Did you bring your lucky charms for the exorcism?  Oh, never mind, you’re Lutheran.

By Rev. Joshua V. Scheer

Just a few days ago Fox News published a story about Roman Catholic Bishops in the U.S. trying to recruit more exorcists who can discern when an exorcism is necessary and perform the rite.   http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/11/12/catholic-bishops-exorcists-needed/

What images come to mind when you think of exorcism?  Most likely it’s seasoned by movies and media that we have seen over the years.  An exorcism often brings up a picture of an epic battle between the exorcist and demon, a struggle filled with magic tokens (lucky charms), incantations, and miraculous things.  This view is not Biblical.

First of all, in the Gospel accounts of exorcism, Jesus often only tells the demon to “shut up, get out”.  There are some miraculous things that accompany an exorcism, and often strange abilities are attributed to the possessed, but the Scriptures hardly paint the picture of an epic battle.  The demons are often scared of Christ and what He will do to them.

As exorcism was with Jesus, so it was with Luther.  There are a few accounts here and there of Luther being involved in exorcisms (apart from the exorcism that is found in Baptism).  For one example, see “Letter to Severin Schulze, June 1, 1545” in Theodore Tappert’s Luther’s Letters of Spiritual Counsel. In this example, Luther simply advises the exorcist to lay hands on the possessed, recite the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, and follow with a Collect for Deliverance.  He then advises laying on hands and reciting Mark 16:18.  The Church publicly prayed for the afflicted for the next three days.  It is without fanfare, certainly not the kind of exorcism that sells movie tickets, but one which reflects Lutheran theology.

For a whole set of examples of Luther on exorcism, see: on angelfire.com

Luther knew that the devil loves attention, and that God’s Word had power over any demon (for a good example of how demons sought attention, see Mark 1:21-28).  On one occasion Luther remarked: “You proud devil, you would gladly see me set up a ceremony with you, but you will not experience that. I won’t do it. Do what you want, I will not give up.”  His exhortations around exorcism involved the simple things of the Church, Creed, prayer (especially the Lord’s Prayer), and Scripture.  These things were the things that worked in God’s time.  The battle was not fought by humans, but by God.  Luther’s view reflected a trust in the efficacy of God’s Word both in prayer and proclamation.  It really was an exorcism with justification by grace alone at the center.

What I mean by that is that Luther’s exorcism centered on God’s gracious work.  In churches founded upon salvation by works, exorcism rites take on a “pitched battle” approach between man and demon, at best with God assisting the exorcist.  What you believe affects what you do.  For a Roman Catholic, for a Pentecostal or Charismatic, exorcism reflects the underlying works-based view of salvation.  For a Lutheran, exorcism reflects the underlying grace-based view of salvation.  In fact, as Lutherans, we rejoice not in any power we may have over demons, but that our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

For those who would like to divide doctrine and practice, exorcism provides another example of “as you believe that also will you do”.  Another way to put it: “Everything you do says something about what you believe”.

Pastor Joshua Scheer
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Bagley, MN

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Did you bring your lucky charms for the exorcism?  Oh, never mind, you’re Lutheran. — 50 Comments

  1. >> apart from the exorcism that is found in Baptism

    Pr Scheer, you toss that off like we’re all supposed to know what you mean!

  2. Luther used parts of the rite of exorcism in his baptism liturgy. Which is freaking awesome. We’d have a lot better understanding about original sin and the meaning of baptism if there was more holding the baby up in the air with a loud “devil be gone!!”

  3. @Joe #1
    In the 16th Century baptismal rite (and in some of the baptismal rites in later centuries), after making the sign of the cross upon the child marking them as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified, the pastor declares something to the effect of, “Depart, evil spirit! Make way for the Holy Spirit!”

  4. This is a topic I am keenly interested in. Two questions.

    1. When was the last time anyone has heard of a LCMS or other Lutheran pastor in the US casting out a demon from a person/place ? Ie. How frequent if ever does this happen today in the US ? If a pastor tries to cast a demon out and it doesn’t work who / where would he go for help as a LCMS clergy ?

    2. Regarding the concept that one simply says a simple prayer and the demonic immediately vanishes etc., what would a Lutheran response be to the following scenario I have run across….

    A home has a demonic presence due to the existence, unknown at the time, of cursed objects in that home. Particularly objects that appeared benign but had been used in occultic rituals and hidden in the home by a former occupant, ie. hidden in walls and things like that. The manifestations included literal appearance of demonic entities to more than one occupant seperately at differing times. The occupants were sane, productive, professionals and did not suffer from anything of this nature before or since.

