Author Archives: roger

Chris Hoke

Chris Hoke  Wanted

Chris describes his work with Bob Ekblad in Skagit County, Washington State among migrant workers and, mostly, young men involved in lives of crime.

That bald description is about as empty as it could be of the reality he describes, of his personal search for God and his finding him among the desperate. Chris did not fit with convention, with theology and pastorship of a nice clean church, though he did study the theology – he just found his place among the ‘outsiders’, as indeed did Jesus merely by coming among us, but explicitly in who he associated with. Chris listened to the stories, went to court, stayed up through the night, laughed, sang and cried, all recounted in the gaping wound between the beautiful descriptive prose as he describes the Skagit valley, and the distress of the men, who come to trust him and pray with him. The cruelty of much of the prison system is too great. But Chris is their pastor.

This again is very reductive! There are perhaps two strands that wind their way through the book. One is the author’s searching, probing quest for God, so the personal element is ever present; the other is the array of men we meet, some with a chapter devoted to them, but two in particular who we return to time and again. One of the stories in particular brings the two elements together, so this is something I would like to outline, in part because it brings out an important theological theme (that runs through this website).

It concerns a young man who had killed his father, is diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, and is visited by Chris in an institution. Chris speculates about what it is that causes some people to hear ‘voices’ that are not their own more clearly than do others, and posits a sort of inner antenna that is highly sensitive, and which can be broken, or pick up the wrong signals. There are hints, no more, through the book of the author’s own theological pursuits, but this is the one point where he is explicit, referring to Abraham Heschel’s book Prophets – here too we had men who were unusually sensitive. The young man in question had not been going too well in terms of being a good boy, so his mother took him on a trip to Cambodia where he had an unusual and dramatic encounter with God, with love; it was not a flash in the pan thing but a real life changer; he began to talk to people wherever he went, he would know things and words would come unbidden, and they too would encounter the love of God; he would speak in churches . . . but it all changed . . .  at a youth camp.

 

         One night around the campfire, the night each week when the young preacher hopes students are most listening, when they are encouraged to “make a decision” to give their lives to Christ, Connor was listening very closely. And he made the opposite decision.

         “The preacher, he kept talking about ‘the cross, the cross, the cross!’ How Jesus suffered on the cross and that it was God punishing him, that it was a punishment we all deserved. I guess it freaked me out.”

 

Chris talks a little about this theology which ‘looks . . . bloodthirsty’, about a ‘god of wrath’, rather than Jesus, the God of love. Then he says

Connor, with his hypersensitivity to evil, was immediately more sensitive than most to such theology. . . Do I believe this? he asked himself. It caused him to lose trust in the more direct, mysterious channel he’d been dialled into that year that had filled him with a grace like pure music . . .  His Jesus Freak stage was over.

It was after three years that he began to hear voices again, but this time from another place, voices which he resisted, pondered and eventually yielded to, and killed his father.

Well, that is the sort of story the author tells, with his own reflections, and much of it concerns a dark world, the dark world, we might add, into which Jesus came. If the rejection of ‘penal substitution’ doctrine is too hard, it would be better not to read the book. However, the author’s connections typically do the same; Brad Jersak calls the penal substitution theory ‘heresy’. (He is right.)

There is a counter-balance to the darkness, which is beauty, particularly in nature. Chris himself finds considerable peace working in a nursery and then discovers fly fishing, an art he shares with his friends from the streets; there are some lovely descriptive passages which then weave in with the spiritual landscape:

           [When the trumpeter swans arrive], in the weeks ahead, the large white birds’ honking and morphing Vs pass just overhead, heralds of winter’s advent. When the rest of us are sealing up our windows, they descend from the northern arctic to fill our emptied skies and our muddy fields with their otherworldly beauty. They fly so low you can sometimes hear the air in their feathers, hear them breathing in labor.

Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak has the following books I have read:

Can you hear me?

Kissing the leper

Her Gates will never be shut

A more Christlike God

 

I am going to discuss each of these books since they are all worth reading. There is some autobiographical information, particularly in Can you hear me? where we learn about Brad’s strong evangelical background, his application of self to excellence, his discovery that he lacked intimacy with God and then his discovery of intimacy with God. More recently he has moved away from the simply evangelical background and joined the Orthodox Church. While I don’t expect to follow such a route myself, a perusal of this site will demonstrate my sympathy with this. Here is his account of it, taken from his website www.bradjersak.com

By now, most of my social networks and some of my readership have heard of my move into the Eastern Orthodox Church. I was ‘chrismated’ at the end of June this year (2013) and ordained as a ‘reader’ for the All Saints Monastery in Dewdney in October. You might wonder why I—an evangelical / charismatic / Anabaptist—would don a cassock and take up incense and chanting. If you’re curious, here’s the short version.  

Why did I become an Orthodox Christian? 

theology

First, because in my theology, I already was Orthodox for over ten years. When I say ‘theology,’ don’t think of stuffy, religious hair-splitting. I’m referring to the basic questions of who God is, what God is like, why Jesus came and died, what salvation is and how that happens. On these questions, I feel most at home in the Orthodox tradition, and I finally decided to make it official.

I experienced this as a move from my foxhole to a harbor. Allow me to summarize:

The ancient Orthodox vision as I know it proclaims the saving power of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and the ever-enduring mercies of the Father—the same Gospel I have always believed, but came to understand more clearly and preach more overtly a decade ago. To me, it’s the same Good News, but now even more so. I have experienced Orthodox theology as more evangelical—i.e. better news—than what I had known and taught in the context of popular Evangelical-ism.

Of course, there are growing enclaves and popular movements among Evangelicals where theologians of hope are hunkering down and discovering what other Christians have taught all along. But they also endure a barrage of hostilities from members of their own tribe, those who marginalize them with hateful labels and even believe God has called them to the attack. So on the one hand, Evangelicalism continues to morph and mature, while on the other, some of her popular streams still cling to a retributive image of God — and its most zealous gatekeepers are quick to brand those who don’t as false teachers and heretics. Lord, have mercy.

Sadly, it’s all too tempting to respond in kind, as illustrated by the shameless Twitter wars between ‘emergents’ or ‘progressives’ and ‘the Gospel Coalition,’ to name just one example. The mean-spiritedness that manifests in these battles really refutes the chief evidence of our discipleship: love for one another. It’s a sickening offence to those who witness it and turn away in disgust. I am reminded of Christ’s warning: “You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Lord, have mercy.

On the other hand, many faithful Evangelical friends persist on this spiritual journey deeper into the Father’s heart. We don’t always agree, but we trust each other’s hearts and persevere in prayer for one another, asking for a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ and his kingdom of love. We know how to disagree while also holding fast to our love for each other, sojourning together into the kingdom of God.

So theologically, I’ve moved from my own previous, retributive vision of God’s justice to something more restorative—from a Gospel that condemns and punishes sinners (unless…) to the one that forgives and heals sinners (even while…). I finally asked myself why I continue to scramble for cover from ‘friendly fire’ in trench networks and sub-sects of Protestantism when the Orthodox Church offers an ancient and enormous open harbor, and requires neither hiddenness nor apology for my central beliefs. They encourage and even expect me to teach the Beautiful Gospel (cf. ‘the Gospel in Chairs’) of the Fathers.

In 2013, the ‘Beautiful Gospel’ and the ‘hopeful inclusion’ I described in the Hellbound? documentary were ridiculed and rejected by various ‘haters’ (usually by neo-Reformed bloggers) just as Can You Hear Me?, Children, Can You Hear Me?, Stricken by God? and Her Gates Will Never Be Shut had been since 2003. The tone was vitriolic and the intent malicious. “We’re coming after you,” I was told. God had ‘called them’ to oppose and eradicate my ministry. I found myself blacklisted or excluded in circles where I once had a voice. I’ve known times of sadness and anger over this. But also gratitude.

These are beloved enemies, very hard at work (indeed, obsessively so) for my salvation through the crucifixion of my flesh and ego in ways that my friends could not approach. Our enemies serve as unwitting sculptors of our character, fashioning us one chip at a time into the image and likeness of Christ. I see God’s providence at work in their diligent opposition—in fact, they were a crucial factor in driving me to the embrace of Mother Church. How can I but thank them and pray, “Lord, have the same mercy on them that I want for myself.”

worship

Second, while I have been Orthodox theologically for years, it was not until this year that I discovered the healing balm and therapeutic beauty of Orthodox worship—their liturgy of beautiful psalms, confessions and prayers.

Beyond the wonder and beauty of it all, at this stage of my journey, my nervous system also seems to handle liturgical worship much better than the anxieties of Revival-ism. Extended years of attending and leading protracted revival meetings, trying to ‘press in’ for the ‘breakthrough’ that would lead to a great altar call, ministry time or full-blown revival have left me weary and yes, a little cynical. I want to be completely open and responsive to God—I want everything God has for me—but there’s an anxiety attached to revivalism’s question of whether or not or how God will (or won’t!) ‘show up.’ At its worst (and I’ve been there, done that), habits tantamount to a kind of neo-Baalism manifest and faith-filled expectancy is often displaced with repeatedly disappointed expectations. There’s a sense of striving to ‘enter into worship’ in such a way that we somehow feel the need to beg or even manipulate God into coming and visiting us.

Happily, many casualties of unhealthy renewal practice have gladly shifted to healthier postures of ‘soaking’ rather than cajoling, ‘habitation’ versus visitation, and welcoming God’s presence vis-à-vis lamenting his absence. Charismatic and contemplative worship are fusing in beautiful ways. I am so glad for this, but for me right now, the old renewal cry for ‘MORE!’—the songs of hunger and thirst—is being satisfied in the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church.

