Exorcism . . .

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Cleaned it. I'm sorry to rouse your curiosity like that but I want discuss it in a public forum. I only mentioned it as an example of unexplainable phenomena.

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Dear Bob,

Strange things do happen in this world and I don't mean to imply that I believe in a "closed" universe. I only mean to say that we don't live in the apostolic world or the world in which Jesus cast out demons. If we note the progression of redemptive history from Jesus' direct encounter with the Kingdom of Darkness to the relative absence of such in the epistles.

As my old prof Derke Bergsma pointed out years ago, when Jesus brought the Kingdom it aroused intense, direct opposition from the evil one. After the ascension, the conflict was not as intense. Even the Apostles did not face opposition on that scale.

The way one interprets strange phenomena is colored by one's eschatology. As I read the Apocalypse (and the rest of the NT and the OT in the light of the New) this is the time for spasms of persecution and periods of relative calm. To be sure there will be lying wonders and the like, especially, I suppose, as the end draws near.

Obviously I wasn't there and I can't say what happened or even what can happen (de potentia absoluta Dei) in this world, that's not my job, but we can approach "unusual" things with a degree of healthy skepticism, with the understanding that we live in the post-canonical era.


I never wanted to encounter the supernatural. I am a man of science and remain skeptical of spooky things. But I did encounter the supernatural none the less, two of our houses were turned into spook central. Never saw a bleeding statue but struggled with a bleeding bath tub one exhausting evening. Three different plumbers told us to call a priest. This was only one of many encounters

I assure you Dr. Scott, I never wanted a supernatural explanation for any of that. I do hope you aren't saying that I had these encounters because I wanted to believe in demons. I agree with what you said and it applies 99% of the time, but there are events that can only be explained by demonic activity. I just don't believe any longer that we should engage them.


Dear brother Clark,

If you look at my previous posts regarding demonic activity you will see that I agree with you 99.8%. I have more than a healthy amount of skepticism. The other people involved in what happened are irritated at me for my level of skepticism.

Never the less I encountered events way beyond the classification of natural occurrence. I'm going to launch an ink bottle across your bow just as a warning shot... in christian love of course. :)


Puritan Board Doctor
Dr. Clark, how would you rebut the argument that not all who did miracles in the NT were Apostles? It has been my understanding that the cessationist argument is that only the Apostles were given that authority and that only they could lay hands on someone to pass that authority onto them. So that after the Apostles died the authority for miraculous signs also died out.

Then what do we do with Mark 9:38-40

38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

40 For he that is not against us is on our part.

I want to have an answer for this since I come from a charismatic background and when I argue for cessationism this is a tough one. The man was displaying miraculous signs but the Apostles did not know him thus they had not layed hands on him to give him that authority. Where did he then get it?

Is my understanding of the passing of Apostolic authority wrong. I am thinking of Acts 8. When they layed hands someone to recieve the Holy Spirit and then Simon the sorcerer wanted it too because he wanted miraculous power. As a cessasionist I don't think this was a "second blessing" but a giving of authority for workers for Christ. Is that wrong?

If you could elucidate me here or point me to article or lectures you may have on it, it would be much appreciated


Augusta, check under QuickLinks to see Who's Online. I have some opinions, but I'd rather wait for Dr. Clark along with you.

Blue Tick

Puritan Board Graduate
This thread signals a persistent thread in American evangelicalism but one that is not unique to American evangelicalism as some have shown here.

Throughout the church we have often misinterpreted unusual but "natural" phenomena as supernatural or apostolic phenomena. This happens for a variety of theological, psychological, and historical reasons. Theologically, we have often failed to distinguish between canonical or redemptive history and post-canonical history. Put plainly, we are not David, Elijah, or Paul. We don't have apostolic power. We haven't seen Jesus face to face. We were to experience any one of the things Paul suffered, we would likely die. We don't get teleported/transported by the Spirit from place to place. We don't raise the dead or kill them (or rather the Spirit doesn't do these things through us). Why? We're not apostles. This touches on the other thread concerning natural law and civil polity. This is the flip-side of that debate. We don't live in the canonical world. If we don't accept that then we will likely continue to try to re-create the canonical world politically or spiritually.

