Archives and Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church

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Documents of Synod:
Studies of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod
(1965 to 1982)


[153rd General Synod Minutes, 30 May 1975, pp. 197-214; Documents of Synod, pp. 165-182.]


Without question, one of the distinctive characteristics marking this portion of the twentieth century is the resurgence of the occult. This is attested to by the burgeoning interest in demonic, occult and psychic phenomena which has swept the United States and Western Europe, and of which the record breaking interest in, and profit from "The Exorcist" is only symptomatic. Although the swelling influence of this underlying dark current in our society has baffled and concerned many secular psychologists, doctors, and others in the scientific and intellectual, as well as, religious segments of our culture, it should not unduly baffle those who understand the nature of reality from a Biblical perspective. Certainly this is the perspective from which demonic and occult activity must be understood, since Scripture alone is the revelation of truth concerning reality, and in particular, all supernatural reality which is above the realm of our natural experiential situation. Thus, it is Scripture alone which is able to give us the perspective we need in order to understand, evaluate, and effectively deal with current demonic activity.

The Bible categorically places the present created world under the temporary, but very real, influence of Satan. The Apostle John clearly states that the "cosmos" is presently living under the influence or in the power of the evil one-to ponaro (I John 5:19). [1] Complementing this are the statements of Paul in which he characterizes the present—enestotos—age as "evil"—ponarou—(Galatians 1:4); and therefore exhorts the Ephesian Christians to take care in walking wisely, making the most of their time, because the days are (present tense) evil (Ephesians 5:15-16). Though there may be some who would limit this to the period of Apostolic times, the weight of evidence favors the interpretation of such passages as referring to the period of history lying between Christ's first and second advents, of which our present age is a part. As this present age is identified with, and characterized by the nature of the "evil one" (in whose power the whole world lies), it stands in opposition to the Word, will and law of God, the person and work of Christ, and the Gospel; and it is influenced by the destructive and wicked actions of the adversary, as God works out His plan of redemption in salvation. It is a period of time which is "evil," "dangerous," "critical," filled with the distress of the sufferings and temptations of the last times. [2]

For members of the Kingdom of God these facts are significant in 1) setting the stage for us in dealing with the present reality of evil in the "cosmos" as warfare against Satan, and 2) challenging us to be wise and alert in exploiting all resources and opportunities to stand against the "evil one," in the power of Christ, (in those areas of responsibility committed to us,) so that the victory which He has gained may be clearly manifested in this present age of evil. It is in this context, then, that we must face and evaluate the current resurgence of "demonic" and "occult" activity.

Although accounts of witchcraft, demonism, and exorcism run throughout Church history, there is some question as to how much of this was actually authentic and how much was merely superstitious ignorance. However we may look at it, it is evident that there is no clear demarcation in this matter between the Apostolic age and the Church Fathers of the second century and later. Men such as Justin the Martyr, Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, Jerome, and Augustine all testified to the reality of possession and exorcism in their day, and expressed a keen sense of awareness of the looming presence of the Kingdom of Satan with its threat.

Although Calvin did not mention demonic possession or occult activity in his Institutes, he did mention the misuse of God's name in regard to "unlawful exorcism"

. . . if there is so much evil in this rash readiness violently to misuse God's name, it is a much greater sin if it be put to abominable uses, as those do who make it serve the superstitions of necromancy, frightful curses, unlawful exorcism, and other wicked incantations. [3]

In another place, Calvin referring to man in general, wrote, ". . .while he is bound in servitude to the devil, he seems to be actuated more by the devil's will than by his own." [4] But in spite of how Calvin may have viewed demonic possession and occult activity, he was firmly convinced that the Scriptures warn us of a spiritual enemy who relentlessly threatens us in an irreconcilable struggle. [5] Thus, it is not surprising that a theme of warfare between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan is common in Calvin's writings.

In more recent times, the history of missions gives some convincing accounts of demonic possession and deliverances which significantly resemble those during the ministry of Christ, recorded in the Gospels. (See Nevius, Demon Possession). Equally impressive are some of the testimonies given by men like Dr. Kurt Koch, a leading Christian authority on the occult. However, though historical data may give evidence which attests the reality of demonic influence in possessing men and various occult phenomena, we must turn to the normative principles of Scripture for an objective basis in order to evaluate and interpret the present phenomena.

One striking fact in Biblical history is that whenever God works to vindicate His name in the lives of His people, and to fulfill His covenant promises to them, there is a confrontation with spiritualistic, occult, and demonic forces that challenge and attempt to negate all that which He is doing—for example, deliverance from Egypt, entrance into the promised land of Canaan, the incarnation and ministry of Christ, and the establishing of the Church. At the same time God used these situations to prove His authority and power over the total creation, including Satan. Thus the Biblical evidence would lead us to expect recurring manifestations of such activity until the final confrontation at the Second Coming of Christ.

Before considering the nature of various types of demonic activity referred to in Scripture, it is important to clarify the person and work of Satan.

