One of the problems people have when coming out of Charismaticism is what about all those demons? Frequently people have seen what appear to them to be legitimate manifestations. Are we to just ignore that when we abandon our Charismania?
Another thing that you will find is if you go looking for reformed literature on demon possession is that you won't find anything. The reason for its absence is that the (true) Church has believed universally for 2000 years that Christians cannot be demon possessed and has pretty much ignored the issue beyond that.
Early church writers talked of deliverance, but always in the context of salvation (salvation is deliverance in their minds). Never did I find any examples of anyone casting out demons in the modern Charismatic sense.
In fact, only the false church and the cults have historically dealt with demons. Most of modern deliverance stuff has its roots in Catholic mysticism and exorcism.
So what about those deliverance sessions the Pentecostals do, and the demonic manifestations you hear about? I have seen a lot of strange stuff myself, and was not content with the simplistic reformed answer of "Christians can't be demon possessed." That simply didn't explain all the things I had seen.
In fact I struggled over this issue for quite some time, and I have heard of others struggling over the same issue as they come out of Charismania and the word of faith movements.
Note: Let me say that much of the following is my opinion only, I have never read it anywhere, I am not echoing some higher authority like I usually try to do, and thus it is liable to be wrong (except for the part that Christians cannot be demon possessed). Nevertheless, all the pieces here have been assembled from fragments of reformed writers, who usually have very little to say about demons. Only small snippets of references to the false religions having demonic deceptive tricks to keep their converts deceived and a consistent linkage of deliverance to salvation can be found. In fact no description of deliverance as a Christian activity can be found at all in (true) church writings. Salvation and deliverance are the same thing in their minds.
On to my opinions: My best guess is that the Devil is a showman, like Hollywood, and his demons stage a lot of fake acts for the benefit of supporting his false doctrines.
Put another way, how do you know the Devil is lying: when his lips are moving.
One thing that took me a while to understand is that a lot (if not all) of so-called deliverance sessions are performed by people who are unsaved, and the people being delivered are also unsaved. I believe that many Charismatics are in fact unsaved unfortunately. As are most Catholics (they are a fully heretical sect, whereas Charismaticism isn't, although branches of it are such as the word-of-faith movement).
Historically, demonic manifestations aren't that rare, usually they serve to reinforce the false teachings of one or more abberant viewpoints. And in some cases they seem to serve the purposes of those possessed, that is to obtain attention, fame, or sometimes revenge by casting a false accusation. Often the deliverance is only successful if a Catholic icon is used, or non-biblical prayers are used. Blood inscriptions on the body, often in the form of a cross have been reported at the moment of deliverance.
In the mid 1900's, deliverance and the self-help thinking of parts of Pentecostalism merged. Deliverance changed from relief from terrifying manifestations, to relief from immoral behavior and personality defects. It was in this circle that I travelled. We believed that demons were responsibility for every personality defect imaginable, as well as things like poverty or lack of success in love. Virtually anything your heart could desire could be construed to be prevented by demons, which after a brief casting out process, could be yours.
In my mind the key feature is that self-benefit, and/or affirmation of false cultic teachings are the two common threads in the history of demonic manifestations. While the self-help aspect is fairly new, it is simply a redefinition of the self-benefit thread that ran before.
While I write off much of modern deliverance as Anton Mesmer style antics, some of it at least may be real. I have personally met (and know well) several people who experienced undeniable manifestations, such as being pinned by an unseen force (I have met two with this testimony), spontaneous falling down and uncontrolled screaming in individuals who have no history of that kind of behavior (and it never returned either).
Add to this that one out of a hundred people in America claim to have been kidnapped by UFO's (which I believe are a form of demonic manifestations in the cases that aren't false).
In my opinion, these manifestations serve to spread lies and deceit. Put another way, they are a mechanism of controlling the deceived. The key reason why the false churches and the cults have to deal with demons is because their unsaved members can become demon possessed. But they don't successfully deal with those demons however, they are in fact victimized and controlled by the very demons they think they are casting out.
There was a very famous case of demonic posession in the 1600's (a century after the reformation began). It is reputed that a nun became demon possessed after a priest spurned her amorous affections, she eventually accused the priest of being a witch and sending the demons to torment her. Hysteria in the convent followed, with many nuns "manifesting" demonic behavior. The priest was burned at the stake, and the "demon" in the nun proclaimed that only a Bishop or higher authority could cast it out, and indeed, a Bishop was successful by performing a Catholic right of transubstantiation and feeding her the Eucharist. The nun became a celebrated case because protestant ministers were unable (by using prayer alone) to have any affect on the nun. The nun was a celebrity for the rest of her life. She was considered to be proof of the superiority of the Catholic religion and many converted from protestantism back to catholicism as a result of her story.
