The contemparary church would do well to follow the example of the early church, not to ignore the demonic, but to focus attention on Jesus, who defeats the demonic. Undue concern and involvement with the demonic has often been seen as opening oneself up to its influence. The well-known passage of C.S. Lewis from his preface to The Screwtape Letters bears repeating here:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
Kart Barth issues a similar warning that the Christian and theologian "must not linger or become too deeply engrossed [in the demonic, as]...there is the imment danger that in so doing we ourselves might become just a little or more than a little demonic." In other words, we should pay as little attention to the demonic as is pastorally possible. Yet we should confront the demonic as much as is pastorally required.
One of the noticeable, though not entirely unique, aspects of the exorcistic technique of Jesus and the early church was its extreme brevity. For Jesus, this probably arose out of his sense of power-authority over the demonic; for the early church it came from their sense of reliance on Jesus. In relation to the contemparary church we can probably conclude that verbosity is an indication of spiritual powerlessness and a lack of discernment.
The New Testament writers held that exorcism was a confrontation between the divine and the demonic in which the demonic was defeated. In the exorcisms among the early church the incantation, the words or prayers of the exorcist were important, not because of any inherent 'power' to evict the demon, but because they brought about a confrontation between Jesus and the demonic. To pick up this trajectory today would be to conduct exorcisms so that the demon is confronted not by words, the exorcists, the sacraments, the Lord's Prayer, nor even the church-but by Jesus. As Tertullian, at the end of our period, put it: The demonic "is defeated by the pressure of divine grace."