In his fallen state he holds two major roles of power. In both roles he is distinguished from the demons-daimonia-by the term, "devil" diabolos (In the King James Version "daimon" has been wrongly translated "devil," which breaks down this distinction.) Satan's first area of rule is that of the "Ruler of Demons." All the "demons," whatever they may be, are under his authority and serve him in carrying out his crafty, destructive, and rebellious plans. In this role, he is the unifying head of the kingdom of evil (Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22). Synonymous with this title are those given by Paul in Ephesians 2:2, "Ruler of the power of the air," and Ephesians 6:12, "Ruler of Darkness." Kittel points out that "in later Judaism as a whole there seems to be relative autonomy of demons as a whole, but in the New Testament demons are completely subject to Satan—the ruler of the powers of the air." [6]

Satan's second role of power is that of "Ruler of this world." I John 5:18,19, teaches that God has granted Satan a measure of rule in the physical creation to the extent that this world of unregenerate men, and their culture, is under his power and authority; also that the world of redeemed men is subject to his powerful works. Both however are under the Sovereignty of God.

Two other terms which are used to designate his person, "ho ponaros" and "satanas," clearly bring out his character which motivates and permeates all of his activity. He is the "evil one"—ho ponaros—the embodiment of all that is in rebellion against God and His Word, and destructive to the life of man, in the lustful use of the flesh and of the mind (Ephesians 2:2,3). He blinds the minds of men to keep them from perceiving the light of the Gospel of Christ (II Corinthians 4:4). He multiplies the destructive forces of evil in people (Luke 11:24-26). He is against Christ and scatters His work (Matthew 12:25-30; cf. Luke 11:23). He is the enemy of God and man who sows confusing weeds of imitation and lawlessness in the areas where Christ is working, in an attempt to corrupt the seed of eternal life (Matthew 13:25, 28, 38, 39). He is a raging destroyer (I Peter 5:8) who works with cunning designs (II Corinthians 2:11). He afflicts people physically (Matthew 9:32-34; 17:14-20; 12:22; Luke 13:10-17). He hinders the people of God in their work (I Thessalonians 2:18). He is the father of murder and deceit (John 8:44). Consequently he is frequently referred to as "satanas," the enemy, adversary, or opponent.

"The account of the Fall in Genesis 3:1-13, where Satan attacks both God and Man, is a clear illustration of his work today. Calvin delineated this in three steps: 1) seduces man from obedience to God, 2) simultaneously deprives God of the honor due Him, 3) hurls man into ruin. Since then all of his actions have been directed toward 'the end that he might overturn God's Kingdom and plunge men with himself into eternal death." [7]

This relentless warfare which was introduced into this present world at the time of the Fall continues in full intensity. Kittel states: "In the New Testament there are two kingdoms, the Kingdom of the prince of this world and the Kingdom of God. Satan fights with all his might against the Kingdom of God." [8] He implies that the main concern of the New Testament is not with the lesser and subordinate activity of demons, but with the vicious and relentless attacks of Satan in his final struggle against the Kingdom and the people of God before his ultimate judgment at the Second Coming of Christ. However, as Calvin pointed out, even in this activity Satan is limited because,

. . .Satan is clearly under God's power and is so ruled by His bidding as to be compelled to render Him service. Indeed, when we say that Satan resists God, and that Satan's works disagree with God's works, we at the same time assert that this resistance and this opposition are dependent upon God's sufferance. I am not now speaking of Satan's will nor even his effort, but only of his effect. . ." [9]

The question which naturally arises is that of the relationship between the warfare waged by Satan, particularly manifested in New Testament times, and the binding of Satan (Matthew 12:22-30; Mark 3:20-27) and his fall from heaven (Luke 10:17-19), which are mentioned in these passages with reference to the coming and presence of God's Kingdom. Although there are various interpretations of this, the relationship simply is that both facts are true. Satan is definitively* defeated, but he is still waging war in a violent "death throes" type of struggle.

When the Kingdom of God was introduced with the first coming of Christ, Satan was truly bound, and definitively* cast from his place of power (in ruling). Christ has, and manifested, the power to bind Satan, cast out demons, and correct his destructive influences in the creation. This power was also entrusted by Christ to His disciples (Matthew 12:28; Luke 10:19). Thus, the casting out of demons and the healing of diseases were truly signs of the presence of the Kingdom of God and the vanquishing of the enemy, even though the ultimate fulfillment of this fact has yet to come. In the meantime, Satan makes violent attempts to reverse the inevitable results in the irreversible flow of history, by all out warfare against Christ and His Kingdom. Consequently, as Werner Foerster states, "though Satan's activity in general is not ended. . .he has lost his power to harm wherever the power of Jesus Christ is at work." [10]

Therefore, it is in this context that we must understand the current resurgence of demonic and occult activity. This we must do unless there is some clear Biblical evidence which would clearly show a radical difference between the nature of the reality between the first century A.D. and the present time. The first century Christians maintained that whoever is not in the Church is considered to be under the authority—exousias—of Satan (Colossians 1:13). This was an absolute distinction in the nature of reality, a distinction also reflected in the writings of the early Church Fathers such as Augustine's contrast between the two cities: Man's verses God's.

The activity of Satan can be divided into two areas: 1) unusual works, 2) operations which are analogous to God's providence. The "unusual works" of Satan are: a) "Lying miracles," such as occult activity, and b) "demonization." Both of these areas include activity which may be "beneficial" (done with God's approval) and "destructive" (harmful demonic activity). The "providential works" of Satan refer to his non-occult activity, in which he is particularly active in tempting, hindering, and seeking to ensnare, or wound with his "fiery darts" the people of God. Biblical references for these distinctions will be given as they are discussed.

