If seeing is believing and true faith manifests itself in action, then what we see, especially for the more suggestible of us, influences our behavior. Could it be that the Devil has been helped a little by pop culture's hypnotic, sometimes scary and sometimes seductive, depictions of his malice?
To be fair, one has to wonder how much entertainment has been inspired by the Devil—but that's another article. Cuneo believes that the entertainment industry directly stimulated the market for exorcism. Others do not give pop culture so much credit.
While films have generally increased awareness of the demonic, dramatic portrayals such as The Exorcist were "more a symptom than a cause," says Dickason. The media simply reflected the spiritual difficulties that people were experiencing because they opened themselves up to real demonic influences when they became involved with the occult in the New Age movement, he believes.
Still, it's hard to see the media as a litmus test for American spirituality. Goethe's Faust and Marlowe's Dr. Faustus warned against bargaining with the Devil. Most of today's entertainment has no such qualms; rather, the mass media love the demonic because it makes for lavish special effects and attracts the thrill-seeking American audience. Demons generate a sizzle equaled only by the Jerry Springer Show 's boxing matches, Hugh Hefner's girlfriends, and people eating bugs on "reality" TV shows. Take Michael Easton, a year-old businessman.
His conversion in did not stop him from multipartner homosexuality, alcoholism, and a drug habit. In the days when he was "drinking to get drunk" in , Easton attended a deliverance meeting in Montana led by visiting pastor Win Worley, a controversial exorcist, author of Battling the Hosts of Hell: Diary of an Exorcist , and then-leader of Hegewisch Baptist Church in Indiana. During the 30 minutes Worley prayed for Easton, evil sprits oozed out of him through "deep, heavy coughing, lots of tears, things coming out of my nose, a substance that came out of my stomach—it's just as if a faucet was turned on," Easton recalls.
Since that day 14 years ago, Easton hasn't engaged in any homosexual acts, he has stopped smoking pot, and the self-described "fallen-down drunk" hasn't touched alcohol. Worley also exorcised Thierer's demons. Thierer was a narcotics addict and dealer in when he spent 8 to 10 months "on the floor," he recalled in an interview with Christianity Today. Once Thierer got rid of his rock music collection, which he believes was blocking his deliverance, Worley wrestled "all kinds of drug spirits" out of the man who would eventually marry his daughter and take over Hegewisch Baptist's leadership after Worley's death in Since his deliverance in , Thierer's drug addiction has been gone.
Insanity and Demonic Possession in Patristic Thought
Arnold also tells a story of a successful demon expulsion. A college student had episodes in which her pulse would sometimes shoot up to or more beats per minute; she would black out and often end up in the emergency room. Cardiologists were stumped by her condition. Wearing a monitor to track her heart rate, the young woman stopped by Arnold's office one day to tell him that the heart condition originated when a demon startled her out of sleep. Knowing that she was under the care of a cardiologist, Arnold decided to investigate if there was a spiritual root to her condition.
He made sure that she knew Jesus as her Savior, and talked with her about the possibility of unconfessed sins and her background. Having eliminated these as causes of the woman's condition, Arnold had her ask Jesus for strength and told her to address any afflicting spirit by saying, "I command you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to leave.
I am a child of God and his property, and I don't want you. A "shuddering sensation" went through her body as Arnold, the woman and her roommate prayed for deliverance, the woman later told Arnold. At the end of this "power encounter," the woman recommitted herself to Christ and announced her allegiance to him, and "that was the end of her heart problem," Arnold says.
He admits that he still has questions why this took place, but "there was no doubt that something seemed to me to be a clear example of the reality of the demonic.
Demons attack Christians, but we have the resources in Christ to command them to go. While Easton, Arnold's student, and many others tell verifiable stories of dramatic turnabouts, an instantly cured illness or shedding of immorality doesn't necessarily signify demonic dismissal. Such seems to be the case with dissociative identity disorder, a condition hotly debated in professional and deliverance circles because of its link to another disputed subject, satanic ritual abuse. The problem, all agree, is telling a demon from its counterfeits. And when it comes to the methods of discernment, it seems, all disagree.
Some refuse to entertain the possibility that born-again Christians could be demon-possessed. But we need to move beyond asking if Christians can be demon-possessed. Most scholars agree that since possession connotes ownership, children of God, who have been "bought with a price," cannot be owned by the evil one. But the term demon-possessed is an example of poor translation. The biblical word translated demon-possessed is daimonizomenos and comes from the Greek verb daimonizomai , which should be translated as "demonized.
In his book Demon Possession and the Christian: A New Perspective Crossway, , Dickason says the etymology of the term demonization conveys "a demon-caused passivity," or control to some degree by inhabiting demons, not "possession" as in ownership. Along the same lines, Merrill F. Unger in What Demons Can Do to Saints Moody, describes demonization as control of a person by one or more demons, affecting both the mind and the body.