In my opinion it is proof of the power of lies and deceit. God states clearly that false prophets are allowed by Him, to test us to see if we are loyal to His word. And we are warned that even apparent angelic appearances can be false. In the case of the nun, the theory that she was out for fame and revenge seems too obvious to pass up. The only prayer that needed to be made for her was that she repent of her sins and follow Christ.
But whether demonic or not, trickery to deceive those who aren't loyal to God's word alone is allowed by God, to reveal their hearts. I followed after such things (trickery) with great enthusasm for a while. It was a long time for me to admit that I too was unsaved during my Charismatic period, and was thus just another marrionette for the Devil to play with.
The healing evanglists operate in a similar vein, they have a few parlor tricks some probably demonic but much is simple fakery. These tricks string along the easily deceived of which I was one. But not one single documentable miracle can be produced (did you know Hinn cannot produce a single one for example)? Put another way, imagine a demon squeezing someone's liver, giving pain, and it lets go on command, but in no way leaves the person, deception is now complete, but no real healing or deliverance occurred.
I used to worry that this viewpoint violated the scripture that the Devil's kingdom is not divided against itself, or that I was in danger of comitting the unpardonable sin by calling some so-called healings demonic deception (I had a lot of fear about that one actually). But calling it a staged deception in no way violates those scriptures. The Bible warns us that the Devil is capable of lying signs and wonders, and that these will increase in the latter days.
Note: the actual unpardonable sin was that of rejecting the incarnate Jesus, and accusing the Spirit by which He worked of being evil. It could only be committed by that generation, just as Jesus says, they shall bear the full punishment for it, go read it again if you are concerned about it.
On the fakery side of things So-called deliverance ministers can whip up audiences into a frenzy, crying, screaming, shaking, and even vomiting can be seen. Try those tactics on an audience that is not sympathetic to the idea of casting out demons and nothing happens. Does that mean they lack faith? No it means they aren't susceptible to autosuggestion Anton Mesmer style because they know it is hogwash. My belief is the only thing those frenzied audiences are truly being delivered from is their money.
Much of the healing evanglist's work is simple fakery too, soft music, repetive suggestive phrases, and virtually all the claimed healings are psychosomatic "the pain is gone". The nasty truth is that the pain generally returns a few hours or days later when the suggestion wears off.
People who show up to healing evanglists' meetings with physical problems generally leave as they came. Healings of visible physical conditions are nonexistant in healing evangelists meetings. And yet one is no more difficult for God than another so it doesn't make sense, when Jesus healed He healed them all.
On the less fake side of things, I have read many testimonies of modern Catholic mystics, tales of angels coming and going asking the priests for advice, the priests ministering to a sad God who needs their emotional support, flowers falling from heaven, the sun got brighter (or darker), lights in the sky, pleasing odors appearing from nowhere, the ubiquitous virgin Mary appearances, numerous prophecies from Mary (from spirit mediums, often children), and on and on.
Even as a Charismatic I rejected those as demonic (or just faked) deceptions designed to sustain false Catholic theology, but I accepted the charismatic tales without question, not realizing they had the same purpose.
I eventually concluded, and orthodox Christianity agrees with me that true Christians have nothing whatsoever to fear from the Devil or his demons except deception and temptation.
I am reminded of the kid saying, "my father can beat up your father." And my Father loves me a lot too, enough to sacrifice His firstborn son for me.
Note: In fact the Devil is a tool in God's hands, there are many instances of God Himself sending an evil spirit to do His work. And the Bible is clear he can do nothing without permission. This from the moment Jesus said "I have overcome the world, and all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me." Think about that statement for a bit, did God lack authority before? In fact He did, the Devil legally (by God's own law) owned the world, and even then still had to ask permission to torment Job for example, but Jesus plundered the strongman, took his possessions, and now the world is back under God's authority legally. It was always under God's control in the sense that the Devil could never violate God's plan, but legally it was his for a while, and humanity belonged to him as slaves.
So what about those (few) real demonic manifestations? John MacArthur tells the story of his going over to someone's house to minister, and the kid (6 years old or so) whom he had never met, went bezerk, screaming "not him, I hate him", and bit and tore at his leg enough to draw blood. MacArthur didn't bother to complete the story, treating it as if it wasn't even important.
