Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thoughts following Anthony Hopkins in "The Rite"

I watched Anthony Hopkins star in the 2011 film; "The Rite" last night and have to say I found it quite thought provoking. For those who are unaware of the film - it follows a young atheist who decides to go into the priesthood and ends up conducting a course on exorcism at the Vatican. He is advised to meet "unorthodox" exorcist Father Lucas (Hopkins) and ends up watching a number of exorcisms that (in typical Hollywood fashion) are quite disturbing. Hopkins makes a number of profound statements about the reality of spiritual warfare;

"Does a burglar turn on the lights? No - he prefers you to know that he isn't there. Just so with demons ... Choosing not to believe in the devil won't protect you from him".

But what occurred to me while I was trying to go to sleep was a couple of issues;

1. Why do we not see more exorcisms or demons manifesting in the Western world? I can't believe the demons have left simply because we are more "intelligent". No - as Hopkins says, like a burglar I think they prefer to let us continue believing they're not here.

2. I was reminded of something that C J Mahaney said about the late John Wimber. While I didn't agree with the context Mahaney used the statement - I agree he had a point. Mahaney was addressing the SGM Leadership Conference some years ago just prior to the launch of Jeff Purswell's "Amendment" paper on the Holy Spirit.

Mahaney commented that John Wimber believed the baptism of the Holy Spirit happened simultaneously with conversion - and yet was one of the most powerful men of the Spirit that he knew. He said something like;

"If I needed healing - who would I go to? Mahaney who believes the baptism of the Holy Spirit is distinct from conversion or Wimber?".

The logic of the statement is breathtakingly doubtful but Mahaney had a point that re-occured to me last night. The head bishop leading the exorcism class knew all the "head" knowledge about the forces of evil - Satan's hierarchy and so on. But it was to the Hopkins character that the doubting young judge was sent - the "unorthodox" priest.

The only exorcisms I have seen are by Christians that would probably be also called "unorthodox". I think particularly of Rob Rufus. I remember being amazed (although I shouldn't have) at the "Together on a Mission 2006" conference in Brighton when Rob called out a word of knowledge that there was a man there with a spirit of suicide on him. The man came to the front and manifested a demon instantly which Rob calmly cast out. There was no Hollywood dramatics - in fact I remember Rob told the demon it was not to show off.

What kind of Christian leaders would you go to if you realised you were afflicted by demon possession? Or what kind of Christian leaders would you go to if you were desperately afflicted with cancer and needed a divine miracle of healing? New Testament scholars like D A Carson or Thomas Schriener (if they would even see you?) or Reformed, non-charismatic leaders like C J Mahaney or Mark Dever or Al Mohler (if they would see you too!) or even "cautious" charismatics like Mark Driscoll? Or would you go to men or women that some would consider "unorthodox" - indeed some claimed guilty of telling "urban legends" like Rob or Terry Virgo or David Devenish?

It's an interesting thought.

In my life I so try to "hold the tension" between Word and Spirit - Reformed doctrine and charismatic experience. Am I falling too far on the "Word" side because I want to be well thought of? Is it really possible to be buck the trend and not fall into the error Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones called; "Perfectly orthodox - perfectly useless"?!

But it's interesting thinking who you would go to for help if say a demon was to manifest itself and you needed guidance and help!

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