Taking a Closer Look: The Devil, Demons and Possession
- Laura MacCorkle Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2011 1 Jan
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
— 1 Peter 5:8
When is the last time you thought about the devil? (John 10:10) About the father of lies? (John 8:44) About his kingdom of darkness? (Revelation 12:9) About his schemes? (2 Corinthians 2:11). About his agents of evil? (Ephesians 6:12, 1 Timothy 4:11).
Admittedly, even when as believers we know that "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world," we still don't always want to "go there." It is uncomfortable and scary to think about an entity, a being, a supernatural force that would love nothing more than to keep us away from the Light of the World, from the Truth of God's Word, from the freedom that any of us have when we give our lives to Christ, are reconciled to God through the blood of the Lamb and are clothed in his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), and from adding to God's Kingdom by sharing with others the Good News that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for the sins of the world.
Lest you think the devil is just a metaphor, the book of Revelation, and ironically Hollywood, will show you otherwise. In fact, horror films such as The Exorcist (1973) and more recently The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) have been scary, and oftentimes sensational, reminders that evil is indeed alive and active in our world and that we must be on the alert and not give the enemy a foothold in our lives (Ephesians 4:26-27).
Releasing in theaters January 28, 2011, The Rite, the newest big-screen offering from New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. Pictures—which stars Anthony Hopkins and is loosely based on a book telling the true story of a priest who goes to "exorcism school" at a Vatican-affiliated university in Rome, Italy—follows in the footsteps of its cinematic predecessors by leading us to a darker place.
But should Christians see this film? Do they need to be scared into turning away from that which can try to destroy us? Or will it provoke further healthy reflection on the "unseen world" and how we must approach the existence of the power of the devil and what is demonic in our world today?
Recently, two professors from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, sat down with Crosswalk.com to discuss the latest attention—both in the media and in Hollywood—that has been drawn toward exorcism, demon possession and spiritual warfare in our world. Joining the conversation were Dr. Michael Pocock, the Department Chair and Senior Professor of World Missions and Intercultural Studies who also ministered for 16 years with The Evangelical Alliance Mission in Venezuela and as mobilization director in Wheaton, Illinois; and Dr Linda Marten, Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling who is also a licensed professional counselor and supervisor, a licensed marriage and family therapist and a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
After viewing a film such as The Rite, there may be some who might question whether or not someone who knows Christ can be demon possessed. What are your thoughts?
Dr. Michael Pocock: Well, that's an interesting issue. There are quite a bit of differences among Protestants and even among evangelicals—both on that exact question of whether Christians can be possessed or not and also what they do about people who are spiritually troubled where it may have a demonic element to it. So generally where there is a minister or an individual or professor or wherever you indicate that you are and that you do understand that this can happen, there are going to be people who are going to come to you and say this is happening to me. But another person, even a missionary, could say, "I've lived all my life in Venezuela or whatever and I've never seen a certifiable demon possession." If you keep saying that you don't think this happens, then no one's going to say they have this difficulty.
So where there's resistance to admitting that this is a modern possibility, then you don't have so many admissions of it or people saying I am troubled by this. Whereas you get into other cultures and even people who are becoming believers who are going to say, "Well how I became a believer is that I had difficulty with demons and nobody seemed to be able to do anything with it but these Christians. And they prayed with me about it or performed an exorcism where I had believed in Christ, and I am free." But if somebody came to me and said, "I believe that I am troubled by demons and that I am possessed," obviously they probably wouldn't be talking to me if they were acting out—in other words if they were under the present control of a demon. They probably wouldn't be talking to you about having the problem. They're between episodes, should we say. I personally feel that Christians can be controlled. I don't think that they're possessed, but the symptoms are very, very similar. They're not possessed because they're not owned. They are not a possession of Satan. They are a possession of Christ. So possession is not quite the issue, but control could be. And if they are controlled then they may manifest quite similarly to a person who is possessed.
When you say "control," what do you mean by that?
Pocock: Control meaning that they are not doing what they would personally have initiated. That they are being instigated by powers beyond themselves.
Which would be different than just being tempted?
