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The Rite, the spirit world, and you

January 23, 2011 5 Comments

by Kurt Lantz

Much like The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005, Sony Pictures), the new film The Rite (2011 Warner Bros) attempts to make the point that if we believed in the devil then we would also believe in God. Does the belief in both go hand in hand? Can you believe in one without believing in the other? Can you believe in angels and not in demons?

The Bible is clear about the existence of demons and demonic possession. From its first chapters we read of the devil possessing a serpent and acting through it to lead Adam and Eve into rebellion against God (Genesis 3).

Throughout the Old Testament, accounts of possession by evil spirits are sparse, but in the New Testament when Jesus Christ was walking around, cases of demonic possession are well recorded. While the people didn’t seem surprised by demonic possession, it certainly frightened them and searched for deliverance. Jesus, as the Son of God and Saviour of the world, stepped forward as the Great Deliverer promised since the devil first appeared to deceive Adam and Eve in Paradise (Genesis 3:15).

Jesus healed people of demonic possession the same way He healed people with other diseases: He simply spoke and the healing happened. He commanded the demons and they obeyed Him. They had no choice. They couldn’t resist His power over them. They recognized His authority and left at His order. While every form of mental illness is not a mark of demonic possession, true cases of demonic possession today should be dealt with by calling on Jesus Christ, the great Physician of body and soul.

Victory over demons never comes as a direct result of our prayers or even our faith. It comes by Christ to whom we pray and in whom we place our faith and trust.

The complicated and extravagant rites for exorcism seen in the movies serve only to attribute more power to the demons than they really have. Success or failure is depicted as depending on personal strength of faith or the ability to accurately follow the prescribed rite. In reality, demons are subject to Christ and we have access to Him through prayer and His Word. While demons may afflict us, there is a ready cure. They are subject to Christ and He is our champion. They must flee at His command.

Aside from physical demonic possession there is also spiritual demonic possession which is more common. The Bible tells us that all non-Christians are spiritually possessed by the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3). Their souls are captive to him so that if they die not believing in Christ, they will go to hell with the devil.

The cure for this spiritual possession is the same as the cure for physical demonic possession: Jesus Christ brings the victory. Through His Word He casts out the evil spirit and rescues us from the kingdom of the devil, bringing us into the kingdom of God.

This is what happens in Holy Baptism. Through Baptism God rescues us from death and the devil not because there is any kind of power in the water or in the actions of the baptizer or in the faith of the one being baptized but because of the Word of God which He attaches to the act of baptism with water: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Without the Word of God the water is plain water and does nothing, but with the Word of God it accomplishes the things God has promised. Earlier rites for Holy Baptism included a minor pronouncement of exorcism, “Depart you unclean spirit and make way for the Holy Spirit.” And today, the rites of Holy Baptism include renouncing “the devil and all his works and all his ways.”

Belief in God and belief in the devil and demons go hand in hand, for God’s Word, the Bible, tells us about the existence of demons and the victory of Jesus Christ over them. It both warns and encourages Christians that there is an unseen battle going on for which God has given us the necessary weapons (Ephesians 6:10-20), all founded on Jesus Christ and His power over the dark spiritual forces of this world.

Therefore, we cling to Jesus Christ in our baptism and regularly pray with confidence what our Lord taught us to pray: “Deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

The Rite opens in movie theatres January 28.

Rev. Kurt A. Lantz is pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church and Lutheran chaplain at Brock University, both in St. Catharines, Ontario

5 Comments »

  • Judith Burns said:

    This is a very thoughtful approach to the topic of “demons”. Thank you, Kurt for reminding us of Who is really in control. What do I love about being a Lutheran? The focus is always on Jesus!

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  • Bethlehem_yahweh said:

    2 Timothy 3:16  All scripture is given by inspiration of GOD,
                  And is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
                  For instruction in righteousness:

    In JESUS CHRIST Holy Name,
       Bethlehem

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