New Book: Powlison on Spiritual Warfare

Published: November 30, 2012

“'I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.' Our forerunners in Christian faith showed good sense when they articulated the core of fidelity to God’s Word written and incarnate. Attentive to Scripture’s emphases, the framers of the ancient, abiding creeds (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian) chose to trace the shape of the triune God’s person, work, and promises. They made no direct mention of the roiling complex of evil: flesh, world, devil. But every baptismal liturgy contained a dramatic renunciation of the authority of devil, world and flesh. Proclaiming the light, our fathers marked out the darkness into which light shines.

Our brethren who framed the 16th and 17th century confessions and catechisms (e.g., Augsburg, 39 Articles, Heidelberg, Belgic, Westminster) were similarly attentive to Scripture. They chose to elaborate the doctrine of Scripture, the shape of Christ’s redeeming work, the complexities of human nature, the scope of the Lord’s commandments, the basics of the Christian life, the riches of the Lord’s prayer, the nature of church and sacraments. They never focused on the evil one. In passing, they marked out the defining characteristics of evil to orient us in our conflict: (1) the adversary seeks to destroy us by our sin; (2) the flesh, world and devil are mutually consistent and co-operative; (3) Christ works to destroy this triumvirate of evil in setting us free of sin and death.

     Scripture points out the person and work of Satan only as he stands in relationship to God’s purposes with us, as we live for either good or ill. The emphasis is pastoral. God passes over many questions that might intrigue us."

     In his contribution to a new book on spiritual warfare, David Powlison works to strike the biblical balance between an awareness of the active, personal, destructive powers against the believer and a focus on the triumphant One who is with us, changing us, and making all things new. His discussion is orienting, penetrating, encouraging. He traces various passages, helpfully unpacking common questions and concerns in understanding the biblical notion of 'spiritual warfare.'
   "The words ‘spiritual warfare’ never appear in the Bible. It is a pastoral theological term for describing the moral conflict of the Christian life. It is a metaphor for our lifelong struggle with our lies and other liars, our lusts and other tempters, our sins and other evil-doers, the present darkness that continually unsettles us. Our sufferings, whatever their form or cause, provide occasions either to stumble or to stand. Our warfare is over which it will be.
     The pages that follow explore ‘Ephesians 6’, the classic passage on spiritual warfare. In the light of Ephesians, we will then consider other important questions. What does spiritual warfare look like? What about people who are involved in the occult? What about people enslaved to sin? What about the demon deliverances that Jesus and the apostles perform? What about the experiences reported by ‘spiritual warfare ministries’ and in animistic cultures?"
Powlison's contribution to the book is excellent. The new book from Baker Academic is entitled Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views, and contains contributions from various other authors on the topic. You can find it for Kindle here, or in print from Amazon here.
Chris Carter is a content curator at CCEF. Chris is also an intern counselor and the design editor for the Journal of Biblical Counseling.