Our thanks to the Biblical Research Institute, from whence we aquired this document.
"SPIRITUAL WARFARE" AND
"DELIVERANCE MINISTRY" AND
A Report of the
Biblical Research Institute
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Washington, D.C., 20012
Approved by BRICOM
May 5, 1983
Approved by BRIAD
May 12, 1983
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- I. HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDS: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
- A. The Old and Intertestamentary Periods
- B. The New Testament Period
- C. The Post-New Testament Period
- D. Today and Tomorrow
- II. THREE CRUCIAL DISTINCTIONS
- A. Avoiding an "Either-Or" Mentality
- B. Harassment Versus Possession
- C. Natural Illness or Supernatural Possession?
- III. PROBLEMS IN "DELIVERANCE MINISTRY"
- A. Misuse of the Concept of "Priesthood of All Believers" and Importunate Prayer
- B. Dialogue with the Devil
- C. Commanding Demons or Supplicating Christ?
- D. A Ritualized Liturgy
- E. Aiding and Abetting the Enemy
- F. Oppression vs. Possession
- IV. PRAYER FOR THE AFFLICTED
- A. Hope in the Face of Hopelessness
- B. The Christian's Preparation
- C. The Afflicted One
- D. Concerns and Cautions
- E. As We Look to the Future
- SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
During the past decade there has developed, particularly among charismatic Christian bodies in
various places, a movement that has come to be known as "deliverance ministry" in which evil
spirits--believed to control human beings who exhibit bizarre forms of human behavior--are
"exorcised" or "cast out." Believing that Satan often harasses those whom he does not directly
control, some "deliverance ministry" advocates have also developed a companion program of
"spiritual warfare" by which a child of God may combat supernatural forces of evil in his or her
own life experience.
Because the New Testament speaks about Christ casting out demons, and conferring upon His
disciples the authority and power to do the same, interest in casting out demons has mushroomed
among many Christians, particularly in evangelical circles, and a movement has developed.
It is not surprising, therefore, that some Seventh-day Adventists have been influenced by such a
movement, which, at least superficially, appears to be based upon Scripture and supported by the
writings of Ellen G. White.
On the other hand, others in the church, equally sincere, have raised serious questions about the
sensational claims of those engaged in this "spiritual warfare" (which has developed its own
vocabulary with a flavor strongly militaristic and highly aggressive) and especially "deliverance
Unfortunately differences of opinion between the two groups has often led to a polarizing effect,
with some stoutly contending that the Christian believer's power over evil spirits is a God-given
right that should be exercised vigorously on behalf of those believed to be victims of Satan's
control, while others feel that "exorcism" is a practice to be completely avoided.
Thus the lines have been drawn in widely-separated groups of Adventists in North America
particularly in recent years. In one of our colleges a teacher lost employment because of
unwillingness to abandon what was believed to be a divine commission to deliver the captive
victims of Satan. In one field the local conference administration sponsored seminars in how to
conduct "spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry." And in another, a minister was relieved of
denominational employment as a retiree because his emphasis on this specialized form of
"ministry" left substantial divisive controversy in its wake across the nation.
Still elsewhere, a group of indignant laymen accused their conference president (who had asked
his local pastors not to allow in their pulpits ministers bringing this kind of emphasis) of violating
the principle of Mark 9:38-40 and Luke 9:49-50, where Christ had commanded, "Forbid him not."
The president countered by responding that for him the principle involved, rather, was that of
Matthew 7:16-20 ("by their fruits ye shall know them") and Romans 16:17 ("mark them which
cause divisions and offenses ... And avoid them").
What is the average Seventh-day Adventist to make of all of this? And what should be the
position of our church?
Seeking to find answers that are biblical, rational, and adequate, and sensing the increasingly
urgent need to provide some counsel by which to enable our members to avoid the extremes of
fanaticism and pitfalls prepared for the unwary by the evervigilant enemy of all souls, the General
Conference Committee on July 10, 1980, created an ad hoc "Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance
Study Committee" to investigate this subject in depth. Its members were charged with the
responsibility of suggesting, if possible, appropriate guidelines for the world church. And it was
instructed to report its findings to the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference.
The personnel selected to serve on the study committee came from a broad background and depth
of experience, representing a spectrum of academic disciplines. W. Richard Lesher (religious
education), director of the Biblical Research Institute and more recently elected a General
Conference general vice president, was named committee chairman. Roger W. Coon
(communication), then pastor of the Takoma Park (MD) Church and now an associate secretary
of the Ellen G. White Estate of the General Conference, was asked to serve as secretary.
Members appointed to serve included: Charles L. Anderson (psychiatry), formerly of Hinsdale
(IL) Hospital; Verne R. Andress (psychology), Loma Linda University; Ivan T. Blazen (New
Testament), Andrews University; Elden M. Chalmers (psychology), recently of Andrews
University; D. A. Delafield (minister and Trustee, Ellen G. White Estate); John E. flick
(anthropology), Loma Linda University; W. Duncan Eva (administration), General Conference
general vice president; Jerry A. Gladson (Old Testament), Southern College of Seventh-day
Adventists; Fritz Guy (theology), Andrews University; and Kenneth A. Strand (church history),
Subsequently Professors Andress and Elick were unable to attend the committee sessions, and
Russell L. Staples (anthropology), Andrews University, was invited to sit with the committee.
The committee met on the campus of Andrews University for two three-day sessions, on October
27-29, 1980, and January 18-20, 1981. A preliminary draft report was subsequently reviewed by
the members on a two-hour conference telephone hookup on March 16, 1981. The committee
then convened again at Andrews University for what was believed to be a final session on May
11, 1982. And, lastly, the available members of the committee met at General Conference
headquarters in Washington for three and one-half hours on June 15, 1982, with an ordained
Seventh-day Adventist minister who has become prominent in "spiritual warfare and deliverance
ministry" at his personal and urgent request. Brought together for this special session were
committee members Lesher, Coon, Delafield, Eva, and Guy; invited to augment committee
representation were Robert W. Olson, Secretary, Ellen G. White Estate; J. Robert Spangler,
Secretary, General Conference Ministerial-Stewardship Association; and Robert L. Woodfork,
General Conference field secretary.
In its various sessions the committee interviewed a wide variety of persons--ministers,
missionaries, educators, businessmen, students, housewives, and a physician--who at first had
been personally and intimately involved with "deliverance ministry" and "spiritual warfare" in
various situations in North America and abroad. In addition, seven committee members prepared
a series of research papers, which are appended to the chairman's copy of this report.
The committee noted two extreme views prevalent within Christendom today: (1) the tendency to
see the immediate presence and activity of evil spirits as the predisposing cause of every individual
tragedy of human experience, and (2) the tendency to find purely naturalistic explanations and
solutions for all instances of mental and emotional illness and abnormal behavior.
While the committee felt that the Scriptures and the writings of Mrs. White clearly point to the
reality of the demonic and to the legitimacy of counselling and importunate prayer to bring
freedom and relief to victims of Satan's influence, it also recognized that these same inspired
sources sound a warning against the dangers inherent in misapplication, misuse, and mishandling
of this kind of ministry.
Indeed, the committee felt that in certain instances brought to its attention misuse (if not
malpractice) has occurred, a misuse which has proven dangerous to the spiritual, physical, and/or
emotional well-being of the individual whose healing was sought.
This cautious stance recognizes that the threefold message of Revelation 14--not the casting out
of demons--is yet today the raison d'etre of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The committee's report, which is intended to be educative rather than legislative, is presented here
for the reader's serious study in this day when the counsel of the Apostle Paul to the Christians at
Ephesus was never more timely:
Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of
God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is
not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world
forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and
having done everything, to stand firm (Eph 6:10-13, New American Standard Bible).
W. Richard Lesher, Director
Biblical Research Institute
Seventh-day Adventists believe that behind the scenes of earthly affairs, invisible, supernatural
forces of good and evil are engaged in cosmic warfare for the control of every human being (Eph
6:12). We believe in the existence of a literal, personal devil, now named Satan, who once was a
perfect (and heaven's highest) angel (Ezek 28:15). Scripture further declares that Satan
experienced a moral fall, took one-third of all the holy angels with him (Rev 12:4), and at the
conclusion of that first war in heaven he was literally, physically, ejected, eventually coming down
to planet earth (verses 7-9). Here he continues yet today, diligently waging warfare against the
kingdom of God and all that is good and worthwhile in the universe. We believe that today under
Satan's immediate, direct control there are multitudes of evil spirits, fallen angels, demons, allied
with him in this "great controversy between Christ and Satan."
We believe, further, that we are today living in the closing days of this earth's history, and that this
warfare will intensify to an unprecedented degree as this ages-long conflict draws to its close
(verse 12). Because these supernatural forces of good and evil operate largely outside the range
of human knowledge and control, their nature and modes of operation are not always clear and
understandable; yet we believe that these forces are real and personal.
We also believe that it is the inalienable right of every child of God to be free from the control of
Satan (though not, of course, from his temptations) through the superior power of Jesus Christ
who won a supreme victory over Satan at Calvary. There, by His personal and once-for-all
sacrifice, He earned the right to confer upon His followers not only eternal life in the hereafter,
but also freedom from the control of Satan in this present temporal existence.
A number of other Christians also believe all of the above doctrinal tenets surrounding the
problem of evil in the universe, and they invitingly beckon Seventh-day Adventists to join with
them actively in doing something constructively to combat the reign of Satan in this world. They
claim that they have the power to cast out evil spirits, to drive back the supernatural forces of
Satan's kingdom of darkness, and to dispossess him of his human prey. They say that we
Adventists, too, may have this power--indeed, if we are truly genuine Christians, we will have this
power, and that we may wield it as they do. Anything less, they affirm, is a virtual denial of the
Christian faith once delivered to the saints.
The "deliverance" sessions they conduct are impressive, dramatic, and sensational. They appear to
confront Satan and his evil angels in direct combat. They seem to have power to force demons
audibly to identify themselves by name, and then they boldly order them to depart the body of
their victim by the superior power in the name of Jesus Christ. And the demons seem to obey!
Now these exponents of "spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry" invite us to join them in this
challenging work which, say they, carries not only the authority but also the command of
Should we go along?
There are some in the church who think we should.
There are others who are raising questions.
To raise questions at this point is not to prove oneself a skeptic, or to impugn either the sincerity
or dedication of the practitioners of "spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry." Nor is it a
"cop-out" to escape the high risks that necessarily devolve upon anyone who dares to challenge
Satan on his home ground.
In the same sermon in which Jesus commanded, "Judge not, that ye be not judged," He also
declared that "by their fruits ye shall know them" (see Matt 7:1, 16, 20). While no Christian may
ever judge the character or motivation of a fellow human being, yet Christ clearly intended to
convey the idea that His followers should carefully reason from cause to effect, and from effect to
cause, and order their lives accordingly in a prudent fashion.
