Category: Spiritual Warfare

Today is a day that will be dominated by news from the polls. I have chosen to comment instead on news from different polls.

A survey recently conducted by Lifeway suggests that some deep confusion about Christian doctrine may be found in the American populace. The data, published in full here, came from interviews of 3000 U.S. adults, and could be summarized as a series of “good news-bad news” statements.

Good news: Most Americans believe in God. In fact, in this survey, 70% claim belief in the specifically Christian Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Bad news: Unfortunately, on digging deeper, it appears that peoples’ views aren’t actually very Christian. About half say that Jesus is a created being, and two thirds believe that God accepts the worship of other religions. 77% believe that human efforts contribute to one’s own salvation.

Good news: People think God wrote the Bible (58%) and that it alone is the word of God (52%); Furthermore, a whopping 64% believe in the accounts of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead.

Bad news: A majority (51%) believe that the Bible was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses, and less than half believe that the Bible is 100% accurate. About half recognize the Bible as an authority, “to tell us what we must do”.

Good news: Americans admit that we are all sinners (65%)…

Bad news: However, sin isn’t seen as a big deal. 65% say that humans are basically good, and 64% seem to agree that everyone goes to heaven. Only 40% believe in hell as a place of torment for sinners. Only 19% agree that a small sin is grounds for eternal punishment.

All of this matches up with other surveys. The most recent Gallup polls indicate that a solid majority of Americans still believe in God, but that this belief is eroding. 80 percent feel sure there is some kind of God, down from 96% in 1944. Those who clearly disbelieve in God have risen from 2% to 10% in the past ten years.

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(Gallop data, as described above)

The Pew Reseach Center similarly sees a shift in “unaffiliated” from 15 to 23% of the population in the past ten years. Among millenials, that number rises to about 35%. The youngest generations, representing our future, are the most likely to be atheist or agnostic.

The pollster George Barna finds that 73% of Americans identify as Christian, and 20% as “no faith”; a tiny fraction are other religions. Regarding God, the majority (57%) choose the view that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today.

While the number of believers is encouraging, on digging deeper, only 31% attend a religious service at least once a month and say their faith is very important in their lives. Furthermore, as in the Lifeway survey, most Americans, despite their beliefs, are heterodox with respect to Christian doctrine: Most (55%) agree that if a person is generally good, or does good enough things for others during their life, they will earn a place in heaven.

An older (2009) survey by Barna has indicated that only 9% of Americans hold a biblical worldview. That number is significantly lower than average among young people, liberals/democrats, Catholics, and residents of New England. A biblical worldview is defined in the following way:

For the purposes of the survey, a “biblical worldview” was defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

To a certain extent, the lack of clarity on biblical doctrine is unsurprising. Why shouldn’t there be some confusion about doctrine and erosion of faith given that there exists similar confusion among clergy? The survey of US pastors conducted by Barna in 2004 found that only 51% endorsed a biblical worldview, as defined above. The Barna organization has also surveyed the “nones”, and found that 2/3 of atheists and agnostics used to attend church when they were young, and that distrust of church is a big factor in their current lack of belief:

According to our research, however, it seems the three primary components that lead to disbelief in God’s existence are 1) rejection of the Bible, 2) a lack of trust in the local church and 3) cultural reinforcement of a secular worldview.

All these polls are more interesting and shocking to me than the other polling which is taking place today. On the one hand, belief or at least receptivity to the idea of God, though weakening, remains high in our country. Our youngest people appear to be the most lost right now, and may be foretelling our eventual lurch toward a post-Christian society, resembling the widespread atheism of northern Europe. We should pray for revival, while taking heart that no matter how awful things seem to get, we are promised that the gates of Hell shall never prevail against the church.

The polls also suggest what many feel–that many men (and women) of the cloth are as lost as their flocks. Many are burned out, misled by their seminary training, or merely struggling (as we all do) with doubts–they need our prayers. In some cases there may indeed be wolves in sheep’s clothing, evil pastors who are in it for malevolent reasons. They should be avoided.

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O Myghell! by grace of Cryst Iesu
Callid among angelis þe hevenly champioun,
Be a prerogatyf synguler of vertu,
Held a batayll, venquysshed the dragoun,
Be thow our sheld and our proteccyoun
In euery myschef of daungeris infernall,
Dyffende our party, presente our orisoun,
Vp to the lord that gouerneth all.

