New Interest in Exorcism

New Interest in ExorcismIn 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

Demons Cannot Make Us Act Against Our Will

Demons Cannot Make Us Act Against Our Will
Yesterday we stated that a careful study of the Bible and some common sense make it clear that you and I are not in danger of being taken over by a demon. In other words, demons cannot make us act against our will. We have free will to choose our actions. There are six reasons why that is true:

#1) Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “was tempted in ALL points as are we.” You don’t need to be biblical scholars to know that Jesus was never tempted by being demon possessed and never needed an exorcism.

#2) There is no warning to the early Church in scriptures about demon possession. The New Testament is full of warnings about things. Read Acts 20:27, Acts 20:31, 1 Corinthians 4:14, Colossians 1:28, and 1 Peter 1:3. These are realistic threats, and ones that we have seen become a problem. Nowhere is there a warning about demons. We see people do horrible things, and we see greed and selfishness express themselves in terrible events. We have also seen mental illness cause suffering. Those things are the result of human weakness, abuse, or neglect. They are not involuntary takeovers by demonic forces.

#3) The Bible gives us cures for Satan’s attacks on us. James 4:7 tell us to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Ephesians 6:12-18 tells us that God has given us armor “that you may be able to withstand the evil day having done all to stand.” God has never put us into a situation where he could not resist evil. Demon possession even occurred in defenseless, innocent children in biblical times. (See Matthew 17:18 and Mark 9:24).

#4) God has promised Christians protection from anything that could cause us to lose our soul. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us nothing can happen to us that hasn’t been experienced by others and that there is always a way out of anything that could destroy us. Demon possession is certainly not “common to man.” Revelation 20:1-3 gives us assurance that God can control Satan and make good on the promise that demons cannot make us act against our will.

#5) The methodology of exorcism in the Bible is nothing like what happens in today’s world. The exorcisms that I have seen took hours and involved incredible psychological pressure on the “possessed.” In biblical times the process took seconds and generally involved one command. There were no regressions in people who experienced exorcism. In today’s world regression is very common.

#6) Perhaps most importantly is the fact that demon possession violates the entire Bible in that it defeats our capacity to choose. It violates our free moral choice. Joshua said, “Choose you this day who you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15). That admonition is violated if a person involuntarily is forced to obey Satan and evil. Philippians 2:12 tells us to choose to find salvation, but leaves it up to us to do it. Demons cannot make us act against our will.

Every judgment scene revealed in the Bible shows people answering their judgment by how they lived and what they chose to obey. (See John 20:31 and Mathew 25:31-46.) From Job to Paul we see the principle of freedom of choice. Demons cannot make us act against our will. Nobody at the judgment will be able to say that they had no choice, or as comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it.” We make our own choices, and God does not allow us to foist our imperfections off on something over which we had no control.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Demon Possession and Exorcisms Today

Demon Possession and Exorcisms Today
An often discussed biblical subject is whether demons can possess people today and whether certain religious leaders can perform exorcisms. The Catholic priest, John J. Nicola, who was the adviser to the 1973 film “The Exorcist” gave what is perhaps the best definition of demon possession: “In the case of demonic possession the use of free will and intellect has been suspended. The person is no longer responsible for his or her actions.” What about demon possession and exorcisms today?

When someone does something horrible, like the recent shootings that have taken the lives of innocent people, are they possessed by demons? Is this a risk for you and I in today’s world? I have personally witnessed exorcisms and have talked to people who sincerely believed they had been demon possessed. This discussion is not about whether or not these things happened in the time of Christ and the apostles. Miracles and events the Bible describes cannot be repeated and tested. Demon possession and exorcisms are among them. The question is whether they occur today. What does the Bible actually say about this subject?

Demon possession was a New Testament phenomenon and is not present in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for demon is “shaidim” and is only used twice in the Old Testament – in Deuteronomy 32:17 and in Psalms 106:37. The context of both of these passages is about idols. In the New Testament the Greek word used is “deimonion” and is used several times to describe many symptoms – some violent and some passive such as in Acts 16:16-19. People sometimes notice these descriptions sound like things that happen today, such as epileptic seizures or mental illness.

At the beginning of the Church, the apostles needed to demonstrate that they had knowledge of and authority over all realms of human experience. That included the spiritual world. When people tried to provide fake exorcisms, the results were catastrophic. (See Acts 19:13-16). Once the Bible was available to answer spiritual questions, there was no need for exorcisms or miracles for that matter.

The prophecies of the Old Testament and the statements of the New Testament indicate that demon possession and exorcisms would end. (See Zechariah 13: 1-4, Colossians 2:15, and 1 John 3:8.) First Corinthians 13:8-10 indicates that when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. Second Timothy 3:15-17 says that the Word of God is perfect. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that we don’t have to wait until we are in heaven to have contact with God’s perfect will.

Demon possession and exorcisms have no place in the lives of people today. A careful study of the Bible and some common sense make that clear. You and I are not in danger of being taken over by a demon with the power to remove our ability to choose our actions. There are six reasons why that is true, and we will examine those reasons tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

“Demons and Reality” Brings Reactions

Demons and Reality

We nearly always get some mail about any article we have in our quarterly journal. In the second quarter of 2017, we published an article titled “Demons and Reality.” In it, we discussed the question of what demon possession is about, and whether it happens in today’s world. We gave seven reasons why demon possession does not happen today, based on the Bible and the evidence. You can read the article online.

One of the points we made was that Jesus was tempted in every way we are. (See Hebrews 4:15.) We said, “No one has ever suggested that Jesus was demon possessed.” We received an objection to that statement because in Matthew 12:24 the Pharisees claimed that Jesus was casting out demons “by Beelzebub.” Beelzebub is a Hebrew word that means “lord of the flies.” Beelzebub was a heathen deity to which the Jews ascribed supremacy among evil spirits. First, the accusation was false. Then, notice that the statement is not that Jesus was possessed and had to have an exorcism to cast a demon out of him. What the Pharisees accused Jesus of was using the power of the heathen deity to do demon exorcisms. That is a far cry from having a demon overtake a person and, against their will, cause them to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise.

We heard from some others who claimed to have witnessed everything from voodoo to ghost habitations to spirit murders. In our world, violence is equated with entertainment and technology can place us in unreal environments. Almost anything can be invented and carried out by the human mind. People can produce illusions that are convincing. Don’t buy into these claims and scams. Rely on God and His Word. We would repeat the conclusion of the “Demons and Reality” article:

“God is a rational God, and He wants us to come to Him out of love and with feelings of gratitude and thanksgiving. We are to be new creatures, not just creatures purged of a perceived problem by a human not authorized by God to do so. The Bible tells us, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation’ and ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’ God allows you to choose ‘this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”’ (Acts 2:36-41; Philippians 2:12; and Joshua 24:15.)
–John N. Clayton © 2017