Christianity is not predicated upon the abdication of a human being's reasoning powers. On the
contrary, it places a premium upon their correct functioning--but always within the framework of
faith and based upon inspired writings. Christianity, indeed, sanctifies reason and intellect, placing
them upon vantage ground, all the while subordinating them to the objective control of the Word
In "deliverance ministry," as it is variously practiced at the present time by many of its enthusiastic
advocates, there are a number of features which give cause for serious concern, that raise a
danger signal, that sound a warning for caution. In (a) the philosophy which undergirds the
movement, and in (b) the manner in which it is often practiced (interestingly, the methodology is
often in a state of flux), the committee finds that which causes it to take a second look--especially
in view of certain pertinent Scriptures and rather straightforward, clearcut statements from the
writings of Ellen G. White which our church holds, respectfully, to have been inspired by the Holy
Spirit. (For example, our church has been warned that in the very last days just such challenges to
the miraculous "will bring Seventh-day Adventists to the test." [footnote 1])
It is, therefore, neither unkind nor unfair to draw back a moment to raise some probing,
penetrating questions and to seek frank answers for such, to "test the spirits" by yardsticks
provided by inspired writings. It is an area too important to trifle with, for mistakes here may
affect the destiny not only of the afflicted but also the one who seeks to bring him relief.
I. HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDS: PAST,
It is impossible today to understand adequately phenomena in "spiritual warfare and deliverance
ministry" without first taking into account the data available to us from the times of the Bible and
the subsequent development of the post-New Testament Christian Church. Since prophecy has
been defined by one writer as "history written in advance," it will not be inappropriate to include
here a survey of instruction and counsel from Scripture and the pen of Ellen White concerning
what the present and future may hold for God's people just before Jesus returns.
A. The Old and Intertestamentary Periods
The Mesopotamian-Canaanite world out of which the Old Testament emerged was extremely
conscious of the existence of malignant spirits, and the Hebrew prophets attested in their writings
to this fundamental reality even in their own culture.
On the contrary, however, demonology, while certainly present among the Hebrews, still existed
in inchoate form in Old Testament times, at least as far as the inspired record attests. While there
are in its pages undeniable evidences of what today we might speak of as demonic possession,
there is not one single clear-cut instance of "exorcism" (the expulsion of evil spirits from persons
and/or places--an especially well-known phenomenon in Sumero-Akkadian civilizations) being
practiced among the Jews of Old Testament times.
Why is this so? If demons were present, why were no steps taken for their expulsion? One answer
suggested by scholars is that (Jehovah) is, from beginning to end, seen as so fully in control of all
situations and circumstances that the evil spirits are always seen as completely under the
regulation and control of Jehovah, thus their preemptive activity is totally precluded. The problem
of demonology, as far as the world of the Hebrews of antiquity is concerned, is therefore merely a
peripheral one, completely overshadowed by the commanding presence and total authority of
A crucial distinction needs to be recognized at this point between the attitude toward the
existence of demons by the Jews and that of their non-Hebrew neighbors. The Babylonians, for
example, saw every illness as traceable to the work of demons (some Christians today would
concur in this view). The Israelites, however, recognized that although demons indeed might
cause illness, not every such manifestation is properly linked to their direct activity.
The typical non-Hebrew dweller in Mesopotamia lived his life constantly in fear and danger of evil
spirits. Amulets were widely favored to ward off such encounters, but the chief recourse for
protection was found in the form of ceremonies of incantation, administered by a professional
priest/exorcist. In the ceremony (not unlike the practice of some in "deliverance ministry" today)
the officiating priest sought to discover which demon or demons were troubling the afflicted, the
better to conduct successfully the appropriate required ceremony. The ritual not only utilized
certain incantation rites but also employed specific verbal formulae blurred magic, religion, and
There is a remarkable--and distressing--similarity between these pagan Sumero-Akkadian rituals
and those sometimes employed modern "Christian" practitioners of "spiritual warfare and
deliverance ministry"--a concern to which we will return again and again.
Although the incantation rituals achieved great popularity in ancient Mesopotamia, there is, by
way of stark contrast, a total absence of such rites in the official practices recorded among the
Hebrews. Indeed, their Old Testament Scriptures inveighed heavily against the practice of magic,
incantation, and exorcistic liturgies.
As the demonology of the intertestamental period developed, these evil spirits were frequently
identified or associated with dispositions such as fornication or greed, an identification now
revived and increasingly witnessed among believers in "spiritual warfare and deliverance
ministry"--a cause of growing concern among many.
In this milieu it generally came to be accepted that every kind of illness, from insanity down to
lesser afflictions, was due to the immediate presence and activity of malevolent spirits. Demons
came to be seen as also being capable of possessing places and events as well as people. And thus
it was that ritual exorcism, once the exclusive preserve of the pagan dwellers of Mesopotamia and
totally unknown in the Judaism of biblical times, now becomes commonplace along the Hebrews.
Partly perhaps because of their contact with Persian influences, the Jews in intertestament times
signalled a shift in their perception of reality. Until now, demons had largely been associated with
physical evil; now they become attached to ethical evil as well. This ethical opposition to God and
His kingdom transforms demons into devils, and places them under the severest censure.
Thus, by the time we reach the Christian era of the first century A.D. we find the marked presence
of demonology in the New Testament where Jesus and His disciples are frequently portrayed as in
conflict with demonic forces. And there is a growing interest with things demonic.
To recapitulate, the similarity between the ancient Near Eastern exorcistic rituals and that
practiced today by many practitioners of "spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry" tends to give
pause to the objective Christian observer of the contemporary scene, especially in view of the
absence of such rituals from the Old Testament (and, as we will note subsequently, below,
basically from the New Testament as well).
The absence of exorcistic ritual from the Old Testament points to the power of Yahweh over all
evil. This focus on the salvation of God points us away from excessive preoccupation with the
And the relationship between the use of demonic terminology to characterize disease, increasingly
popular in certain "deliverance circles today, may merely reflect an oversensitiveness and
superstitious conscience. It, unfortunately, goes beyond the biblical data to label uncritically all or
most disease as directly caused by Satan.
B. The New Testament Period
The New Testament writings present the perplexing and distressing picture of demonic forces not
only impinging upon but ruling over creaturely existence. The influence of these forces is
portrayed throughout the New Testament, but specific case examples of demon possession and
deliverance of Satan's captives are confined to the Gospels and Acts. (Concern with demonic
possession and deliverance is, of course, present elsewhere in the New Testament--see Colossians
and 1 Peter, for example.) We will now attempt to summarize the data from these five books.
Although the distinction probably is not significant (since both Satan and his subordinate fallen
angels have the same objectives and utilize much the same modus operandi), it may yet be
interesting to note that although Satan is viewed as behind and superior to all demonic Forces,
except in the case of Judas, in the New Testament Satan himself is never spoken of as
"possessing" an individual. Rather, he is pictured as the instigator of moral evil, the one who
tempts weakened mortals to sin. Contrarily, demons or spirits are described as the agencies that
possess the bodies (physical illness) or minds (mental illness) of people, but not as the powers that
tempt persons to sin.
There seems to be some evidence that people became possessed because they were especially
sinful (Judas is one example to the contrary that quickly comes to mind). While possession and
special sinfulness may go hand in hand (Mary Magdalene may he a good case in point), in terms
of the data of the New Testament itself, possession appears to be related specifically to physical
and mental illness, rather than to be linked with doing sinful deeds.
With regard to possession and illness, there appears to be no precise demarcation made in the
New Testament between demon possession and illness caused by other factors. Sometimes people
are pictured as ill with various diseases without any mention being made of possession; at other
times the same diseases are ascribed to possession. In any case, from the New Testament point of
view, while not all illness is due (or even is pictured as being due) to possession, the supernatural
power of evil is seen as behind all illness.
The most notable feature of possession is the substitution of the human self, ego, or personality by
an alien spiritual power. This is seen especially in cases where the demons speak through the vocal
chords of the demonized.
Concerning the characteristics of the demons, the following are especially notable:
1. The Gospels imply degrees of badness among the evil spirits.
2. They also correspondingly portray degrees of demon possession.
3. The demons exhibit supernatural knowledge of the identity of Jesus and the fact of their own
judgment and destruction.
4. The methodology by which the demons are dispossessed of their human prey is spelled out
clearly in Scripture: They are expelled by a simple, short, authoritative word of command.
Interestingly, Jesus is nowhere in the Gospels called an "exorcist." And when He casts out
demons there are never any long, drawn-out, time-consuming exercises. Prayer Is mentioned in
connection with deliverance from demons only in one instance where the nature of the possession
appears to be exceptionally severe.
Though the power to cast out demons was indeed conferred on Christ's disciples by the Lord, the
New Testament--in terms of the data it supplies--is very reserved about this power being given, as
far as including all people at all times.
The act and task of demon-deliverance must be understood in the Scriptures in the overall
understanding of the inbreaking of the kingdom of God, and the infilling of Christ's Spirit. Here it
finds its ultimate significance.
There are two elements common to deliverance from demons in the Gospel and Acts accounts:
(a) the mention of Jesus' name, and (b) the exercise of faith. Prayer and fasting (mentioned in only
one account) are perhaps to be viewed under the broad heading of the exercise of faith. Also,
certain strange (to us) acts (touching the hem of a garment, praying over handkerchiefs or aprons,
standing in Peter's shadow, et cetera,) probably have more to do ultimately with the exercise of
faith in Jesus than with any other factor.
The casting out of demons was not an end in itself; the vacuum left by the departing devils must
be filled by positive good--God's presence--lest the demons return to an empty place and make it
worse than it was before, And the casting out of demons can only be properly understood in the
overall context of the motif of the kingdom of God--and His kingdom in men's hearts.
It appears that the Scriptures are concerned lest potentially sensationalistic phenomena be overly
magnified. In the case of "speaking in tongues" it is implicitly permitted, but tightly regulated, and
placed last in all of the catalogues of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
C. The Post-New Testament Period
The earliest evidence of what might be called a Christian rite of exorcism is found in the middle of
the third century (about the year A.D. 250). Here we discover the practice of a ritual conducted in
conjunction with baptism. It appeared to signify the change that the baptismal candidate was
making, withdrawing his prior allegiance to the realm of Satan and the demons and placing it now
with the realm of Christ.
It is important that we do not confuse this kind of "exorcism" with the kind exhibited in cases
where demons are believed to have taken possession of individuals and are summarily expelled.
During medieval times farfetched tales of wonders of various sorts were widespread and
prevalent, but it is not until the last Middle Ages that there is much reliable evidence
demonstrating that much attention was given by Christians to what we today speak of as
"exorcism." As a matter of fact, it appears that what little efforts at exorcism were made at this
time seem more to be devoted to the matter of how to identify witches than anything else.
The formal ritual in conjunction with baptism, mentioned above, was evidently practiced generally
throughout the Middle Ages in connection with a somewhat elaborate rite (which rite was
condensed in the Rituale Romanum of A.D. 1614).
Interestingly, an abbreviated Form of this rite was also published in the earliest Lutheran service
books. But Calvinists shunned this sort of practice, and the Lutherans themselves generally came
to abandon it as well.
Perhaps must striking (and significant) for us today is the evidence from history in the early
modern period (about A.D. 1600). Exorcists in England, southwest Germany, and Italy were then
gaining some degree of notoriety. The ecclesiastical authorities were usually found to be
questioning the procedures and/or validity of the exorcisms that were purportedly being
conducted, and ecclesiastical trials of the would-be exorcists were the usual consequence for such
One especially striking case of the period involved an Italian monk who produced a flurry of
excitement by his activity ostensibly in casting out demons. His colleagues and ecclesiastical
superiors were amazed and puzzled by his success in view of the very scandalous life he was then
A relatively successful exorcism, therefore, is not necessarily evidence that the power of God has
truly been at work.
