Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dr. Francis MacNutt: In the footsteps of Agnes Sanford

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Christian Healing Ministries (CHM) in Jacksonville, Florida, founded by Dr. Francis MacNutt and his wife, Judith, is one of the premier Christian healing centers in North America. The CMI staff haave instructed thousands of ministers and lay leaders on healing, inner healing, and deliverance prayer. It is effectively continuing the work of the Schools of Pastoral Care that were started by Agnes Sanford. The books the MacNutts have authored are among the most influential and effective in the contemporary Christian healing movement. In fact, when I teach a workshop on healing prayer, I tell the audience that the best general introduction to healing prayer is Francis MacNutt’s Healing, and that the best introduction to exorcism and deliverance is his Deliverance from Evil Spirits.[1] Several of their works have also branched out into other areas of Christian spirituality. For instance, Judith produced a fine work on angels and Francis did a book on the phenomenon of being slain in the spirit, which is now a standard on the topic.[2]  
Francis MacNutt was born in 1925 to a well-to-do Catholic family. His father was especially devout and passed his spirituality on to his children. Francis went to Catholic prep school and then attended Harvard as a pre-med student. This was interrupted by World War II. Drafted in 1944, he served as a Navy medic and surgeon’s assistant. He later returned to Harvard, where he graduated with honors, but changed career goals to speech therapy and got a master’s in speech from the Catholic University of America.
While there he read Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, a book on modern monasticism that was deeply influential among Catholics in the postwar era.[3] MacNutt decided to become a Dominican monk, who famed for their preaching, and entered that order in 1950. He was ordained as a priest six years later. His speech training served him well, and he developed as an excellent and anointed preacher. The Dominicans sent MacNutt to the Aquinas Institute, where he earned a PhD. He then taught homiletics at the Dominican seminary and wrote a homiletics textbook for Catholic priests.[4] During this period he founded the Catholic Homiletic Society. He was a rising star among Dominican priests.

The 1960s was the decade when Pope John XXIII opened up Catholic scholarship to outside influences and allowed priests to attend conferences and services of other denominations. In 1960, at the Presbyterian Seminary in Dubuque, MacNutt heard a presentation on the Christian healing ministry by Dr. Alfred Price, then the OSL national director.[5]   But it was not until he met a CFO workshop leader, and a person gifted in healing prayer, Mrs. Jo Kimmel, that his curiosity about Christian healing was really kindled. After a lengthy conversation, Mrs. Kimmel not only invited Francis to attend a CFO but even paid his expenses there.[6]
It was the 1967 CFO in Maryville, Tennessee, led by Agnes Sanford, Derek Prince, and Tommy Tyson. Agnes later recounted her meeting with this handsome, white-robed Dominican priest. He immediately told her that he wanted the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Agnes directed him to go to a group that was doing that type of prayer at the end of the day. MacNutt did so, but was disappointed. Agnes recalled his response:
 “Oh, I spoke in tongues, that was no trouble. But nothing really happened inside.”
Well, then, I had better pray for you,” said I. We went with two others into my room, and there with the laying on of hands, I prayed for the real entering of the Spirit of God—into the heart, into the soul, into the unconscious. And it happened! He was so overwhelmed with holy joy that he laughed aloud, not in any hysterical fashion, but in a deep outpouring from his heart.
“Oh, this is the way I thought it would be!” he cried again and again. . . . He has since led countless others into this experience.[7] 
Agnes also prophesied over Fr. MacNutt that he would be used by the Lord to bring healing prayer back to the Catholic Church.[8]  The next year he attended a School of Pastoral Care in Wadesville, Massachusetts, for further instructions in healing ministry. This was led by Agnes and the Rev. Tommy Tyson. Agnes recognized MacNutt’s theological learning as well as his anointing in healing, and from then on had him assist in her SPCs and missions. Francis learned all he could from Agnes and has repeatedly declared his indebtedness to her teaching and writings.[9]     

As Mrs. Sanford prophesied, MacNutt became one of the key leaders of the new Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and a teacher of healing prayer to that movement. He was a frequent speaker at its early conventions and meetings, and a keynote speaker at the famous Kansas City conference of 1977, which gathered together classical Pentecostals and the new charismatics for the first time. MacNutt’s keynote address, delivered in his flowing Dominican robes, made a profound impression on those attending. Two years later, Fr. MacNutt was the lead figure in spreading the Catholic Charismatic Renewal to Latin America in a series of missions to Central and South America.  Sadly, after the 1980s the Catholic Charismatic Renewal fizzled in the United States. However it has flowered in Latin American and especially in Africa, where it is a major component of Catholicism’s growth.

