Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare

When most people think of demon possession, their thoughts immediately go to images from the movie, "The Exorcist."  Hollywood has a way of making lives and events and history more fantastic and extraordinary than they really are.  But that's Hollywood.  What about reality?  Is demon possession real?  What does it look like?  Or can it be explained through our knowledge of science and medicine and psychology?

There really hasn't been much written on the subject, particularly in Lutheran circles, until recently.
Robert H. Bennett has done some work on the subject.  He is the Executive Director of Luther Academy, and Adjunct Professor of Missiology and International Missions Specialist at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  Bennett has written two books exploring this topic.  The first is I Am Not Afraid - Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare, True Accounts from the Lutheran Church of Madagascar.  Published in 2013, the book is an account of his time spent among the Malagasy Lutheran Church - where demon possession and spiritual warfare are a nearly everyday reality for the Church. He also included helps for recognizing the work of demonic forces in our world and aids for the conduct of our own warfare against the demonic - the focus of which is upon Christ - His power, not ours.

Bennett also wrote a follow-up work: Afraid - Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare in America.  Using real-life stories and examples, Bennett shares demonic encounters happening here in these United States today.  Most important, he provides the remedy: God's grace in the Word of God and the power of Jesus Christ over the forces of the devil.  Satan is our old evil foe.  But the Father of Lies has been defeated through Christ's death and resurrection.  He is a fallen foe.  And Christ's victory is ours.

I found both works very enlightening, and very helpful - both for myself and for my ministry among God's people.  I have already encountered a case of what was likely "demon oppression" (I stop short of calling it demon "possession.)  And Bennett's guidance with respect to what exorcism really is and how it works (Biblical and entirely unlike the Roman Catholic Rite) was pivotal in the care of that individual.  Bennett pointed me towards hymns of an exorcistic nature within our own hymnal (ever heard of "A Mighty Fortress is our God"?), the liturgy as exorcism, Scripture readings that are exorcistic, and prayers as well.  Between both books, we Lutherans have the beginning of a "manual" for exorcism.  I highly recommend both books for both pastors and laypersons.  

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