K Neill Foster


by K. Neill Foster, Ph. D.

Evangelical Theological Society
November 1995

What does the deliverance ministry have to do with apologetics?


The first impression as participant observer of an extensive deliverance ministry in 1963 was as follows: "This activity is apologetic in nature." Thirty-two years later I remain persuaded. There is a vital intersection between the deliverance process and apologetics.

Suppositions inherent in this paper are several, all of which require some thought and inquiry.

Deliverance is assumed to be a present reality. Such a supposition requires a careful definition of deliverance, a specific worldview, a recognition of a diverse methodology, a supernaturalistic view of the Christian Scriptures, and a specific biblical hermeneutic.


Deliverance is any process or method which secures the freedom of the demonized from the power of Satan by Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came in the flesh.

Apologetics is the defense and justification of the Christian world view, the Christian faith, the Christian God, the Christian servant (and all that is of Christ and God) against the attacks, slanders, counterfeits, and deceptions of all the forces, powers and persons arrayed against them (Cuccaro 1995).


How the world is seen by its inhabitants varies immensely. To discuss deliverance ministry means that a world view is assumed. It is far from a materialistic world view. It assumes the spiritual realities of what Paul Hiebert insight fully calls "the excluded middle." As Hiebert observes rather wryly, most of the world assumes the lively existence of the spiritual domain (1982:35-47).

Ed Murphy's perception of this world view is precise.

It simply will not do for one to interpret the Epistles primarily through a world view that, while "Christian" in the traditional sense, is yet fully influenced and corrupted by the blending of rationalism and empiricism that is the legacy of the Enlightenment and of naturalistic science (1992:356).

Missiologists among us increasingly hold the view that cross-cultural Christian communication is nearly impossible apart from an understanding of, and appreciation for the worldview which includes the reality of the spiritual world, demons, angels, gods and God.


There are those who assume that the miraculous has passed. This lecture will not be particularly helpful to them. There are those who believe that miracles and supernatural events are possible today, but that they will only fit the current shibboleths of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. They will find discomfort in some places here.

(cs) A woman came to us seeking counsel. It soon became evident that she had been overcome by an alternate Jesus which boasted through her mouth that it had all the people in a nearby Pentecostal church under its control. After it had thrown the woman on the floor of our motor home, and otherwise caused her embarassment, it was driven out in the name of Jesus Christ.

Some Christian workers, I among them, witness that as much as one-third of the deliverance ministry they have seen involves the extrication of Pentecostals and charismatics from various manifestations, including a large number of false tongues manifestations (Murrel 1973, Birch 1988, Brotherton 1991). Curiously, the deliverance ministry provides an apologetic against the excesses of a burgeoning Christian movement that is commonly understood to be evangelical.

Nevertheless, the view of Scripture held by this writer is supernaturalistic. God is able and often willing to do all today that He has ever done in times past including New Testament times. All that God has ever done, He still may do. "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)." God does not fit comfortably in any box.

The authority of the believer, as elucidated in Ephesians 1 and 2, and as demonstrated in the deliverance ministry is an expression of sound doctrine, and is a right division of the word of truth. The Authority of the Believer by J. A. MacMillan. is a classic in the field and continues to be foundational to all understanding of authentic spiritual warfare.


The single most critical issue in evangelicalism today is hermeneutics. A generation ago, Harold Lindsell's battle for the Bible was won or lost on inerrancy, depending on the institution or denomination (1976). The watershed of the nineties is no longer inerrancy. Many academics, with a grimace, sign inerrancy statements year after year. The fancy dancing and casuistry takes place with the hermeneutics. Academic institutions that wish to remain vigilant in matters of biblical integrity and to resist historical drift must now give strong consideration to statements about hermeneutics. Gadamer, for example has an elastic hermeneutic with two horizons included, not just the biblical text but the context of today. There are now dozens, if not scores of kinds of hermeneutics. The selection is as embarassingly broad as the evangelical lust for error.

The hermeneutic of deliverance ministry is not complicated. "If the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense." "If the literal sense makes common sense, seek no other sense." The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself. The hermeneutic of the deliverance ministry assumes the priesthood of all believers, that a common man, reading plain speech may savingly understand scriptural truth. And further, that a plain man or woman reading more plain speech may effect a deliverance from occult subjection by the authority of Jesus Christ flowing through the believer.

Of course there are figures of speech in Scripture. And references from the Septuagint, Peter's inferior Greek, and the symbolism and imagery of the prophets. But I forbear.

This simplistic hermeneutic sounds suspiciously like the grammatical-historical method which it is. It assumes the significance of words, single words even in the Greek text. It assumes differences between singular and plural. It assumes that the Bible means what it plainly says. It assumes plenary inspiration.