– John Lydgate

(Image and verse are Public Domain)

I read a fascinating article on gay marriage from “the inside”. Doug Mainwaring, a gay man who has no quarrel with gay rights, nonetheless has come to see marriage in a new light since his conversion to Christianity.

Marriage, says Mainwaring, is essentially a spiritual and theological concern. It is not primarily a problem of rights or politics or liberty; It is not a peripheral issue that is negotiable. Rather it is at the core of the gospel.

I am now a Christian, and even though I am same-sex attracted—or, more likely, because I am same-sex attracted—I marvel at the extraordinary significance of marriage in God’s eternal plan. Marriage is under siege because it stands at the heart of the Good News of the Gospel.

He elaborated further on this toward the end of the essay:

Marriage represents to humanity a taste of heaven, a blueprint of the eternity that awaits all who belong to Jesus Christ. Complementarity has never been incidental to God’s eternal plan. It is central, revealing the intentions of the heart of God

He marvels at the rapid capitulation of the culture on this issue. He asks, and answers, an interesting question:

Where does this tyranny, this powerful fury, this fierce, unearthly will to enforce such a novel idea come from? Why is same-sex marriage appearing in our nation and, in fact, all around the world so suddenly? Just a few years ago it was a laughable, ludicrous idea. Why is this strange new trajectory gripping the planet, and at such a frenetic pace?

…As a gay man, allow me to make what is perhaps a startling declaration: same-sex marriage is a great coup for the devil, far greater than individual homosexual acts or relationships ever were or ever could be. Same-sex marriage mocks Christ’s relationship with his Bride, the Church. That is the source of the fury being hurled at those who speak out against same-sex marriage.

The entire essay is interesting and highly readable. You may find it all online at The Public Discourse.

Who hasn’t felt a chill in their spine when alone in a creepy place, and who hasn’t felt momentarily terrified after watching a scary movie? For the vast majority of us, demons and exorcisms are ideas that seem primitive and ultimately unreal. Until, that is, one is unfortunate enough to be confronted by that “unreality” up close.

At one time I was fond of saying that demons may be little more than dark psychological forces that lurk inside of us. As to the reality of the demonic, I became converted–or “re-converted”, to be more accurate–because of knowing a couple of people who have had encounters with apparitions of evil. That’s a story for another time. (Disclaimer here, I still struggle with disbelief at times).

My wife recently came across an account of demon possession, that stirred some discussion while we were vacationing. The victim in question was a young lady named “Lacey” or “Roxane” (neither is likely her real name), who called a radio station that was operating out of a church. She claimed to be possessed and indeed her young terrified female voice would be interrupted by guttural snarls and demonic sounds. The DJ, Bill Scott, who didn’t much believe in demons at the time, nonetheless tried to help her, even inviting her to his home. He has written a book about his encounters, called The Day Satan Called. You can find summaries of the story in the following links:
The Christian Post and The Examiner.
The quoted passages below are from the second article.

Doors opened and closed, lights turned on and off, on and off. Their feet were pulled and poked while they were in bed at night, and on one occasion, Scott saw a black figure in the hallway.

He said to the figure, “In Jesus’ name, why do you feel you can be in my home?”

The entity’s eerie reply was, “I’m an invited guest into this home…”

They learned that the girl had been in a witch coven, and been involved in rituals that involved sex, consuming human flesh and blood, and invoking the names of demons. Her particular demon was Abbaddon, mentioned in Revelation 9:11 as guardian of the Abyss.

After two weeks of this demonic ordeal, Scott and his wife were finally able to find a safe house for women that could take Lacey in, providing her with a safe place to live and professional medical assistance. Now life would return to normal. Or, so they thought.

But the manifestations continued. On several occasions Scott and his wife had to leave the house in the middle of the night due to the overpowering sense of evil.

One night, during another demonic confrontation, Scott says he heard a voice say, “Have you looked under her bed?”

He didn’t know if it was the voice of Satan or of God but he did as suggested and looked under the bed Lacey had been using while in their home. There he found several occult items, including a black ceremonial robe. He immediately burned everything he found.

