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Understanding Spiritual Warfare

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The topic of spiritual warfare is an issue of ongoing interest in a number of sectors of the contemporary church. This four-view work brings together leading theologians and ministry leaders to present major views on spiritual warfare in dialogical fashion--all authors present their views and then respond to each of the other views. Contributors include:

- Walter Wink with Gareth Higgins and Michael Hardin
- David Powlison
- Gregory Boyd
- C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood

This volume provides a balanced, irenic approach to a much-discussed and often controversial topic. Offering a model of critical thinking and respectful dialogue, it highlights the differences between contributors, discusses a full range of important topics on the subject, and deploys biblical as well as theological arguments.

240 pages, Paperback

First published December 1, 2012

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About the author

James K. Beilby

17 books12 followers
James K. Beilby (PhD, Marquette University) is professor of systematic and philosophical theology at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Profile Image for George P..
548 reviews51 followers
February 9, 2013
Beilby, James K. and Paul Rhodes Eddy. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views. 2012. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

The term spiritual warfare is not a biblical term, but it captures a biblical theme. “[O]ur struggle is not against flesh and blood,” Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The nature of those “powers” and, hence, of the “struggle” against them is the topic of Understanding Spiritual Warfare, which presents a debate among four “models” of spiritual warfare by leading advocates of each.

The book opens with an “Introduction” by editors James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy. It analyzes the three issues that underlie the debate about spiritual warfare: “(1) the moral objection to ‘spiritual warfare’ language; (2) the existence and nature of spirit beings, with a focus on Satan and the demonic; and (3) Christian perspectives on theology and practice of spiritual warfare itself” (2). The introduction is well-researched and judicious in its conclusions—an excellent contribution in its own right.

The Book of Common Prayer includes a request that God deliver his people from “all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil.” Beilby and Eddy argue that this “triumvirate” helps explain the primary focus of each of the four models, with Walter Wink, Gareth Higgins, and Michael Hardin emphasizing the world, David Powlison emphasizing the flesh, and Gregory Boyd, C. Peter Wagner, and Rebecca Greenwood emphasizing deliverance form the devil, though at different levels.

Walter Wink, whose remarks have been edited by Gareth Higgins, presents “The World Systems Model” (Chapter 1). He is the author of a trilogy on spiritual warfare: Naming the Powers , Unmasking the Powers , and Engaging the Powers . Writing from within the liberal Protestant tradition, Wink’s understanding of spiritual warfare has been shaped by the demythologization of the New Testament. He rejects, for example, the “personification” of Satan, i.e., the understanding that Satan is a fallen angel. And yet, influenced by post-World War II European theologians, he wants to retain the language of “Satan” and “the powers” because “there are some evils too horrendous to be named otherwise” (59). So, he identifies Satan with “the real interiority of a society that idolatrously pursues its own enhancement as the highest good” (56). The outward form of Satan is “the Domination System,” “the alienated and alienating reality that seduces humanity into idolatry: the worship of political power as divine” (63). The antidote to Satan and the Domination System is “intercession,” which Wink defines as “spiritual defiance of what is, in the name of what God has promised” (61). Intercession cannot be reduced to prayer, however. Nor can it be restricted to Christians. Wink writes: “history belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being. This is not simply a religious statement. It is as true of Communists or capitalists or anarchists as it is of Christians. The future belongs to whoever can envision in the manifold of its potentials a new and desirable possibility, which faith then fixes upon as inevitable.” (62).

David Powlison presents “The Classical Model” (Chapter 2). Writing from within the Reformed evangelical tradition, Powlison uses Ephesians 6:12–20 as a lens through which to view spiritual warfare. He defines spiritual warfare as “the moral conflict of the Christian life” (92). “At its core,” then, “to win this war is to know God and consciously serve him” (98). Spiritual warfare “looks like the Christian life” (8). He further argues that “repentance,” not exorcism, is the key to ministry to persons “involved in the occult” (101–103) or with “an addictive bondage to sin” (103–104). Indeed, he argues that the Bible “never connects these deliverances [i.e., exorcisms in the synoptic Gospels] to Satan’s moral lordship and our battle with sin. They are part of mercy ministry to sufferers, not our fight against the triumvirate of dark masters” (105, emphasis in original). Finally, he argues “anecdotally” that pastoral care better accomplishes what “spiritual warfare ministries” seek to accomplish through exorcism (106–111).

