ArticlePDF Available

Achieving a Christocentric deliverance praxis in the churches of Matatiele and Maluti



This article describes a study of deliverance praxis in the South African church, focusing on a qualitative analysis of the exorcism practices examined therein. Between November 2018 and March 2019, a small-scale empirical study was conducted in the forty-eight churches of Matatiele and Maluti in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, which arguably constitute a microcosm of the general South African church as regards diversity and representation. The study identified non-optimal deliverance practices that need to be reviewed. As detailed in this article, its objective was to advocate Christocentric deliverance instead and to highlight the ecclesial praxis best-suited to these churches' situation. Consequently, this article advances a specific, self-regulatory diagnostic tool to create a more God-glorifying deliverance praxis and preclude the need for state intervention to regulate exorcism in South Africa.
– 39 –
Mzondi A M M & G Harrison 2022, ‘Achieving a Christocentric deliverance
praxis in the churches of Matatiele and Maluti, South Africa’, African
Theological Journal for Church and Society, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 39-58
Achieving a Christocentric deliverance praxis in
the churches of Matatiele and Maluti,
South Africa
Abraham Modisa Mkhondo Mzondi
South African Theological Seminary (SATS)
Gordon Harrison
South African Theological Seminary (SATS)
This article describes a study of deliverance praxis in the South African
church, focusing on a qualitative analysis of the exorcism practices
examined therein. Between November 2018 and March 2019, a small-
scale empirical study was conducted in the forty-eight churches of
Matatiele and Maluti in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, which
arguably constitute a microcosm of the general South African church
as regards diversity and representation. The study identified non-
optimal deliverance practices that need to be reviewed. As detailed in
this article, its objective was to advocate Christocentric deliverance
instead and to highlight the ecclesial praxis best-suited to these
churches’ situation. Consequently, this article advances a specific, self-
regulatory diagnostic tool to create a more God-glorifying deliverance
praxis and preclude the need for state intervention to regulate
exorcism in South Africa.
Healing and deliverance from demonic possession formed part of the ministry
of Jesus Christ and the early church and continue to play a crucial role in sub-
Saharan African Christianity. In a contemporary context, however, this ministry
– 40 –
has been tarnished by rampant fraudulent abuse and significant tendencies
towards syncretism. Many mercenary charlatans have taken advantage of the
naïve and desperate faith of a spiritually and economically vulnerable African
population. This study of the deliverance praxis of the forty-eight churches of
Matatiele and Maluti, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, uncovers evidence
of dangerous religious practices, the use of hypnotism, emotional and financial
exploitation, and unscrupulous deception. It also highlights a deep-rooted
ancestral veneration praxis within Christian deliverance and the appropriation
of traditional healers’ paraphernalia and practices. Consequently, the study
cautions against taking an exclusively phenomenological approach to the study
of deliverance, advocating instead the adoption of a Christocentric filter to
bridge the divide between the experience of supernatural deliverance and a
theoretical or academic understanding of it (Anderson 2018:317). Given that
God chose to reveal himself and model deliverance praxis in Jesus Christ,
considering the mission, teaching methodology, and operational principles of
Christ must establish the best deliverance practices and, by extension, expose
corruption and abuse wherever there is disparity. Deliverance praxis in the
churches of the research area, when viewed through a Christocentric filter, is
far from normative. The conspicuous discrepancies and abuse cannot simply
be ascribed to isolated aberrance, cultural context, or denominational
idiosyncrasy. Clearly, malevolent intentions have infiltrated the African Church
and are freely operating to exploit the vulnerable and ruin the integrity of the
Christian faith. This article addresses these abuses by designing a
Christocentric deliverance approach to empower the churches in question.
Research method
Our study used the four distinct steps in Richard Osmer’s Practical Theology
(2008): (a) the descriptive-empirical task gathering empirical data to
understand the situation and context; (b) the interpretive task using
analytical tools from other disciplines to clarify and comprehend this situation;
(c) the normative task – establishing theological traditions, ethical norms, and
best practices; and (d) the strategic task proposing an enhanced or
alternative praxis and action plan. That is, the steps ask, ‘What is happening?’,
‘Why is it happening?’, ‘What ought to happen?’, and ‘How might we
– 41 –
We used these steps to develop four subsidiary research questions to
supplement our main one, which asked what strategies could be developed to
ensure a more Christocentric deliverance praxis in the Matatiele and Maluti
churches. The subsidiary questions were: (a) How is deliverance currently
conducted in the various churches of Matatiele and Maluti? (b) Why are there
exploitative and abusive deliverance practices in some of these churches? (c)
What are the biblical models or prototypes of deliverance? (d) What measures
could be implemented to develop a more Christocentric deliverance praxis in
the Matatiele and Maluti churches? The study hypothesised that a strategy to
create a more God-glorifying and Christocentric deliverance praxis could be
This article will present a brief overview of exorcism in Western church
history and from an African perspective – before outlining the findings of the
study. It will then discuss the Gospel of Mark and the Book of Acts, using
Biblical examples to illuminate normative exorcism praxis. Finally, it will
propose a specific model of Christocentric exorcism praxis for the churches in
Matatiele and Maluti.
