Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Who (or What) Are We Fighting... And What With?

This is probably going to get me "Blogspotted" again. :-( But what the heck, the symmetry is too great to pass up.

In doing my usual trek through my blogroll in my browser's favorites column, two blogs hit on spiritual warfare today - and wound up on opposite sides of the fence...


Real Spiritual Warfare is Not Like a Round of "DOOM"

Frankly, I get nervous at both.

Dan's post makes me nervous, because I *don't like* the idea that demonic influence can permeate families without any positive action on the part of the descendants. I think that coming to faith in Christ should automatically sever any such things, even if they do exist. And there are things in *my* past that some folks who follow this line of thinking might want to pray over *me* for, and I don't know if that's appropriate... or not...

Phil's post makes me nervous, because it reduces spiritual warfare to promulgating and arguing over theology and philosophy. For all the insistance in Reformed and Fundamentalist circles on the supernaturality of the universe - at least, where God is concerned (creation, Incarnation, Resurrection, etc) - there is little taste for allowing that the dark side of the supernatural just might be active today too. "Charismatic (*and* demonic) activity ceased at the closing of the canon!" If you say so. But I've seen the biblical arguments for this, and I am not impressed. (EDIT - in the comments section, Phil says he *has* encountered demon-possessed people, but he addresses the *person*, not the demon. That seems the opposite of the NT pattern, and I have asked him about this.) I think that both Fundamentalism and strict (r)eformed theology have absorbed at least this much modernism - that they are very uncomfortable with the idea of ongoing supernatural activity that does not fit in their theological box.

And I am still this much of a rationalist, that I am too. So Dan's article makes me uncomfortable.

And I have changed in my thinking enough, that I acknowledge that there is a possibility that divine and demonic activity is more than possible in this life. So Phil's article makes me uncomfortable.

There are elements of truth in both sides, I think. The ultimate "spiritual warfare" is the preaching of the Gospel, not funky "territorial prayers". But I also think there is a demonic side to the evils around us that rational theology is blind to.

I am forced to acknowledge, once more, that there are things in theology and life that I cannot pin down, that defy my ability to rationally set them in a row.


Blogger Dan Edelen said...


I commented on this issue over at Pyromaniac. You're right in that a balance needs to be struck. In that way, I hope that Phil and I agree.

Thanks for the link!

2:08 PM  
Blogger pgepps said...

In my own, weird slice of the universe, I encountered this dilemma while working on my MA thesis on horror literature. A key element of my research was the relationship between the desire/aversion paradox of modern psychology's "repression" mechanism and the Romans 1 conception of the believer's spiritual state. As such, I found myself having to articulate (in discussions, and even in my oral defense of the thesis) an understanding of how "real" such things are--are they "supernatural" (a category which descends from a faulty two-tiering of the created order), are they part of the created order, are they psychologically "real" but metaphysically nonexistent/epiphenomenal, or are they mere fictions?

Problem is, there's no grounds for telling. Obviously, a story is a story. A Biblical story is a true story. But what does that really tell me about what can and will normally happen? Very little.

So I very strongly suggest that rather than build theologies of spiritual warfare out of teachings that aren't clearly directed to us--or reassuring ourselves by dismissing the uncomfortable as impossible--that we adopt a very simple, but very powerful, guideline for teaching in these matters:

The next time a child says "I'm afraid of ghosts!" don't tell them "There's no such thing as ghosts." You don't know that! Instead, teach them "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world," and make sure they know who He is.

That is all the power we need for life and godliness. Anything else is pushing the point.


3:58 AM  

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