Possession and Exorcism - multi-disciplinary studies

I am currently writing the introduction to a book that I am co-editing with William Kay of multi-disciplinary studies on exorcism (none written by me). It is called

Exorcism and Deliverance: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives.
Edited by William K. Kay and Robin A. Parry. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2009 (d.v.)

We have chapters by biblical scholars (OT and NT), theologians, historians (with a study on the patristic period and another on 20th C), a global Christianity guy (with a chapter on exorcism in Africa, Asia and South America), an anthropologist, a psychologist, a philosopher, a cultural studies person (looking at possession and exorcism in pop culture since the 1970s). We have three theologians - one from Africa who thinks that demons are evil spirits and one from London who thinks along Walter Wink kind of lines. Then we have a practical theologians pondering issues of praxis.

It is fascinating stuff but I have the job of writing the introduction and it is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to write.

The basic idea behind the book is that Christians are wise to consider the light shed on exorcism by a range of disciplines. We have a lot to learn from historians, anthropologists, psychologists, neurologists, etc, etc. But the issue of exactly what we can learn is not all that clear. It does depend on where one comes down on certain fundamental questions on the ontology of the demoninc.

For instance, if you think that a demon is a non-physical personal centre of consciousness (the trad Christian view) then you may not be overly sympathetic to psychological accounts, most of which start from the assumption that whatever is causing the possession it is not an actual demon. But if you were more of a Walter Wink kind of person then you may wish to incorporate some of that psychological stuff into your theological account.

(That said, trad Christians may say that the psychological accounts explain some experiences perfectly well because some 'possessions' are only apparent possessions and not real possessions. However, there remain some hard core cases for which the psychological accounts simply do not work. Of course, one problem here is the diagnostic one. How can you tell if John is really possessed or simply seems to be possessed if the symptoms can appear so similar?)

In fact there are so many issues and so many options on all this interdisciplinary stuff that I'm thinking "Man Alive! I have bitten off far more than I can chew on this one!"

So pray for clarity of thought because I really need it! (But, as I said, it is really fascinating)


brett jordan said…
you have my prayers... this stuff does my head in as well :-)
Hi Robin,

I don't have an e-mail address for you, but if you contact me at mike_kim_bell [at] hotmail [dot] com
I would like to send you a $20 gift certificate for www.bookling.com as a thank you for your wonderful contribution to the blogosphere.

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Mike Bell - Eclectic Christian.

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