Pocock: Yes, right—if we start thinking about demonic effect or Satanic effect on a person's life being on some kind of a continuum from less severe to incredibly severe. I have a class on spiritual warfare, and we talk about the fact that there are stages along the way. So let's say that there's a person like the Apostle Paul who loves God,,, and we assume he's walking in the Spirit and he really doesn't have a spiritual problem. But he gets opposed, certainly. He'd tell the Thessalonians, "I tried to come and see you two or three times and Satan stopped me." Oh, really? Does he have that kind of power? Satan is not in Paul. And yet he says, "He stopped me." So, I don't think that was just his colloquial way of saying I tried to come and see you several times, and it didn't work out. He said Satan stopped me. But then he goes on to say, "So that's why I sent Tychicus in my place who I hope has been a blessing to you." And he goes on and sends two letters to the Thessalonians, all because he couldn't get there himself because as he says, "Satan stopped me." So at that level he's affected, he was opposed and he was affected by it. But he's not possessed.
I think that when Paul talks about principalities and powers in very bureaucratic, almost governmental terms that he is saying that there are opposing powers to the program and the people of God that are really a part of existing institutions that we know about, and that he manipulates them so that they oppose the work of God and the people of God. And that's why a lot of things don't get done that we want to get done, and we have to find creative other ways. Just like the Apostle Paul says, "Okay I can't come but I'll send so-and-so to you." And the ministry goes ahead and in a sense Satan is defeated in that particular issue or instance, because Paul actually does get a minister and a helper to that place. So I think that that type of thing is going on today.
I go to a lot of biblical examples that show you that there are levels of effect. You know Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. They do apparently what a number of people were doing and that is people were graciously opening up their pocketbooks and selling their property and helping each other in church, so that in this new Christian movement everybody was taken care of. So in Ananias' and Sapphira's case, they go and sell a piece of property just like Barnabas is said to have done and they brought the money and then they get confronted by Peter who says, "Hey, how did Satan fill your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?" And you say, "Hey, give them a break, man. They're giving them something." Apparently what they did, though, was sell a piece of property and give a part of the proceeds to the needs of everybody else, possibly giving the impression that they were incredibly generous people—and whereas actually they were withholding a part of it. And Peter says, "Hey, when it was yours you had a right to do what you wanted to with it. Once you gave it to the Lord you don't have a right to it. You should have given it, so you're lying to me about this being the whole deal." And then there are some incredibly serious results to that as well. I'm sure that was a lesson to everybody.
So the story of Ananias and Sapphira really is a prime example of how Satan can control our lives?
Pocock: You know he actually uses this phrase, "How did Satan fill your heart?" Well, you mean how did Satan influence you, get to you, persuade you? What was going on here? "Filled your heart." Does that mean that you were possessed when you did this? I'd say I don't know that they were possessed when they did that, but they were sure worked on and they were said by an apostle to have done something under the prompting of Satan that was pretty negative.
There are people in churches who are very negative, oppositional people unfortunately. And so Paul gives pastoral advice to Timothy and says, "Listen, the man of God ought to be gentle. Those who oppose him, he should gently instruct"—obviously with the Word or with the Truth in the hopes that God will grant them repentance, coming to a knowledge of the Truth and they will escape from the trap to which they have fallen to do the devil's will. That's kind of interesting. Here's apostolic instructions to a pastor about a pastoral case where apparently people, who get rancorously oppositional to a leader in church, might be beyond themselves. Paul says they have fallen into a trap to actually do Satan's will instead of their own or what's good for the Kingdom. So you know you have another level, and so obviously the resolution of that is teaching the Truth. He says you are to gently instruct them. It's kind of like the opposite to Robert Tilton screaming demons out of people or others who beat demons out of people, and Paul says gentle application of the Truth is what liberates people. So I would say that in a biblical, evangelical atmosphere where at least they are dealing with situations you know, on the grounds that they could be demonically or Satanically caused, that that's what they would advocate as a way.
Would you describe what actually happens when dealing with someone who is likely demon possessed or perhaps talk about a particular incident involving supernatural forces that you have personally been involved with?