The hermeneutical implications of the following case study are apparent.

(cs) A girl in the process of being delivered was handed a glass of water "in the name of the Lord." She immediately vomited up the water she had just swallowed. The process was repeated each time water was offered "in the name of the Lord." When water was offered without reference to Jesus Christ, the water was received, and kept down.

If we sometimes fail to understand that what we bless is truly blessed, the counter-kingdom apparently knows full well what is blessed [the water] and that the lesser is blessed by the greater [the Lord] (Hebrews 7:7). Could it be said that the powers seem to have a plain sense hermeneutic?


In addressing methodology in this area it is apparent that there are various methods used in the Scriptures to effect the deliverance ministry. I have seen a number of them used, all with good and sometimes spectacular effect. I have also noticed, regrettably I must add, that some who use one method find it difficult to accept someone who uses another. Rather, it seems to me, we should rejoice that the kingdom of darkness is being torn down, whatever the method.

The evangelistic encounter was exhibited by Phillip in Samaria. As Phillip preached, the denizens of the counter-kingdom went screaming on their way (Acts 8:7). The multitudes who believed are ample evidence that deliverance taking place in an evangelistic context produces conversion growth.

The truth encounter as found in Ephesians is based upon clear theology: the resurrection of the dead, the total supremacy of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:20-23); and further, the believer's identity with Jesus Christ, seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6). The most widely known teacher of this methodology is Neil Anderson (1990, 1991, 1993). Truth encounter deals with Christians who can be led to see who they are and where they are in Christ. Freedom is not far away once those objectives are attained.

The incarnational encounter is exhibited in Scripture where the mere presence of Christians dislodges entrenched powers. Peter's shadow and presence was instrumental in occasioning deliverance from the powers (Acts 5:15).

The incident just cited in Acts is similar to the following case study:

(cs) Ruth Herber, missionary of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and daughter of missionary pioneer R. S. Roseberry, recounted an incident in which she began a habitual pattern of walking which took her in a short-cut across property upon which a shaman was conducting his form of incantations and spirit-manipulation. He found that the missionary's presence short-circuited his powers. To regain them he had to move away from the incarnational presence of a Christian believer in whom the Holy Spirit dwelt.

The dialogical encounter, exhibited by Jesus Christ with the Gadarene demoniacs involves repetitious commanding, the solicitation of a name, and the isolation of the leading demonic power. Dr. Gerald McGraw has carried on deliverance ministry for more than 20 years in connection with his work as a theologian at Toccoa Falls College, Toccoa Falls, Georgia. He also serves as adjunct professor at the graduate school of Simpson College in Redding, California as well as Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York. His analysis of the dialogical method is outstanding, and is, of course, the one by which he carries out deliverance ministry.

The healing encounter takes place when demonic sicknesses are addressed and healed in the power of Jesus Christ as exhibited in Matthew 4. Not all sicknesses are demonic but some are as the text makes clear. "News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, the epileptics and paralytics, and he healed them" (Matthew 4:24). When authentic Christian healing takes place some of the incidents involve the expulsion of evil powers. Many times, perhaps most times, such expulsion is unknown and unrealized by the participants.

The loosing encounter is described in Luke 13, and legitimized in Matthew 16, and 18. The woman had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years (Luke 13:11). Jesus not only asked if the woman ought to be loosed whom Satan had kept bound for those many years (v. 11), he proceeded to loose her (v. 13).

(cs) Allan S. had vowed he would never enter the church again. But the young pastor had "loosed" him in prayer until he felt confident enough to write on a 3x5 card that on such and such a day he had loosed Allan. When we began our evangelistic series in that church, we began together to continue to loose Allan. We visited him too, but the football games were on, So we continued the loosing.

On the last day of the campaign I phoned him and asked him to come to the evening service. He agreed and came. Only later did I discover that he had said, "If those two preachers get on my back, I'll bolt out of there."

He listened to the gospel as if he had never heard it. He was the first to respond. As we dealt with the inquirers, we came to him. "Brother," I said, "In Jesus' name, I loose you." His instant response, "I take it." We accepted that but his eyes and countenance were still not clear. The next day we visited once again.

When he had gotten home, he had prepared for bed and then gone into the living room and knelt down to pray. Suddenly he was loosed.

And his testimony was clear: "God filled me so full, if He would have filled me any fuller it would have blown a hole in my chest."

The event just cited is the most dramatic "loosing encounter" I have ever witnessed.

The prayer encounter is exhibited by Jesus Christ. Jesus' answer to the impotence of the disciples was an affirmation that it took prayer to prevail in certain kinds of confrontations with the demonic powers (Mark 9:14-29). Pastor Blumhardt labored mightily in prayer for two years for a single deliverance (Boshold 1970).