A fact noted at this point in history has also been observed by many in more recent times:
Whereas in places where devils had not previously been known to be prevalent prior to the arrival
of this monk-exorcist, all manner of them seemed to crop up when he came to town.
Until the fairly recent upsurge of interest in exorcism developed, neither Roman Catholic nor
Protestant Christian bodies have given much attention to the phenomenon of exorcism, at least in
Western Europe and in North America. As recently us 1961 one Catholic authority could declare
that exorcism was "rarely necessary in civilized lands; but foreign missionaries are sometimes
called on to use it." (Protestants, generally, have tended for the most part to hold the same view.)
D. Today and Tomorrow
Inspiration has told us that the
period of Christ's personal ministry among men was the time of greatest activity for the
forces of the kingdom of darkness. For ages Satan with his evil angels had been seeking to
control the bodies and the souls of men, to bring upon them sin and suffering; then he had
charged all this misery upon God. Jesus was revealing to men the character of God. He was
breaking Satan's power, and setting his captives free. New life and love and power from
heaven were moving upon the hearts of men, and the prince of evil was aroused to contend
for the supremacy of his kingdom. Satan summoned all his forces, and at every step
contested the work of Christ. [footnote 2]
Then, without a break, the Lord looks down to the closing scenes of this earth's history, and
prompts His special messenger to add these words full of significance to us who Live today:
So it will be in the great final conflict of the controversy between righteousness and sin.
While new life and light and power are descending from on high upon the disciples of Christ
[possibly a reference to the outpouring of the latter rain of the Holy Spirit prior to the close
of human probation ], a new life is springing up from beneath, and energizing the agencies
of Satan. Intensity is taking possession of every earthly element. With a subtlety gained
through centuries of conflict, the prince of evil works under a disguise. [footnote 3]
We are told, further, by this same writer, that it is indeed "important" for us to understand Satan's
snares, that we may escape them today. In his "last campaign," Satan will move upon "some
deceived souls" to advocate the idea that he does not really exist as a personal entity. [footnote 4]
Indeed, one of his snares is the "subtle," "mischievous," and "fast-spreading" "error" that "Satan
has no existence as a personal being; that the name is used in Scripture merely to represent men's
evil thoughts and desires" [footnote 5]--merely a rhetorical device to personify evil. And this
prediction, made more than a century ago, is more than amply fulfilled today by modern
Whatever the popular concept may be today, the testimony of the Bible is that Jesus believed in a
personal devil. Immediately upon entering into His earthly ministry, Christ was confronted by such
a personage who brought nearly overwhelming temptations to Him. They conversed together
(not, however, over the person of a possessed human being!), and this confrontation was real (see
Then, as now, Satan worked "with all deceivableness of unrighteousness" in those who "received
not the love of the truth" (2 Thess 2:10). God permits the wicked, who deliberately choose evil,
to "believe a lie" through the "strong delusions" which Satan increasingly will bring as the end of
time approaches (verse 11).
And in the very last days, we are told, Satan will work with "all power and signs and lying
wonders" (verse 9); even the "very elect" will be in grave danger of this deception. No less than
four times in the end-time prophecy of Matthew 24 does Jesus warn of deception and urge
alertness (verses 4, 5, 11, 24). And at the last Satan will work dramatically, especially in
performing genuine miraculous manifestations to carry the day (Rev 13:13, 14; 16:13, 14),
ultimately producing that "crowning" deception--the impersonation of the second coming of Jesus
Christ (see 2 Cor 11:14). [footnote 6]
One of the chief deceptions Satan instituted during medieval times was the palming off upon a
gullible, unsuspecting public the notion that instead of his being a fallen angel of light, Satan was,
instead, a horrible red-skinned creature with animal-like horns; cloven hoofs; wolf-like ears; scaly,
fish-like skin; possessed of an animal-like tail with a spike at its tip; who carried a spear-like
Today most people (at least in western culture) merely laugh at such a characterization. And that
suits Satan's purposes well--for men seldom fear that at which they can laugh. Furthermore, they
will tend to ignore something that they don't really believe exists. [footnote 7]
They didn't laugh at Satan' in medieval times; they feared him. And in many primitive societies
today men still greatly fear a literal, personal devil. And this, too, suits Satan's purposes well; for
where he can paralyze with fear, there he can win, too.
The story of Jesus' casting out a host of demons from the two men of Gadara (Mark 5:1-20)
provides five facts about the existence and activity of Satan and his evil angels, evidence that we
need today to counterattack his deception that he and his cohorts do not have a personal
1. Their reality. They are real personalities. On this one singular occasion, Jesus entered into a
conversation with them (which, incidentally, they initiated).
2. Their number. They declared, in answer to Christ's demand that they identify themselves, "My
name is Legion, for we are many" (verse 9). In Christ's day a Roman legion might number
somewhere between three and five thousand soldiers.
3. Their organization. Like the Roman legions, "Satan's hosts ... are marshalled in companies, and
the single company to which these demons belonged numbered no less than a legion." [footnote 8]
4. Their supernatural power. The madmen broke the chains restraining them; and the swine (into
which the demons were subsequently cast) were swept down a cliff to their destruction in the sea
5. Their malignity. The bleeding, disfigured bodies and distracted minds of the two Gadarenes
well illustrate what Satan will do when given an opportunity to "possess" the bodies and minds of
Satan, then, is a real, personal being.
Does that mean that everything that is strange and bizarre in our world today is evidence of the
direct operation of Satan and his demons? Should we not battle against these personal attacks by
the enemy of all souls?
Before we can address that question directly, it may prove helpful to make three crucial
distinctions, the better to examine their program intelligently and to decide whether it meets the
criteria of inspiration, or is weighed in the balances and found wanting.
II. THREE CRUCIAL DISTINCTIONS
Before any useful assessment of the validity and helpfulness of the program of "spiritual warfare
and deliverance ministry," as it is generally beginning to be practiced among us, can be made,
some basic rules must be formulated. And the drawing of three basic distinctions will help us
toward that goal.
A. Avoiding an "Either-Or" Mentality
One feature in "deliverance ministry," as it is popularly being practiced today, which disturbs an
increasingly large number of observers, is the tendency to view this present life in the starkest of
simplistic terms--to see either a demon or a good angel involved, immediately, in every human
decision and activity.
The informed Christian, we believe, will avoid two equally serious but opposite extremes as
he/she relates to baffling phenomena which appear to be of supernatural origin:
1. A "Satan-made-me-do-it" mentality, in which Satan is identified as the immediate cause of
every misfortune and every sinful deed; or
2. A virtual denial of the existence of Satan's "supernatural" operation in our otherwise "natural"
Either position is unrealistic, and is fraught with peril. Let us note why.
While we believe that ultimately all evil is traceable to Satan, the originator of sin, we do not
believe that Satan or his evil angels are always directly responsible for every deviation from what
we have come to understand as "normal" in human experience. Many illnesses, for instance,
whether physical or mental, are simply the result of genetic inheritance, or living in a world of sin,
or simply the natural consequences of our disobedience to God-given laws of health and
Having said that, we do not believe that this fact rules out the possibility of direct involvement of
evil spirits in influencing human affairs and behavior. Indeed, in some circumstances supernatural
entities very clearly are involved. There is a devil--as we have already declared--and he "must not
be allowed to get the better of us: we know his devices all too well" (2 Cor 2:11, New English
Bible; emphasis supplied).
It also appears that the father of lies in some cases operates supernaturally by simulating "natural"
diseases so closely as to render them almost indistinguishable from ordinary diseases. Because of
these considerations it behooves each of us to exercise extreme caution and prudence in dealing
with cases of alleged demon possession.
And there are, certainly, genuine cases of demonic control or harassment. Evil angels, because of
their superior intelligence, powers, and invisibility, obviously have a tremendous advantage over
human beings. The only way in which they can be defeated is by the application of the Word of
God and the supernatural forces of the Holy Spirit and holy angels.
It is still necessary, though to recognize a cogent point made by a recent contemporary writer
[footnote 9] who (borrowing an expression from the Book of Common Prayer of the Protestant
Episcopal Church [footnote 10]) provides us with a most helpful insight into the fact that the
Christian is the target of three separate (but often coordinated) forces waging war against him: (a)
the "flesh," (b) the "world," and (c) the "devil."
Now only in the last of these three categories is Satan seen as directly operative (although it is
readily conceded that every bad thing ultimately comes from Satan, even as "every good gift and
perfect gift" ultimately comes "from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James
The apostle (in this same passage, three verses earlier) is here indicating that at least some of the
temptations that mankind faces arise merely when a man is "drawn away of his own lust [desire]
and [is] enticed" (verse 14, emphasis supplied).
What we are saying here is simply this: every son or daughter of Adam has a fallen nature because
of the moral "fall" of our first parents in Eden (I Cor 15:22). And that fallen nature makes it hard
for us to do good, and easy for us to do evil (Jer 13:12). This inherited sinful nature is opposed to
God's program for mankind, and each human being has inherited a basic predisposition (or bias, or
"bent") to sin (Rom 8:7). And one of the most common New Testament words to identify this
fallen nature of man is the word "flesh" (Rom 7:5, 18; 8:3, 8, et cetera).
Used in this particular way (and it should be noted in passing that "flesh" is used perhaps a dozen
ways in Scripture), "flesh" here signifies in the words of Alexander Cruden, "the whole corruption
and depravity of our nature." [footnote 11]
This, then, is the struggle confronting the Christian quite apart from the direct immediate
temptation from Satan or his evil angels that is a continuing fact of life with which we must deal.
Furthermore, Galatians 5:16-21 identifies at least 17 specific manifestations of the "flesh" in which
we humans sin quite apart from any immediate external temptation from satanic agencies, quite
simply and only because we have a fallen, sinful nature that always predisposes us to commit these
Next, one use of the term "world" refers to society and an environment totally pagan and
unremittingly antagonistic and hostile to the living of the committed Christian life. It is geared to
reinforce our internal tendencies toward evil through external stimuli.
In the New Testament the Greek word cosmos is often translated as "world," and in this sense it
"often stands for the ungodly ... or for worldly interests that lead one away from God." [footnote
12] Thus the Apostle John urges us to
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the
love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust
of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world
passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever (1 John
In this restrictive sense, "world" then, represents a society at large, and individuals in particular,
who are spiritually unrenewed and unregenerated. In John 15:18 the wicked are called the "world"
because they relish and savour nothing but worldly things, and pursue nothing but worldly
designs. [footnote 13]
Ultimately this enemy-"world" is a system of social, economic, and religious philosophies and
practices expressed through organizations and human personalities. But while Satan is ultimately
the father-creator of this "world" complex, it may yet nevertheless operate against a Christian
quite apart from the direct intervention of Satan and/or his evil angels at the personal, individual
Finally, evil spirits--devils--most certainly do come in person to tempt (Eph 6:12; 1 Tim 4:1) and
to make attractive to each of us both sins of commission (1 John 3:4) and sins of omission (James
4:17). They also taunt and torment (Luke 8:29; Matt 17:15; Mark 1:26). And they must certainly
must be reckoned with. But the whole point being made here is this: evil spirits are not always the
immediate cause of every human sin.