A brief view of Western perspectives on exorcism
Though popular western literature in works such as A Christmas Carol
(Dickens 1991), the Harry Potter series (Rowling 2014), or The Exorcist (Blatty
2011) has evoked great curiosity in the paranormal, Western post-
Reformation Protestant theology has tended to dismiss it as the product of
hoaxes, psychological disturbances, and the imagination (Brady 1995:152).
Detractors postulate various psychological theories to explain bizarre
ecclesiastical behaviour and extreme religious experience, including
deliverance from demonic possession (Bull 2011; Collins 1988; McDonald
2012). Their explanations point to stage hypnotism, emotionalism, fraudulent
trickery, and mental illnesses such as psychosis or dissociative identity
disorder. Even in seminary training, the traditional Roman Catholic acceptance
of the supernatural now coexists with a modern secular scepticism of its
ostensible manifestations (Brady 1995:153).
Alongside these theological developments, medical science has advanced
exponentially since the time of Neolithic trephination, when discs of bone
– 42 –
were removed from the skull to allow demons to escape (Pressman 2001:98).
Multiple scholars have highlighted the difficulty of distinguishing between
psychopathology and demonology and, by implication, the need for
psychotherapy or deliverance (Bull 2011; Collins 1988; McDonald 2012; Rosik
1997; Rowan and Dwyer 2015). In particular, Jean Mercer explores the
interface between deliverance and conventional psychotherapy and highlights
possible areas of abuse in the deliverance ministry (2013:595). She mentions
the American Psychological Association’s code of conduct (2013) as a useful
benchmark for the ethics of deliverance (Mercer 2013:605), though for most
Christians, especially Evangelicals, the Bible still provides the ultimate ethical
Ultimately, the abuse of deliverance fuels contemporary Western scepticism
and mitigates Christian witness. It discredits authentic miraculous events by
association and undermines the faith of devoted Christians. There are many
abuses and excesses in contemporary deliverance ministry but the sceptical
Western tendency to disregard exorcism in response (throwing the baby out
with the bathwater) ought to be avoided.
Exorcism in church history and from African perspectives
Cristian Dumitrescu explains that during the first three centuries of the Early
Church, many considered performing powerful acts of healing, prophecy,
exorcism, and speaking in tongues to be key indicators of baptism in the Holy
Spirit (2015:28). However, interest in exorcism waned subsequently: Apostolic
Fathers such as Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, Ignatius, and Barnabas did
not deal explicitly with this ministry while the Didache deliberately avoided
discussing the miraculous, probably to dissociate Christianity from the arcane
machinations and deceptions of charlatan exorcists (Twelftree 2007:285). By
the third century AD, Orthodox Christians in Alexandria were engaging in a
blend of exorcism rites derived from Hellenistic culture, ancient Babylonian
culture, Jewish Rabbinic practices, and Egyptian papyri; these involved the
invocation of foreign names, incantations, and rites such as exsufflation
(Twelftree 2007:291).
Later still, Peter Canisius (1521-1597), a Jesuit priest operating in Augsburg,
introduced a series of ‘staged exorcisms’ between 1560 and 1580 to promote
– 43 –
Counter-Reformation Catholicism (Young 2016:106). He was followed by the
renowned Catholic exorcist Girolamo Menghi (1529–1609), whose magical
practice involved the suffumigation of roots and herbs. Menghi’s 1572 work,
Compendio dell’arte essorcistica (Compendium of the Exorcist’s Art), supports
the existence of incubi and succubi and asserts that demons can shape-shift
and adopt the appearance of animals (Young 2016:108). Pietro Stampa’s Fuga
Satanae (Flight of Satan,1597) fuses ‘exorcism, counter-witchcraft and
apotropaic practices’ (Young 2016:110) in a way reminiscent of contemporary
deliverance praxis. Its anti-witchcraft measures include burning witchcraft
instruments, suffumigating the afflicted, burning written names and images of
demons, tying a stole around the neck, exorcising objects, blessing candles,
and blessing houses by sprinkling holy water and placing an inscribed wax cross
in them as an apotropaic amulet (Young 2016:111). Subsequently, Frans Anton
Mesmer (1734–1815) claimed he could cure people by transmitting a vital
force through his fingers that caused them to convulse and enter a trance-like
state resembling demonic possession (Young 2016:156). His approach was the
forerunner of hypnotism (Tartakovsky 2018:1).
Questionable exorcism practices thus have a long history within the church,
including in the now-sceptical West, and were readily adopted in Africa.
