Friday, June 20, 2014

1 John 4:1-3: The Command to “Try the spirits” and the rise of the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Word of Faith Doctrine of Exorcism, part 3 of 3

John A. MacMillan, minister in the strongly continuationist or anti-cessationist Christian and Missionary Alliance, affirmed that believers have the same authority to cast out demons that the Lord Jesus has, and “all . . . demon powers . . . must yield to us.”[1]  Nevertheless, he found that “there are frequent cases . . . of demon possession . . . [where it] has been found impossible to [cast out the demon], the spirit apparently paying no attention to the prayers or commands” of the charismatic or Christian and Missionary Alliance minister or other wonder-worker.[2]  While the Lord Jesus always immediately cast out demons, when Alliance ministers sought to do so “the work of freeing the sufferer . . . [from] the possessing spirit . . . may be protracted”[3] even when it does not entirely fail.[4]  For example, MacMillan in “his book Encounter with Darkness . . . describes in great detail an extensive ministry of deliverance over several weeks in 1947 . . . at one point continuing for seven consecutive nights. . . . On another occasion in 1951, a series of exorcism sessions on behalf of a Nyack student [MacMillan taught at the Alliance Bible college in Nyack, New York] lasted at least three months and involved more than 170 demons.”[5]  In this latter episode, a “woman who was [MacMillan affirms] converted when nineteen years of age” but did not begin to “seriously follow the Lord . . . for a number of years;  in fact, not until she had begun to attend a Bible school” began to be “seriously trouble[d] . . . [by] spirits . . . [a]fter . . . she . . . was baptized.”[6]  Exorcism “sessions lasted late into the night,” accompanied with “cries and wailing,” as “MacMillan . . . gave students on-the-job training in the ministry of deliverance . . . [and] taught students how to pray and plead the blood according to Revelation 12:11.”[7]   One exorcism session was “a struggle which lasted unbroken for eighteen hours . . . often artificial respiration had to be used . . . nurses feared for her life.”[8]  The “deliverance actually took about three months to accomplish . . . for the demons would stubbornly refuse to cooperate and would hide over and over again . . . it was a long and torturous process . . . groups of demons were expelled, the number totalling 171.”[9]  MacMillan considered this a great spiritual victory, and he “learned more from this case than [from] any other . . . in the past,”[10] thus making this event a key episode in the development of his spiritual warfare doctrine.  Indeed, “as a result of the exorcism on the Nyack campus in 1951, MacMillan initiated a course in the next school year on demonology and spiritual warfare—possibly the first of its kind in Christian higher education,”[11] although “[n]ot all students viewed this [1951 exorcism, this] . . . drawn-out deliverance . . . as a positive experience . . . [considering it, rather, as] a ruse of Satan.”[12]  For example, Albert Runge, an Alliance pastor who was student at Nyack at the time, wrote about this exorcism process that MacMillan found more helpful than any other, and which he made key to his system of demonology and throne-power:
[M]any exorcisms are far more detrimental than beneficial. . . . Many power confrontations between Christians and demons are actually engineered by the demons themselves.  As a student in Bible college I was informed that a fellow student was demon possessed, and that there was an exorcism going on.  Being of a curious nature, I went to see what was happening. . . . Climbing the stairs . . . I could hear an eerie scream echoing down the hall[.] . . . When I got there the exorcist [John MacMillan] was praising God for the deliverance of the victim.  Just after he said Amen, a second demon made himself known.  After some time of struggling, arguing and pleading the blood, that demon screamed his way out of the room.  Everyone was relieved until another demon made himself known.  This process seemed to go on endlessly for days, weeks and months with the same results.  There is serious question in my mind that the victim was every completely delivered.
      What went wrong?  I have spent many years reflecting over that particular exorcism and researching God’s word, and I have become convinced that many exorcisms are power play setups by the demons themselves. . . . They choose an exorcist . . . [t]hey choose the timing as well as the audience.  The whole process is under their control from the beginning to the end.
      One of the things that happened during the exorcism convinced me this is true.  When I arrive at the scene of the exorcism, I began to pray out loud for the deliverance or the woman. . . . Suddenly the demons cried out from the victim, “Stop him from praying, stop him from praying.”  The exorcist shouted to the students, “Stop him from praying.”  The students around me told me to be quiet. . . . I am convinced the demons were controlling the exorcist, a good man who lacked understanding of the confrontation. . . . Another incident during that exorcism indicated that the demons were pulling the strings.  A theological professor brought his agnostic daughter into the room so that she could see for herself that there was a supernatural realm.  As a trained psychiatrist, she was convinced that we were all suffering some kind of mass delusion.  While she was in the room the demons did not manifest themselves in any way no matter what the exorcist did to arouse them.  However, as soon as she left, they acted up.  I believe demons rarely manifest themselves in our culture unless they have a devious reason to do it.
