There was an article recently in the Poughkeepsie Journal reporting that the Roman Catholic Church is training more clergy to perform exorcisms. An exorcism is a ritual used to cast out demons from a demon-possessed person. Demons are the fallen angels who follow Satan and do his work. I’m sure a lot of people read the article and felt demon-possession is a left-over superstition from medieval days or something from biblical times but doesn’t happen anymore. I want to explore the topic of demon possession in modern times.
We read mostly about demon possession in the New Testament. Jesus cast out demons from a number of people, and we also see demon possession in the Book of Acts. Skeptics have claimed that these people weren’t demon-possessed, but were mentally ill. That might be true in some cases, but it appears that most of these situations involved demon possession (super-human strength – Matthew 8:28-34; clairvoyance – Acts 16:16-18).
Do we have demon possession today? I think we do, although it certainly isn’t widespread. Think of the most evil men of the 20th century. I believe they were demon possessed. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, to name a few. Even without demon possession, we are influenced by them because we are in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-20).
The next question is, can an exorcism get rid of demons that are possessing someone? I’m not sure. Obviously it wouldn’t be the ritual that drives out the demons, it would be God. So any ritual must invoke God and place trust in him. If you believe only in the words, then that’s magic and superstition. I guess the exorcism ritual has worked enough times that the Roman Catholic Church wants to have more priests trained to both discern what’s going on and to effectively deal with it.