Admittedly, secular and ecclesiastical Western intellectualism and rationalism
have failed to apprehend the profound beauty of African heritage, spirituality,
and cultural expression for many centuries. As G. C. Oosthuizen laments,
patriarchal benevolence and missionary zeal led the West to impose
Eurocentric theology and religious views onto the indigenous African
worldview (1997:57). Nevertheless, in the case of exorcism, the notion of
Christian deliverance resonated with many constructs of the Pan-African, non-
dichotomous worldview of Ubuntu, resulting in its widespread acceptance by
Africans (Mzondi 2014:210).
The Ubuntu worldview sees malady and misfortune as stemming from
witchcraft or curses, which emanate from spiritual or human agents
(Asamoah-Gyadu 2015:23). Deliverance, through breaking curses and warding
off evil, provides the spiritual solution that restores harmony and wellbeing
(Oosthuizen 1997:58). Several of the core values of this fundamental and
pervasive African worldview, Ubuntu, resonate with the Christian Gospel
message community, respect, sharing, and caring. Two others belief in a
– 44 –
divine world and the seriti/ isithunzi (vital/moral force) provide challenges
when reconciling the belief systems of Christianity and African Traditional
Religions, particularly with regard to ancestral veneration and the use of
tangible objects like apotropaic amulets in deliverance (Mzondi 2014:294).
Buti Vincent Modiko explains that one of the attractive features of the African
Initiated Churches is their vigorous style of worship, which includes dancing,
beating drums, and other rites and sacrifices reminiscent of ritual ancestral
veneration (2011:3). The cultural and spiritual heritage from the historical
church certainly has a role to play in contemporary deliverance praxis, but
indigenisation and the syncretisation of practices from African Traditional
Religion with traditional Christian worship have created a unique blend.
According to Mookgo S. Kgatle, prophets and the afflicted enter a trance-like
state as evil spirits are expelled and the Holy Spirit received (2017:3). He
believes that the prophet identifies the offending spirit, establishes the root of
the problem, and deals with it effectively, which may take several days using
symbolic healing objects such as staff, cloth, blue and white uniform, and, most
significantly, water. A major source of contention and division within
Pentecostal and Protestant Churches, therefore, is whether and how to
accommodate ancestral veneration and other traditional aspects of African
Traditional Religions within the church.
African support for deliverance is vested in culture and traditions, historical
church roots, West African Pentecostalism and the prosperity gospel
teachings, biblical instruction and example, and experiential evidence. In
particular, the prevailing socio-economic conditions on the African continent
favour Pentecostalism and prosperity gospel teachings, which provide hope of
deliverance from abject poverty, illness, and the fear of witchcraft and evil
spirits (Golo 2013:369–370; Sackey 2002). Significantly, the bizarre and
extreme occurrences found during many African deliverance services are most
alien to those who do not feel the need for a God of miraculous healing,
protection, and provision.
Deliverance praxis in the churches of Matatiele and Maluti
Our study’s forty-eight participants ranged from affluent, white, commercial
farmers to indigent, black, peri-urban residents. Questionnaires were
– 45 –
administered to each leader of these Pentecostal, Catholic, Evangelical,
Reformed, and African Independent churches in the Matatiele and Maluti area.
The questionnaire was detailed, requiring both quantitative and qualitative
responses, and notable case studies were recorded in addition to it. Following
Patricia Phillips, Jack Phillips, and Bruce Aaron’s Survey Basics, the
questionnaire was also available in isiXhosa to minimise the Hawthorne Effect
(2013:44) while varied questions involving binary responses, polar adjectives,
multiple choices, rating scales, levels of agreement, importance rankings, and
open- and closed-ended options (Phillips P, Phillips J, and Aaron 2013:85–101)
were employed.
Of the forty-eight churches in the research area, forty-seven completed the
detailed, semi-structured questionnaire, which provided quantitatively and
qualitatively rich data for analysis. Video- and audio-recorded observation
sessions and interviews supplemented the data from questionnaires. These
were transcribed and the data was stratified into three primary streams: (a)
Eucharistic/Sacramental churches, which comprised 21,3% of the sample, (b)
neo-Pentecostal-Charismatic, 42,6% of it, and (c) Evangelical, 31,9%. Two
churches (4,2% of the whole) were not comfortable to be categorised as
belonging to any of the streams above.
The study showed that 91,9% of the church leaders engage in deliverance from
possession, with a high degree of individual variation. This practice is most
frequently performed in neo-Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches. Of church
leaders in Matatiele and Maluti, 87% believe deliverance is an essential
ministry for the African context and view deliverance as more important than
sacraments and prophecy, but less important than worship and baptism. In
contrast, the Evangelical stream were more likely to consider deliverance the
least important facet of Christianity. All the participants agreed that humans
can be possessed by demons, although only 87% of church leaders believed
that Christians could be possessed.