What I’ve found in the Divine Liturgy—composed by church fathers like St. Basil and St. Chrysostom and preserved in the Orthodox Church—is that I don’t worry about ‘entering into worship.’ I can open my heart and simply let worship enter me. I don’t need to wonder what (or if) a meeting is building towards—it always, always climaxes in the powerful gift of receiving the Spirit-anointed Mystery of the body and blood of Jesus. In the Eucharist, I eat of the tree of life and ‘taste of the fountain of immortality.’ While others are still energized by a great renewal meeting—and I can still attend and minister in them when invited—my aging and somewhat damaged nervous system needs to be infused with the holy medicine of the prayers of the people and the grace they invoke. I experience it like an I.V. drip that works its way into my deepest needs and deepest wounds. In the Divine Liturgy I pray for mercy and receive it from the ‘man-befriending God’ who comes to us as the Great Physician … and I am revived! While some in the renewal have anxiously waited for an authenticating ‘third-heaven’ experience, the Orthodox are fully aware that participating in the Divine Liturgy is a charismatic experience of worship in the ‘heavenlies,’ in communion with all the saints and angels gather to approach the throne of grace along with us.

a wider embrace

I still embrace and will continue fellowship with the entire breadth of Christian believers as best I can, in joyful obedience to Jesus’ beautiful vision of John 17 love and unity. I now serve as faculty (New Testament and Patristics) in an evangelical-charismatic (largely Anglican) theological school. I also sit as an editor for several magazines and blogs that are eclectic and quite progressive. I enjoy the friendship and support of the Fresh Wind family and Soulstream community (a dispersed contemplative network). And I continue to bring continually tweaked Listening Prayer seminars wherever local congregations and Christian colleges invite me. My heart is to participate in the love of Christ for all however I can.

At the same time, through chrismation, I intentionally broadened my embrace to reach out to my brothers and sisters from the Eastern Church. I’m ‘uncapping the wells’ of my spiritual heritage, reaching further back (centuries beyond my Baptist, Moravian and Hussite reformer-evangelist fore-parents), to rediscover my Celtic and Orthodox missionary forerunners in British and Czech lands. And while I continue to teach what I’ve already taught for the past decade of public ministry, I now try to do so from the P.O.V. of an Orthodox herald of Good News, a catechist for the Gospel, launching from a great harbor rather than peeking out from my own little foxhole.

 

 

Now for the books. Can you hear Me? is an excellent work on hearing God’s voice. Listening to God by Joyce Hugget was the first book I read in this area; it is an older book, very good; as I remember it, somewhat less ‘charismatic’, in the sense of perhaps not inculcating such a strong expectation of God speaking personally; and that really is the very strong push of this book. If we are to try to summarize Can you hear Me? I would say that he says God is talking to us absolutely all the time in myriad ways and that the moment we ask him to Jesus will show up and speak – which of course is exactly what the Bible says he will do. We just have to believe it.

Naturally, there are issues. How do we recognize the voice of Jesus? Well, the answers are standard answers – Test the source; test the content; test the fruit. An important issue is this – am I just imagining it? The answer here is very good: who would this “I” be that is “just” imagining – do we have this independent “I”? – well no, the Bible teaching is rather that there are possible sources for the images playing on the screen of our mind (whether in words, pictures, impressions), perhaps the flesh, perhaps the Spirit . . . the issue for is discernment, but our starting point is that “My sheep do hear my voice.” There are numerous very encouraging stories as well as practical things to do to further our trust in hearing from God. Do we make mistakes? Yes, and Brad gives the normal safeguards, for example, reference to fellow believers, so – we don’t give up because of mistakes.

The process of listening is also shown leading us deeper into the spiritual life, particularly in intercessory prayer, but also dealing with blockages in our own lives as well as others. Perhaps the main point of the book, again, is that things are actually real in ways we may not expect; what goes on in our “imagination” tips over so naturally into the spiritual. Again, there are telling stories of Brad and his family as well as ‘ministry’ stories. This is one of the simplest books I know, which is as high praise as I know how to give; this is one of those few books perhaps everyone should read.

 

Kissing the leper contains numerous wonderful stories of God at work in those we clever clogs might feel are ‘the least of these’, and ‘things that are not.’ Personally, I love to read stories about the wonderful things that happen among children, things that blow out of the water our (my) stuffy intellectualism. (Not of course that the use of the intellect is wrong, but it can get rather stuffy.) However, many of the stories in this book are a step further than that, involving people with severe mental disabilities who are a huge blessing to their church. Of course, that isn’t all there is in the book, there is lots of lovely discussion of the simple ways of Jesus from a variety of sources and a number of stories. I want to quote from one, the story of Kathy, physically, not mentally, handicapped.

 

. . . she is bound to wheelchair, blind in one eye, and endures constant pain in what’s left of her hips. But within her broken body you will find a lively girl with an enormous capacity for God’s presence . . . As worship continued, the children skipped away, and I had a chance to sidle up to her. I felt her hand in mine and thought I’d invite God to love me through her. I started to feel a little woozy, and a quiet inner voice spoke to my heart past the din of the band, “You’d better lay down, boy.”

           “Are you about to download something of Kathy’s spiritual strength to me?” I asked.

           “To which the voice repeated, “You’d better lay down.”

Occasionally I’m smart enough to obey. So right there and then, I lay down on the floor beside Kathy’s wheelchair, still holding her hand. Suddenly, what felt like a powerful jolt of electricity drove through my body. It felt like the time I grabbed the bare section of a 220 volt drill press wire. I caught my breath just in time for a second jolt. Then a third. It seemed to me this was a power-of-God thing, but it was so intense that I prayed, “God, I want everything you have for me. Help me not to beg you to stop.” Four. Five. I was counting the jolts . . . Twelve. Kathy let go, dropping my limp arm to the floor. She just sort of smirked, then carried on in worship. [Well, Brad wonders what this is all about, because it does not seem to have an impact on him – but then a few days later, in the course of his ministry, there is a very dramatic healing, beyond his previous experience, so he asks God about it . . .]

He replied, “That came from me and from Kathy. You were just the “capacitor” ( a temporary storage unit for power) storing my power until M. needed it.” What could I say? I signed off not with a hearty “Amen” but with a humble “Oh.” St Paul said, “God has chosen the weak and foolish things to confound the [so-called] wise and strong” (1 Cor 1:27). That looks good on paper, but what if he really meant it? How might that look in this world that exalts competence and expertise? How might that look in the Church, which has been co-opted by the world system of hierarchical power?

Kathy West is my constant reminder that God’s kingdom is much different than our kingdoms. It is the realm where those who exalt themselves are humbled, and the humble are exalted; where true greatness is achieved through servanthood; and where downward mobility is the name of the game.

 

Her gates will never be shut would seem to have cost Brad a lot of support. He examines the doctrine of hell, and his conclusions are not the orthodoxies of most current (conservative) evangelical thought, so that it has led to an accusation against him of ‘universalism’, the doctrine that all will be saved. This is not what is said, and in fact is explicitly denied; instead a ‘hopeful inclusivism’ is espoused. We cannot make a definitive judgment  since judgment does not belong to us – which I would add is precisely the position taken by Daniel Bourguet.

The big issue of the book is how literally we are to take the biblical doctrine of hell, “infernalism”. Like myself, Brad comes from a classical evangelical background, with its clear distinction between the believer who goes to heaven on death and the non-believer who goes straight to hell; an important element of evangelism is the question, “if you were to die tonight, where would you go?” Like me, Brad doesn’t seem to have found this whole position very helpful. It may well be true as doctrine, though it is not clear that that is really what the Bible teaches, but as a  basic approach to evangelism, I am not very convinced – though it may at times have relevance. But to simply dismiss the approach is not possible: one foundational testimony for me, for example, is Kenneth Hagin’s moving personal story I went to hell. It is of course wrong to discount the idea, to quote Hagin, that ‘there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.’ But what does the Bible itself actually teach about hell? Brad examines the range of scriptures with their historical backgrounds, together with the range of historical church teaching on the subject, because of course there is a whole other side to the issue, and there are certainly scriptures that point away from eternal hell for non-believers, as well as those that suggest it as a reality. As I understand it, Brad concludes that the Bible deliberately leaves these things open. Some people (perhaps many) might feel that their cherished evangelical views are being subverted here, but that is not the purpose of the book. The following passage states the book’s contents well:

 

No matter our view of hell, if we stand back and look at Jesus’ character, preaching, and ministry as a whole, we can probably all agree that the defining characteristic of the God whom he revealed is love (John 3:16; 1 John 3 to 4). He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:90. Further, he sent his Son into the world as Savior to forgive us and reconcile us to himself (2 Cor 5:19). He welcomes all, the righteous and the wicked, to the heavenly banquet (Matt 22:10). Jesus says his Father has rendered all judgment into his hands (John 5:22-27), and yet Jesus said he did not come to judge or condemn (John 8:15; 12:47) but to extend unilateral mercy, which trumps all judgment (Jas 2:13).

With this revelation of God as our foundation, a punitive judgment of eternal torture in burning flames that can never satiate God’s wrath is not merely a paradox – it is a flat out contradiction. Can we not therefore dismiss the texts that bear such threats? How could we, especially when some of the Bible’s direst warnings about hell come from the mouth of Jesus, himself? Instead, if we are truly people of the book and followers of Jesus of Nazareth, we must heed such warnings with the utmost respect.

 

It is interesting to note that an exploration of early church belief leads, as seems to be usual, to Augustine (see Roger Forster) having initiated huge change in doctrine, and this seems to be a major source of over stated infernalism.

Her gates has an extensive bibliography. Brad does not claim to be a scholar; he does claim to be endeavouring to bring the best scholarship to the general reader. To me, this is a thoroughly helpful book.

The contents of Her gates will never be shut clearly link to A more Christlike God.

In one sense this book can be described as  a look at the issues of theodicy – how do we reconcile the God of love with all the suffering and pain in the world? So far as I have understood these matters in my not particularly extensive reading of theology, I am not sure these questions would exist in the virulent form they do were it not for Augustine, who introduced an understanding of God’s sovereignty which actually causes there to be a problem. If God is conceived of as willing evil, which he must do if he is an absolute sovereign as conceived by Augustine, then it is very hard to reconcile this with his being good, and it just won’t do to say that this is a paradox we don’t understand because, in the end, it seems to make God repulsive; I mean – it repels people!

