Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Exorcism and the Lutheran Church

This is an area that the Lutheran church has spent little time examining, and probably has little interest to do so now. Recently I obtained a copy of Darrell McCulley's book The House Swept Clean: A Biblically Balanced Pattern for the Diagnosis, Exorcism, and Pastoral Care of the Victims of Demonic Possession (2002), which explores, to some degree, the reason for this lack of interest. I have yet to digest its contents, so a review of it will have to come later. To date I have not found a parallel to his work. Currently I also picked up a copy of The Vatican's Exorcists: Driving Out the Devil in the 21st Century (2007) by Los Angeles Time's writer Tracy Wilkinson. So far it's an interesting read. My interest in this area goes back several years, but it is also born of pastoral experience and concerns. My one and only STM paper concerned the role of exorcism and Baptism, which seems to be the only place this is seen in Lutheran practice. Other than this the information appears scant.

I have decided to conduct some specific research into this area, mainly for the future benefit of pastors like myself who will undoubtedly be on the front lines of a spiritual struggle that is sure to intensify in the coming years. We live in a time of pagan fascination with the occult and Eastern religious experience that is a historical throw-back to a time well before Luther.

My concern is that we are not fully equipped for this. Thus my research. If you know of anything that may be helpful in this area, let me know. Or if you have any resources worth finding.


Roxann said...

I have no useful resources for you, but I must confess an interest in the subject as well... most especially, wondering why this is NOT apparently an issue at all in the modern church

I've been reading through the Gospels and it occurred to me while in the middle of the book of Mark-- there just seems to be a lot of accounts of Jesus driving out demons in that book-- and I wondered, "Why were there so many demons then, and there aren't any now?" Of course, I realize that it is not true that there aren't any now, we gloss over a lot, but... it seemed to be so common then and now it isn't at all. What changed?

The Heresy Hunter said...

Just stay away from Bob Larson in your research!

As for demonic activity, a few questions: could it not have been more common in Jesus' time simply because He was on earth preparing to die for us? And did Jesus' death and resurrection (victory) limit them? How often is demonic activity mentioned in the Old Testament compared to the Gospels?

D. Engebretson said...

The Heresy Hunter is correct in that there was undoubtedly more activity during Jesus' day than ours specifically because of the confrontation between Satan and the Son of God. We would expect this. Also, the scope of Satan's activity is limited since his death and resurrection, compared to his bold access into the very presence of God and the angels, such as we see in Job. The apostles continue the work of Jesus in opposing and driving back the Satanic kingdom, which is done especially through the preaching of the Gospel.

Nevertheless, Satan is still described as "a roaring lion seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter), who masquerades as "an angel of light" (2 Cor.). We are warned to be alert and on guard.

Furthermore, Paul especially warns us that our struggle in this life is against the very powers of hell (Eph. 6) - principalities, etc., and thus tells us how to "arm" ourselves for this "stuggle."

Personally, from what I have read , I believe that true possession is still relatively rare. However, that having been said, I believe there are many other ways for the evil hosts to plague God's people. One example is when demons infest a dwelling or create an inhospitable environment for people to live in.

My interest in this area is different than one might find in a more pentacostal setting. As a pastor I know that one day I may encournter something more serious (since pastors might be the first to do so), and I don't want to have to run to the nearest RC priest for help. I think that the Lutheran church is abundant in resources. The only problem is that they are not developed in such a way as to be used effeciently by guys "in the field" encountering active evil.

I am pleased, however, by the House Blessing included in the recent LSB hymnal's agenda. I have used it on at least three ocassions with no reoccurance of what was originally reported in the homes.

BTW, I won't use Larson! Thanks for the tip.

Rachel D said...

Heresy Hunter - I like Bob Larson's writing, he's very informative. I'm curious what you don't like about him. Thanks!

Rachelee said...

Woops, the above comment was written by me. Sorry. :-)