Pocock: An individual is called to our attention because somebody—usually not themselves—calls and says I'm concerned because they're acting out in such and such a way. Probably the most evident example for me was when I got a call from a friend who I had gone to seminary with because he knew I was a missionary. And therefore he thought that missionaries should know more about demon possession than non-missionaries. He said, "We've got a person who came to Christ, as far as we know, and seemed to be making some progress. But now he's having some incredibly oppositional thoughts about it. And now he's having some episodes where he gets out of control and since he's renting a room from a family in this town who are Christians, it's very disturbing to them what's happening. So do you know anything about demon possession so that you could come and help us?" So I said, "I know what Merrill Unger wrote in Biblical Demonology, but that's about it. And so, I tell you something: we have another missionary who's coming up from Trinidad and the Lord's given him quite a ministry. There have been a number of opportunities and situations where he's needed to minister, and he knows about this. He'll be here this week." "Okay," he said. I said, "Well I'll tell you when he's here." So I did, and within about a week on a Saturday night I had a call from that pastor saying, "Did that guy come?" And I said, "Yes." And he said, "We need you. Please come over because this acting out is going on."
So I got together with this brother. I had told him in advance that we might get a call and we did. So I said, "Look, I don't know how to handle what's going on here, so what do you think?" So he said, "Well let's just stop the car and think about this a moment before we go over there." And he said, "If this person's demon possessed, here's more or less what's going to happen. He's going to be very oppositional, he's going to tell us that we don't have any right or that we're way out of our depth and that we shouldn't be trying to deal with what we don't know about." But he said, "He might also say, ‘What are you talking to me about stuff like this for when you're a sinner yourself?' He may end up naming sins that he knows about in us." I said, "How does he know that?" He said, "The main thing is to be able to say to him, ‘You're not telling us anything new. God knows all about this, and we've dealt with it. Yes, we're sinners just like anybody else, but we're redeemed, and Jesus has forgiven us for this.' But what I want you to do is to take a few minutes and think about this. Just ask God to really cleanse you—me, too—and that we don't have things that are going to get brought up that no one else knows about." In other words he was saying demon-possessed people are sometimes clairvoyant. They have supernatural knowledge.
So anyway, most of what he said was really true and without him manufacturing it or anything. We got there and he's upset and what not, and the pastor was there as well. And he said, "Now David, what's happening to you a lot of us don't understand this too well. We believed that you were a Christian, that you had become a Christian." "Well, I‘m not now." So he said, "Well, we're here to go over this to talk with you about it and see how we can help you. So why don't we just go down to the basement here where we can be quiet?" So we did, and you know the young man would've been about 20 years old. He said to the host of the home where he was staying, "What's the matter with you? I trusted you and now you've brought the whole ‘U.S. army' to deal with this?" You know he was upset. And so we reviewed what his situation was. Now this person is talking to us like it's not David; it's somebody else. We said, "You know David, you became a believer and you trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ." "No he didn't. No he didn't. I'm still in control." So this was, of course, a pretty weird situation. So for now on the conversation seems to be about David by somebody other than David who is speaking from this person.
And Norm, my missionary friend with me, well I was amazed at how much Scripture he knew because a lot of challenges to the authority of Scripture come up in these things. So Norm said to him, "You know the Lord Jesus Christ." And he said, "Hey, don't bring Jesus Christ into this thing. He's got no power here. In fact, you guys have no power here. You guys are so way out of your depth, so you ought to just leave right now." So [Norm] said, "We are authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus sent out his apostles to heal and to cast out demons, and he said all authority is given to me. He told his disciples to go out and do the work that he did to spread the gospel in all the world, and he told them what we should teach is everything that Jesus did and teach other people to do it. We're authorized to be here today, not by ourselves but by the Lord Jesus Christ." He just talked to him like that. So [David] said, "Yeah, then you're probably going to tell me that the Word of God has got power, too." And Norm said, "Yes, absolutely. We do believe the Word of God has got power." "No it doesn't." So David grabs one of the Bibles out of our hands, and he stands on it. And he says, "Don't talk to me about the Bible and the Word of God, the power of Jesus and his blood. I'll show you a name that's got power." And he opens up his shirt, and he's got "Lucifer" tattooed right across his chest and on his arm he's got a pentagram and a ram's head tattooed on the other arm which are all obviously Satanic symbols. So he said, "That's power." And there happened to be a storm at the time, by the way. This was in the middle of the night. And he just looked and he said, "Do you hear the voice of my father? He's talking now." And you know you could be shook by that because it's kind of eerie. But as Norm said, "No, that's not the voice of your father. You know that when Jesus Christ was here he calmed the storm on Galilee. Satan is not in control. You're not in control of the weather. God's in control of the weather. If anything, that tells us that God is saying, ‘I am present.'"