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Another Greek term used to convey demonic harassment is echo , meaning "hold" or "have," which, combined with the Greek for "spirit," creates the phrase "having the spirit," which is joined with "of an unclean demon" in Luke Biblical passages describing demonization don't say if the demonized were Christians or non-Christians though some scholars argue that some cases imply the demonized professed allegiance to Christ. A wide range of today's spiritual warfare counselors, scholars, and writers such as Neil T.
Anderson, Peter C. Wagner, Timothy Warner, Mark I. Bubeck and others from the International Center for Biblical Counseling , as well as Arnold, Dickason, Thierer, Barron, and the Orthodox Father David Barr, agree that believers can be influenced by demons and that the degrees and disguises of influence vary.
To complicate things, demonization may go hand in hand with a psychological disorder, physical illness, and sinful habits. Demonic invasion emulates the most ordinary symptoms. Christians must use their brains to learn from various disciplines , mouths to ask God's assistance and to ask discerning questions , and—yes—even the elusive medium of spiritual intuition to exercise discernment when examining claims of demonization.
No Christian group has so carefully laid down laws of demon discernment as the Roman Catholic Church. It has long maintained that exorcising someone who is not possessed by a demon and who is instead dealing with a psychological or physical problem can be dangerous. Some unskilled exorcists have ended up killing the people they attempted to help. The Archdiocese of Chicago's officially appointed exorcist, who prefers his name not be disclosed, works in close collaboration with physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists, Barron says.
The Catholic Church has set the bar so high that only demons can levitate over it. A Catholic exorcist looks for four criteria: superhuman powers or physical capacities e. How common are these instances? Very rare. The Devil, Barron says, is more likely to move through temptation, insinuation, and suggestion rather than the "strange, anomalous, mysterious thing" that is demon possession. Since his appointment in September , the Chicago exorcist has performed two exorcisms, Barron says.
Over 95 percent of people who asked him for exorcisms haven't qualified. Although Orthodox churches have no official demon policy on the books, monastics who occasionally perform exorcisms share the Roman Catholic Church's skepticism, says Barr, who has been an Orthodox priest for 13 years. Once "other causes" have been painstakingly eliminated, services of exorcism are granted. Besides these unusual cases, the Orthodox baptism service blesses recipients with three prayers of exorcism because those receiving baptism "live in a world influenced by the evil one," Barr says. Barr draws an analogy to describe the suspicion with which Orthodox believers approach allegations of supernatural intervention: "If an icon begins to weep, our first reaction is to wipe the tears off and say, 'Oh, probably something was spilled.
Why should an icon weep for me? Who am I? Arnold usually doesn't take claims of demonic manifestations at face value. So I take a multifaceted approach to deliverance. Talbot School of Theology students get their money's worth: Arnold brings his Ph. First, we need to get ourselves in that teachable place between credulity and skepticism.
There we can learn from the collective wisdom that Christians have accumulated over the ages. We should watch for paranormal symptoms, like levitation. We should consult medical doctors and trustworthy psychologists who don't read too much into things. The psychologists would eliminate dissociative identity disorder, an illness that may resemble demonization but more than that is a cry for help.
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We should refuse counsel from entertainers but seek out modest exorcists, the kind we find through word of mouth, who pray a lot, refuse to become media personalities, and admit they don't always know the answers. We should admit that in some cases we may never be able to distinguish between the direct and indirect ways in which the demonic may be attempting to thwart God's purposes. Over time and in prayer, we should look at family background, unconfessed sin, and level of suggestibility, as well as demonic "inroads"—ways in which humans invite, knowingly or unknowingly, the presence of demons.
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Once possible natural causes are examined, deliverance ministers will either recommend or discourage asking God in prayer to expel evil spirits. But even if we don't, we should remind ourselves of this wild truth: God, who is victor over both demons and their counterfeits, will come to our aid. Agnieszka Tennant is an assistant editor of Christianity Today. Click for reprint information. These unique Bible studies use articles from current issues of Christianity Today to prompt thought-provoking discussions in adult Sunday school classes or small groups.
The Catholic Encyclopedia also defines exorcism and examines its Biblical origins. Hegewisch Baptist Church has a frequently asked questions faq section on deliverance. Talbot School of Theology has a brief bio on Clinton E. Bob Larson's site offers information about exorcism , as well as a bio of Larson and audio archives.
One of the papers presented was Jerry Mungadze's " Spiritual Conflict in Light of Psychology and Medicine ," which says Christians have often been treated as demonized when suffering from psychological or psychiatric illness. At the March Northwest Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, participants discussed models of spiritual warfare.
Several of the papers presented and discussed at that meeting are available online, including Elliot Miller's " Deliver Us from Deliverance Ministry ," Clinton E. Christianity Today's sister publication Christian Reader offered a first person account of battling demons in modern Japan.
Michael W. Demon Possession and the Christian by C. Fred Dickason is available from ChristianBook.