Now, Religion in the News: a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from The Herald Sun, March 6, 2005, with the headline “Exorcist Down Under—Bob Larson the evangelist is on his way to Australia for a public showdown with Satan. Larson plans to cast out dozens of demons during appearances in Melbourne, Sidney, and Brisbane this month. ‘I want people to know that demon possession is a serious business, and God has told me to take this to the public arena,’ the Arizona demon buster said this week. ‘I put my life on the line every time I go onstage. I’ve had ribs broken and been physically assaulted regularly when battling with the demons inside people,’ he said. ‘Australia is where I want to be now. I’ve seen research that states the money spent on sex, booze, and gambling in Australia is more than 52 times that spent on God. A mere 23 percent of Australians participate in church or religious activity in any three-month period. Do you understand why I am anxious to be there?’
“Exorcism is enjoying a renaissance in churches and in popular culture. Larson claims to have performed about 6,000 exorcisms on stage. He describes the claims that he is preying on the psychologically unstable as misguided. ‘I can quickly pick up on whether someone is psychologically disturbed or demon-possessed. They are completely different things.’
“He is equally dismissive of claims by some fundamentalists and evangelical Christians that he is cashing in on renewed interest in the devil and exorcism. He stated, “The number of exorcisms performed in the world is increasing rapidly. Even the Vatican is running courses on exorcism. People have to face the reality of this. I am not a sideshow performer. I’m not performing an exorcism on a naked man in a graveyard. That’s what Jesus did. What I do is serious business. God has asked me to do this.’”
Tom: Serious business, Dave. He’s doing it onstage. [chuckles] How do those things relate?
Dave: Well, Tom, I don’t know. It can sometimes seem like a sideshow, but what is the point? Why doesn’t he do this quietly to help people? Well, he says he’s trying to alert Christians, I guess, to the problems. I don’t think he’s gotten quite as bad as some of the exorcists that we have seen in the Pentecostal, charismatic movements who say everybody is demon possessed.
Tom: Dave, can I just interject something here? I remember him on TV taking this woman supposedly through an exorcism and then selling the video for $100. So this is Mr. Gamesmanship—this guy has got a con going here.
Now, at the same time, what you are alluding to is that exorcism is a reality. We understand the Scriptures; it’s not something that, you know, is just in the category of these con men and sideshow guys, yet it’s rarely done in the church. You know, and I can’t explain that; I don’t know why. It’s certainly—you go through the Gospel of Mark and you clearly see when Jesus walked the face of the earth—were times different then than they are now?
Dave: Well, Tom, there are different cultures and different times, but underlying it all, it’s the truth that sets us free. Jesus said, “If you continue in my Word, then you are my disciples indeed. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus also said that when a demon is cast out, if something does not take its place—in other words, if this person is not saved, they are not born again, indwelt by the Spirit of God, indwelt by the Word of God—then the demon comes back with seven worse demons, and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So it’s not that there is some magic in casting a demon out of someone. You cast a demon out of someone—there is such a thing as demon-possessed people.
I’ve encountered a few in my life. The ones I encountered did not want to be delivered. I think a person has to want to be delivered, and they cannot be possessed to such an extent that they are not aware of what their situation is. They’re not aware of their need, and they couldn’t willingly agree to be healed, to be cured. They’re going to have to allow Christ to have His way in their lives. They are going to have to allow Christ to redeem them—be saved, to be born again by the Spirit of God.
If we have a Christian who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Christ is living His life in that person, and they are not indwelt by a demon. A demon cannot live in a person alongside of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. But that was a very popular lie in the church. It’s kind of faded a bit, but Christians were getting demons cast out of them every Friday, then they would have to come back and get another demon cast out, or get the same demon cast out again because it got back in there. That’s not what the Bible is about, Tom.
So I don’t find this in the epistles. [In] the Book of Acts we have one or two demons cast out. It was not something that Paul was doing all the time. Jesus never cast any demons out of His disciples. Paul was not casting demons out of Christians. What we are taught is we must believe the truth, and we must follow God’s Word, and that will set us free.
So this is a spectacular performance, and it’s very appealing to some people. Tom, it starts a bit of hysteria. I remember talking to a young man who had had several demons cast out of him, and even voices speaking out from him. He came to the conclusion as he looked back on this that this was something that he had been talked into. It was almost like he had been hypnotized to go along with this, and he concluded he wasn’t ever demon possessed; there weren’t demons living in him. But somehow, he had been conned into making this performance. You can get talked into almost anything. So there is a reality; there are demons. They can be cast out by Christians, but that’s not the whole solution.
Tom: Dave, we mentioned last week that I had interviewed a shaman from the Yanomamo tribe in Venezuela, and so on. Now shamans, as we mentioned, these are people who interact with demons. Demons lead their life; not only are they possessed by them, but their lives are guided by them, and this man was delivered by the Word of God, not by some ritual of exorcism.
Dave: Amen, amen! Rabi Maharaj’s story, The Death of a Guru, he was filled with demons and he simply believed the gospel. He said he felt—his words—“tons of dark things go out of him.” There’s no exorcism. It was the light of Christ came in, and Satan left. And this comes through believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what we need to preach.