When not on the road, his home base was the Dominican Merton House in St. Louis, which was the center of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for the area. Francis was also the founder of the Association of Christian Therapists, which aimed at integrating healing prayer into the medical profession. The group continues its work to this day and produces the excellent Journal of Christian Healing.[10]  

The year 1974 saw the publication of Francis’ first work on healing prayer, Healing. It became a bestseller, as it explains in simple terms the varied aspects of healing prayer, as in physical healing, inner healing, and deliverance. It supplemented Mrs. Sanford’s The Healing Light as the preferred book to introduce new charismatics to healing prayer. Healing includes a very wise chapter on why some persons are not healed, a problem that has bedeviled the healing ministry since its beginnings.[11] 

In those years Francis labored constantly to interpret Pentecostalism and its understanding of the Holy Spirit to his Catholic audience. For instance, he tackled the thorny problem that some Catholics were asking about being rebaptized. Pentecostal brethren often suggested rebaptism to newly Spirit-filled Catholics, but ancient doctrine and tradition forbade repeated baptisms. Fr. MacNutt cut the Gordian knot on this issue by suggesting that infant baptism is good, as it often results in unexpected healing and protection from demonic influences, but every Christian needs to make an adult recommitment to Jesus. Francis rebaptized those Catholics who requested it with the words, “I renew your baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”[12]     
It is difficult to overestimate the positive influence that Fr. MacNutt had on the healing ministry of the Catholic Church. He was not the only Catholic priest of the early Catholic Charismatic Movement, nor the only one who promoted the new inner healing ministry. But he was undoubtedly the most prominent among them. It is safe to say that, through his writings and ministry, the “Galatian Bewitchment,” the idea that only very holy persons, as in the saints of old, can do healing ministry, was largely weakened in the Catholic Church. It lingers in the more traditional sectors of the Church.
This achievement has not been adequately noted since the Galatian Bewitchment was never an official doctrine backed by encyclicals or catechism statements, etc., but only a strong tradition. Thus its passing was not fought against once it began to dissolve. I know of no Catholic clerical Pharisee who made an argument that healing prayer must be restricted to monks or designated holy persons. The obvious biblical basis for the laying on of hands and the immediate effectiveness that this ministry brought to countless Catholic charismatic prayer groups simply made the Galatian Bewitchment a ghost of a doctrine. This is in contrast to what has happened in Protestantism, where Calvin’s elaborated doctrine of cessationism continues to be defended by many evangelicals.
Perhaps only persons old enough to remember the healing practices of 1950s Catholicism can appreciate the sea change that has occurred. When I was a boy, healing prayer practiced in our parish in New York City ranged from lighting a votive candle to Mary or some saint to saying a rosary for a healing intention. No one laid hands on the sick with the intention and expectancy of real healing to be accomplished. Priests ministered the sacrament of extreme unction for those dying with no expectancy that they would experience physical healing.[13] Thankfully that changed with Vatican II in the 1960s.
Image result for francis and judith macnuttFr. MacNutt’s Catholic ministry came to an end when he married Miss Judith Sewell in February of 1980. He was not given the usual dispensation of vows from his superiors, and this closed his ministry to Catholic churches and conferences. This saddened the MacNutts, but it unexpectedly opened new doors of ministry for them with Protestant and Pentecostal churches. Many conservative Protestants and Pentecostals would not invite “Father” MacNutt to speak at their functions, but would certainly welcome “Dr.” MacNutt.

The MacNutt’s joint ministry grew to become today’s preeminent charismatic prayer and teaching institution. Ultimately, in 1993, the Catholic hierarchy relented and officially laicized Francis. That is, he and Judith were received as Catholics in good standing (he could say mass in private). Catholic invitations resumed. In 2008 Francis, then eighty-three, handed over the reins of Christian Healing Ministries to Judith, who now does most of the speaking and teaching at CHM, as it continues its work in carrying on the legacy of Mrs. Sanford.

Dr. Francis MacNutt and his wife Judith with the staff of Christian Healing Ministries

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[1] Healing, Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1974. Deliverance From Evil Spirits. (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 1995
[2] Judith MacNutt, Angels Are Real (Terrytown: Chosen, 2012) and Francis MacNutt, Overcome by the Spirit (Terrytown: Chosen, 1990).
[3] New York; Hardcourt & Brace, 1948.
[4] S. F. MacNutt, Gauging Sermon Effectiveness (Dubuque: Priory, 1960).
[5]Rusty Rae, “Extraordinary Becomes Ordinary, A Profile on Francis and Judith MacNutt.” Sharing (May, 1988) 23.
[6] Kimmel, Prayer Power (1972). The work could aptly be entitled “Praying the CFO Way,” as it is a synthesis of the works of Glenn Clark, Frank Laubach, Agnes Sanford, and the other leaders of the 1950s CFOs
[7] Agnes Sanford, Sealed Orders (Plainfield: Logos International, 1972) 225–26.
[8] David K. Foster, “Conversation with Francis and Judith MacNutt,” Pneuma Review. Posted, March 20, 2014.
[9] MacNutt, Healing, 12–13, and also, Francis MacNutt, “Sharing God’s Love,” (Ardmore: Lord’s Own Tape ministry, n.d.) audio cassette. 
[10] Their website is at
[11] MacNutt, Healing, chapter 18, “Eleven Reasons Why People Are Not Healed.”
[12]Francis MacNutt, “A Proposed Solution.” “A Proposed Solution to the Re-Baptism Dilemma.” Ministries 3 no. 2 (spring 1975) 58–61. 
[13]I explain the sad shift of the meaning of the sacrament of healing oil (James 5) from a healing sacrament to a “get out of purgatory” rite in my work, Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1996).


The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.