Gregory Boyd presents “The Ground-Level Deliverance Model” (Chapter 3). Writing from within the perspective of Open Theism, he defines spiritual warfare this way: “God battles cosmic powers and humans to establish his will ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’” Contrary to Augustine, who held that “everything that comes to pass, good or evil, ultimately reflects God’s sovereign will,” Boyd argues that, “while it’s certain God will eventually triumph over his cosmic and earthly foes, much of what comes to pass does not reflect God’s benevolent will but rather reflects the will of agents working at cross-purposes with God” (129). Boyd divides his essay into three parts: the first surveys the biblical teaching about “the cosmic-conflict worldview” (130–139). The second makes four arguments for “the reality of spirits” (139–147). Here, Boyd has Rudolf Bultmann’s endlessly repeated dictum in view: “It is impossible to use electric light and the wireless and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries, and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of spirits and miracles.” The problems with this are that it is:

“a non sequitur” (141);
“demonstrably false,” since any number of modern persons both use technology and believe in spirits (141);
chronocentric,” “ethnocentric,” “elitist” and “uncritical,” since the academics who advance this consider their own place, time, and beliefs to float above historical criticism (141, emphases in original);
“increasingly antiquated even within these circles [of Western academics],” since social scientists are calling into question the naturalistic worldview based on what they’re seeing in the field (142–143).

Indeed, citing the studies of some of these social scientists, Boyd makes a “cross-cultural argument for the reality of spirits and ‘demon possession’” (147–148). The third part of Boyd’s essay provides three action steps for Christians: (1) “to wear the armor and retain the mind-set of a good soldier” (152), (2) “to imitate Jesus is to manifest the beauty of God’s reign by living a countercultural life that revolts against everything on earth and in ‘the spiritual realm’ that stands against this reign” (154), and (3) to use the authority Jesus imparted to us “to drive out demons and heal infirmities…for he wants us to imitate Jesus’ warfare in this area as well” (154).

Finally, C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood present “The Strategic-Level Deliverance Model” (Chapter 4). In the first four pages of the essay, Wagner recounts the history of his development of the idea of strategic-level spiritual warfare, and the controversy this caused at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he then worked. The remainder of the essay is written by Greenwood, a self-described “prophetic warfare intercessor” who has “actively and consistently engaged in strategic-level spiritual warfare, addressing territorial spirits since 1991” (177). She defines spiritual warfare as “an invisible battle in the spiritual realm involving a power confrontation between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness” (178). It occurs on three levels: (1) ground level: “the practice of deliverance ministry that involves breaking demonic influences in an individual.” (2) occult level: “resistance to a more ordered level of demonic authority…witchcraft, Satanism, freemasonry, New Age beliefs, Eastern religions, and many other forms of spiritual practices that glorify Satan and his dark army.” (3) strategic level: “power confrontations with high-ranking principalities and powers…assigned to geographical territories and social networks” (179). Warfare at the strategic level involves several practices:

“spiritual mapping”: “the practice of identifying the spiritual conditions at work in a given community, city, or nation,” with a focus on the “defilement” of a “land” through “bloodshed,” “idolatry,” “sexual immorality,” and “broken covenants” (182, 185, 186);
“identificational repentance”: “a two stage intercessory action that involves: (1) an acknowledgment that one’s affinity group (clan, city, nation or organization) has been guilty of specific corporate sins before God and man, and (2) a prayerful petition that God will use personal repudiation of this sin as a redemptive beachhead from which to move into the larger community” (187, quoting George Otis, Jr.);
“prophetic decrees: “an announcement or proclamation given with the authority of a prophet” (188);
“prophetic acts”: “a thing or deed done, having the powers of a prophet, or an action or decree that foreshadows what is to come”; and
“power encounters”: “a visible, practical demonstration that Jesus Christ is more powerful than the spirits, powers or false gods worshiped or feared by the members of a given group” (190, quoting C. Peter Wagner).

