Saturday, June 2, 2007

Spiritual Warfare - Does it happen today?

Another great post from a member of Puritanboard.com!

In response to this post.

As in many spiritual and doctrinal things there is great imbalance in the spiritual warfare arena. On the one hand there is what is called “the spiritual warfare movement”, and on the other the conservative (I should probably say Reformed) “classic” approach to spiritual warfare.

The former is exemplified by such as Frank Hammond’s Pigs In The Parlor, Don Basham’s Deliver Us From Evil, Benny Hinn, as well as the more conservative Merrill Unger of DTS, and many other non-Charismatics. There is a "Christian" here in my city who operates according to the Pigs In The Parlor schema and seeks to promote sanctification through exorcism. “I will cast out the spirit of smoking (or anger, lust, etc).”

The latter approach, the “classic”, is seen in such as David Powlison (of CCEF) and his book, Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare (Baker 1995), and Frederick S. Leahy in his, Satan Cast Out: A Study in Biblical Demonology (Banner of Truth 1975).

Powlison rightly points out in his excellent book that we find deliverance from moral evil through repentance, receptive faith, and active obedience, and not through exorcism, as the root of the evil is moral – is our own and not an outside agent, as a demon – and so must be dealt with by ourselves seeking the grace of God to aid us.

To my knowledge this subject of spiritual warfare is not directly addressed in either the Westminster Standards or the Three Forms of Unity.

Leahy makes clear that the most powerful mode of warfare against the kingdom of darkness is the open proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, and of the kingdom of God. This is true. What is the praying against evil spirits in a locality compared to this? I do see no problem of announcing to the demonic world in one’s prayers the victory of Christ, nor do I see a problem of praying against demons who are deceiving or oppressing an individual, and at the same time asking the Lord for light and repentance for that person. To the person I would address his moral responsibility to repent and believe.

The 60’s counter-culture brought a new dimension of demonic activity into the world (degree-wise, at any rate) through its use of sorcerous potions and occult practice. In Hindu lands certain devotees use hashish and grass to project themselves into the spirit-world to make contact with spirit-entities (which we know as demons).

In highly advanced metropolises – the one I know best is NYC – there are groups such as the Santeria and other voodoo cults, as well as covens that practice serious witchcraft, and guru-led groups who connect deeply with demons who energize their spiritual activities, often with significant manifestations of power.

Again, against such the most powerful warfare is simply the proclamation of Christ, His Person, His work, His power, love – the attributes of His deity….the victorious establishment of the Kingdom of God in various areas through the planting of churches.

In the things I said to Raj on the other thread, these are my thoughts: the woman “attacked” by a spirit should be counseled by the pastor or a mature saint to discern what was going on. Was there some continued involvement in the occult? A demon cannot rightly attack a believer except through ignorance – deception – or through some sin which gives ground to their operation. The “deliverance” needed here is proper discipleship.

I do not believe that, as per Luke 10:19, 20, this word is only for the 72 – as though after those days the spirits are no longer subject unto us? The mode of warfare is different after the crucifixion and resurrection; as the Lord said, “…now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (Jn 12:31). And yet, we may well run across individuals who either a) consciously and deliberately traffic with demons and so have their power operating through them (gurus are one class, Satanists, witches, and warlocks another) and it bodes us well to know that there is no demon operating through any human agent who may have the mastery over us; and b) those who are deceived and greatly oppressed or even possessed by a spirit. Not too many of the latter running around in the West – most of them are in psych wards under heavy medications (“chemical restraints”) or in shock therapy. In primitive countries one may see more of them. And the spirits – operating in whichever class – are even in these days subject unto us. I walk in this confidence. The Spirit of the great God dwelleth in me.

Raj, the church your wife’s family is in needs to be taught of the mighty power that Christ the Lord is unto His church – indeed, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.” (Psalm 46:5) And they need to be taught that to walk in godly trust and obedience is to be in the “strong tower… of the name of the Lord” and they are safe in Him (Proverbs 18:10).

The church of God – that is, we bands of pilgrims who journey through the wilderness of this world en route to the City of God – may look weak and miserable to the world, but the might and wisdom of our King is in our midst. I will be praying that the church you speak of will realize this.

Bob, as I don’t know the specs of your former situation, I can’t say much. It is true that “deliverance teams” can wreak much damage. But if psychic (or physical) phenomena were happening around me I would fast, and pray, and would have no reluctance to “directly engage” whatever was behind it. But I would not come in “guns blazing” – I would watch, and pray. As David with the giant, aggression is just fine in certain situations.

Steve Rafalsky
Elder, International Evangelical Church (Presbyterian)
Limassol, Cyprus

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