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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

31 August 2006


Q: I recently watched the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I found later that this is based on the actual notes, etc from the trial. I’ve tried to find where The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod stands on this issue. From only one church site could I even find the word and then you are mentioned as having performed an exorcism — or perhaps I’m reading it wrong. I cannot remember ever hearing it mentioned in any Bible studies, etc. Please enlighten me as to the LCMS’s stand on this.

Casting Out DemonsA: No, I’ve not participated in an exorcism. I have discussed them with other pastors and seminary professors. The consensus is that there may be times when one must be done but only if all other efforts prove useless. Generally speaking, if the person suspected of being possessed is a member of a particular congregation, that church’s pastor should perform the exorcism, since it was he who was called by God to serve among those people.

We first look to eliminate all physical, emotional, or psychological excuses for the person’s behavior. Schizophrenia and other mental disorders as well as certain drugs may produce effects similar to those we would expect from one under demonic influence. Even a voice coming from the person claiming to be a demon may actually be the manifestation of psychosis or hallucinogenic drugs.

If we determine that someone quite possibly is possessed, we enter the conflict only after careful preparation. One thing anyone thinking of performing an exorcism must keep in mind is that it isn’t a personal battle between evil spirit and holy person. The conflict is between God and the demon and the exorcist is only Christ’s instrument of speaking His Word and offering prayers. To issue a personal challenge to a malignant demon could result in what happened to the sons of Sceva (Acts 19:11-20) or worse.

Sometimes, the results are almost immediate At other times, due to factors that God doesn’t explain, the process may be long and involved. We recall the demon that the other disciples could not drive out while Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John (Mark 9:14-29), evidently because of weakness of faith and lack of persistence in prayer.

Because possession seems so rare in these days, most pastors probably are not fully prepared should they be called upon to perform an exorcism. The paucity of possessions in these days may be because Satan works better by keeping attention away from the supernatural and instead focusing people’s attention on the “ordinary” world and “scientific” explanations for everything. Perhaps he fears that if he draws attention to himself and the realm of the demonic, people will be more likely to seek help from God rather than from science and medicine. Since “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, (2 Corinthians 11:14)” he appears to prefer seducing people to his side over terrifying them — especially if the terror shakes them out of a spiritual slumber.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Blogger chris j pluger said...

Thanks for an interesting post. The last paragraph was something I had never thought of before.

02 September, 2006 10:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Concerning two points:
1. the one performing the exorcism should be the person's pastor..

I think that if that particular pastor is spiritually weak or unbelieving, then it would worsen the situation. In that case, the pastor should find other resources (i.e. people) than can help or take over. Perhaps the Bishop (or district president?)can assign someone?

2. Concerning whether it is a battle between the person and a demon or God...

With all the effort that exorcists have to put into an exorcism...there is no doubt that the INDIVIDUAL is involved in the battle in a GREAT degree.

13 November, 2008 17:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ignoring the movie and story of Emily Rose and just focusing on the general topic of excorcisms.

Within Lutheranism are there prescribed procedures for excorcism ? I know there used to be in Lutheranism but I wasn't sure they were retained.

So if a fully qualified case of posession came before you, as a pastor, how would you find out how to do the exorcism ?

When was the last time you heard of an excorcism, a legitimate one, being done in LCMS, America, or Worldwide lutheranism ?

03 November, 2009 09:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I humbly suggest reading John McCarthur's 3 part sermon on the topic of demons and demon possession. He gives some very clear, and I believe sound biblical teaching on the topic. I will be using it with my L.C.M.S. high school students as we read about the miracles of Jesus in the book of Matthew.


08 April, 2011 14:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. But I have three questions for you:

First, when you say:
"if the person suspected of being possessed is a member of a particular congregation"
do you mean that a true Christian can be possessed?
Personnaly, I think it is impossible, because a Christian is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit and I think that the devil cannot control such a person.

I read an article about the case of the exorcism of "Roland Doe"; this article said that this little boy was a lutheran and that a lutheran LCMS' pastor (Mr. Shultze) failled to defeat the devil.
Is it true, or simple a urban legend?

Finally: did you already told about the case of a French Mystic, Marthe Robin?
What do you think about such a history?
What would you do if such a person is in your congregation?

Sincerly yours

(PS: sorry for the mistakes in my message, but I am French^^)

27 August, 2011 12:09  
Blogger Katy said...

re: can a Christian be possessed, well, my husband just had a lady who has a deliverance ministry come to his college (undergrad) at bible college and she has had one person after another come to her this last year for deliverance counselling and yes, Christians can be possessed. She never dreamed this is what she would be doing but she is. I am looking for more information within LCMS to learn how to be prepared as a believer. There is more to know and I believe we can stand much improvement in learning how to be prepared. May the Lord guide us in our efforts to be able to show his mercy.

31 January, 2012 12:34  

Thumbs up! This is really good information on keeping separate history files. We will show the class. Good job. Keep on writing.

28 February, 2012 19:17  

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