What would a modern investigation into demons, exorcisms, and ghosts reveal? What is the evidence they exist? In this interview, Sean and Scott talk with journalist Billy Hallowell about his latest book Playing with Fire. They discuss some recent research and public stories that provide compelling evidence for the existence of the supernatural. And then they offer some insights and practical advice for believing Christians today.

About our Guest

Billy Hallowell has worked in journalism and media for more than two decades. His writings, interviews, and social commentary have appeared in the Washington Post, Deseret News and FoxNews.com. He is currently the director of communications and content at Pure Flix.

Episode Transcript

Sean McDowell: Welcome to the podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on faith and culture. I'm your host, Sean McDowell, professor of apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.

Scott Rae: And I'm your co-host Scott Rae, Dean of Faculty and professor of Christian Ethics, also at Talbot School of Theology here at Biola University.

Sean McDowell: We're here with You with Billy Hallowell, who's written a fascinating new book called Playing with Fire: A modern investigation into demons, exorcism, and ghosts. And Billy, you probably recognize his name, but he's written for the Washington Post, Fox news.com and works with Pure Flix as the director of communications and content. Billy, thanks so much for coming on.

Billy Hallowell: Hey, thanks for having me.

Sean McDowell: So you are formally trained in journalism. Can you tell me first, I want to get into what unique approach you bring as a journalist to the investigation into these supernatural realms, but if you're a journalist you've written on a range of topics, why on earth would you write a book on demons, exorcisms and ghosts?

Billy Hallowell: It's so funny because I feel like God has such a good sense of humor because if you told me two years ago, even a year and a half ago, "Oh, this is going to be your next book." I probably would have laughed at you. Because as a Christian, I've been captivated by this topic and I think even in my early years probably captivated in the wrong way. I think it's so easy to sort of be obsessed with the topic. But as I got older and went into journalism, God sort of put me in this arena of covering faith and that's always been amazing, but these strange stories of possession started to kind of pop up and I would encounter them when I was at the Blaze, and when I was at Faith Wire and they'd be really credible, fascinating stories.

Even though I had been a Christian my whole life, and I knew it was true that these things happen, I'm also skeptical when people tell me they've gone through these things because you could make it up, you could lie, you could say anything in life. And so I like to look at facts and details. And the crazy thing is that I would often find that the stories would check out. I would encounter that and I'd be telling these stories I'd think, "Okay, I'm going to file that away and maybe one day I'll write more on it," but I never thought I would do a full book on it.

And so the opportunity came to do it, and I prayed about it a couple of years ago and it just didn't feel right. And when this crazy opportunity came back to me to do this again I was not seeking it, it sort of re-emerged and I prayed about it and I sat on it for months and I just felt like this is the right thing to do for a lot of reasons, I knew God wanted me to do it, but I think it's a topic we don't often talk enough about because it feels strange. And so those are topics I tend to gravitate toward and I kind of dove right in.

Sean McDowell: So I've seen you in a bunch of interviews, we've had a number of conversations, I've read some articles, but I hadn't read a book. And I was wondering, how's a journalist going to uniquely approach this? And one of the things I appreciate is you lay out the evidence, but you don't overstate it. It's almost like you're trying to just let the evidence speak for itself. So I'm curious, as a journalist, how do you uniquely investigate this phenomena without being too exuberant where it's like, "Oh, this supports the Christian faith, I'm going to talk about it," but also without discounting it?

Billy Hallowell: Yeah. I think the biggest thing for me is that when somebody comes and they say they've gone through something, or when you have a case that's documented that you're really honestly looking at every part of that case, and that requires also looking at the people who say, "No, here's why this isn't true." When it comes to the ouija board, here's why it might not be something. And you have to look at both sides and you have to let the evidence speak for itself. I'm a fact person, I'm also a Christian. I know these things are true, I know they happened in scripture, I don't believe they ended there, but I have to go where the evidence takes me.