      What did the demons accomplish through this demonstration? . . . They left . . . future missionaries and pastors . . . with a feeling of futility and helplessness before the power of the kingdom of darkness . . . [and made them] question their . . . spiritual authority.[13] . . . Whatever demons say during an exorcism is completely unreliable.  Therefore, holding a dialogue with them is not only unproductive, it is dangerous.  The demons will attempt to intimidate, manipulate, disorientate and confuse the spectators of an exorcism to accomplish their own ends.  All experience within the supernatural realm must be evaluated in light of the Scripture to avoid becoming excessively superstitious. . . . There are no magical formulas, incantations, or rituals by which demons can be controlled or exorcised.  Thinking back on my experience at Bible college, it became apparent to me that the person doing the exorcism had developed a systematic ritual to expel demons, and it had proven ineffective.  First, when the demon manifested itself through the glassy eyes of its victim, the exorcist asked the question, “Did Jesus Christ come in the flesh?”  When the spirit answered “No!” the exorcist declared it a demon.  The exorcist later admitted to me privately that he was greatly confused, because at subsequent exorcism attempts, when the students were not present, the demons were saying that Jesus Christ did come in the flesh.  What was happening?  Once the demons had lost their audience of curious and confused theological students they had no need to carry on their charade.
      Secondly, if the demon said, “no, Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh,” the exorcist would then proceed to ask the name of the demon.  Interestingly, this procedure comes from an ancient pagan belief:
The Sumerians and the Semites of Babylon laid great stress on the belief in the magical power of names.  If a demon was to be expelled properly it was necessary for the exorcist priest to know its name and use it properly in a spell . . .[14]
To make matters more confusing to the exorcist, the demons could call themselves Jesus and the Holy Spirit and then laugh. . . . Asking the name of a demon serves only to open up dangerous and unnecessary dialogues with them.  I have witnessed demons calling themselves by vicious names such as Hate, Fear, Murder, etc., that sent terror into the hearts of the spectators.
      Thirdly, once the name of the demon was given, the exorcist would then command the demon in the name of Jesus Christ to leave the victim.  A struggle ensued that seesawed back and forth.  Finally there would be a scream.  Then what appeared to be a moment of true victory was followed by the manifestation of another demon in the victim.  It should have been obvious to us all that as long as one demon possessed the victim they all had access to her.  The approach of casting out one demon at a time is futile. . . . [T]he demons rarely manifest themselves unless it is to their advantage.  They prefer to work secretly behind the scenes.[15]
Despite the concerns of Runge and others like him, MacMillan was certain that he was truly exercising the supernatural gifts of the first century, that he was not deceived by Satan, and that deriving demonology from what the demons themselves taught and did in exorcism sessions was not “giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1).  However, when MacMillan engaged in exorcisms, it “never seemed to be ‘quick and easy,’ for the demons would stubbornly refuse to cooperate and would hide over and over again.  There were times in which he questioned why it took so long at times to see deliverance.”[16]  For that matter, “[n]ot all of MacMillan’s endeavors in exorcism were successful,” but at times, exorcism simply failed entirely.[17]  While MacMillan’s exorcisms were radically different, and far, far more protracted affairs, even when he was not simply a failure, than those of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles, and nothing in the Bible supports his practices, he nevertheless was convinced that they were evidence of the miraculous power of God through the believer’s exercise of throne power, not a deceit of Satan.  MacMillan should have actually studied 1 John 4 before trying to use it in spiritual warfare—or if he did not think of doing that, he should have done so after he found that the devils would, at times, tell him during exorcism sessions that Christ did indeed come in the flesh.  Unfortunately, the demons, through Irvingites, Mrs. Penn-Lewis, and John A. MacMillan, brought the modern charismatic and Word of Faith or Prosperity Gospel doctrine of exorcism into the world, a doctrine that has greatly advanced the work of the powers of darkness, leading to the delusion and damnation of millions, based on a misinterpretation of 1 John 4:1-3:

“In the procedure for casting out demons [in Word-Faith theology] Satan is bound . . . the demon is addressed, commanded to name himself, and cast out. Since demons can do such things as planting seeds of disease and stopping the flow of financial wealth, the casting out of demons is necessary to insure continued health and prosperity” (pg. 336, “A Theological Evaluation of the Prosperity Gospel,” Ken L. Sarles. Bibliotheca Sacra 143:572 (Oct 86) 329-352).  Note also “John A. MacMillan’s Teaching Regarding the Authority of the Believer and its Impact on the Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic Movements,” Paul L. King. The Pneuma Review Journal of Ministry Resources and Theology for Pentecostal and Charismatic Ministries & LeadersPresented at the 30th Annual Meeting (2001) of the Society for Pentecostal Studies.