Greenwood closes her essay with a case study of strategic-level spiritual warfare against abortion in Wichita, Kansas—more specifically against the abortionist Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion activist, on May 31, 2009, while attending church. Though Greenwood repudiates Tiller’s murder, she nonetheless sees it as somehow an outworking of her strategic-level spiritual warfare activities.

Each of the essays in Understanding Spiritual Warfare contains a response by advocates of the other three views. (Michael Hardin cowrote Wink's responses.) Rather than summarizing these responses, however, let me summarize my own takeaways:

Spiritual warfare cannot be reduced to the Christian’s struggle with only one of the world-flesh-devil triumvirate. Nor can the primary focus be on only one of the three. Any account of spiritual warfare, in other words, must be non-reductionist and multi-perspectival. We need deliverance from world-systems, fleshly temptations, and the depredations of the demonic realm. That is both the biblical picture and the traditional understanding so ably summarized by The Book of Common Prayer.
While Wink’s attention to the systematic character of the world’s evil is a salutary rebuke to individualistic understandings of it, his theology is heterodox. He uses the terminology of the Bible and Christian tradition, but he invests it with suspect meanings. On this account, I am sympathetic to Powlison’s statement that “Wink’s liberalism is a different kind of religion” (77), even though it uses the same words as orthodox Christianity.
While’s Powlison’s essay helps us understand how best to fight the flesh, and while he argues against reducing the world-flesh-devil triumvirate to any one of the three members, I feel he has done precisely that, reducing all spiritual warfare to resisting the flesh.
I am very sympathetic to Boyd’s “cosmic-conflict model,” though I have theological reservations about Open Theism. And like Powlison, I worry that Boyd has underemphasized the sins of the flesh. Nevertheless, his brief against the naturalistic worldview is an important contribution to the subject; on which, see his longer word, written with Paul Rhodes Eddy, The Jesus Legend.
In contrast to the essays by Wink, Powlison, and Boyd, the essay by Wagner and Greenwood is an embarrassment. Its exegesis is thin, and its conclusions unrooted in the precedent of church history. It uncritically cites other advocates of strategic-level spiritual warfare. And it is largely anecdotally driven, without recognizing how problematic the anecdotes are. Greenwood’s ambivalence about Tiller’s murder is a case in point. She rejoices in the end, namely, the decline in abortion in Wichita, but she rejects the means that brought the end about, namely, Roeder’s violation of the Sixth Commandment.

In conclusion, Understanding Spiritual Warfare is an excellent presentation of the debate among Christians from across the Protestant spectrum of the nature and practice of spiritual warfare. I recommend it to theologians, students, pastors, church leaders, and church members as an introduction to the key thinkers and issues in the debate.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.
5 reviews
June 25, 2022
This book was a difficult but very interesting read. I am grateful for the fact that I read it after towards the end of the school year after we have discussed so much about our sin issues and that they are resolved by repentance. With the four views, there are four essays where each essay is written from a different "camp" of spiritual warfare. Some of the arguments ranged from the ludicrous "Satan isn't really evil" from Walter Wink to the bizarre "Spiritual Warfare Mapping" put forth by C. Peter Wager and Rebecca Greenwood. However, there was some very good content written by David Powlison who argued that Spiritual Warfare is best handled by following the instructions of Ephesians 6 and putting on the whole armor of God. Powlison also pointed out that by citing demonic possession, then a person is not taking responsibility for their own actions as is rather trying to blame another entity for their sin. Rather, the way to resolve the issue is to repent of their sin. He makes the point that we are not to worry ourselves about the "principalities and powers" since those are already bound by Christ and that nothing happens outside of the will of God. Gregory Boyd, in his essay argued that there are principalities and powers that we have to contend with. I do agree with him that there are principalities and powers, but I believe that we, as Christians, need to follow Ephesians 6 and make sure that we are putting on the whole armor of God. It is also important to note that we are never commanded, as believers in Christ to cast out demons. Any commands given to the apostles was for a very specific point in time. Boyd does recount a story of demonic activity taking place in a native village. I think it is appropriate for an argument to be made that there can be demonic possession in areas that have not been saturated with the gospel for centuries. However, we would differ on how to resolve. Boyd would argue that a deliverance needs to be done with the "demon is bound and cast out". I would argue rather that the demon needs to be repented of for there is no temptation that has overcome us that we can't resist.
Profile Image for Amanda Hunsberger.
296 reviews21 followers
July 25, 2020
I liked the format of this book. Each author wrote an essay explaining their perspective on spiritual warfare and then each of the other authors wrote a rebuttal. The limited size of each essay made an otherwise academic book very manageable. Not all of my questions were answered and I think the essays would've benefited from being structured around the same set of questions. I was disappointed that I didn't fit squarely into any one of these perspectives, but found myself between two of them. Overall, though, a very thoughtful, respectful, and smart look at Christian perspectives on spiritual warfare.
Profile Image for Stan.
Author 3 books8 followers
May 25, 2016
Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views is one of the best "Four Views" books I have read!

