Spiritual Warfare: Problems

Spiritual Warfare: Problems December 19, 2012

Some people see cosmic forces, even diabolical spiritual beings, at work whenever evil appears; others find such talk primitive and systemically dangerous. Within this either/or spectrum, James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy find four approaches to “spiritual warfare”: (1) the world systems model of Walter Wink, the classical model of David Powlison, the ground-level deliverance model of Greg Boyd, and the strategic-level deliverance model of C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood. Hence, there is a new “four views” book: Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views.

Some, as I said, find such talk primitive and systemically dangerous. Why? Do you think “spiritual warfare” language is potentially hazardous? 

According to these authors, there are three areas of problems in discussion of spiritual warfare:

1. Talk of spiritual warfare divides the world into two groups: the bad and dark vs. the good and light. Such language empowers those who think others are systemically influenced by the spiritual beings and turns the others into enemies. It’s certaintist. It entitles those in the light to violence. It border on “holy war.” It emerges from the pathological state of the religious mind. It breeds intolerance.

2. Talk of spiritual warfare assumes the real existence of the spirit world, of angels and demons and the Satan. Many see this as primitive, mythological and superstitious. Bultmann famously said it is impossible to believe in electric lights and the world of demons at the same time. There are, in other words, better explanations than offered in the Bible times.

3. Talk of spiritual warfare entails the practice of spiritual warfare, but this is a contested practice. There is a focus on the world, or systemic approach to spiritual warfare; the flesh, a classical model of spiritual warfare at the personal, inner level; the devil and demons, which leads more to a deliverance model of spiritual warfare. Thus, to exorcism (however that is expressed): personal or “territorial” (C. Peter Wagner).

Rethinking the Bible’s ideas: Beilby and Eddy have a good sketch of three recent attempts to re-evaluate and re-express what the Bible says: Karl Barth (origins in nothingness but not nothing; doesn’t believe in them but against them; they are the myth, the myth of all mythologies), Walter Wink (corporate, human, systemic powers need to be considered; but Integral worldview approach of panentheism is his approach; there is an inner and outer aspect of reality; “the spiritual dimension of earthly, human institutions and structures”), and Amos Yong (an emergentist cosmology; God is the only purely spiritual being; demons, etc, therefore have physicality but are personal realities; demons are divergent malevolent realities; they are only parasitic and privative).

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