Even the secular press gives the devil his due, as reports of violence driven by occult beliefs are sweeping the global media.
In Mexico, a restaurant worker was reportedly tortured to death as part of a Satanic ritual. Police in Long Island are investigating animal sacrifices which may be being done by a cult. Even an unsolved murder from 1984 has recently been linked to the notorious “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez, the Satanist serial killer who sometimes committed his murders in a ritualistic fashion.
Thus, mainstream media outlets are proclaiming the global “comeback” of exorcism and spiritual warfare as Christians try to combat a perceived rise in occult practices.
And experts warn demonic influence is real, and not to be taken lightly.
Dr. Karl Payne of Antioch Bible Church, who until recently served as the chaplain of the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks, argues such forces can lead to violence.
“I have no way of knowing if the specific accounts in these articles are real or not,” Payne said. “But I have no question that there have been, and continue to be, killings done in the name of Satan or his minions, carried out by occultists.”
Payne wrote “Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization, and Deliverance” to educate believers about the real danger posed by the occult. But he told WND it is a mistake to believe victims of demonically inspired violence were literally killed by supernatural forces.
“It is incorrect to say that Satan or demons have authority to kill human beings,” said Payne. “Jesus Christ alone ultimately holds the keys to life and death. Demons can certainly encourage occultists or deceived wannabes to justify murder or commit mayhem, but they cannot carry this out without the hands and feet of those doing their bidding.
“Human beings are perfectly capable of killing others out of their own perverted initiative, and do not need the devil to blame for the cowardly deeds they have plotted and planned. But that does not eliminate the possibility that Satan, or more likely one of his minions, can attempt to encourage death and destruction through the hands of those willing to participate in their diabolical destruction.”
The occult, demons and possession have been increasingly prominent subjects in pop culture recently, with one example the new television reboot of the classic horror film “The Exorcist.” Supposed “live exorcisms” have also been hosted by some television networks.
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This increased interest in demonology and other supernatural subjects comes at a time when religious belief is declining in the West.
Pastor Carl Gallups of Hickory Hammock Baptist Church, author of “Final Warning: Understanding the Trumpet Days of Revelation,” does not see this as a paradox.
“I am convinced that evil, in and of itself, is not necessarily any ‘worse’ than it has ever been but rather we are living in a time of an unprecedented proliferation of evil enabled by the collapse of Christian belief and godliness,” explained Gallups. The pastor argues a godless culture is actually more likely to succumb to a dangerous fascination in subjects like the demonic or the occult.
Gallups also warned modern technology is enabling the spread of what he called the “evil” of occult practices and beliefs.
“Never before has evil had such a stage and such a microphone,” said Gallups. “The demonic realm and every imaginable evil is now pumped into the homes and hands of practically every human on the planet. Even little children walk around with an instant connection to ubiquitous evil – sometimes in their very hands and given to them by their parents.”
Gallups, who argues in “Final Warning” some end times signs already have manifested, suggests the rise of occult and demonic forces was preordained.
“The Word of God clearly states that the Last Days would experience an outpouring of demonic activity and influence, even affecting the church and the perversion of contextual biblical doctrine,” he said. “I think that the world’s recent and increased fascination with the demonic realm is indicative of the scriptural predictions – regardless of how misguided or unbiblical some of the ‘exorcism’ practices may be, like the publicity stunts on television. I believe we are living in very prophetic times.”
However, Gallups agreed with Payne’s contention human beings are responsible for their own actions, with demonic activity not the “culprit behind every evil thought and deed.”
That said, Payne argues Christians should not dismiss the reality of the supernatural realm, nor fear the mockery of “naturalists” who simply deny its existence.
“Naturalists typically ridicule and reject anything supernatural a-priori because it does not fit in their worldview,” he said. “Since the naturalist believes everything can be explained naturally, they give no credence to anything outside of the paradigm they choose to view as reality, which ultimately dictates their conclusions. Men like Richard Dawkins do not prove the supernatural away, they define it away by assuming their worldview is correct, and those believing a theistic worldview are incorrect. But because the naturalist rejects the reality of miracles or the supernatural does not mean that they do not exist.”
According to Catholic exorcists, the main challenge for clergy dealing with supposed possessions is distinguishing between demonic activity and mental illness. Payne agreed making such a distinction is crucial. He urged both naturalists and those who believe in the supernatural to remain open to all alternatives, because helping those who need it is the most important thing.
“Trained professionals often do not like to admit that they are unable to help someone who does not respond to their best efforts,” he said. “Rather than admit their limitations, it is easier to dismiss the person whose experience does not line up with their own subjective assumptions. There are some issues with natural causes that can be remedied very effectively with good medical treatment or counseling. Neither God nor demons need to be invoked or credited. But it is just as true that there are issues that fall outside the training of doctors or counselors that can be remedied by people who know how to both recognize and respond to supernatural issues. The pastor, preacher, medical doctor and counselor should all be focused on how to most effectively help the person in need rather than resort to ridiculing things their training has not prepared them to recognize or resolve. The end game in all cases should be to help the person who is suffering.”
Unfortunately, Payne argues the promotion of the occult as something sexy and glamorous is only promoting more of this suffering.
“The glamorization of the occult, witches, talking with the dead, zombies, sorcery and all the rest on television or the movies now viewed daily is not only desensitizing naïve people to the reality of the devil and demons, it is promoting a reality that can lead to destruction and death,” Payne said. “We ban commercials of people smoking cigarettes because the results can be destructive to human life, while we promote walking and talking with the dead because it is simply innocent entertainment. Wake up! What happens when people experimenting with the occult find out it is real, and that does happen?
“Sensationalism is the product of Hollywood making some people rich at the expense of those naïve enough to believe the boloney they produce and promote. Unfortunately, some of that boloney is leading to cruelty, corruption and death. North America is not post Christian, it is openly antichristian, and the acceleration of chaos is only going to accelerate in the face of the rejection of God and common sense.”
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