So he had a gentle rebuttal for everything that this person said. This went on for quite some time. And then Norm said to him, "Look, you don't own David. David came to know Christ as his Saviour, and he wants to continue in belief and you have no part in this and you have no right to interfere with this. So I am ordering you in Jesus' name to leave David now." "No, no, no I am not leaving." "I am telling you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that you have to leave." "No, no, no, I'm not …" And so he just told him several times, you know you've got to leave. And finally he said, "Okay, I'm going." And I was sitting on the bottom step of the stairs of the basement, and he just kind of jumped over the top of me and ran out and out the back door and out into the streets of the city. And it's raining out there, and he's only dressed in his underpants by this time. He kind of stripped himself as things went along. And so I went up there and called out, "David, David, God wants you, we want you to come back. Not the rest of you." And but no answer. It was quiet. We looked around and couldn't see him or find him anywhere.
So we went back in, and we went to the room that he was renting and so we started looking around and opening the chest of drawers and the closets and he had loads of stuff in there. He had nicely folded silk robes—a lot of them. Another drawer was full of potions of various kinds—ceremonial stuff. He had a box of deeply magic and Satanic books and spells and all of that. Another drawer had masks, very grotesque masks. So we were wondering what was going on. In the middle of discussing amongst ourselves what was happening, David walked back in again and then he was totally calm and he was engaged and he said, "What's going on here. And why's everybody here?" "Well, David we've been together most of the evening." "Okay, okay. But why are you here?" "David, didn't you say you told the pastor here, in fact you went with him and disposed of some of your spiritist and Satanic stuff, and was that not your stuff?" "Yeah, it was. But that's the point. It was my stuff. This is a part of the whole cult here. If I destroy this, they'd kill me." So he was a witch basically, a priest in a Satanic cult. He said, "I can't destroy that or it's the end for me." "David, it's not a good thing to be living in the midst of all of this because essentially what you're saying by holding on to this is that you think that it still has power and has power over you. This is not a good situation to be in, if you really know the Lord Jesus as your Savior." He said, "I do." Now see, this is the first time that I was really presented with the idea with a person who is a believer who clearly manifested possession characteristics.
Dr. Linda Marten: See, I would interpret that very differently. Of course I come as a therapist and so I hear DID [Dissociative Identity Disorder]. I mean I'm not denying possession, but I would hear DID.
Let me make some additional comments here, and I'll catch up to where Dr. Pocock is. Can Christians be possessed? There can only be one title to the house. That doesn't mean people can't move in and squat. So, that's why we normally talk about Christians being demonized rather than possessed. So the bottom line is no a Christian cannot be possessed, owned by Satan. They can be filled to such a capacity that it's hard to believe that they're owned by God, but just like if you went on vacation and you know a bunch of squatters came in and moved into your house, it looks like they own it. But if you go to the law, you can get them kicked out and that's what exorcism is. So that's kind of the way I explain it in class.
I think we underestimate how often we all are demonized because it can be in such subtle ways, even with the Ananias and Sapphira story. Because with them the way we Christians—I'm talking as a Christian therapist now who works at the different levels—we think of it more as the demonics will get in our woundedness and make it worse and our vulnerabilities. Like with Ananias and Sapphira, it probably got in their pride and their greed or some of those qualities because the way I practically see it working is it's like they get in there and they exacerbate it. So if you're angry with somebody, the demons will get in there and try to enlarge that and make it worse so that pretty soon you're enraged and pretty soon you want revenge, and they just fester it and make it worse and worse. Whereas if we follow scriptural injunctions, you go to that person you have an offense with, you talk it out, you have provisions for we agree to disagree, I forgive you for this. So we cleanse the wound all the time so that we don't get possessed. Or see possessed is kind of a word that has that pejorative that throws people off, so it's better I think to say we don't get overly influenced or demonized.