Contrarily, while it is dangerous (because it is misleading) to blame Satan as the immediately
predisposing cause of every sin that we commit, it is equally dangerous to deny (as do secular
humanists and some Christians) that an actual being named Satan causes any sin. And today there
are many who deny any supernatural causation of undesirable behavior or attitudes. Yet
Seventh-day Adventists are assured, by an inspired writer, "It is Satan's special device to lead man
into sin." [footnote 14]
B. Harassment Versus Possession
A second crucial distinction that the Christian will wish to make is in the area of situations where
Satan and his evil angels are admittedly active. He will wish to differentiate between the external
harassment of demons (which is the universal experience of us all) and Satanic possession or
control (which is the experience of a comparatively much smaller group of human beings). (By the
term "possession" we here wish to designate control of human neurology and physiology--the
control of an individual's higher centers, central nervous system, individual organs of the body, et
Ellen White has written extensively upon the "Agency of Evil Spirits" [footnote 15] and "The
Power of Satan." [footnote 16] In the latter presentation she makes a very useful and significant
distinction between (a) Satan going "to the extent of his power to harass, tempt, and mislead
God's people," on the one hand, and (b) situations in which individuals had "lost control of
themselves, and Satan made them do that which they detested." [footnote 17]
Referring to this latter species of spiritualistic phenomena, Mrs. White goes on to add: "It comes
so direct from his satanic majesty, that he claims the right to control all who have to do with it,
for they have ventured upon forbidden ground, and have forfeited the protection of their Maker."
Thus, "Satan holds them by his power, and is not willing to let them go free. He knows that they
are surely his while he has them under his special control." [footnote 19] Mrs. White concludes by
describing in detail the only way out for such "possessed" souls.
Every one of us has, at one time or another, been "harassed, tempted, misled" by Satan. But
certainly not every one of us has been "possessed"--that is, under the total control of Satan or his
angels. For this reason, it is important that those who confront Satan and his angels in any kind of
ministry of deliverance determine first (by earnest prayer and heart searching, subjectively, and a
careful examination of the victim, objectively) whether the individual seemingly possessed is
simply manifesting the symptoms of a natural illness (epilepsy, for example) which might be a
form of mere harassment, or whether the individual is in fact subject to direct demonic control.
It would be unspeakably cruel (for at least three reasons) to suggest to an emotionally disturbed
or sin-laden person, in the absence of clearly coercive evidence, that he/she were "possessed"
when, in fact, such a person was not demon-controlled:
(1) It would only serve to make the suffering of a sensitive person more keen--end unnecessarily
so. (2) It could, unintentionally, provide for an unstable person an excuse in evading personal
responsibility and accountability for his/her actions and problems (not only thereby reinforcing
deviant behavior but also retarding the chance for recovery). (3) It might serve as a self-fulfilling
prophecy, actually operating in the form of hypnotic suggestion, weakening the resistance of the
individual and making him/her subsequently more susceptible to actual possession!
We recognize that often it may be difficult (if not impossible) to determine whether an individual
is possessed, or merely the victim of demonic harassment. But the important thing to remember
under all circumstances is that importunate prayer is always appropriate in all situations and at all
times. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). Indeed, only
two verses earlier James asks,
Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over
him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the
sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven
him (verses 14, 15).
There is a distinct danger that Christians may make an invalid dichotomy between the natural and
the supernatural. God and Satan are interacting in all that goes on in the world, and with all of the
processes that are operating therein. We must be sensitive to the operation of these powers and
recognize that supernatural forces--both good and evil--frequently operate in many subtle,
unnoticed ways, not merely in the spectacular.
More important, we do well to remember that any given experience or phenomenon is not
necessarily supernatural or satanic. God often produces supernatural phenomena (miracles, for
instance). Further, evil often expresses itself in very naturalistic ways. Much can be done for
disturbed persons through professional therapy (as will be noted further, below). True religion,
true psychiatry, and true psychology are not in opposition to each other.
C. Natural Illness or Supernatural Possession?
It follows, then, that a third and very necessary distinction needs to be made between "natural"
mental illness on the one hand, and supernatural demon possession on the other (although we do
recognize that sometimes natural mental illness may provide both the climate and occasion for
Satan to work more directly).
Many sincere Christians, unfamiliar with human physiology, are greatly surprised to discover that
certain of the more gross, abnormal, bizarre forms of behavior often superficially associated with
"possession" are often also present in certain kinds of mental illness in which demon possession
does not to be a factor. We speak of such things as: foaming at the mouth; noisy, obscene,
blasphemous utterances in unnatural, altered (and often guttural) vocal registers, or shrill,
spine-chilling screams; falling into trancelike states; and violent bodily seizures in which the
unfortunate victim may suddenly be thrown to the floor, or violently against walls or furniture. All
of these symptoms, sometimes seen in genuine cases of demon possession, are also common
responses of victims of various "natural" mental disorders. Thus the ignorance an individual
concerning the nature and operation of nature's laws could (and often does) result in that person's
seeking to explain these phenomena by means of the spirit world, and thus finding demons where
(Perhaps at this point it is also worth noting the contrary truth: Some individuals who are
genuinely "possessed" may exhibit perfectly normal, natural behavior--and thus are enabled to do
Satan's bidding all the more effectively.)
We quickly grant that all mental (as well as physical) illness is a by-product of sin, and may be
said, in the ultimate sense, to be caused by Satan. But a knowledge of certain forms of mental
illness is extremely helpful, because apparently some mental illnesses are primarily caused by
biochemical, environmental, genetic factors; abuses of alcohol and/or other drugs; and simply
physical illness. (Again, in some instances, Satan may also become involved more directly.)
Unquestionably some mental illness is a genuine manifestation of direct demonic control of human
neurology and physiology. But because there is no evidence that all mental illness involves
demonic possession, it is crucially important that those who venture to grapple with the
phenomenon of demon possession should, it possible, first have an intelligent awareness of the
many and varied determinants of normal and abnormal perceptions, auditory and visual
hallucinations, normal and anomalous physical sensations, speech mechanisms, emotional
experiences, and thought processes before attempting to deliver a victim believed to be
In actual practice, interestingly, there are comparatively few conclusive, telltale evidences of
supernatural activity in cases where demon possession is suspected. Even the following four
evidences may at times be suspect:
1. Clairvoyance. The revealing of hidden secrets of private individuals, whether present or not
(and often revelations of the secret sins of the one attempting deliverance ministry)--information
probably not known by any other human being.
2. Levitation. The suspension of persons or objects in midair without any natural, physical
3. Apparition. The materializing of ephemeral, spiritualistic, ghost-like beings. [footnote 20]
4. "Tongues-Speaking." The utterance of foreign languages without the individual's prior study of
such languages. In the book of Acts the three instances of "speaking in tongues" are all
manifestations of their speaking established contemporaneous languages foreign to the apostles
and never studied by them beforehand. However, Satan can counterfeit this legitimate gift of the
Holy Spirit, and probably the context of any given manifestation must aid in determining whether
it is from God or from Satan. If, for example, the speaking of recognizable foreign languages
never previously studied is found in a situation involving gross bodily contortions and other highly
repulsive behavioral characteristics, the phenomenon probably is not of God, but of Satan.
If any of these four factors is present in any given phenomena, there may be a strong presumption
in favor of the presence of demon possession.
There is a place, we feel, for ministry to the mentally ill by the trained Christian psychiatrist or
psychologist. Ellen White once wrote despairingly of parents who took their children to
fraudulent faith healers "instead of trusting in the power of the living God and the skill of
well-qualified physicians." [footnote 21] (One wonders if Ellen White were alive today if she
would not broaden the category of "well-qualified physicians" to include psychiatrists and
Mrs. White also wrote, in 1908, to a husband and wife who were actively involved allegedly in
casting out demons, and her inspired counsel is germane to this consideration.
In vision Mrs. White observed Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Mackin "making some sad mistakes" in their
labor for Christ. In their personal study of the Scriptures and of Mrs. White's writings these
Seventh-day Adventists had come to "wrong conclusions." She therefore sounded a warning
concerning their present activities, for "the Lord's work would be greatly misunderstood if you
should continue to labor as you have begun." As a consequence of their "false interpretation" of
inspired writings, the Mackins apparently had sought to carry on what Ellen White described as a
"strange work" which included efforts at exorcism of alleged demons. And she wrote them
You have even supposed that power is given you to cast out devils. Through your influence
over the human mind men and women are led to believe that they are possessed of devils,
and that the Lord has appointed you as His agents for casting out these evil spirits.
This activity, she went on to warn them, will "endanger not only your own souls but the souls of
many others," because the Mackins were using Scripture coupled with Mrs. White's writings "to
vouch for the genuineness" of their messages and activities. In claiming their authority from
Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy writings, Mrs. White unequivocally declared to them, "You
are deceived." She characterized their work as "incorrect,... inconsistent and fanatical," which as a
consequence made "twentyfold harder" the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church "in
acquainting the people with the truths of the Third Angel's Message."
And in a message to the churches in California, warning them of the "strange work" of the
Mackins, Mrs. White declared unequivocally:
I was shown that it was not the Spirit of the Lord that was inspiring Brother and Sister L
[the Mackins], but the same spirit of fanaticism that is ever seeking entrance into the
remnant church. Their application of Scripture to their peculiar exercises is Scripture
misapplied. The work of declaring persons possessed of the devil, and then praying with
them and pretending to cast out the evil spirits, is fanaticism which will bring into disrepute
any churchwhich sanctions such work. [footnote 23]
Even more to the point are these next solemn and impressive words of Mrs. White which perhaps
have a special application to misguided souls attempting "deliverance ministry" as it is commonly
perceived end practiced today: "We are none of us to seek to cast out devils, lest we ourselves be
cast out." [Footnote 24]
What conclusions may reasonably be inferred from these two directives from one given
heaven-inspired messages for the remnant church today?
1. Obviously not every person who appears to be demon possessed is in fact demon possessed.
2. Not every Christian who names the name of Christ is called upon by God to engage in the work
of casting out evil spirits. (This point is interesting, if for no other reason than the fact that many
who are engaged in contemporary "deliverance ministry" claim that this power to cast out demons
is the God-given birthright of every Christian, whether minister or layman; and the failure to
exercise it is a virtual denial of the Christian faith.)
3. While there are situations which may come to our attention in which it is appropriate, through
importunate prayer, to cell upon divine aid to expel evil spirits, none should presumptuously go
out of his/her way in seeking to confront these evil agencies, lest unwittingly they go in their own
armor and be defeated by the devil. For even if one appears to succeed in casting out demons, it is
entirely possible that the prince of evil will triumph at the last.
4. To attempt to cast out a demon when none, in fact, is present, is potentially harmful physically,
emotionally, and spiritually, to both the "victim" and to the Christian leader, and renders a
disservice to the cause of God which actually could retard its progress.
III. PROBLEMS IN "DELIVERANCE MINISTRY"
While recognizing the existence of genuine cases of demon-possession and the need of relief for
the oppressed victims of Satan's control, the committee nevertheless felt unable to endorse
"spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry" as it is presently being practiced in various circles
(including some among Adventists).
There are problems with some of the philosophical underpinnings of the contemporary
"deliverance ministry,'' and these have been examined to some extent in the previous section of
this report. The committee also viewed with deep concern some of the practices characteristic of
this specialized ministry which it deemed potentially harmful and even dangerous. To these we
will now address ourselves.
A. Misuse of the Concept of "Priesthood of All Believers" and
Central to the philosophy undergirding "spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry" as it is
presently practiced in many places is the concept of the "priesthood of all believer;" and the
corollary of importunate prayer.
