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The Devil Goes Missing? by John Woolmer

13 October 2017

Dominic Walker finds balance in an account of deliverance ministry

IN THIS book, Prebendary John Woolmer gives a personal account of his own experiences and reflections concerning the ministry of deliverance, spanning many years and in different parts of the world.

The subject of exorcism is notoriously controversial, because writers inevitably approach the subject from a particular world-view; so no writer is “culture-free” when it comes to interpreting his or her pastoral experience or reflections on scripture, which is perhaps why writers on this subject tend to be either highly sceptical or see demons under every stone. This book does neither.

The author’s purpose is clear. It is to show that the existence of the devil is necessary for our theological understanding of God, and that the Church has a message and ministry to help those under spiritual attack, and how appropriate deliverance ministry can transform people’s lives.

John Woolmer is an Anglican Charismatic Evangelical, and the book contains many interesting and full accounts of ministry carried out by him and others in England, Brazil, Zambia, Tanzania, Argentina, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere. While the reader can feel almost travel-sick by being taken all over the world with what feels like a miracle on every page, the author’s approach is discerning and questioning, and he is aware of the harm that can be done by inappropriate exorcisms.

He does, however, admit that he has limited experience of dealing with troubled places, poltergeist activity, and unrested souls, which, in my experience, is how most cases are presented. Nevertheless, he is not afraid to look at controversial issues such as Freemasonry, reiki, the occult, homosexuality, interfaith relations, and spiritual and sexual abuse.

Alongside the case studies of deliverance ministry, the author wrestles with the scriptures, and examines the teaching of the Fathers as well as later and current practices. There are more than 350 references to scripture, and, as a mathematician, Woolmer introduces the reader to Bayes’ theorem and looks at Occam’s razor and the probability theory as part of his critical approach to underpinning deliverance ministry.

This is an excellent book that takes an experienced, balanced, theological, commonsense, and compassionate approach to spiritual warfare. Woolmer conveys the need for wisdom and discernment in deliverance ministry, and, above all, the need for humility and praise. A number of times, he admits that he cannot explain what happened, but could rejoice to see God at work in unbinding, releasing, and setting people free.

The Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS is a former Bishop of Monmouth.


The Devil Goes Missing? Deliverance, theology, practice, history
John Woolmer
Lion £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.50

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