Thinking About... Spiritual Warfare Volume 3, Issue 3 - October 2012
The teaching faculty of Ministry, Theology, and Culture at Tabor Adelaide are committed to serving the church by thinking about the gospel. We believe that individuals and the church can be transformed by the renewing of our/their minds. Too often college lecturers are characterized as “living in an ivory tower” and “being too theoretical.” This stereotype doesn’t apply at Tabor; we are part of the church, and we want to see it grow in faithfulness to Jesus. This is why we have committed ourselves to producing this themed magazine for free distribution to the churches of South Australia. There are three issues of Thinking About... each year; we trust you ﬁnd them helpful. Dr Aaron Chalmers Head of the Shcool of Ministry, Theology and Culture
he topic of spiritual warfare tends to provoke one of two responses in Christian circles in the west. One group is captivated by the topic, and devotes considerable time and energy to “overcoming the adversary” and “breaking down strongholds”.
he other group, perhaps put oﬀ by the excesses associated with the ﬁrst, spends little time engaging in, let alone thinking about, such activity. In this issue of “Thinking About…”, a number of the lecturers from the school of Ministry, Theology and Culture at Tabor Adelaide oﬀer their reﬂections on this sometimes controversial but always important topic.
Previous editions available: 1.1 Kingdom of God; 1.2 Discernment; 1.3 Lament; 2.1 Giving; 2.2 Vocation; 2.3 the Mind; 3.1 Play. 3.2 Technology
e are also pleased to welcome Rev Dr Barry Chant, one of the founders of Tabor Adelaide, who has provided not one but two contributions, including an interesting fable entitled “The Great Hall of Doom”.
hanks for reading, and if you have got any comments please join in the conversation at the new Tabor Adelaide “Thinking About…” blog www.tabormtc. wordpress.com. We would love to hear from you! Dr Aaron Chalmers
Creative Commons License Please reuse any of the material in the journal. We require that you clearly identify the source by authors names Tabor Adelaide, School of Ministry,Theology and Culture 2012. Licensed under the creative commons AttributionNoncommercial2.5 Australian License.
THE CONVERSATION... JOIN Tabor Adelaide is launching a “Thinking About...” Blog Each week articles will be added to the blog. Oﬀer your thoughts and refelctions. The best comments will be included in the next edition of ‘Thinking About...” You can find us at tabormtc.wordpress. com You can also find us at
Forget the Diseaese, Forget the Cure W e live in a world without a whole host of horrible diseases that used to plague society: polio or tuberculosis, for example. But when we have not had these diseases for a long time, certain risks emerge, as we begin minimising the seriousness of those diseases.
e can think a disease was never that bad in the first place. We may even be tempted to think it was a fiction, a superstition, and never existed. Or, we can minimise how dangerous it would be, and think that, should we find that disease now, it would easily be able to treated. When that happens, we might also think that any precautions necessary to prevent the disease (from immunisation to washing your hands) have become utterly unnecessary. It is precisely in such a situation that we become vulnerable, yet again.
Matthew Gray is Lecturer in Church History. He is enrolled in the PhD history program at Adelaide University. In 1st semester, Matt will teach and Introduction to Christian Ministry and Story of the Church
he end of such diseases coincided with the end of a strong popular recognition of the supernatural, and of spiritual forces such as demons or evil spirits. Modernism brought rationalism and technologism, both of which were
Warfare Weapons I
n charismatic jargon, ‘spiritual warfare’ is often a synonym for a mystical mode of prayer. People talk about ‘going into warfare’ or setting aside a time for ‘spiritual warfare’. Some churches hold ‘warfare’ prayer meetings. This is too narrow a view. While prayer is a necessary component of spiritual warfare, there is much more to it. Our whole lives are engaged in battle. We are always at war.