Furthermore, there was typically a strong agreement that deliverance should
take place before baptism, using the name of Jesus only, but general
disagreement with the idea that demons leave during the baptismal process.
The Eucharistic/Sacramental stream believed deliverance should be
conducted according to a set liturgy, and generally most pastors strongly
– 46 –
favoured reading Scripture during deliverance and including confession in the
process. There was also strong support for mass deliverance and general
disagreement across all the streams that deliverance should be conducted in
private. Only three church leaders dissented from the idea that all deliverance
should be conducted in the power of the Holy Spirit. The participants strongly
supported addressing demons directly and modelling deliverance praxis on the
work of Jesus Christ.
The data further revealed that 90,9% of the church leaders use tangible objects
during deliverance sessions: the Bible (used by 90,1% of leaders), followed by
anointing oil (43,2%) and holy water (36,4%). Sacraments, crucifixes, incense,
salt, and candles are each used by over a fifth of church leaders.
Additionally, the data from the participants reveals that common deliverance
praxis includes commanding demonic forces to leave in the name of Jesus and
in the power of the Holy Spirit, supported by prayer, fasting, intercession, and
laying on of hands. Although pastors emphasised that there is no set
deliverance formula, the data shows specific deliverance approaches in each
of the church streams. The Eucharistic/Sacramental churches, who rely on
liturgy and tangible objects, tend to be more deliberate and thorough in their
preparations, often require hierarchical approval, and often use designated
and trained exorcists. The neo-Pentecostal-Charismatic churches have a more
vibrant, spontaneous, and loud deliverance praxis, with words of knowledge,
prophecy, singing, breaking of curses, and vigorous commands issued to the
demons. In these churches, demonic spirits manifest in acts such as speaking
in different voices, vomiting, spitting, screaming, and slithering on the floor.
Amongst the Zionist churches, deliverance may also include many features of
African Traditional Religion, including animal sacrifice, ancestral veneration,
fortune telling, the use of herbs, and burning incense. The extensive use of
water and other tangible items, and the integration of ancestral veneration,
separate the Zionist churches from other Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches.
As indicated earlier, Evangelical churches use deliverance less frequently,
typically in small groups with mature Christians laying on hands, praying,
reading the Bible, administering holy water, and commanding evil spirits to
– 47 –
Finally, the data reveals that abuse of deliverance ministry is rife in Matatiele
and Maluti. Almost three fifths of church leaders in Matatiele and Maluti
indicated that hypnosis was used in deliverance. In one observed case study,
Christian rhetoric and carefully choreographed stage hypnosis were
interwoven into a quasi-spiritual experience. There was an overt agenda
to emotionally charge the atmosphere, in cheerleader fashion, through
body language, repetition, and the use of emotive phrases. With
considerable financial incentives to exploit the gullible and uneducated,
fraudulent behaviour is a prevalent feature of certain deliverance contexts.
The sale of sacred water, oils, bangles, and protection stickers in various
churches within the research area suggests the presence of avarice and
unscrupulous, financially motivated deception.
Normative Christocentric deliverance
Reflecting on exorcism praxis in Galilee helps contextualise the ministry of
Jesus and his disciples. Several biblical accounts of deliverance in Mark and
Acts are particularly illuminating: in the Capernaum synagogue (Mark 1:23–
39), on the blind and mute man (Mark 3:10–15, 20–27), on the Gadarene
demoniac (Mark 5:1-20), when the disciples are sent out (Mark 6:7–13), on the
daughter of a Gentile woman (Mark 7:24–30), on the deaf and mute boy (Mark
9:14–29), at the conclusion of Mark (Mark 16:9–20), when the apostles heal
many (Acts 5:12–16), concerning Philip in Samaria and Simon the Sorcerer
(Acts 8:4–28), on the slave girl with a spirit of divination (Acts 16:16–19), and
on the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:11–20).
The Book of Mark is generally considered the earliest gospel (Hurtado 2011:2),
written around AD 70 (Kurian 2015:11) and providing source material for
Matthew and Luke. It was written in the ‘Palestinian environment of the
historical Jesus’ (Stein 2008:11), primarily for Roman unbelievers, and does not
include an account of the birth of Jesus, any genealogies, or many of Jesus’
teachings. Instead, Mark outlines the powerful ministry of Jesus and focuses
on his ultimate sacrifice in propitiation and atonement for the sins of mankind.
Mark records eighteen miracles (including four exorcisms and references to
many more) but only four parables and one extended discourse (Pawson
2015:788). The numerous, fast-paced accounts of Christ’s power to banish the
agents of Satan and to heal diseases are designed to attest to his authority as
– 48 –
the Son of God (Akin 2014:3) and appeal to Roman pragmatism (Short
2008:1106). Mark thus stresses Jesus’ spiritual engagement with demonic
forces more than the other Gospels, though this only serves to underpin the
centrality of Christ’s victory on the cross as the suffering servant (Hurtado
Luke, the author of Acts, carefully compiled and documented pertinent events
in Palestine and the Near East from AD 27 until Paul’s first imprisonment
around AD 62. In Acts, Luke provides the most significant events related to the
early church regarding God’s salvation plan and the fulfilment of promises and
prophecy, reassuring the church that, despite the physical ascension of Jesus,
God’s presence and power is still available and active (Adeyemo 2006:1297).
