Apologies for the gloominess of this post. Those who read the BBC news website will have noticed in the wake of the Jimmy Saville revelations a spate of reports on molestation, not to mention other crimes. Christians often used a triad to express the evil we fight on a day by day basis: the Devil, the Flesh, the World. Let’s unpack that one for a minute.

By the Devil, we mean not only Satan, a personal being, a fallen angel, but also the many other angels and demons that are drawn up under his authority as ‘the kingdom of darkness.’ We believe that these spirits are actively engaged in activities that oppose the will of God; they seek to influence world affairs, and they desire to harm humans. ‘Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.’ (1 Peter 5:8, ESV)

By the World, we do not mean the physical earth, but rather the humans who live upon it who are not believers in Christ Jesus. Actively and passively the World is a snare and danger to Christians. By living in the World we subject ourselves to temptation, persecution, and distraction. The World is, in a sense, the Flesh writ large. ‘We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.’ (1 John 5:19, ESV)

The Flesh or ‘sin-nature’ is a term Christians use to mean the natural fallen state of humanity. It is a term St Paul uses in his Epistles and is essentially synonymous with ‘the old man’, the people we used to be before we became Christians. Becoming a Christian does not mean that we automatically lose this part of ourselves; it means we are spiritually ‘born again’ (John 3), drawn back into a living relationship with God. Not until death are we separated from this Flesh, this ‘sin-nature’. During our earthly lives sin remains a temptation for us and its door of entry into our lives is through the Flesh. There remains, then, a struggle in life to resist the temptations of this fallen nature, and that is why Christians are called to ‘mortify’ the Flesh: to ‘mortify’ means to ‘put to death’, to ‘kill’.

There are then, three foes that present the challenge of sin/temptation and oppression in our earthly lives: Satan’s supernatural kingdom; other human beings; ourselves as individuals.

It is Satan’s kingdom I wish to think about in this post. As orthodox Christians we believe in the supernatural and are happy to accept the testimony of reliable witnesses regarding demonic activity in other parts of the world. Many Protestants and Catholics allike would be happy to accept the Vatican’s claim that Satan and his fallen angels are at work in Mexico, especially in the cult of Santa Muerte (Saint Death). But how happy are we to accept that people may be demonized in the UK or the USA? This is why I mentioned Jimmy Saville at the start of this post. I am not claiming that he personally was demonized, but I am saying that a number of crimes and the evil tendencies behind them are inspired by demons – ‘unclean spirits’ as they are otherwise called in the Bible.

The point of this post is to raise awareness because this is an issue that affects church members (believers) as well as unbelievers. There are those who ask for deliverance who need it. It is essential, of course, for the minister to exercise discernment: sometimes the battle is against the Flesh, not against unclean spirits. Nevertheless, there are cases where exorcism is required. It is important for Christians to be open to this possibility: if we immediately reject the spiritual dimension, how can we pray effectively for those who need help? How can we direct them to the appropriate course of action?

This will, of course, be all too familiar to Catholics. The Catholic Church has preserved the doctrine and practice of exorcism throughout the centuries, whereas Protestants have been inclined at times to assume such distress was a purely neurological matter and nothing to do with unclean spirits. That imbalance has been corrected over the years, but it still remains important for Christians in the West to be reminded now and again that not every problem can be fixed by medical means.

In closing, I would like to recommend a book by Derek Prince, They Shall Expel Demons. This is a very helpful book that I believe would be acceptable to Catholics as well as Protestants. He combines sound Biblical exegesis with personal testimony ranging from his own struggles to his time in deliverance ministry helping other Christians.

Something to think about.