So it’s the Sexual Health And Guidance (‘SHAG’) week on campus at Southern Cross University, Lismore. And there’s no shortage of activity. From workshops on ‘Getting the most out of online hook ups’, to a ‘condom in the jar’ guessing competition. And who can go past having some ‘shagstastic fun with your peers playing chlamydiastic and Play safe’ in the Unibar every lunch‘?
It’s on for young and old.
Of course, if you think that sex is more akin to a Porsche, which you don’t just give out to anyone who asks for it, then perhaps SHAG week really isn’t your thing. But if your sex is like that beat up old Datsun, that you just hand out to anyone who passes by, then no doubt it’s the most shagtastic fun you’ll have in a while.
Anyway, suffice to say, I’m of the Porsche view of sex, rather than the Datsun view of sex: so SHAG week really isn’t where it’s happening for me. But, to change gears somewhat, I’ve had an interesting experience with the underworld this week (no, not the Soprano’s underworld, but the supernatural underworld).
So it’s Tuesday afternoon of S.H.A.G. week, and I get a phonecall from my coworker, Mirrilee. She’s at the campus chapel, reading the bible with one of our students, and she says another student (not known to either of us) has just popped in, and is after some help to get rid of an unwanted spirit that’s been hanging around the student’s house.
I don’t usually get these sort of phone-calls, just so you know. But I speak to the student. And he gives me a quick rundown of some of the spooky stuff that’s been going down at his house. Books being moved. Doors being closed. And the sense of someone being there. He’s somewhat spooked out by it (understandably!), and just wants the spirit gone. A.S.A.P.
So I’m like, OK. I’ll do it. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I couldn’t think of anything worse than being haunted by an unwanted spirit: and more to the point, the Bible does say that Jesus Christ has defeated Satan and his cohort (Col 2:15), so Christians have the authority of Jesus Christ to tell evil spirits to hightail it out of there. Not to mention I would be remiss in my love for this student on campus if I ignored his cry for help!
It dawned on me that it would be good to take some help along. And so who better than the student President of our campus Christian group, Joe? So I ring Joe up, and I ask him point blank whether he’s keen to come along to do an exorcism on a house (I’m guessing that’s probably not the technically correct way of talking about it). I can tell he’s unsure whether or not to take me seriously, but I assure him that this is the real deal. In fact, it’ll be an interesting discipleship opportunity. And so Joe is in.
I also put out a call for prayer and advice on that great digital grapevine, Facebook, and I get some very sincere support, advice, and promises of prayer (thanks everyone!). Although the advice from my friend Mike Doyle to ‘Nuke the entire site from orbit–it’s the only way to be sure’ is probably not the most actionable for me at this stage (but I’ll keep it in mind for next time, Mike). Oh, and some of my more skeptical friends also take the liberty to chime in: Dave Freund tells me to ‘to take a builder and a pest exterminator with you to fix the draughts, loose floorboards, etc and get rid of the possum in the ceiling.’ All well intended advice, and a good thing to rule out before looking to more other-worldly causes, to be sure.
A Pastor friend of mine, Ian, also offers some help, which I willingly accept: this situation is very foreign to me, so an experienced hand is what I need!
The Night Begins.
Anyway, Joe and I drive to Ian’s house, where we spend some time praying. And then we head to the house in question. We arrive outside. And the student is sitting out the front working on the car. We walk up to him, and greet him, and he takes us inside.
Is This Spooky, Or What?
We walk inside, and I feel really spooked out. In fact, I feel like getting out of there in a hurry. Although all the lights in the house are on, the place gives me the creeps. Sure, it’s not your typical Adams-family haunted house behind rusted gates (it’s actually a very new house in suburbia). But to make matters ever more creepy, the student does tell us that he senses the spirit right where we’re standing, and that the spirit is not happy with us being there.
All. Very. Spooky.
Ian asks the student to take us to the different parts of the house. And the student tells us some of the things that he’s experienced. He tells us of one night, when he was half asleep, how he felt a hand on his face. And then how his bedroom door closed by itself, throwing his room into darkness (the student liked to leave the bedroom door open when he slept). Some of the student’s books off his shelf had also been thrown onto the ground by this spirit, we were told.
Creepy, to say the least.