The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE 

Just released is my first book of  plays. Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts). It includes two plays and their postscripts.

The play, “One Day at St. John’s” depicts what everyday life can be like in a church that practices the gifts of the Spirit and the healing/exorcism ministry as normal. Among the events that occur in the course of the play are the healing of a waitress who was scalded with hot coffee, an exorcism (led by a layman) and the “laying of a ghost” to rest.

Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts) can be purchased HERE at Amazon.

The second play, “Joseph ben Jacob,” explores Joseph, husband of Mary, as the dream interpreter, master carpenter, and father of Mary’s other children. It helps explain why Joseph was able to discern correctly his dream about Mary’s first-born.

The postscripts examine the controversial aspects of the plays and focus on two false early gospels which distorted the meaning of the true Gospels. The “Proto-Gospel of James” claimed that Mary was “every virgin” and never had other children, and the “Gospel of Nicodemus” cancelled the true meaning of Jesus’ “descent into Hell” and his ministry there as described in 1 Peter 3 & 4

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.

Dr. MacNutt and Judith with the staff of Christian Healing ministries.
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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Classic CFO Spirituality

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This is a brief posting to announce the launching of a Face Book page entitled “Classic CFO Spirituality.’ It will feature articles, pictures and notes about the leaders and speakers at the CFO camps from the 1930s to the 1970s.  This was an era when cessationism held sway over mainline Protestantism and healing prayer was considered cultic. The CFO was one of the very few Christian para-church groups that challenged cessationism. I wrote about the CFO at length in my work Agnes Sanford and her Companions.

Of course the Pentecostals had a vigorous healing ministry at this time, but had been margenilized by the 1920s and considered cultic and beyond the pale of discussion. It was basically the CFO and its sister organization, the Oder of St. Luke (OSL) that introduced effective healing prayer into mainline Christianity, and triggered the Charismatic Renewal.

I and Dr. Gregory Camp, an expert and biographer of Rufus Mosely, one of the most important of the CFO teachers, will be adding postings to this site on an almost daily basis. Others are invited to join this interest group and join in.  Does anyone have pictures of the early CFO camps?  Memories of the CFO leaders? This is a great place to share them.

The link to the Face Book page is HERE


The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.

The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE 

Just released is my first book of  plays. Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts). It includes two plays and their postscripts.

The play, “One Day at St. John’s” depicts what everyday life can be like in a church that practices the gifts of the Spirit and the healing/exorcism ministry as normal. Among the events that occur in the course of the play are the healing of a waitress who was scalded with hot coffee, an exorcism (led by a layman) and the “laying of a ghost” to rest.

Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts) can be purchased HERE at Amazon.

The second play, “Joseph ben Jacob,” explores Joseph, husband of Mary, as the dream interpreter, master carpenter, and father of Mary’s other children. It helps explain why Joseph was able to discern correctly his dream about Mary’s first-born.

The postscripts examine the controversial aspects of the plays and focus on two false early gospels which distorted the meaning of the true Gospels. The “Proto-Gospel of James” claimed that Mary was “every virgin” and never had other children, and the “Gospel of Nicodemus” cancelled the true meaning of Jesus’ “descent into Hell” and his ministry there as described in 1 Peter 3 & 4

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Thanksgiving ministry idea.

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While at my security post at GE (the tent making job that has allowed me to write my last book and all of my blogs) I received an idea for an evangelical ministry. GE, like many other high tech companies, has many employees from India at practically every level of employment, From low level programmers on short term contracts to high level managers. Many of them come to the United States on temporary work visas, and are here for only a few years. Some have a circle of friends here, as the Indians community in Atlanta, as in many other cities, a is close nit, but many do not.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving last year, I asked one of these Indian workers, a young man in his late 20s, if he had enjoyed the holiday.  He said, no. He was in fact very lonely.  I felt a wave of compassion for him, that I am sure reflected the Lord’s heart. I was sorry I did not know about his situation before the holiday as I would have invited him to my home for Thanksgiving.

Here is the idea. Organize a church wide drive to locate and invite Indian and other foreign workers to home thanksgiving dinners. (Christmas would be a good idea too.) This would be “love evangelism.” I would suggest that the direct evangelical part, as in “are your saved?” be avoided or low-key so that the person does not think you only had interest in him or her as a conversion target. But you might invite the guest to come and “observe” your church service the next Sunday.
Make sure that your family say prayers of thanksgiving before they carve up the bird. 

In my family we hold hands at the dinner table and every one gives thanks to the Lord for something that has happened to them that year. It might be a good idea to read Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation of 1863, which established the holiday. It is a masterful example of giving thanks to God even in the midst of war and tragedy. A link to it is HERE. A real knock-out would be to pray for healing for someone there, arthritis, head-ache, etc., and let him see a healing in Jesus’ name.

I have had several conversations with my Indian friends at GE who relate they were all surprised at how religious Americans really were. What they thought about Americas was molded by what they saw in American movies and TV sitcoms where Christian life is marginalized, ridiculed or ignored. A Thanksgiving invitation would be an opportunity to show them some of the best of Christian life.