    Due to these objects and that activity the home had demonic manifestations that did not go away even when pious and god fearing christians prayed to Christ for deliverance from satan and for the devil to leave. The current occupants of the home had done nothing to invite demonic presence at all.

    Later some of the objects were taken to a second home by the Christian occupants of the house, not realizing what they had been used for, and the manifestations followed the objects. Prayers continued but the manifestations did not cease.

    Finally it was learned what the objects had been used for they were removed from the building and destroyed. The home was then prayed for and blessed and there has not been any further demonic manifestations.

    How would Lutheran teaching on demonic activity/presence deal with the above scenario ?

    I can’t even get close to this question when I asked at my local LCMS parish. The idea of spiritual battle like this didn’t seem to be on anyones radar.

    Any insight would be appreciated.


  5. @VincentL #5
    Re: your first question I have spoken with a pastor who was involved with one. Beyond that all I can say is that we’re not going to hear about it because it would ultimately fall under the seal of confidentiality.

  6. @VincentL #5
    Vincent L –
    You said: “Regarding the concept that one simply says a simple prayer and the demonic immediately vanishes etc.” – I want to clarify that just because the simple Lutheran rite of exorcism is undergone does not mean that the demon would immediately vanish – God is the one who removes the demon at the appropriate time (when He wills it). We are to be faithful in applying the Word and praying for the possessed while we await God’s work of deliverance. Again, we faithfully (doing as the faithful do, praying and blessing, maybe even fasting as Jesus even says that there are occasions for it) stand firm and await God’s work of deliverance.

    In regards to question 1: Last time I heard was from Dr. Marquardt at seminary, but I do not know any specifics – older pastors may be able to provide more information. As far as who would a pastor seek out for help in such situations, they should seek out their brother pastors. I am not sure if District Presidents have anything or not. In my district there is a pastor who is well versed in occult practices who can be helpful at times.

    In regards to question 2: In the following scenario the situation appears that God finally acted to remove the oppression. I believe that the continued prayer was completely in order as well as the removal of the object and blessing of the home. I think a scriptural precedent for the burning of objects used in pagan worship can be found in Acts 19 (verse 17 in particular).

    Sadly, many have forgotten what the Gospel accounts record about demons and their existence (and the various ways in which they manifest). The rise of “modern” and “scientific” thinking has caused a great deal of trouble with the care of souls. I guess I would consider it less a spiritual battle than a call by God to be faithful in praying for another person and applying the Word of God to them.

    Hope it helps…

  7. @Joe #1
    My apologies. Lutherans have traditionally held that every baptism is a “little exorcism”. In the Lutheran Service Book Agenda provides an alternate rite of baptism based upon Luther’s rite, including a statement of exorcism (depart unclean spirit and make way for the Holy Spirit)

    The point of my article was to show the relationship between belief and practice by showing how it works out in an exorcism. Again, my apologies.

  8. @Rev. Joshua V. Scheer #8
    This is also found in greater detail in Luther’s Baptismal Booklet. Which also includes the statement, “I adjure you, you unclean spirit, in the name of the Father (+) and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit (+), that you come out of and depart from this servant of Jesus Christ, [Name]. Amen.”

    I heard an account of a LCMS pastor performing a successful exorcism about 15 years ago. More recently another mentioned casting a demon out of a room. As you say, Rev. Scheer, he stated there was nothing dramatic about the encounter, simply commanding the demon to be gone in the name of Jesus Christ.

  9. I once heard a venerable LCMS seminary professor explain that the story in “The Exorcist” was essentially true, though dramatic liberties were taken. It was a boy rather than a girl, and he and his family were LCMS members from Baltimore, Maryland. According to this professor, the family’s LCMS pastor was at a loss and sent them to the seminary in St. Louis. President Louis Sieck attempted several times to perform an excorcism, in the board room at the seminary. He did not have success and in desperation referred them to the Roman Catholic diocese of St. Louis. The exorcism was successfully performed by a Roman Catholic priest at a Roman Catholic near CPH. [http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2961238/160yearold_st_vincents_hospital_closes.html]

    According to this seminary history professor, there are audio recordings of the first exorcism attempts in the Concordia Historical Institute, but they cannot be released until 75 years after all participants have died. At the time he gave this account the boy, then a middle-aged man, was still living, in anonymity, in Baltimore.