The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia defines the "priesthood of all believers" as "the concept
that every person can approach God directly, without the services of an intermediary human
priesthood" and identifies it, rightly, as "one of the fundamental principles of the Protestant
Reformation." As such, "it is a logical corollary of belief in salvation by faith alone."
The concluding paragraph in this brief sketch significantly points out how Seventh-day
Adventists, in contradistinction to other Protestants (particularly certain evangelicals) see the
implications of the doctrine:
SDAs share with Protestants generally the concept of the priesthood of all believers. But
whereas Luther, for instance, stressed the idea of the universal priesthood of man, SDAs
emphasize the priesthood of Christ, to whom man may come directly. [footnote 25]
Some Christians tend to amplify the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers somewhat as
follows: the father is priest of his household. The believer is priest to the non-believer. As such,
the believer may serve as a latter-day Levitical priest and take a man's "offering" (or the man
himself) and present it to the Lord. Thus the "priest" thereby assumes the weight of responsibility
for someone else's behavior and his/her relationship to the Lord.
Adventists have perhaps seen the doctrine in slightly different terms. While some hold (perhaps
borrowing an idea from Roman Catholicism) that a Christian may come to God only through the
intermediation of a human priest, who brings the supplicant grace and salvation through the
sacraments of the church, Adventists believe that the practicing Christian does not need a human
priest (or Mary) in order to come directly before the throne of grace to present his/her needs
directly to God through Jesus, our heavenly High Priest. We believe we certainly may pray for
others with problems, but by so doing we do not become their priest; and in so doing we do not
assume responsibility on their behalf.
Tied closely to one's view of the priesthood or all believers is one's view of the nature and
purpose of "intercessory prayer." The "deliverance ministry" adherents see one of the main
purposes of intercessory prayer as being a vehicle by means of which the individual Christian may
"stand in the place of" the person afflicted (and even possessed) by Satan. Thus, as "priest," he
stands as an intermediary between the victim and Christ.
As such, this viewpoint continues, this "priest" may confess (and/or reveal) the sins of another
individual in the small prayer group gathered for "deliverance," he/she may claim promises or
victories on behalf of the victim. And this "priest" may even take another's sin--or even demons--upon himself/herself, the better to free the victim and enable him/her to deal with them.
It is possibly because of this popular connotation of "intercessory prayer" that Ellen White herself
appears seldom to employ the term (she does speak a great deal about the need and place for
importunate prayer); and because of Ellen White's apparent reticence to employ the term, we will
seldom use it here.
A cursory examination of the Comprehensive Index of the Writings of Ellen G. White will reveal
that Mrs. White uttered numerous cautions concerning the confessing or revealing by one person
of the mistakes and sins of another person, even in small prayer groups. She also had much to say
about what were appropriate (and inappropriate) topics for public prayer, in contradistinction to
private ("closet") prayer.
She had a great deal to say about the place, purpose, and function of the human will (everything,
she declared, depended on the right exercise of it, by the individual himself/ herself) and she
appears to be silent about the possibility or desirability of one person relating and confessing
another's sins. We do not find in Scripture, or in Mrs. White's writings the provision for one
Christian to "stand in the place of'' someone else in the capacity of priest. Contrarily, we all have a
crucified, risen, and soon-coming heavenly High Priest who directly intercedes for us all, the Man
Christ Jesus. There is no provision for "standing in the place of" someone else for the purpose of
identifying and casting out the demons alleged to inhabit the unfortunate victim. Nor is there
provision for carrying the responsibility of the burden of long, constant, detailed prayers for
others--either for those who are also praying for themselves or those who will not (or cannot)
pray. And there is no indication that the prayers of such a "priest" are more efficacious than an
individual's prayers for himself.
One's basic view of the "priesthood of all believers" and of "intercessory prayer" will certainly
have a bearing upon one's attitude toward some of the activities prominent in "spiritual warfare
and deliverance ministry."
B. Dialogue With the Devil
Probably the chief characteristic running as a common thread through almost all variations of
contemporary "deliverance ministry" is the predilection of entering into dialogue with the spirits in
which the demons are asked to identify themselves, indicate the days, months, or years of their
"possession," and answer other questions of a similar nature, before being dispossessed of their
prey in the name of Jesus Christ.
This practice, to which we are strongly opposed, is felt to be not only inimical to a strong and
growing Christian experience, but entirely unnecessary as well.
Proponents defend this approach on the precedent found in Scripture in the narrative of Christ's
healing of the two demoniacs of Gadara (see Mark 5:6-13 and Luke 8:28-33), in which Christ
demanded of the evil spirits that they identify themselves.
We feel that this is insufficient ground for basing a practice, for the following reasons:
1. There is only one such instance recorded in Scripture. This custom of directly addressing the
demons was not the general practice of Christ, or yet of the apostles.
2. In the one instance on record Jesus did not initiate the conversation (yet, in contemporary
"deliverance ministry," the initiative is invariably taken by the human "deliverer"). Instead, Jesus
waited for the demons to take the initiative,
3. Even so, Jesus did not ask them to identify themselves until after He had authoritatively
demanded that they depart.
4. And, most damaging of all to the case of modern exorcists, after ascertaining that there was
more than one demon inhabiting these afflicted men ("Our name is Legion"), Jesus did not (a) ask
them their names individually, or (b) cast them out sequentially, one by one, as is the practice of
those who would perform this task today in His name, or (c) take hours to get rid of them.
We would, furthermore, offer five additional reasons for avoiding the practice of addressing
1. This kind of addressing of evil spirits seems to some perilously close to, if not actually within
the realm of, two-way communication between the spirit world and humanity which is strictly
prohibited and condemned in Scripture. (In Bible times it brought forth upon the practitioners the
sentence of death. This is how God--"who changes not"--views communication with the spirit
2. Dialogue with the spirits generally tends toward protracted efforts at casting out the demons,
with consequent emotional and physical exhaustion for all concerned. These humanitarian
concerns alone justify the abandonment of the practice of demanding of the demons that they
3. The devils are notorious liars (it was, after all, their master who invented the lie). And their
word, therefore, is simply not trustworthy. It is entirely possible, for instance, that in a genuine
case of demon-possession one demon might well simulate a number of different "voices" and offer
differing identities, thus pretending to be a whole galaxy of spirits, thus making a mockery of the
whole situation by pretending to go and yet "returning."
4. It is immoral to give the demon any more authority over the vocal chords of the afflicted.
Hasn't the victim suffered long enough already',
5. Lastly, it tends to identify the Seventh-day Adventist Church with cultic practices.
Ellen White said it best: "Our only surety is in giving no place to the devil.... It is unsafe to enter
into controversy or to parley with him." [footnote 26]
An interesting variation on "dialoguing" is becoming increasingly popular in certain "deliverance"
circles: instead of dialoguing with the devil, those in prayer "dialogue with the Holy Spirit," and
ask Him to reveal the nature of the sins of the afflicted which need to be confessed, and the
identity of the individual demons which need to be summoned forth.
While we have had no doubt but that such prayers would find an "answer," we are perplexed to
know how effectively to validate such responses, because the unholy spirit--Satan--the author and
father of all deception, can inject himself insidiously and unobtrusively.
A subculture spawned by "deliverance" ministry is a school of "divine guidance" which is growing
in popularity. Based largely on the work of Joy Dawson, one Adventist version offers twelve
"Ways in Which God Speaks" to us. The first four are entirely subjective; number five in the list is
the Word of God. Yet Ellen White, in discussing the same subject (in which she offers three
ways), lists the Word of God first, because all subjective methods must be validated by the
This school of thought goes on to allege that in the last days everyone will receive the Holy Spirit
in the identical manner that Ellen White did (1 Cor to the contrary notwithstanding), and being
able to dialogue with the Holy Spirit is just one of the benefits of this new, special relationship.
Possessors of this "gift" have an unshakable assurance that they are right and all others who
disagree--or even doubt--are wrong. And those skeptics who do not whole-heartedly support are
automatically dismissed out of hand as being possessed by a spirit of unbelief. Such an one might
even be startled to have a conversation with the exorcist interrupted by the individual offering a
short (and seemingly sanctimonious) prayer, right there: 'Lord, in Your name I cast out the demon
of unbelief in this person."
"Dialoguing with the Holy Spirit" is as potentially dangerous to those who practice this perverted
form as dialoguing with evil spirits.
C. Commanding Demons or Supplicating Christ?
Another characteristic of deliverance sessions, as commonly carried out, is direct confrontation of
the demon by demanding--always in Christ's name, of course--that the demons depart.
The example of Christ is sometimes cited as precedent ("Jesus...rebuked the foul spirit, saying
unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him"
[Mark 9:25]), and the further example of Paul is used to buttress the case ("Paul, being grieved,
turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her"
[Acts 16:18]). These examples are valid and must not be ignored.
It has been suggested, however, that in both of the above instances the demon took the initiative,
himself initiating the confrontation. Because in other contexts the example offered in Scripture is,
rather, that of the Christian believer's appealing to Christ to cast out the demon, instead of
addressing the demon directly.
In the past God used "divers manners" to communicate with humanity (see Heb 1:1); and there is
also evidence in Scripture that He used "divers manners" in communicating with demons.
In Jude 9 we find Christ (here called Michael, the archangel) "contending with the devil" who
disputed His intention to resurrect Moses from his lonely grave atop Mount Nebo. Satan claimed
Moses as his own, for he had come under the dominion of Satan and was therefore his lawful
prey. Further, Jesus had not yet come to pay the penalty-price for sin. Nevertheless, Jesus
assumed responsibility for salvation and eternal life on Moses' behalf. Yet even here, Christ "durst
not bring against him [Satan] a railing accusation," but instead said, "The Lord rebuke thee."
In Zechariah 3:1, 2, we find Joshua, the high priest, standing before the angel of the Lord, while
Satan was standing there "at his right hand to resist him." Instead of rebuking the devil directly,
Joshua allowed the *Lord* to handle the matter, "and the *Lord* said unto Satan, `the Lord
rebuke thee, 0 Satan;even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; is not this a brand
plucked out of the fire?' " (emphasis supplied).
Direct confrontation, and direct address to the "possessing" demon, sometimes is not only
undesirable but also pragmatically unproductive. Mark I. Bubeck, a leading exponent of
"deliverance ministry," tells of his surprising discovery when, in the mid-1970s, he endeavored to
bring freedom from demonic powers to a young man on the brink of destruction.
Through the young man's faculties, Bubeck says,
I was in direct confrontation with a snarling, cruel, crude, vulgar demon that had taken the
same name as this young man's last name. This wicked power was very talkative. He
constantly threatened and insulted me, the young man, and another person who was
working with me in the confrontation. After taking back ground he was claiming against the
young man, I kept commanding him to leave and go where the Lord Jesus Christ would
send him. He was very obstinate in refusing to go. I kept quoting the truth of God against
him, but even though he was weakening, he still refused to go. We were all near the point of
physical exhaustion when finally I quoted the promise of our Lord, "Where two or three are
gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt 18:20)
After quoting this verse, I said, "This is the very truth of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is
here. Dear Saviour, this wicked spirit is insulting You, and he's insulting us, Your servants.
