Wednesday, May 5, 2010

D. S. Warner on Christian Demon Possession

One of the most controversial questions in conservative evangelical Christianity involves demonization. If one believes the gospel accounts then he believes in the concept. However, can a Christian become demonized?

Some conservative evangelicals outside of the Wesleyan tradition have said yes. The late professor of Old Testament, Merill Unger of Dallas Theological Seminary, was one. Charles Kraft of Fuller Theological Seminary and Neil Anderson of Talbot School of Theology have been others.  Even the late D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the Calvinistic Methodist, believed it to be possible.

What of Wesleyans? One possible example is the late Daniel Sidney Warner (1842-1895), the founder of the Church of God (Anderson). In his journal he relates story that appears to show his support for the belief that a child of God can be demonized. Here is one account from his diary as recorded in A. L. Byer's classic book, Birth of a Reformation:
For some months past Mrs. Samuel Worden, of Battle Creek, Michigan, has created quite an excitement in the papers throughout the country by the exercise of a supernatural power of healing. People have come from a considerable distance to be treated, and letters have poured in from every direction. Some cases of healing were actually performed.
The woman and her husband, hearing of our meetings, came to hear the gospel and seemed willing to receive the truth. She confessed that they were not fully saved and filled with the Spirit as they should be, although she claimed to heal in the name of Christ and by the power of God. She soon came to the altar. God enabled us to see her condition pretty correctly. We told her she was “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”* (Acts 8:23) She acknowledged the fact and desired deliverance. In the course of a few days she professed to have found salvation. There seemed to be a change; but still there was something in her from which the Spirit of God in our heart recoiled. She tried to consecrate for sanctification, but could not claim that grace.
On Sabbath afternoon, October 26, the power of God was upon our little meeting. There were four cases of healing by the laying on of hands. Sister Worden said that she had suffered for many years in an awful manner with what she called a confused headache. She had hands laid on her for the healing. The Spirit came on us and her in mighty power. She claimed what had been prayed for, a complete healing of her body. Presently there were strange manifestations, which the most of us at once recognized as the writhing of evil spirits in her. We asked God to show her just what it was. Presently she said, “Brother Warner, pray for me.” We asked her what she wanted. She replied, “That the devil might be cast out.” This was the confession we desired to draw out of her. Hands were laid on her head, and the demons were commanded to come out of her in the name of Jesus Christ. The poor victim was soon convulsed and choked by the hellish spirits, which had to come out by the power of God. She obtained relief, sat up, but did not look clear. We all kept looking to God to complete the work. Hands were laid on again in the name of Jesus. Another struggle ensued. Then we perceived that to get complete deliverance there had to be a more perfect consecration, confession, and mortification. We proceeded to use the sword of the Spirit in every possible manner. But a miserable don’t-care devil answered to every point of consecration.
Oh, what an awful condition the poor woman was in! How discouraging! The devils had so long held possession of her that they had almost taken possession of her own will and thoughts. And this awful enemy had so tortured her head that she had had a hard struggle to keep out of the asylum; so when he was pressed by the power of God he caused such distress and confusion in her head that he could use her mind and organs of speech. But by the grace and mercy of God conviction reached her conscience. The poor woman made some humiliating confessions, was humbled down, and wept. She confessed her association with Spiritualists, which Satan had tried to conceal before. Glory to God, his chief nest was now revealed. The Spiritualism devil was commanded to come out of her in the name of Christ. Oh, how he tortured the poor woman! Her throat became greatly swollen. How the legions of hell struggled against the power of God! She was pretty thoroughly decided for God; declared she would have every last evil spirit cast out if it killed her. Glory to God for the mighty Deliverer! Relief came by the hand of Jesus. A great measure of peace filled her soul. She sat up in the rocking-chair and her hands were raised while we sang songs of victory for the space of an hour.
Two days later she discovered that there was still in her heart something that was not right, and a close examination discovered that she had some lingering love for Spiritualists. She confessed it, when she soon found that more evil spirits were revealed. By the laying on of hands and the power of God she was fully delivered, after which she consecrated wholly and entered the sacred rest of entire sanctification.1 On Saturday hands were laid upon her for healing. The mighty power of God came upon her and filled her soul and body, and she was perfectly healed from the awful tortures Satan had inflicted upon her for many years. Praise God for His wonderful mercy to the oppressed children of men! For years this poor woman had struggled hard to keep out of the insane asylum; now she says, “I am ‘clothed, and in [my] right mind.’* (Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35) ” Her neighbors see the great change in her countenance. One woman looked upon her with astonishment, and said, “Why, how your face and voice are changed! Surely these meetings are the true work of God.”
In reference to this apparent instance of a person’s being in a justified state while at the same time in possession of evil spirits it can be said, without attempting an explanation of whether such might be possible, that Brother Warner was always very particular to insist on justification as an essential condition to sanctification, and that if we knew all the circumstances in this case (allowing that the account may not be full) there probably would be no question in our minds.
Can a Christian be demonized? I don't know. The theological ramifications of such a view are thorny, difficult and highly debatable. However, I relate the above story to you for your consideration.