Once again, the media will be using the subjects of demons and exorcism as entertainment, with the 1973 film “The Exorcist” getting a reboot as a new television series on Fox.
It comes at a time when the real-life practice of exorcism is as popular as ever.
But pastors are warning the demonic realm is real – and dangerous.
“The Bible is abundantly clear about the existence of the demonic realm,” says Carl Gallups, pastor of Hickory Hammock Baptist Church in Milton, Florida. “Regardless what one believes about the reality of the demonic, it cannot be denied that the world is faced with unmitigated evil staring us in the face every day. The Word of God tells us that the evil we experience has two main sources: the fallen condition of the entirety of humankind and the supernatural influence of the realm of Satan upon this fallen creation.”
Gallups told WND he has personally seen demons at work.
“I am thoroughly convinced of the authenticity of demonic forces,” he told WND. “While I do not look under every rock of discord for a demonic influence behind it, nor do I blame every evil on a particular demonic sway, I have come in direct contact with the reality of demonic forces in my many years of ministry and in my previous years of law enforcement experience.”
Gallups isn’t alone. A 2012 survey found a majority of Americans believe in the possibility of demonic possession.
“Belief in the demonic remains as popular as ever, with many churches scrambling to adapt,” according to Joseph Laycock, an assistant professor who teaches a class on demonology, possession and exorcism.
The Roman Catholic Church has been especially associated in the popular mind with possession. Pope Francis has raised eyebrows with his frequent talk about the reality of the devil as a person, rather than simply as a metaphor.
A video of the pontiff praying over a disabled man was also interpreted by some as a public exorcism, though the Vatican denied it.
But though the Catholic Church is often associated with exorcisms, Karl Payne of Antioch Bible Church, who served as chaplain of the Seattle Seahawks football team for 21 years and is the author of “Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization, and Deliverance,” said demons don’t care about a person’s particular denomination.
“Demons fear Christians because Christ lives in them,” Payne advised. “If a person is a genuine Christian, demons understand that the delegated authority of a Christian is greater than their own, because the master of the Christian, Jesus Christ, is eternal, and the master of the demonic host, Satan, is finite. Jesus is the creator; Satan is part of His creation. The primary reason that Christians win in confrontation with demons is because Jesus Christ has already won this war. We should win because He has won!”
Payne also says the idea an effective exorcism requires complicated formulas and rituals is a misconception.
“Rituals and incantations do not scare demons,” Payne told WND. “But a Christian standing upon and utilizing their delegated authority to tread upon all the power of the demonic hierarchy because their names are written in heaven certainly do. This is true regardless of the denominational affiliation of a Christian. Another way of saying this is that demons do not fear people who only bring religious titles to a confrontation, but they will flee from Christians with a testimony that is affirmed by the Lord Jesus Christ and opposing them through their delegated authority, as we know from Luke 10:18-20.”
Yet for many Americans, their views of demons and exorcism has been shaped by pop culture, especially the 1973 movie “The Exorcist.”
William Peter Blatty, the author of the novel used as source material for the famous film, is a devout Catholic who believes in the supernatural. He actually grounded his novel in the theology he learned at Georgetown University, rather than using possession as simply a backdrop for an entirely fictional story.
However, since “The Exorcism,” the topics of possession and demons have been also used as fodder for more sensational stunts, including a supposed “live” exorcism that led to widespread mockery on social media.
Demons are also a prominent topic in pop culture, with “games” focused on “summoning” spirits popular on social media. The new “Exorcism” television show is also likely to increase the prominence of demons in popular culture.
Gallups argues sensationalistic treatments actually work to undermine belief in the spiritual world.
“Hollywood, pop-culture pundits, and other naysayers often paint the reality in a ludicrous light in their attempts to lampoon the idea,” he said. “They frequently mock those who truly understand the seriousness of the matter.”
At the same time, the attention given to demons in the media can prove dangerous. Payne argues demonic activity in the United States has become “more open and overt” as the Christian identity of the country has been undermined.
“The television, movies, Internet, and corresponding media outlets are replete with programs glorifying demonism, Satanism, the occult and the paranormal,” Payne said. “To the naïve, it is innocent fun. To those who understand the reality of demonism, it represents the acceleration of disaster and loss of common sense. And among a growing number of our youth today, demons are not so much blamed for social discomfort as celebrated.”
Payne warns the Bible says demonic activity will increase in the last days.
“The Apostle Paul told Timothy that in the end times, referring to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be an increase in demonic activity and religious teachers tickling people’s ears rather than having the courage to stand up for biblical truth,” the pastor said. “Are demons more active or are we just more aware of their activity? I do not know the answer to either question for certain, but I suspect the answer to both is yes.”
Gallups, author of “Final Warning: Understanding the Trumpet Days of Revelation,” also believes demonic activity is on the increase as the world approaches what he believes are the end times.
“I approach life from a distinctly biblical worldview,” Gallups said. “Therefore, I believe we are living in undeniably prophetic times. I believe the world is very close to witnessing the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I know what the Bible says about those last days – the Word of God is clear that there will be a noticeable demonic outpouring in the last days.
“And how can we look at the flood of depravity, terrorism, butchery, abortion horrors, the Sodom and Gomorrah spirit, the constant spirit of world war, the proliferation of pornography and the sex-slavery and misery that goes along with it – as well as the continual and purposed destruction of the family; and not see the darkness, evil, and demonic behind it all?”
Payne says in such times, Bible-believing Christians should accept the reality of the supernatural world and not underestimate its dangers. He urged Christians not to dabble with occult or demonic subjects even as they become a larger part of popular culture.
“The study of spiritual warfare should not be frightening to a genuine Christian as a member of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Payne said. “But should non-Christians or Christians play with the subject of demonism or dabble in the occult? No, either can get hurt in the process. Don’t we fall into enough holes without planning our falls?”