So what I generally find with faith is that obviously there's an element of faith that you have to feel and experience to know that it's true, but that when you get into the nitty-gritty of these cases, that the facts really do point you toward, "Oh my goodness, something is happening here that we cannot explain." And so for me, as a journalist, it's really telling people's stories. I want to hear what did a person go through, what did they experience, and then I want to talk to other people and I want to hear what did they see in that case, can they back up what they've experienced? And again, nine times out of 10, what's so crazy is that they not only back it up, they provide corroboration for the things that are being said in a way that you wouldn't expect. And so you have to approach it, in my view, in a fair-minded way and really at the end of the day, that tells the best story.

Scott Rae: Billy, let's be a little more specific on this, if you can. I suspect that when many people confront things that have to do with the demonic realm, with the spiritual realm, the default position is not to believe the story. It's not to believe the account. And then you sort of gradually get one over if it seems to be true or compelling. But what specific features did you pick up in these stories that helped you overcome that default skepticism that I think we normally take toward this realm?

Billy Hallowell: Yeah. One of the things, and I know this might sound kind of strange to people, but as I was writing Playing with Fire, and even in the articles I've covered in the past, when you encounter people who are hesitant to speak out, there's something about that. Now, of course, that doesn't prove their story is true, but it's one of the first benchmarks for me that something happened that this person is uncomfortable talking about, or they feel they've experienced something that they maybe can't explain, or they're afraid to explain it because of what you just detailed. That people are generally going to say, "That's not true."

And when I would encounter people in cases, in particular, there's a case I cover in the book about this guy, Bob Cranmer, out in Pennsylvania, who believed that his house was infested, that he had demons inside of his home. When you encounter a case like that, and that person will tell you, "Well, listen, I had this person come in and that person and they investigated," and when you start to go to those people and they're hesitant to speak to you, and then you finally get them to talk and they start to share some of the things that they've experienced, that to me is one of the things that personally helps me.

And again, that may sound strange, but I've interviewed thousands of people and... That doesn't mean, by the way, that if you're very anxious to talk that your story isn't true, but I do think there's something to that. The other piece, for me, is when you have cases that have documented evidence. And what I mean by that is you have government officials, you have people who have a lot to lose by speaking out, willingly going on the record with something, that is very, very compelling to me. And I think to most people, it is as well. If a sheriff, for instance, is saying that he heard something come over his radio, if a sheriff is telling me that, these are things that happen in some of these cases that we can get into some of the specifics, that they have seen things happen inside of a home. Well, again, these are people in the community who are well-respected, they're well-known and they have a lot to lose. And so those are two things that, for me, helped me get past some of that doubt.

Sean McDowell: You mentioned Bob Cranmer. Can you tell us a little bit about that case and what were some of the parts of that case that just seemed to resist a naturalistic explanation?

Billy Hallowell: Yeah, so that case was really unique because Bob Cranmer was an elected official. He was a Republican official in Allegheny County, a commissioner in Pennsylvania. And that story first came to me, actually, from my old boss at the Blaze who had heard that this guy, Bob, had this experience in his home and he encouraged me to reach out to him. So I reached out to him and I kept thinking, "Okay, this guy says he's got demons in his house. Prove it."

So, as I'm interviewing him, he's taking me through how this was kind of his dream home and that's what made the story so strange. Growing up, this was the house he always admired. He'd drive by it and he loved it. And there was just something about this house that he was drawn to. And I found that really interesting because he grows up, gets married, has a family, and of course this house goes up for sale, they buy the home.

And what was interesting was that the case started with these weird things happening in the home, just small little things that seemed off. And over time, as his family was growing up in the home, each of the family members started experiencing basically what we would describe as mental health elements, depression, all sorts of different issues, but the problems started manifesting themselves in a way in which, for instance, they had one particular room in the home where things would happen. They would play the Passion of the Christ on loop because they became quickly convinced that there was something evil inside the home, and they would come home and the DVD would be thrown out of the DVD player. So it would be open, it would be thrown out, and they would just put this on to sort of try to torment it. They went through all these different things, spent two years trying to rid the house of whatever was inside of it. They started having red, this red mysterious substance, this oily substance, come down the walls inside the home.

