Yeah, ok… Halloween just passed and I’ll admit it, I watched a horror flick. It wasn’t a typical horror flick in the sense of blood and gore, senseless mayhem, and the like, but it was interesting. The movie was called ‘Deliver us from Evil.’ Supposedly based on a true story of a police officer and a Jesuit priest teaming up to solve a series of crimes and exorcise demons.
On one level it was pretty predictable, and on others not so much. Of note, were the 6 stages of an exorcism:
1. The Presence. The exorcist and his assistants become aware of an alien feeling or entity.
2. Pretense. Attempts by the evil spirit to appear and act as the victim, to be seen as one and the same person. The exorcist’s first job is to break this Pretense and find out who the demon really is. Naming the demon is the most important first step.
3. Breakpoint. The moment where the demon’s Pretense finally collapses, a scene of extreme panic and confusions accompanied by a crescendo of abuse, horrible sights, noises and smells. The demon begins to speak of the possessed victim in the third person instead of as itself.
4. The Voice. Also a sign of the Breakpoint, the Voice is inordinately disturbing and humanly distressing babel. The demon’s voices must be silenced for the exorcism to proceed.
5. The Clash. As the Voice dies out, there is a tremendous pressure, both spiritual and physical. The demon has collided with the “will of the Kingdom”. The exorcist, locked in battle with the demon, urges the entity to reveal more information about itself as the exorcist’s holy will begins to dominate. As mentioned above, there is a direct link between the entity and place, as each spirit wants a place to be. For such spirits, habitation of a living victim is preferable to Hell.
6. Expulsion. In a supreme triumph of God’s will, the spirit leaves in the name of Jesus, and the victim is reclaimed. All present feel the Presence dissipating, sometimes with receding noises or voices. The victim may remember the ordeal or may have no idea what has happened.
Of course the exorcism had to be done by a ‘priest’ and the movie suggested that only clergy from the Roman Catholic Church, or those faithful to the RCC with the gift of discerning spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10) could perform them. Practically every movie etc., treats the demonization of others in equal manner. But, shouldn’t all believers, because they are believers, be involved in the casting out of demons, setting those held captive by them free, and preventing certain ones from getting a foothold in the lives of others?
Jesus seems to say that it’s completely normal for future generations:
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:16-18 ESV
He practiced it himself:
And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” Luke 4:33-36 ESV
Others who were not following Jesus were doing it too:
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” Mark 9:38
To be sure, there were lots of exorcisms going on. Why shouldn’t there be just as many today?
I’ve seen much when it comes to ‘delivery’ and ‘exorcisms’ etc., but to be honest most of it has seemed hokey, fantastical, and disingenuous. Most times it has been noisy, boisterous, and show-like. Various claim to specific methodologies in ‘spiritual warfare’ where deviations from such will just ‘not work.’ One in particular that I’ve heard 100’s of times reflects the second stage above, namely, that you have to know the demons name before you can cast it out. In practically every occasion of deliverance/exorcism I’ve seen where naming the demon was ‘the most important 1st step,’ the demons have had names like “Nicotine,” “Fear,” and “Rebellion.” What ever happened to cool names like “Legion” or “Marvin” etc?
Anyway… shouldn’t exorcisms, dealing with demons, and enemy counter-tactics be part and parcel of any believers life everyday life? Shouldn’t it be completely natural to encounter and deal with these things ‘as we go’ making disciples? Should it surprise us that we encounter spiritual resistance to the liberating and hopeful gospel of Jesus? What’s all the hoo-haa?