I ask You now in Your presence here to put Your holy hand against him and send him
where You want him to go." Almost immediately, a great cry came out of the young man's
mouth, and he was immediately delivered from that destroying power. [footnote 28]
Apparently Mr. Bubeck misread the entire situation, for he had already been "quoting the truth of
God" repeatedly, but the spirit "still refused to go." More important, however, is the approach
that did work--instantly. For when Mr. Bubeck ceased directly commanding the demon to leave,
and commenced to ask the Lord Jesus go take charge and Himself dismiss the demon, then and
only then did the demon depart. [footnote 29]
In one instance of deliverance, Jesus told His disciples, "This kind goeth not out by prayer and
fasting" (Matt 17:21, emphasis supplied). In other instances "this kind goeth not out" when
commanded to depart--even in the name of Christ--by the servant of the Lord, but only when
Christ is addressed directly and is asked to perform the task personally!
How much better, then, in the presence of demons--especially in instances where they have not
initiated the confrontation--for the leader to address Christ rather than the demons, and allow Him
to do the job He is eminently qualified to perform.
D. A Ritualized Liturgy
Another objectionable feature of the conventional "deliverance" service is the growing tendency
to develop a highly ritualized approach in which the preparatory steps are outlined with the victim
in advance. During this "briefing" session the "deliverer" speaks in language highly suggestible and
in an authoritative manner which bears an extremely close similarity with instructions given by a
hypnotist to a client while he is yet conscious.
One writer in the growing body of "spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry" literature describes
the preparatory service as follows. The leader first prays for guidance, discernment, and
protection by the blood of Jesus. He then addresses the "client":
Now, C, there are three things you do not have to do. You don't have to hurt yourself, you
do not have to hurt either one of us, and you do not have to break or damage anything in
the room. You may feel like coughing or screaming. Do that if you feel like it. Coughing or
screaming doesn't cast out the demon--only the Holy Spirit can do that. But if you feel like
coughing or screaming, and you don't, you may be holding the demon inside. The demons
will put many strange things in your mind, like you're going insane, that this is all a fake,
that this is all psychological, that you're going to wind up without a personality, or that
other people are going to hear about it. Don't worry, all of these are only old tricks. None
of them are true. Okay, now relax. Don't initiate any thoughts. [footnote 30]
No such "preparations" as these are described in Scripture! On the other hand, most victims of
demonic control appear to be highly suggestible, and the form of address by the leader of a
"deliverance" session could take the form of hypnotic suggestion, with him in effect making a
self-fulfilling prophecy by the instructions he chooses to give.
E. Aiding and Abetting the Enemy
Acknowledging that at times it is difficult to tell whether an harassed individual is or is not
demon-possessed, practitioners of "deliverance ministry" often nevertheless proceed with their
ministrations on the ground that "if in doubt, try it, since there will be no harm done if the
diagnosis of demon-possession was found to be in error."
But this lingering suggestion in the mind of the victim that he or she might be demon-possessed
(even though nothing by way of proof subsequently showed up) may work untold havoc in
treating such a victim, and there is often an even greater danger from such unconscionable
"Deliverance" sessions often last several hours (all-night sessions are not uncommon), and the
experience is generally exhausting and emotionally gruelling for all concerned. The net effect is to
leave the patient in a state of extreme emotional fatigue. At such times the inhibitory neural
pathways are often incapable of functioning normally, while the excitatory pathways are
discharging their impulses readily.
This means that the patient's power to resist, to control the thoughts, is wiped out. (The effects
are identical to those produced by the brain-washing tactics of certain well-known religious cults.)
This generally accepted psychological fact, coupled with the insights to be gained from inspired
writings concerning the wiles of Satan, ought to warn us that Satan can--and does--take
advantage of this fatigued condition to make his suggestions that will be acted upon without
resistance by the fatigued victim. He may even make his hypnotic suggestion for a later
performance, after the deliverance session is over, one possible explanation for the fact that a
large number of individuals who have been the subject of a "deliverance" session later exhibited
recurring problems. This is almost guaranteed by the nature of such exhausting efforts at
Fatigue for the victim is not the only by-product of unduly prolonged "deliverance" sessions.
Christians who participate in long prayer vigils may experience a delayed- exhaustion syndrome.
For a month or two the individual may exhibit a "high," seeming to abound in physical vitality,
seeming to be able to defy the normal needs of the body for rest and sleep by late-night or
all-night prayer vigils. Their "freshness'' the next day seems coercive clinical evidence to them that
the Lord was really working on their behalf, as well as for the afflicted. They even cite, by way of
justification, how Christ spent all night in prayer, and came forth inexplicably refreshed the next
day, ready to resume ministering to men and fighting the devil. So there would be great praising
of the Lord after such experiences.
Nevertheless, the net effect seems to be that the body was depleting its reservoir of life-force, its
energies were being bankrupted (Ellen White's concern expressed at one point for Dr. John
Harvey Kellogg's health because he was "living two years in one, and I utter my protest against
this" [footnote 31] seems somehow relevant here).
And after two, three, or four months, acute aging commences to set in. There is a "bottoming
out," and cumulative exhaustion then takes its toll in a devastating manner. The physical
deterioration is evident to all who behold it. And the law of physics ("to every action there is an
equal and opposite reaction") and the law of scripture ("Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for
whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal 6:7]) is proven correct again.
F. Oppression vs. Possession
A final area of concern which we have in "deliverance ministry" as it is presently practiced in
many circles is the tendency of its proponents to equate "oppression" with "possession.'"
The word "oppression" (and related forms of the word) is almost entirely an Old Testament word.
It is used only twice in the New Testament. In Acts 7:24 Stephen, in his defense, refers to the
experience of Moses in slaying an Egyptian who had "oppressed" an Israelite. The other instance
is of particular interest as we consider "spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry": In Acts 10:38
Peter tells "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went
about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him."
That human beings are "oppressed" by the devil is certainly biblical. That such "oppression" is to
be equated with "possession" by a demon is equally unbiblical, for in Isaiah 53:7 we are told that
Jesus was "oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth." Jesus was oppressed,
but Jesus certainly was never demon-possessed.
The Bible appears to use the word "oppressed" to describe an acute form of temptation, not
possession by an evil spirit. And Christians who are thus"oppressed" by Satan or his evil angels do
not need to call an exorcist to come and cast out a demon, for none is there.
As we have already noted, "control" is the unique characteristic of "possession"; how
encouraging, then, is this assurance from heaven, "Satan cannot control minds unless they are
yielding to his control." [footnote 32] If you are a genuine member of the kingdom of God, Satan
cannot control you, though he certainly may oppress (severely tempt) you, even as he did our
Lord Jesus Christ.
How one gains power over oppression/harassment/temptation is the subject of the following
IV. PRAYER FOR THE AFFLICTED
With this kind of "deliverance services" in extreme doubt, is there no hope for victims of genuine
demon-possession today? The committee, while unanimously recommending against certain
procedures described in the preceding section, yet feels that the Lord's commission, "Cast out
devils" (Matt 10:8), was given to meet the real situations that do confront God's people. The
methods used, however, will be in contradistinction to the highly ritualized and sensationalized
drama of the "deliverance session" which appears to borrow (however unconsciously)
substantially from ancient pagan cults of Mesopotamia. There is, indeed and in fact, hope for
A. Hope in the Face of Hopelessness
"If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us," the father of a demon-possessed
lad once appealed to Jesus (Mark 9:22). Jesus' immediate response was, "If thou canst believe, all
things are possible to him that believeth" (verse 23). Matthew quotes the Master, in the same
incident but now talking privately with the nine disciples who had been defeated in their attempts
to cast out this demon earlier, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed,... nothing shall be
impossible unto you" (Matt 17:20).
In the face of increasing activity of a supernatural nature emanating from the prince of darkness,
Christians in general and Seventh-day Adventists in particular may face this distressing
phenomenon with optimistic courage and confidence.
While the Scriptures clearly teach that these malevolent spirits are banded together in an
organized power structure for the express purpose of subverting and destroying God's created
works, and especially mankind, those same scriptures declare the unwillingness of our God "that
any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9).
In "every time of need" Christians are invited--indeed, commanded--by a loving Father in heaven
to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help" (Heb
Standing by the right hand of that throne (Acts 7:56) is an Intercessor who has never lied (Num
23:19); and His continual declaration is that "him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out"
(John 6:37). He further adds:
And I will give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man
pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man
is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand (John 10:28, 29).
Indeed, the "good news" of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that by one decisive blow at Calvary,
God, by the death of His Son, effectively broke the power of Christ's mortal enemy, Satan.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He [Christ] also himself
likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power
of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime
subject to bondage (Heb 2:14, 15).
The essence of the gospel that God now bids His servants declare is the proclamation of
individual Christian liberty from the bondage of sin and Satan, here and now, through a bestowal
of unmerited eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, this Life is in his Son. He that
hath the Son of God hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life (1 John
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free...If the Son therefore shall
make you free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:32, 36).
While Christ lived among men on this earth He utterly defeated every demon He every
confronted; and, furthermore, He gave His disciples the power to confront and cast out demonic
spirits from human beings who were thus oppressed: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the
dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt 10:8).
In New Testament times, as we have already noted, the phenomenon of demonpossession was a
stark fact of existence:
Satanic agencies were incorporated with men. The bodies of human beings, made for the
dwelling place of God, had become the habitation of demons. The senses, the nerves, the
passions, the organs of men, were worked by supernatural agencies in the indulgence of the
vilest lust. The very stamp of demons was impressed upon the countenances of men. Human
faces reflected the expression of the legions of evil with which they were possessed.
Christ did something about it; and the same author, elsewhere, adds that today "God's messengers
are commissioned to take up the very work that Christ did while on this earth. They are to give
themselves to every ministry that He carried on." [footnote 34]
We would add only, at this point, that our work today is not the conducting of rituals and
ceremonies so common among those of the "deliverance ministry" persuasion which bear a
striking resemblance to similar rites in the very heart of paganism in Old Testament times. Indeed,
with Paul, "I show you a more excellent way" (1 Cor 12:31).
It is neither God's intention nor His plan that the people created in His own likeness should be the
plaything of Satan. In love, and by a divine initiative, our heavenly Father has in mercy provided
"the weapons of our warfare." They are "not worldly"--human or naturalistic, and certainly not of
pagan origin--but they are indeed "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2
Cor 10:4, RSV, KJV; see also Eph 6:10-18).
Therefore, the individual Christian need not falter, much less fail, if confronted by supernatural
demonic forces (Eph 4:13). Rather, he/she may fight victoriously "the good fight of faith" (1 Tim
6:12), in God's strength (Phil 4:13), and then come off from that battle "in all these things ... more
than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Rom 8:37).
This is the birthright of every "born-again" Christian child of God.
B. The Christian's Preparation
There are times when the Christian layperson or minister is confronted by evil spirits harassing or
possessing those for whom Christ died. He/she must sense the necessity of proper and complete
spiritual preparation to meet the situation. The need of such preparation is highlighted by the
experience of the nine disciples of Jesus who attempted--unsuccessfully--to cast out a demon
possessing a young man brought to them one day.
Jesus, Peter, James, and John were on the mount of transfiguration when the distraught father
came with his demon-possessed son looking for the Lord down in the valley. Upon learning of his
quest, the remaining nine disciples may well have assured the man that he need not await the
indefinite return of Jesus. They themselves were eminently capable of dealing with perplexing
situations such as these (see Matt 17: 14-21; Mark 9:14-29).