Sean McDowell: Gosh.

Billy Hallowell: I know, and it sounds like it's out of a horror movie. Right? Sounds bizarre. And so I go and, of course, Bob tells me this story and he's since written a book about it, but I go and I start calling people. I call the archdiocese, I call other people who had come into the home, they were actually holding mass inside of the home, they were holding services inside of the home. They had Catholics and Protestants, whoever would come, because he went to get help at his church and the pastor wouldn't help. And so they went to try to find others. They would come in and do this stuff to try to get it out. And what was remarkable was that I did not encounter anybody who refuted any of it. And that was the part that sort of gave me chills. Even as a Christian hearing these people say, "Oh no, we saw these things." "Oh no, we experienced these things."

The weird thing with the oil by the way, is that that came up in numerous stories and that's something that we'll often hear in these possession and infestation stories that people have had this mysterious oil emerge in different places inside their home. And so anyway, it was remarkable to me to hear these details and have him take me through that. But yeah, it became compelling. Am I going to say it's a hundred percent true everything he said? No, but I will tell you that he has lots of witnesses who back him up.

Scott Rae: Billy, you describe one of the most compelling cases that you've come across in the book was the case in Indiana. Can you tell us a little bit more about that one?

Billy Hallowell: This is the case hands down that makes me... Let me put it this way, if the family came out and said, "Oh, we lied about this." I'd be shocked. And I guess nothing should shock us in 2020, but it would.

Sean McDowell: That's true.

Billy Hallowell: It would shock me. Now, this particular case was a mother, a grandmother, so it was a mom, her mom, and then three kids. And they're inside of a home in Gary, Indiana, they were renting this home, and very quickly after renting the home they started having issues. There were flies that would emerge, a strange amount of insects that would come into the home. And very, very quickly they felt that there was a demonic presence, and not just a presence, but that there was a possession going on. The mother would become possessed allegedly, the children. It would sort of jump from the mom to the kids, and to the point of them trying to get help. And when they went to try to get help, what happened was the government essentially, the doctor's office and the government felt that there was abuse going on. The kids are taken out of the home. This is a very dramatic story.

But I want to pinpoint a couple of parts of this that are remarkable because I think it's actually one of the most documented stories in the modern era that we have. And again, when I say documentation, I mean we have people on the record telling us that they saw various things. Now, let me tell you one of the things they saw, and I laugh every time I tell this story because it sounds so bizarre. But there's a day when the mom has the kids in a doctor's office, the kids are acting so erratic, so insane that the doctor calls 911, they take the family to the hospital, and of course a child services worker gets involved. Now, as this child services worker is interviewing the family, the little boy is acting erratic, saying crazy things, she writes a report about what she experiences inside the room at the hospital and what she writes in that official report, which is on the record, which is filed with the Department of Child Services, is that she watched this little boy walk up a wall, essentially, and do a somersault and land on his feet.

Now, this sounds ridiculous, like it's out of the exorcist, like it's something you'd watch in a movie. But what's so remarkable about it is that this woman is documenting this and that a nurse who was in the room is corroborating this story. And not only did they do that on paper, when this came out in 2014 in the Indianapolis Star, this was a major story, it was an international story, and it was a big story because there was documentation. They again said, "This is what we experienced. This is what we saw."

And that's only the tip of the iceberg. I go pretty in-depth in Playing with Fire and I talked to the sheriff who was involved in this case, I also spoke with the priest who handled the case fully expecting them to say, "Oh, there's an explanation for this." And they backed up all of these details and many others. And I would also add that the child services worker who filed this report of what she saw inside the home, went on to leave her job and move out of state, she was deeply affected by the entire case.