Pocock: And demonized would be the general word that I would use and actually a lot of evangelicals who deal with this at all would use that phrase, because it's a very biblical word. Demonized is a better word than possessed really. And so we're saying there are grades of it.
Marten: We Protestants believe we have the authority given to us by Christ, so that's why you have Charles Kraft [Fuller Theological Seminary] and the rest of us who believe in the authority of the believer. And so we build up the authority of the believer to do their own exorcism … roughly.
When somebody is so demonized that they're not able to take the authority that they're entitled to, what we therapists would do … we ask that they delegate the authority to us to speak on their behalf, because if you think about it, all of this is legal transactions that are going on. Just like born again, it's a legal transaction. It's an adoption transaction. So think of it in that way. I always ask for the legal right to speak for this person and then I will speak to anything demonic given their rights. I have a legal right to speak on this person's behalf. Otherwise they can speak on their own behalf. I just teach them the rights they have and the position they have in Christ.
Pocock: That's a good point, I think, that if the individual themselves is "up" shall we say and "out" you can deal with them directly and the manner then is gentle instruction—making sure, for example, that they really are a believer. Are you really connected to Christ? And if they are, that's a good thing. But if they're manifesting already now, it's very hard to be in touch with the individual themselves. But you mentioned the DID—Dissociative Identity Disorder formerly multiple personalities—there could be alters [alternate personality states] that are really the person themselves; they are just various version of that person. But since they are frequently very protective, which is why the person has them in the first place, they seem so different than the person that you know that you may conclude they must be demons. But they're actually not. They're not demons. It's just another version of them.
So how do you distinguish between mental illness and possession?
Marten: Well actually in some ways it's really straightforward so I don't want to make it more complex than it already is. If a person is manifesting in a demonic way—well first off, because I work with DID, they'll come in. So I deal with a person, and I've never been brought in to a case as I come in that they're ranting and raving like a demon, because if so it would kind of trick you as to where to start. I probably would start just by binding them and telling this demonic thing to "shut up" because they are liars. So you just bind them and tell them to "shut up" or tell them to quit speaking. My mother would never let me say " shut up." [Chuckles].
Let me make another comparison. DID is like a car accident. So a person that goes through a car accident is going to have multiple broken bones. We don't call them sick. They're damaged, they're broken. Somebody with DID, it's the same thing. I don't think of them, even though it's in the diagnostic criteria, I don't think of them as sick … and most of us who deal with that, we think of them as broken. And in their brokenness is where Satanic cults literally plant demons in the brokenness, because that's what they can feed on. In Scripture it talks about how we are complete. There's a wholeness, and in the wholeness there's no room for Satan or the demons. They seem to also want to go after the soul. They can't do it, though. They can't. But they can convince a person that they're owned by Satan. They can convince them in a lot of lies. That's all they can do. They really don't have the power, though they will typically work on little people who don't know and so they start at childhood or with young children and so forth. And so the whole thing is a deception to believe that Satan owns you. … So if you can convince a part of them to meet Christ and they respond, my conviction is that if they died right then, they're off to heaven because out of their free choice and their will they chose and they chose Christ. Those who have chosen Satan have been coerced into doing it typically, and then alters are created that are cult loyal and loyal to Satan and all that. I just don't buy all that probably because I was raised a Lutheran and "the power in me is greater than the power in the world."
Once I was in the hospital and that was back when they were using restraints—before all the patients' rights stuff. And this voice change came out and they were "going to get me" and all that. And I don't know, something Lutheran in me just flared up because I had memorized that verse. And I said, "You can't do that. You can't do that. You would have to come through the blood of Christ." Well, they hate that kind of talk.