A. Nature
In the New Testament, the term used to indicate what is referred to today as demon possession is "daimonidzomai." This specifically means that a person is demonized or suffers possession, affliction, vexation by a demon or evil spirit which inhabits the individual in his body. [11] Other terms which are used interchangeably with "daimonidzomai" in the New Testament are: 1) "ta pneumata ta ponara"-"an evil spirit"; 2) "daimonia"-a person is said to hatre a "demon"; 3) "ta pneumata ta akartharta"—"an unclean spirit" (Mark 1:23-28; 3:11-12; 5:2-13). 4) Occasionally the demon or spirit is defined more specifically in relation to the effect which it has on the individual, for example, "oelaniadzetai"—"a lunatic, moonstruck" (Matthew 17:15, 18). These are the only types of demonic activity mentioned in the Scriptures in which a demon has a controlling influence on an individual. They are found mainly in the Gospels, and there is no definitive reference to our current distinctions: oppression, obsession, and possession.

It is apparent that in all of the cases mentioned in the New Testament in which Christ deals with demonic activity, He was not casting Satan out, but rather is directly countermanding the orders which Satan had placed upon a particular demon to afflict a particular individual. In this Christ truly challenged Satan, demonstrating His power over him and his hosts, clearly manifesting the presence of the Kingdom of God. This is particularly expressed in Christ's discourse with the Pharisees who had accused Him of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul (Matthew 12:22-30, Mark 3:20-27). In only two cases is there an indication that Satan himself actually used or controlled an individual: 1) Peter (Matthew 16:21-24); 2) Judas in his betrayal of Christ (John 6:70, 71; 13:27; Luke 22:3). Because of the rarity of this phenomenon in Scripture this type of Satanic activity should not be considered a probable reality today except in the person of the prophesied Anti-Christ.

Christ's main encounter with demonic activity was in Galilee, where the people "walked in darkness." Though there was an awareness of demonization among the people of Jerusalem, there is no mention of any occurrences there. However, Jews as well as Gentiles were afflicted by the work of Satan, at least in physical illness (Luke 13:16).

B. Characteristic Manifestations
The Scriptures tell us nothing about how a person becomes demonized. Rather it is simply and categorically stated that this is the state of the particular individual(s) affected. The only light shed on this is that, as mentioned above, Satan commands his demons to afflict, harass, and destroy men in the sinister outworking of his role as the ruler of this world and of demons. It is important to note that in the Gospels, there is no indication that the particular individual had committed any particular sin or group of progressive sins prior to his being demonized.

Although daimonidzomai manifests itself in a variety of physical, spiritual, and social aberrations, there are certain basic symptoms or characteristics given in the Biblical accounts that have also been present in other historical accounts. Though extreme care must be taken in making any diagnosis, the following may be considered possible symptoms of "demonizing" today, and are usually found together, i.e., the presence of one isolated symptom does not indicate "demonizing."

1) The individual gives evidence of being controlled by a force or personality, apart from his own, which uses his body.
2) Bizarre anti-social behavior (Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:2,5; Luke 8:27).
3) Superhuman strength beyond the individual's normal ability (Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:3,4; Luke 8:29).
4) Intense convulsions, seizures, and bodily self harm in destructive and distorted ways (Matthew 17:15; Mark 1:26; 5:5; 9:18,20,22,26; Luke4:35;9:39,42).
5) Crying out with a loud shrieking voice (Mark 1:26; 9:26; Luke 9:39)
6) Coherent or incoherent speech (possibly in an unknown language) which is notably different from the individual's normal form of expression and voice.
7) The individual confesses a name or names other than his own. This usually identifies some aspect of evil, characteristic of the demon spirit inhabiting the individual (Mark 5:9; Luke 8:30).
8) There is recognition of, and resistance to the person of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 8:28; Mark 1:24; 5:6,7; Luke 4:34, 41; 8;28).
9) The demon inhabiting the person must obey Christ (Matthew 8:16, 32; 17:18; Mark 1:27; 5:12, 13; 9:25, 26; Luke 4:35; 8:32) or a command in his name (Acts 16:18).

In the Roman Catholic Church, three phenomena must be considered as a possible source of their problem: 1) he must be able to speak a language that is unknown to him, 2) he must have knowledge of secret facts, previously unknown to him, 3) he must possess strength beyond his age and ability.

We must warn both the credulous and the incredulous to avoid reacting in an extreme way to this data. First, where there is credulity, warning should be given not to identify every major or minor physical, spiritual, social or psychological aberration that we come across as relating to "daimonidzomai." Christ did not perceive the nature of reality in this way. He healed many who were sick with various diseases, but in no way did He automatically identify these problems with demons, even though some diseases were identified with Satanic activity (Luke 13:16). Kittel makes this clear:

It should be noted that in the New Testament not all sicknesses are attributed to demons. . . . Nevertheless, it may be said that the existence of sickness in the world belongs to the character of the age of which Satan is prince. . . . Thus while not all sicknesses are the work of demons, they may all be seen as the work of Satan. [12] (Luke 13:10-16)

Therefore, great care must be taken in counseling to properly understand individual situations in light of the medical, psychological, and spiritual facts related to them, in order to avoid doing greater harm to the individual by a wrong diagnosis. There is no benefit in being overly credulous and sensational. Rather, with the wise counsel of those with gifts in medicine, psychology, and true spiritual wisdom, which God gives to those who seek it, we must carefully evaluate and deal with each situation we are called upon to counsel.

