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The Church’s Wounded Tradition of Exorcism and Deliverance

This guest article is a chapter adapted from America in Danger, Left and Right: Biblical Analysis, Actions and Intercessions for the Current Crisis (2022), by William De Arteaga.

To introduce his book and this chapter, William De Arteaga writes:

America in Danger, Left and Right: Biblical Analysis, Actions and Intercessions for the Current Crisis, gives the historical background to our woeful spiritual and political situation. Part One studies the decades-long takeover of the American educational institutions by political radicals who have contempt for the American traditions of free speech and a democratic, free-market society. The Left Radicals are deeply influenced (demonized) by Marxists ideas, such as its profound hatred for the bourgeois. This has caused both economic destruction and mass murder. A large intercessory prayer campaign coupled with and understanding, and practice of deliverance ministry is needed to reverse the awful state of the universities. Unfortunately, deliverance ministry and exorcism are little understood by many elements of the Church. The chapter featured by PneumaReview.com covers this issue.

The second part of the book examines the spiritual damage done to America by the drift in the Republican Party as many of its leaders embraced the demonized writings of Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged, etc.). This has led the Republican Party to forsake the needs of the poor and become subject to the judgement of God (Isaiah 1-29). Further, I believe President Trump has caused additional, serious damage to the soul of the nation by his immoral behaviors, behaviors often excused by Evangelicals, as in his continuous reviling of his opponents (1 Cor 6:9-10).


 

Chapter 11: The Church’s wounded tradition of exorcism and deliverance

 

Doing deliverance as in the Bible

After my entry into the Charismatic Renewal, I developed an interest in the ministry of exorcism. I set a goal to write a book on the different approaches to exorcism and deliverance: Catholic, Pentecostal/charismatic, and Protestant. I did much reading and cassette listening in this area and performed several exorcisms as a lay charismatic. This was the Lord’s way of showing me the literature I was reading was accurate. By divine inspiration (and protection) I put aside that project. I believed I needed more time and spiritual maturity. I was right. But the knowledge I gained helped me on more than one occasion as a pastor, and when ministering at the public prayer station our church had pioneered. We took the prayer station to “little Five Points” in Atlanta, a neighborhood populated by ex-hippies and New Age folk.

About the third or fourth Saturday at the Little Five Points, Carolyn, my wife, and I were standing by our prayer station sign, and two other prayer intercessors were a few yards away on folding chairs we had brought. We left a nearby park bench to the locals. A tall, African American passed by, and I gave my usual invitation for prayer, “Do you need prayer for anything today?” [1] He stopped and considered for a second, and then stepped up to the prayer station. “Yes, I have a neighbor who is addicted to drugs, and it is ruining his life.”

Carolyn and I prayed for his neighbor in proxy, by laying hands on Tom (that was not his name). I rebuked the spirit of addiction and asked the Lord to totally set him free. The supplicant was happy with the way we prayed and went off thanking us. I resumed my invitations to other passersby.

Ten minutes later he returned and confessed that he also had a serious drug problem. That is not an uncommon pattern at the prayer station, as many persons are reluctant to share their most pressing or embarrassing need to total strangers. But our prayers had convinced him that we could be trusted. He shared his tragic story. He was an engineer and well on his way to the American Dream. But he became addicted to cocaine, and lost his job and family, and now was on the edge of skid row. He had been a church-going man, but after his wife left him, he stopped attending.

We invited him to sit at the nearby bench and asked if he would let us pray for him by casting out the demons of addiction and anything else in him. He agreed. I motioned the other team members to join us. Carolyn and another team member began praying in tongues. After a few moments, I began, “In Jesus’ name I come against any and all evil spirits inhabiting and harassing Tom! I come against the spirit of addiction and I command you OUT!”

Tom shook as if he was struck by some invisible object. Carolyn immediately added, “Spirit of despair.” She was functioning with the gift of discernment of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10) and I commanded, “In Jesus name, spirit of despair, come out!” Again, Tom shook. Carolyn injected, “Spirit of suicide.” I continued, “Spirit of suicide, leave NOW!” Again, Tom quaked. “Anymore?” I asked Carolyn. She prayed in tongues for a few seconds, “Spirit of rejection, from childhood.”

I continued, “Foul spirit of rejection, leave now in Jesus’ name!” Tom shook yet again. “More?” I asked. Carolyn answered, “I don’t see anything else.” I stepped up to Tom and laid my hand on his head. “In Jesus’ name, I ask the Holy Spirit to flow into you, and fill every empty space that the demons occupied. I command your neurological system, especially the brain, to be cleansed of all addiction to cocaine or any other drug.” As I was praying this, I could feel the energies of God flowing into Tom. His face came alive with surprise and joy.