  10. An “essay site” that charges substantially to view the full paper had this tantilizing preview snippet (not that I necessarily agree with the viewpoint, but it does seem to reference what I was told):

    “Many look at this story as proof that the Catholic Church is the true Church because they were able to expel a powerful demon when protestants were unable to. This is not the case. The truth is, Lutherans were caught off guard with their pants down. Rev. Dr. Louis B. Sieck had no previous experience, no training, and one piece of reference material written in Latin in 1684. There was, and still is no class at Concordia University or Seminary on demon possession. God sanctions us to fight Satan through him, and we need to train our pastors to do so. With the rise of the New Age Movement, the chances of a Lutheran pastor or worker crossing paths with a real demons should not be underestimated. How the demonic is to be dealt with is the proper question, not if. The fact that the 1949 Sieck-Doerffler case has not repeated itself is an expression of the grace of God The Holy Spirit. He has given us time to prepare and educate ourselves so that this failure does not happen again. We have squandered this grace for 50 years. He will not be patient with us forever if we willfully choose not to engage the Enemy.”

  11. Apparently during the Lutheran Age of Orthodoxy, the baptismal exorcism was seen by the laity as a sign that the pastor was an orthodox Lutheran. If he wouldn’t perform an exorcism he was seen as a crypto-Calvinist. As a result, Lutheran laity would demand baptismal exorcisms to ensure they got Lutheran pastors. See the book by Bodo Nischan called Lutherans and Calvinists in the age of confessionalism. There’s a chapter on this. My LCMS church uses Luther’s order and performs an exorcism pre-baptism, by the way.

    Bethany Kilcrease

  12. Kebas,
    It is my understanding that the original exorcism done at St. Louis was actually successful, but the family was only nominally Lutheran and did not follow up with catechesis, communion and the like. It was a mixed marriage, so when the boy was repossessed, they took him to the other parent’s church – Rome. The RC’s were more insistent upon proper follow up and thus the second exorcism “took”.

  13. This is a subject that is interesting. There are two extremes that must be avoided. One is to fall into the trap that Rome did for many years, regarding every possible illness as a result of demonic possession. Along with that the trap to ‘see’ demonic possession in everything. There is also the connected problem of being over-zealous in ceremony, as is mentioned in the above commentary. The media also flock to this, and sensationalize it, and in the meantime try and make us like we are loony.

    The other side of the coin is the aversion to admitting it even happens. When I asked a synodical official about something a few years ago, he stated, Lutheran pastors have participated in exorcisms here and there, but they are always turned over to the Roman Catholics… we want to steer clear of such things. We have to address these things in the seminary. I was happy to have theology teachers in high school and professors in college who incorporated the topic into our education. But I am aware some students at seminary do not even receive any instruction. Granted, the demonic tends to make its physical manifestations much more obvious on the mission field, and in third world countries. But our pastors need to be prepared for such things. One of the greatest difficulties is those who have experienced such things are reluctant to talk about them, for obvious reasons. Those outside are fellowship who talk the most about such things also seem to profit the most from them, through book sales, etc.

  14. @Paul #14
    You said: “the demonic tends to make its physical manifestations much more obvious on the mission field, and in third world countries”
    True, but couldn’t this be coming to the U.S. as ‘alternative spirituality’ becomes the norm (paganism).
    Good comments about the needed balance on the issue.

  15. “My LCMS church…performs an exorcism pre-baptism, by the way. ”

    For what purpose?


  16. It is a mistake to think all demons leave simply on command. Surely they fear Christ but mortal men are not Christ. Even the disciples of Christ had difficulties (Mark 9:14-29) and what did Christ say? “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” It would seem the clear words of Scripture require a little something of the exorcist…prayer and fasting.

    Even though I am not Roman Catholic I would be hesitant to criticize the Catholic exorcism ritual. It is 98% prayer and 2% command. And at least the Catholic Church recognizes the need to have training in this.

    I also wonder about Luther’s comment. Does the devil really want attention or does he like it better when no one can even see him working his destruction. I fear the devil prefers the later and has been very effective in this age.

  17. Thomas B. Allen’s book, Possessed, comes closest to presenting the Lutheran involvement in this case. There is a movie by the same name, starring Timothy Dalton (007 fame), which portrays the “Lutheran pastor” in a very bad light. Additionally, a paper can be found in the St. Louis Seminary library, which sometimes gets photocopied by seminarians, containing second-hand accounts (former students of those involved, who would later themselves become sem profs, recounting what they heard from participants, including Dr. Sieck) and, as I recall, a few mimeographed pages from a diary composed by a Roman priest involved in the case. As I understand from the paper, the exorcism of the boy was done in what is now known as the Chapel of the Apostles (the bell tower was not yet complete and the room was used for storage), using a Lutheran rite from the 16th or 17th centuries. The demon was expelled, but later returned. The family eventually was referred to the Jesuits at St. Louis University. The priest’s diary is located in a locked vault at St. Francis Xavier College Church on SLU’s campus. How William Peter Blatty received a copy of the diary to create The Exorcist no one seems able to explain.