The psychological reasons for this urge, I think, have to do with wanting to feel as if we are in the "real" period of divine action and salvation. We feel "left out" (if not left behind). I've noticed this with my Pentecostal friends. They describe every ordinary thing in apostolic terms. They can't bear to live in a post-canonical, ordinary world. They have to have the same immediate experience of Christ and the Spirit as the apostles. They cannot content themselves with Word and sacrament.

Historically, there have been two great epochs in W. history since the close of the canon: Christendom, modernity (and late modernity which many probably wrongly call post-modernity). In Christian antiquity/Christendom we often blurred the border between the canonical period and our existence. History was less defined.

Beginning in the Renaissance and especially in Modernity (more or less since 1650) we have had a more highly defined sense of "then" and "now." Some of this consciousness has not been helpful. It has often relied on anti-theistic assumptions (e.g., Lessing's Ugly Ditch and Kant's phenomenal/noumenal distinction; rationalism, empiricism, and irrationalism/romanticism). So, under Christendom, it wasn't always clear that we weren't in the canonical period. This gave rise to the sorts of interpretations of events one finds in Tertullian and even in the medieval period. They lived in a "sacral" and highly supernaturalized world. Bees were thought to build altars to the sacred body of Christ (having carried away crumbs of the host). It's the sort of thing one still sees in 2/3s world Romanism where statues "bleed" etc.

Most of us, however, don't live in that world. We know that, in the ordinary providence of God, statues don't bleed. If everything is extraordinary, however, then anything is possible and nothing is impossible or even unlikely. The Modern turn, however, helped re-kindle Romanticism in the 19th century and revivalism and hyper-spiritualism in the 19th and 20th centuries. In response to Kant's closed world, people turned to the mystical or emotional and in the 20th century they have largely become the same thing. If a preacher (using Finney's methods of manipulations) can create the right emotional experience, the "Spirit" is said to be present in worship. How does one know? One had the appropriate "affection." (The 1st Great Awakening is not immune from this critique). This same sort of thing happened in the 14th and 15th centuries when the nominalists reacted to the realists.

That's why we should be thankful for Warfield's sane and sobering analysis of these phenomena in Counterfeit Miracles. Call him a killjoy but he told the truth. Most of the things to which people appeal as evidence of canonical activity in the world (be it demons or angels) is unverifiable and dubious on the face of it.

Is there real spiritual wickedness in the world? Absolutely but more often than not it's not where we think it is. "The devil wears Prada" indeed! He spends a lot more time in the corporate headquarters of (name your favorite multinational) than he does in your neighbor's house. Remember, however many servants he has, as I always told my children, there's only one devil and he's not ubiquitous. He can only bother one person at a time. Further, we belong to Jesus. The evil one can roar all he wants. Throw a bottle of ink at him and go back to sleep.


Wow very informative.

Thanks Dr. Clark


Puritan Board Junior
Back in the 1970's I was part of a charismatic group that specialized in "deliverance". They constantly focused on casting out demons out of everybody. It seemed like it was easy to get into a "the Devil made me do it" mode because there were so many demons floating around. It got so ridiculous that I remember at one summer camp a woman was prayed for to cast out the demon of caffeine!! Now, if there are demons of caffeine I know a lot of Reformed people that are quite possessed!!
One thing also I remember was that I NEVER heard the gospel of Justification by grace alone, through faith alone because of Christ alone. Never.
I believe that demons are real, the bible says so. They are not just epilepsy or some other organic brain disease. And I think if you go looking for them and focus on them you will find them. But, I also believe that if you focus on Christ and preach the gospel that they will flee as they did when Christ walked on earth.


Puritan Board Freshman
I'm of your mind, brother: Reformed folk seem to sometimes take their lack of superstition too far. Dr. Vern Poythress has some good lectures on spiritual warfare which recently reminded me that when I'm opposing humanistic ideas and proponents, I face more than human minds and human arguements. Certainly in this post-post-Enlightenment type culture the demons are more intellectually-oriented than they are explictly demanding worship; conversely, they rule in countries where the Gospel has not forced them out.

Good conversation & profitable.


Puritanboard Librarian
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