The seven above-mentioned pericopes from Mark illustrate the deliverance
praxis of Jesus, anchored by his authoritative commands to demons to exit
possessed individuals. Nevertheless, brief verbal exchanges, including Jesus’
frequent instructions to demons to maintain his messianic anonymity, do not
form part of the exorcism rites per se. Thus, in the four passages from Acts, the
apostles emulate Jesus’ praxis but issue commands in Jesus’ name, invoking
his authority rather than depending on their own abilities and powers. Paul’s
use of handkerchiefs and aprons to effect healing and exorcism in Acts 19:12
form a secondary praxis. Flowing from these observations, the mission, life,
and work of Jesus Christ and his apostles provide an unambiguous normative
prototype for authentic, God-glorifying deliverance praxis. They enable the
extraction of biblical, Christocentric principles to contextualise this paper’s
In brief, this article draws four significant Christocentric conclusions from the
pericopes in Mark: (a) Jesus Christ has no regard for man-instituted religious
constructs; (b) he does not tolerate idolatrous syncretisation of worship; (c) he
does not exploit spiritual power for material gain; (d) his humility is antithetical
to religious arrogance and abuse of power. Six lesser Christocentric
deliverance principles derived from these passages are: (e) deliverance praxis
must reflect Christ’s mercy and love; (f) faith and trust in Jesus are required;
(g) the signs and wonders associated with deliverance are for building faith and
not for entertainment; (h) deliverance may be conducted by laity and is not
– 49 –
the preserve of clergy; (i) deliverance is not intrinsically linked with baptism;
(j) deliverance is extended to all.
A strategic action plan to enhance Christocentric
deliverance praxis in the research area
In a contemporary African context, portraying Jesus as a loving and
compassionate liberator of the poor and marginalised, rather than an ancestor
or traditional healer, will help normalise the practice of salvation. A useful way
to mediate the gospel of Christ's liberation in this context is to emphasise and
demonstrate his love, compassion, and care for those poor and marginalised.
Conversely, combining the rhetoric and practice of salvation with ancestral
mediation, and using objects associated with traditional healing, undermines
the exclusivity of Christ as the saviour and only mediator between man and
God. They are reminiscent of the operations of inyanga, izangoma, and
mamosebeletsi, and of maSione, amaZayoni, and Bapostola, which underpin
belief in ancestral conservation (Mzondi 2019:113).
Some denominations have taken precautionary measures to counteract the
frenzied deliverance praxis of ecclesial deceivers. To avoid accusations of
engagement in extreme practices, certain clergy refrain from participating in
exorcisms while others denounce exorcism and everything associated with it.
This latter view overcorrects, to the detriment of those in need of deliverance,
but it stems from the rampant abuse of deliverance in so many churches,
reinforcing the need for protective measures drawn from the best practices of
established denominational policies. Only by consciously guarding against
both extremes can deliverance continue in a Christlike manner.
Several denominations provide useful practical guidelines for deliverance. The
1999 revision of the Roman Catholic Rite of Exorcism prohibits exorcism on
people considered mentally ill or under a spell or curse, mandating a pre-
exorcism medical examination (Burton 2017:2.i). The Anglican House of
Bishops’ Guidelines for Good Practice in the Deliverance Ministry (1975, revised
2012) contains five main principles: ‘(a) [deliverance] should be undertaken by
experienced persons authorised by the diocesan bishop, (b) it should be done
in the context of prayer and sacrament, (c) it should be done in collaboration
with the resources of medicine, (d) it should be followed up by continuing
– 50 –
pastoral care, (e) it should be done with the minimum of publicity’ (The House
of Bishops 2017:2–3). A multi-disciplinary, holistic approach involving ‘pastoral
and sacramental care’, theology, psychology, and psychiatry is advocated. The
praxis indicated involves ‘professional counselling, prayer, absolution,
anointing, laying on of hands and Holy Communion’ (Archbishops’ Council
2000:169). The Methodist deliverance guide follows very similar lines
(Methodist Church guidelines 2020:1) but the Dutch Reformed Church
provides the following interesting additions: (a) the service of deliverance
should be an extraordinary service and not routine; (b) people who practise
this ministry have a great responsibility not to cause damage by treating
sickness (especially psychiatric disturbances) as possession or demonisation;
(c) care must be taken not to adopt an animistic view of the ministry or to
believe that certain objects contain magical powers, nor to have long
confrontational discussions with evil entities or revel in the triumphalism of
sensational deliverance services (Die Kerkorde 2015:183).