Each author interacts with the other in a very respsctful and complimentary manner, even when discussing points of disagreement - and there is plenty to disagree with in these presentations. The authors stick tothe point - discussing spiritual warfare and focus little on points of disagreement in terms of theological conservatism or liberalism.

Walter Wink presents his view of The World Systems Model. David Powlison present his view of The Classical Model. Gregory Boyd presents his view of The Ground-Level Deliverance Model. And C. Peter Wagner with Rebecca Greenwood present their view of The Strategic-Level Deliverance Model.

I had not read a complete work by any of these authors before reading this book. So, their specific arguments were fresh. Each author highlights aspects of Spiritual Warfare that must be considered. It becomes obvious that there is more to Spiritual Warfare than most Christians understand.

While I disagree on some points, I must say the best presentation was made by Gregory Boyd. He lays the groundwork extremely well for both "ground-level" and "cosmic-level" spiritual warfare, even those his contribution was directed specifically at "ground-level" spiritual warfare.

Walter Wink is just too theologically liberal for me to accept. That said, his presentation brings sharp focus to issues of social justice and societal evil - two realities that far too many believers in the West choose to ignore.

David Powlison makes a solid presentation of the classical view that states we must lead holy lives in the face of temptation (the flesh, the world, the devil) and that is spiritual warfare. By the time the reader completes the book it will become obvious that there is more to spiritual warfare than that. Exactly how one must approach spiritual warfare beyond the classical view is the question.

C. Peter Wagner and Rebecca Greenwood have much to say, but little Scripture to back it up. In my opinion, there contribution is weak, though it makes for interesting reading. The objections of both Powlison and Boyd clearly bring this position into question.

This particular Four Views book does not allow the author of the position to react to the disagreements, so that element is missing. Perhaps that weakens the book, but perhaps it prevents the book from becoming overly defensive and argumentative.

Overall, I foudn this book to be highly informative. If you have an interest in Spiritual Warfare from a Christian perspective, this book will be very interesting to you. Enjoy!
Profile Image for Alli.
20 reviews
May 27, 2020
More than any other book in quite some time, this one challenged me in ways that I’m not used to. I’ll admit, I tend to find what authors I like, stick with them, learn a good amount and move on. But this book raised emotions in me- frustration, disbelief, anger, confidence, conviction- that I don’t often face all in one book. This was quite a ride for me but I end it with a good sense of closure. Haha, so why the 3 stars?! Because I didn’t quite agree with any of the four views and think there were still stones unturned as to what the New Testament has to say about spiritual warfare.

All the contributors are well-educated experts in their fields, well-articulated... Which leads to the question of how can so many smart, knowledgeable Christians can have such differing views on a biblical subject?! This book reminded me that the church has a vast spectrum of opinion and I think less and less that this is a bad thing. I realize Paul tell Timothy that sound doctrine is vital to a healthy church but God has also allowed such vast opinion on biblical matters I think to meet people where they are at and to broaden the reach of the church. Only He knows fully who are the wheat and the tares.

