Exorcism in the Bible
Jesus expelled demons, as recorded in the Gospels. In perhaps the most famous instance, he expelled a "legion" of demons from a man and permitted the demons to go into a herd of pigs (see Gaderene Swine). Jesus also cautioned some sufferers of demonic possession that if one demon was exorcised, seven more might want to "enter" the "clean house".
Opponents of Jesus accused him of casting out demons "by the power of Beelzebub", a charge generally dismissed by Christians.
Practice in the Christian Church
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, demonic activity is inextricably associated with disease and blight. As a result, exorcisms are quite common, even finding their way in rituals involving the blessing of fields. The exorcism ritual, found in the Euchologion, is that of St. Basil the Great. The baptism liturgy in Eastern Orthodoxy also contains an exorcism ritual.
Receive the exorcisms with devotion...Divine exorcisms, borrowed from the Scripture, purify the soul. —St. Cyril of Jerusalem
The Lutheran Church traces the practice of exorcism to the Scriptural claim that Jesus Christ expelled demons with a simple command (Mark 1:23–26; 9:14–29; Luke 11:14–26). The apostles continued the practice with the power and in the name of Jesus (Matthew 10:1; Acts 19:11–16). Contrary to some denominations of Christianity, Lutheranism affirms that the individual, both the believer and the non-believer, can be plagued by demons, based on several arguments, including the one that "just as a believer, whom Jesus Christ has delivered from sin (Romans 6:18), can still be bound by sin in his life, so he can still be bound by a demon in his life."
After the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther abbreviated the Roman ritual used for exorcism. In 1526, the ritual was further abbreviated and the exsufflation was omitted. This form of the Lutheran Ritual for Exorcism was incorporated into the majority of the Lutheran service-books and implemented. According to a Pastoral Handbook of the Lutheran Church,
|“||In general, satanic possession is nothing other than an action of the devil by which, from God's permission, men are urged to sin, and he occupies their bodies, in order that they might lose eternal salvation. Thus bodily possession is an action by which the devil, from divine permission, possesses both pious and impious men in such a way that he inhabits their bodies not only according to activity, but also according to essence, and torments them, either for the punishment or for the discipline and testing of men, and for the glory of divine justice, mercy, power, and wisdom.||”|
- The knowledge of secret things, for example, being able to predict the future (Acts 16:16), find lost people or things, or know complex things that one has never learned (e.g., medicine). It is said that fortune-tellers often ask a spirit for help and that this spirit gives them certain powers. In that case, the evil spirit is assisting, not necessarily possessing the person bodily.
- The knowledge of languages one has never learned. Just as the devil can bind one's tongue (Luke 11:14), it is reported from the early church as well as the time of the Reformation that certain demon-possessed people could speak languages they had never learned.
- Supernatural strength (Mark 5:2-3), far beyond what they previously had or should have considering their sex and size. Much caution in judging demon possession is required. All of the circumstances and symptoms must be taken into consideration. Insanity should not be confused with possession. On the other hand, possession may be taking place even where these symptoms are absent.
The Church lists the secondary symptoms of horrible shouting (Mark 5:5), blasphemy of God and jeering at one's neighbor, deformation of movements (e.g. ferocious movements, facial contortion, immodest laughing, gnashing of teeth, spitting, removing clothes, lacerating self, Mk. 9:20; Lk. 8:26f.), inhuman revelry (e.g. when they take food beyond the capability of nature), torment of bodies, unusual injuries of the body and of those nearby, extraordinary motion of bodies (e.g., an elderly man who, being demon-possessed, was able to run as fast as a horse), and forgetfulness of things done. Other symptoms include the corruption of reason in man, which make him like an animal, melancholy, the acceleration of death (Mark 9:18 [suicide attempts]), and the presence of other supernatural occurrences.
