Dr. James Anthony "Tony" Scarborough (1938-2015) led a life full of examples of spirit influence, spirit healing, and spirit communication. This excerpt is from his personal files of experiences that have occurred throughout his life. The names have been changed by me to protect the identity of those involved. This particular prayer meeting dates from around the mid-to-late 1980s.
A Case of Discerning a Spirit Claiming to be Jesus
Stephanie Bosworth heard somewhere that we were holding prayer seance meetings (a la the Greber book). She wanted to participate, so I said, OK. Stephanie was a slim, blond girl in her twenties. She was almost syrupy sweet, which to an experienced person is a warning sign of possibly a highly manipulative, passive aggressive personality. Except when it isn't.
One night she lapsed into a light trance during one of our prayer meetings, or an alpha state, and a different personality spoke through her. When this happens, the voice is usually about the same as the person's own voice, which is one reason the phenomenon is so difficult to assess. The discernment was just as difficult in Old and New Testament days. The Old Testament Hebrews never successfully came up with a procedure for deciding whether a spirit of God was speaking, the person was faking it for fun or for profit, or whether the person was simply mental. (A Hebrew word sometimes used for prophetic behavior could also characterize a mentally unfit person, i.e., the term meshugga.) The Christians of New Testament times had the same problem. In that regard, the New Testament gives a test whereby a spirit can be tested as to whether it is in the service of God at 1 John 4:1-6. Another version of the test may have been in one of Paul's letters to the Corinthian congregation, namely 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 whereby a spirit is deemed "holy" if it asserts "Jesus is Lord." But the test is incomplete in that we find nowhere in the New Testament a way of unmasking a deceitful spirit, but only that such spirits were available and had to be sifted from those in the service of God. For instance, what was to keep a deceitful spirit from sounding like one in the service of God? Paul warns the Corinthians elsewhere of heeding "another gospel" that speaks of "a different Jesus" communicated by "a different spirit" (2 Corinthians 11:4) than the ones that Paul had recommended to the Corinthians on a prior occasion (1 Corinthians 14:12). The pithy verse "discernment of spirits" (1 Corinthians 12:10) says nothing about how to decide whether we are, in fact, even talking with a spirit, let alone which spirit if, indeed, a genuine spirit is really present. Modern civilization now knows about hallucinatory states, psychedelic chemicals, multiple personality disorder (now called dissociative identity disorder or DID), schizophrenia, faking it for monetary gain, faking it for attention, unintentional self-deception, and who knows what else? Alas, our society does not know about actual spirit communication through a person as is explicitly mentioned numerous times in the Bible and countless times in other ancient documents. At the end of it all, even though a person enters a Pauline trance during a prayer session and gives a message, it is still nearly impossible to tell if it is genuine. Now, back to Stephanie.
Her voice talked gently and lovingly (that is, the alleged spirit speaking through her spoke this way), urging us again and again to increase our trust in Jesus. I asked who it was speaking through Stephanie. It was Jesus Himself. This response set off alarms within me. Yet, I was reluctant to challenge him as we are nonetheless instructed to do so in the Bible. After a while, I proffered a test. In the darkness of the room, I could tell that a book lay atop the coffee table to my left. I didn't know which book it was. I reached over and opened it. Then I addressed the alleged Christ, Could he demonstrate to us that he was indeed a high spirit by reading the unknown page of the book for us in the darkness from where he sat? He declined, saying words to the effect that he could not do that, then reverting to his previous line of talk, "My children, do you not yet believe? Only trust in me and . . . " and other words that I cannot recall.
Uncertain what to do, I interrupted him and said, "The sheep should recognize the voice of the Shepherd, and I do not recognize you," to which he responded in a smooth, sweet, but taunting voice, "If you do not believe I am who I say I am, then why don't you cast me out?" It was an open dare.
I began to invoke words of exorcism aloud, calling on the help of the real Christ, and then at the very moment Richard Smith, another frequent participant at our prayer meetings, suddenly went into some degree of trance, pointed his finger at Stephanie, and, with a strong, male voice, commanded the demon to come out in the name of Christ. The voice abruptly died away from Stephanie and she was back in control of herself. And Richard was right back to his senses, out of trance. In the debriefing after the meeting, Stephanie said that she felt much more free and relaxed now that this spirit influence was gone.
When this particular meeting ended and the lights turned on, I happened to look at the book that I had opened as a test of the spirit. The pages to which I had opened it recounted the story of a young woman who had become possessed by evil spirits deceiving her and speaking through her.
In thinking over the situation during the next few days, I decided that Stephanie was too much of a danger to the prayer circle to allow her back in. She lacked discernment and had opened herself up to influence by spirits who were not necessarily good. Accordingly, I formed a second prayer circle consisting only of Stephanie, Frances, Steven Collins, and me. We met at a different time than the other group. I don't recall that it lasted for many sessions, but I'm not sure.
Stephanie and I got to know each other much better once we had more chances to talk in private. It turned out that she knew Jesus personally. They had been together for a long time and talked often. In fact, they were married. She showed me her wedding ring. And she remarked that they had a satisfying sex life.
I have run into Stephanie around town every few years since then. She gave birth to a daughter in the years soon after that experience, although she had no earthly husband and still doesn't. I haven't asked who the father was.