Exercising Exorcism in Ethnodoxology

As a relatively young field, ethnodoxology has opportunities to mature. This paper will help address two gaps in ethnodoxology:

1) A focus on music and the arts (partly as a result of the early influence of ethnomucians; cf. Aniol) and comparative neglect of historic Protestant worship such as baptism, Eucharist, preaching, and prayer (compare the treatment by Westminster Confession of Faith 21 with the influential Worship and Mission for the Global Church’s neglect of those issues, especially baptism and Eucharist);

2) An ambivalence, and sometimes hostility, to history (e.g. King’s critique of a church in Nairobi singing “A Mighty Fortress is our God”) which sees historic Christian worship as a barrier to indigenization of worship (e.g. As noticed by Stallsmith).

This paper will attempt to fill in both of those gaps within the broader ethnodoxology movement by providing a case study with a ressourcement of patristic pre-baptismal exorcism rites which fulfills a need in global evangelicalism as a locally adaptable anti-syncretism tool in the church. At the same time, the paper will position itself firmly in the interests and values of the ethnodoxology movement by applying the Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture (1996) that worship is “cross-cultural, making possible sharing between different local cultures” by extending the sharing to consider not just different local cultures in a spatial sense, but also temporal sense (1.3; cf. 5.1-2).

Surveys have consistently shown a need in global Christianity for anti-syncretic discipleship. Drawing on patristic sermons, catechesis, mystagogy, and church orders, this paper will argue that a ressourcement of pre-baptismal exorcism rites can serve as a bridge between the historic and universal church and contextual and local churches in a way that benefits local churches around the world. The first part of the paper will offer a brief rationale identifying the problem of syncretism and arguing for the appropriateness of applying the tools of ethnodoxology to solving it. The second section will argue for the suitability of using a patristic ressourcement within an ethnodoxology framework where an appropriate posture towards ancient worship complements, rather than goes against the goals of ethnodoxology. The third, and most significant section, will argue from historical (e.g. Apostolic Tradition; Cyril of Jerusalem; Theodore of Mopsuestia; Augustine) and theological grounds for the appropriateness of pre-baptismal exorcism rite as an anti-syncretic move. A pre-baptismal exorcism rite provides a ritualized break between a convert’s religious past and their future in Christ embodied in concrete, personalized forces rather than abstract concepts. Finally, the historical and theological arguments will be applied to modern global communities to show the suitability of the cross-cultural potential of the rite to be applied in contextually appropriate ways to meet the needs of local Christian churches.