Sean McDowell: When I first read the book, this story just jumped out to me in exactly the way you're describing it. It was almost just kind of stunning. And yet, both of these stories are in the US. What's the evidence for the existence of evil spirits and a kind of possession, say, cross cultures, worldwide, and even maybe arguably just throughout history? Is this a modern phenomena? Is there evidence going even more widely?

Billy Hallowell: Yeah. So what's really interesting is when you start to talk to deliverance ministers and people who handle the issue of possession, what you find is that they will tell you, "Oh, you go overseas. And this is just normal. This is something that people talk about openly, that they experience openly in other parts of the world. In Africa, in Haiti." And I find that really interesting because I think in America, and I talk about this in the book, we're so obsessed with the material. Everything is about the here and now. And I think that issue, obviously we know I'm in the faith world, for Christians it's been very concerning and it's affected the church as well, but one of the reasons we have such a hard time believing this is because we're so consumed by the here and now, and yet in other places around the world, these are things that are not doubted, they're things that are seen much more fervently.

And so this is, I would say, one of the most interesting things, because very few things in the human experience are so rampant. And yet we have people since the beginning of time expressing that they have dealt with possession in some form, that evil spirits have somehow inflicted them. And so this is something, again, we see it in almost every single culture, it manifests itself. And that to me is also very, very compelling. You go back to the beginning of time and you have everybody talking about this thing and they can't explain it maybe, or maybe they explain it a little differently, it manifests itself in different ways. And yet, we look to scripture and my goodness throughout the New Testament, this is something we see again and again and again, and many of the stories we're talking about right now, as crazy as they might sound to people, they're very reflective of the accounts that we see in the gospels. And that to me, again, is pretty compelling.

Scott Rae: In their book The Jesus Legend, Greg Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy in their chapter on naturalism, cite academic studies across cultures of what we would call demon possession, where people describe being taken over by spirits, controlling their minds, becoming very strong, self-destructive. And these fit exactly what the Bible describes as demon possession. So you're absolutely right, the evidence is profound, especially outside of the US that's so materialistic, for a demon kind of possession.

Now, one of the stories you shared, I thought was so fascinating was from M. Scott Peck, who's a Harvard trained psychiatrist. In college I read his book, A Road Less Traveled, but I didn't know that the last book he wrote is called Glimpses of the Devil: A psychiatrist personal account of possession. Can you describe his impetus for writing that and what he talks about in the book?

Billy Hallowell: Yeah, it's really fascinating because what happened to him is what happens to so many other people when they're faced with evidence, he ended up becoming involved in two exorcisms of two individuals. And so as a skeptic going into that, obviously assuming there's a natural explanation, and this is something we see again and again, with many people who work in the world of psychology and psychiatry, by the way, this is not something that's unique to two M. Scott Peck. But what he actually experienced was an inability to explain what was going on with these two individuals and a firm belief that possession was real. So he went from a skeptic in addressing these two cases and being involved in them, to somebody who actually not only believed in the demonic, but believed that he had experienced it in these two cases. And he openly wrote and spoke about that before his death, obviously.

And so I want to note by the way, that one of the things that was very intriguing to me is to have people who work at New York Medical Hospital, people who are in New York City, who are in the heart of some of the best hospitals in the world, who are saying, "We now know," or, "We now believe as individuals, that there is something going on that we cannot explain." So even if they're not looking at it through the Christian lens, they are understanding that spiritually there is something happening with people that they can't explain.

And one of those people would be another individual, Richard Gallagher, who I talk about in the book, and he has been very openly talking about these issues. In fact, he also has a book out right now describing his experience as a psychiatrist dealing with people, and he also faced a case that convinced him in the same exact way. He was a skeptic, he grew up Catholic, didn't really believe it, he thought there was a natural explanation, and encountered a satanic priestess who he tried to help and experienced things during that, that a hundred percent not only convinced him of this, but have led him onto a decades long partnership with the Catholic Church to help actually differentiate whether or not people are experiencing a mental health crisis or possession.