Reviewing contemporary praxis in the light of Christocentric principles enabled
us to identify abuse and non-optimal deliverance praxis and to generate an
appropriate diagnostic and corrective tool to assist churches in analysing and
refining their operation with prayerful introspection. The proposed diagnostic
strongly encourages those conducting the ministry of deliverance to spend
time in prayer and fasting before exercising the ministry. It further assumes
that those who require deliverance are not born-again believers. They need to
be provided with relevant counselling after deliverance and be taught the
importance of conversion, that is, to have a personal encounter with the Lord
Jesus Christ after the deliverance session.
This tool comprises a flow chart with corrective feedback loops. Stage 1
ascertains whether or not deliverance praxis is in accordance with the mission
of Christ, is biblical, and follows Christocentric principles. Stage 2 filters out
spiritual, physical, financial, emotional, and sexual abuse. Stage 3 deals with
the use of tangible objects; a checklist of eleven pertinent questions highlight
areas of concern. The mission of Christ identified in Luke 4:18 and the
aforementioned examples in Mark and Acts are accompanied by the ten
Christocentric principles detailed above: (a) Jesus Christ has no regard for man-
instituted religious constructs; (b) Christ does not tolerate idolatrous
syncretisation of worship; (c) Jesus does not exploit spiritual power for
– 51 –
material gain; (d) the humility of Jesus is antithetical to religious arrogance and
abuse of power; (e) deliverance praxis must reflect Christ’s mercy and love; (f)
faith and trust in Jesus are required; (g) the signs and wonders associated with
deliverance are for building faith and not for entertainment; (h) deliverance
may be conducted by laity and is not the preserve of clergy; (i) deliverance is
not intrinsically linked with baptism; (j) deliverance is extended to all.
The diagnostic tool is as follows:
– 52 –
– 53 –
Stage 3
The use of tangible objects in deliverance is not
normative. Complete the
checklist below. If you answer YES to any of the following questions, please
review this practice in the light of the Christological principles. Return to
step 3 of Stage 1.
Are these tangible objects also
associated with the ways of
the ancestors and traditional healers?
Are these objects assigned powers to bring good fortune,
avoid curses, or ward off evil?
Do these objects add additional power to the deliverance
Do members of the
congregation purchase these items from
the church or members of the church?
Do these objects include medicinal herbs and potions?
Does the use of these tangible objects replace the need for
Are these objects used to call up spirits?
Is the justification of these objects based on historical
church precedent rather than the Scriptures?
Does the use of these objects cause any physical pain or
result in humiliation of the afflicted?
– 54 –
Does the use of these objects result in an altered
state of
consciousness, for example a trance?
Is the use of these objects in deliverance linked with
This study demonstrates that many excesses, aberrations, and religious abuses
in each discussed church tradition still accompany exorcism. Nonetheless, it
observes that one can argue for authentic deliverance praxis grounded in the
ministry of Christ, as shown in seven pericopes from Mark and in the ministry
of his disciples presented in three passages from Acts. This argument enabled
us to generate a detailed, Christocentric strategy for the Matatiele and Maluti
churches of the Eastern Cape, South Africa, to ensure a more authentic and
God-glorifying approach to deliverance. Consequently, our main hypothesis –
that a strategy could be developed to create a more God-glorifying and
Christocentric deliverance praxis in these churches – is supported. To this end,
the diagnostic tool also aims to preclude the need for state intervention in
South Africa to regulate exorcism, as individual churches apply the tool.
– 55 –
Adeyemo, T. (ed.), 2006, Africa Bible Commentary, Word Alive Publishers,
Akin, D.L., 2014, Christ-centred exposition: exalting Jesus in Mark, Holman
Reference, Nashville.
American Psychiatric Association, 2013, Diagnostic and statistical manual of
mental disorders, American Psychiatric Association, Arlington.
Anderson, 2018, The Spirit and the African spiritual world. In V. Snynan, A.
Yong and J.K. Asamoah-Gyadu (eds), Global renewal Christianity. (Lake
Mary: Charisma House), pp. 304–320.
Archbishops’ Council, 2000, A time to heal: a contribution towards the
ministry of healing, Church House Publishing, London.
Asamoah-Gyadu, J.K., 2015, ‘Witchcraft accusations and Christianity in
Africa’, International Bulletin of Missionary Research 39(1), 23–27.
Blatty, W.P., 2011, The Exorcist, HarperCollins, New York.
Brady, E., 1995. Bad scares and joyful hauntings: “priesting” the supernatural
predicament. In B. Walker (ed.), Out of the ordinary: folklore and the
supernatural. (Boulder: Boulder University Press of Colorado), pp.145-
Bull, D.L., 2011, ‘A phenomenological model for therapeutic exorcism for
Dissociative Identity Disorder’, Journal of Psychology and Theology
Burton, C. (ed.), 2017, Traditional and revised Catholic rites of exorcism (2
vols.), Lizard King Books.