Image result for thanksgiving dinnerOn the Thanksgiving menu, let me suggest a few modifications to ensure your Indian guest, who is probably Hindu, will feel at home and be able to feast as well as you do. Prepare several side dishes that are totally meat free, as for instance a squash casserole, rice made with butter or margarine, and beans without any of the pork or meat we normally put in. 

This posting is doubly frustrating for me. I no longer am pastor of a church, and so cannot try this out as a church ministry. Further, my household situation is difficult. My wife is bed-bound now and we have only a small dinning area where we cram in our family. Alas…

Well, isn’t this a wonderful example of Christian leadership? Do as I say not as I do.  Pastors, here is one more ministry to coordinate – you probably don’t work hard enough at your job anyway.

Blessings, and consider this for next year, or for Christmas.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Christian’s survival strategy in a mass shooting: Going beyond the “run, hide, or throw something” triad.

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We are all grieving the recent Texas massacre. A gunman armed with an assault rifle entered First Baptist of Sutherland Springs, and systematically murdered 26 persons, including infants and children, and left 20 others wounded.[1] The Wilson County (Texas) sheriff on the scene said that the victims had no chance to escape the building as the killer went up and down the pews shooting those who had tried to hide or shield their loved ones from the carnage.[2]

This highlights limitations of the poplar workshops and instructions given to the public that the way to respond to a mass shooter is to “run, hide, or throw something” at the shooter. This “triad” strategy of reaction and survival was first developed after the Sand Hook Elementary School massacre of 2012 when twenty children and six adults were gunned down by a lone shooter, armed with an assault rifle and high capacity clips.

The survival triad was first printed in a government pamphlet, but now mostly disseminated through many workshops offered by police and sheriff departments all over the country.[3]

There were special circumstances that made survival triad especially ineffective at First Baptist. The Church is small with few exists, and its doors are all an easy shot from anywhere in the building. The victims tried to hide under the pews, but that was also ineffective as the shooter walked back and forth the central aisle, spraying anyone who moved. He delighted in shooting crying children. There is no report that anyone tried to throw something at him. Church pews cannot be easily lofted in defense, and the chairs on the stage were well way from throwing distance, but an easy shot for someone with an assault rifle.

Image result for Ft. Hood massacreA similar ineffectiveness of the survival triad was demonstrated at the Ft. Hood massacre of 2009. The Islamic murderer, Army Major Nidal Hasam, killed thirteen Army personnel by using only a pistol with high capacity magazines. Two soldiers tried to rush him and were killed before reaching him. One threw a folding chair at him, but missed and was lucky enough to crawl away wounded to safety.  Hasan continued to roam the building shooting at uniformed personnel (but sparing civilian employees) until gunned down and seriously wounded by a base policeman.  Yes, some uniformed personnel in the building managed to escape by running or hiding, but not many. One threw a chair through a window and jumped out, saving himself, but seriously injuring himself with the cut glass. Note that those shot, including the two who charged Hasam, were trained military, and the best qualified to do the “fight” part of the “run, hide, throw” triage.[4] But all of the escape strategies were largely ineffective.

To be fair about the survival triad, its authors never claimed that using it would result in the survival of all, or even most, of those present in a mass shooting situation. Rather, it gives a pre-arranged pattern of actions the entrapped persons can take, depending on the circumstances, to increase their survival chances. This is much better than improvising a plan of action in the midst of the chaos and panic of a massacre. It that sense it is a good plan to teach the public. 

After the Sutherland Springs massacre several knowledgeable church leaders have spoken out on the need for ever church to be “security aware” and take practical measures, as in teaching the survival triad ,or having a volunteer church member posted in their police or security uniform at the church service.[5] But I believe that, as Christians, we have access to strategies and modes of prayer that will vastly increase the possibilities of surviving a mass shooting or terrorist incident.

Greg Goebel, and Anglican priest, and friend of mine, posted this on his Facebook timeline right after the Sutherland Springs shootings.

Thoughts and prayers are not antithetical to action. We can pray and mourn and still take action against violence. And we can also take multiple steps to prevent future violence. We don’t have to choose one step and then argue and attack everyone who would take an alternative step. Improved gun laws, improved mental health services, more outreach to angry young men, prayer meetings, health campaigns, improved safety measures, talking with my neighbor. To me a main effort should be learning to reach out to and talk with angry men. This last thing is what churches can actually do well. I’ve seen it many times. (Posted Nov. 9, 2017)

From Fr, Greg’s advice I would stress the spiritual resources. As in praying for the safety of church meetings every time there was a planned event, and certainly more consciously seeking out neighbors and acquaintances with negative metal attitudes and praying for them, and with them so that what is a mild situation does not flower into a public disaster. This last course of action might have prevented the latest tragedy, the North California shootings at Rancho Tehama, where the shooter was long known as violent and mentally deranged.

But before I go into the most radical, and perhaps most effective of specific Christian prayers for this type of situation, we need to understand the spiritual and mental state of the shooters. It seems that most (all?) of them are in a high state of demonization. I rather use that biblical phrase rather than “possession” which has unnecessary baggage related to Catholic exorcism practice.

Our attitude towards the demonic and towards exorcism and deliverance ministries, and our ability to accept the plain biblical evidence for both, is distorted by multiple factors. In the secular West there is a tendency to disbelieve in the reality of the demonic, and reduce demonic manifestations to instances of abnormal psychology.

