christian scientists or even those saying they are the fruit of the reformation like Seventh Day Adventists or the 4th generation protestants like Mormons or other Great Apostasy theology proponents are unified in only one belief and that is not a belief in Christ in the Trinitarian sense... “
I agree. I think the use of the word “Protestants” is too broadly applied. “Protestants” in my opinion should refer to those who basically agree with the 95 theses posted by Luther. Instead, it basically means “not-a-Roman-Catholic.”
“All acknowledge the bishop of Rome as the primus inter pares and all share the same dogma and theology. Disciplines may differ (for example, in the Eastern Catholic Churchs, you may have married men becoming priests (but not priests getting married)), however dogma is the same.”
I know. But I still think there is a similarity, let’s say, between evangelical Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Methodists. We all share the same basic doctrines, encapsulated in the Apostle’s creed; we all acknowledge Jesus as head of the Church and the Bible as the only source of doctrine.
We differ in “minors,” that is, church government, and/or finer points of doctrine. But we accept one another as fellow Christians.
Baptist baptize on profession of faith only; Presbyterians baptize infants of believers. It’s a different “rite.”
“Thirdly, the politico-groups you refer to such as politicos are just that — political groups, no different than “Democrats for Romney” or “Republicans for Romney” or “Chinese Juggling belly-dancers with blonde hair choosing to dance the tango with Irish kathak dancers” —> these are not Churches or a Church dogma. They are purely individual initiative groups.”
Absolutely, and I don’t like them intertwined in the “Protestant” or “Christian” groups. Presbyterians for Choice are no more Christians than Gay Catholics are. They are just usurpers, who slap the name upon themselves and then behave horribly and agitate for evil, thereby imputing evil to the Presbyterians or the Catholics they claim to “represent.”
I don’t see schismatic or heretic groups as representatives of Roman Catholics; and I don’t like it when schismatic or heretic groups are accepted as representative of Protestants. It is not fair in either case.
Similarly, I don’t hold the sexually subversive priests in the news lately as representatives of Catholics; nor should the sexually depraved big name ‘evangelists’ in the news lately be considered representative of Protestants.
yes, that’s my point. Within each of these groups there is unity, but among the umbrella term or even in the particular sense you use it, there is a lot of diversity on basic dogma, which is why they are separate groups. If one don’t agree with Catholic dogma, one is free to leave.
Not really — between evangelical, non-Calvinist Baptists and Presbyterians and between Presbyterians and Methodists there is a vast gulf in the teachings on salvation for example. The basic dogma is not the same.
“Not really between evangelical, non-Calvinist Baptists and Presbyterians and between Presbyterians and Methodists there is a vast gulf in the teachings on salvation for example. The basic dogma is not the same.”
I’d disagree. We can all recite the Apostle’s Creed.