Now, prior to this the Twelve had been given power over unclean spirits (Matt 10:8). And still
later the Seventy would experience so great success in their ministry in freeing Satan's captives
that in returning to Jesus they came with great rejoicing because "the devils are subject to us
through thy name" (Luke 10:17-20). Yet, strangely, upon this singular occasion, these nine men
all tasted the bitter fruit of total defeat. And they privately besought Jesus to explain the cause of
this humiliating failure.
Jesus' immediate response revealed a serious deficiency: They lacked "mustard- seed" faith. And
to correct the situation they needed to engage in prayer and fasting--for themselves (Matt 17:20,
In her inspired commentary on this passage Ellen White identifies the various causes of this
celebrated failure as (1) an "unbelief" that "shut them out from deeper sympathy with Christ," (2)
the "carelessness with which they regarded the sacred work committed to them," and (3) dwelling
in "a state of darkness" in which they mulled over their "discouragements" (Jesus had pointed to
His impending death) and their "personal grievances" (jealousy toward the three favored disciples
who alone were invited to join Jesus on the mount).
Now, in order to succeed in their conquest of the kingdom of darkness, Mrs. White continues,
these nine disciples needed: (1) to have their faith "strengthened by fervent prayer and fasting, and
humiliation of heart;" (2) they must be "emptied of self"; and (3) they must "be filled with
the.Spirit and power of God." Then they must come to God with earnest and fervent supplication
Earnest, persevering supplication to God in faith--faith that leads to entire dependence upon
God, and unreserved consecration to His work--can alone avail to bring men the Holy
Spirit's aid in the battle against principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this
world, and wicked spirits in high places. [footnote 35]
Indeed, "if you have faith like this, you will lay hold upon God's word, and upon all the helpful
agencies He has appointed. Thus your faith will strengthen, and will bring to your aid the power
of heaven....'Nothing shall be impossible unto you.' " [footnote 36]
The human agent should ever remember that he/she has no power within himself/ herself; we are
simply channels through which the divine power may be poured out to the stricken victim. This
being the case, Paul's admonition is appropriate: "Let a man examine himself" to see if there is
anything in the life that could possibly obstruct the flow of divine power (1 Cor 11:28). If such be
found, it ought speedily be removed by the confessing and forsaking of sin, lest one's prayers be
"hindered" (1 Peter 3:7). Fasting may be necessary (it is always appropriate) in the making of this
And, in harmony with our Lord's admonition in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6:16-18), this
fasting should be done privately, individually. Again, long, drawn-out prayer seasons involving
self-examination certainly seem contra-indicated by the thrust of this passage.
Finally, this inspired counsel may prove helpful as the Christian prepares himself for this special
In such cases of affliction where Satan has control of the mind, before engaging in prayer
there should be the closest self-examination to discover if there are not sins which need to
be repented of, confessed, and forsaken. Deep humility of soul before God is necessary, and
firm, humble reliance upon the blood of Christ alone. Fasting and prayer will accomplish
nothing while the heart is estranged from God by a wrong course of action. [footnote 37]
In such situations "the earnest prayers of His faithful followers" are necessary. [footnote 38]
C. The Afflicted One
The manner in which good and evil angels secure the compliant cooperation of the human agent is
not always apparent. In some cases demonic possession may begin with the weakening of the
bodily forces brought about through dissipation or circumstances causing continuing and
unrelenting anxiety, to the point where the human being finally loses control of himself or herself
and in some cases control passes over to the hands of unseen evil entities. The converse may also
be true: Through the building up of the physical powers, self-control may be regained, even
wrested from satanic forces, by the active cooperation of the human will with the power of the
Holy Spirit and holy angels.
Also, control of an individual's will by demonic forces may be partial or total. Cases vary, and it is
not always clear why they vary. But in cases where control is partial, it would seem
appropriate--even essential--to secure the cooperation of the subject. In all instances the worker
for Christ should seek to enlist the will of the afflicted on the side of Christ that he or she may be
strengthened to resist the evil foe. In cases where control of the individual seems more total, it
may be necessary for the Christian worker to secure the cooperation of those closest to the victim
of demonic harassment and to pray on his or her behalf without this manifest consent.
There are today perhaps three groups of individuals who are particularly susceptible to the
approach of demonic forces: (a) some who are emotionally disturbed; (b) some who are presently
(or formerly have been) associated with spiritualistic phenomena--seances, Ouija boards,
mediums, et cetera; and (c) some who make room for sin in the daily life, especially those who are
professing to serve God, but who have not yet totally surrendered to His Lordship over their
lives. All need help, and all need a work of preparation if satanic power is to be broken.
Instruction in Bible Truth. Before prayer is undertaken, the victim of satanic oppression should
first be helped to understand certain rudimentary Christian principles, including:
1. His/her inalienable right as a confessing Christian, to live a life free from control (though not, of
course, from temptation and/or harassment) of evil spirits, in harmony with the expressed will of
2. The biblical provision and teaching of personal victory over the evil one, through which even
the thoughts may be brought into captivity to Christ (1 Cor 10:13; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 2:5).
3. The fact that as long as a person is himself/herself able to confess, repent, and commit his/her
life to Christ, such individual is able personally to invoke the Lord's power against the enemy on
the basis of Christ's victory over Satan at the cross (John 16:33).
4. The fact that Christ has already won the "great controversy" against Satan by His decisive
victory at Calvary, and that He has committed to His followers a redemptive ministry to free the
captives of satanic control in and through His holy name.
5. The nature and practice of importunate, "effectual fervent prayer" by the Christian (James
6. The need for faith to believe that prayer offered in Jesus' name and for His sake will bring
deliverance from Satan's control.
Ellen White makes a cogent point about the fact that there is a work for persons who are still in
control who need not (indeed cannot) be done by another:
Those who have tempted the devil to tempt them will have to make desperate efforts to free
themselves from his power. But when they begin to work for themselves, then angels of
God whom they have grieved will come to their rescue. Satan and his angels are unwilling
to lose their prey. They contend and battle with the holy angels, and the conflict is severe.
But if those who have erred continue to plead, and in deep humility confess their wrongs,
angels who excel in strength will prevail and wrench them from the power of the evil angels.
And what is the nature of the work that the victim must do for himself/herself? First, he/she must
seek the Lord earnestly. "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me *with all
your heart*" (Jer 29:13, emphasis supplied).
Then he/she must accept God's word that deliverance is possible. There are three important points
in 1 Cor 10:13--temptation is the normal experience of every human being, God is faithful to
those who serve Him, and a way of escape is available for all who wish to find one. '"There hath
no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer
you to be tempted above that ye re able; but will, with the temptation also make a way of escape,
that ye may be able to bear it."
Then the counsel of James 4:7-10 is especially appropriate at this point. "Submit yourselves
therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw
nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.... Humble
yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."
And "wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy
word" (Ps 119:9). The mind must be focused away from self and defeat and directed upon God
and victory: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he
trusteth in thee" (Isa 26:3). Indeed, we must allow Jesus to bring into "captivity every thought to
the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor 10:5).
Power of the Will. An individual's will plays an important--even decisive--role in the success or
failure of prayer upon his behalf, and it is therefore imperative that the afflicted one being prayed
for understand the place and the power of the will.
While it is true that supernatural beings seem to have an incalculable advantage over human
beings in the warfare thus waged, yet these angels--whether evil or good--cannot compel the will
of an individual when that will is committed to Christ. Evil angels can tempt and harass; good
angels can woo and bless. But evil angels cannot force the will, and good angels will not. So the
surrendered human will, exercised with faith in God's Word and power, is the crucial factor in this
(Unfortunately, in some "deliverance" circles today the concept of "surrendered" has come to
mean a totally passive stance on the part of the individual vis-a-vis God's control. While such
practitioners would deny that they [or God] manipulate the afflicted person, the net result often
comes down to a mindless abdication of the victim's human reasoning powers, instead of the
combination and cooperation of "divine power and human effort" which Ellen White continually
holds before us. Surrender is not passive; it is very active.)
D. Concerns and Cautions
Basic Attitudes. Church leaders have been accused by some in "deliverance ministry" as wishing
to create a monopoly in which only "professionals" or "specialists"--be they clergy, medical
psychiatric, or psychological--may officiate in prayer for the emotionally and physically ill.
(Ironically, some of these who protest thus give evidence that they would prefer to have the
monopoly in their hands.) Prayer is not the prerogative of any one group; and the church
continues to hold that no practicing Christian needs an advanced academic degree in prayer before
he/she can be used to minister successfully to those afflicted by Satan.
Avoid "Adventure" Approach. When after careful consideration and prayer for guidance it is
decided to intercede with God for relief and victory of one afflicted by satanic power, the one
who leads out and those who take part need to guard against a "morbid" curiosity, a craving for
the sensational, the dramatic, a desire to witness supernatural forces in mortal combat, in short: to
indulge a sort of "adventurism." Each Christian participating in this kind of personal ministry
needs to examine carefully his/her motives. One thinks instinctively of the story of the seven sons
of Sceva (see Acts 19:13-17). These men "played around" with exorcism, perhaps little realizing
the power of the agencies with which they were dealing. They received a sound thrashing for their
pains. Those same evil spirits are still around today; and those who flippantly, carelessly seek to
confront demon forces could run substantial personal risks.
Avoid Inordinately Long Seasons of Prayer. Evil angels sometimes seek to prolong the season
of prayer, hoping thereby to wear out the supplicants and eventually to win the day by default.
There is no evidence in Scripture that when demons were cast out by Christ or His disciples that
the service was dragged on inordinately long. Jesus Himself decried the "heathen" philosophy that
repetitious utterance of the same petition, in "much speaking," was the way to move effectively
the hand of the Almighty (Matt 6:7; see 1 Kings 18:26). And Jesus was also down on "long
prayers" (see Matt 23:14), as was also Ellen White, who had quite a little to say in warning
against prolonging seasons of public or semi-public prayer. [footnote 40]
Not only are long, drawn-out prayer services unnecessary and without Scriptural foundation, they
are also generally counterproductive in terms of exhausting the physical and emotional resources
of all concerned.
Avoid Encouraging Over-dependence. There is a twofold danger that the one who is doing the
praying will experience difficulty in confidently leaving the one prayed for in the hands of God,
and also that the one being prayed for will develop an overdependence upon one or more of those
who intercede in prayer on his/her behalf.
While the Christian should and will carry a burden for those under Satan's control, he/she needs to
know when to "let go" and trust God to take over and do whatever is needful in the case.
Christians can become genuinely trapped by these burdens for others, and it interferes not only
with their ability to help others but also may interfere with their own ability to function in daily
living. One may be tempted to conclude that he/she cannot trust God to handle the case in His
own way and in His own time, and also that he/she can really add something to the ministry of
Christ. The idea grows that somehow if I can add my sacrifice to Christ's then it will count for
more in the victim's life than Christ's sacrifice without my own.
Sometimes the one for whom prayer is offered develops an unreasonable overdependence upon
one or more of those who pray. While the mature Christian will certainly be called upon to supply
large, personal quantities of love, care, and interest in providing personal support in prayer, study,
and emotional stabilization, he/she will certainly need to avoid permitting the victim to develop a
mindless, irrational overdependence by encouraging telephone calls at all times of the day or night
and childish and unreasonable demands for personal attention.
