Evangelical: We Don't Need Rite of Exorcism, Just Jesus

With renewed attention on the rite of exorcism, one theologian has chosen to articulate the evangelical stance on the ritual that few practice today.

The existence of the devil and demons are real but a rite of exorcism is unnecessary, said Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in his popular blog Monday.

The only weapon Christians need is the name of Jesus, he stressed.

"Evangelicals do not need a rite of exorcism, because to adopt such an invention would be to surrender the high ground of the Gospel," Mohler wrote.

This past weekend, a group of Catholic bishops held a closed-door conference in Baltimore to discuss the theological foundations of the rite of exorcism and to present, in detail, the practice and use of the rites associated with exorcism.

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., who organized the conference, said that demon possession is rare but that they have to be prepared.

"The real hope here and the purpose is to provide some training so that really every diocese could have its own resources to handle such inquires," he told ABC News.

Not all Catholic priests are on board with Paprocki's efforts.

One priest who sent the National Catholic Reporter a copy of the invitation letter by Paprocki back in May wrote: "CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS? IN 2010."

Mohler does not deny accounts in the New Testament that show clear and real cases of demonic possession. Jesus and the Apostle Paul liberated afflicted individuals, he noted.

But the evangelical leader pointed out that no rite of exorcism was performed in those cases and there was no notion of a priestly ministry of ordained exorcists. The only thing involved in casting out demons from an individual was "the name of Jesus and the proclamation of the Gospel."

What the forces of darkness fear the most is the name of Jesus, the authority of the Bible and the Gospel, Mohler underscored.

"There is nothing the demons fear or hate more than evangelism and missions, where the Gospel pushes back with supernatural power against their possessions, rendering them impotent and powerless. Every time a believer shares the Gospel and declares the name of Jesus, the demons and the Devil lose their power," he stated.

He also noted that there is no evidence that Christians – once united with Christ by faith and given the gift of the indwelling Spirit – can be possessed by demons.

"We do not need a rite of exorcism, only the name of Jesus," he stated. "We are not given a priesthood of exorcists – for every believer is armed with the full promise of the Gospel, united with Christ by faith, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit."

Some of the specific topics discussed by Catholic bishops during the weekend conference included the phenomenon of evil in contemporary culture, strategies for pastoral care, an examination of other phenomena related to the presence of evil, and matters of special interest to bishops related to the phenomenon of evil and the use of the rite of exorcism.

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