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The Last Exorcism Part II is coming

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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still from The Last Exorcism Part II of Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer walking through a cemetery (Credit: CBS Films)

The Last Exorcism Part II will be released next month and is already generating buzz.  Since The Exorcist first stunned viewers in 1973, there have been a long string of movies that focus on Satan and demons.  Why is our culture so fascinated by this topic?

When I was a missionary in East Malaysia, one of the pastors told me about his exorcism ministry.  In his culture, it was popular for people to ask the “spirits” inhabiting nature to take possession of their lives.  Exorcising these demons was an essential first step in evangelism.  The pastor described bodies and chairs levitating in the air, among other supernatural events.

I was reminded of C. S. Lewis’s observation in his classic The Screwtape Letters: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”  Our culture seems to have found a way to commit both errors simultaneously.

According to surveys, 62 percent of Americans and 60 percent of America’s Christians believe that Satan is “not a living being, but is a symbol of evil.”  The 1995 film The Usual Suspects contains this line: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”  If a doctor can persuade you that cancer does not exist, you’re more likely to refuse treatment for the disease.

At the same time, our culture is clearly fascinated by the demonic.  Hollywood keeps making movies such as The Exorcist because we keep buying tickets to see them.  I think the enemy is using the media to desensitize us to Satan’s reality and evil.  The more we view him as a film fantasy, the less we will be aware of his work in our lives and world.

How should we respond?  First, recognize that Satan is our very real enemy: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).  Expect to be tempted today, for “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Second, remember that he is a defeated foe.  When you turn temptations over to Christ in faith, you will find strength in his Spirit: “Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  Have you submitted yourself to God yet this morning?  What temptation must you resist today?

Here’s how the story ends: “The devil . . . was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).  Someone suggested: “The next time Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.”