HOW TO DEFEAT DEMONS
By Rev. Jim and Carolyn Murphy
PART ONE - A HISTORIC OVERVIEW
WESTERN THEOLOGY AND DEMONISM
For the past 200 plus years the theology of the
Western world has made very little room for the study of demonism. Even
a portion of today’s theology courses brush over this entire subject as
“information we will briefly talk about but in today’s world we don’t
really need.” How did the Western church lose its grasp of the spirit
world? To answer this question we must look into church history.
In the eighteenth century Western world a major
movement developed in philosophy, science, politics and religion. This
movement forever changed the way Western man thinks, acts and carries
on his daily life. This movement was called “The Enlightenment.”
The Western world of the eighteenth century was just
emerging from the Reformation. For over one hundred fifty years it had
been experiencing a mighty rebirth of Christianity and the dawn of the
Protestant church. Along with this rebirth came certain theological
teachings...some true and some false. Only by faith were many of these
teachings received. They were not scientifically “provable” in any way.
False and unprovable beliefs and teachings also plagued the parallel
worlds of philosophy, science and politics.
Many leading thinkers of that day began to challenge
the teachings. They asked, “How do we know such-and-such is true?
Suppose so-in-so is true instead?” They began to challenge every idea
that could not be scientifically proven. Their demanding challenge
examined all philosophical, scientific, political, or religious ideas.
This eighteenth century movement became known as The
Enlightenment. Certain European writers challenged everything in
traditional society. A growing trend toward personal liberty, the right
to criticize and reject, and “scientific” reasoning arose. The
Enlightenment writers often used words like “reason, tolerance and
progress.” The Enlightenment leaders rejected the Christian
interpretation of history, its ideas of the fall of man, redemption,
grace, and eternal salvation. The removal of Christianity as a social
power was at the core of the movement. The rebuilding of society for
happiness on earth through laws and education became the goal of The
Enlightenment movement. Secularism (a system that rejects any form of
faith or worship) replaced Christianity as the world view.
In some fields this intellectual challenge was very
good, especially in science. But, because the very character of
Christianity demands faith, this demand of proof by intellect produced
harmful results. Remember, writers were saying, “If you cannot see,
smell, taste, hear, feel or weigh it, it doesn’t exist.” They adopted
the idea that the physical was the only real world. The belief that
intellectual stimulation, comfort, pleasure and wealth are the highest
values ruled the day.
In the “religious” world, atheists, liberal
Christians and followers of the heresy of Deism became dominant. Deism
was a rationalist movement of the 17th and 18th centuries. Its
followers believe in a natural religion based on human reason and
morality. Deists believe in one god who, after creating the world and
the laws governing it, refrains from interfering with the operation of
those laws. Deism rejects supernatural intervention in human affairs.
Among the most outspoken Enlightenment speakers
against Christianity were Francios Voltaire, David Hume, Denis Diderot
and Immanuel Kant. Voltaire, known primarily as a playwright and
satirist, was probably the most outspoken critic of Christianity. On
one occasion he wrote, “Every sensible man, every honorable man, must
hold the Christian sect a horror.”1
David Hume, the philosopher, was an agnostic. He
argued that the existence of God could not be proven. He said that even
if God existed, nothing could be absolutely known about His nature.
Hume’s writings had a strong impact on the theological thought of his
Denis Diderot, the philosopher, sought-after
speaker, and satirist, wavered in his beliefs about Christianity. At
one time he was an Atheist, at another a Deist. But his poisonous
tongue and pen left their marks on the development of Western thought
Among the most harmful attacks on the foundation
stones of Christianity were Immanuel Kant’s writings. Kant was a
leading philosopher with a Pietist background and some university
theological training. He wrote several books. The most damaging book to
Christianity was his Religion Within the Limits of Pure Reason.2
In that work Kant removed all supernatural events
from Christianity. He stated that, “Christ...is the ideal of perfect
humanity, and faith in Christ is the power of this ideal. Everything
else in Christian theology is unimportant or is but a means by which
the priestly class, presumably in the privileged possession of the
means of dispensing grace, attempts to control the faithful. The
achievement of a pure religion of reason, then, is the task of the
future. It presupposes the shedding of the traditional dogmatisms of
all positive religions.” Since Kant was among the most theologically
qualified thinkers of The Enlightenment, his writings had far more
weight among Christian writers and speakers than the others.
The Enlightenment spanned the whole of the
eighteenth century. All Western civilizations of that day had
Enlightenment disciples. They were especially vocal and fruitful in
Germany, France, Great Britain, Switzerland and the United States.
As a result of this “enlightened” thinking, the
power of logic and reason began to rule out the unseen spirit world.
Logic and reason became the major force even in Bible interpretation
and in Christian writings and sermons. Because “reason” seized the
leading Christian thinkers and writers of that day, Bible
interpretation became biased. Spiritless, distorted theological
thinking became the norm in the Western church. Today we still feel the
effects of that thinking.
