Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare

Phil Johnson's excellent, myth-busting series of posts about spiritual warfare (which began here and wraps up here -but be sure to read the intervening posts) reminded me of what I think is one of the best contemporary books on the subject - David Powlison's Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare (Baker, 1995). In it, he critiques what he calls ekballistic modes of ministry, offering the following explanation:

I will describe the demon-deliverance movement using an invented term that might seem awkward at first glance. But it will carry the freight and highlight the distinctives that most need serious debate within the body of Christ. I will use the term "ekballistic mode of ministry," with the acronym EMM for short. Ekballistic comes from the Greek word ekballo, which means to "cast out." From ek--out--we get "exit." And from ballo--to throw or cast--we get "ballistic."

In the gospels when someone suffered an unclean spirit, Jesus showed mercy by casting it out. The practice of casting or driving out spirits captures the most distinctive feature of contemporary deliverance ministries, or EMM. Proponents say that Christians and non-Christians often require an "ekballistic encounter" to cast out inhabiting demons that enslave us in sexual lust, anger, low self-esteem, substance abuse, fascination with the occult, unbelief, and other ungodly patterns.
Powlison later makes an important distinction between moral and situational evil, noting that demonization is consistently portrayed in the gospels as belonging to the latter category:
"All those who had afflictions [the sick and demonized] pressed about Jesus" (Mark 3:10, NASB). Demonization is in fact recognized and identified by its expression through miserable conditions, such as blindness, deafness, paralysis, dementia, and seizures. Sins, such as unbelief, fear, anger, lust, and other addictions, point to Satan's moral lordship, but never to demonization calling for EMM. People are victims of demonic sufferings, just as they are victims of lameness, blindness, or purely physiological seizures.
As Powlison notes, demons were consistently cast out in order to alleviate suffering, not to morally improve people "except as the miracle prompt[ed] grateful faith in Jesus." Powlison also notes the different stance Jesus took toward those who were demonized and those practicing sin. Those in the former category he healed. Those in the latter, he called to repentance.

Unfortunately, Power Encounters is no longer in print. Why? My guess is that it was too biblical and not sensationalist enough for the Christian market. Unlike many popular treatments, Powlison puts the activity of Satan and his minions in its proper context--a universe governed by an absolutely sovereign God. That alone is enough to cut sales. Now, had he thrown in a few "warfare prayers" and a guide for how to put on the armor of God each morning, I'm sure the book would be sitting on the shelf of your local Christian bookstore. Anyway, if there's any way you can acquire this volume, I urge you to do so. This is a potent antidote to all the superstition and sensationalism surrounding this important topic. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks the book is valuable.


read with open eyes said...

If Powlison's book is out of print within ten years, does that mean that it sold out? Then, someone must have bought and read the book. Thanks for reminding us that we can't excuse our sin by saying, "The devil made me do it." However, we shouldn't overlook the responsibility as servants of an absolutely sovereign God to continue to fight against situational evil also.

KP said...

Hi, Jerry

My curiosity got the best of me this morning so I called Baker Books to inquire how long Power Encounters was in print. The very helpful operator told me that it was in print between '95 and '04. I'm sure, as you point out, that during that time someone bought and read the book. I just wonder why a book like that is no longer available when something like Neil Anderson's The Bondage Breaker is now in its 15th year of publication and probably won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Obviously, this is an issue of supply and demand.

As to our not overlooking our responsibility to fight against situational evil, I didn't mean to suggest otherwise.

Speaking of things going out of print, have you given up blogging? I miss reading you.

Milton Stanley said...

Couldn't figure out how to use the "Create a Link" function, but I've already linked to your post. Thanks for the insights on demons, sickness, and sin. You've helped me see these issues more clearly. Peace.

kec said...

A friend of mine made the following observation in a Sunday School class once. It probably isn't new to the readers of this blog, but, for me, it caused one of those "ah-ha!" moments. He said, essentially ..

Quit blaming all your problems on Satan. Satan isn't omniscient, omnipresent, nor omnipowerful. Even with a horde of minions, he isn't whispering in your ear every moment of every day with the perfect temptation. We know that he does tempt us, but your sin is your fault, not his. Quit passing the buck to Satan, stand up, and take the blame for your sin so that you can repent of it.

use_2b_prodigal said...

This is quite an There is a commercial on the TV that shows two guys debating whether a man is choking to death or not. The guy choking was turning blue, all the sudden the waiter looked annoyingly at the two debaters and performed a life saving technique to save the choking man.

The past few months I have felt this ache in my heart when I watch my fellow christians interract with each other. It seems that WE spiritual warriors are at war with each other over the theories that each of our denominations holds. Baptist turn their sword on Catholics, Lutherns against Methodists and so on. WHY? This blog is about "spiritual warfare" Shouldn't Christains Battle against Satan's dominion? I assure you, he is a more worthy adversary. Are we squeemish to fight him or have we found it easier to cut each other into bits while the one who seeks to divide us laughs at our stupidity?

Spiritual warfare is not Christain against Christain, it is supposed to be spiritual warriors against the principalities of darkness. If this makes you squeemish, check your faith at the door. I personally cannot stomache another debate when there is work to be done.

Wake up! There is a world that really needs us. There are people that need to be fed. There are people that need to be clothed. There are people that need to be comforted. Have we lost track of what our Lord said? I promise you this; while we are fighting each other, Satan is sending his dominions to do the job we are supposed to do. When governments feed the poor, drug pushers and prostitutes are comforting the down trotten, we have major problems.

I realize that he is a vanquished foe, but I am more concerned about the millions he is going to take with him while we fight amongst ourselves. Remember, "A house divided cannot stand!"

RadicalNoble said...

If you want a little REALITY in spiritual warfare check out the AUDIO on this site!!

BUT you have to LISTEN to the whole AUDIO story.

Looks like you have to buy the book though.

KP said...

I considered deleting the previous advertisemen- I mean comment, but decided against it as the book promoted there only serves to demonstrate why volume's such as Powlison's are so greatly needed.

Johannes de Koning said...

Very precious book. I live in Africa (Namibia). Used it for two sermons on Ephesians 6.