Dr Barry Chant has over 50 years experience in pastoral and educational ministry, and was one of the founders of Tabor Adelaide. He
a diploma in education and a PhD in history.
ut what if not all the supernatural things were frauds and scams? What if, in response to modernism, the devil has chosen a subtler tactic than the more ostentatious one he’s used over the centuries? Now, he plans in the shadows, the hidden puppetmaster.
he Church knew how to deal with the supernatural for centuries. And while some of that was misguided and superstitious, a lot of it was responding to an undeniable problem. The Roman Church by the 200s had over fifty exorcists on staff, for this very reason.
e must ensure that we keep up the fight, and take seriously the diseases of our past, including the spiritual ones. When we forget our history of fighting these, we lose resources necessary for actually doing that fighting at all. And that is when epidemics – whether material or spiritual – become all the more possible. firstname.lastname@example.org
This is why Jesus’ last words are plain – ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel’ (Mark 16:15-18).
he conflict is not physical but spiritual. It is crucial that we learn how to understand and respond to the spiritual realm. We do not struggle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual foes (Ephesians 6:10-11). Our weapons are not material, but spiritual and powerful, able to break down spiritual strongholds (2 Corinthians any have been the gatherings in which people 10:4, 5). Satan and his cohorts are engaged in a relentless have rebuked the devil, ‘bound’ him, ‘pleaded and implacable contest for supremacy. But like Jesus, we the blood’ over him, sent him to the abyss and so on. overcome through the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11). The sincerity of this approach cannot be questioned but it is nearer to mythology than theology. It is nce we put on the uniform, we are part of the impossible to validate it from Scripture and there is army. And once we are in the army, we are little evidence that it does any good. likely to be engaged in battle. However, the victory
holds degrees in arts, theology and ministry,
excellent at eradicating these diseases. Rationalism also explained away many of the fraudulent “supernatural” scams of the time.
n plain terms, spiritual warfare is the conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. Our armoury includes many resources – prayer, holiness, unity, godliness, faith, the fullness of the Spirit, integrity, praise. But our front-line ordnance is the Word of God. Our primary weapon is not prayer, but the preaching of the Word, which is the blade of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). It is the sharp two-edged sword that proceeds from the mouth of the Saviour. revelation 1:16; 19:15).
has already been decided. When Christ rose from the dead, he disarmed the powers and authorities, and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them (Colossians 2:15). Hence, he always leads us in triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14). Our task now is simply to enforce the victory of Christ through our declaration of the words of God. barrychant.com (Barry Chant © 2012)
2 The Great Hall of Doom - A Fable W H is Royal Lowness, Lord Everett Flyblown, sat restlessly in the Great Hall of Gloom, with its huge sable pillars and inky forecourt. In the thick, black darkness, he was almost invisible. Ima Slimebag stood uncertainly before him, barefoot on the frigid tiles. The gloom surrounded him like a dense, liquid fog. When he moved, he could almost feel it moving with him, so bleak and grim was the air.
t was a night waiting for a dawn that would never come. Not a single light was to be seen anywhere. Black dust covered everything and a black pall hung over all. Lord Flyblown’s figure, once so glowing with glory, but now so tarnished and stained, blended with the ebony atmosphere. He drummed his metallic fingers with impatience on the arm of his imperial throne.
limebag had spent so long in the enfolding tenebrosity that, like a bat in a cave, he could distinguish the objects around him, black as they were. His vision could penetrate the impenetrable. But in the murky gloom, Lord Flyblown’s facial expression was impossible to read, even for him.
So,’ began Lord Flyblown, ‘you claim to have had some success in counteracting the seditious activities of your Enemy agents. Tell me more.’ Slimebag’s blue-black skin sheened faintly like the carapace of a small lobster. ‘I tracked them closely, Your Venomness, as you ordered me to do,’ answered Slimebag as confidently as he could.