Scott Rae: Billy, one other question back to Scott Peck, because I to read The Road Less Traveled and found it very influential and Scott Peck actually had done some great work on euthanasia and the end of life as well. But I wonder, he's a trained psychiatrist, my suspicion is that many of the folks in the New York City hospitals that you were describing, would take a default position of explaining what they were seeing by some sort of mental illness. Why couldn't we see all of this simply be explained by resorting to various forms of mental illness?

Billy Hallowell: Yeah. And what's so interesting about that question is that some of the effects that we've seen, that are common across cultures, we go back to that question of what have we seen? One of the things, people speaking in different voices. Okay, well, you could argue people are making that up. You could say, "Okay, well, people are pretending or they're mentally ill and they're doing this because of that." But how do you explain people speaking languages they've never spoken before? They've never encountered before. There are tons of reports of that sort of thing happening.

In Richard Gallagher's case, for instance, one of the things that was intriguing is that satanic priestess, he claims he was on a phone call with the priest who was handling that case, they were 2000 miles away from this particular woman they were trying to help and that as they were speaking, and they were also by the way not in the same location, they were miles apart from each other, the priest and the doctor, that as they were speaking, a voice came over the telephone. And he says this on the record and talks about this and he's very, well-respected, teaches at Columbia University and other schools here in New York, that this voice came on and started threatening them to stay away from her and to leave her alone and not to help her.

And so again, sounds like it's out of The Exorcist, but I think when we get into the nitty gritty details of this supernatural strength, which by the way is something that we saw in the Indiana case, this little boy being able to purportedly throw adults off of him being, having the strength that, even if you don't believe the walking up the wall thing, you have doctors saying, "No, he did things we couldn't even imagine him doing." So we see these things again and again and again that extend beyond what would normally be explainable in a psychological or psychiatry setting.

Sean McDowell: I'm curious what gave you the most chills in your research and I'm wondering if it was the story of Amy Stamatis. So if it's not, tell us what gave you the most chills and then tag that story along with it. But how would you address that question? That you had that moment of like, "Oh my goodness, there's something dark and broken going on here."

Billy Hallowell: I had so many of those moments throughout this, and I have to tell you, I was afraid to write this because, and now I'm not, I left with so much peace after because we have authority over this as Christians, we don't need to be afraid.

Sean McDowell: Amen.

Billy Hallowell: And I think that's important for people to know. When you're a believer, you have authority over it and you don't have to be living in fear. But to answer your question, the story of Amy, oh my goodness. That is the one that really left me with chills. I was praying as I was writing about the book last year and I was like, "I'm going to Google," something just told me after I prayed, "Google and look if anything in the news has come out about possession." And I assumed, "Okay, probably not because it's very rare." The Indiana case was rare, there was documentation.

But I did a Google search and I found this, woman Amy Stamatis in Arkansas, and she had just, a week and a half before I was doing this search, done an interview with a local affiliate. And they went all out, they did a video interview with her and told her story. And her story, it just blew me away. She was a nurse. She has a family, she's married, she has kids, never had a mental health problem in her life. Completely healthy person. An avid runner. She's working in the hospital one night and a burn patient came in and it was interesting because she said this was a patient who very likely was in some sort of methamphetamine fire, some sort of drug-related fire and very severe case. She was treating the patient. And as soon as she finished, something didn't feel right. She said she just fell off kilter, she couldn't even get through filling out his chart.

So she went home, still not feeling well, tried to go out for a run. And she said she was like running in zigzags. She couldn't run in a straight line. She goes home to her husband and she's like, "Listen, I think I'm having a nervous breakdown. Something doesn't feel right." And within eight days, Amy went from a completely healthy person to somebody who was committed to a mental institution. So she's in a mental hospital, they're trying to figure out what's wrong with her, she just basically devolved over this seven to eight day period. And what followed was eight months of total chaos. She became completely outside of herself.