Brad, in this book, works through many, many of the issues that arise – in fact, to be honest, he points out issues I had not thought of. An issue that did occur to me recently was to ask how reports of  God’s instructions to Israel to wipe out the Canaanites differ from Mohammed telling his men that God said to destroy a large group of Jews who were resisting him. This is not an easy question to answer. Well, Brad takes a tour through this sort of thing. His conclusions will not be pleasing to those with very literalist understandings of the Bible rather than of the Bible as a progressive record of human understandings of the God with whom we have to do; whether you approve his views or not (obviously, I do) he does cover a lot of ground and a lot of scriptures. An issue he covers particularly closely is the ‘metaphor’ of God’s wrath.

It is perhaps with this topic of God’s wrath that we turn to the book’s central intent, which I take to be debunking the doctrine of ‘penal substitution’, the Calvinistic teaching. ‘Substitution’ is simply biblical, but the penal substitution Brad has in view is not. I have a theologian friend who holds the penal substitution view; he writes extensively and almost invariably quotes Jesus’ ‘cry of dereliction’ from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Intrinsic to his view is that Jesus really was forsaken, that God turned his back on Jesus, who was bearing a punishment that should have been inflicted on us. (Note – this clearly connects with the doctrine of ‘infernalism’ discussed in Her Gates.) This friend consistently points to Jesus in his doctrine, and very helpfully too, but on this matter . . .  not so sure that I don’t find it a negative dead end! And to me this is the point; like Brad I grew up being basically taught, or absorbing, the penal view, and like him it left me with a big headache, a big negative headache! It’s not, I believe, what was taught in the early church, and I think that Brad shows this, shows how mistaken the view is, and states the orthodox view clearly. In fact, he goes so far as to say that the penal substitution view is ‘heresy’!  This is a strong statement, which I think perhaps is correct. (“My God, my God ….”: Jesus is quoting the whole Psalm, the whole hopeful psalm. For a full treatment of Jesus’ experience on the cross, see The Silence of God during the Passion by Daniel Bourguet.)

(An interesting little personal observation – it’s not that Jesus was bearing the punishment we ‘should have borne’ ie eternal separation, but that he was bearing what people DO bear, the weight of sin, and now no longer need to!)

As above, this is not a scholarly book per se , but does refer to scholarly works. Personally, I now have two books which accurately state what I believe theologically, the Roger Forster book referred to elsewhere, and this one.

Reason and Faith

Reason and faith

The title of this article is in fact taken straight from a book Reason and Faith by Roger Forster and Paul Marston; obviously this is a book I am recommending. First, though, some discussion.

Sometimes it can be a little surprising to me when I hear of people coming to faith through the application of reason since this is by no means the path I followed; the subject of ‘apologetics’ is treated with some scorn by evangelist TL Osborn; we are inclined to say that faith is of the heart, of the spirit, not of the mind . . . and then we come across people who find God by a process of reasoning and discussion of issues and through sound apologetics. Hugh Ross is one such discussed on this site, and his ministry is devoted to careful argument. In his books Richard Wurmbrand describes an artist couple, who began to reason that since they created art, they must themselves by created and since their art relied on the opposable thumb they decided to worship the God who made the thumb, and this sufficed until they heard a fuller account of this God by contact with Bible believers (as Paul says, “If perhaps they might seek after him. . .”). Here was a very nice piece of reasoning by the well known Indian preacher of the early 1900s, Sundar Singh, reasoning which turned him away from Indian religion and was a way station on the road to faith in Christ; the setting is a discussion with a Sadhu –

I [Sundar] do not see how this increase of knowledge will be able to do much, for it looks as if further knowledge will result in my needs and difficulties being still more clearly seen by me, and how will these new needs be met?

The Sadhu replied: “Not with imperfect, finite knowledge, but with perfect and final knowledge will your needs be met; for when you get perfect knowledge you will realize that this need, or want, is only an illusion, and that you yourself are Brahma (God) or a part of Him, and when you realize this, then what more will you need?” I persisted, “Excuse me, but I cannot believe this, for if I am a part of Brahma or am myself Brahma, then I should be incapable of having any more Maya (illusion). But if Maya is possible in Brahma then Brahma is no longer Brahma, for he has been subordinated to Maya. Hence Maya is stronger than Brahma himself, and Maya will then not be Maya (illusion) but will be a reality that has overcome Brahma, and we shall have to think of Brahma himself as Maya, and this is blasphemy. . . .  you are throwing me into a whirlpool. I shall be most thankful to you if from your experience and knowledge you can help me to know Him so that I may satisfy my spiritual hunger and thirst in Him. But please remember that I do not want to be absorbed in Him, but I do want to obtain salvation in Him.’

This is a clear sightedness of a high order!

Another useful story I refer to elsewhere is that of Charles Colson. His primary response to the Good News was emotional, a substantial experience of surrender and a flood of feeling. He then describes in Born Again how he then spent a little time apart to explore what this meant intellectually, an exploration undertaken with the help of CS Lewis and Mere Christianity (while I don’t understand the fascination there seems to be with Lewis and his works, I do think this is a good book – a record of a series of radio talks to the average but thinking man in post-war Britain). This was a vital step to Colson.

As we have said elsewhere on this site, it is good that someone does the intellectual spade work; of course we need our thinking to be properly undergirded. And of course, in most cases the reason is engaged first, through preaching or reading, this being the means by which the Logos (the reason) gains entry to our hearts; and of course, in the Hebrew conception it is not possible to make the distinction between mind and heart that we tend to. There must, then, surely be appropriate material to engage with people whose orientation is distinctly intellectual.

Having thus, apparently, concluded that good works on reason and faith are important I have to report that a visit to a Christian bookstore is unfortunately likely to find books in this area that are very disappointing. I have bought a number of books that promised to explore some aspect of philosophy or science in relation to faith, only to find them confused and confusing, woolly and muddled. It is not part of my purpose to say which books these are but to point to reliable sources, of which there are no doubt many. The Forster and Marston book is excellent.

As stated above, Roger Forster is a thoroughly reliable pastor/thinker/communicator, and it turns out in this book that Paul Marston is an expert in the area of the history of geology. The fundamental push of the book is to explore the faith/science relationship; the sub-title is Do modern science and Christian faith really conflict. It might be noted that it is a 1989 book and so there are ideas that are subsequent to it that might need exploring, but I can’t see that there is much change except to the names of those who propose particular ideas and the details of their arguments.

The tone of the book is very calm, very reasonable, so it is enjoyable. There is a nice look at philosophers’ search for meaning in life – and how in some cases their search leads to despair and then to faith. There is a look at religion in general, and then a series of chapters on the evidence around the person of Jesus, from archaeology to a look at the resurrection; because the discussions are undertaken so reasonably, they are both a very good introduction to these topics without becoming too weighty  and typically make good points I haven’t seen elsewhere; the notes give some nice bibliographical pointers; the discussions often make the most sensible and quotable statements about whatever the subject is, for example some statements about the study of history. We then move on to the issue of man as spiritual. What does this mean? Do miracles take place? In line with this there is a discussion of ‘mind’ and determinism. I have found Roger Penrose interesting in this area, though too long-winded for me; here we have all I feel I need. (Satinover The Quantum Mind is also a wonderful book in this area.) The second half of the book deals with Genesis, the history of science and supposed clashes with faith, creation/evolution . . . On this site Hugh Ross is also recommended on these issues, but the Reasons to Believe organization really has more to say about the science and is comparatively sketchy on the history of science; Forster and Marston is the best brief resource I know on the history of science and religion. In particular the discussion of the history of geology is the most detailed area of the book, it having been the subject of Marston’s PhD. I found the last chapter of great interest, “God, chance and design”: the discussion of chance was particularly valuable.

Conclusion: I would suggest this is a text book discussion of the issues.

Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy

 

Some of us grew up with a tradition of evangelical faith with a strong emphasis on gateway experiences, particularly being born again. There was a whole ethos into which we were born, and I for one tried hard to conform myself to this, but some elements of it have not proven to be very satisfactory, and we have needed to go searching for answers.  I must arise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares, I must seek him whom my soul loves. (Song of Songs 3.2) This can be  taken to mean searching among other viewpoints and spiritual ways. This has led me to look among other places at Orthodox traditions. Nowadays we have the eastern Orthodox churches, the Greek, the Russian etc., but perhaps we can extend the term to talk about eastern church views generally, going back to the Church Fathers.  There is a different take on spirituality; and this article will look briefly at some of the places (including some which clearly are not Orthodox) at which I have looked, as well as an effort to describe some of the distinctives of thought.

Firstly, what have I read that can be recommended? Well, first exposure was to the Russian Orthodox — I studied Russian at school, and this led to one or two contacts — specifically with a man known as John of Kronstadt, who exercised a beautiful and influential pastoral ministry. This made me open to the otherwise alien ways of clerical garments, long beards, Metropolitans, priests etc., but not very much to the thinking. Many years later, when I was really searching for input outside the confines of Pentecostal evangelicalism, I found my way to the excellent Orthodoxy by Kallistos Ware. This opened my eyes to a different way of thinking and led on to further reading. This included The Way of a Pilgrim, an account of the results of praying ‘the Jesus Prayer’, and I bought a copy of the Philokalia, the compendium of writings from the Church Fathers. There was a cross over from the Toronto, Catch a Fire ministry through the writings of Guy Chevreau with Theresa of Avila, so I looked at some of the ‘medieval’ writers, Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckhart, Catherine of Sienna and Catherine of Genoa. It is worth mentioning too that years before I had read Madame Guyon, of whom there is an excellent biography by Phyllis Thompson. (I mention these writers, not as in a formal sense ‘orthodox’, but as part of a different tradition. I have always found the Protestant divines of 17th and 18th century England dry and difficult, more given to polemic than devotion — the devotional, more ‘mystical’ outlook is much more sympathetic. I have also found in similar vein to Jeanne Guyon, Gerhardt Tersteegen, who, like, Guyon, influenced John Wesley. A very good Catholic writer on prayer is Jean Grou.) But then, as chronicled elsewhere on this site, I found Bob Ekblad and he sent me on to Daniel Bourguet, who has engaged seriously with the orthodox/patristic tradition and with its monastic element. Through this I have looked again at some of the writings in the Philokalia; some of the theology is really devotional in nature. Bourguet quotes from a number of sources. I read material from Isaac the Syrian as well as Matthew the Poor, a modern day Egyptian Coptic monk and author. There was a very good biography of Seraphim of Sarov and other material on him, and recently I found another Russian of similar ilk, Theophan the Recluse, who was another influential figure in his country, particularly through his writings; he has a charming book titled Tales of a Magic Monastery.