The apologetic encounter as exhibited by Paul in his dealing with the demonized girl in Acts 16. The situation was highly charged. The demon had been calling out through the girl for several days, until suddenly Paul addressed the evil spirit directly. "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her" (Acts 16:18). A riot, a flogging and an earthquake followed. Not only was the deliverance public but it was uniquely timed. It also was effective, so much so that the girl could no longer tell fortunes.

The deliverance was also apologetic in that a spirit of divination, which Luke called a python, a clearly religious spirit was publicly overturned in an open confrontation in which Jesus Christ's supremacy over the spirit was graphically illustrated.

The word [python] originally meant a snake, and in particular the snake which guarded the celebrated oracle at Delphi and which was said to have been slain by Apollo" (Marshall 1980:268).

It was a very public defeat of one of the common religions of the day. Its apologetic power was significantly more important as the clear economic impact of the event became evident. If Jesus Christ has authority over the great power of this Python, what else must He be able to do?

The public defeat of the powers has also been called a "power encounter." Allan Tippett first popularized power encounter as a missiological term (1967:100-118). His primary illustration involved the cutting down of a sacred tree as a public act of defiance against the counter-kingdom. When the believers suffered no ill effects, and indeed were able to chop up the sacred tree for firewood, the conversion process was soon underway (1967:100).

Boniface, an early missionary to Europe, had a similar event take place which was clearly an apologetic or power encounter.

At Geismar, in the presence of a large number of pagans, he began cutting down an ancient oak tree which was sacred to the god Thor. Before he had felled the tree a powerful blast of wind completed the demolition and the hoary giant, crashing, broke into four fragments. The pagan bystanders were convinced of the power of the new faith and from the timber Boniface erected an oratory to St. Peter (Latourette 1953:348).

An appropriate conclusion ought to be that there is a significant juxtaposition of missioloqy and theology here. The missionary power encounter is the theological apologetic encounter.

Some power encounters are not clearly deliverance events, but many of the power/apologetic encounters are related to the powers. Murphy relates on of the most famous from the life of veteran missionary J. Arthur Mouw of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

While Mouw was absent, a Chief of the Dyaks set up a challenge of the gods.

The leaders and the people agreed the chief then set the stage for the ordeal. He took the traditional power worker to one of the biggest long houses. It was about 30 feet or more tall and 100 feet long. He called for a leader of the Jesus people The chief gave a fresh egg to each of the men.

"The god who is the true God will preserve the egg of his servant. We will all follow the God who reveals His power. You each are to throw your egg over the house. The true God will not allow His egg to break."

The magic power worker went through his magic power rituals. He then hurled his egg over the long house. The elders stood on the far side to observe the results. It smashed into a thousand pieces.

The young man lifted his heart to God. "Show yourself to be the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth. Show to all the people that Jesus is Your Son. Show to everyone that we are Your servants and that we speak Your Word in Your Name."

He hurled his egg over the long house. It fell to the other side and bounced like a rubber ball without a single crack in the shell.

"The Jesus God is the true God," the chief shouted. "We will all follow him."

And they did (Murphy 1992:251).

My point is not to multiply these incidents in print, though that might be done. Rather, what is the meaning of these acts of God in the religious arena?

In this, the main thrust of this paper, I draw several conclusions.

1. A percentage of deliverance ministry events are clearly apologetic in nature. On no scientific basis at all I propose that 5% of the case studies in deliverance ministry have clear apologetic value. Serious thought and writing in the area of apologetics must then include apologetic encounters from the deliverance ministry.

2. Case studies derived from apologetic encounters often demonstrate the power of Jesus' name over the prevailing religions. They are in happy conflict with culture and argue against inclusivism, pluralism and dialogue with other religions. They are not politically correct. Missioilogist Philip Steyne relates a case study that took place in the ministry of a Navaho Christian, Missionary Herman Williams.

(cs) While ministering in South Dakota, this same Navaho Christian missionary (Williams) had a hard time breathing whenever he entered the reservation. He could only sleep sitting upright in bed. Whenever he was out of the reservation his breathing was normal and he could sleep lying down. One night, he relates, he heard Indian drums and singing coming as it were, out of the nearby kitchen. He went to check inside and outside, but found nothing, yet the drumming and singing persisted. This carried on for several nights. Eventually he traced the sounds and found that they were coming from within the bedroom wall. He prayed against whatever it was, whereupon it immediately stopped. The heaviness in his chest subsided, he felt well and he could lie down and sleep.