Collins, G.R., 1988, Christian counselling: a comprehensive guide, W.
Publishing House, Nashville.
– 56 –
Die Kerkorde van die Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, 2015, viewed 1 June
2020, from
Dickens, C., 1991, A Christmas carol, New York, USA, Dover Publications.
Dumitrescu, C., 2015, ‘A historical survey of healing and exorcism’, Journal of
Adventist Mission Studies 11(2), 25–44.
Golo, B.K., 2013, ‘Africa’s poverty and its Neo-Pentecostal ‘liberators’: an
ecotheological assessment of Africa’s prosperity gospellers’, Pneuma
35: 366–384.
Hurtado, L.W., 2011, Understanding the Bible commentary series: Mark,
Baker Books, Grand Rapids.
Kgatle, M.S., 2017, ‘The unusual practices within some Neo-Pentecostal
churches in South Africa: Reflections and recommendations’, HTS
Teologiese Studies/ Theological Studies 73(3).
Kurian, G.T., 2015, A quick look at Christian History: a chronological timeline
through the centuries, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene.
McDonald, D., 2012, The role of the psychiatric advisor in the ministry of
deliverance, viewed 29 July 2019, from
Mercer, J., 2013, ‘Deliverance, demonic possession, and mental illness: some
considerations for mental health professionals’, Mental Health,
Religion & Culture 16(6), 595–611.
Methodist Church guidelines for deliverance ministry, 2020, viewed 16 March
2020, from
– 57 –
Modiko, B, V., 2011, The concept of healing power in the African Initiated
Churches (AICs) with special reference to the Vaal Triangle,
unpublished MA thesis, North-West University, South Africa.
Mzondi, A.M.M., 2014, The end of essentialist gods and Ubuntu: a feminist
critical evaluation, unpublished DLitt et Phil thesis, University of
________ 2019, Ubuntu Pentecostalism (2nd ed). Roodepoort, South Africa:
Anthony’s Fast Print.
Oosthuizen, G.C., 1997, ‘Indigenous Christianity and the future of the church
in South Africa’, International Bulletin of Missionary Research 21(1),
Osmer, R., 2008, Practical Theology: An Introduction, Kindle edition,
Eerdmans, Grand Rapids.
Pawson, D., 2015, Unlocking the Bible: a unique overview of the whole Bible,
William Collins, London.
Phillips, P.P., J.J. Phillips, and B. Aaron, 2013, Survey Basics, ASTD Press,
Alexandria, USA.
Pressman, J.D., 2001, ‘Neurosurgical exorcism’, Paediatric and Perinatal
Epidemiology 15, 98-99.
Rowling, J.K., 2014, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Bloomsbury,
New York.
Rosik, C.H., 1997, ‘When discernment fails: the case for outcome studies on
exorcism’, Journal of Psychology and Theology 25, 354-363.
Rowan, K. and K. Dwyer, 2015, ‘Demonic possession and deliverance in the
diaspora: phenomenological descriptions from Pentecostal deliverees’,
Mental Health, Religion & Culture 18(6),440–455.
– 58 –
Sackey, B.M., 2002, ‘Spiritual deliverance as a form of health delivery: a case
study of the Solid Rock Chapel International’, BTIB 4(2),150-171.
Short, S.S., 2008. Mark. In F.F. Bruce (ed.), Zondervan Bible Commentary
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan), pp.1104–1136.
Stein, R.H., 2008, Mark, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids.
Tartakovsky, M., 2018, Psychology’s history of being mesmerized, viewed 24
March 2020, from
The House of Bishops’ guidelines for good practice in the deliverance ministry,
1975 (revised 2012), viewed 3 August 2020, from
Twelftree, G., 2007, In the name of Jesus: exorcism among early Christians,
Baker Academic, Grand Rapids.
Young, F., 2016, A History of Exorcism in Catholic Christianity, Palgrave
Macmillan, Cambridge.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The focus on god and Ubuntu constructs affirms the fact that people are natural social constructivists involved in a continuous process of conceptualising ideas that give meaning to their contexts. The juxtaposing of these two constructs extends what is known of new god ideas to that of Ubuntu or African 'humanness.' Whereas ideology criticism served as the broad overarching hermeneutical tool for this study, feminism was used as the specific interpretative framework to critically scrutinise mostly patriarchally biased conceptualisations of god and Ubuntu. In contrast to Western feminism, African womanism, with its emphasis on African Motherhood/Womanhood, contributed to a much needed contextual and culturally sensitive analysis of Ubuntu in particular. It was concluded that there are various god and Ubuntu constructs and that it is no longer tenable to claim a single (dogmatic/essentialist) god or a single (dogmatic) Ubuntu to structure reality meaningfully. 'Truth' lives only momentarily as history continues to unfold and people find new ways in their search for meaning.