    Robert at bioethike.com

  18. Pastor Scheer,
    Would you know or be aquainted w/Pastor Paul Schoeder, from Our Shepherd Lutheran, in Greendale WI? When I was small (41-42 next week) he used to give chats on this. He did do this type of thing, but hasn’t spoken on it, in quite some time. I was married there, & my parents heard him, give “this” talk. I’ve heard him speak on a few situations, and you may want to ring him & pick his brain on the history, past & present.

    All I know is, when my parents pulled into the driveway after that chat, neither one wanted to get out of the car to open the garage. My Dad, used to talk about what he heard that night from Pastor Schoeder. Ephesians 6 leaps to mind.

  19. When I was at seminary, one of the professors addressed this topic. He said that when a parishioner suspects demonic activity in the home, either it is a product of their imagination, or it is real. His recommendation, based on an experience that he had in the parish, was to do a blessing of the home (LSB Pastoral Care Companion, 148-158 or LW Agenda, 338-340). If it is only their imagination, they receive comfort from God’s Word and prayer. If it is real, then the “efficacy of God’s Word both in prayer and proclamation” has done what only God can do. Within my own ministry I have used the “Blessing of a Home” on a regular basis (and once in a situation of suspected supernatural/demonic activity). It has always been well received by my parishioners.

  20. Back when I was at sem in St. Louis- 2001 a guy by the name of Darrell McCulley did a full study of exorcism and published a short book on it called ‘The House Swept Clean’. It is the only book length treatment of exorcism and demon possession, from a Lutheran perspective, that I know of (besides a few paragraphs in Siegbert Becker’s ‘Wizards that Peep’ from WELS) – Rev. McCulley has a website and looks like he is out of the LCMS mainstream but the book is interesting: http://christiandefenseministries.org/AboutDarrellArthurMcCulley.html

  21. Pastors & fellow laymen:

    WRT Vincent’s second question and the scenario he lays out, I’m wondering if the doctrine of vocartion comes into play? Can anyone cast out a demon through praer and creedal recitation, or does it need to be a called (sent) and ordained Pastor? Forgive my ignorance (working from memory and poor biblical scholarship), but in the biblicsl accounts, I think faithful people brought the possessed to Jesus and his apostles (who were sent by Christ to cast out demons in his name, among their many vocational tasks) because they weren’t able to effect the exorcism on their own through prayer (although it may not say explicitly that they tried). So I’m left wondering if the afflicted Christians in Vincent’s scenerio weren’t able to drive the demon away because they weren’t called to do so. Just a thought… Does it make any sense?

    Eric Ramer

  22. @Mary L. #17
    Mary L – A demon leaves when God determines. The task given to the Church is to stand faithful in the situation, praying, proclaiming the Word, fasting as well (you are right in bringing that up from Jesus’ teaching). The point of the article was to show how our beliefs affect what we do. For a Roman Catholic, who at least trusts partially in his works, the exorcism seems like a pitched battle. The prayers of the rite are also prayed to saints and so forth (Hail Mary and so forth).

    You state it well that the Roman Catholics at least see the need and the need for training. That is true – and Lutherans are starting to see the need and the need for training (see the other comments on this blog). We shouldn’t look to Roman rites for the answer – their rites come from their theology of works.

    In regards to the Devil and attention. There are times when the Devil wants to work with subtlety (as the serpent in Eden). There are also times when evil seeks the attention due to God alone – and many exorcisms are that way. Look at the exorcisms that Jesus performed and see how little He actually pays attention to the demon.

    As another poster commented, we should find the balance. On the one hand, we need not become charismatics that look for a demon under every slippery step, on the other we need not become so “modern” in our thinking as to write off what the Bible teaches concerning demons.

  23. It is fascinating to see the similarities and differences between the different denominations. I posted earlier and evangelical point of view and I have seen the RC point of view. I appreciate this article very much especially the connections to Baptism. I remember being chrismated in the Orthodox church when I was seven (Baptized Lutheran, chrismated Orthodox and confirmed Lutheran) we had to turn to the west renounce the devil and spit at him. Imagine the excitement a seven-year-old boy would feel by spitting inside church!

    I came across this from goarch.org.
    “From the Orthodox theological point of view, the following can be considered exorcists:

    Christ is the exorcist par excellence for it is He who won the victory over the power of the devil.
    Priests in the performance of the holy sacraments and in preaching the word of God follow Christ’s example.
    All Orthodox Christians are exorcists as they struggle against personal sin and social evil. In fact, “the whole Church, past, present and future, has the task of an exorcist to banish sin, evil, injustice, spiritual death, the devil from the life of humanity.” Archbishop Iakovos, in a sermon at the Sage Chapel, Cornell University, spoke on exorcism in the following manner: “Both healing and exorcising are ministered through prayers, which spring from faith in God and from love for man…. All the prayers of healing and exorcism, composed by the Fathers of the Church and in use since the third century, begin with the solemn declaration: In Thy Name, O Lord.’ ” (Exorcism and Exorcists in the Greek Orthodox Tradition, March 10, 1974.)”