And?’ Well, things were looking pretty promising at the beginning, Your Despicableness. I am glad to report they failed miserably in their overseas mission trip. They had little opportunity to engage with the locals and made no significant contact with the underground movement.’
limebag lifted his shoulders, and looked up at Flyblown, his eyebrows raised, hoping for commendation for his efforts. Flyblown stood to his feet and took a step forward towards his young protege. ‘Maybe he’s going to pin a medal on me,’ thought Slimebag excitedly. ‘Wait till I tell Fishrot about that!’
he leering Lord stopped and gazed down at Slimebag. Then his eyes narrowed and there was menace in his voice. Slimebag’s excitement vanished like a lizard under a rock. His eyes widened with fear. ‘Don’t you realize,’ hissed Lord Flyblown, ‘what would happen if people actually did believe that the Enemy’s story is true? That he really did care for them so much that he sent his Son to save them from our clutches? What if millions of people were to start loving each other (ugh) and caring for each other with that soppy sentiment they call kindness?
hat if they came to think that love, integrity and forgiveness were more important than money or sex or power? The very thought of it is sickening.’ Long inured to the icy texture of the furniture, he looked around grimly at the dismal, grimy walls and the arid, frozen floor. Those foolish humans imagined he ruled a kingdom of fire. He hated fire. Hated it even more than the pervasive chill of the sinister depths of the Abyss. ‘If you don’t tell me something good, Slimebag, I will have you grilled and toasted before the day is out!’
limebag trembled at the thought. He looked out through the twisted ebony pillars around him at the wide, waterless waste. Not a single tree, not another living creature, not the faintest cry of a bird nor the merest hint of song. All was bleak and barren, frozen and dry. The thought of a fire filled him with dread.
I really did try to stop them,’ he blurted pitifully. ‘But they are so…so…fixated. I can’t seem to divert them, no matter what I do. I manage occasional slipups, I even trip them over, but they get up and get going again. They are incorrigible! They just do what the Enemy tells them to do.’ Slimebag hung his head. ‘But, really, compared with most other Enemy agents, they have done hardly anything.’
And neither have you, you…you…miserable wretch!’ snarled Lord Flyblown. He stood to his feet, his large frame looming above Slimebag like a huge, black, walking stingray and stormed off leaving the poor slave alone and silent in the gloomy, desolate Hall.
e trembled and waited, slouched in the nausea of failure… Absently, he contemplated the faint shadows at his feet. Strangely, the configuration of the pillars had given them a rough Cross-shape. He recalled the nonsense the Enemy agents blathered about the Cross. Total idiocy, of course. He snarled softly… But what if it were true? What if the Enemy actually had taken human form and died for humankind on a Roman cross? The thought shocked him. What if Enemy agents really believed He had given His own Son for them? That He had got rid of the cold darkness in their lives? That they really were reborn?’
ah! Of course not. It was impossible. If it really was true, his whole existence was a mockery… But what if it was? Could it change even him? Might it even make him good? In panic, like a cockroach suddenly exposed to the light, he ran wildly from the Hall and fled into the vast, silent, lonely wasteland, terrified by the thought. barrychant.com (Barry Chant © 2012)
Announcing “Our God Reigns” M J iracles and exorcisms are not proof that Jesus is God. The Bible and history confirm that there have been other miracle workers and other exorcists and no-one claims that this must mean they are divine. No; it is the cross, the resurrection, and Pentecost that confirm Jesus’ identity as the unique Son of God.
Rev Dr Stephen Spence (PhD, NT, Fuller) is Deputy Principal (Academic). Stephen lectures in the field of New Testament. In first semester 2013, he will teach a postgraduate intensive entitled “Paul in his context.”
iracles and exorcisms are proof that the Kingdom of God is present and that all powers that would challenge God’s right to rule his creation have been defeated.
Stephen blogs at
he climax of Jesus’ defeat of all anti-God powers is paradoxically at the point in which they appear to be most triumphant - the cross! It is as the “slain lamb” that Jesus, “the lion of Judah,” defeats his foes. We need to remember this as we consider what kingdom victory looks like.
ut each miracle and each exorcism is also a sign of the now present and still coming-in-all-itsfulness kingdom. Some signs, like sign-posts, point to something distant; other signs, like spring flowers heralding the onset of spring, are the reality they point to. Miracles and exorcisms are the reality of “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth.”
esus’ miracles and exorcisms demonstrated that the kingdom of God was now present in his arrival. His actions proved that “the strong man” had been bound and that all spiritual forces opposing God were defeated (see Mark 3:20-30).