Here is my big profound nugget of wisdom: don't trust any demonic manifestation, I mean never draw the obvious conclusion that the stage act means for us to draw. MacArthur's experience was probably nothing more than an attempt to pump his ego that he is a great man of God, an anointed modern day apostle whom the demons fear and hate. Yeah right. Pride was the real threat that day, and the demon possessed child was the tempter. Notice MacArthur to his credit didn't bite, he treated that manifestation as something that was not particularly important.
I have found testimonies (supposedly from demons) that contradict themselves in the same testimony, and yet the first part (that was contradicted by the second part) was quoted as if it was a great revelation about demons. People have been caught faking it (teenagers mostly) just for fun, to yank the preacher's chain (all this from the many demon and deliverance books I have read which I now believe are nonsense). Other, more sensible Christians, have caught people faking multiple personalities, including modifying their voice. Just watch some cartoons, all those voices are made by voice actors, anybody can make the most outrageous noises if they practice a bit.
The Bible forbids us from communicating with demons, so I figure we are on pretty good ground by rejecting the content of all demonic communication, both the spoken part and the stuff implied by the show.
It is possible to interpret the scripture "and they shall drive out demons" as simply meaning we shall spread the Gospel, thus driving demons out of all who are saved. That also eliminates any warrant for the average Christian to cast out demons. The absence of any Biblical example of an average Christian casting out a demon tends to favor that interpretation. So while demons are real, most so-called manifestations aren't, and if faced with a real manifestation we are protected by our God, not by performing a religious ritual.
I can tell lots of stories that will give you the chills, until you realize that the so-called Christians in the stories are word-of-faith cult members that have about as much to do with Christ as a Hindu or a Buddist. They are very sincere, and nice lovable people, but lost, and are therefore playthings for the Devil (as much as God allows anyway).
One of the better recent stories I know of is a full-blown demon possessed wife going after her husband with a knife, and having no recollection of it later (and this happened again and again until it was resolved). She was only delivered when the demon was cast out, which was only possible after they removed from the house a pile of voodoo artifacts, that were discovered in her dead mother's suitcase in the closet, which they only discovered because the husband groaned out the single word word "suitcase" after an intense (charismatic) prayer session. I have personally met the people with that particular testimony, they go to the charismatic church I used to attend.
There are so many non-biblical parts of that testimony it is a great one to disect because it covers most of the false doctrines about demons. Cultic artifacts in the house do not give demons a right to possess us. Neither do the mother's sins give demons a right to posses a Christian child. And unless that guy is a true prophet of God (and nobody since the apostles has ever passed the test), he has no business assuming his groaning has anything to do with God whatsoever. The fact that it came up out of his throat sounds like classic hollywood-style demon possession in fact.
My take: all show, all hollywood, a demonic deception in two unsaved people designed to take their eyes off the truth of Scripture and onto believing experience and subjectivity (and thus set them up to deny scripture and follow after doctrines of demons). Notice the experience confirms almost every false doctrine about demons in one convenient package, all wrapped up and tied with a bow. The possibility that the wife is totally insane also crossed my mind and I am not ruling it out either, the groaning husband is a bit suspect also. You could argue that they make a good couple. :-)
I have heard stories of poltergeists, that people were convinced were there to kill them. My guess is those poltergeists (if real at all) were there to deceive them, to frighten them, to drive them into the arms of cultists, and so firmly entrench their belief in the cultists that they will obey without question after that.
Much charismatic demonic lore assumes that the Devil is stupid, and that we are smarter than him, it is not so. He is the master manipulator of all time, and without grace we have no defense against him. So think again as to the real purpose of any demonic manifestations you have seen.
And if the manifestation was in yourself, possibly re-evaluate if you were truly saved at the time (and thus under God's protection from demons), did you understand the true Gospel salvation by grace through faith alone? Or were you trusting in the false word-of-faith Jesus for example? Or did you have works thinking, that you had to earn your place with God?
Another thing is that virually all demon lore is extra-biblical. Charismatics have long abandoned sola scriptura, and ignore the warning in Revelation about adding words to the Bible. Specific revelation (scripture) is explicitly closed, those who add to scripture are false teachers.
Here is another chilling thing, if you believe that a Christian cannot be demon possessed (and I do, along with the rest of orthodox Christianity if I understand correctly), all those having real demonic manifestations of possession, cannot be Christians. But that isn't saying as much as it sounds. How do you judge a true manifestation anyway? Are we even told to worry about that in the Bible? Not really.