  24. When I saw the title, I was thinking Lucky Charms the cereal. Sort of like bringing popcorn. Was that intentional?

    Thanks for this article, btw. I’ve been curious about the Lutheran perspective for a while, esp. because I have a few “charismatic” friends.

  25. @Zant #28
    Thank you, and yes, the title was intentional – magically delicious.

    In regards to your charismatic friends, you should ask for their perspective on this:
    Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    I knew I should have cited that one in my article. It demonstrates how many who claim their own works will not be allowed into kingdom of heaven (but instead claim their own “worksy” exorcisms in the face of Christ).

  26. I think better catechesis on this topic could help prevent or at least address news stories like this and this. The second story even involved a pastor.

    It is a difficult topic to give the proper amount of attention, but I appreciated how Pastor Beane put it from the link Rev. Lohse posted in #25

    “It calls to mind C.S. Lewis’s observation from the preface to The Screwtape Letters that the two errors we make about Satan are thinking too much of him and thinking too little of him.”

    Most people only know what the entertainment industry has taught them since churches tend to avoid addressing exorcisms and demons. Proper teaching would make them less sensational. A thorough book on the topic from CPH would be nice since most literature out there seems to be written to sell books rather than properly inform.

  27. When I was at seminary, I seem to remember Prof. Bill Schmelder saying about exorcisms, “Men, if you’re ever faced with a case of demonic possession, call in a Roman Catholic priest. They’re expendable.” My paraphrase of what he said. 🙂

    Anyway, more seriously, it seems that in regard to the Sieck exorcism, it was successful, but the family kept dabbling in the occult, namely using a Ouija Board & even a seance to try & contact what they thought was a dead relative, after the Lutheran exorcism & so the possession returned, after which the family went to the Roman Catholic church.

  28. I have a buddy who is a Professor of Homiletics at the Lutheran Seminary in Tanzania, Dr. Mattias Mdemae (I think that’s spelled right) When he was visiting Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (17 years ago) we got into a debate about the whole exorcism thing. I can say that the experience of the African church is VERY different from that here in the US. Unless one wishes to condescend to say they are not as smart as we are or somehow not as informed in rational theological discourse. . . they seem to know something most Lutherans in the US are comparatively clueless about. He kinda gave me the creeps when he suggested we had better get aqainted with dealing with possession and other encroachments of the devil because it’s all around us. . . .we just don’t see him anymore. We have become desensitized.

    I refer all to Luther:

    People are possessed [by the devil] in two ways: some corporally, according to their [external] humanity, and others spiritually, according to their spirit [or soul], as is the case with all the godless. In those who are corporally possessed and frenzied, the devil inhabits and vexes only the body, not the soul. So the soul remains secure and unharmed. The demons can be driven out of such people by prayer and fasting. (Martin Luther, Table Talk #1170 [1530], Luther’s Works, Vol. 58 [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2010], p. 75)

    Carefully investigate whether that woman might be practicing some fraud by means of which all of you could be made objects of ridicule. In my own experience (apart entirely from what I have read in books) I have encountered such frauds, and afterward I reproached myself for my simplicity. The evil spirit takes delight (as he did from the beginning with Adam) in using a woman to make a fool of a man – if he cannot make him godless, as he much prefers to do. In short, whatever it is, whether it be in this woman or in others whom you mention, whether it be in the form of an incubus, a succubus, or other monstrosities, we nevertheless know that it is the devil. Therefore, we should not be inattentive and casual with regard to his fabrications and deeds, his realities and apparitions, but should fight against him with faith and prayer. The one whom he crucified lives. And by his own power the crucified One again triumphed over his crucifier in order that in the former we may triumph over the latter. (Martin Luther, Letter to Bernard Wurzelmann [Nov. 2, 1535], Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960], pp. 42-43)

  29. I am a LCMS Lutheran Pastor and went to school with Darrell McCully but did not know him well. I have had some experience as a street pastor in Florida with these matters and we should talk some time.
    In His Service
    Pastor Jim

  30. I’m a non-traditional student at Multnomah University which is a non-denominational Christian school in Portland Oregon. I am (God willing) studying to prepare for the LCMS seminary in Fort Wayne. Mult U is not a school that is heavily influenced by Charismatic teaching, it is if anything most influenced by its Baptist roots, though its professors range in traditions from Angelican to free Baptist. We even have a protestant doctor of theology who was educated in a Jesuit university. I say this to underscore that what I am about to say is not influenced by a spoon feeding of Charismatic enthusiasm for the spiritual.