In all these writings there is a solidity and gentleness that can certainly be lacking in modern day charismatic circles. The gentleness I note is something I generally find true of writers from a Catholic background when compared to (particularly American) evangelicalism. There is a lot in our modern churches which is not very appealing to more educated people, but it is not just a question of what is attractive — there are also what we might term truth issues. An interesting take on this may be found in the writings of Brad Jersak and on his website www.bradjersak.com/about/orthodoxy. Brad was decidedly ‘charismatic’ , but explains in this article why he has changed streams.

So, there are certain distinctives to orthodoxy which are very different to the evangelicalism with which I grew up, and I will endeavour to explore this a little, firstly the doctrinal elements, and then the very obvious issue of the contemplative life, with its particular expression in monasticism.

Doctrine

It will be understood, please, that this is a complete beginner’s guide, an introduction to one or two elements of patristic/orthodox thought. Sometimes there are simply issues to do with language, but more normally there are distinctives of thought that have a lot to say to modern evangelicalism.

A first thought is this: where evangelicalism focuses on salvation, on the need for conversion – on human need, the orthodox focuses on – God!

John Noble

John Noble – I found God in Soviet Russia

This might well be an older book but it is very much up-to-date since it is the account of a man of faith living among the godless. The appalling moral degeneracy of the Russian people after being denied knowledge of God is so very similar to what we see around us today; the answers are timeless, and this man’s testimony is a very strong one – and nicely written.

His family, which had lively Christian antecedents, had returned to Germany from the US for commercial purposes but was caught up in the final events of WW2 and unable to escape. They had been so focused on business that they were paying no attention to God at all. Noble describes himself as a careless young man. They were in Dresden and therefore part of the Russian zone and, as Americans, he and his father were arrested on false charges and thrown into prison. Here they were subject to a system designed to starve most of the prisoners to death, and it was as he was dying that Noble reached the end of himself. He had started crying out to God, but to no apparent avail – he was telling God what he wanted; finally he cried out in desperation “your will be done, whether death or life . . .” and as he did so his mind was flooded with peace, and over the next days, despite no improvement in rations, his body began to get stronger.

After months of essentially solitary confinement he and his father, who had also recovered faith, were moved on to Buchenwald, where Noble was able to share his new faith. His salvation was so clear that God was now his mainstay and purpose. The whole process of starvation and then recovered faith had in fact seen his father healed of numerous physical ailments; the father was now released and made his way back to the US, but John was shipped off to Russia, and to Vorkuta, great coal mines in the far north, commonly considered the worst destination.

At no point did Noble pray for release. Instead he figured that his presence in Vorkuta was God’s will, that he could help the faith of others there, but most of all that one day he would be able to reveal to the world what was happening.

He recounts the terrible conditions; the utter degeneracy so common among the Russian people, which he ascribes to their complete lack of knowledge of God; the cruelty with which prisoners were treated, the lack of regard for life; the great heroism of many of the believing men, notably nuns and priests – some of whom refused to work for the communists and were eventually left alone to pray; the thirst of many Russian ‘free’ workers for the word of God . . . and Noble’s eventual release before his 10 years was up. (The Soviet authorities denied all knowledge of his whereabouts, until a letter smuggled out and prayer by the father’s church led to US pressure that secured his freedom.)

While there is no point giving more than a taste of the book here, it will be understood that this is the sort of book one might feel all careless Westerners should read!

 

Iris Global

Iris Global Ministries

Elsewhere in this site you will find something of an introduction to books by HA Baker. His grandson is Rolland Baker, married to Heidi Baker, and together they initiated what is now Iris Global Ministries, centred in Mozambique but with connected ministries around the world.

Here I will mention books by the Bakers, Compelled by Love, Learning to Love, The Hungry always get fed, Birthing the Miraculous; and then a book by a close associate Michelle Perry, Love has a Face.

Before  a very brief look at these books, which are very consistent in content and message, a preliminary point. TL Osborn  was the pre-eminent “world evangelist” of last century. He said something like the following: “I have seen the Pentecostal revival, then I saw the Healing Revival, then the Charismatic Revival, the Teaching Revival, the Faith Revival, but there is one thing I haven’t seen, but I believe it will come before Jesus returns, and that is the Love Revival. O, how we need the Love Revival.” Well these books and this type of ministry are that Love Revival in action!

I will add that I am currently spending time watching Youtube recordings of Heidi centred around the idea ‘Soaking in God’s Glory’. She is very passionate and the music, particularly featuring violin, calls deeply into the heart. Alongside this is that in this setting she speaks repeatedly on John 15, the True Vine, and to me this is really ‘it’ for the heart of Christian faith. My comment is that this movement (for lack of a better word) is very focused on Jesus.

Although the Bakers and people like them or with them are happy speaking to crowds, that is not the modus operandi  described in these books. The Bakers’ ministry has mostly been to marginalized, the poorest of the poor, firstly in Asia and then latterly in Mozambique; “loving the person in front of you” summarizes their activities, in Mozambique starting with children on the rubbish dump, taking in orphans. Although the Bakers both have PhD’s, their ministry is simply about weak people putting themselves in the hands of Jesus and loving people, and Jesus proves himself very able!

Part of the story is a very strong encounter with God at the Toronto revival centre, and prophecy from Randy Clark, and this was a prelude to tremendous miracles in Mozambique. Healing miracles abound and so do miracles of food multiplication . . . normal parts of the Jesus life . . . wonderful, but the theme throughout the books is simply loving Jesus and loving the person in front of you. Wonderfully simple, and much of it to do with children. The love of God then spills out across the country, with thousands upon thousands of churches . . . Some of the books are in the style of diaries, chronicling various events in the ongoing outreach; Birthing the Miraculous is keyed to Scripture.

Michelle Perry, a woman with one leg, went to war-torn South Sudan and started a home for orphaned children. The way God meets others as she makes herself available makes her book a must read. A particularly memorable story concerns a very little girl who came to their home (not orphanage because they are not orphans any more!); she was so hurt and wounded that at every opportunity she would creep away to the muddiest, dirtiest, nastiest corner of the compound and lie down in the mud and cry. How was she to be reached? Eventually, Michelle decided that she had only one option – to lie down in the mud with her – all day. For several days. On the second day, the girl would allow Michelle to hold her little hand . . . and she slowly began to realize she was safe . . .

None of the writers presents themselves as a great person of faith; indeed there are times of severe sickness and near despair. This weakness serves only to magnify God’s delivering love, Jesus.

Walter Brueggemann

Brueggemann is a prominent Old Testament theologian. I don’t know about this academic prominence but I can say that he has some very pertinent things to say that directly affect the way we read the OT and then the application of it to today. As with a number of authors, I encountered his books through Bob Ekblad, who describes his outlook as ‘from the historical-critical perspective’; there is a broadness of outlook to his writing which is quite different from some rather narrow ways of reading the Bible. I have  reservations, in particular because of  Brueggemann’s apparent understanding when it comes to  the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ salvation from sin; to give a specific example he seems to think that, rather than being a sinful lifestyle from which Jesus offers salvation, homosexuality is an acceptable behaviour to be (perhaps even) embraced. To me this means he needs to be read with care.

Firstly, Brueggemann is a voluminous author as well as very scholarly. There are numerous books of the nature of commentaries; I have Genesis, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Isaiah as well as 1st and 2nd Samuel. There are also books in a series of preaching notes on 1 and 2 Kings. Then there are more thematic books, among them one on David called David’s Truth, of which more shortly. Finally there are heavy tomes on theology; I have Theology of the Old Testament. It is the thoughtful and very sensitive reading of the texts, particularly the narratives, which I have found helpful.

The response I am giving here is very limited; but the elements I have found profitable are useful. Firstly, to the theology. I tried reading the book just mentioned, but am not able to; it is a specialist book belonging to academia, but there are points I gleaned about the theological outlook which will become clear.

An example would be two alternative ways of looking at the calling of Jeremiah. In Daniel Bourguet, there is a lengthy investigation of Jer 1.9 –The Lord put forth his hand and touched my mouth; Bourguet takes this very literally and talks about the great degree of intimacy that existed between Jeremiah and the Lord for this to have taken place; the interest is entirely in the ‘mystical’, ie lived, experience, what might be termed the spiritual aspect. Brueggemann takes a diametrically opposite view; he considers the account of Jeremiah’s calling to be a formalized traditional cultic initiation to the prophetic ministry. They can’t both be right, and clearly I find the Bourguet view of much greater interest, but neither is it possible to discount the Brueggemann view. (Perhaps the two can be reconciled.) The Brueggemann outlook is deeply informed by historical research, by 200 years of textual criticism investigating the sources…and he seems to approach the OT substantially not as revelation from God (which is an outlook I think he terms fideism) but rather as Israel’s account of it’s faith. Brueggemann therefore approaches the OT as Israel writing about, recording, discussing its history and faith. The reading is therefore very fluid; the great strength of the books that help me is a tremendous literary sensitivity, which seems to me, as a trained literary critic myself, to be because the author is unclouded by either excessive piety or unbelief; he takes it very much at face value. The immediate weakness one feels is that it discounts the accounts as God engaging inrevelation — one can suspect that God is not being taken as seriously as one might wish; but the whole point is that the OT is Israel investigating its faith in the real God and his actions – which remain mysterious, often being no more than grasped at. This outlook does not conform to the narrow evangelical protestant view with which I grew up, and I will try to detail how Brueggemann expresses this; the attraction is that he makes the OT very real and immediate as we too grapple with God’s activities in a confusing world.