On the other hand, it is just as possible to be naive in incredulity, thinking that such occurrences of "daimonidzomai" as those given in the Gospel, were isolated to that age. Although there is no explicit Biblical teaching, apart from Mark 16:17, concerning the continuation of "daimonidzomai" after the first century A.D., there is much evidence given throughout the Apostolic writings which supports the continuation of occult and Satanic activity until the second coming of Christ. (This will be discussed later.) It is clear that during the first century, real phenomena of demons inhabiting people took place. Only the extreme skeptic could doubt an actual confrontation with spiritual demonic forces in the cases of "demonizing" which Christ, the Apostles, and the seventy disciples encountered. Almost all of the demons recognized Christ and audibly spoke with Him, acknowledging that He is the Son of God, and the reality of their fate in future torment under His judgment. Christ also recognized them and rebuked them as demonic beings who were inhabiting individuals and causing the particular aberrations which afflicted them. Though it is possible that modern medical and psychological techniques might have been able to modify or control the symptoms of "demonizing" in these individuals, no permanent cure could have been effected without the casting out of the demon by Christ, and the powerful word of His command that the demon leave the person being afflicted.

Therefore, we should conclude that "demonizing," is caused by a demon being inflicted on a person by Satan for the purpose of distorting or destroying that person as the image bearer of God and perverting all that God has intended him to be. This type of Satanic activity seems to be more evident in in backward and pagan cultures, which have not been widely exposed to the Gospel and influenced by it, than in the more civilized cultures where Christianity has had a significant influence and effect. One possible reason for this is given by Nevius:

The reason for the fact that cases of possession are less frequent in Christian countries, is to be found in Satan himself. He uses methods best suited to his end. A form of possession adopted to advance his ends in heathen lands, may also be suited to subvert them in Christian lands. . . [13]

Some Biblical support for this may be found in the fact that, although there does not appear to have been any confrontation with demonization in Jerusalem (note above), there was an incredible confrontation with unbelief there. Christ attributed this unbelief directly to Satan (John 8:42-47). It was a sign of the influence of the kingdom of Satan and the people's identity with it, to their own detriment and loss. Ultimately, it led them to lash out against Christ in frenzied anger and to crucify Him in an attempt to destroy Him. So it is clear in Scripture that Satan uses different tactics in different situations, but all are directed toward the same end.

There are two further reasons why demonization seems to be more prevalent in the primitive, pagan cultures than in the more advanced and Christian-influenced cultures. First, is the fact that we may have more demonization in our culture than we realize, but because of the rationalistic and anti-supernatural presuppositions of modern science, demonization is not being considered as a viable possibility in diagnosing psychological, mental, and medical problems. Secondly, because primitive and pagan cultures tend to be more superstitious, they would naturally be more open, and therefore vulnerable, to occult activity and all that goes along with it. Many people in primitive cultures believe in animism—a world inhabited by and controlled by local divinities—demons. Faith in such personal forces apparently increases the outward manifestations of power by them.

However, it must also be emphasized that the power of the Gospel is tremendously effective in diminishing and overcoming every work of Satan wherever it is preached and lived out under the authority of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevius gives witness to this fact:

In China the uniform testimony of the suppressed demon is, "I cannot live where Christ is. I must go." There is something in the very atmosphere of Christianity which is repellent to them. [14]

Consequently we should expect to see a diminishing of such Satanic activity wherever the Christian Church is strong in its life and witness.

But as this is a source of encouragement and challenge to us on the one hand, on the other it serves a a solemn warning; for wherever there is the the erosion and breakdown of Christianity within a particular culture, there will be found the encroaching resurgence of the machinations of Satan and his forces. There is no reason to doubt that demonization will be among these.

What is the connection, if any, between a man's specific sins and demonic possession? Consider Job's case. Although he was only harassed by Satan and not demonized, this fact had no causal relationship to sin in his life, but was rather a demonic harassment which tested his commitment to God (Job 38-41). In the midst of his afflictions, he was commanded to pray for his friends and bring sacrifices for them, but not for himself. It is also significant to note that in the Gospel accounts there is no evidence of any requirement made by Christ for ceremonial sacrifice, or forgiveness given by Him, after a person had been delivered from demonization, as was the case after the healing of a disease. Quite possibly this indicates that the individual was not responsible in any way for his affliction, and that some forms of demonization and harassment are not necessarily caused by a specific sin in the life of an individual, but are simply an attack on the individual by Satan.

Some Christians, on the basis of experiences they have witnessed, believe there is a type of demonization which is the climax of a degenerating condition of sin in the individual's life, and that Christians can be demonized. For instance, a Christian missionary has recently written the following concerning a Christian woman with whom he is acquainted:

Many years ago we were called to a village of a fine Christian woman who they said was possessed. They wanted us to come and pray with her. She was a real Christian and still is. When we arrived at her mud and grass hut she was all disheveled and wrought. They found her in the dry river bed— casting herself on the stones, having thrown off her clothes. She was starey eyed and shaking, etc. We talked to her and prayed with her at which time she calmed down. Although we were not aware of it, she did understand what we were saying. My faith was not strong enough to cast out demons, but we did pray for her deliverance. We left her in that state and the next day we were called again to go and see her. At that time we found out that, during the night, she herself called on the Lord, saying, "Oh Lord, I know I am your child, and I know you are stronger than the demons and I call on you to drive them out." God answered her prayer and she was delivered. We found her fully clothed, in her right mind, and willing and able to discuss the whole affair. A neighbor's goats had eaten crops in her garden. In an attempt to bear a Christian testimony, she had simply forgiven him, rather than make the usual court case to sue. Now, some time later, her goats got into his garden; and he, instead of forgiving her, sued for loss of his crops. This made her angry, whereupon she took back all her forgiveness and hardened her heart. Her own conviction was that her spirit of lack of forgiveness opened the door for the devil to attack her. Several interesting things came out of this. 1) The importance of a Christian forgiving certainly was uppermost in my mind, 2) but also the fact that a Christian could be possessed by a demon. [15]