While no Seventh-day Adventist Christian would ever seek to hypnotize someone for whom
he/she was working to bring relief from demonic forces, there is yet a potential danger of
"practical hypnosis," whereby the effective control of the believing Christian over the mind of the
victim of harassment is accepted by the latter because of an undesirable overdependence upon the
In this context, then, the cautions of Ellen White concerning one of the practical dangers of
hypnosis seems particularly apt:
The theory of mind controlling mind was originated by Satan, to introduce himself as the
chief worker, to put human philosophy where divine philosophy should be. Of all the errors
that are finding acceptance among professedly Christian people, none is a more dangerous
deception, none more certain to separate man from God, than this. Innocent though it may
appear, if exercised upon patients it will tend to their destruction, not to their restoration. It
opens a door through which Satan will enter to take possession both of the mind that is
given up to be controlled by another, and the mind that controls. [footnote 41]
E. As We Look to the Future
Ellen White has written that satanic activity will greatly increase in these last days before Jesus
returns, and we accept that declaration without equivocation. As it examined the work of many
engaged in "deliverance ministry" at this time it also concluded that cases of genuine
demon-possession associated with physical phenomena are still not as common today as is
confidently declared by some practitioners of "deliverance ministry." However, the near future
may reveal more such cases, especially in some cultures.
We fully recognize that Satan is at work in the earth today, and in certain instances he actually
does control individuals in the here and now. This is an undeniable fact.
But to make "deliverance ministry" a prominent, if not the chief, work of the Seventh-day
Adventist Church at this time, is, we believe, to fall for yet another of Satan's specious devices:
that of diverting the remnant church from its true, ultimate mission on earth--spreading the Three
Angels' Messages of Revelation 14.
We have often been reminded that "we have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall
forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teachings in our past history." [footnote 42] Let us,
therefore, at this point examine an incident in our past history which we feel teaches a lesson that
is well considered yet today.
In 1900 the devil succeeded in getting a large number of Seventh-day Adventist church members,
ministers, and even at least one conference president, into a fanaticism which called forth an
unsparing, direct rebuke from the Lord through His servant, Ellen White. This "holy flesh"
movement (as it came to be known) was, in turn, but a repetition of an earlier fanaticism by which
Satan had succeeded in seducing certain of the people of God. [footnote 43] It involved
manifestation of supernatural powers that were most dramatic and sensationalistic. There was
much excitement. But God was not in it; And the net effect of it all was to disgust and turn away
serious-minded people who might otherwise have felt led to become members of the Seventh-day
Ellen White declared to the practitioners of this fanaticism in Indiana: "You are giving the wrong
mold to the precious and important work of God." [footnote 44] Then she added that at the very
end of time Satan will come in again among the remnant people, to destroy their effectiveness by
getting them entangled with fanaticism involving excitement and confusion. [footnote 45]
An important distinction, perhaps, needs to be made at this point. It is clear from Ellen White's
writings that after the latter rain experience has been received by the remnant people of God,
there will be amazing phenomena exhibited by laity and ministers alike: "Miracles will be wrought,
the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers. Satan also works with
lying wonders, even bringing down fire from heaven in the sight of men.
However, she also seems to indicate that before the latter rain is poured out upon Adventists,
such miracles will not be so abundant. Indeed, the miracles of Satan, his evil angels, and their
human accomplices, will be held up to Seventh-day Adventists (whose activity then is not
especially characterized by the working of miracles) as proof of the legitimacy of their position
and their standing with God!'' [footnote 47]
Even as late as the giving of the mark of the beast, and the concomitant forbidding of the sealed
saints to buy and sell, those in Babylon will be "mocking" the remnant, "threatening to destroy"
them. They ridicule their "feebleness," mock at the "smallness" of their numbers. And at this time
the wicked declare that they (and not the remnant) have "the truth, that miracles were among
them" (and, by contradistinction, not abundant among the remnant). They will boast "that angels
from heaven talked with them, and walked with them, that great power, and signs, and wonders
were performed among them" (and, by distinction, not so much among the remnant), and that "the
whole world was converted and in harmony with the Sunday law." [footnote 48]
More to the point, Ellen White further points out very clearly that in the last days (especially
before the outpouring of the latter rain), "God's people will not find their safety in working
miracles, for Satan would counterfeit any miracle that might be worked.... They are to take their
stand on the living Word." [footnote 49]
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
We would summarize our findings briefly as follows:
1. Demonic forces of a supernatural character exist today, as they did in Bible times; and the goal
now, as then, is the subversion and destruction of men and women, wherever possible, for time
and for eternity.
2. We distinguish between the affliction/harassment/oppression of Satan and his evil angels on the
one hand, and possession on the other. The former is the experience of acute temptation which
comes to all mankind; the latter represents total control of human physiology and neurology, and
is the experience of a more limited group of individuals.
3. Among various Christian bodies today there is a movement called "Spiritual Warfare and
Deliverance Ministry" in which dramatic and highly ritualized ceremonies (which unwittingly bear
some resemblance to pagan exorcism of Bible times) are used in attempts to cast out demons.
4. The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes that there is a place for ministry to those who are
tempted and controlled by Satanic agencies; and, furthermore, it is not a ministry to be limited to
professional clergy, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
5. The church is also highly conscious of the fact that our Lord foretold false (and apparently
successful) efforts at casting out demons, by professing Christians, just prior to His second
coming to this earth; and He emphatically disassociated Himself from such activity in the
strongest of terms (see Matt 7:22, 23).
6. Not all forms of gross human behavior are directly instigated by Satan, nor are they, in and of
themselves, necessarily conclusive evidence of demon-possession. Ellen White strongly
denounced the practice in her day of certain church members who went around declaring certain
persons as possessed of the devil, then prayed with them, and then pretended to cast out evil
spirits. She called such work fanaticism, and said it would destroy any church that sanctioned it.
7. Because Jesus specifically warned of deceptions, especially in the days just before He returns to
this earth (four times in Matthew 24 alone), the church cannot endorse many facets of "Spiritual
Warfare and Deliverance Ministry" as it is currently practiced by many Christians and some
Seventh-day Adventists. Particularly objectionable to the church are:
a. Dialogue with demons: entering into conversation with them, asking them to identify
themselves by name, asking questions of them, et cetera. The Bible and Spirit of Prophecy
writings uniformly forbid human communication with the evil supernatural world of Satan and his
b. Long protracted prayer seasons in which release from demonic possession is sought: there is
not one instance in the Bible of such interminable, wearying exercises. The demons always left as
a result of a brief, authoritative command to depart.
8. Christians may be called upon to participate, or even to lead out, in prayer services for victims
of Satanic harassment or possession. An important work of personal preparation is spelled out in
Scripture and in Ellen White's writings which includes close self-examination to discover the
possible presence of sin which needs to be repented of, confessed, and forsaken before
confrontation with the supernatural forces of evil. Fasting and prayer may be an important part of
this preparatory work.
There is a place for this kind of ministry, conducted properly; but, important as it is, deliverance
ministry is not to be the main thrust of the work given to Seventh-day Adventists to perform in
these closing days of this earth's history.
Whether a counterfeit "spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry" is one of the fanaticisms into
which Satan will seek to lead the remnant people of God in these last days, we cannot now say
with certainty. But that the possibility exists in a very real sense, we cannot deny. And every
member of the church should follow a prudent, yet positive, course of action. We believe that
Jesus is an all-powerful Saviour, and that demons will be cast out of suffering souls today as in
Let us, however, keep in mind the counsel of the servant of the Lord as we ponder this whole
question of satanic activity in our world, especially in these, its closing days:
There are Christians who think and speak altogether too much about the power of Satan.
They think of their adversary, they pray about him, they talk about him, and he looms up
greater and greater in their imagination. It is true that Satan is a powerful being; but, thank
God, we have a mighty Saviour, who cast the evil one from heaven. Satan is pleased when
we magnify his power. Why not talk of Jesus? Why not magnify His power and His love?
Footnote 1: Selected Messages, bk 2, p. 53 (hereafter indicated as 2SM) See also pp. 48-55.
Unless otherwise indicated, all sources are found in the writings of Ellen G, White.
Footnote 2: The Desire of Ages, p. 257 (hereafter abbreviated as DA).
Footnote 3: Ibid.
Footnote 4: Testimonies for the Church, 1:341 (hereafter abbreviated as 1T, 2T, etc.).
Footnote 5: The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, p. 524 (hereafter abbreviated as
Footnote 6: See also Ibid., pp. 624-25.
Footnote 7: See 1T 295 and GC 516.
Footnote 8: GC 514.
Footnote 9: Mark I. Bubeck, The Adversary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975).
Footnote 10: The Litany, p. 24.
Footnote 11: Cruden's Dictionary of Bible Terms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1958),
Footnote 12: Article "World," Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, rev. ed,, p. 1183 (1st ed.,
Footnote 13: Cruden, p. 380.
Footnote 14: Christ's Object Lessons, p. 156 (emphasis supplied).
Footnote 15: GC 511-517.
Footnote 16: 1T 341-47.
Footnote 17: Ibid., pp. 341, 343 (emphasis supplied).
Footnote 18: Ibid., p. 343 (emphasis supplied).
Footnote 19: Ibid.
Footnote 20: If only one person sees the ghost-like form, it may well be merely an hallucination.
However, it several individuals see it, there exists the stronger probability of its being a
Footnote 21: Prophets and Kings, p. 211.
Footnote 22: 2SM 45.
Footnote 23: Ibid., pp. 46. For background on this singular case, see "The Ralph Mackin Story"
in Review and Herald, August 10, 17 and 24, 1972; republished in a White Estate shelf document,
"Charismatic Experiences in Early Seventh-day Adventist History."
Footnote 24: Ellen G. White Letter 96, 1990 (emphasis supplied).
Footnote 25: Priesthood of All Believers," Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (SDA Bible
Commentary Series, vol. 10), rev. ed., pp. 1150-51.
Footnote 26: 3T 482-83.
Footnote 27: 5T 512.
Footnote 28: Bubeck, pp. 95, 96.
Footnote 29: Ibid., p. 96.
Footnote 30: Kent Philpott and D. R. Hyhmers, The Deliverance Book: A Handbook for
Ministers and Those About to Have Deliverance, (Van Nuys, CA: Bible Voice, Inc., P.O. Box
7491, 1977), pp. 105ff.
Footnote 31: Ellen G. White Letter 10, 1887 (February 23); cited in Richard W. Schwarz, John
Harvey Kellogg, MD (Nashville: Southern Publishing Assoc., 1970), p. 133.
Footnote 32: 1T 301.
Footnote 33: DA 36.
Footnote 34: Ellen G. White Manuscript 27, 1907 (January 22), "The New England Sanitarium;"
cited in This Day With God, p. 30.
Footnote 35: DA 431.
Footnote 36: Ibid.
Footnote 37: 2T 146.
Footnote 38: 1T 299.
Footnote 39: 1T 301 (emphasis supplied).
Footnote 40: Comprehensive Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White, 2:2113.
Footnote 41: The Ministry of Healing, p. 243.
Footnote 42: Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 196.
Footnote 43: 2SM 33, 34.
Footnote 44: Ibid., p, 34.
Footnote 45: Ibid., pp, 37, 38. For a more complete account of the "Holy Flesh" movement and
fanaticism, see also Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Early Elmshaven Years (Wash- ington
DC: Review and Herald, 1981), chap. 7.
Footnote 46: GC 612.
Footnote 47: 2SM 52, 53.
Footnote 48: Ellen G, White Letter 6, 1884; cited in Maranatha, p. 209.
Footnote 49: 2SM 55.
Footnote 50: DA