After these determinations have been made, the Church recommends experienced physicians to determine whether there is a medical explanation for the behaviour of the individual. When a true possession is recognized, the poor one is to be committed to the care of a minister of the Church who teaches sound doctrine, is of a blameless life, who does nothing for the sake of filthy lucre, but does everything from the soul. The pastor is then to diligently inquire what kind of life the possessed one led up to this point and lead him or her through the law to the recognition of his sins. After this admonition or consolation has taken place, the works of a natural physician are to be used, who will cleanse the possessed one from malicious fluids with the appropriate medicines. The Pastoral Handbook then states:
The United Methodist Church holds that the ritual of exorcism involves "the casting out of an objective power of evil which has gained possession of a person." Moreover, the Methodist Church teaches that "the authority to exorcise has been given to the Church as one of the ways in which Christ's Ministry is continued in the world." Ordained clergy must first consult the district superintendent in order to perform an exorcism. The Methodist Church holds that it is of great importance to ensure that the presence and love of Christ is assured to the individual(s) seeking help. In addition, the ministry of the "bible, prayer and sacraments" should be extended to these individuals as well. A combination of these things has been proven to be effective. For example, in one particular situation, a Roman Catholic woman believed that her house was haunted, and therefore consulted her priest for assistance. Since he was not available to drive the demons from the woman's home, she contacted a Methodist pastor, who exorcised the evil spirits from a room, which was believed to be the source of distress in the house, and celebrated Holy Communion in the same place; following these actions, there was no longer any problem in the house.
- Robbie Mannheim
- Clara Germana Cele
- Michael Taylor (Ossett)
- George Lukins
- Anneliese Michel
- Johann Blumhardt
- And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." Mark 3:22 (NIV)
- The Westminster handbook to patristic theology. Westminster John Knox Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “In the Orthodox service books the prayers of exorcism attributed to Basil the Great are still in use, for common as well as particular cases of need. In the Latin church the rite of exorcism is now very rarely used, and then only with episcopal permission. The exorcism prayers continue the ancient association of sickness and blight with demonic activity, and the blessings of beasts and fields in the Orthodox service books to this day make a regular pairing of the ideas.”
- Pocket Dictionary of New Religious Movements. InterVarsity Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “In the Orthodox Church exorcism is practiced prior to baptism.”
- Orthodox Spirituality: An Outline of the Orthodox Ascetical and Mystical Tradition. St Vladimir's Seminary Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “In the Orthodox rites of Baptism, this liberating action of Christ is expressed in the denial of Satan by the catechumens and in the exorcisms of the priest.”
- Orthodox Spirituality: An Outline of the Orthodox Ascetical and Mystical Tradition. St Vladimir's Seminary Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. “St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes: "Receive the exorcisms with devotion...Divine exorcisms, borrowed from the Scripture, purify the soul."”
- Exorcism. Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Retrieved on 2009–05–27.
- Can a Christian Have a Demon?. Kaohsiung Lutheran Mission. Retrieved on 2009–05–27.
- Exorcism. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Retrieved on 2009–05–27.
- Ferber, Sarah (2004). Demonic possession and exorcism in early modern France. Routledge. ISBN 0415212650. Retrieved on 2009-05-25.
- Quotes and Paraphrases from Lutheran Pastoral Handbooks of the 16th and 17th Centuries on the Topic of Demon Possession. David Jay Webber. Retrieved on 2009–05–27.
- The Methodist Conference - Friday 25th June, 1976 (Preston). The Methodist Church of Great Britain. Retrieved on 2008–05–23. “...the casting out of an objective power of evil which has gained possession of a person.”
- The Methodist Conference - Friday 25th June, 1976 (Preston). The Methodist Church of Great Britain. Retrieved on 2008–05–23. “...the authority to exorcise has been given to the Church as one of the ways in which Christ's Ministry is continued in the world.”
- The Methodist Conference - Friday 25th June, 1976 (Preston). The Methodist Church of Great Britain. Retrieved on 2008–05–23. “The form of any service of healing for those believed to be possessed should be considered in consultation with the ministerial staff of the circuit (or in one-minister circuits with those whom the Chairman of the District suggests).”
- The Methodist Conference - Friday 25th June, 1976 (Preston). The Methodist Church of Great Britain. Retrieved on 2008–05–23. “Since pastoral guidance is first and foremost concerned to assure the presence and love of Christ, it is important to follow this practice in these cases also.”
- The Methodist Conference - Friday 25th June, 1976 (Preston). The Methodist Church of Great Britain. Retrieved on 2008–05–23. “The ministry of bible, prayer and sacraments should be extended to those seeking help.”
- Exorcism in 2006. Westminster Methodist Central Hall (Rev. Martin Turner). Retrieved on 2009–05–25.