My first read was of Brueggemann’s account of David. He is not very keen on the sort of pietistic background from which I come – ‘yes, we know about David’s adultery but this was a severe slip up in this godly man’s life and we see the fruit of it in his repentance; Jesus is the Son of David, and here we find David’s true significance, as a type of Jesus’; and indeed the truth of this outlook is seen in the Messianic psalms. Brueggemann, however, is purely interested in the text,not the evangelical interpretation! There are at least 2 different accounts of David’s life blended together in the various scriptures; one of these is uncritical, and indeed somewhat hagiographic in the pietistic style; the other is much more nuanced, much more investigative of David and his motives. There are certainly these two strands, perhaps by different authors, perhaps different traditions. The literary teasing out greatly helps the reading; the confusion between the two serves to highlight what Brueggemann sees as Israel’s ‘endless fascination’ with the person, the figure of David; by contrast, there is, for example, little interest in the person of Solomon, though much interest in the consequences of his reign and policies. In David there meet so many currents of thought and action; there is his evident rather wonderful attitude towards/ relationship with God; there is his position at the crossroads of Israel’s political development; in him the prophetic and the kingly aspects meet for really the only time; then there is, simply, his character, deeply flawed and deeply attractive. As I say, B. looks at all this as it comes up in the text most sensitively; he has almost no interest in the typological ; very occasionally he refers forward to Jesus, but fundamentally he is just taking the text at face value. As commentary goes, he is as readable as the wonderful narratives themselves.

So this was my introduction to reading B., and I went ahead on the strength of that to order a number of his books. It is in the Introduction to the commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel that I found the best place to get hold of the general outlook.

First up, ‘the books of Samuel present the radical transformation that occurred in the life of ancient Israel when Israel ceased to be a marginal company of tribes and became a centralized state’. That is, I would point out, ‘salvation history’ is just not in view; however, I would also add that it is very hard to dispute that what Brueggemann says the book is about is in fact exactly what it is about. B. sees three ‘factors at work in this social transformation’; firstly there are the historical processes – social, economic, political, military, technological – these are all clearly present in the text; then there is the character of David, and ‘Israel can scarcely find words for David’; thirdly there is the central role in the transition of Yahweh. ‘The neglect of any one of these [3 factors] will diminish our reading…’ B. warns against two excesses in reading, the pietistic which overlooks the elements of brutality, seduction, ignobility, that this is ‘unlaundered history’; and ‘rational reductionism’, the ‘elimination of the “Yahweh factor”’.

He likes to return to the anti-pietistic view. ‘The transformation of Israel as understood in the Samuel narrative will not be properly rendered in an excessively ‘theological’ idiom, one preoccupied with religious questions. Such a theological portrayal would give disproportionate attention to the role of God, the faith of Israel, and the piety of David. It would preoccupy us with religious matters that lead us away from the intent of the text.’ I am inclined to respond that this is exactly right, but perhaps it is better to say cautiously that this to me is a breath of fresh air; it is a sort of incarnational view of things, God at work in human history, and in so far as we live in human history this is frankly of great concern to us! The text is therefore an ‘artistic idiom’ of investigation; again I find this a sympathetic point of view. He goes on ‘….an artistic rendering of life is now an urgent responsibility, not only because of the character of the text but because of our social-cultural-moral circumstance. The community gathered around this text…is one of the few places left in contemporary society where an artistic rendering of life may be pursued. Ours is a society beset by excessive certitude [the theological reading] and reductive truth [the historical]….an artistic reading is peculiarly required in our cultural situation of brute power and monopolistic certitude…. What strikes one …in the Samuel narratives… is the power of speech in these stories. People talk to one another and their talking matters…People listen and are changed by such speech, and God is drawn deeply into the conversation.’

I think this says most of what needs to be said about B.’s outlook. I note two things of great interest. Firstly, the concept of a community ‘gathered around [a]text’; this is something that seems to be lost from the churches I attend – it is many years since I heard expository preaching, and brings a sense of the centrality of the Bible in church life. Secondly, the cautious approach which amounts to something like realism which finds humanness an ever present and ‘holiness…strangely present’. However, being gathered around a text does not seem to leave much space for the Holy Spirit, for the actual Presence of God, and the element of ‘strangely present holiness’ is not pursued. The approach seems to fit better with what I would in an untutored way refer to as liberalism rather than the robust pentecostal faith of the book of Acts. In one place he refers almost scathingly to fideism which seems to mean a simplistic acceptance of the Bible as the ‘Word of God’; well, I am inclined to think that a simplistic acceptance may not be  right, but  B. goes  too far in seeing the Bible as man’s presentation of relationship with God; I think God has more to do with it than he says!

I think that is a fair introduction to the way Brueggemann proceeds. I would stress again that it provides a framework for a very sensitive and frequently surprising account of the texts.

Why Jesus did not become king

The following is an excerpt from 100 Prison Meditations, on our lack of fitness to govern society:

 Why did Jesus not allow himself to be made a king?

When Jesus perceived that the Jews would make him a king, he departed (Jn 6.15). Surely he would been a better king than Herod and He must have known it. Why, then, did he not accept?

We can only postulate his motives.

One reason would be that the choice would not be His. Nations are fickle: today they elect a king; tomorrow they overthrow him. Christ does not accept the roles we choose for Him. The choices must be His. His decision was to be a Saviour for eternal life rather than a king in this life.

On the other hand, the fact that He was a good Saviour does not prove that he would have been a good king over Judaea, just as a good Sunday school teacher might not necessarily be a good prime-minister.

As man, He sometimes showed utter indifference toward human suffering, just as he could also show compassion. None of these attitudes dominated Him.

He chose among them. He was told about innocent Galileans killed by Pilate. A kingly person in the earthly sense would have shown indignation and would have organized the tyrant’s overthrow. Jesus said simply: ‘Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish’ (Lk 13.2-3).

He is told about a catastrophe, a tower which has collapsed killing eighteen people: Jesus does not give instructions about building more safely in the future, nor does he organize relief for families of the victims. He repeats the above words and makes this another occasion for teaching repentance. He acknowledges only one real motive for grief: that of not being a saint.

This is the correct attitude for a Saviour, but not for an earthly king.

When Jesus heals a man inhabited by demons, He causes a large herd of swine to drown (Lk 8.33). Jesus shows callousness towards this destruction of property. But it was acceptable for a Saviour to destroy a herd and leave someone impoverished in order to heal his fellow man, and therefore Jesus does not justify himself, nor do the evangelists defend his action.

He achieves the objective to be expected from a Saviour. For an earthly king such behaviour would not be right.

Jesus predicts a national tragedy: the destruction of the Jewish state. He does not call upon men to risk their lives in defence of their fatherland as a secular king would have to do. He tells his disciples, ‘At such a time, flee’ (Lk 21.210. The abandonment of their countrymen at such a time forced the final break between Christianity and Judaism.

The Saviour had entrusted the disciples with a deposit of eternal truth which had to be kept intact. This was more important than the defence of the land.

So thinks a Saviour. An earthly king has another calling. These two purposes do not mix.

Jesus could not be an earthly king, and those who try to make Him the Solver of earthly problems are mistaken.

 

Revival

Anointed for Burial

This article is a sort of opinion piece about the, to me, vexed subject of ‘revival’. Although revival is not a word that appears in the Bible, it is nevertheless a Biblical phenomenon; but, as I personally have heard the term used all my Christian life in our western churches, it seems to be a very unhelpful term and almost a badge of despair about the state of the church. “We need revival. God! Send revival.” The meaning being, “things are going from bad to worse; society is a mess; we don’t know what to do; we hope God intervenes!” I believe there is a fundamental misunderstanding about the idea of revival, one that needs doing away with.

A first point is this: many would say that the worldwide church has been in a state of revival for over a 100 years, and one idea might pin the beginning of this to Azusa Street, the ‘outpouring of the Holy Spirit’ which led to the worldwide Pentecostal movement. Smith Wigglesworth had a nice story to express his convictions. He tells of the early days of steam locomotion; George Stephenson wanted to take his sister on a maiden journey of his steam engine. She looked at it and shook her head, saying, “George, it’ll never go. It’ll never go!” But she got on, the engine started to move and she cried out, “George! George! It’ll never stop! It’ll never stop!” If we have eyes to see, we might not cry out for revival in quite the way that seems prevalent; it’s been running for a hundred years.

A second point would be that the worldwide revival has specific incidences. A wonderful example is events in Lewis, the Outer Hebrides, associated with the preaching of Duncan Campbell. The presence of God was so strong, it is said, that as ships approached the island, there was a particular range at which the ships would pass into that presence and sailors would fall to their knees! All that sounds very good; whatever one might think, the feature to note is that this was not an institutional revival, a change in the way the country operated, in social structure….no, it was a coming and sense of the presence of God. This is the point where so much of popular thought goes so wrong; that the church envisages itself, the church, changing society and thinks of this as revival. That is not an incidence of the worldwide revival.

I believe that as long as the church thinks like this it is fated to fail; in Australia, for example, as long as the church sees itself as part of society, a part of society trying to turn back the tide and return Australia to being a Christian country, whatever that means, it opens itself up to wave upon wave of condemnation and guilt.

Here is author Bob Ekblad on this issue:

“When followers of Jesus see themselves too much “according to the flesh” (as a citizen of their particular nation, member of a religious denomination, ethnic group,  sexual orientation, or political party), they can easily fall into either justifying  their ethnicity, nation or orientation, or agreeing with accusations against themselves and seeking to right the wrongs. The Accuser, rather than the Defender, ends up setting the agenda for people’s actions, unless we are continually remembering our identity as beloved son or daughter by adoption and living according to the Spirit. Whenever people live in agreement with their natural identity, they give the Accuser permission to harass them with their shortcomings according to their identity in the flesh. When our focus becomes righting the wrongs of our country or ethnic group, we step under the gaze of a judge whose demands for restitution are infinite. Voices of accusation will make sure we know that we are never doing enough. Finally, any headway we do make toward justice will end up serving the powers, magnifying the names of creatures rather than the Creator.