Most seriously, the poverty of Protestant tradition on the demonic and exorcism, produced by the theology of cessationism, has basically left many Christian with nothing to say about the topic, leaving a tremendous ignorance gap.[6] This leads many Christian ministers to dismiss or reduce demonic activities and manifestations as psychological abnormalities. More than likely such ministers refer demonized persons in their congregation to a psychiatrist, rather than minister deliverance or exorcism prayer[7] 

There is also a raging theological divide among Protestants, fueled mostly by its non-charismatic Evangelical wing, which states that a Christian cannot possibly be possessed or infected by demonic entities. The constant experience of ministers who actually venture out in this field should put that theory to rest. Scripturally, the account of Ananias and Sepphira (Acts 5:1-3) a born-again and Spirit-filled couple in the Jerusalem Jewish/Christian community who let Satan “fill their hearts” is biblical proof enough that at times Christian need deliverance ministry.

Also, the predominance of the Roman Catholic traditions on exorcism, as portrayed in the film “The Exorcist,” has sown certain distortions. In fact, it is only among the Pentecostals and charismatics that the Protestant wing of Christianity has substantially recovered a robust, full and biblical ministry of exorcism and deliverance as a general practice.[8]

The Catholic tradition has several good points and is especially useful in dealing with persons who are thoroughly demonized (possessed). That is, when a person’s behavior is dominated by a demonic spirit, and which may manifest bizarre phenomenon. This was well represented in the movie the “Exorcist,” based on the book of the same name, and which in turn was based on a real case.[9] Such total demonization is very rare (and very destructive). I personally have never encountered anything that severe, but the witness and literature on such sever possessions is consistent throughout the ages and should not be doubted.  

But the Catholic understanding of possession and exorcism, with the priest as lead minister, leaves unanswered and under-ministered the whole issue of lessor spirits and lesser states of demonic infestation. The Catholic lack in this area came home to me when I watched the excellent PBS program “The American Experience” on President John Kennedy.  As president, and even before, he had constantly repeating trysts and affairs in spite of having a beautiful wife. Kennedy was asked by a friend why he had so many of these, and he answered, “I am compelled to do that…”[10] President Kennedy was not “possessed” in the Catholic definition of the word, but part of his mind/soul was infested by demonic entities that controlled his sexual behavior (addiction). He really did need deliverance ministry for a spirit of fornication and other attaching spirits. No priest or anyone else ministered to him in that way, or even understood the issue.

More serious and destructive demonization occur when the persons begins to hear voices that direct them to destructive acts, including self-mutualization and suicide. This as common in certain forms of schizophrenia, where the person is continually assailed by negative voices shouting his/her worthlessness. I ministered deliverance to a person who was suffering from this sort of demonic voice assault and rapidly and easily dismissed the demonic entities – it really is not rocket science.[11]

Secular psychiatrists have now developed a treatment for voice hearing schizophrenics that mimics deliverance ministry (and of course side-steps the issue of demonic entities).[12] It is to recognize the voices as significant, and self-directing, and then have the patient “negotiate” terms of a cease-fire with them to where they stop assaulting the person.[13] Such pacts include for instance, becoming a student of Buddhism (but NEVER of the Bible).  A psychiatrist working 45 years earlier in California’s psychiatric wards had in fact discovered that such assaulting voices could be shut down by consistent Bible reading and disobeying their commands.[14]

I have suggested that mass shooters, such as the shooter of Sandy Hook Elementary were highly demonized, and in some cases hear voices to direct them in their killing spree, and at the end, to suicide.[15] Of course we can’t interview either the Sand Hook or Vegas shooters to verify this. However, in the 1970s the New York City serial killer, David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”) confessed that he was directed by a voice, emanating from a dog, to kill people.[16]

All of which is to say that the many (most, all?) of the mass shooters of recent decades were heavily demonized while they were committing their atrocities. This is especially indicated in those killers where no other motive has been discovered as plausible. It seems that these persons, totally ignorant of spiritual hygiene or of the reality of the demonic world, fell into increasingly negative fantasies of persecution, opposition, anger, etc. that finally broached, under demonic tutelage, into active massacre.

The bad news is that given the increased secularization of the American public, combined with tremendously easy access to assault rifles and other weapons, such demonically driven massacres are likely to increase in frequency and destructiveness.

But there is good news. There may be a way to stop a mass shooter right in his tracts. It is called a “command disablement” and it is described in Acts 13, when the Apostle Paul disabled the demonized sorcerer Elymas.[17]  

But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.  Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?  Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.  When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord. (vs. 8-12)

In this incident Paul is not being “nice” by contemporary politically correct standards. Rather he manifests the wrath of God that is forceful but also makes provision of mercy - note the blindness is “for a time.”  This is not an aberrant moment for Paul, nor did the Holy Spirit lose control over the formation of scripture in this incident.  Rather, it is consistent with other parts of scripture both Old and New Testament. We should remember that Paul also consigned a young man in his Corinthian congregation to Satan because he was sleeping with his step-mother. Paul intended that his period under Satan’s influence (bodily disease?) would result in his salvation (1 Cor. 5:5).