oday miracles and exorcisms remain proof of the kingdom’s presence. It remains true that their occurrence is most often found when the gospel is advancing into areas and cultures that have not yet experienced the light of Christ. This is why, in my view, pioneering missionaries have more miracle stories to tell than Christians in a churched culture like Adelaide. Often, for us, the way of the cross is about witnessing through endurance (what Revelation calls martyrdom). But there are times when the clash between God’s kingdom and evil is such that the signs of the kingdom’s presence - miracles and exorcisms - are manifested to the glory of God.
piritual warfare is not about overthrowing evil; Jesus has already done that. It is not about cheating suffering, for we follow the “Crucified One.” It is about announcing to all, “our God reigns.” email@example.com
Professional Enrichment Seminars 2013: Enrich your Ministry with World-Class Scholars Monday 4th February 2013 Dr Steve Addison, “Disciple Making Movements.” Dr Steve Addison has been a life-long student of movements that renew and expand the Christian faith. Steve distills the characteristics of dynamic movements and makes them available to leaders committed to multiplying disciple-making churches. He began his research into Christian movements in the late 1980s while serving as a church planter in Melbourne, and carried that interest into his DMin with Fuller Seminary. He is the author of two books: Movements that Change the World: Five Keys to Spreading the Gospeland What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World (out in January, 2013). Steve currently serves as Director of MOVE, an Australian based mission agency that multiplies disciples and churches—everywhere.
Monday April 15 2013 Professor Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, “Global Theology for a postmodern era.” Professor Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen has served on the faculty of Fuller Seminary since 2000, and also holds a teaching position at the University of Helsinki as Docent of Ecumenics. He has taught and lived with his family in Thailand, Europe and the U.S, and has lectured and served as visiting professor in various schools around the world. He travels widely and has a command of several languages. A prolific writer, Veli-Matti has published 11 books in English (and seven in his native language, Finnish), including The Trinity: Global Perspectives (2007), and Trinity and Religious Pluralism: The Doctrine of the Trinity in Christian Theology of Religions (2004), as well as more than 100 articles.
Saturday June 22nd 2013 (Spiritual Retreat) Dr’s Tom and Christine Sine, “Return to our senses.” Tom and Christine are the founders of Mustard Seed Associates (MSA), a community of Jesus’ followers all over the world striving to create the future one mustard seed at a time. MSA provides resources and a network for committed followers of Jesus to create new ways of being a difference and making a difference in response to tomorrow’s challenges.
Disbelieving in the Devil B elieving in Jesus Christ, and his victory over evil, means disbelieving in the devil! We “cannot believe in the devil and demons,” Karl Barth says, but “must oppose to them the most radical unbelief.” To believe in something is to have a positive relationship with it, but not so with the devil. It is not that he doesn’t exist in his own sinister way. A “quick, sharp glance”- or a sideways glare - is necessary, Barth concedes, but that is all. David McGregor is a We must keep the devil in his place – or better, Lecturer in Theology. He allow him “no place” at all (Eph. 4:27). is enrolled in the PhD reoccupation with “spiritual warfare” may Theology program at indicate an unhealthy curiosity with the devil. Newcastle University We are not to gaze at the poisonous serpent, Barth
In 1st semester 2013, David will teach Biblical Theology, Creative Living and Jesus the Christ.
says, but to strike it! Andrew Walker agrees, and warns against “belligerent shouting at the devil” – this may be exactly what he wants! There is “more to exorcising the darkness than exercising our lungs,” Walker says, and if “the parasitic nature of evil is correct, then perhaps attacking demons amounts to a welcoming party for them.”
rue, evil is a menacing power that must be resisted. But we shun evil in faith not fear; for we know that evil has already been overcome!
Christus Victor! The devil is “rendered powerless” (Heb. 2:14) - exposed as alien, with no legitimate place in God’s good creation. Evil is “the nihil” or “the nothing,” as Barth says. Because of the overwhelming victory of Jesus Christ, it must come to nought.
