Michael J. Dies
Can believers be possessed, or demonized, by evil spirits? According to the article “They Shall Cast Out Demons” by Maureen Eha in the May 2000 issue of Charisma, the answer is yes.
The article begins with the story of a woman who was afflicted by fear all of her life, along with other strange phenomena. She was finally set free by the power of God. Now she lives a normal life, whereas before she could not even leave the house without hiding her face. The article says her story, “… leaves us with burning questions about the deliverance ministry. Is this ministry really necessary? If so, why aren’t more Christians involved in it? And for those who are, how can we be sure we are doing it right?” (p. 55).
To answer those questions Eha interviews Kathy Scataglini, Joseph Thompson, Cindy Jacobs, Doris Wagner, along with several other specialists in this area.
Cindy Jacobs, co-founder and president of Generals of Intercession, believes it is necessary. “She [Cindy Jacobs] believes most people need some kind of deliverance ministry. ‘People who argue this point haven’t traveled in Third World Countries.’” (p. 55, emphasis and brackets mine).
The experts bemoan the fact that while there is such a need for deliverance, very few Churches practice it. Kathy Scataglini says “When I see someone manifesting, I ask the pastor, ‘Do you have a deliverance team?’ It has been sad to see how they deal with it, or don’t deal with it, I should say” (p. 56).
Joseph Thompson believes that “… even charismatic and evangelical Christians ‘struggle with this area because the primary premise from which they operate is that Christians can’t be possessed’” (p. 56).
To that Eha states “And therein lies the essence of the controversy. Is deliverance for Christians? Leaders in the field today reply with a resounding yes.”
As proof Eha’s panel gives Matt. 15:21-28; the story of the Canaanite woman who went to Jesus to ask for her daughter’s deliverance. “He replied. ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs’ (v.26). According to Thompson, Jesus’ comment indicates that ‘deliverance is for those who have a relationship [with God] and an understanding of what they are walking in’” (p. 57, brackets hers).
As further proof Thompson adds, “‘The Bible says when an evil spirit is cast out, it will roam in dry places for a while, and then it will say “I will go back to my house from which I came.” When it gets back to that place and finds it clean, it will return with seven more demons.’” He continues, “‘Common sense dictates, that the only people who can “fill their houses” are believers’” (pp. 58,59. See Luke 11:24-26).
There does exist within the Pentecostal/charismatic movement a general consensus that unbelievers can be possessed or demonized. The same cannot be said, however, of the effects of the demonic regarding believers.
Even though this article is done in a reporting style, and Eha admits that this is a controversial topic (p. 57), comments are, as a rule, dealt with uncritically. This is most obvious in the responses given to the question of Christian possession (demonization, see p. 57, 58). For a magazine that reaches out to a group as diverse as charismatics, this is unfortunate. It would seem that the reporter (Charisma itself?) is either in complete agreement with this view of deliverance or a greater unity of doctrine is assumed in the vast Pentecostal/charismatic movement than is found in many denominations.
The people interviewed are referred to as the authorities in this field of ministry. Again, there is but one viewpoint represented, yet they are called “The contemporary leaders” (p. 55), the “experts” (p. 58) and even “those involved in deliverance ministries” (p. 58) presupposing that all legitimate deliverance ministries hold this view.
Eha states after the introduction that there are three burning questions to be answered: is deliverance ministry needed; if so why are so few doing it; and if we are doing it, what is the correct method. As significant as the answers to these questions may be, they are answered with a plethora of experience and far too little Scripture.