    Since just before arriving to Multnomah I have been made more and more aware of the spiritual war that Paul writes to us about in Ephesians. In attempting to discuss the war with my local LCMS pastors I’ve been told multiple times that these things can happen as they are shown to exist in scripture, but that they satan simply isn’t working this way any longer in the west (though he seems to be active in Africa and the east). I find this willful ignorance very distressing, and honestly it alarms me that as a denomination with such excellent theology, which rightly accepts the scriptures at face value and call for not pressing human reasoning into the interpretation of the holy sacraments, that there is seemingly no thought given to doing much the same with regards to spiritual warfare and its reality all around us.

    My wife was recently confronted on the train during her commute with a demoniac, who responded to her prayers to Jesus in fear and removed itself from her presence. My pastors response to the report of this encounter was, “Well, I wasn’t there so I don’t know what really happened.” This characterizes my experience in addressing this topic in our churches.

    Just yesterday Mult U had a woman, a professional counselor, who the Lord has been for the past year using in a powerful deliverance ministry, come address the school regarding demonic oppression. The reason they had asked her to speak was because a student at the school had violently manifested a couple of weeks ago, an event that had never happened in such a public way in the history of the University. Many students in the school were fearful and traumatized by the incident as the student in question (who has been delivered by this time and has taken a leave of absence) was well known.

    The counselor came to explain to the university student body that here in the west we have a veritable plague of demon oppressed living among us, we work with them, go to school with them, and even attend church with them. This was not an attempt to scare folks, but to point out that deliverance was normal and standard practice in the ancient church that we have in our modern “enlightened” context virtually eliminated from our spiritual practice. The vast majority of her demonized patients have been women who are working in ministry and are no less saved than you or I. This understanding that has been propagated in our churches that Satan and the Holy Spirit cannot live in the same house is simply a lie.

    Hers was a plea to the church universal in the west to please please awaken, and realize that there is a vast multitude that is needlessly suffering demonic oppression while we smugly tow Satan’s line that he is not working actively through his demonic servants all around us here in the west.

    I have yet to get to the seminary at Fort Wayne to visit the professors there myself to address this issue. However, I have spoken to many of my ministerial brothers who have attended recently (and are stil) and I am told that there are NO classes and NO training what-so-ever available for pastors within our schools to help equip them to guide and safeguard our flocks. We have removed a tool of the war from the hands of our pastors and given the enemy a free beachhead which has been exploited into a full on invasion. I’m not writing this to be an alarmist, the war against the demons and their abominable master has been won already through the one who died to save us all. There is no reason to fear the enemy, but rather we must learn to have compassion for our brothers and sisters as well as the lost who are tormented by a quiet enemy, and bring to the battle every splendid tool that our Lord has provided us with. Christian love, duty to God, and compassion for the oppressed demand this. We have done a woeful job of it to date.

  31. @James Beadle #34
    Demonic activity will rise further as paganism rises. Most of the pastors in my younger generation believe this. I am sorry to hear that so far you have not encountered an LCMS pastor who knows or shows interest in such things.

    When you go to Fort Wayne, contact Rev. John Pless, who has contacts in Madagascar, where exorcisms are taking place frequently. Also one of the admissions guys, Rev. John Dryer has studied the Roman rites a lot if I remember it right.

    When I was at sem, there was a “fireside chat” held which discussed these things. My knowledge of them comes from the Scriptures, Luther, my experiences.

    I would recommend the book “Wizards that Peep” from Northwestern Publishing House
    It is one of the few modern Lutheran books to deal with the topic.

    One of the cautions I give to you in your studies on this matter, stay richly in God’s Word, attending Divine Services during it, as they do tend to make ones thoughts move towards dark things. I would be happy to discuss it further with you off-site, contact me at [email protected]

  32. Dear Friends,
    Great discussion. I am an LCMS pastor and will be doing a ‘Blessing of the Home’ rite from the LSB. Walther wrote a little on this in his ‘Pastoral Theology’ (Chapter 34). My question is and remains, “Can a Christian be possessed by a demon?” I had not before seen Luther’s distinction between a physical possession and a spiritual possession. I think I understand the difference. I simply know of no passage in scripture that speaks to the question directly and with finality. We do have the parable of the ‘house swept clean’. It seems to teach that a demon cast out (by God’s authority) can return if the ‘house’ (soul?) is not filled with the Holy Spirit. My thots have always been that one who is filled with the Spirit of God need not fear any demon possession (as long as they remain in the faith). Resist the devil and he will flee. Of course, should one play in the occult or merely drive out the Holy Spirit, the house is vacant and subject to infestation. Regarding homes, we will put this in God’s hands with prayer, resurrection hymns, and blessings from God’s Holy Word.
    Regarding our cultural setting, I firmly believe that some good sound teaching on the use of God’s name is in order. Occult arts, drug use, and wild perversity seem to go hand in hand with it all. What bothers me are some of the halucinations that members have when they take medications of various types. Some of those medications are as nasty as the worst of illegal drugs. : -o