And what was remarkable about her story, and this was a thread that was in a lot of these stories, is that she became consumed with this idea of ending her life. "Kill yourself, kill yourself." It was just a thought that kept coming into her mind. And as a nurse, she knew how she could do that. And so she found herself one day, about eight months after this started, on the second floor of her home, two and a half stories up. And this is the part that gave me chills. Amy is sitting in window sill and, picture this, she's facing straight ahead. So her back is to the window she's facing inside of her house. And she's thinking, "If I drop myself out of the window, I'll be able to kill myself. This will actually do it. I probably won't survive it."

And so she doesn't jump out of the window and I don't know why, it's just this detail is so eerie to me. She's sitting in the window and she just drops herself back. She just drops herself out of the window, doesn't try to break her fall, which is what any normal person would try to do if they fell out of a window, and she lands on the ground below. She breaks all of her ribs, breaks her back in numerous places and doesn't die. It's a remarkable story. She doesn't die, but she's rushed to the hospital. She's in very serious condition. And it's insane what happens.

This woman hears her story at her church. So they're doing a prayer service for her at church after this happens and something tells this woman to go to the hospital, and this is a very strong Christian woman. She goes to the hospital and Amy apparently speaks to her in another voice, tells her she's possessed, what follows is a deliverance inside this hospital room. And what's remarkable about this story, and I'm truncating it, I go into more detail in Playing with Fire, is that after Amy cycles off of her medications, because they had her on a lot of medicine during this time, she never has another mental health problem again, she's completely clear-minded, she's in a wheelchair for the rest of her life as a result of that fall. So she's got a lifelong impact from this. And she has hesitantly been sharing this story with anybody who will listen. And really, it just blew me away that somebody could face that sort of spiritual condition that they would actually find themselves trying to end their lives and dropping themselves out of a two-story window.

Scott Rae: Billy, the subtitle of your book, which I love the title, Playing with Fire, but the subtitle is, "A modern investigation in demons, exorcism and ghosts." The demons and exorcism I get from what the Bible seems to be pretty clear about. But ghosts? That's in a little different category I think for most people. But you address that kind of under the same umbrella as demonic activity. Most people don't think about those in quite the same category. Why do you lump them together? And how should Christians think about them?

Billy Hallowell: I love that you brought this up because I was the most hesitant to write about that. And the reason is that I wouldn't clump them into the same category either. Unfortunately, when you look at culture and when you look at the world around us, the world does. And when you have a scenario where the church is talking about an issue less than pop culture is, and that's what we have when it actually comes to the demonic and when it comes to evil and when it comes to ghosts and all of these "spiritual topics," you have a situation where you end up needing to address these things.

Let me first start with the fact that we have people all over this country, all over this world, who are so desperate after the loss of a loved one, that they will go to psychics. They will go to people who they believe mediums can connect them with that lost loved one. And so this idea of ghosts is very much embedded in our culture, it's embedded in Hollywood, in our entertainment.

What I found though is, and I had always believed this as a Christian, but in talking to experts on this and talking to pastors and theologians, the central idea is that people don't die and remain behind. And I've had Christians pushback on this and I've had some say, "Well, maybe people do, maybe we don't know, maybe there are human beings who die and they remained behind to haunt." But one of the things that I really wanted to do in Playing with Fire was go back to scripture. What does scripture tell us? Because that should be, as Christians, that's our baseline. And for me, what I found very interesting, because I had never gone through scripture and looked only at evil, isolating out who is Satan, what are these stories of possession that we see, and are there any "ghost stories."

Every time we encounter something strange that could be perceived as a ghost story, and there are very few examples in scripture, there's always another explanation for it. I go back to Samuel and I go back to Saul summiting Samuel in the Old Testament, you have this very strange moment of Saul going to a psychic, essentially, a medium and asking her to bring Samuel about. And she does that. And she even seems a little surprised that she was able to do it. But that seems to be a message from God. It wasn't a scenario where Samuel's haunting everybody and roaming around and creeping and emerging. He's summonsed in this moment, and we can only assume it's something that God obviously allowed in that moment to deliver the message that Saul and his sons would not be with us for very much longer.