It seems to me that ‘righting the wrongs of our country’ is in fact exactly what we western Christians seem to have in mind when we talk about ‘revival’; we see society in decay, in a parlous state, and we want to see that put right, and the answer we propose is ‘revival’. And so, “we are never doing enough”; the result is part of the institutional despair that permeates church life (so my experience tells me) despite the wonderful things we see happening in the lives of individuals within the church. We reach a few individuals, but in society as a whole, we are simply off target.

Among possible outlooks, here is one which, I believe, can help move us towards being a place where an ‘incidence’ of the worldwide revival can take place – it helps me anyway; it has reference to the gospel passage in which Jesus is ‘anointed for burial’. We remember that he is in a certain house and a woman comes bearing an alabaster flask of perfume, ‘very precious’, and breaks it over him; we are told that ‘the fragrance filled the house’. The woman was of course accused of wastage, but Jesus said that it was a good thing she had done, she had ‘anointed [him] for burial’. (Of course, one also wonders what else can ever be done with perfume; how can it be a waste – it has to be used somewhere; where better than on Jesus?)

Jesus did not come to set up a worldly kingdom. He came to a cross, a burial and a resurrection and a kingdom ‘not of this world’. If we begin to see the Church as similarly bound for death, burial and resurrection, dead to the world, buried away from the world, resurrected into a life not of this world, and act in accordance, that is as ‘anointed for burial’ in our relation to society, then we might find a tremendous release of fragrance that fills the house. This means not agitating in the world’s forums; it means not being hand-wringingly concerned about what we see in the world. It means having an identity in Christ not as eg ‘Australian’ – ‘in Christ there is no Greek or Scythian or…Australian’. It doesn’t mean not being involved in the affairs of this world, but it does mean that if we are involved it is to be as ‘anointed for burial’, the body of Christ covered in perfume. Our place is not to set to rights the things we don’t like. As long as we do that there will be no fragrance, no presence; no, we will insist on selling the perfume on, and engaging in some relatively worthless act of charity. Fighting for justice, yes; seeing perfume being used as perfume on Jesus as a waste, and not being ourselves ‘anointed for burial’, no!

“The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.” As long as churches and church people are fighting against society, trying to pull it back to moral ways, that is merely a moral reform movement, the wrath of man attempting to work the righteousness of God. There is no fragrance.

It is the fragrance that is beautiful; not morality, not safety in the streets, not economic assurance, not ‘Christian’ laws, but fragrance. The world crucified Jesus. Jesus said very plainly that it will do the same to the Church. We have to accept this, the crucified role of the Church in society! It is beautiful! Not being listened to – anointed for burial and then dead on a cross – is the good place to be, a place of freedom; actually void of responsibility! It is very nice not to be responsible! The world and many of the disciples call it a waste, (O, you have to be responsible – we are going to sort the nation out – actually we are going to be in charge), but Jesus says it is good, and the fragrance filled the house!

Reading:-

Frank Bartleman Azusa Street

A brief account by Duncan Campbell of the Lewis awakening may be found under the title of When the mountains flowed down – and a number of books on ‘revival’ tell the story in more detail.

Like a Mighty Wind  by Mel Tari tells some of the story of the incidence of revival in West Timor, as does The Gentle Breeze of Jesus.

 

The following is an excerpt from Richard Wurmbrand 100 Prison Meditations, on our lack of fitness to govern society:

 

 Why did Jesus not allow himself to be made a king?

 When Jesus perceived that the Jews would make him a king, he departed (Jn 6.15). Surely he would been a better king than Herod and He must have known it. Why, then, did he not accept?

We can only postulate his motives.

 One reason would be that the choice would not be His. Nations are fickle: today they elect a king; tomorrow they overthrow him. Christ does not accept the roles we choose for Him. The choices must be His. His decision was to be a Saviour for eternal life rather than a king in this life.

On the other hand, the fact that He was a good Saviour does not prove that he would have been a good king over Judaea, just as a good Sunday school teacher might not necessarily be a good prime-minister.

As man, He sometimes showed utter indifference toward human suffering, just as he could also show compassion. None of these attitudes dominated Him.

 He chose among them. He was told about innocent Galileans killed by Pilate. A kingly person in the earthly sense would have shown indignation and would have organized the tyrant’s overthrow. Jesus said simply: ‘Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish’ (Lk 13.2-3).

 He is told about a catastrophe, a tower which has collapsed killing eighteen people: Jesus does not give instructions about building more safely in the future, nor does he organize relief for families of the victims. He repeats the above words and makes this another occasion for teaching repentance. He acknowledges only one real motive for grief: that of not being a saint.

This is the correct attitude for a Saviour, but not for an earthly king.

When Jesus heals a man inhabited by demons, He causes a large herd of swine to drown (Lk 8.33). Jesus shows callousness towards this destruction of property. But it was acceptable for a Saviour to destroy a herd and leave someone impoverished in order to heal his fellow man, and therefore Jesus does not justify himself, nor do the evangelists defend his action.

He achieves the objective to be expected from a Saviour. For an earthly king such behaviour would not be right.

Jesus predicts a national tragedy: the destruction of the Jewish state. He does not call upon men to risk their lives in defence of their fatherland as a secular king would have to do. He tells his disciples, ‘At such a time, flee’ (Lk 21.21). The abandonment of their countrymen at such a time forced the final break between Christianity and Judaism.

The Saviour had entrusted the disciples with a deposit of eternal truth which had to be kept intact. This was more important than the defence of the land.

So thinks a Saviour. An earthly king has another calling. These two purposes do not mix.

Jesus could not be an earthly king, and those who try to make Him the Solver of earthly problems are mistaken.

 

Deliverance

This is a fairly lengthy article in which quite a number of books are mentioned. Personal experience leaves me questioning rather than particularly secure about what to think. I can point to some personal experience and one explicit event. Some years ago I was getting a certain amount of arthritic pain in my hands and it was worsening. In Perth, where I live, I have had a quite a lot to do with Margaret Court, former tennis champion; Margaret is a person of faith and considerable experience with healing; she had a prayer line, I stood in it, she asked me the problem, I told her, she told a spirit of arthritis to leave and my hands were instantly completely free. I turned round, went back to my seat and in that 15 seconds the pain came back; I might be slow but not so slow that I didn’t realize that if it left when addressed as a spirit it must be a spirit and that if I treated it that way it would have to obey me too; over a period of time I exerted my authority and the pain left for good.  When is a spirit more than an ambience, an influence, and when is it a spiritual personality? When is a personal problem to be addressed as demonic in origin and when is it a matter for repentance and discipline?

Speaking about deliverance is clearly a vexed subject and in many ways. The word is commonly used to denote deliverance from demons/evil spirits.., though biblically it is used more frequently as simply release from danger. Moses cites God as saying, ‘I will deliver him, I will set him on high’; David prays ‘deliver me from my enemies, whose mouths and hands are full of deceit’; Paul speaks about perils and dangers from which the Lord delivered him, ‘and will deliver’. It should be noted that even when it comes simply to danger, the demonic is often implied. Psalm 91 has as its context ‘the snare of the fowler’; Paul’s perils cannot be considered apart from ‘a messenger of Satan’. However, this article is more concerned specifically with release, deliverance from demonization ( the Greek word, the only word used in the NT, translates simply as demonized – there is no term for possession or oppression, just ‘demonized’); the article discusses some issues which arise from reading a number of recent authors.

In the Bible, demons/evil spirits/unclean spirits, the 3 words perhaps being cognates, only come clearly into focus in the NT, more specifically in the ministry of Jesus, where dealing with spirits, casting them out, is frequently mentioned as part of Jesus’ ministry practice, and as a central component of the ministry He delegated to his followers. In the book of Acts, however, it should be noted as not gaining as much attention, a comparative side issue for Luke, it seems; perhaps because, as in the case of Philip in Samaria, it was a commonplace, perhaps because it was not seen as very important to emphasize except in high profile cases such as the girl in Philipi, or perhaps because the Holy Spirit did not wish to draw particular attention to this aspect in a book which is basically about ‘missions’, how the church grew. The main point to be drawn is that casting out, expelling, dealing with demons is very prominent in Jesus’ ministry, is present in that which He gave directly to the disciples, and so also in that which he left to us – ‘these signs shall follow…in My Name they shall cast out demons.’

Thus much is clear; and there is no reason to suppose that in these days the importance of this type of ministry is in any way lessened. Certainly were it so, the Bible would be clear about it, and it isn’t – the ministry of casting out demons is for us. A difficulty that might arise however, and does arise for me, is that there is such a multitudinous literature on this subject and so much of it is in some ways contradictory, inconsistent, apparently at least. It was reading an article on a book by Charles Kraft, I give you authority which prompted me to write this and attempt to collate some of the material I have read, put it up against the Bible and compare it with my own experience. It should be noted that I regard the Bible as authoritative, and yet one should ask, ‘in what way authoritative – prescriptively or descriptively?’  I once heard someone say that the book of Acts is descriptive not prescriptive, and this is certainly correct in some respects – the drawing of lots as described in ch.1, for example, is not generally regarded as good practice; and yet surely there are guidelines and on occasion instructions, so we can certainly see if particular practices stemming from individual interpretation of experience are justifiable biblically.

