Spiritual Warfare Part 1





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by Gary Gilley
April 1995

According to Dickason, God neglected to include in His Word instructions for victory over one of the Christian's most powerful enemies.

It seems that Christians never tire of trying to come up with a new way of dealing with life. We are reminded of the Athenians at the Areopagus who, “Used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Within evangelical Christianity today, there is a constant parade of novel approaches for dealing with our sins and problems. One of these is what some call “spiritual warfare.” Spiritual warfare has become quite the rage in many Christian circles, despite the lack of Biblical support. This is due to several factors: the mystical and experience orientation of the modern church, the influence of charismatic elements, pragmatism, the church’s surrender to psychology during the last twenty years, and endorsement by respected theologians. But the question is, as always, does this new movement square with the Word of God. We will discover that it not only does not square with Scripture, but that the Spiritual Warfare Movement is anti-Scriptural.


Definition of demonized: The Spiritual Warfare (SW) teachers make a big deal out of the Greek word often translated, “demon possessed” in the NT. The word itself simply means “to be demonized.” Somehow this definition is supposed to soften the concept of a Christian being possessed by a demon. For example, Neil Anderson says that it means to be controlled by a demon and is a matter of degrees. But the NT never uses the term for anything less than to be indwelt by a demon. It is never used to describe Satan’s activity of accusing the brethren, temptation, deception, or persecution. So, no matter how we translate the word “daimonizomai,” it is always used exclusively of those indwelt by demons. Can a Christian be demon possessed? C.F. Dickason in his book, Demon Possession and the Christian devotes serious study to this question. He deals with every major portion of Scripture on the subject and then concludes: “We have found that though there is a great deal of information to consider, and though men adduce evidence of varying weight, yet we could not come to a definite conclusion….We have sought evidence from Biblical and theological considerations on whether Christians can be demonized” (p149).
In other words, according to Dr. Dickason, the same Scriptures that claim to provide everything we need for life and godliness (II Pet 1:3), is inadequate to deal with this important subject. What’s a Christian to do? According to Dickason, God neglected to include in His Word, instructions for victory over one of the Christian’s most powerful enemies. So, where are we to turn? Dickason assures us that we can look to experience with confidence.  He admits, “The danger of basing our theology on experience is evident.” Yet, since God’s Word does not address the subject of the demonization of Christians, the SW teachers have felt free to develop a whole system of demonic warfare based on the supposed experiences of people.

What Does the Bible Say

Before we examine the faulty SW structure we should examine whether the Bible gives us any clue as to the demonization of believers. The following passages need to be studied:
Col 1:13-14 When individuals are saved, they are delivered from the domain of darkness. Rom 8:37 While in the context of the security of the believer, nevertheless, we find that Christians are promised victory through Christ. I Cor 6:19 The Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is inconceivable that the Holy Spirit would share our bodies with a demon. During Jesus’ ministry on earth demons feared Him, and usually avoided Him if possible. Why wouldn’t the same be true of the Holy Spirit? I Jn 4:4 The Christian has the Holy Spirit within him. Demons on the other hand inhabit the world and those of the world. I Jn 5:18 The evil one cannot even touch God’s child. II Thess 3:3 Because of the Lord’s faithfulness (not our’s) we are protected from the evil one. I Cor 5:5 In the NT we never find any indication that a Believer can be indwelt by a demon, nor are we ever given any command or instruction concerning the casting out of demons. This passage speaks of delivering a believer to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Nothing is ever said about delivering a believer from the possession of the devil.

Teachings of the Spiritual Warfare Leaders

There are two main branches among non-charismatic SW leaders. There are those who advocate “power encounters,” and those who advocate “truth encounters.” In what remains of this newsletter we will deal with those who teach that both believers and nonbelievers are freed from demonic control through the use of “power encounters.”

Many strange and bizarre things are happening in this branch of the SWM. But rather than dwell on the radical fringe elements we want to discuss the teachings of those who would be considered solidly conservative, and non-charismatic, in their theology. Perhaps the two main spokesmen for this camp would be Mark Bubeck, author of The Adversary, and C. Fred Dickason, chairmen of the Theology Department at Moody Bible Institute, and author of Demon Possession and the Christian: A New Perspective. While both men believe that it is often necessary to exorcize demons (that is, forcible expel demons out of a person; i.e. power encounter) from believers, they differ somewhat on their terminology.

Dickason believes, based upon experience and what he terms clinical evidence, not on the Scriptures (see p 149), that a believer can be physically indwelt by a demon(s). Bubeck rejects this notion (p87). However he believes that a Christian can be so dominated and controlled by demons as to have a need for those demons to be bound and expelled from the Christian. I personally cannot see any real difference between the two views, and in fact, Bubeck (as well as Anderson) have come up with new categories of demonic oppression that are not addressed in Scripture. No place in the NT is it implied that a demon can take control of an individual and yet not actually invade a human body. Every case of demonization found in Scripture is an instance of demonic indwelling of a physical body. And so, while disagreeing that a believer can be demonized, we at least find Dickason to be more consistent with the Biblical data here.

Both men would teach that the traditional methods of spiritual growth, as found in the the Bible, are adequate for most Christians, and most situations. But occasionally we may be faced with something beyond the norm: demonic oppression or bondage. Bubeck says, “There comes a time where the practice of a particular fleshly sin may move from a sin of the flesh into a sin controlled and dictated by satanic, demonic activity” (p35). How do we know when this has happened? Bubeck assures us that if we have been unable to handle a particular sin through the normal Biblical methods we, “Must now consider the fact that the problem well may be some demonic hold…which must be broken” (p101). What are some of the “tools,” as Bubeck calls them, that we must employ in order to defeat the demons? Based upon no properly interpreted Scriptures, Bubeck claims that all believers have authority over the demons (p90), so that we can bind them (p91), pull down their strongholds (p106)and command them to obey us (p121).

How is all of this done? Bubeck advocates a thorough understanding of the truths of the Word, which we are in complete agreement. He also is a strong believer in prayer — who can argue with that? But his prayers have some interesting features. For example, he has numerous written prescribed prayers that are to be recited based upon the particular need of the person. In addition to reminding us too much of Roman Catholic rituals, we find no examples of his type of prayer in the NT. His most well known prayer, “The Warfare Prayer,” is a case in point. This prayer (p140), which is borrowed from another man, is prayed by many believers every morning in an attempt to ward off Satan for that day. The highlighted statement in the prayer is this sentence: “Satan, I command you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave my presence with all your demons, and I bring the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ between us.” Since when are we to address Satan in prayer? Bubeck tell us, “It is not improper but very biblical to address yourself against Satan. …Address him like this, ‘Satan, I resist you'” (p100). This concept is not drawn from the Scriptures. And when did we get the authority to command demons to do anything? Even Michael would only say to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 9). And where in Scripture are we taught to pray for the Lord’s blood to come between us and Satan? The blood of Christ cleanses us from sin, it is not a talisman for warding off evil. This is not a Biblical prayer, but a humanly contrived prayer.

Another interesting teaching of this branch of the SWM is the belief that demons have names that correspond with their area of oppression. The fictional writings of Frank Peretti have done much to popularize this concept. Demons that Bubeck cast out of his daughter had the names: “Fear,” “Nausea,” “Colon,” “Destroyer,” and “Deceiver.” These demons, we are assured, were the cause for these exact problems in his daughter’s life (p121).

We believe that the SW teachers have made a fatal error, one which Bubeck even recognizes: “If I seek some experience which does not have a sound biblical foundation, I am opening my life to some deceiving spirit to come as an angel of light” (p130). Oh, that he would listen to his own counsel.