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A while ago, a certain school of wisdom proclaimed, "When in doubt, cast it out!" The slogan referred to dealing with demon possession or oppression and assumed (1) that there may be doubt whether a person is so afflicted, and (2) that exorcism can, in any case, do no significant harm and therefore might as well be tried.
I've personally dealt with a few cases of demonic possession over the years, and while pursuing my Ph. D. in psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, I immersed myself in the psychological and spiritual literature pertaining to it. Let me briefly show why I affirm the first assumption and dispute the second.
Consider the following people I've known (names and identifying details altered, of course):
1. Joan, a woman of unremarkable appearance and behavior and an active member of her mainline congregation, was serving on an educational committee interested in exploring paranormal phenomena. Some members of the committee considered such phenomena hokum; other members thought them dangerous and to be avoided.
Joan, however, had actively pursued a variety of psychic experiences-palm reading, tarot cards, and seances. She thought the committee should endorse them as an important but neglected aspect of human potential. Indeed, she considered them to be a gift of God and used various scriptural references to support her view.
2. Dave, in his early twenties, was brought to my office by his father, with whom he still lived, after one of Dave's several psychiatric hospitalizations. He was obsessed with the thought that the Devil was attacking him. He was terrified that the Devil was stronger than God. While he was in the hospital, he would awake at night screaming, "I've been damned! I've been damned!" sometimes becoming so violent he had to be restrained. Although he was heavily medicated, his preoccupation with the Devil consumed his waking moments.
3. Larry, a man in his thirties, suffered chronic physical illness and had an erratic work history, an ...