In both of Paul’s actions, there is a redeeming element to his commands.  That is, Elymas will be blind only for a time, and presumably will have time to reconsider his sorcery and rebellion against God. And the lustful son in Corinth would presumably also had time and opportunity to repent and be saved. This type of action is similar to the classic curses of the Old Testament, but also different.

For instance, the curse in Deut. 28 lays out the negative consequences of disobeying God -  poverty and illness in unequivocal terms and with no hint of reversal:

 All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you.  They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. (vs. 45-46)

The incident recorded in 2 Kings 5 also shows a pattern of irreversibility. It is the story of the Assyrian commander Naaman’s healing of his leprosy by the prophet Elisha. After his healing, Elisha’s servant Gehazi ran after Naaman and lied to receive a substantial gift. Gehazi then lied to the prophet Elisha as to what he had just done. But Elisha said to him:

Image result for gehazi and elishaIs this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.(vs. 27-28)

In another instance Jesus proclaimed an unambiguous curse against a fig tree which withered to the roots (Mark 11:12-13, 20. 

But much more noted in the commentaries and sermons is Jesus’ injunction not to curse our enemies: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Lk. 6:27-28)

This sets up one of those supposed contradictions in scripture, and one often cited by liberal and apostate theologians.  That is, that Paul distorted and often reversed the message of Jesus. For instance, that Jesus was a humble itinerant preacher, but Paul made him into the “Son of God”, etc. In the case under discussion, Paul seemingly cursed a person, but Jesus said no, don’t do that!

But the contradiction is not real. Jesus did command we love, pray for, and not curse our enemies. But Paul did not curse his personal enemy. Rather, he disabled a person who opposed the Kingdom of God through sorcery. We should also point out that through the work of the Pharisees, sorcery and witchcraft were banished from Palestine. Thus, Jesus never, to our knowledge, encountered a sorcerer in his ministry and had no occasion to act as Paul did.

Paul’s use of command disablement in his confrontation with Elymus, has not, to my knowledge, been seen as an example for other Christians in countering sorcery or other forms of evil. The commentaries on the incident are scant and largely miss the point.[18] For instance, St. Jerome, the famous Bible translator (and one of the most irascible folks ever to slip into officially proclaimed sainthood) confused the understanding of the Paul - Elymas confrontation by saying that Elymas’ blindness was permanent.[19] 

Many modern commentators have fared even worse. In a careful search I found few references to this incident except in passing. Evangelical commentators laud Paul’s apostolic power, but give no hint of modern relevancy - as would be expected from the cessationist viewpoint that barely recognizes the legitimacy of present day healing and deliverance prayer.

In my search, I noticed a whole chapter dedicated to the incident. I anticipated reading something useful and enlightening.[20] It was hugely disappointing. The author blended liberal theology with sociological analysis into a mumbo-jumbo that claimed that: 1, the incident is mythological and did not happen (the de-mythologizing hermeneutic) and, 2, Paul’s other actions and prayers, as in Gal. 3:28, make him a practicing Greco-Roman magician by reason of his use of his repetitive incantations. Awful nonsense.

Much closer to serious analysis is Henry P. Hamann’s article, “The Church that Cannot Curse Cannot Bless Either”[21] The author rightfully makes the point that blessing and cursing are biblically united, and that cursing evil is a sign of spiritual maturity. The article expands much time on how the church excommunicated and publicly dammed heretics and evil doers in its earlier period. The reader may remember seeing a scene in the 1964 movie Becket. Richard Burton plays Becket, the Bishop of Canterbury. He excommunicates and damns Lord Gilbert, a friend of King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) - a dramatic and historically accurate presentation. But Hamann does not get beyond the theological into the pastoral, as in, “Should we really do in certain circumstances what Paul did to Elymus?

Some commentators attribute Paul’s command a limited apostolic privilege. That is, that only the original 12 Apostles (plus Paul) had the authority to do such things, but that this is no longer possible to anyone in the Church. One can read Acts in this way, as it was intended by Luke to highlight the power and authority of the Apostles and Paul. In it the Apostles heal the sick and raise the dead by command. But note that the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to include a layperson to do the same type of command healing. Ananias of Damascus prayed over Paul to remove his blindness. Paul described that healing in Acts 22:

 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.  He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him. (vs. 12-13)

Yes, the Twelve Apostles were special by virtue of  Jesus’ promise that they would rule over the tribes of Israel, but not as special or unique as traditional theology often affirms. Beside Paul as an additional Apostle, others are mentioned in the New Testament. Romans 16:7 names two Apostles (of which nothing else is known except that one was a woman).

Ephesian 4: 11 indicates Apostles as a permanent church office. But still, a fair question is, can a disabling command legitimately be used by an ordinary Believer?  Or is that reserved only to one who has received the grace of apostleship (Romans 1:5), or as traditional theology may frame it, one who is a “successor of Apostles” via Bishop’s office.

I believe the answer is that the ordinary believer has the authority to proclaim a command disablement as well as any exorcism (Luke 10: 17) or command healing - as we have just noted. It seems to me the authority over demons given by Jesus to his disciples (then and now) extends to those demons operating in Elymas, or in the Texas and Vegas shooters.