Submit to God” and “resist the devil and he will flee from you” are corollaries (see James 4:7 The former is the basis of the latter. Jesus defeated the devil by submitting to God, not by wrestling with him directly – and this too, is how we conquer in his name. Walker is right to say that “spiritual warfare is not standing toe to toe with the devil and slugging it out”. It is only in Christ’s victory (the salvation that he provides) that we stand (not fight) against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6: 10-11). We do not resist in our own strength. Our “no” simply affirms his. When it comes down to it, we say “no” to the devil by saying a wholehearted “yes” to Jesus Christ.
eferences; Andrew Walker ‘Demonology and the Charismatic Movement’in Tom Smail, Andrew Walker & Nigel Wright, 1994, The Love of Power or the Power of Love, Bethany House Publications, Bloomington, p. 53. firstname.lastname@example.org
Semester One 2013 Introductory Study Opportunities TM1101 Creative Living (with David McGregor) Discover how the Christian life is a grateful response to the gracious God revealed in Jesus Christ. TM1102 Introsuction Christian Ministry (with Matthew Gray) Explore the nature of Christian ministry, and reflect on your calling to participate within this TM3131 Story of the Church (with Matthew Gray) Experience a dynamic overview of 2000 years of church history with a focus on how this shapes our story, as individuals and communities, in the present. TM5210 Poverty & Intergral Mission (with David Turnbull) explore our response to the pressing issue of poverty, and the opportunity to bringing dignity and healing through an integral mission framework. TM2110 Understanding the Biblical Narrative (with Melinda Cousins) Take a 13 week overview of the Old and New Testaments and come to understand how the Bible’s story fits together as a whole. TM2115 Introduction to the Old Testament (with Melinda Cousins) Increase your knowledge of the Bible Jesus read and its message for today. TM4216 Preaching (with Miranda Dixon) Develop your abilities as a creative and effective communicator of God’s word.
FEE-HELP available if a subject is studied as part of a diploma or degree.
Semester One begins 18 February-3 June 2013 181 Goodwood Road, Millswood
Want details on study options in 2013? Please contact The school of Ministry, Theology and Culture School Administrator Samantha Docherty email@example.com (08) 8373 8777 taboradelaide.edu.au
Worship and Spiritual Warfare? T he Psalms contain hymns celebrating the victories of the divine warrior, and laments crying out for help in the midst of battle. Some of the most familiar images from the Psalms come from a military context – fortress, rock, deliverer, horn, shield, refuge. One scholar estimates that a third of the Psalms have a life setting of warfare.
Rev Melinda Cousins is a Lecturer in Biblical Studies. In 1st semester, Melinda is teaching Introduction to the Old Testament and Understanding the Biblical Narrative.
he Old Testament context, where God led His people as a nation into physical battles against their flesh-and-blood enemies, clearly doesn’t apply to us. But can the images and metaphors be applied to the spiritual battles we face in our post-New Testament setting? And if they can, what might they teach us?
raise: The Psalmists do not dwell on their enemies, instead continually declaring and proclaiming the greatness of their God. He is the one who fights, and who is victorious. He is pictured as the divine warrior, and to declare his praise is an act of engaging in the battle. “Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” (Psalm 24:8)
rayer: The Psalmists pray for their enemies, asking God to deal with them. They recognize that their role in the battle is sometimes quite ‘passive.’ Prayer is spiritual warfare. In
fact, it seems to be the primary role we have in participating in what are ultimately God’s battles. “Rescue me from my enemies Lord, for I hide myself in you.” (Psalm 143:9)
mprecation: Most controversially, the Psalmists cry out for judgment, and even call down curses on their enemies. Christians have long struggled with what to do with these psalms. Perhaps if we hear them as a battle cry, seeking divine justice and intervention, we might better understand their intent, as well as find ways to appropriate them. We seek the defeat of the kingdom of darkness, and divine intervention to bring an end to oppression and injustice. We imprecate that evil may not prevail. “May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD – that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:17-18)
hile our enemies are no longer flesh and blood (Eph 6:12), we still find ourselves engaged in God’s battle, knowing that He will ultimately be victorious. It is our confidence in His power, victory, might and justice that should be our focus, so that worship itself becomes an act of spiritual warfare.