[1]           Pg. 99, The Authority of the Believer, MacMillan.
[2]           Pg. 148, The Authority of the Believer, MacMillan.
[3]           Pg. 170, The Authority of the Believer, MacMillan.
[4]           Pg. 148, The Authority of the Believer, MacMillan.
[5]           Pg. 148, A Believer with Authority, King, referencing Encounter with Darkness, pgs. 17-22.  See Chapters 1 & 7, “Demon Possession” & “Modern Demon Possession,” on pgs. 89ff. & 145-146 of the combined edition of The Authority of the Believer, The Authority of the Intercessor, and Encounter with Darkness.
[6]           This episode is detailed on see Chapter 7, “Modern Demon Possession,” on pgs. 145-146 of the combined edition of The Authority of the Believer, The Authority of the Intercessor, and Encounter with Darkness.  Pgs. 182-183, A Believer with Authority, King, gives background.
[7]           Pgs. 184-185, A Believer with Authority, King.  Revelation 12:11 has nothing to do with pleading Christ’s blood during exorcism sessions, any more than it does with pleading one’s testimony during exorcism sessions.  It is another passage dangerously misused and misinterpreted by MacMillan.  Compare the misuse of Revelation 12:11 earlier by Hannah W. Smith in a way that suits the Word of Faith idea of positive confession (Letter to a Friend, May 31, 1874 & Letter to Priscilla, January 14, 1882, reproduced in entries for July 15 & November 7 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter), and the similar abuse of the verse in Chapter 10 of War on the Saints, Jessie Penn-Lewis.  Mrs. Penn-Lewis even notes “the strange fact which has perplexed so many, that abnormal experiences manifestly contrary to the character of God, have taken place when the person was earnestly repeating words about the ‘Blood’” (“Believe Not Every Spirit,” pg. 71, Overcomer 1912).  Pleading the blood for post-conversion Spirit-baptism and the ability to speak in tongues, and for power over Satan, became a standard doctrine of Pentecostalism (cf. pgs. 3-6, Confidence:  A Pentecostal Paper for Great Britain, 5 (August 15, 1908) and the Word of Faith movement.
[8]           Pgs. 106-108, What Demons Can Do To Saints, Merril F. Unger.
[9]           Pgs. 183-188, A Believer with Authority, King.
[10]         Pg. 108, What Demons Can Do To Saints, Unger.
[11]         Pg. 192, A Believer with Authority, King.
[12]         Pg. 281, A Believer with Authority, King; see also “Exorcism:  A Satanic Ploy?” Albert Runge. His Dominion, 14:4 (Summer 1987) 13-18.
[13]         Runge does not recognize that not only did the demons accomplish many immediate ends that advanced the kingdom of darkness, but that through this episode they influenced MacMillan and countless multitudes that have been influenced by him to adopt false doctrines in demonology.  The main success of the demons in this episode was their effectiveness in spreading “doctrines of devils” to MacMillan and those who learned from him.
[14]         R. K. Harrison, “Demon, Demonic, Demonology,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney, 5 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich.:  The Zondervan Corp., 1976), 2:93.
[15]         “Exorcism:  A Satanic Ploy?” Albert Runge. His Dominion, 14:4 (Summer 1987) 13-18.  While Runge makes many fine points, he still maintains significant errors.  For example, he is in error in continuing to believe and practice the continuationism of the CMA.  Furthermore, his affirmation that “we do not build our doctrinal understanding of demons from experience alone,” but from Scripture also (pg. 14), is very dangerously insufficient—true demonology comes from Scripture alone, without any authoritative consideration of experience whatsoever.  What is more, while critiquing MacMillan’s procedure of exorcism as unscriptural, Runge himself advocates a different procedure which is itself still unscriptural.
[16]         Pgs. 195-196, A Believer with Authority, King.
[17]         Pgs. 195-196, A Believer with Authority, King.

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