I would only suggest this book to those who are pretty comfortable with their way around the New Testament, who can test the words of the authors to Scripture. Otherwise, it will feel either overwhelming or confusing.
Profile Image for Sara Fukuda.
172 reviews
June 8, 2022
An interesting book. A bit over my head, but such an important topic I soldiered on anyway.

I did like the format, though I struggled with it. 4 articles/“views” on spiritual warfare by different authors, with each author offering a reply/rebuttal.

The last view in particular alarmed me, “the strategic-level deliverance model.” In this and in all the views in general, there was much less Biblical backing then I was hoping for.
There was biblical passages mentioned of course, but throughout the entire book I was hoping for a biblical backing to EVERY piece of their viewpoint, the way I’ve grown accustomed to in Dr. Jim Newheisers teachings.

I felt there were lots of opinions in this book, and some sound biblical views points but lots of scripture left out/ignored/twisted.

34 reviews
February 18, 2022
This book serves as a great introduction to many of the issues involved in spiritual warfare. Like most of these "four views" books, I found one or two of the views to be so far removed from orthodoxy that they hardly constitute an acceptable view. However, I appreciate their contributions to the conversation. Overall, I thought this was a helpful "four views" book that will give readers much to ponder.
Profile Image for Jeff Ragan.
52 reviews3 followers
January 22, 2022
This is a really good comparison - written from proponents of each perspective - of the different Christian views of prayerful spiritual warfare. Each writer does a great job of laying out their best case, and the reader is left with the info he needs to decide which style of confronting evil he is most comfortable with. Very accessible in style and scope.
Profile Image for Marty Taylor.
128 reviews1 follower
July 27, 2020

Well-laid out and well written book exploring the increasingly (it seems) diverging views on spiritual warfare. The format provided a nice give-and-take between the proponents and their various viewpoints.
Profile Image for Zach Waldis.
190 reviews9 followers
May 21, 2022
This volume features the full gamut of American Christianity, from Wink's liberal protestantism to Greenwood's charismatic fundamentalism. It is a helpful introduction and survey of the topic. Greg Boyd continues to demonstrate that he is the most serious pastor/scholar in the US.
94 reviews
August 2, 2020
An interesting collection of essays but I strongly disagree with [nearly] everything Wink contributes to the book.
36 reviews
April 16, 2014
Overall this book is helpful for thinking through different perspectives on spiritual warfare. Each of the perspectives are quite different, though the differences that you see in these views on spiritual warfare are often rooted in differences in other doctrinal distinctives. What one fundamentally believes concerning God's revelation, God's sovereignty, the nature of sin, Christian growth, the existence of a spiritual world, and Jesus' death and resurrection will shape the way you view the nature of spiritual warfare. People are often excited or curious to learn about spiritual warfare, but miss the fact that spiritual warfare doesn't stand apart from the rest of Christian belief and practice.

Christianity has often spoken of evil operating in "the world, the flesh, and the devil" and our victory as Christians coming against these three. It seems that each of the views represented focus their theology and practice on one of these, sometimes at the expense of the others.

Wink/Higgins/Hardin represent the extreme on one side, seeing satan as some sort of Jungian projection of the evil in every human (thus, not an actual being), and spiritual warfare as a struggle against social structures that perpetuate injustice. There is wisdom in some of what the authors discuss, however they reduce Christianity to one's social action to the neglect of Biblical orthodoxy. Their view is rooted in 19-20th century philosophy and social science more than scripture.

Wagner/Greenwood represent the extreme on the other side, describing the Christian as battling against territorial demons so that "breakthroughs" take place in the particular place of that demon's rule. All of the other authors are quick to point out that the practices these authors advocate are neither demonstrated nor encouraged in Scripture. Their main method is non-Biblical.

Boyd and Powlison offer more normal views and their differences are based more in the doctrines listed above, namely the sovereignty of God. Boyd encourages the practice of deliverance ministry alongside counseling ministry in his church. Most of his essay is spent trying to convince modern people that it is ok to believe in a spiritual world. Powlison gives a solid exegesis of Ephesians 6, and emphasizes our struggle against the power of sin in our own lives because it is where he sees the NT writers placing emphasis.