2 Acknowledging the Spiritual Realm S
David Turnbull is Lecturering in Intercultural Studies. He is enrolled in the PhD program at Flinders University. In 1st semester 2013, David is teaching Poverty and Intergral Mission.
ecularization poses many challenges for the Christian community in a western context. One area particularly impacted is our understanding of thr nature of reality beyond the physical. Paul Hiebert, a leading missiologist, developed the concept of the ‘Excluded Middle’. This concept recognizes a transcendent and distant God and a physical earth, but the middle world of good, evil and ancestral spirits tends to be overlooked. This is despite the middle ground being acknowledged in Scripture, especially by Paul, and seen in Jesus healing people possessed by evil spirits.
ing to explore the spiritual dimension, knowing we were in enemy territory. With awareness of curses being placed on Christians, even though the theological understanding is cloudy as to how, we sought discernment from spiritual prayer warriors in order to rule this out as a cause. After four serious prayer times, it was ruled out and he was identiﬁed as having a disability. However this journey was a struggle as it was hard to ﬁnd people with discernment gifts and there were many doubters and discouragers within our mission and Christian communities, which saddened us greatly.
iving out our lives to reﬂect the reality of the spirit world is vital. The way forward can include the importance of recognizing the spiritual battle Christians are in, praying accordingly and continually, and encouraging those with discernment gifts. Those in our community from an indigenous or majority world background may be assets in helping us, as the spirit world is very much a reality for them. Most importantly, we must lean on the promises of the victory of Jesus through His death and resurrection.
iving in Nigeria exposed me to the reality of this middle spiritual realm and the problems that arise from the activity of evil spirits in particular. My introduction was the news that a missionary friend, who was close to death with a tropical disease, turned the corner once other Christians prayed for the breaking of a curse, as the result of some clear evidence becoming known.
he experience of diagnosing our son’s medical issues during our ﬁrst year in Nigeria included returning for a physical diagnosis, as well as want-
Spiritual Warfare and the Mind O
Lesley Houston is the director of Tabor’s TESOL program Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She is enrolled in a PhD program at Flinders University. In semester 1, Lesley will be teaching Christian Leadership.
ver the years I have seen many things labelled ‘spiritual warfare’: bindings and loosings; tearing down strongholds; casting out demons; commanding angels .... many things - some helpful, some fanciful. So as I have pondered the topic, no matter what one understands about spiritual warfare, one thing comes to mind as essential – a fit and healthy mind.
will simply drift, open to assault by all manner of voices from the enemies of God - the world, the flesh and the devil. According to Paul, we put on the helmet of salvation for protection. (Eph 6:17) We need to know that salvation is through Christ, given by Christ and located in Christ, knowing who we are in Christ and all God has done. When we know this, we can use the knowledge to combat attack.
hirdly, the mind controls what we do with what we hear and how we respond to it. Without a thoroughly thought through understanding of the Word of God, we are at risk of being tossed by false teaching and deceitful words (Eph 4:14). Without an understanding of why we believe what we believe, we will struggle to share in a reasoned and intelligent manner the incomparable love of God through Christ.
irst of all, the mind is where we ‘know what we know’. During the temptation in the wilderness Jesus said ‘It is written...’ to stand against the devil. How much more do we need to know the teachings of the Bible, sound teaching not mind fluff! Every time we use our God-given intellectual/critical faculties to study scripture, we prepare ourselves for Spiritual warfare. Every time we use this knowledge to combat a lie, we are doing spiritual warfare.
econdly, the mind exerts control over the rest of the body’s functions. In spiritual warfare, it is essential to protect the mind for without it we
o, spiritual warfare starts with the mind; as students of the Word, let us ensure ours is well exercised! firstname.lastname@example.org
Study Online with Tabor Adelaide It is now possible to study fulltime or part-time for accredited degrees in Theology, Ministry, or Intercultural Studies with Tabor Adelaide. To explore whether online study will work for you, contact Samantha, email@example.com.