Now all of this is to say that our present discomfort with using Paul’s command disablement on witches and warlocks, and the enemies of the Gospel, has to do with the long standings errors of cessationism. In other words, not properly and totally believing that the scriptures are models for the Church in the 1st Century, in the 12th, in the 18th and today. In an earlier blog posting I pointed out that the Salem witch trials were a disaster because the Church had disabled, via cessationism, the use of the gifts of the Spirit, especially discernment of spirits. And further it was beyond the Protestant (and Catholic for that matter) imagination to use a Pauline type command disablement upon the real witches of Salem.[22]

Let me now share some of my own experiences with proclaiming command disablements. These have been of a pioneer nature, and I do not claim complete success, and I hope for comments and shared accounts from some of my readers.

My first attempt at a command disablement was triggered by a spam email of the type common several years ago. It informed me that I was the inheritor a large fortune left to me by an English millionaire whom I had briefly encountered but profoundly impressed years ago. I only needed to pay a small legal fee…

From my understanding most of these spams originated in Nigeria, where a cottage industry of fleecing naive Americans had arisen. My reply went something like this (I did not save the correspondence, to my regret).

“You are not a liar and a thief, preying on the poor, old and mentally incapacitated. I am a man of God, and as such proclaim upon you a spirit of confusion such that UNTIL YOU REPENT, you will know nothing but poverty and want. This will not be lifted until you repent and find honest employment.”

The next day I received an email reply saying “I am sorry. I am a student in Nigeria trying to earn tuition by “sending out a few letters.”  Apparently my proclamation had done its spiritual good. I repeated that he must forsake his scams and seek honest employment. I never heard from him again.

The next incident involved a telephone scam. Here I had an experience that made me particularly angry at this form of thieving sinfulness. It involved one of my best friends, now deceased. He was an Anglican Priest, some ten years older than I, and a veteran of WWII.  He had flown 31 missions as a navigator on B-24s over Hitler’s “Fortress Europe.”

In his last years of his life, and manifesting early dementia, he fell into a telephone scam. This scammer assured him he had won a lottery, and all he had to do was pay a small fee for legal and tax expenses. He wound up losing the last of his meager savings, about $1,200.

With that in my mind, Carolyn and I received a series of similar telephone calls, in accented English (again, probably from Nigeria) saying that we too had won a great prize, in fact, $1,000,000 dollars. All that was necessary was for us to pay the taxes via a Walmart money order to one of his associates.

As in the email scammer, I proclaimed to the caller that he was a thief and evildoer, preying on the week and gullible. I warned him to repent, or come under a curse of confusion or poverty. In the following days he called twice, protesting that he was innocent, and that I was missing a $1,000,000, and I reiterated my proclamation. I have no further information on him.

Now the reader may ask, where is the biblical warrant to place a spirit of confusion on these folks? There is no evidence they were into witchcraft. In my estimation they were evildoers who preyed on the week with consistent malice.  It also seemed that a spirit of confusion would be the most merciful alternative that would be effective –I did not proclaim illness on him as in Kgs ???, citedabove. There is a scripture that shows that a negative spirit can originate with the Lord.

In 1 Kings 22 we have the story of the alliance between Ahab, king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. They agree to go to war together, but Jehoshaphat wanted prophetic affirmation that they will have victory. The court prophets prophesy success. However, Micaiah, prophesies defeat (which in fact occurred).  Micaiah explains why the court prophets were deceived:

Therefore, hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left.  And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that.  Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’

“‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. “‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’ (vs. 19-22)

I will be the first to admit all of this is tentative. There is simply little Christian literature on the issues I have raised.[23] There is just the scriptural base I have outlined and the evolving understanding the Christian Believer has more authority and power than Believers of former ages, tainted by false theologies, have understood.

Now the punch line of all this: If you and your loved ones are trapped in a mass shooting situation, and the triad of “run, shoot or throw” will not work well, or if you are prompted by the Holy Spirit (and can hear His voice in the chaos and fear of the moment) do a command disablement. Point your boney finger at the assailant and speak to the demons in him/her, “Stop! Be still and confused in the name of Jesus.” 

One of two things will happen. He will stop, and be confused and disarmed when the audience sees what is happening. Or, he will continue shooting, probably you next, but the others to follow.

I posted an earlier version of this article and received a several incredulous comments in my Facebook timeline. One person, a fellow Anglican priest, “unfriended me” and added, “You very foolish person! If you try that {command disablement] the next thing that will happen will be you will find yourself in the presence of Jesus, as he shakes his head and asks why did I do that?”