When I see these just plain exorcisms, I have trouble in some way relating to that. One, Scripture talks about you know when you clean the house and drive one out, then seven will return—if they're not a believer, that's what will happen. So I would be real cautious about helping them drive out the demons if they're not a believer. I would first try to bind and then talk to whoever is there and say, "Okay, we're now talking about powers and you'd better be aligned with the power above all powers, The Lord of Hosts." And if they're not a believer, then at that point they'd better become one or I'm not going much further.
I believe [Satan] is interfering in people's lives now, even maybe more now than before because I do think the time is shorter. So he is interfering in Christians' lives. What do we call it? Do we call it demonization? Do we call it oppression? And for those who are more damaged there are more openings for fertile ground for the demonics to function.
Pocock: And that's why kind of like wolves or any predator you need to kind of look over the whole herd of "caribou" out there and see which one is moving slowest, which one seems to be struggling, who's limping. Forget those big strong ones out there, we don't need to worry about them. So I think that there's that sense that Satan and demons exploit vulnerabilities. So it's about helping people to see that. Anyone who's in touch with you, you can do that with. But with people who are in a current state of possession or control, then I think the only thing to do is say, "Listen, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ stop interfering with this person's life. You need to leave them. You need to stop. They want to follow Jesus. They need to follow him, and you don't have the authority to control them." So once you start talking in authoritative, not screaming, but authoritative "in the name of Jesus" type of things, then things happen.
What should we take away from the examples of Jesus driving out demons, and the apostles doing so as well, in the New Testament?
Pocock: That Jesus as a member of the Trinity is in control. And that what people suppose are in control, whether it's Baal or all these other gods that are named in the Scriptures, which Scripture does say are demons by the way—it says idols—are not. You know the individual things that people make are nothing. But the gods the pagans worship are demons, [Jesus] says. So the warp and woof of the people that Jesus are talking to, including Jews, is that there are lesser gods. There are demons and spirits that are in control of things. And so every time that somebody manifests that they are under that control, Jesus basically shows that he is in control. So the message of these is that Jesus, the Son of God, is shown up in the flesh because like people say he was accused at one point that he healed somebody by the power of Beelzebub. And he said, "No, I'm not. If I am casting out demons, it is by the finger of God and if I'm doing that then the Kingdom of God has come upon you." So but then it goes on to explain what they've just done is the unforgivable sin which is attributing the work of God's Holy Spirit to Satan. That's what comes straight out of that passage of Scripture. So what I take away from the expulsion and liberating ministry of Jesus is that he is the Son of God, he is in control, what he did demonstrated who he was and what his authority was and backed up his message which is: "I have come to take away the sins of the world."
Marten: What I would take away is as it says, "Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil." And I think we don't even realize how much the works of the devil are permeating our culture, because there [Jesus] was doing healings, he was doing deliverance and freeing the mind. So it's there in Scripture to show us he came to destroy the works of the devil.
What would you say to someone who may or may not be a believer and who might be struggling or suffering and doesn't know if they're being demonized or not and needs help?
Marten: You have to start with whose army are you in before you can invoke the power or the chief of the whole thing. Who do you really serve? Where's your allegiance? That's the first decision that has to be made. That there really are powers, there really are sides and where are you with that? First thing you have to do is deal with the claims of Christ and then from there invoke and utilize the authority he gives us as children of the King to progressively cleanse out any demonic contamination there may be. It just starts by asking to be convicted of it or to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them and what that might be.
Pocock: You look at a passage like Ephesians 4:26, where Paul will say, "Look are you angry?" He says, "Listen, don't let this get too serious here. Don't get into sin with this thing. Don't go to bed angry. Deal with it. Because if you don't, you give a place to the evil one." So nursing grudges and nursing anger and being angry. I know people right now who say, "I am angry, and I'm going to keep on being angry." I'd say that that's giving an opportunity to the evil one to control since you decided you're going to use anger, which is a work of the flesh, to either satisfy yourself or make yourself feel better. So whether they're angry, holding grudges, been hurt and can't forgive, I look back at these things that are possible areas that's giving Satan the sense that he or his emissaries can interfere in a person's life.
Marten: I think you can add, "I'm worthless" and "I've been adopted so nobody really cares." And all the things that would undermine our value because Scripture really is clear on our true value, and Satan wants to take our awareness of that value away. And so those are other ways of wounding that I think the demonics could fan again into a problem.
