In 1973, movie theaters were showing The Exorcist adapted from the novel by William Peter Blatty. The movie featured Linda Blair’s screaming, a spinning head, and green vomit. It also contained a statement by the Roman Catholic Church on what demon possession is and who could perform exorcisms. Those who study the Bible in-depth will find that there are clear statements that Jesus overcame all forces not from God and that these things would cease. (See Zechariah 13:2, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, Colossians 2:15, and 1 John 3:8.) First Corinthians 10:13 says that everything that happens to us is a common experience of humanity. Demon possession requiring an exorcism is clearly not a common experience. James 4:7 tells us that we simply need to resist Satan, and he will flee from us. So why is there new interest in exorcism?
The new interest in exorcism is because people have found that they can make a lot of money by reviving exorcisms. They include both believers and nonbelievers. There is a stage play based on Blatty’s novel which has debuted in Los Angeles and London and is scheduled to go on tour. The Vatican has opened its course on exorcism to members of Christian denominations which have included Lutherans, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, and Pentecostals. The official practice of exorcism by the Catholic Church is governed by the 1999 Vatican document De Excorcisms et Supplicationibus Quibusdam which translates to “Of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications.” The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published it in 2017. They also sell online a book for $6.95, which is an English translation of the appendix of the De Exorcism manuscript and is titled Prayers Against the Powers of Darkness.
Those who minimize this new interest in exorcism as a byproduct of Catholic tradition need to understand that interest in the occult has grown. People write off the popularity of Harry Potter as an entertainment fantasy, but the number of people involved in the occult is huge. The Satanic Temple (which is a tax-exempt religious organization) has been effective in attacking Christianity. Requests for exorcisms in Indianapolis reported by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis exceeded 1700, and in Italy the number is more than 500,000 per year.
This false use of religion is as old as religion itself. In 1 Samuel 28, Saul goes to a woman who ran a séance to try to get advice in a battle. To the woman’s horror, the real deal (Samuel) shows up as a miracle. In Acts 19:13-16, a group of vagabond Jews try to use exorcism as part of their act, and the results are catastrophic. In Jesus’ day, exorcisms had a spiritual purpose to show the power of God over even those who were in spiritual trouble. Today, that purpose doesn’t exist. While Satan is alive and well on planet Earth and despite the new interest in exorcism, he is not allowed to attack us on a level that we cannot resist and overcome. (See I Corinthians 10:13.)
For a detailed discussion of this, see our May/June 2011 issue by clicking HERE. We also deal with this issue in video number 16 on our doesgodexist.tv website. Click HERE for the videos page.
— John N. Clayton © 2019
Data from: “The New Wave of Exorcism” by Stuart Vyse. Skeptical Inquirer, September/October 2019