  33. My heartfelt response would have to be yes, a Christian can be indwelt by a demon., Simply based on the evidence of my research and interviews this is now without question in my mind. It appears however that cases of actual possession, which is an indwelling of the human host by the evil spirit typically happens before conversion through exposure to occult practices, or after salvation by invitation by a confused brother/sister. I do not know the full process involved in this, certainly committed Christians can suffer severe demonic oppression and temptation/disruption in their lives (aka. Job), but actual possession such as found in Hollywood movies where a demon has 100% control of its host appears impossible. Powerful manifestations occur without question. There are times when a powerful demonic spirit is able to powerfully manifest in a Christian who doesn’t know who they are in Christ (the power he gives them over the demonic) and actually take control of their behavior/speech for short times.

    It seems apparent, Pastor Llewellyn that a brother must understand his position in Christ and authority over the demonic to be able to overcome. In fact this education and prayer is absolutely required in deliverance ministries that I have studied. Prayer alone may drive a spirit away, but without an understanding of one’s authority given us by the living God, the victim remains vulnerable.

    I am now firmly convinced that it is ignorance of this that is one of satan’s key weapons in the spiritual struggle. In one instance, an exorcist asked a demon who was manifest if he understood that he had no claim on the woman he was tormenting and the demon admitted that he knew she loved the Lord and she was saved, but that he was to make her life a living hell for as long as he could. I make no claims to understand the motives of the enemy save for those outlined in scripture. Satan is a ravenous lion seeking to devour all he can. However I find myself much more aware now than I was a year ago that there is an actual war happening all around us. This war is won, but the enemy remains very active until the day the Lord puts it all to a final end.

  34. @Tim Llewellyn #36
    A pertinent bible passage on Christians and possession could be Luke 13:10-17. Jesus refers to her as a daughter of Abraham, which could indicate faith.

    Luther would treat the exorcism of a Christian the same as any other, with God’s Word taking control.

    We do know from history that the baptized (and therefore Christian) can be possessed.

    @James Beadle #37
    James, I think you are placing a little too much power into the hands of men and our understanding in this. God’s Word will liberate someone when and where it pleases God. Job’s friends were real good at questioning Job’s understanding and faith, when in fact, the Lord controlled when the affliction would cease.
    Jesus taught that some demons require prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29)

    Your examples from exorcisms are too much in the “pitch battle” instead of upon firm reliance on God’s Word to accomplish what it says when it pleases God.

    The motive of Satan is hatred of God.

  35. Perhaps you are right. I’m very reactive right now to the fact that our churches seem asleep on this issue, and I do not wish to undermine the sovereignty of God in my research. However at the same time, the Lord has given us authority over the demons for a reason, and that is not just for us blindfold ourselves and ignore that which is happening all around. I accept your warning as from a pastor and a brother, and I appreciate your concerns. I am wary of complacency and I do not question at all that brothers and sisters can face demonic oppression and indwelling. I just encountered too much evidence that counters that belief over the past two years to buy that any longer.

  36. This essay and discussion was very interesting. I have encountered some of the situations described in the discussion, most notably a home of a parishioner in Wisconsin about three years ago. Amazingly, though he thought he would be seen as crazy, the husband and father of the home talked to his pastor about it. A small group of people from the church went over to serve this family. The disturbance was resolved, by God’s grace, and the family has been at peace. The process of seeking deliverance was quiet and powerful as the Lord interviened. I don’t know why LCMS pastors avoid this discussion we should be among the first to talk about it and deal frankly, and biblically with the reality of these creatures as we all live under the grace and authority of the Creator and his Word.

  37. CPH will release my book on this topic titled “I Am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare in the Lutheran Church of Madagascar” in the summer of 2013.