Pocock: I really think that when Jesus says, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free," that I think even a secular psychiatrist would say well you know a pathologically-affected person is a person who's out of touch with reality. So what's the solution to that? Getting in touch with reality. So in other words telling yourself the truth. So a person who's struggling needs to be sure they know the truth about what's going on and that they accept that and are ready to act on that truth. If you know the truth, the truth will set you free. But I think a lot of people don't tell themselves the truth. They get into this "I'm worthless" and all the rest of it. And Satan is a liar from the beginning. Scripture says that. So I think that he takes advantage of people's wrong view of things and exacerbates it and makes it worse until they just about can't handle their own life, because of false things that they believe about themselves or other people.
Marten: If you want to exaggerate the definition of exorcism, it really is progressively integrating truth and in the process of doing that, that you cleanse out. And is that not also the process of sanctification? So in one way it's a natural thing and in another way, like they're portraying in the movies, they're at these crisis points when the individual has lost all bearings and they can't do it for themselves—even if they knew that they had the authority, and you have others come in on their behalf taking legal authority for them and going toe to toe.
So as a believer when we confess our sins and repent and ask for forgiveness, we're sort of undergoing the same thing in a sense, right? A cleansing?
Pocock: You're cutting off the possibilities for outside influence shall we say. When you're being transparent with God, and the Scripture says where there is a demonic issue or a Satanic issue it says that you ought to draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7-8. I am safest and I feel better, if that's the way of putting it, the closer I am or the more transparent I am with God so that there's nothing between me and him, so we're good and I'm safe. And to the best of my ability I need to identify the areas that are interfering with that and agree that they do exist and then say, "God take them away. I don't want to operate that way. Forgive me and cleanse me of that." And that person walks free of it.
Marten: Sounds real natural, doesn't it? And it is. And that might be the distinction, too. Those movies make it sound so dramatic and then everybody is terrified. And when they come into my class they're going, "I don't want to talk about Satan." Oh and it's just so scary, because they think of The Exorcist. And I'm saying now wait a minute. Now if someone comes in to me and says I'm demon possessed, I always say, "Good that's the easy part." You know if you've got habits and conflicts with your friends, I mean that takes longer to work on. You know?
Pocock: I've got an article that I wrote—"The Source of the Conflict." And basically it's looking at you, you as a source of your own problems, the world around you, the whole system that you're living in being an issue and Satan and his emissaries. So when things get really excruciating either out there in the world or inside of ourselves, then it's possible that we will actually conclude that these issues are Satanic. Since Satan, of course as the Bible says, is the god of this world, he does have a control. We're helping people to realize that we don't have to come to some kind of decision about exactly where are your problems: are these Satanic, are they human, are they world problems. What we have to come to grips with is what is the truth about what is happening right now? How should I see this thing most truly? And if I see things truly and accept that and the proper provisions for it, I'm going to be okay.
You've got to know the Word. But maybe what you need is help from somebody to see it. Just like there are emotional states that probably people cannot pull themselves out of. If you're clinically depressed, you cannot save yourself on that score. You need help. There are spiritual states where you need the help of other people. We're not designed to live alone or isolated and solve all of our own problems. So you know going to someone else and trying to get a grip on things is just fine. It doesn't have to get dramatic.
Marten: The sheep are wandering out to the edges of the herd, and that's always a little scary out there. … Community, that really is where our refinement is, our encouragement and reality testing. We really do need to be in close relationship. That's where you get your grounding—from other believers. It's really the body that is designed to help it stay healthy and get healed if it needs to.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).
Who is this "Jesus" and why is there great power in his name? To read more about "the way and the truth and the life," to find out why Jesus came to earth to die on the cross for our sins and to find out how you can find rest for your soul, please visit Crosswalk.com's "Discovering Jesus Christ" section.
For more information about The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, authored by Matt Baglio, please visit Crosswalk.com's Books Channel.
A full review of the New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. Pictures film, The Rite, will be available on January 28, 2011 in Crosswalk.com's Movies Channel.
**This interview first published on January 25, 2011.