Most unfortunately, the majority of our current
Christian doctrine on demonism has been built on a “civilized,
educated” foundation laid by The Enlightenment fathers rather than on
“...the foundation of the apostles and prophets...” (Eph 2:20 NIV). We
Westerners uphold a tradition that tends to favor logic and reason over
that which can be known only by the spirit and senses. Objectivity has
been more credible than subjectivity. Hard “facts” rule; spiritual
“feelings” count very little.
This is why logic dominates Western man’s thinking
today. This is why he quickly brushes aside things that can’t be seen,
touched, or examined in a laboratory. Hence, Western man is limited in
his thinking process.
Thus, among liberal Christians in the Western world
today, few believe in the literal miracles spoken of in the Bible. Nor
do they accept the idea of spirit beings that cannot be seen. Liberal
Christians do not believe that demons actually exist, let alone can
oppress or possess a human being.
To illustrate the lack of understanding of demonism
in the Western church, I am including parts of a recent newspaper
article. The article appeared in the Los Angeles Times, a widely read
daily newspaper in America. The following are some quotes from the
article titled Is It Deliverance or Denial?
They say it’s a battleground where couches
levitate, airplanes vanish and women become infertile. It’s a war
between good and evil - between an alleged army of demons and a
scattered assortment of exorcists.
Caught in the middle are a growing number of
The devil, it seems, has stepped out of the movies
and into the living room. Demons are blamed for everything from
headaches to shyness. And more people are calling upon
exorcists...to fight back.
Exorcism, also known as deliverance, has gained
such cachet that even a handful of Christian psychologists use it.
Still, it remains outside the majority of mainstream religious and
psychological practices. Most believers are American charismatics.
Critics warn that the practice can cause people to
shirk responsibility for their own actions - or push them into mental
illness. In a few isolated instances, exorcism has resulted
in death. Skeptics also point to the lack of scientific or medical
proof that demons exist, much less possess humans....
The current use of exorcism is unprecedented, says
Jeffrey Burton Russell, A University of California, Santa Barbara
historian who has written several books on the devil in
Christian history. Traditionally, exorcism has not been applied to
correct bad habits or immoral behavior, he says; it was used only to
believed to be under complete demonic control....
Perhaps the most unexpected endorsements of
exorcism come from a Psychiatrist’s couch. M. Scott Peck, a
Harvard-educated psychiatrist and author of the best-selling The
Road Less Traveled, has predicted that demonic possession will be
accepted medical diagnosis by the mid-1990's.
Peck also has said he converted
to Christianity after taking part in two exorcisms....
In Southern California, at least 10 mental-health
professionals occasionally use exorcism with patients, says a local
spokeswoman for the Assn. of Christian Therapists, an
international organization of 1,100 psychologists, counselors,
physicians and nurses - most of them Catholic, some of them clergy.... 3
The article went on, quoting several people who have
been involved in exorcism. Some of what was said was valid, and some
not so valid. Yet the article quite correctly pictured the general
Western level of knowledge of demonic activity which is confusion at
best, disbelief at worst.
This article reflects just how much The
Enlightenment’s teachings sent a crippling blow to the proper spiritual
development of Western Christianity. Biblical references to spirits and
demons are all too often down-played or ignored. The knowledge that was
formerly common about spirits and demons has become uncommon. Often
graduating seminarians have little or no understanding of the demonic
realm. They may even have a dislike for thoughts and practices that
encompass a spirit world other than the one they learned about in
But all is not lost! The Christian fundamentalists
of the Western world are learning. We readily acknowledge the demonic
realm’s existence and even correctly identify many of the beings. But
few fundamentalists have a solid, thorough understanding of the demonic
world’s plans, goals, and methods. Even fewer know how to deal with
such demonic spirits when they are encountered.
We find a very different reality for the people who
are born and raised in the emerging nations. Unlike Westerners, they
quickly come to know by experience the reality of the spirit world and
it’s mystical powers. The Western “reasoning” mindset based on “fact,
formula and logic” hasn’t bound them. Non-Western man has the freedom
to “see” the unseen and include what he sees in his thinking.
Here is the tragedy of many missionary efforts. Many
of our finest, most dedicated missionaries left the shores of the
Western world with this same confused and narrowly understood sense of
the spirit world. We have had the well intended but all too often
untaught Western missionary running head on into a demonized
environment in a emerging nation. In that environment the people know
by experience the force and power of the demon world. The Western
missionary must then spend years learning the reality of the demonic
world at work in non-Western cultures. The alert missionary does
eventually learn how to recognize the enemy’s work and how to do
The tragedy is that so much time is lost learning by
trial and error. The missionary loses precious time. The national
Christian converts also lose time during the period that the missionary
is learning. The new convert is very vulnerable to demonic attacks in
the early steps of his spiritual walk. The demons continue to harass
and attack. If the church leadership, be it foreign or national, is not
already well grounded in spiritual warfare, much is at risk.
The best possible situation is one where the newly saved nationals, with their knowledge of the demon world, are joined with the seasoned and knowledgeable missionary or national church leader. When they bind together there are powerful results. This is the work of the Body of Christ in its full authority. This combination can and does bring victory over the enemy at every turn.