Question for Dr. Saleska:
Our family has been reading in Mark 1 about how Jesus cast out demons. Recently, in a discussion with close extended family, they described some funny incidents when they personally drove out demons. They didn’t shriek, they whined. This was a charismatic Bible Church. How does our church deal with demon possession, and is it relevant for this to be practiced by parishioners?
Dr. Saleska’s Response:
Devil possession and casting out of devils seems to have occurred principally during the life and ministry of Christ, and to a lesser degree in the early Christian church as recorded in the book of Acts. (Acts 15:16, 16:18, 19:12) Beyond that there is not a whole lot of reliable information on its occurrence in the history of the church. No one seems to know why the phenomenon occurred then and tended to diminish afterward. In more modern times there have been claims of casting out of devils like the one you describe, but the legitimacy is very questionable.
Our church has no official position on devil possession today or on casting out of demons. However, there is a general consensus that the phenomenon of devil possession and the casting out of devils by Christ and the disciples occurred principally during what is referred to as the “apostolic age.” (The period of the Twelve Apostles) There were “Signs” (miracles, casting out demons, etc.) which accompanied the ministry of the apostles. For instance, in defending his ministry in Corinth Paul says: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonder, and mighty deeds.” (II Cor. 12:12) But there are no specific texts in Scripture to under-grid the idea that signs would continue to accompany and authenticate New Testament ministers as they did in the case of Paul. Also there are no guidelines in Scripture for determining whether or not an incident like the one you describe is actually devil possession. Here are some of the questions that confront the church in dealing with devil possession. Who is the diagnostician to determine that the event is actually possession? Who is authorized to perform the exorcism? What form of “exorcistic service” should be employed? Since Scripture is always the standard by which the church is guided it seems only reasonable to conclude that God would have given some direction in this area were it to have been necessary in the future.
We are instructed to use the Word to resist the devil no matter what the circumstances. Christ has already crushed the serpent’s head. His life, death, and resurrection (The Gospel) are our defense against every enemy.