Books on demonology must be approached with a great deal of care. Those who write with an excessive interest in the subject are too often shown to have commerce, not sound theology, on their minds. Some of the most popular Protestant writers on the subject have been discredited and shown to be nothing more than swindlers – hucksters trafficking in sensational tales of the demonic that, upon investigation, prove to be merely the inventions of creative minds. However, the untrustworthiness of many in this field does not excuse us from being serious about the subject or from trying to find works that can be beneficial to our understanding of demonology.
Enter Gabriele Amorth. Amorth is the student of the late Catholic Exorcist, Candido Amantini, who, Amorth explains, “was the only person in the world who could claim an experience of thirty-six years as a full-time exorcist.” (p13) Currently, Amorth is billed as “the Chief Exorcist of Rome.”
He is writing here as a Roman Catholic whose primary concern is the Church of Rome’s failure to take the reality of demon possession seriously. He argues throughout that Bishops must return to a Scriptural understanding of the subject and, furthermore, must begin training and appointing Exorcists once more.
As a Protestant, there are many things in this book that I reject. The use of holy water during the exorcism, the advice to call upon Mary for her protection and help (Amorth has written four books about Mary), and the use of the Roman ritual of exorcism.
That being said, I will still recommend this book to any who would like a serious, pastoral discussion on demon possession. While Amorth is certainly a Roman Catholic writer, he is not an anti-Protestant writer. In fact, Amorth praises Protestants for having taken the issue much more seriously than Catholics and for being very effective in this area. I am not sure I agree with his assessment, but I do appreciate his honesty.
We make take many of Amorth’s concerns and apply them to the Body of Christ at large. Demonology has for too long been shrugged off by the arrogant naturalism of skeptics in the church. On the other hand, it has also been too long squandered and abused by sensationalists who play fast with the truth.
Amorth’s voice stands in the midst of this abuse and calls for understanding. His handling of the inevitable issue of demon possession versus mental instability is masterful. Yes, many (and, Amorth says, most) of those who claim to be demon possessed are not, but some are, and while we must approach each case with wisdom and reason, we must not jettison a Biblical belief in the reality of demon possession in the process. Some people are victims of our adversary who can only be freed by the authority of the name of Christ in the act of Exorcism.
Having been disillusioned myself some years ago by authors on this subject (ever hear of Mike Warnke? Good.), it is refreshing to find a writer who approaches the issue with sensitivity, faith, reason and pastoral care. I have never ceased to believe in the reality of demon possession. And, while I have only encountered one case that I suspect was possession, I cannot help but believe that the spiritual war about which Scripture speaks continues to be waged all around us. Let us be thankful, then, for men such as Gabriele Amorth who take the battle seriously. It is not until we begin to do so as well that we will see victory.