Some also maintain that Satan cannot violate the will of the individual until the individual gives access to him by 1) giving into TEMPTATION in the areas of ideas and thought (anger, pity, revenge, lust, pornography, tampering with occult materials and groups). This step leads to 2) VEXATION, now everywhere the individual turns he is faced with the temptation. If unchecked this leads to 3) OBSESSION. The individual becomes obsessed with the particular idea(s) and problem(s). (At this point or immediately prior to it there is an invasion of the body by a demonic force.) 4) OPPRESSION is next, characterized by a spirit of depression or some form of illness which leads to 5) POSSESSION, the individual becomes physically and mentally controlled by the demonic force. [16] However, it should be emphasized that there is no explicit Biblical evidence to support this type of progression in demonization, although there may be empirical and historical evidence.

There are other types of Satanic affliction which are different from the above but are evidently still the work of Satan. As indicated above, illnesses are directly attributed to Satan in the case of the woman with a crippling infirmity (Luke 13:10-16). This seems to be something inflicted upon her without any relationship to a particular sin in her life.

There is also the "beneficial" work of Satan through demonic activity. In this, God allows Satan to work in the lives of His people in order to accomplish through their suffering that which will ultimately be for their good in sanctification. This is revealed in Paul's thorn in the flesh (II Corinthians 12:7), and Job's testings. In both cases, though affliction is attributed to Satan or a messenger—aggelos—of Satan, it is ultimately seen as the work of God, who is able to use even Satan's evil and harassing work for good ends in the lives of His people (Job 23:10). This should not be identified with the "daimonidzomai" discussed above, which is evil and destructive in its end.

C. Deliverance from Demonization
The current influence of "The Exorcist" and the Roman Catholic ritual of exorcism has popularized the term "exorcism" as the means whereby a person is delivered from an inhabiting demon. The Bible uses the term "exorcism" only in regard to deliverance by an exorcist who expels the demon by some magical formula. It was the ancient custom to expel demons who unlawfully inhabited a person by pronouncing against them the name of a more powerful spirit. A whole apparatus of formulae and measures had developed and these measures were used at the time of Christ. Jesus obviously had no need of this exorcist type of ritual. He had full power over the demons who had to respond in obedience to His command (Mark 1:27). Therefore he did not exorcise the demons, but expelled or cast them out—ekballo—by the word of His command (Matthew 8:16), from their place of unlawful dwelling. Thus the individual was healed.

The only mention of "exorcism" in the Bible is in Acts 19:13. The sons of Sceva, roving Jewish exorcists, sought to combine their incantations with the name of Christ in exorcising an evil spirit. The situation backfired, and the demon attacked the exorcists.

This confirms the Church's awareness of demonizing and exorcisms via magical and mediumistic means after the ascension of Christ, continuing into the apostolic age. Many of the same characteristics of demonic activity were affirmed again in this account with the added testimony on the part of the demon that it was aware of both Christ and Paul, His servant. Could this possibly mean that the demon was able to perceive the power of Christ in Paul and that the same power was not in the sons of Sceva, who therefore could not control the demonic forces? It seems that this is the point, and the situation clarifies several things. First, that involvement with demonic activity should be taken very seriously, and any attempt to cast a demon out should be handled wisely, carefully, and properly. Where it is not, the one "exorcising" may be attacked or become far more involved than he intended. This is confirmed in other historical accounts and also in the precautions given in the instructions of the Roman Catholic ritual of exorcism. It is stated that the exorcist may encounter physical injury or death, intimidation by embarrassing statements, and attacks or possession by the demon force. Second, there may be exorcism by occult practices, but it is evil and even dangerous to try to mix this with the power and name of Christ. Third, no one other than a Christian is able to have any long run control over a demonic spirit, nor permanently cast it out of an individual by the use of the name of Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:43-45).

There is little mention of demons being expelled by the disciples apart from the accounts given in Matthew 10:8 (cf. Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1), and Luke 10:19-20. In Acts it is implied that the disciples had this ability (Acts 16:16-18; 19:15), but in the Epistles there is no command given to expel demons, no recorded instance of "daimonidzomai," and no mention of a charismatic gift of expelling demons. This does not necessarily mean that demons were not expelled by members of the Christian Church, but may well be an indication of a totally different emphasis of concern in the apostolic writings. If demonization does not usually affect the Christian it is likely that the matter of demonization and the expelling of demons was considered an unusual phenomena, and not an issue of major concern within the first century Church. Consequently, as the apostles wrote to the churches for the purpose of teaching and discipline, their emphasis in instruction about Satan's activity dealt with that area in which believers are particularly vulnerable-temptation toward ethical sins (See "Non-Demonic/Non-Occult Satanic Activity—Ethical Sin," p. 211).