A few moments later he got up, declaring, “I feel like a new man. I am completely … free.” We prayed for him a little longer, asking the Lord to restore his career and family. I counseled him that he must go back to church to get Christian fellowship and continued support to rebuff any demonic re-infestation. Tom agreed and walked away thanking us and praising the Lord. I never heard from Tom again, so I can’t affirm that his deliverance stuck, or if he allowed the spirits to come back in and finish the ruination of his life (Matt 12:43-45). But I can affirm that he was delivered that day.

Tom was not a student radical, and assuredly it will be more difficult to get a radical to accept deliverance, but with the Lord’s help and intercessory support of local churches such ministry is doable. Certainly, those ministering in the universities and especially among the street radicals should not be afraid or shy to minister exorcism/deliverance. Tom’s deliverance occurred back in 1987. Since then. I have had a half dozen others, but always in the setting of a church, and most after I was ordained as an Anglican priest.[2]

Several years ago, I was ready to do the first draft of this chapter, I thought I would state that such public exorcisms are imprudent, and the successful case of Tom’s exorcism was due to God’s grace overcoming my youthful indiscretion. Rather, deliverance/exorcisms should be done with preparation and care, and at least in privacy and possibly with medical screening beforehand, etc. In effect, a prayer station deliverance should not be done.

But I received a check in my spirit about taking this approach. I was reminded by the Holy Spirit of the exorcisms in the Gospels. In the New Testament exorcisms were done by Jesus, his Apostles and disciples in public. Exorcisms occurred as immediate, unplanned confrontations when the demonic showed up. In fact, in the first ministry campaign Jesus’ disciples reported back with great joy that they had healed the sick and cast out demons (Luke 10:17). There was no hint there of special preparations, ministry ordinations, or of privacy concerns which have become a modern fetish. Rather, exorcism was an integral part of the healing ministry. In the Gospels, when a person is sick from a disease, hands are laid on for the disease to be healed (in the command mode), but when the sickness or disorder is due to a demon, the demon is cast out, also in command mode. It is all a seamless ministry of restoring wellness.

As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give (Matt 10:6-8).

Similarly, in the early church, exorcism was a lay matter in the hands of those gifted in that ministry. Irenaeus of Lyons, Bishop and writer against heretics wrote:

“Those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform miracles, so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe in Christ and join themselves to the Church … others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole.[3]

 

Contemporary views of Exorcism and deliverance

Our attitude towards exorcism and deliverance ministries, and our ability to accept the plain Biblical evidence, has been distorted by multiple factors. In the secular West there is a strong prejudice to disbelieve in the reality of the supernatural and reduce demonic manifestations to instances of abnormal psychology. Not surprisingly, the poverty of Protestant tradition on exorcism produced by the theology of cessationism has left little to say about the topic. This leads many Protestant ministers, especially those influenced by liberal theology, to dismiss demonic activities and manifestations as psychological abnormalities.[4]

The predominance of the Roman Catholic traditions on exorcism, as portrayed in the film “The Exorcist,” has sown certain distortions. In fact, it is among the Pentecostals and charismatics that the Protestant wing of Christianity has substantially recovered a robust and Biblical practice of exorcism and deliverance as a routine practice. [5]

The confusion about exorcism and deliverance is exacerbated by a raging theological divide, fueled mostly by the non-charismatic evangelical wing of Protestantism. Certain evangelicals claim that a Christian cannot possibly be possessed or infected by demonic entities. The constant experience of ministers who venture out in this field should put that theory to rest. Cases like Tom, i.e., persons who are Christian but have slid in their spiritual lives, come up frequently. Scripturally, the account of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-3) a born-again and Spirit-filled couple in the Jerusalem Jewish/Christian community who let Satan “fill their hearts” is Biblical proof enough that at times Christians need deliverance ministry.

A limited recovery of exorcism and deliverance ministry in Protestantism came via nineteenth century Protestant missionaries in Asia and Africa. These missionaries encountered societies where the Gospel had never been preached and the demonic presence was overt. A famous example of this was the work of the Rev. John Nevius, perhaps the most distinguished American missionary in a century filled with heroic and dedicated missionaries. He came to China out of seminary a convinced cessationist, as all of his colleagues.

However, he was led by the example of his own converts to abandon this belief. They read the Bible simply and without its cessationist overlay, and understood that demons were real, and could be exorcised by the name of Jesus for the healing of their friends and neighbors. This was a general pattern for many missionaries in Asia and Africa. The native lay exorcists not only taught the ministry of exorcism to their Protestant missionary teachers, but also did most of the actual ministry in this area.[6]

That lesson from the 1900s was mostly ignored or rationalized away as pertaining only to non-Christian countries, and therefore unnecessary in Europe and America. It was forgotten until a few evangelical scholars half a century later began a new series of investigation into the occult and demonology.[7] Many mainline ministers, especially of the liberal persuasion, still dismiss the matter of the demonic and exorcism as mere “superstition” or misdiagnoses of abnormal psychology.