The Bible says that God Himself allows false manifestations to test us (deu 13:3), to see if we really love Him (are loyal to His word or are willing to be swept away by every wind of doctrine). And as scripture says all but the elect will be deceived. I was a professional leaf by the way, adept at catching user-friendly winds of doctrine. :-(
All that stuff about having your home blessed for protection, or anointing your house with oil, or having it cleansed of demons is a bunch of non-biblical hooey. It is the truth of God's word that drives demons out, one person at a time. In goes the Holy Spirit to regenerate someone, and out go the demons if any. It is a singular event, and church writers throughout the ages have written of deliverance solely in that regard to the extent I have read them.
Another common misconception is the idea that involvement in the occult makes one more likely to become demon possessed, and that is thought to be true for the Christian also.
To answer this question, I will pose a question: would a true Christian knowingly do Ouija (assuming they fully understand what it is), or earnestly pray to Artemis or some other false god?
Put another way, will a true Christian knowingly and deliberately get involved in the occult, deliberately disobey God, and become demon posessed as a result. The answer to those questions is simply: no, no, and no (this is a Calvinistic viewpoint I admit).
Then you will ask, what if I unwittingly do it? The answer is still no possession possible for a true Christian.
If a Christian does become involved in the occult however, chances are God will do something to bring such a person out of it. Don't mistake God's loving discipline for demonic possession however. It can include demonic attacks permitted by God, but demonic possession is simply not possible for a Christian.
Generational curses are another (laughable) idea. I had a whole book on masonic curses (the bad things that will happen to masons and their descendants), there were a bunch of them too. My grandfather was a mason, so I was under a generational curse, and I spent several prayer sessions breaking every one of those curses with the mighty power of God at my disposal.
The end result was no change whatsoever. I have heard about different curses that supposedly follow ancestor involvement in many cults, the curse of Hindus, Jehovahs witnesses, Catholicism, the list goes on almost endlessly, or at least as much as is profitable to put in print.
I sat at the feet of a well known deliverance minister, and even travelled half-way across the continent to attend a bible study at his house. I was such a super-spiritual Christian, and thought I was so priviledged to be on the cutting edge of this stuff. Cough.
I don't read any spiritual significance into occultic activity any more. Cult members may all be demon possessed with 10,000 demons each, or none at all, it doesn't matter in the least. And we have no Biblical warrant to worry about it either, other than to preach the Gospel.
I would also mention that shamans, witch doctors, and western mystics have been repeatedly exposed as frauds by people (often non-Christian) who debunk this stuff. If you see something you can't explain, it is far more likely to be something that someone else can explain than actual demonic activity.
The thing that really matters is getting over your fear of demons (I had it for a long time after exiting Charismania). Charismania really preaches a world where the Devil reigns and a feckless weakling God stands on the sidelines hoping we will help Him out a bit. The reality is different, demons may be smarter and more powerful than us, but compared to the all-powerful God who protects us it means nothing.
"Compared to God the power to destroy a planet is insignificant." - Darth Vader voice.
Who cares if a demon can levitate a rock, or smack your wall at night, or glow a little bit at night? Recognize an attempt to frighten you for the lame attempt that it is. And know they aren't even allowed to do that unless God lets them. Once you become an orthodox Christian, even if you have a background with a large amount of manifestations, it is unlikely you will ever see one again (unless you have a mental condition), because God simply protects us from such things.
Which leads up to the most important point, nothing happens without God's permission, nothing, so if you ever have another paranormal experience, there is nothing to fear. God is allowing it for some reason or other and that is all you really need to know (that and the promise that all things work together for good...). And remember that virtually all apparent demonic manifestations are manipulative and rarely what they seem to be.
So what are all those demons out there doing then?
John MacArthur, one of my favorite preachers, believes that demons primarily energize and assist false teachers, therefore the most energetic attacks are in the Christian church itself. He comments that the lust of the flesh is more than adequate to account for what happens in bars without any demonic assistance.
But the spread of false doctrine is a deliberate concerted attempt to destroy the Church. False teachers are the most likely to receive demonic "assistance" in their activities. The Bible itself never warns us about demon possession, but cautions us against seductive doctrines of demons.
Note: I analyzed the theological implications of the deliverance teachers of today, and have concluded it is worse that I have presented here.
Bob DeWaay comes to the same conclusions I did.
I found the above article long after this article was written. Nice to know someone came to the exact same conclusions. Course he says it waay better than I could. :-)