Thus, the only passage which gives an indication that the ability to cast out demons is a continuing ministry in the church is Mark 16:17, plus evidence which can be drawn implicitly from passages such as Matthew 28: 18-20 and John 14:12. Christ promised his powerful presence with His people in the world, and therefore, as He dwells in us by His Spirit He will do great works through us. Historically, there is much evidence to confirm that Christians still have this ability and can exercise it. However, it should only be used when a situation has been very clearly confirmed as "demonization" in consultation with spiritually competent medical and psychological authorities, if possible. When it is used, the Scriptures teach that there is a need for much prayer, and a demon is only expelled when it is commanded in the name and power of Jesus Christ to leave the individual.

In conclusion, it is important that we understand the exhortation of Christ to the disciples as His exhortation to us also:

Nevertheless do not rejoice in this that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven. Luke 10:20

Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" And then I will declare to them "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." Matthew 7:21-23.

The second area of Satan's activity is that of lying wonders. This encompasses the whole area of the occult: Lying wonders of magic, foretelling the future, trying to communicate with the dead through mediums, astrology, and other related activity. It basically involves an attempt to probe into the area of extraordinary gifts or supernatural agencies.

It is commonly held that certain aspects of modem witchcraft can be traced back to the magicians of Egypt, like those encountered by Moses, while astrology goes back possibly as far as the tower of Babel. This shows that occult activity is very old and has been present with us probably since the Fall, when Satan began to rule as "the prince of this world." Occult activity is different from demonic activity, in that it involves the use of demons to carry out the various activities listed above. It does not necessarily require that individuals, as initially passive victims, have demons inhabiting them, but may lead to, and involve the individual in a relationship with demons in which he is controlled to varying extents by demonic power. Some people believe that it can lead to demonic possession of the type discussed above. Although there is no Biblical evidence for this, there is historical evidence for it. In any case, the significance of the occult is that Satan takes advantage of man's insatiable curiosity or fear of the future, and his desires to control and manipulate beyond his ability, thereby enslaving men to himself and his distorted, destructive view of life. God does not intend for man to be barred from knowledge of the future, with no resources beyond his own limited perception and ability. But he does intend for man to find these needs fulfilled in the resources God has provided rather than those of occult activity.

This is made quite clear in Deuteronomy 18:9-22. As a prelude to entering the promised land, God warned Israel concerning the evils of occult activity in Canaan, The Israelites were commanded neither to become involved in these practices nor to imitate them, since they are detestable. This activity was never condemned merely because it was superstitious or psychologically influential, as is some of the current phenomena. It was considered to be the direct outworking of the power and influence of Satan through evil spirits, using men to do supernatural works of magic, witchcraft, healing, casting of spells, communicating with the dead, and foretelling the future, and prophecy. Satan's purpose is to discredit the work and revelation of God, turn men away from their commitment to Him, and gain control over their lives. Thus, involvement in the occult was considered to be a "natural and voluntary intercourse with the evil spirits," but the sin was not primarily in the fact of communication with evil spirits. Rather it was the fact that such a relationship involved a turning away from a personal relationship with Jehovah, in a looking to Satanic resources tor. wisdom and knowledge rather than using the adequate and sufficient resources of the revelation of Jehovah's word through the prophets. This is confirmed by the fact that, in contrast to the command against involvement in the occultism of Canaan, the promise is given to Israel that God will give them a prophet like Moses through whom He will continue to speak and lead them as His servants.

Several other things are implied here, and in all other related Old Testament passages. First is the fact that God's people are vulnerable to the influence and control of this type of Satanic activity if they unwisely expose themselves to it by tampering with it. At the same time it is of absolutely no threat to them if they avoid it, because no omen or divination can be made against Israel (Deuteronomy 18:22; Numbers 23:23). Secondly, we should expect to find real miracles, fulfilled prophetic utterances, and other supernatural phenomena where the occult is truly operative, since it is controlled and motivated by the supernatural forces of Satan as he attempts to confuse men, and discredit the adequacy of the Word and work of God.

Though there are few explicit references to occult activity in the New Testament, where it is mentioned, particularly the references to sorcery, false prophets, and lying wonders, it supports what has already been deduced from the Old Testament. In Matthew 24:25 (cf. Mark 13:22), Christ stated that in the future false christs and prophets will appear who will even threaten to deceive the elect of God with their great signs (sameia, cf. John 20:31) and wonders. In Revelation 19:20, we note that these false prophets through their "sameia" deceived those men who followed the Anti-Christ. In Revelation 16:14, it is implied that the source of these false prophets' power is the "spirit of demons." In Paul's reference to the Anti-Christ in II Thessalonians 2:7-10, he made it very clear that there will be occult activities accompanying him, and that such activities have their source in Satan and deceive unrighteous men because they do not receive the love of the truth which leads to salvation.

Viewed from this perspective, the current resurgence of occult activity should not be considered a merely cultural phenomena, or passing fad which men have resurrected to escape the tension of life in a technological society. From its most "innocent" forms—for example, the Ouija board, horoscope, and white magic-to its most evil expressions, it is to be treated with great caution and seriousness, and should not be tampered with. Though Christians are no longer legally empowered by the civil government to stone individuals who become involved in the occult, as was done in the Old Testament (Leviticus 20:27), the danger of the sin of tampering with it still continues, and numerous references are made in the New Testament to the fact that sorcerers (pharmakeia) will not enter the Kingdom of God, but will be cast into Hell (Revelation 21:8).