I recommend this book for getting a sense of the range of belief and practice with regards to spiritual warfare, however don't expect it to answer all of your questions and be ready to think about how this topic connects to other areas of Christian belief.
79 reviews3 followers
August 12, 2014
A helpful and well-written book. I think the authors' emphasizes (and overreaches perhaps) can be put into three categories:

- the world: Wink is apparently an important voice in spiritual warfare discussions so should be understood. I think his view helpfully points out the big picture, confronting us with the reality of spiritual forces at work on national, world, societal, etc levels. Furthermore, he makes you think about how groups of people are behind these evils. However, his view is sub-biblical in denying that there are real, sentient spiritual beings (demons) behind the great evils in the world (or at all).

- the flesh: Powlison writes what I think is a largely typical, non-charismatic evangelical view. There are real demons and the world influences us but the real battle is with our own flesh (I thought this to be a bit of an overstatement: "our choices are the flashpoint"). His contribution was probably the most helpful in terms of a Christian's struggle with indwelling sin, but I think suffered from too little real engagement with external demonic issues.

- the devil: Boyd dealt with spiritual warfare in a more external way than Powlison and I think some combination of their internal and external focuses would be perfect. He tackled much of what the Bible says about things in the court of heaven and about angelic and demonic activity well.

- the devil (again): frankly the Wagner & Greenwood portion is so imaginative and extra-biblical that it's hardly worth reading. Most of it is about Greenwood leading a prayer crusade against some mythical god supposedly behind an abortion clinic in Kansas or about how white man's awfulness to the American Indian has put a curse on our land.

If you don't have time for it all, just read all the sections by Powlison & Boyd.
Profile Image for Michael.
44 reviews11 followers
December 4, 2012
A good place to start reading about this very strange subject of "spiritual warfare." Biblical scholars have shied away from it for the most part. The first person to write here is Walter Wink, with the assistance of others. Walter died in May, so this book represents his last publication (at least for now; his autobiography is due out sometime next year). Peter Wagner also contributes. Each writer responds to the other. Fascinating! It even has a "surprise (lurid!) ending," though I won't give it away here.
Profile Image for Jeff.
424 reviews21 followers
February 9, 2013
This is one of the best books I've read in the " Four Views" genre. The line-up of contributors is strong, including Walter Wink (before his death), Greg Boyd, Peter Wagner and David Powlison. Each did a good job of putting forth their particular views in terms that will be familiar to those who know these authors. The interaction was, for the most part, also good. The introductory essay by Eddy and Beilby was good enough to stand alone. A real good book for those entering into this topic or simply wanting a refresher.
2 reviews2 followers
February 25, 2013
The special contribution of this book is that not only it clarifies four distinct views of spiritual warfare; it models how strongly held opinions can be discussed with courtesy and openness, and a willingness to learn from those who see things quite differently. My own approach to spiritual warfare has been enhanced and modified as a result of reading this book. The book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Academic in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Andrew Mcneill.
143 reviews9 followers
August 28, 2014
How do you rate a book with four divergent perspectives? In terms of provide information about the four views, the book can have five stars. In terms of overall faithfulness to Biblical revelation, only one essay managed this (Powlison), one was close-ish (Boyd), and two were bizarre and fanciful (Wink and Wagner). I enjoyed reading the book though. It was well-written, the authors interacted politely, and the conversation between them was helpful.
Profile Image for Matthew Mitchell.
Author 8 books34 followers
May 6, 2013
Very stretching for me. I learned something from each chapter but think that Powlison understands the Bible the best. Should be read by every seminarian if they don't read a book by each contributor. The only thing missing was a chapter by Neil Anderson and his approach.
38 reviews
May 1, 2017
Excellent sections by David Powlison. I like the "four views" series. Practical.
January 1, 2018
The contributors include Walter Wink, David Powlison, Gregory Boyd a Peter Wagner with Rebecca Greenwood. It seems to be organized from the more liberal view to the more conservative, depending on where the readers identify themselves. Walter Wink, a social progressive and great liberal theologian offers some of the more intriguing thoughts as to the personhood of Satan. David Powlison comes with a background of theology, history of science and medicine, and history of psychiatry. Gregory Boyd contributes as a pastor and theologian. Peter Wagner was a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and was teaching along with Chuck Kraft at a time when John Wimber’s class on Signs and Wonders had significant movement in the seminary. Rebecca Greenwood co-wrote with Wagner to help keep the issues current based on her extensive experience battling in Spiritual Warfare in the mission field.

