Every Christian is engaged in spiritual warfare. In the context of a fallen world system, Christians, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, have no choice but to be engaged in spiritual warfare ( Ephesians 6:12 ). However, there are reasons to question the kind of ministry in which “demonized” Christians need some kind of power intervention by other Christians to free them from demonic control.
The first objection is that the very idea of a Christian being demonized (or demon possessed) is highly questionable . Clear examples of a demon-possessed Christian cannot be found in Scripture, and none of the New Testament writers mention the possession (demonization) of a Christian as a possible cause of besetting sin (see Can a Christian be demon possessed? ). There is no example in Scripture of Christians casting demons out of Christians.
Second, Scripture offers no precedent for the methodology typically used in a deliverance or spiritual warfare intervention . Given the lack of precedent for such interventions in Scripture, the claims of those who promote this kind of ministry are troubling. Some counselors use it routinely, often in a first counseling session. Once contact with a supposed demon is made, the counselor considers his diagnosis of demonization justified regardless of the possibility that the counselor has unintentionally used a form of hypnosis or suggestion to trigger the simulation of a demon by the person seeking help. Once a “demon” appears, the counselor often carries out a lengthy interrogation before finally “expelling” it. Also without scriptural precedent is the frequent need to repeat a “deliverance.”
Third, the forms taken by this kind of deliverance ministry have some startling and disturbing parallels with occultism . While practitioners of occultism are in a trance, they claim to recall experiences from former lives (past-life regression), remember what occurred to them during “lost-time experiences” (UFO abduction), or become channels or mediums through which disembodied spirits (often of the dead) allegedly speak. Although such phenomena may at times be rooted in the genuinely demonic, it is probable on other occasions that they emanate from the subconscious powers of human imagination under the influence of hypnosis or suggestion.
In both New Age channeling and traditional spiritism a dialogue is established with “spirits” in order to gain information. This information, when analyzed, is generally made up of platitudes and unverifiable information of little value. Practitioners of spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry also seek to make contact with spirits, and often attempt to converse with them. As in the case with the “spirits” contacted though channeling and spiritism, the information gained from “demons” by deliverance-ministry counselors 1 is rarely of much value, usually vague, and platitudinous.
Fourth, deliverance ministries of this type can have seriously harmful effects . In the Bible, personal change and spiritual transformation is almost always the result of repentance ( Acts 2:38; 17:30-31; 20:21 ), conversion to a new relationship with God through Christ ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ; Titus 3:5 ), and spiritual growth through the Holy Spirit’s power ( John 1:12-13 ; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 John 5:4 ). In sharp contrast to the biblical emphasis on accountability for one’s own sins, it seems that people who engage in the techniques of deliverance ministry quickly assume that many spiritual problems encountered by Christians result from demonization. A diagnosis of demonization has the potential to become a convenient ruse for avoiding responsibility for real problems.
The effect of this unbiblical emphasis on the demonic is to make Christians feel incapable of resisting their spiritual enemy. They feel at the mercy of malevolent external forces and believe that their only hope for deliverance is through the intervention of other Christians who have the ability to identify the demons in their lives and expel them. There is frightening potential for harm when Christian people are convinced they are helpless against Satan without the special help of other Christians who have skills in deliverance ministry and spiritual warfare. The Bible teaches that every Christian is a priest who needs no other mediator than Christ ( 1 Peter 2:5,9 ; Revelation 1:6; 5:10 ),and that the Holy Spirit makes every Christian capable of resisting Satan ( 1 Corinthians 10:13; Ephesians 6:11 ; James 4:7 ; 1 Peter 5:6-11 ).