Full-text available
This article reflects and makes recommendations on the recent unusual practices within some Neo-Pentecostal churches in South Africa. Neo-Pentecostal churches in South Africa refer to churches that have crossed denominational boundaries. These churches idolise the miraculous, healing, deliverance and enactment of bizarre church performances often performed by charismatic and highly influential spiritual leaders. There have been unusual practices within some Neo-Pentecostal churches that include, among others, the eating of grass, eating of snakes, drinking of petrol, spraying of Doom on the congregants and other experiences. There are many possible theological, psychological and socio-economic explanations for these unusual practices. Given the facts that many South Africans experience various socio-economic challenges, it is argued here that the socio-economic factor is the main explanation for the support of these unusual practices. The unusual practices within some Neo-Pentecostal churches in South Africa are critically unpacked by looking at various churches where the incidents happened. The possible theological, psychological and socio-economic explanations for such practices are outlined in detail. Recommendations are made based on the scientific findings on the unusual practices.
Full-text available
The preponderance of various forms of liberation-oriented gospels among Africa’s neo-Pentecostals, particularly prosperity “gospelling,” should not be surprising when one considers the contexts within which they emerge. However, their narrow focus on the accumulation of wealth and material things as that which liberates from poverty is rather bewildering. Drawing on data collected from neo-Pentecostals, this article examines the definition of prosperity and the theological basis for such teachings, probes the environmental sustainability of the narrow wealth-seeking attitudes of these prosperity gospellers, and examines the ecological adequacy of the theology of salvation upon which prosperity gospelling is founded. The article concludes that the option available to the prosperity gospellers is a quest for liberation from poverty that correlates with the Christian vision for both human welfare and the health of the natural world.
This book traces the development of exorcism in Catholic Christianity from the fourth century to the present day, and seeks to explain why exorcism is still so much in demand. This is the first work in English to trace the development of the liturgy, practice and authorisation of exorcisms in Latin Christianity. The rite of exorcism, and the claim by Roman Catholic priests to be able to drive demons from the possessed, remains an enduring source of popular fascination, but the origins and history of this controversial rite have been little explored. Arguing that belief in the need for exorcism typically re-emerges at periods of crisis for the church, Francis Young explores the shifting boundaries between authorised exorcisms and unauthorised magic throughout Christian history, from Augustine of Hippo to Pope Francis. This book offers the historical background to – and suggests reasons for – the current resurgence of exorcism in the global Catholic Church.
Prompted by the author's own encounter with six patients who had previously undergone exorcism or deliverance prayer, this article critically examines the modern criteria for possession and demonization found in the evangelical Christian literature and reviews contemporary empirical research on exorcism. Some suggestions for future research are also presented. The increasing awareness of dissociation and the preliminary findings of negative sequelae for some exorcisms argue for the necessity of outcome studies in this area. Empirical research should be viewed as a valuable adjunctive resource rather than a threat to the spiritual discernment process.
This article proposes a phenomenological model of therapeutic exorcism of demons for dissociative identity disorder by using the patient's view of perceived demons and empowering them to use their own spirituality to expel them. The history and literature is reviewed that shows potential negative and positive therapeutic results of exorcism. It is postulated that positive outcomes may occur by using noncoercive methods, understanding dissociative dynamics, and using the patient's own world view The distinction between alter versus demon is left to the patient. Two short case studies are presented as well as a discussion of ethical and legal issues.
Experiences of demonic possession are on the increase in the UK. The presentation of possession appears strikingly similar to psychopathologies. Yet while the DSM-V includes the importance of interpreting psychotic phenomena in relation to the cultural practices of the individual presenting, there remains a lack of experiential accounts of possession. This study provides a phenomenological account of 17 individuals participating in a Pentecostal deliverance ceremony and their descriptions of discerning demon possession, undergoing exorcism/deliverance, and their condition immediately following. There was strong convergence on the discernment of demon possession through nightmares, in the thematic context of the dreams and the mapping of the content to adversity in their lives, which in turn reinforces the discernment. These experiential accounts were also characterised by a loss of control during possession and accompanied by a lack of amnesia post-deliverance. These accounts are discussed in relation to the disentangling of spiritual experience and psychopathologies.
This paper outlines an unconventional treatment for mental illness, the exorcism or deliverance ritual used by Pentecostals and some other charismatic Christians. Deliverance beliefs and practices are based on the assumption that both mental and physical ills result from possession of the sufferer by demons, and are to be treated by the expulsion of those demons. Deliverance practitioners claim to treat schizophrenia, ADHD, and Reactive Attachment Disorder, and believe that these problems are related to sins either of the person in treatment or of an ancestor. Clinicians and counsellors dealing with clients who partially or completely espouse deliverance beliefs may need to understand their worldviews and to discuss their belief system before managing to engage them in conventional mental health treatments. Unusual ethical problems may also be met in the course of such work.