The writer of this article has been informed of a reliable interview with three Christians who have formerly been involved in the occult. A summary of their experiences follows:

1. Two of the three had experiences which they believe may well have been dominated by demons.
2. G—after being heavily involved has no doubt about the inter-relatedness of sexual, spiritual, astrological, and drug problems. These were condensed into the issue of self-gratification in quest for power over oneself and others.
3. E—was a Christian prior to getting involved and began experimenting with psychic powers and telepathy after having her curiosity aroused through J. Stafford Wright's book Mind, Man, and the Spirits, (Zondervan). Later she experimented with another Christian friend in "white magic" seeking to manipulate people and things through occult power.
4. L—was introduced to astrology and Tarot card reading early in life, practicing both while experimenting in psychedelic drugs. She became involved in the counter-culture and had casual encounters with people who would invite her to their apartment to share drugs with her. She was struck by the fact that these people seemed to be able to read her mind, and believes they and she were under the control of demons. Therefore there was ready communication of thought between them, and the appeal to try one more way to get through to the desired light.
5. All three, in different ways, had their occult ties broken by Christian intervention, and the claiming of the power of Christ through prayer.
6. All three warned of the danger involved in occult practices, of becoming so involved as to be susceptible of demonic control.
7. Each stressed the necessity for instruction of anyone that is ministered to for demonic deliverance concerning the relation of demonic activity and the corruption of the human nature, in order to make clear that every problem is not caused by demonic powers and there is human responsibility in sin.

Thus, because of the subtle and powerful work of Satan through the occult, we need to wisely and carefully instruct people to "discern the spirits" to see whether they be of God, especially in "charismatic" experiences of speaking in tongues. There have been numerous instances in which people, who have not been wise in discerning the source of this charismatic gift by trying the spirit (I John 4:1-3), have found themselves under the influence of demonic spirits. In I Corinthians 12:3, there is a reference to a situation in the Corinthian Church in which people speaking in a heightened language were calling Christ "anathema." This activity had earmarks of authenticity, but disparaged the name and person of Christ. We must remember that glossalalia is not solely a Christian Church phenomena. It is found in many sects, in Hinduism, and Buddhism, as well as in liberal, creedal and anti-creedal Protestant Churches, some which emphasize a Neo-Orthodox "encounter" with God. Also glossalalia is considered in the Roman Catholic Church, under certain circumstances, a possible sign of demon possession. This by no means deprecates the true gift of glossalalia, but warns that unusual gifts of this nature must be carefully evaluated, because Satan as an angel of light and the father of lies seeks to discredit that which is truly of God by counterfeits.

The same is true in regard to miraculous healings. Some are of God, but others are not. (Note: Kurt Koch, Occult Bondage and Deliverance, 1970, p. 54). This can be attested in many places of the world today. By offering a person bodily healing through spiritistic forces of a faith healer or some other means, Satan seeks to gain control over the individual. "Healing on demand" in mass meetings is demonic. The godly form is quiet, within the framework of church government, and holy (James 5:14-15).

Therefore, in relation to occult activity, we must be wise in avoiding what is obviously related to this area, and in regard to glossalalia and miraculous healing, we must carefully discern between that which is really of God, and that which is not.

One of the most effective stratagems employed by Satan, is to lure our attention from the area of his main attacks. This is a danger in the study of demonic activity. We may become so preoccupied with peripheral phenomena, of which we should be aware, that we fail to consider the area of his most intense involvement in attacking the Kingdom and people of God. Though Satan may not be able to possess a Christian, he is still involved in relentless warfare against us, seeking to deceive, undermine, fragment, and weaken the body of Christ through temptation. Therefore the major emphasis in the New Testament Epistles, regarding the threat of Satan's activity is the echoing of Christ's admonition to the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, "keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

The area of "ethical sin" is the area of greatest danger in Satan's attack against the Church. The Bible places the Christian life in the following perspective. First, we are called out of the kingdom of Satan and the darkness of rebellion against God, and through Christ brought into a deep personal relationship of love and fellowship in the Kingdom of God. Second, because of the reality of our relationship with Christ, we are immediately placed in a position of active warfare and resistance against Satan, which has real threats (cf. Ephesians 6:10-14a; James 4:17; Ephesians 4:7). Certainly the strenuous and ever continuing nature of this conflict is reflected in the sixth petition of the Lord's prayer, "deliver us from evil."

In this light, Paul's exhortation to the Church at Corinth has much significance for us today when he refers to the importance of the need for Christian forgiveness: ". . .in order that Satan might not outwit us, for we are not unaware of his schemes" (I Corinthians 2:11). Obviously, it was possible for Satan to undermine the Apostolic Church when the Word of God was not properly obeyed and followed. This is the part of the battle to which we as Christians are primarily called— to resist temptation by obedience to the Word of God, giving no place to Satan to work. Calvin confirms this in the following statement:

The fact that the devil is everywhere called God's adversary and ours also ought to fire us to an unceasing struggle against him. For if we have God's glory at heart, as we should have, we ought with all our strength to contend against him who is trying to extinguish it. If we are minded to affirm Christ's Kingdom as we ought, we must wage irreconcilable war with him who is plotting its ruin. Again if we care about our salvation at all we ought to have neither peace nor truce with him who continually lays traps to destroy it. [17]

With this, Calvin urges us into battle, emphasizing that "this military service only ends at death . . ." [18] During our life we must stand in wise and disciplined resistance against the main attacks of Satan and his demonic hosts in their incessant attacks of temptation, scheming deceit, and subtle snares leveled against the people of God.