My answer is that there have been no Christians who have yet tried this, so it may indeed not work. What have you got to lose? You get to heaven a minute or two before the rest of the crowd. But if the command disablement works, you and your loved ones, and the rest of the crowd, will be spared, and the press will also be confused as they try to figure out what happened. Then, in the many press interviews following you can give glory to God and the name of Jesus for the “sign and wonder” that you facilitated, which is the way normal Christian life should work (Heb. 2:1-4)




[1]  “As Texas town mourns, details emerge on gunman's methodical tactics in church massacre.” Washington Post, Posted: November 7 at 7:29 AM 
 [2] Associated Press, “Wilson County Sheriff: 'No way' for people to escape church shooting.” Posted Nov 6, 20`17.
 [3] I cannot locate the original FEMA pamphlet which I read several years ago. It seems to have been taken off line. But downloads for the course that developed out of the original pamphlet can be had at the FEMA site:  The triad is elaborated and well explained in the article by Brett and Kate McKay “What to Do in an Active Shooter Situation” Art of Manliness. Posted Nov 30, 2015.
 [4] On the Ft Hood shooting the Wikipedia article is clear and complete. See ‘2009 Fort Hood shooting.”
[5] For this and other good advice, see the article by Ed Stetzer, How Do We Keep Our Churches Safe in a World Where Evil Is Present? Christianity Today, Posted Nov. 8, 2017.
 [6] I discuss this extensively in Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1996) and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2015). By the mid-Twentieth Century there was some attention to the demonic by Protestant pastors and theologians, way over-due and still mostly ignored by their colleagues in the mainline churches.
[7] A recent book that compares the varies exorcism traditions of Christendom calls the renewed Protestants understandings of exorcism “Evangelical Fundamentalist,” James M. Collins, Exorcism and Deliverance Ministry in the Twentieth Century (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2009).
[8] The classic Pentecostal text on this is the book by Frank and Ida Mae Hammond, Pigs in the Parlor: A Practical Guide to Deliverance (Kirkwood: Impact, 1979). Don Basham’s Deliver Us From Evil (Old Tappen: Chosen, 1972) might be cited as one of many excellent early works in the charismatic wing.
[9] William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). A discussion of the original case upon which the novel and movie were based is found in Howard Newman’s, The Exorcist: The Strange Story Behind the Film (New York: Pinnacle, 1974).
[10] PBS, “JFK” The American Experience series. Aired Nov. 11, 2013. Access to the entire program is at:
[11] William De Arteaga, “The Demonic Factor in Mass Shootings.” Anglican Pentecostal. Posted April 25, 2013.
[12] A fine review article on this way of treating schizophrenics is T.M Luhrmann, “Living With Voices.” The American Scholar.  Posted June 1, 2012.
See also the very fine summary article on schizophrenic patients who hear voices by the New York psychiatrist, Paul Steinberg, “Our Failed Approach to Schizophrenia,” New York Times, Dec. 25,2012.  Dr. Steinberg’s lament is that schizophrenic patients are released from hospitalization way too quickly, and the heavy medication masks that they are not healed. The costs of treating such patient is a major issue. (Note: exorcism of the harassing spirits cost very little. I would be happy to do it for a voluntary donation). 
[13] See my blog posting on this “If it Quacks Like a Duck,” Anglican Pentecostal. Posted. 6/6/17
[14] Wilson Van Dusen, The Natural Depth of Man (New York: Harper & Row, 1972).
[15] De Arteaga. “Demonic Factor.”
[16] The Wikipedia article, “David Berkowitz” has the essential facts.
[17] The following biblical exegesis is taken from my earlier blog “The Disabling Command as Christian Ministry,” Anglican Pentecostal. Posted March 28, 2014. 
[18]I would love to be corrected on this. Please add any information you may have as a comment.
[19] Letter #109 to Riparius. 
[20]Clark A Waltz: “The Cursing Paul: Magical Contents in Acts 13 and the New Testament Apocrypha,” In: Paul Hertig, Robert L Gallagher, eds., Mission in Acts (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2004).
[21] Lutheran Theological Journal 12 #2 (1978), 63-75. This journal is published in Australia. 
[22] William De Arteaga, “The Devil’s Victory in Salem,” Anglican Pentecostal. Posted August 17. 2013. at:  Also available in Pneuma Review. 
[23]A rare and excellent comment on the forceful and sometimes destructive power of the Holy Spirit manifesting in the Old Testament was done by the Rev. Peter Leihart “Samson’s Spirituality,” First Things, Posted June, 21, 2017. I have been recently informed that a book already exists that covers much of the ground of this article, Dale Sides' God Damn Satan: Subduing the Evil Kingdom by the Power of the Biblical Curse ( N.P.: Liberating Ministry for Christ, 200).


The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.

The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE 

Just released is my first book of  plays. Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts). It includes two plays and their postscripts.

The play, “One Day at St. John’s” depicts what everyday life can be like in a church that practices the gifts of the Spirit and the healing/exorcism ministry as normal. Among the events that occur in the course of the play are the healing of a waitress who was scalded with hot coffee, an exorcism (led by a layman) and the “laying of a ghost” to rest.

Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts) can be purchased HERE at Amazon.

The second play, “Joseph ben Jacob,” explores Joseph, husband of Mary, as the dream interpreter, master carpenter, and father of Mary’s other children. It helps explain why Joseph was able to discern correctly his dream about Mary’s first-born.

The postscripts examine the controversial aspects of the plays and focus on two false early gospels which distorted the meaning of the true Gospels. The “Proto-Gospel of James” claimed that Mary was “every virgin” and never had other children, and the “Gospel of Nicodemus” cancelled the true meaning of Jesus’ “descent into Hell” and his ministry there as described in 1 Peter 3 & 4

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.