The main references then to dealing with unclean/evil spirits/ demons are in the 4 gospels, and this is where I first encountered them. We find that Jesus specifically cast out spirits of infirmity – deaf and dumb spirits, blind spirits and a spirit in a woman bent double. Moreover there is a general statement in Acts that Jesus ‘went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil’. Being careful with this statement we see that certainly some of the people healed were ‘oppressed of the devil’ – as it stands the statement leaves open that some who were healed were not oppressed of the devil, though it is not clear what sense that makes; it doesn’t say that they were ‘demonized’, but rather ‘under the power’ of the devil, though this presumably would also include those who fit the category (if it exists as a category) of demonized. And in fact we see that in parallel instances of healing blindness, in one case, eg Matt 12.22, Jesus dealt with a spirit while in other cases he didn’t, or not explicitly, it certainly having been within the power of the Divine Inspirer of scripture to make it explicit had He wished. However, the majority of cases of demonization explicitly said to be such are not stated to be cases of physical infirmity. For example, the first instance in both Mark and Luke concern a man with ‘an unclean spirit’ who behaves in an unruly way in the synagogue. Repeatedly Jesus cast spirits out of large numbers of people without this being stated as having to do with physical sickness, though it  is commonly taking place alongside a healing ministry, for example in Matt 8.16. Thus the Syro-Phoenecian woman has a daughter who ‘has a devil’; Jesus seems to simply accept this testimony and in due course, at a distance, deals with it. It is clear that people can have more than one demon – Mary Magdalene, and the man in the Gadarene tombs; again, physical sickness is not mentioned in any of these cases.

Thus far, a brief review of Jesus’ ministry. Turning to the modern day, within my reading there is one ministry that outstandingly seems, as it is recorded, to duplicate or re-image the ministry of Jesus, that of Smith Wigglesworth. In some cases of healing he would deal with a devil, in others he wouldn’t; on a number of occasions he dealt with insane people in ways which seem very similar to Jesus. Wigglesworth’s default position seemed to be that illness came from the devil and was to be dealt with in that way. Perhaps the reason why Wigglesworth’s ministry seems to me so closely to parallel that of Jesus is the way he reports it; Wigglesworth apparently read very little, if at all, other than the Bible, and so he sounds very Biblical. Of all Pentecostal ministries, his in many ways seems to me the strongest, soundest, most devoted, simplest, so I take it as being a sort of conservative norm. Two other ministries which follow in a similar conservative Pentecostal mode are those of TL Osborn and Kenneth E Hagin. TL’s great book is Healing the Sick; the majority of the book is devoted to teaching about faith, but there are 3 or 4 chapters which deal with the topic of demons, and he makes very clear that much sickness is the result of demons. In practice, like Wigglesworth, TL’s ministry sounds like that of Jesus – the preaching of the Word of God to large crowds of people, demons becoming very agitated and then often crying out loudly, as in the account of Philip in Samaria, and leaving people when commanded to do so, deaf, blind, cancer spirits among many others, and also demons leaving people through individual ministry. Often TL would not be personally involved; he would simply preach the word of God, and just keep preaching and demons would come out. To me very telling is one story he recounts; a man with a deaf ear, with regard to whom TL says that he supposes he could just have cast the spirit out, but that he didn’t feel to do things that way; instead he sent the man home with a book to read so that faith would come, and of course it did and the man was healed. It is clear from the best practitioners that deliverance can take place quite equally through specifically casting the devil or by hearing the word of God; the devil does not like anything to do with the Holy Spirit and will often simple clear out when exposed to godly things. TL’s preaching practice was to stay until the devil quit. He preached  largely in the ‘3rd world’ and he could be somewhat scathing about religious practices in the USA; he says ‘we deal with real devils’ – there are a multiplicity of accounts of violently insane people, chained up, who came to their right mind during the preaching in Africa. TL says that he thinks in churches in the US people have pretend or pet devils; this is worth thinking about. To repeat: where TL reports the large meetings they held all over the world, the results sound very very similar to what is recorded of Jesus’ meetings in the gospels.

Kenneth Hagin records as a young pastor endeavouring to bring freedom, deliverance to his church members through attempting to get rid of what I suppose TL might call pretend devils, before reaching the conclusion that if it ever did any good he couldn’t see it and that what people needed was steady Biblical preaching and teaching. Like Wigglesworth and Osborn, however, Mr Hagin certainly dealt with demons, both with regard to physical healing including addictions and insanity – what I suppose TL calls real devils! Again, this would take place with no intervention beyond the teaching of the word of God. Mr Hagin makes very explicit reference however to the spiritual gift of the discerning of spirits, recounting how the Lord gave him this specific gift so that he would know when a person’s sickness was caused by a demon. Although Wigglesworth and Osborn clearly give reference to similar gifts, it is that point that Mr Hagin becomes less what I am terming conservative in so far that he recounts seeing things, seeing demons, seeing ’into the spiritual realm’ in a way that is not referenced in the Bible and so in a way not directly verifiable from the scriptures; which is not to say of course that Jesus did not see the same things, but certainly means that the Holy Spirit did not see fit to have such things recorded; and this should give one pause for thought. Hagin has one large book substantially dealing with demons titled The Triumphant Church and 4 shorter volumes called The Satan, Demons and Demon Possession Series; the subject arises from time to time in his other books. As is his usual practice, Hagin gives the doctrine and illustrates from experience, explaining how the Lord taught him about demons. When he comes to demonization, he deals with it in physical instances as well as mental cases; he does not see this as part of normal discipleship, though he speaks of the devil’s opposition to the gospel; this however is not demonization. Both doctrine and practice are well within biblical parameters, though some of what he describes as seeing does not have direct support. He makes a distinction between demonic oppression and possession which is not stated in the Bible but is the result of years of experience. Like TL Osborn, Hagin records demons leaving people when the person is exposed to godly teaching. If I was to recommend some one thing to read, it would be Hagin; there is such a wealth of experience and Bible knowledge. A friend of Hagin’s was Norvel Hayes, who also writes on this subject in his various books.

It is also worth mentioning at this juncture the practice of Carlos Annacondia in Argentina; there are strong parallels with TL Osborn, in so far that both were engaging in large public meetings, similar one supposes to those of Jesus, and yet with diverse methods. Addressing demons, indeed for substantial portions of his services, is a prominent practice of Annacondia. Can one say other than that different people are led in different directions? His book is titled in English Listen to me, Satan. It is at least possible that with the huge growth of occultic practice in the western world – it was certainly very prevalent in Argentina – that this is the way to go. I would suggest this book as necessary reading.

Another prominent Pentecostal preacher who speaks at length in this area is Lester Sumrall; he has a book called Demons: the answer book. There is a well known account of a revival in the Philippines which was sparked by the deliverance of a girl which made national headlines. Sumrall was a great Pentecostal man.

There are other Pentecostal type ministers whom I have read, but particularly Wiggleswoth and TL Osborn seem to me very Biblical, by which I mean similar to Jesus. I become a bit more questioning when I turn to the writings of a group of men who are less of the traditional Pentecostal set, three men in particular, Derek Prince, Don Basham and Jim Croft, who were associated with each other. Derek Prince’s story is well known. He did become, from a highly intellectual background, a classical  Pentecostal minister with the Assemblies of God; he recounts his own experience of being set free, delivered, from spirits which had access to him through his family background and past in occultic practices; he describes repentance from these and the power of God setting him free. Book titles include They shall expel demons.  Can one doubt the reality of this experience? I think not. Prince proceeds to tell how he began to discover that many Christians were bound by these things and so to develop a ministry of deliverance, and it is about here that I begin to feel concerned because the emphasis seems to be moving away from repentance and experience with God to digging up the past, elaborately renouncing all occultic ties, generational curses being broken etc. Prince has a lot to say about Freemasonry. There is Biblical background to this, and of course Prince goes into what he sees as being the validation for it. I can’t say that I would wish to challenge his practice but I don’t see it as stated in the ministry of Jesus. However, I would suggest that his books are very important in this field. Don Basham’s account, Deliver us from Evil, is an extremely interesting book, chronicling his cautious change from a conservative pastor into full scale ‘deliverance’ ministry. It begins with instances where, as a pastor who believes in healing, he finds particular problems which don’t respond until he decides to experiment and see what happens if he deals with the matter ‘as if’ it were caused by a demon, and he finds that this works. Slowly, ministering that way expands, and like Prince it becomes something of a full time thing. An aspect that interests me very much is that after many many years in this type of ministry, often with great success, as he tells it, he finds that he himself needs deliverance from a spirit of fear which is deeply embedded in his life and, as he describes it, needing physical eviction. One cannot doubt, I think, the reality of what he describes. Jim Croft has a similar sort of story, as does the author of well-known book Pigs in the Parlour, Frank Hammond. This last gentleman describes many emotional type problems as requiring complex deliverance ministry and it is here that one may think that things have gone too far. The Biblical route seems to be that of Basham who says, in essence, that if problems, difficulties, sins, do not succumb to regular methods of spiritual discipline, crucifying the flesh, putting off the old man, putting on the new – then deliverance may be needed. Hammond’s position would be that he is dealing with just that sort of issue, but it is hard not to feel that the complexity of dealing with the demonic he describes is not what Jesus was doing. But, I like to try to be very fair and say that some people, according to the accounts one reads, seem to be very, very damaged in ways that I don’t appreciate, and those reporting their ministries with such people report some degree of success; so, while for the time being I may prefer to steer clear, to be highly critical seems a step too far. Jim Croft’s book is called Invisible Enemies. Another author worth looking at here, from the same period but a different background, is Francis MacNutt; he was Roman Catholic, and, as seems common to those of that background, his approach is thoughtful and sensitive.

With these authors arises the issue of communication with demons, and how it occurs. There is biblical precedent here of course, because Jesus had a dialogue with the demons in the Gadarene man, speaking initially it seems with the man but then directly with the demons, which were able to speak vocally through him; Jesus sought information and apparently believed what He was told. People who speak against communicating with demons point out that ‘the devil is a liar and the father of lies’; one could counter by saying that liars don’t always lie, in particular when found out. When Jesus commands demons to be quiet it seems to be to stop them making a scene. So, my not-learned-of- experience conclusion would be that limited communication might well be valuable; whether to take it as far Charles Kraft would be the issue, as discussed below, and Kenneth Hagin certainly says not to speak to demons in any way that goes beyond the account of Jesus with the man in the Gadarenes.