  38. I have studied this ever since seminary back in the 90’s at St. Louis. I spoke with some of the old timers (seminex replacements) about this when I read up on it in the library while doing research for a paper. I was astounded that virtually nothing was ever said about any kind of thing. Since then, I have been involved in an exorcism…and see demonic activity frequently. So, this is a welcomed discussion! So, when faced with this in my parish, I had to look around at non-Lutheran sources. Primarily Catholic sources. It always seemed to me to be as you say Pr Scheer, this strange “battle”….never really matching up with the biblical accounts. But you are also correct, the disciples also had trouble with this. Through my experience, I discovered more LCMS pastors who have been involved in exorcism, and they were very helpful and gracious. I look forward to reading Dr. Bennett’s book (just ordered it) and have McCulley’s book. It’s good…and a helpful resource. I believe that we could/should be a helpful voice to bringing some balance and biblical theology to this! One thing I know from experience: the devil does not give up ground easily. He is a master manipulator and deceiver. As parish pastors, we need to take seriously Paul’s admonishment about “principalities, powers in high places”. Certainly we should not be afraid, but at the same time realize that what we are dealing with is serious and the last thing it wants is for us to be involved. This is why you are correct that as paganism arises, so will manifestations of the demonic. We’re seeing it already…but you have to understand what you’re looking at. Pride can keep us from seeing it. Thank you for writing on this…clearly there’s interest. Blessings on your ministry.

  39. I would like to put a plug in for Dr. Bennett’s book. I purchased it a couple of weeks ago and am now reading it. I think it ought to be required seminary reading.

    I am heading to Fort Wayne at the end of this month in anticipation of beginning seminary in the summer. I plan to ask if this topic is being addressed there, and if not, why.

  40. You could also add “My First Exorcism: what the Devil taught a Lutheran pastor about counter-cultural spirituality” by Ps Harold Ristau (with forward by John Kleinig) and Ps Bennet’s new book “Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare in America”

  41. I had also read “Afraid” and am able to add my recommendation. Anything that Kleinig points to as a good read is going to be solid gold. I’ve not read any Ristau as of yet.

  42. One thing I have read is that many Roman Catholic Diosces appoint a priest as the official exorcist for that area. Essentially it is a secondary duty to whatever position they have been assigned within the Diosces, but it allows someone to be involved in such things long-term. There isn’t much training that goes along with it, but the experience is probably invaluable. Has the LCMS ever thought of taking such an approach? Perhaps having each district assign or elect 1-2 pastors as the official exorcists of that district? It seems like having some continuity in this area would be helpful. Just a thought.

  43. Pastors who take this very seriously, in many districts, are very careful not to let it get out that they do in fear of professional censorship. I have had conversations with pastors who have asked me to keep their names confidential.

  44. Interesting comment James. It’s sad that a pastor would risk professional censorship for something that is completely biblical. Just goes to show how far many people have gone towards considering only naturalistic/humanist explanations of things. Not saying we should look for demonic activity behind every sin, but obviously Jesus and the apostles accepted that demonic activity does in fact occur.

  45. @James Beadle #47

    I’m sure there is a degree to which a pastor may fear “professional censorship” from their peers. But, I think the greater concern is being labeled as ‘that guy who did an exorcism’ in their district and community. Granted, there may be professional concerns as to methodologies, perhaps even concerns of whether or not a pastor might have charismatic tendencies… as those types typically are involved in such matters with their ‘deliverance ministries’ as they are called. The professional end may simply be that a pastor does not want to be mistaken for one of those types.

    More-so, I’d assume the pastor doesn’t want the label of ‘exorcist guy’ due to the natural consequences that follow from it. If you’re the guy who did an exorcism, and it becomes widely known… your phone and email starts blowing up. You have laity and clergy alike calling you for advice, messaging you for your opinions and thoughts on different situations. You get every person on the street who thinks they might be possessed, or someone they think might be possessed, or they heard a noise in the attic and it is either a raccoon or demon up there… pestering you. At first you might think… woohoo, Evangelism opportunity. But, after a while you realize that you’re just dealing with paranoid people who spend too much time watching paranormal programs on t.v. and others who are off their meds thinking that demons are following them around.

    I’m sure Dr. Bennett has a lot of people contacting him each and every day… more-so than he would probably like. Imagine trying to carry out your daily duties, opening your email up and finding 100 new messages from people all over the country, and perhaps from around the world… every day. There is more than one reason why those who have… keep it quiet.

  46. That is a well reasoned response. Unfortunately this state of affairs often leaves people in our church body without obvious recourse. I’ve met pastors on both sides of the “excluded middle” fence in our fellowship, more on the outside than inside. I have hope that this is changing with respected men such as Dr Bennett and Curate Dreyer publishing their research. I’ve looked into this cautiously since my first post on this thread five years ago, and have been encouraged by some of the men I’ve talked to, but it’s still not an open topic in the synod for the most part. You have given me something to think about Rev Ringer with a new perspective on why good men are hush hush about it, thank you.

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