…But that’s not the end of the story. By this time, the shelter where Lacey was staying was also experiencing demonic activity. “Things” were looking in the windows and they weren’t human beings. “Things” were jumping on the women while they were in bed at night.

The girl drifted out of the life of Mr. Scott. The story goes on to describe a series of coincidences, or else a trail of destruction, left in her wake: Church splits, divorces, and ruined lives.

Now, I don’t know Mr. Scott, and therefore I have no more insight into this story than would any other reader. As to corroboration from others, here is a blogger who provides some support: http://themommaven.com/2011/12/the-day-satan-called-by-bill-scott/.
She says, “I know the author. Bill and I worked together in Christian Radio in the early 90s. I had heard bits of this story back then and I am glad that he has finally put down his experiences for the world to read and learn from.”

A person named Dave Stewart also offered the following in an Amazon review of the book: “As someone who was working with Bill at the time this incident occurred, I wanted to take a moment and let folks know that what was written was accurately portrayed. (An earlier reviewer asked why no other person had come forward to verify the story, and I wanted to answer that inquiry). It brought back a lot of memories that scared me witless when they were happening, because this was the stuff of movies and the product of Steven King’s mind to be honest with you. I also experienced what Bill did; with my own 2 ears hearing that voice on all phone lines ringing at once. It was a great reminder about who we really are dealing with in this world. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood….” are not cute lines in a book. Satan is alive and well, and if you stop and take a good look around, is quite active in many aspects of everyday life now. I got my copy and read it through in a single sitting; a few friends I have recommended it to have not been able to get past a few chapters. As you are reading the book I encourage your takeaway to be praying against the power of evil, and doing so in Jesus’ name. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” is the real deal. The great thing about this story is that the final chapter hasn’t been written yet. The girl Bill writes about is still alive and living her life, and Bill is still trusting God. Get your copy today, and also check out Bill’s blog at BillScottgroup.com. All eyes on Jesus. Everything else, you get your butt kicked.”

The veracity of this story aside, it does sound like other possession accounts:

-The person feels, and seems to others, to be under the control of a malignant entity
-The entity seems to have a personality and mind, and is not merely a mood or bad feeling.
-The “demon” seems to know things about people in its vicinity that shouldn’t possibly be known.
-there are eerie manifestations, such as disembodied voices or sounds, or telekinetic activity, that are difficult to explain in naturalistic terms. (This is, in fact, a requirement for some groups, such the Roman Catholic Church, to validate a case of possession, prior to authorizing an exorcism).
-The entity typically gains a foothold based on some sort of susceptibility or invitation, such as dabbling in the occult.
-The possessed shows a strong aversion to the name of Jesus, and the entity can be (at least temporarily) overpowered and commanded by invoking Jesus’ name.
-The process of freeing the person from the entity can be long and arduous, and destructive to the person performing the prayers of deliverance.
-The attempt at deliverance / exorcism may not succeed.

As to this lack of success, one might raise questions. Why should not the evil entity vanish immediately upon command? Is Jesus less powerful than we believe? The Bible speaks to this, when it describes our role against this kind evil in terms of “struggling” or “wrestling.” New Testament indicates that Jesus’ own disciples had troubles at times:

And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 9:26-29, English Standard Version)

Another author (none other than the famous M. Scott Peck, who pursued a “road less travelled” in his book, Glimpses of the Devil) has suggested that the longer a person has been possessed, the harder it is to bring about release from the demon. He speculates that social isolation plays a role also. The possessed must repudiate the demon, and the longer the demon has been his or her “only friend”, the less likely this is to happen.

Fortunately, possession of this severe and dramatic kind seems quite rare, and that is probably a gift to the world of our Heavenly Father, a part of that “common grace” that is extended to all. It could also mean that there aren’t all that many evil spiritual entities available to go around.

I’ll conclude with a disclaimer. I am not an exorcist, nor do I play one on TV. I also do not seek to become any part of a story like this one. If it is forced on you somehow, I would recommend extreme caution approaching such a situation. Don’t face such a darkness alone. Best to get help, and don’t get in over your head. Otherwise, as I stated in the title, when Satan calls, it’s best to hang up.