And so you've got another strange example after Jesus's death, and it's almost more of like a zombie like example it seems like. People coming out of their tombs and going and appearing to people in town. So you've got these examples, but those are not haunting. So we don't have anything in scripture really to tell us that this is something that's a widespread occurrence that people die and remain behind.

And so I really unpack that and go deep into that. So that's sort of a 30,000 foot view on it. But when somebody goes to talk to a deceased loved one and they think they're connecting with them, what most deliverance ministers and pastors and theologians would tell you is that they're actually communicating with an evil spirit. They're communicating with a demon. They're not communicating with that dead person. And so it's interesting and feel free to disagree on that, but there's a lot that I unpack in the book to address that topic.

Sean McDowell: Billy, obviously in 30 minutes we've just scratched the surface. You have a great chapter eight on the ouija board, the history of it, evidence for, evidence against, the story of where the name ouija came fascinated me. You tell the story behind the movie, The Exorcist, and there's also a lot of theology here. What do we know about demons? What do we know about Satan? How did Jesus interact with evil spirits? So there's a lot in this book, and being that you're a journalist it's well-written, which is what I would expect, but let's take a 30,000 foot view just given all this research you've done, what's your big takeaway for the church now that you've really studied this?

Billy Hallowell: I would go to Ephesians 6 because I have read that so many times and I've glazed over at, glossed over it and moved on and, "Oh yeah. There's a spiritual battle going on." But this idea that there is a battle going on. We are sitting here in the midst of a country that is deeply divided with people fighting and arguing, this battle between flesh and blood going back and forth all the time over everything, and it's just getting worse and worse and worse. We're so consumed by that, but yet we are missing the fact that there is something deeper going on spiritually. And if the church is not going to address these things, I'm not saying obsess over them, I'm not saying talk about demons every minute, find a demon under every rock. What I'm saying is actually acknowledge the fact, and many churches don't do this, that there is a spiritual battle and that it is impacting individuals and culture, and that by not talking about it we're actually not really pointing people toward our need for the gospel.

When you understand evil, true evil, who Satan is and what is going on in our world, it points you right back to the need for Jesus. And so I go back to Ephesians 6 and I think, "Okay, we've got a spiritual battle, but we also can take up the shield of faith." We can be Christians, we can live a Christian lifestyle and that's our solution. So we don't have to live in fear. We can wake up every day, we can cling to faith and prayer and the gospel in truth, and that's our protection, but we have to acknowledge that this is going on. And so to me, that was the central takeaway of this entire project. And that we can have the peace in knowing that we have that relationship with Christ and that we have that protection and we don't need to fear these things, but we need to acknowledge them and talk about them.

Sean McDowell: Well, that's a great takeaway. And I really got that from your book that you're laying out some stories that are a little bit chilling. There's a few times I went to my wife. I'm like, "Oh my goodness, can you believe this?" Just the stories have stuck with me, but you do remind us in the book of the authority of Jesus, the authority of the believer. And I think ultimately through a hopeful lens, that's not too sensationalistic, but also doesn't write off these kinds of stories, which our culture is quick to do. So I hope our audience will pick up a copy of Playing with Fire: A modern investigation into demons, exorcism, and ghosts. And by the way, here at Talbot Theological Seminary we explore this question. We have on faculty, Kevin Lewis teaches a class on demons and the occult and just walks through in detail how to think about this Christianly.

So we hope you'll pick up a copy of Billy Hallowell's book, Playing with Fire, and then think about studying with us at Talbot because we want to help you think biblically about everything. Billy, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Billy Hallowell: Thanks for having me.

Sean McDowell: This has been an episode of the podcast, Think Biblically: Conversations on faith and culture. To learn more about us and today's guest Billy Hallowell, and to find more episodes, go to biola.edu/thinkbiblically. That's biola.edu/thinkbiblically. If you enjoyed today's conversation, please give us a rating on your podcast app and consider sharing it with a friend. Thanks for listening. And remember, think biblically about everything