Here’s a question from a former student of mine. Great question for Halloween!
Q: What do you believe about spiritual warfare and its affects on people, including believers? I know it is pretty open ended question and topic but I am not quite sure what type of answer I am looking for. Any input would be greatly appreciated, thanks.
A: Here’s my brief input on the topic of spiritual warfare. Much more could be said — but I thought 7 points was a good start. =)
1. The battle is very real. Satan’s most effective tactic against modern Western people is to keep them disbelieving in his existence altogether. As C. S. Lewis has the senior devil Screwtape say:
“I don’t think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you.”
2. The battle is rarely overt with outward manifestations (e.g., possession, exorcism, etc). It’s usually more subtle.
3. The Evil One uses the distortion of otherwise good things for his purposes (sex, money, relationships, religion, material things). As Tim Keller puts it: “Idolatry happens when we turn good things into Ultimate things.”
4. We are to be “aware of the devil’s schemes” and on alert at all times. His schemes are really quite predictable. He’s tried it all and sadly we human beings keep falling into the same traps (e.g., “I guess money and fame doesn’t really bring ultimate happiness after all…”).
5. God has given us the necessary armor to wage the war (See Eph. 6).
6. The “mind” is the primary front on which the battle is waged and lies are the devil’s primary tactic: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers…” (2 Cor 4:4); ” Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44); “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:4-5).
7. Avoid two primary errors—over-emphasis and under-emphasis. Some blame every sin, every conflict, and every problem on demons that need to be cast out. Others completely ignore the spiritual realm and the fact that the Bible tells us our battle is against spiritual powers. The key to successful spiritual warfare is finding the biblical balance. We should not get overly obsessed or fascinated or afraid regarding spiritual warfare. The victory is ours in Christ! Therefore, our study of spiritual warfare should begin with C.S. Lewis’ warning:
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
I commend to you all the writings of Greg Boyd on the topic of spiritual warfare. Here’s a great place to start.