Friday, June 13, 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 2 of 3

Jessie Penn-Lewis picked up the 1 John 4:1-3 exorcism technique, reporting in The Overcomer (pg. 9, January, 1910) an instance of its use;  a demon was “tested” in Germany, and  “answered through a child of God, in ‘tongues’: ‘Cursed, be Jesus Christ.’” (quoted by Panton, “Testing the Supernatural,”  The Dawn: An Evangelical Magazine, May 15, 1925  p. 64).  By answering in this manner, the demon was able to deceive many who would hear about the use of 1 John 4:1-3 as a test in Christendom and spread the lie that believers can be possessed.  Penn-Lewis also gave an example of the 1 John 4:1-3 technique receiving support from demons by printing an example of a 15 year old girl who was demon possessed but had the demon say, “Now I am found out,” when the technique was applied (“The Working of Evil Spirits in Christian Gatherings,” in War on the Saints, Penn-Lewis).  It is consequently very probable that “the source of MacMillan’s use of the First John 4:1-3 methodology [was] Penn-Lewis’ influence” (pgs. 271-272, A Believer with Authority, King).  The practice was likewise adopted and commended by partial-Rapturist D. M. Panton and the woman missionary Margaret E. Barber, who was sent out from Panton’s congregation and was a mentor to Watchman Nee (pg. 252, A Believer with Authority, King; Pg. 50, Against the Tide, Kinnear;  when Nee traveled to England to attend the Keswick convention, “he sought out Margaret Barber’s friend . . . D. M. Panton, whose writings he had valued and . . . demonstrate[d] his appreciation,” pg. 153, Against the Tide, Kinnear).  Panton taught:

[I]t is the direct command of God “PROVE THE SPIRITS” (1 John 4:1): thus we have no option: no spirit-movement or spirit-action must ever be accepted without submission to, and authentication by, the Divine Tests. . . . “EVERY SPIRIT WHICH CONFESSETH THAT JESUS CHRIST IS COME IN THE FLESH IS OF GOD: AND EVERY SPIRIT WHICH CONFESSETH NOT JESUS IS NOT OF GOD” (1 John 4:2—[Panton quotes the corrupt critical Greek text]). . . . For an adequate use of the tests, it must be proved, by supernatural phenomena, that a spirit-being is present; he must, to be tested, so appear that he can be isolated, in conversation, spoken or written, from the human agent; it must be certain that he answers - not suddenly falling silent, or withdrawing, so leaving (possibly) a Christian to give the correct answer, nor must any assumption of any kind be made, in confronting (as we do) the oldest and subtlest evil intelligences in the universe.  I have myself discovered a demon by the test, and so I know that it works. . . . Tested, [a demon] may . . . answe[r] through a child of God . . . ‘Cursed, be Jesus Christ.’ ” [—The Overcomer, Jan., 1910] . . . In Irving’s day, a spirit challenged with: “Wilt thou not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh?”  replied loudly, “I will not!” and after being expelled, says the narrator, it never returned.  Miller’s “Irvingism,” vol. 1, p. 94.] . . . . [A] Christian victim . . . [can be] fully under the influence of the spirit . . . The idea that no believer can experience the on-fall of an evil spirit is not only in itself deeply erroneous, and contrary to actual cases unnumbered[.] . . . [For example, a Christian woman was possessed, and when exorcism was attempted, the demon said] he did not intend to go, we had better depart.  Then the spirit began threatening the sister in ‘Tongues.’  He was furious with her that she had betrayed him, and he threatened to destroy her.  The more we prayed, the more he raged, and cursed and swore, and threatened us.  I am not at all an emotional man, but I had the impression that the room was full of demons. The spirit flung the sister about the room, tore and bit her body in a fearful way; we ourselves heard the spirit cursing and swearing in ‘Tongues.’  The words used were so awful that I cannot write them down.  I understood a good deal without the sister’s interpretation, for at times the spirit spoke in Latin, Italian, and some French.  Unfortunately, I could only understand fragments without interpretation, as the spirit spoke very rapidly. . . . [But] an evil spirit . . . when confronted with this specific challenge [of 1 John 4:1-3] by the disciple of Christ, strategy or hate or Divine embargo compels a self-revelation.  (pg. 64, “Testing the Supernatural,” by D. M. Panton.  The Dawn: An Evangelical Magazine, May 15, 1925.  Bold print, italics, and capitalization have been retained from the source document.  Compare. pg. 9, The Overcomer, January 1910)

Out of what demons convinced Irvingites, Jessie Penn-Lewis, and partial-Rapturists to believe, and the validation of how demons responded to eisegesis of 1 John 4:1-3 when they were done flinging around rooms alleged Christians whom they had possessed, MacMillan developed his exorcism procedure.  However, MacMillan had no support from Scripture—and thus, in practice, he was repudiating sola Scriptura—when he adopted his exorcism process.

John A. MacMillan developed a three-stage exorcism procedure of first asking the devil its name, then asking it if Jesus Christ came in the flesh, and then telling the demon to leave, exercising an alleged throne-power to make it happen, and then hoping that it worked.  MacMillan’s practice of asking devils their names in order to cast them out is not something not taught in Scripture, but is a common pagan practice.  In the Bible, the names of a few good angels are clearly mentioned, but devils almost universally remain unnamed (cf. the contrast in Daniel 10:13, “Michael” versus the unnamed “prince of the kingdom of Persia.”).  Mark 5:9 records the only event in Scripture that could be employed in an attempt to provide exegetical support for MacMillan’s practice of asking individual demons their names and then trying to cast them out one by one.  However, the verse does not record Christ’s asking the name of evil spirits because He did not know who they were or because He needed to get their names in order to cast them out.  On the contrary, in Mark 5:9 Christ asked the devils their name to get greater glory to Himself.  Since the man in Mark’s Gospel was possessed by many devils, the Lord’s power was more greatly glorified when, by a single command, He cast out a “Legion” of devils, the number of which would have remained unknown to the people witnessing the event had Christ not required the devils reveal it.  Neither Mark 5 nor the rest of the Bible provides a tittle of support for asking devils their names as a prerequisite in an exorcism procedure.

However, in contrast with Scripture, countless “magical papyri” evidence “that to know and declare the name of a . . . spirit was believed to give power over [it]” (pg. 228, The Gospel of Mark:  A Commentary on the Greek Text, R. T. France), and in “heathen nature-religions” exorcists “know the names of the demons in their native tongue” so that “by invoking these they cure the ailments” caused by the demons (pg. 152, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, vol. 5, E. Schürer.  Edinburgh:  T & T Clark, 1890).  Compare pgs. 759ff., The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim, vol. 2.


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that many Charismatics don't understand that "trying the spirits" doesn't mean "trying them out to see which ones you like."

KJB1611 said...

Dear Titus,

You are correct about that.

Communicating with demons in any way is extremely dangerous.

Unfortunately, this charismatic error has influenced Baptists--I am aware of independent Baptists who misuse 1 John 4:1-3 in this manner because they have read and adopted the view of Penn-Lewis and MacMillan. They are sincere and godly people who simply don't know where this view comes from and haven't taken the time to carefully study 1 John 4:1-6.