Exorcism can be defined as the casting out or evicting of demonic or evil spirits that have taken up residence in the human body. We know from the Bible that Jesus cast demonic spirits out of human beings which means that Jesus was the most effective exorcist in human history and His apostles and disciples also cast out evil spirits.
I believe that some of the people that are in our mental institutions and hospitals may be inhabited by some form of demonic spirit while others can treated with medicines. The problem is that all patients are treated with medicines. The only medicine for those who are inhabited by evil spirits is deliverance and it is only the power of Christ that can do that. Discernment is the key here and without the gift of discernment, which comes from God, then we would have no way to tell who needs deliverance.
Scripture does teach that all of mankind is controlled by Satan with the exceptions of the people who have put their faith in Christ and the gift of pardon He offers by His atoning death on the Cross.
Bob Larson is a modern day exorcist who performs exorcisms almost on a daily basis. He has adopted the viewpoint that just about everyone is possessed, even believers in Christ. Below is a video of Bob Larson in action.
To me, this is an example of what an exorcism should not be. This looks like something Barnum & Bailey would have cooked up. Jesus simply spoke and the demons departed. The Apostles both prayed and commanded and the demons left. The Apostles were empowered by Jesus to cast out demons. Note that the Apostles did not perform elaborate rituals employing such devices as crucifixes and holy water. They first prayed to God then commanded the demon to depart.
No human being can cast out an evil spirit from another human being without being anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts chapter 19 we read of an attempt by secular humans trying to cast out demons from another person without being empowered by God. In fact, they were not even believers in Christ. 13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. 14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? 16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
The demon possessed man attacked the would be exorcists and literally whipped them sending them out of the house hurt and with the shame of having their clothes torn off of them.
This reminds me of the people who investigate "haunted houses" and use modern equipment as the weapons used to confront demonic spirits. This is foolish. Taking on the devil without the anointing of the Holy Spirit will always end in defeat.
In the society of today, exorcism is still practiced by much of the world but much of the world tends to believe that the act of casting out demons is mostly superstition.
This brings up some interesting questions.
A. How can one tell if a person is under the control of demons?
B. Are some people who are on medications really under demonic influence?
C. If there is no such thing as demon possession, then how do you explain some of the senseless acts of violence that occur in our world usually with the perpetrators committing suicide after they performed some shocking and brutal act?
As a student of the Bible, I know that this book teaches that all mankind is under the authority of Satan until the day of their salvation. Since salvation comes in the form of a person first realizing he or she is a sinner then accepting the fact that Christ paid the penalty for their sins, Satan loses his authority over that person. Why? Because this person asked for forgiveness from Christ and Christ always honors that request. This person now comes under the authority of Christ. In a sense, this person performs an exorcism on his or her self as Satan loses his right to that person. Christ also gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to seal that person until the day of redemption. This is confirmed in Eph. 4:30 "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
There were many people in Jesus's day who were under Satan's authority, but they did not have an actual spiritual being occupying their body like the ones that Jesus performed in His acts of casting out demons.
There are different types of exorcisms performed in the world today. Almost all religions practice this in one way or another.
In the Catholic Church, only an ordained priest is allowed to perform an exorcism and only with the express permission of the local bishop. Also, the person who is to be exorcised must undergo a medical examination to exclude the possibility of mental illness.
According to the Catholic Church, one of the indicators of demonic possession is speaking in ancient of foreign languages in which the possessed had no prior knowledge. This is interesting because in the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches speaking in tongues is considered a gift from the Holy Spirit. My personal belief is that some of the "speaking in tongues" really is a gift sent from God while others come straight from evil spirits. In a Pentecostal church service, I truly believe that some people truly are praising God in another language while others are blaspheming His name. There is a high emphasis on speaking in tongues in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches which Paul calls the least of the spiritual gifts. Many Baptist churches believe the emphasis on tongue speaking is a doctrine that came straight from the pits of hell.
Another sign of demonic possession, according to the Catholic church, is the possessed has supernatural strength and abilities. This was demonstrated by the demon possessed man in the book of Acts who took on seven men and decisively whipped them. Supernatural abilities could include clairvoyance, speaking to the dead and so on.
Another sign is having knowledge of hidden or remote things in which the possessed had no way of knowing. This reminds me of the modern day psychics and mediums.
Another sign is an aversion to anything that is deemed holy and the possessed showing a proclivity toward blaspheming the name of God.
If blaspheming the name of God is a sign of possession, then just about everybody on this planet has been guilty of that at some point in their life.
A woman named Anneliese Michel was thought to be possessed by the Catholic Church. The movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose was based on her case. Skeptics believe she suffered from mental illness, seizures, hallucinations, and depression.
Jesus and His disciples simply spoke to the evil spirits in a possessed person and the evil spirits departed because they had no choice but to obey the command of Christ who has authority over everyone since He is God. What I see in today's exorcisms is mostly a theatrical drama being played out. It's as if the evil spirits themselves are playing games with the church.
Some of these evil spirits have great power as illustrated in Matt 17:19 - 21 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" 20 So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
According to Jesus Himself, some demons have more power than others and for a person to be given authority to cast out some demons, they have to have a really close spiritual walk with God. Jesus said this was accomplished through prayer and fasting.
The most effective exorcism occurs when a person receives Christ as Lord and Savior when they put their trust in the redemptive work Christ performed on the Cross because the Holy Spirit and a demonic spirit cannot inhabit the same body.