Some of the Satanic attacks and snares to which we need to be alert and resist are:

1. Satan's attempt to make the Word of God ineffective in our lives by snatching it away as soon as it is sown (Matthew 13:19), or by choking it out through the cares of life and the deceitfulness of riches, thus making it unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).
2. The temptation to evaluate and consider matters from the perspective of our own interests rather than the interests of God (Matthew 16:23).
3. Satan's attempt to cause men to doubt and deny Christ by sifting them through difficult experiences and afflictions (Luke 22:31,32; Job).
4. Pretense and lying (Acts 5:3, cf. John 8:3841).
5. Timidity-being ashamed of Christ and His Word (Matthew 26:69-75, II Timothy 1:7).
6. The temptation to a self-centered perspective within the Body of Christ (Philippians 2:3; Galatians 5:20), and also within the marriage relationship, whereby the couple deprives one another of legitimate fulfillment in marriage (I Corinthians 7:5).
7. Withholding forgiveness which is due. This leads to strife, tension, bitterness, and destruction of people (II Corinthians 2:10-11).
8. Being deceived in straying from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ and sound doctrine (II Corinthians 11:3,4).
9. Unconfessed sinful anger leading to a deeper sin (Ephesians 4:26,27).
10. Temptation to a self-centered pride before God which leads to a fall similar to Satan's.
11. The temptation to assert one's self rather than being meek and gentle in the face of irrational opposition of men in order that the work of God might be accomplished. (II Timothy 2:9).
12. Quenching the spirit of God (I Thessalonians 5:19).
13. Returning evil for evil rather than good (I Thessalonians 5:15).
14. Prayerlessness (I Thessalonians 5:17, cf. Matthew 26:41).
15. Failure to give thanks in all things (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Two of the most significant exhortations of this type in the New Testament are those given by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:19-21, and the apostle James in James 3:13-18. Paul lists not only sexual immorality, idolatry, and the occult practices of sorcery as the works of the flesh which separate men from the Kingdom of God, but also the works of enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, and envyings. Certainly the subtlety of Satan's attacks on the Church can be seen in the fact that while we would be quick to discipline individuals for the first three works of the flesh, all too often we allow the other manifestations to exist and grow among us. Again in James 3, the very thing which James calls demonic—wrong use of our tongues in expressing bitter jealousy and selfish ambition—seems to be too much tolerated in the Church simply as the "nature of reality." However, if we are truly resisting the work of Satan, standing against him in the power of the Holy Spirit (James 4:7; Ephesians 6:10-13) in our personal lives, as well as in the fellowship of the Church, these things ought not to exist.

How shall we resist, dealing competently with these works of the adversary? The only answer given in Scripture for resisting him in any area is the disciplined and earnest use of prayer and the Word of God, and un unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:11). There is no other source of defense or release from the militant onslaught of the "evil one." Therefore, Paul exhorts Timothy, "preach the Word; be alert in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction" (II Timothy 4:2), and the Ephesians, "with all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit ... be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all saints ... putting on with care each piece of the whole armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day" (Ephesians 6:10-18).

These are our weapons of warfare and resistance against Satanic and demonic activity in demonization, occult practices and influence, and subtle, eroding temptations. They are absolutely adequate. If we do not properly use them, we, as individuals, and the visible Church, will become weak and vulnerable to the ravaging attacks of Satan. However, if we more zealously and wisely, avail ourselves of them, we will be successful, not only in resisting
Satan, but also in tearing down of his strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4-6), through the power and authority of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. His is the Kingdom, and the power and the Glory, forever and ever.

This paper is the report of the study committee to the 153rd General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, but does not necessarily represent the full position of the committee nor the position of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.


Rev. "Jack Buckley
Berkeley, California

Dr. Robert Nuermberger
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Rev. Seth Dymess
Quarryville, Pennsylavnia

Rev. Dan Orme
Athens, Georgia

Rev. George Miladin
Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

Dr. John Sanderson
Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

Dr. John Young
Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

1—"keimai/keitai," The Analytical Greek Lexicon, (New York: Harper and Row Publishers), p. 227.
2—Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich (eds.), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), Vol. VI, p. 554.
3—John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, John T. McNeil], (ed.), (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press), Book II, Chapter VII, Section 22, p. 388.
4—Ibid., Book II, Chapter IV, Section 1, p. 309.
5—Ibid., Book I, Chapter XVI, Section 13, p. 173.
6—Kittel & Friedrich, op cit., Vol. II, p. 18.
7—Calvin, Institutes, Book I, Chapter XVI, Section 15, p. 174.
8—Kittel & Friedrich, op cit., Vol. II, p. 18.
9—Calvin, Institutes, Book I, Chapter XIV, Section 17, p. 176.

*DEFINITIVELY: When a particular act or activity is technically or in principal accomplished, so as to fix its result as an unquestionable fact, even though its total effects are are not yet fully realized historically.

10—Kittel & Friedrich, op cit., Vol. VII, P. 157.
11—Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 84.
12—Kittcl & Friedrich, op cit., Vol. II, p. 18.
13—John L. Nevius, Demon Possession, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, (1968), p, 277.
15—A letter from Rev. Jack Armes, Missionary to Kenya under World Presbyterian Missions (March, 1974). Note also similar accounts given by Jonathan Goforth, Dr. William Chisholm, John L. Nevius, Dr. Kurt Koch.
16—"Minutes of Meeting", Committee on Demonic Activity, Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, August 22, 1973.

On motion Synod commended the report to the churches as a useful tool in providing information helpful in understanding and dealing with the activity of Satan and that the committee be discharged.

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