The Catholic tradition has many good points and is especially useful in dealing with persons who are seriously infected by the demonic or “possessed.” That is, a person’s behavior is dominated by a demonic spirit, and which may manifest in bizarre phenomenon. This was well represented in the movie the “Exorcist,” based on the book of the same name, and which in turn was based on a real case.[8] Such total possession is very rare (and very destructive). I personally have never encountered anything that severe, but the literature on such severe possessions is consistent throughout the ages and should not be doubted even if it makes one uncomfortable.

But the Catholic understanding of possession and exorcism, with the priest as lead minister, leaves unanswered and under-ministered the whole issue of lesser states of demonic infestation. For instance, Tom, the engineer, was not “possessed” in the classic sense, but he had a spirit of addiction and other spirits. The Catholic lack in this area came home to me when I watched the excellent PBS program “The American Experience” on President John Kennedy. As president, and even before, he had repeated trysts and affairs in spite of having a beautiful wife. Kennedy was asked by a friend why he had so many of these, and he answered, “I am compelled to do that…”[9] President Kennedy was not “possessed” in the Catholic definition of the word, but he did need serious deliverance ministry for a spirit of fornication, adultery and other attaching spirits. No priest or anyone else ministered to him in that way, and more than likely would have defined Kennedy’s situation as needing repentance, confession and the practice of self-control, but not an issue needing deliverance ministry.

In summary, the Church’s ministry of deliverance, through its various denominations, has much that is effective and useful, but it is not yet what it should be. Ministering to the demonized radicals will not be easy and will have to be improvised from elements already known and practiced by different denominations. It is also true that one cannot do a deliverance on someone who does not want it or believe they are demonically influenced. Thus, deliverance ministry will come after intercessory prayer and demonstrating the power of the Gospel through signs and wonders, such as in healing miracles. But it must be done, and Christians do not have the luxury of shying away from the ministry of deliverance because it makes them uncomfortable, or their denomination has no tradition for it.

 

 

Suggested readings on deliverance/exorcism

Deliverance/exorcism is not rocket science, and in fact it is very exciting and inspiring once one understands the authority that every Christian has over the demonic. Following are excellent sources:

Randy Clark. The Biblical Guidebook to Deliverance (Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2015).

Terrific and practical.

James Kallas. The Satanward View: A Study in Pauline Theology (Philadelphia, Westminster, 1966).

Sadly, this work is out of print and hard to get. It is a masterpiece of Biblical theology which shows how central battling the demonic is to the Gospel. Kallas also shows that Paul understood Jesus’ ministry as principally that of undoing the havoc and sin produced by Satan’s intrusion into the earth. [Editor’s note: A link to the 2020 reprint from Wipf and Stock has been added.]

Francis MacNutt. Deliverance from Evil Spirits (Chosen: 1995).

Marvelously balanced and intelligent view of the demonic and the Christian’s responsibility to do deliverance ministry as part of the healing ministry.

John L. Nevius, Demon Possession and Allied Themes (London: George Redway, 1897).

Modern editions in print. This classic work is worth reading today.

 

This chapter from America in Danger, Left and Right: Biblical Analysis, Actions and Intercessions for the Current Crisis (2022) is adapted with exclusive additions by the author. Used with permission.

 

 

Notes

[1] This is taken from my book, The Public Prayer Station.  [Editor’s note: See the review by Rev. Catherine M. Miller.]

[2] In the Western Church, especially after the Middle Ages, the ministry of exorcism was restricted to ordained clergy. Pentecostals do not put much credence in ordination as a criterion for the ministry of exorcism and recognize the ability to cast out demons as a universal Christian characteristic, although certain person are recognized as especially gifted in this ministry.

[3] Irenaeus, Against Heresies.

[4] On the important, and lamentably ignored, issue of confronting the kingdom of Satan as one of the chief duties of the Church, see the classic work by James Kallas, The Satanward View: Studies in Pauline Theology (Philadelphia, Westminster, 1966).

[5] There is a recent work that covers the topic of comparative exorcism ministry, including the Protestant variety, but it is marred by a bias against the Pentecostal tradition: James M. Collins’, Exorcism and Deliverance Ministry in the Twentieth Century (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2009). I have not written the book on comparative exorcism yet, but many of my writings deal with the demonic, as for instance this posting: Is childhood psychopathology rooted in demonic infestation?” Pentecostal Theology. Posted Nov. 17, 2019. https://www.pentecostaltheology.com/is-childhood-psychopathology-rooted-in-demonic-infestation/

[6] William De Arteaga, “The Holy Spirit Gives a Lesson in Chinese,” Pneuma Review. Posted May 10, 2014.

http://pneumareview.com/the-rev-john-l-nevius-the-holy-spirit-gives-a-lesson-in-chinese/

[7] Collins, Exorcism, chapter four.

[8] William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). A discussion of the original case upon which the novel and movie were based is found in, Howard Newman’s, The Exorcist: The Strange Story Behind the Film (New York: Pinnacle, 1974).

[9] PBS, “JFK” The American Experience series. Aired Nov. 11, 2013. Access to the entire program is at: http://www.pbs.org/video/2365118698/

 

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2022

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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