North American Case Study: An Overview of Spiritual Warfare Literature

When one takes into account the books, tapes, conferences, seminars, extension courses, etc., that are available on spiritual warfare in North America it is absolutely staggering. How do you sort the good from the bad? A quick overview of the types of books available will at least start us in the right direction. Recognizing the danger that in categorizing I may be placing people inappropriately in boxes, the broadly evangelical literature falls in to seven general categories.

 
  • Traditionalists: those who urge extreme caution. In this category demonic attack, especially on Christians, tends to be downplayed, and demonic confrontation is viewed with suspicion. Authors include John MacArthur, How to Meet the Enemy (Victor Press, 1992), Thomas Ice and Robert Dean, A Holy Rebellion: Strategies for Spiritual Warfare (Harvest House, 1990), Dan Korem, The Powers (InterVarsity, 1988) and The Fakers (with Paul Meier; Baker, 1981), and David Powlison, Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare (Baker, 1995). Korem’s perspective is the most unique; he looks at apparent displays of the supernatural (e.g., fortune telling) and critiques them as a stage magician.
  • Experienced-based warriors: they tell startling testimonials of deliverance and integrate experience in testing doctrinal formulations. The reading is exciting, though there can be a naive attitude towards the real effect of some of the methods (e.g., prayer against territorial spirits). Works in this category include Peter Wagner’s Prayer Warrior series, his ongoing three-volume series on Acts, and Confronting the Powers (all published by Regal Books); Chuck Kraft’s Christianity with Power (Vine Books 1989), Defeating Dark Angels (Vine Books, 1992) and John Wimber’s Power Evangelism and Power Healing (Hodder and Stoughton).
  • Evangelical confronters: those who recognize the reality of demonic work in Christians and advocate a direct confrontive deliverance approach. Books include Fred Dickason’s Demon Possession and the Christian (Moody Press, 1987); Mark Bubeck’s The Adversary (Moody Press, 1975) Overcoming the Adversary (Moody Press, 1984) and The Satanic Revival (Here’s Life, 1991); Kurt Koch’s Occult Bondage and Deliverance (Kregel, 1971); and Thomas White’s The Believer’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare (Vine, 1990) and Breaking Strongholds: How Spiritual Warfare Sets Captives Free (Vine, 1993).
  • Theologians and biblical scholars: These vary widely in perspective. The first “classic” is Jesse Penn-Lewis’ The War on the Saints (Thomas E. Lowe, 1912). A good introductory survey of the perspectives from varying theological paradigms is Thomas McAlpine’s Facing the Powers: What Are the Options? (MARC, 1991). Perhaps the most influential series in academic circles is Walter Wink’s trilogy Naming the Powers (1984), Unmasking the Powers (1986) and Engaging the Powers (1992; all from Fortress Press). Wink writes out of a liberal tradition, but his insights on the social side of spiritual warfare are penetrating. Three outstanding books are Clinton Arnold’s Ephesians: Power and Magic (Baker, 1989; very technical); Powers of Darkness (InterVarsity Press, 1992; more popular); and 3 Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare (Baker, 1997). Other recent books include Paul Hiebert Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues (Baker, 1995), Ed Rommen, ed., Spiritual Power: What are the Issues? (William Carey, 1995) [see also my chapter on evangelical animism in Rommen and Netland, eds., Christianity and the Religions (William Carey, 1995)], Sydney Page, Powers of Evil (Baker, 1995) and Anthony N. S. Lane, ed., The Unseen World (Baker, 1996). A recent contribution to an important facet of the discussion is in Chuck Lowe, Territorial Spirits and World Evangelization (OMF, 1998). Lowe takes to task on a biblical basis some of the teaching of strategic level spiritual warfare advocated by C. Peter Wagner and Charles Kraft.
  • Spiritual healers: those who explore the healing of deep hurts through a variety of therapeutic means (prayer, counseling, medical intervention). Two of the best I have found are John White’s Changing on the Inside (Vine, 1991) and Dan Allender and Tremper Longman, Bold Love (NavPress, 1992). They also include the more charismatic authors such as John Sandford, The Transformation of the Inner Man and Leanne Payne’s works (e.g., Restoring the Christian Soul through Healing Prayer; Crossway, 1991)
  • Truth encounter advocates: Writers in this category focus on teaching people truth and its application rather than direct demonic confrontation. The most influential book is Neil Anderson’s The Bondage Breaker (Harvest House Publishers, 1990). Anderson has also written Living Free in Christ (Regal, 1993), a compilation of devotions focused on our identity in Christ. Those struggling in church setting may find Setting Your Church Free (Regal, 1994) helpful. Other books include Jim Logan’s Reclaiming Surrendered Ground (Moody Press, 1995) and Timothy Warner’s Spiritual Warfare (Crossway, 1991) and my Essentials of Spiritual Warfare (Harold Shaw, 1997). A refreshing work showing how practical works of kindness overcome Satan’s work is by Steve Sjogren’s Servant Warfare (Vine, 1996).
  • Cross-cultural spiritual conflict analysts: Those who examine issues of SW in light of cultural frames, including Meg Kraft, Understanding Spiritual Power (Orbis, 1995), my The World of the Spirits (Evangel, 1991), and Gailyn Van Rheenen, Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts (Baker, 1991). For a fascinating look through the eyes of a Yanamamo shaman, see Mark Ritchie, Spirit of the Rain Forest (Island Lake Press, 1996).

Date: 22 Aug 2000

Gathering: 2000 Nairobi

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