Anyway, we get to work. We pray for the student. We pray that God would get rid of the Spirit from the house. I read out some Scripture, namely Philippians 2:8-11, where the apostle Paul declares Jesus’ total victory over all his enemies, including the enemies hanging out in the under-world:
8 And being found in appearance as a man, [Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We do this in a number of different rooms of the house. And to be honest, the more we do it, the more relaxed and less-creeped-out I get. Joe does hear some banging, but it turns out to be the gate by the side of the house.
Overall, although it was pretty creepy to begin with, nothing noticeable happens: no voices, no flying objects, no unnatural banging of any kind. We end up talking with the student for quite some time afterward, about his life (he’s mature age, so he’s got a lot of different experiences), including his politics (who would have guessed?). He identifies as a believer in God, and we also talk about what impact that’s had on his life. It was a nice chat, and to be honest, a great way to unwind from a fairly intense (emotionally speaking) night.
No blog post of mine is complete without some reflections of the event. So here goes:
1) The Spirit World Is Real.
I’ve got to state this obvious point: the Bible is explicit about the existence of the spirit world, complete with evil spirits that oppose God (e.g. 2 Corinthians 4:4, Luke 8:28 etc). Even though the Bible does make the spirit realm’s existence explicit, it’s easy as a western Christian take on board the predominant western materialistic worldview, which claims that the spirit realm doesn’t exist. Although I didn’t personally experience anything overtly supernatural at the student’s house, I felt it was a good reminder that there’s a spirit realm, full of not-so-benign spirits (i.e. demons).
2) Science Cannot Disprove The Supernatural.
Just for the record: science hasn’t disproved the supernatural. Nor can it. The most it can do is say ‘we can’t explain what is happening in this particular instance. Science, by definition, only deals with natural causes: and thus isn’t able to say that non-natural causes don’t exist.
3) Jesus Christ has Conquered over All Evil.
Those who are on Jesus’ team (i.e. Christians) don’t have to fear evil spirits: Jesus has defeated them already. That battle has already been won, and it was won at a Roman cross outside Jerusalem, circa 33 A.D. The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the church at Colossae:
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, [Jesus] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
The armies of darkness are a defeated enemy, if you’re on Jesus side. They’re powerless to resist him, just as they were powerless to resist him during Jesus’ earthly ministry (e.g. Luke 8:28). Christians don’t need to cower in fear any more.
4) Satan’s Greatest Weapons Are His Lies.
Now yes, it was spooky to be there at the house. I confess that I did feel somewhat uneasy and fearful at first. But Satan really doesn’t seem to be interested in proving his (and/or his cohort’s) existence to skeptical Westeners. I would vouch that proving his supernatural power to skeptical westerners would really be an own goal, as far as he’s concerned: if people really became convinced of the supernatural realm, then would it not lead to more inquiries about God?
Instead, Satan’s aim is very simple: he wants people to continue believing the lie that we’re just fine without God: that in fact, the God of the Bible can’t be trusted, and/or He doesn’t exist.
If he keeps people away from God, in a state of rebellion against Him (even when that rebellion is very sophisticated, refined and academic), then he’s achieving his purpose. Whether it’s through false views of reality (e.g. Atheism), or a soft civil religion, where God is like a domesticated cat whom we only turn to for comfort in times of trouble, Satan is achieving his goal.
5) Yet The Devil Is Supernaturally At Work In This World.
Although’s there’s great truth to that line from the film The Usual Suspects , that ‘the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist’, the Bible is clear that the Devil is very much at work in the lives of people. And I don’t mean demon-possession (although that happens, too).
Rather, the devil does blind people to the stop them from seeing the truth of the Christian message, the gospel, that Jesus is the living and risen Lord of this Universe:
2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age [i.e. the Devil] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Such blinding is much more devastating to people than living in a house where doors are inexplicably closed, and books fly off the shelves. Satan’s blinding cuts people off from the Source of eternal life, reconciliation, and forgiveness, namely Jesus Christ.
One of my Bible College lecturers, Peter Bolt, wrote a great book on the Bible’s view of the spirit world, called ‘Living With The UnderWorld’. I think Bolt does a great job of summing up the freedom that all people who turn to Jesus Christ can enjoy:
There is no need to fear underworld spaces, or beings, or even the Underworld Master, because the underworld problem has been dealt with once and for all. Jesus died for us so that we might live for him, and those who live for him (and ‘in him’) will live forever. This deep assurance and peace frees us up to be human beings…The old pattern [of our existence] was death, anxiety, slavery. But the new pattern is resurrection, assurance, freedom. And if the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.