I’ve always esteemed the traditions that include this essential element in the baptismal charge. It is crucial to understanding the full gospel.

David F. Watson

In our United Methodist baptismal rite, we ask those who are to be baptized, “Do you reject the spiritual forces of wickedness?” Yet most people in our tradition have only the vaguest notion of what this means. This is partly because we do not train our pastors to discern and confront the spiritual forces of wickedness.

If we take seriously what we say in this baptismal rite, we need to have informed, honest, and open discussions about the spiritual forces of wickedness, which we also call the “demonic.”

This language strikes many Westerners, including Western Christians, as odd, irrelevant, or even superstitious. In ages past, people in the West understood themselves according to what philosopher Charles Taylor calls the “porous self.” They took for granted that the world was inhabited by spiritual beings, some good and some evil. They believed, moreover, that these spiritual beings exerted influence on their lives…

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