Wink’s proposition that Satan is neither good nor bad, but rather something that helps us bring symbolism to an otherwise nebulous source. God uses our idea of Satan for God’s purposes is an interesting thought, but I find the idea myopic in scope. This assumes that sin, human frailty and systematic or territorial warfare do not exist. Rather it explains how we make sense of when bad things happen or why evil exists on an individual level. In fact, Wink gives humans the brunt of responsibility for evil, “The image of Satan is the archetypal representation of the collective weight of human fallenness, which constrains us toward evil without our even being aware of it.” (Beilby 2012. 56)

For Wink, prayer is our way of combatting “what is, in the name of what God has promised.” (Beilby 2012. 61). He likens prayer to haggling at an oriental bazaar (Beilby 2012. 64). This is problematic in my opinion as it oversimplifies prayer to an act of bargaining to get what we want in a way that gives us the best advantage of the situation. While Abraham does change God’s direction in Genesis 8, that is not the only example of prayer in the scriptures. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is an example of prayer for others and prayer in submission to what God wants over what Jesus would have preferred at that moment.

The second contributor is David Powlison. Powlison’s contribution is called the “Classic Model” which I believe is based mostly on its Christocentric focus. Living as Christ lived is Powlison’s brand of spiritual warfare. Boyd’s response to Powlison pushes this idea further. While Boyd agrees that lifestyle warfare is, in general, the best way to live, Boyd also challenges Powlison’s Augustinian viewpoint that God commands all created things. “I suspect Powlison was instead suggesting that every particular thing evil agents do is specifically permitted by God and fulfills a specific divine purpose.” (Beilby 2012. 119.) This view suggests that God wills evil, which I believe is very different from the idea that God allows evil.

I found myself resonating somewhere along the lines with the Boyd and Wagner/Greenwood essays. In particular, Boyd’s view of the purpose of Christ and the position of Satan, “…Jesus came to bring a victorious end to the cosmic war that had been raging from time immemorial and to set Satan’s captives and all of creation free.” (Beilby 2012. 136). This viewpoint is quite different from the positions Wink and Powlison offered. The cosmic battle for both Boyd and Wagner/Greenwood is a reality that although largely unknown to us, is still a reality we must accept. For both contributing groups Satan is personal and acts on an individuals. Where Wagner and Greenwood deviate from Boyd is there focus on territorial warfare.

Boyd speaks of personal demonization and how we can use both psychology and prayer as way to deliver a person. This balanced approach of using all that is available to us makes sense in light of living in both the spiritual and the natural realities. I particularly appreciate Boyd’s emphasis on the warfare being not against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12), but rather against powers.

Hence, a primary way we wage war against the power is by unconditionally refusing to ever act violently or nonlovingly toward anyone, even if we consider that person our enemy. (Beilby 2012. 153.)
For Wagner and Greenwood, they define spiritual warfare as such:
“Spiritual warfare” is an invisible battle in the spiritual realm involving a power confrontation between kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. Spiritual warfare occurs on three different levels: ground level, occult level, and strategic level. (Beilby 2012. 178)
The strategic level of warfare is what differentiates Wagner and Greenwood from the other contributors. They bring to focus the cosmic battle by using ground-level tactics of spiritual mapping and other warfare strategies that can break the holds of the demonic in communities, cities and countries. All of the contributors offered biblically based theologies around spiritual warfare, but I believe personal experience is probably what has separated all of their findings versus a particular hermeneutic.

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