Early the next morning there was a loud and desperate knock on the front door. A distraught Indian woman asked him to come and pray for her desperately sick husband. Upon entering the room he found a twisted, contorted figure, obviously in great pain and agony. When he asked when her husband got that way, she informed him that it happened the night before. Upon further inquiry he discovered that the man was a shaman. By using some of the Navaho Christian missionary's hair, the shaman had made medicine, by which to kill him because his Christian ministry was a threat and a hindrance to his practice of shamanism. The missionary (Williams) concluded, that by taking authority over the presence in his house--the drumming and singing--he had actually taken authority over the evil perpetuated by the shaman. He did pray for him, but he died a horrible death (Steyne 1989:236-237).

3. The case studies that emerge from the deliverance ministry are like double edged swords. They sometimes cut into psuedo-Christianity and fail to correspond to common paradigms of evangelical thinking.

(cs) Joy was in bondage to a sensual, sexy Jesus. As it turned out, it was a Jesus she had picked up at an Anglican charismatic church. It frequently caused her to collapse at inopportune times. As I confessed a sin of avarice within my own heart, the false Jesus suddenly departed. The departure was so abrupt that both my wife and Joy demanded, "What did you do?" Shamefacedly, I admitted that I had been quietly confessing my sin.

4. Apologetic encounters may have evangelistic benefit to the church.

5. Apologetic encounters may have corrective influence on the church and may help to distinguish the false from the true.

6. Apologetic encounters in the deliverance ministry validate experience in the Christian life as valuable. Discernment is derived through experience and Christian maturity develops in the process of time (Hebrews 5:14). True and false paradigms must be expected (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1-4). History, especially biblical, Old Testament history has intrinsic value in the Christian church (1 Corinthians 10:11).

7. Apologetic encounters in deliverance ministry emphasize the uniqueness and supremacy of Jesus Christ. While it is well-known that all religions of the world have exorcisitic processes, it is also known that when Jesus Christ collides with the other gods, defeat and vanquishment of the powers is the result.

Exorcisms take place in the "name of Jesus Christ." Implicit in the process is that there is no other name under heaven by which men can be delivered (Acts 4:12). Implied as well is that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6) Never is pluralism more vanquished than when the power of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came in the flesh comes against the gods of the religions of this world. Invariably, they are expelled by His name. Those who have witnessed even once the awesome power of the name of Jesus Christ as used in the battle of spiritual war find it extremely difficult to entertain ideas of pluralism or inclusivism.

(cs) Lori was in the process of being delivered from demons when certain Islamic spirits identified themselves. They were cast out in the name of Jesus Christ. The event was especially memorable in that a missionary from the Sudan Interior Mission was drawn into the deliverance team and began to command the Islamic spirits in Hausa, the African language with which he was familiar. Foreign languages, we discovered, seemed to be especially effective against demon powers, when used in the commanding process.

If Islamic spirits are driven out by the name of Jesus Christ, is that not an apology for biblical Christianity? And what does it say for Islam?

8. Apologetic encounters in the deliverance ministry emphasize the diabolical nature of the religions of this world. We come close to assuming that all religions except that of Jesus Christ are energized by evil spirits, which are sometimes expelled in apotropaic and exorcistic ways (Kelly 1985:193).

MacMillan, a veteran missionary of long experience was not so hesitant.

Demons are behind all heathen gods and image worship. The heathen does not worship the idol, but the spirit which indwells it. Everywhere in heathendom this is encountered (1980b:89).

The church has often struggled for an understanding of what Paul calls the "energizing" of Satan which is ongoing in the disobedient (Ephesians 2:2).

9. Apologetic encounter case studies in deliverance ministry are assumed to have value and worth. These case studies, when in conflict with commonly held ideas will prove provocative, especially when at variance with inclusivistic and pluralistic ideas. Social sciences are assumed to have some value.

(cs) The seventeen year-old girl, in her waywardness had been kept in Roman Catholic institutions and had defiantly drunk holy water at one point. We found 27 demons under one head controlling her. They were Roman Catholic demons who constantly affirmed "Hail Mary." The Christian workers present sang, just as emphatically, "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name." Expulsion followed a process in which, using the dialogical model, 27 names were extracted. There were 9 saints, 9 ordinances, and 9 doctrines. After all had named themselves, all were expelled at once. The commanding was all authoritative, repetitious and completely based upon the full and present authority of Jesus Christ (1963).

What does such a case study suggest? That all Roman Catholicism is demonaical? Not exactly. That Roman Catholicism has 9 ordinances? Certainly not. But it could illustrate that false religion of any kind, including pseudo-Christianity might be expressed by demonism, and that liberation, nevertheless, could still come through the authoritative use of the name of Jesus Christ. Origen, not without doctrinal flaws himself, warned that we should not be listeners to nor disciples of the demons (Oesterrich 1930:166).


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