Then I come to a consideration of what they called the ‘Third Wave’ and people associated with John Wimber and the Vineyard churches, specifically, Peter Wagner and Charles Kraft. Wagner’s subject is Territorial Spirits developed in association with among others, I believe, Cindy Jacobs. These folks seemed and seem to have a very high view of themselves as prophets and apostles; well, ok, but my interest is in the practical value and biblical nature of what they say and teach, is it correct doctrine, regardless of how the practitioner might behave? I can’t see too much argument with the concept of territorial spirits, pretty much as described by Wagner; neither am I particularly inclined to want to dispute the reality of some of the experiences described; what I am concerned about is teaching a methodology of engaging with territorial spirits, since this is not in the Bible. It may happen in the Bible, but it is certainly not taught explicitly. In Ephesus, the believers plainly encountered the cult of Diana, but it is not said that they did anything specific about it (or that they didn’t!).Paul never did anything of that nature – or at least it is not recorded that he did, and he could he easily have told us how he engaged with territorial spirits had he wished to do so. In the main passage used to support the territorial spirit idea, that is, in Daniel, Daniel himself clearly does not engage in warfare against a spirit – he just worships God and prays. Going back to what, according to my reading, is perhaps the most outstanding evangelistic ministry since the time of Jesus, ie TL Osborn, he never spent time praying against the devil, his time was occupied worshiping God. A friend of mine, who reports having seen in India every miracle in the book of Acts and more besides, has no time for dealing with territorial spirits. On the other hand, one might like to read books by Alistair Petrie, including Releasing Heaven on Earth; accounts from Annacondia and the revival in Argentine provide further evidence of believers practicing prayer about territorial spirits; but the important point, I believe, is not what is termed ‘spiritual warfare’ , but repentance. The material by George Otis is similar to Petrie; he talks about the concept of spiritual mapping and specific repentance for past events which have brought defilement to an area. An interesting account is Anointed for Burial by Todd Burke, which tells of events in Phnom Penh prior to Pol Pot – many many conversions, but nothing of the warfare nature, except that they were led to deal with one particular case of demonization where the demon claimed to be very high ranking; in much the same way, Lester Sumrall was led to deal with the severely demonised girl in Manila, sparking a revival, just as Paul dealt with the girl in Philipi. In no case did these people ever set out to deal with a territorial spirit. Indeed, one instance I heard first hand from a seasoned WEC ‘missionary’ in what is now Burkina Faso concerned a man who took it on himself, as an ill-advised act of spiritual warfare, to cut down a village tree devoted to the local demons and the result was instant retribution, in fact death – so facing these things head on might not be wise. It is notable in the case of the Gadarene demoniac that Jesus went out of His way to go where he did and His sole purpose seems to have been to meet this man; we may assume that He was led by the Father to this action.

And so I come to what initiated writing this piece, a consideration of Charles Kraft. I read and enjoyed certain aspects of his book I Give you Authority. A particular thought that I carried away from the book and its emphasis on the authority Jesus gives us concerned a friend of mine who thought that authority with regard to his marriage means authority as it were to command, authority ‘over’, but I think that Kraft powerfully brings out that godly authority is authority to protect and bless. When it comes to deliverance, however, much of what is said goes out beyond what the Bible teaches and exemplifies. He talks, for example, about ‘putting demons in boxes’ prior to casting them out, and has extensive conversations with demons. What are we to make of things like this?

Firstly, spiritual things do not necessarily fit into our way of thinking and there are things going on that we don’t see and normally can only suppose or perhaps imagine. Imagination is something that is used a plenty, and the well known fictional works by Frank Peretti one supposes have had a big influence – he pictures demons as malevolent, ugly, vile, rather powerful beings that float around like hawks; that might be true of some of them, but other accounts describe quite different things, malevolent, yes, but often rather pitiful, ‘imps’; the fact is that we don’t even know from the Bible the exact origin of demons and whether perhaps there are classes of beings with different origins, we only know that some of them are fallen angels. I’m saying that we don’t altogether know what we are dealing with. Kraft describes his modus operandi as frequently being experimentation and since he, to my mind, writes in a characteristically sensible way, it doesn’t seem right to discount what he says.

Secondly, he does indeed write in a sensible way; what he describes seems to me much the most thoughtful of all the writers I have read who deal with demonization alongside what people in this area call inner healing. This is an entirely different emphasis from Wigglesworth, Osborn, Hagin, which I think I have made clear is to be regarded as having very strong Biblical precedent. The methodology Kraft describes is in endeavouring to help people from a pastoral stance to overcome significant problem areas which are not succumbing to normal disciplines. He describes facing opposition from people who say that the answer to all Christian problems is repentance from sin, that is, to place stress on individual responsibility. Kraft, correctly in my view; says that this is not the whole of the story – people are also sometimes – he says very frequently – victims of demonic forces. There are two sides to it – my responsibility, and victimhood. My first pastor used to liken the situation to this – if you place two or three strands of cotton thread around your fingers, you can break the bond, you can break it yourself, but should there be twenty or thirty strands you may well need a third party to come in from the outside and cut the thread with scissors; and that is what is happening with deliverance. Kraft’s constant analogy is to sin, unbelief etc  causing an accumulation of rubbish in our lives, rubbish to which demons are attracted like rats to garbage; his approach therefore is to deal with the rubbish ie sin and its effects before dealing with the rats, the demons; with nothing to ‘feed on’ they leave easily. To me, as I read, it sounds sensible, with the caveat that I don’t see this in the Bible, though it seems to rest on good Biblical principles. As usual in the deliverance area there are problems. Other authors will typically say that perhaps one in ten occasions of deliverance might see demons speaking through the vocal chords of the afflicted person, but Kraft describes extensive communication with demons. What to make of this? I don’t know, except to come back to this, that Jesus dealt with demons in large numbers of people, and we are not told exactly how, just generally that he cast them out by His Word and at times ‘by the finger of God’. There is no doubt that that is what is happening when TL Osborn preached to a multitude of people and ‘demons crying out with a loud voice came out of many’, but I don’t know that it is any less the case when rather than through preaching this takes place in the counselling room under a very different methodology.

Another area to consider has to do with the way demons were viewed by the Church Fathers, who broadly equated them with ‘passions’; this view is investigated or better, perhaps, pursued by Daniel Bourguet, particularly in Spiritual Maladies and Spiritual Discipline. Here, temptation is seen as coming very specifically from the devil, and, when yielded to, comes increasingly to result in a habit, and a demon being resident in a person’s life. However, the simple equation of a ‘passion’ such as anger with a demon does not seem to be the Biblical picture, and Daniel Bourguet evidently feels unable to go so far. Kenneth Hagin tells of a vision in which he was shown how a person becomes demonized. First a thought is suggested by a demon; it might at first be resisted, but then the person begins to entertain the thought; the person then increasingly becomes obsessed with the thought allowing greater and greater demonic access until finally the demon actually enters fully into the person. This is clearly similar to the patristic picture, but does not identify the passion with the demon; indeed James specifically tells us that we are ‘drawn away by our own lust and enticed’, so the ‘passion’ is our own, and therefore, in my view, not to be identified with the demon. I think we can see here the need both for demons to be cast out, and for repentance, according to the Kraft model. Personally, I would confirm the sudden and cruel entrance of a demonic force into a person after a period of time spent messing around on the edges of evil practices and ideas.

We should also consider large scale demonization, of institutions and societies. The renunciation of old ways and ‘gods’ by people groups, or of the social mores of their people by new converts coming out of peoples explicitly engaged with demons, is a commonplace of missionary type activity. See Behind the Ranges, biography by Mrs Howard Taylor of Fraser of Lisuland, and HA Baker, Under his Wings. A friend was recently in East Timor; when the village headman specifically renounced allegiance to ancestral spirits, he was immediately healed. The religion of Islam would seem to be an obvious example of a movement of thought and practice with a powerful ‘supernatural’, spiritual force behind it of a most evil nature; the account of Mohammed’s original demonization is most explicit, and seems to confirm the process mentioned in the previous paragraph – here was a man with a serious problem and history of rejection, who was interested in God but wide open to the sudden entrance into his life of a powerful demon representing itself as the angel Gabriel. Events in Germany in the 1930’s would seem to be another example of individuals, and one in particular, powerfully impacted by occultic forces then being able to bring a whole country substantially under their sway. Some interesting, though at points questionable, books by Walter Wink, particularly Unmasking the Powers, make a case for institutional demonization; that an institution comes to have a life of its own, and that this is empowered by a ‘power’, that is a demon. The literature on territorial spirits would seem to link up well with this.

 

There are a couple more books to mention before a conclusion. These are, firstly, The Handbook of Spiritual Warfare by Ed Murphy; this is a large and comprehensive look at many aspects to do with demons. It could be described as compendious; and perhaps as essential reading. Interestingly he tells of his own ‘nervous breakdown’ which was a result of ‘burn-out’, itself a result of imbalance in his thinking and lifestyle. Contrary to the advice of friends who said it was demonic and needed direct action as such, he got better from purely medical treatment, rest and a new appreciation of Christ and His teaching. It troubles me a little that his bibliography, for example, contains no reference to Hagin or TL Osborn; there is some prejudice against “Faith” teaching, where really it is a very strong strand of Christian teaching; in Murphy’s case he might also just not know about such ministries. There is a close look at many scriptures and many aspects of ministry in this book. Secondly, we can mention Healing through Deliverance by Peter Horrobin, the founder of Ellel Ministries, an international ministry with a focus in this area. Again, this is an extensive book; it closely and persuasively examines some aspects of the Scriptures and then relates experience.

In the forward to this particular book, Derek Prince writes, “I have come to believe that deliverance from demons is, at this time, the most urgently needed ministry in the Body of Christ.” This may seem a rather strong statement; for myself, I am persuaded that people are frequently delivered from evil and from demons purely by association with the Word of God and without explicit deliverance; be that as it may, there is not much point quarrelling with those led to focus on deliverance; Annacondia may be the exemplar of such a view. Every Christian needs to know his or her personal authority over the devil; we also may need to be humble enough to seek help from those with more experience. So, authority in the Name of Jesus is our starting point, and all the books mentioned above and more besides will prove helpful to explore. We should not be ‘ignorant of the devil’s wiles’. Jesus’ victory over Satan and demons is a very prominent aspect of the New Testament in which we live.