Online is different from on-campus subjects: • schedule lectures to suit your schedule • accessible from anywhere in the world Online is just like on-campus subjects: • fully accredited • eligible for FEE-HELP Online subjects offer • discussion with other students via forums • personal access to lecturers by email, phone, or skype • online library access
A Mighty Fortress T Bruce Hulme is a lecturer in Practical Theology. He is completing his MTh and has begun training as a spiritual director. Bruce is responsible for the Spiritual Formation Program and the Supervised Field Education Program. In 1st semester he will also teach Pastoral Care in Context.
he issue of spiritual warfare and demonic activity often pulls Christians one of two ways. Sometimes there can be a diminishment of the reality of the spiritual realm reflecting a reductionist modern mindset. Manifestations in the Scriptures are to be understood most likely as epileptic-like seizures, and pastoral care for people struggling with ‘spiritual oppression’ is really a matter of addressing purely psychological disorders. Here the devil is quite happy to not be taken seriously at all.
n the other hand, sometimes there is an unhealthy focus upon or even obsession with what the devil is supposedly up to. A parent once told me they were convinced demonic activity was concentrated in certain pockets around their home, because they noticed their children fighting in some places more than others. (That theory does not bode well for our household on particular days!).
f we go looking for evil spirits, the devil will be more than happy to provide ‘evidence’; after all, better for him that our fascination, even if ‘in the name of Jesus’, is more with his activity than with God’s.
uther’s well known hymn A Mighty Fortress addresses this dialectic in a more more explicit fashion than most of his hymns. When we are tempted to disregard the reality of the demonic realm, we are reminded of Satan’s intent and our vulnerability: “The old evil foe now means deadly woe; deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight; on Earth is not his equal... With might of ours can naught be done.”
hen we are tempted to become obsessed with and fearful of the demonic realm, we are reminded of Satan’s judgement and our firm standing because for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected: “This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none, he’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him.” That ‘one little word’, is in fact a person: “Jesus Christ it is. Sabbath Lord, and there’s none other God;He holds the field forever.”
Spiritual Warfare as an Act of Love A
Dr Aaron Chalmers (PhD, OT, Flinders University) is Head of the School of Ministry, Theology, and Culture and lectures in th field of Old Testament. In 1st semester, Aaron will teach Pentateuch Exegesis.
quick Amazon search of books devoted to spiritual warfare reveals a bewildering array of titles (more than 15 000!) many of whose covers depict weapons (swords seem particularly common), defeated demons, and clouds(?). These books seem to convey the idea that spiritual warfare is a matter of triumphalism, about us “winning the battle” against the Enemy and the powers of darkness. There is much that is wrong with this picture. Particularly problematic is the failure of these images to convey the notion that spiritual warfare is an act of love, and should be pursued with a sense of humility and compassion. Let me explain this further.
he Old Testament has much to say about the worship of other gods and the worship of idols. Such idols and gods are presented in one of three ways: they are objects within creation, they are demons, and they are the work of human hands. Of these three perspectives, the OT clearly emphasizes the latter; the description of gods and idols as demons is rare (it is only found twice, Deut 32: 17 and Ps 106: 37), whereas the description of idols as human fabrications “is pervasive and typical.” (Wright, 2006: 147). And there is a
tragic irony associated with these idols – we create them with the hope of securing blessing, yet they can only bring disappointment and oppression. “The idols, gods, demons, and spiritual powers against which we declare war in the name of the gospel of Christ and his cross are things that oppress and ravage human existence. False gods destroy and devour lives, health and resources; they distort and diminish our humanity; they preside over injustice, greed, perversion, cruelty, lust and violence.” (Wright, 2006: 178).
hus, spiritual warfare is essentially an act of love for the Gospel unmasks the false idols and gods which people have created and liberates them from the social, economic, political, spiritual and social oppression that idolatry brings. It is an act of love because it allows people to experience life, and life to the full.
eference: Wright, C. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative, Nottingham, IVP: 2006. firstname.lastname@example.org