25 October 2005

Real spiritual warfare is not like a round of Doom

Pyromaniac

Ever since Frank Peretti's demon-warfare novels dominated the Christian best-seller lists in the 1980s and '90s, the popular conception of "spiritual warfare" has had the complexion of trashy, mystical, superstitious fantasy.

The ideas of "territorial demons" and fanciful combat strategies like "spiritual mapping," "prayer marching," and similar nonsense have no basis whatsoever in Scripture.

True spiritual warfare is not about territory; it's about truth.

Note how Paul describes spiritual warfare 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: "Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

Notice: the real spiritual warfare is about imaginations, arguments, knowledge, and thoughts—in other words, belief systems, not real estate. It's a fight for hearts and minds, not a war over cities and nations.

Phil's signature

80 comments:

Mike Perrigoue said...

"...bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

Now that is war!

Thanks for the reminder, Phil.

William Dicks said...

Phil,

This is so true. I come from a church (very unfortunately it has been extremely difficult to leave for reasons I am not going into here - contact me IF you wanna know) that believes all this nonsense.

Once into that type of groove, it seems all they can see is the groove and it becomes almost impossible for them to see the truth. And THAT is what the warfare is all about.

Thanks for a great blog!

marc said...

Just been reading this:

2 Corinthians 4:4-6 "4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

That doesn't sound like geographical territory to me.

Theteak said...

Could not agree more. Note the wonderful sustained metaphor Paul uses along the time line of a physical battle. The last thing to be done in a battle? Taking captives. In this case we take captive every thought to Christ.

Andii said...

I've just lodged an article I wrote about this that was published a while back in Anglicans for Renewal in Britain. The major point is that a lot of this 'spiritual warfare' stuff is not particularly biblical and is probably more about people wanting a quick fix and the sense of purpose given by having an enemy. Any way check out
http://www.archive.org/download/Strategic_Level_Spiritual_Warfare_and_Demonic_Superpowers/SLSWPowers.rtf
if you want any further thoughts or even
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/185174231X/nouslife-21/202-7335723-2056642?creative=6394&camp=1406&link_code=as1
or http://www.grovebooks.co.uk/acatalog/Grove_Books_Online_Evangelism__4.html#aEV17
and move up the page to no.21

Dan Case said...

This post brings to mind a question I have had concerning generational sin and/or certain "strongholds" of sin in people's lives. Are these perspectives legitimate? I've prayed with brothers and sisters who seem to quickly ascribe many areas of sin to these very things (thereby giving the impression that there is little, if any, personal responsibility in relation to one's own sin). They also give the impression that the only adequate remedy requires an excorcism of the person who has "surrendered ground" in those areas of sin. Can you point me to some good resources which would be helpful in answering these theological imbalances - or errors?

Jenson's Blog said...

"The ideas of "territorial demons" and fanciful combat strategies like "spiritual mapping," "prayer marching," and similar nonsense have no basis whatsoever in Scripture."

Phil, I'm glad to know that you have not done all that "nonsense". As one who did all that "nonsense" before, I know of other godly Christians who still practice "similiar nonsense". Please be sensitive to them, will you?

tomgee said...

It's a blessing read this post! My (former) church was beginning to practice all that stuff: geographic influence of demons, multigenerational curses,
exorcising demons from locations
, demonic strongholds in Christians due to past experiences ... including experiences in the womb!

Sigh.

Praise God for the true guidance of his Word!

Bill in NJ said...

How can you doubt that article you linked to? They guy had a conversation with an ACTUAL DEMON. I think we should all march around our churches seven times this Sunday. Of course, my church meets in a public school auditorium so that might look a bit weird...

Ray said...

The absolute tragedy is that the people caught up in this fantasy often live in a joyless existence, finding demons under every tree and never accepting responsibility for any of their decisions.

We have had several of these folks go through our church, some stayed on and we are working with them.

In a society that is biblically illiterate and trained to be irresponsible, this is a common issue.

John Rush said...

I agree with what you're saying; however, I would add that terminology of "territory" is not bad if you are discussing the term of giving "ground" or "place" to the devil: Ephesians 4:27 "Neither give place to the devil."

It seems that we can give ground in our thinking to the enemy. We can choose to believe his lies and swerve away from the faith.

I am not a "materialist Christian" (if that makes any sense). I believe in the spiritual battle. But the nature of it is in our thinking as it relates to truth.

We battle doctrines of demons every Sunday, I hope, from our pulpits by the method of exposing the truth of Scripture.

JRush

Andrew Rowell said...

Phil,

I agree with most of what you said in this post but I think that spiritual warfare does have a territorial aspect to it. Belief systems are intimately related to the foundations that people use to build legal systems. The construction of legal systems does have a profound impact on the spread of the gospel and the influence of the devil and demonic forces. Legal systems are in their very nature territorial.

Libbie said...

A friend of ours always struggled with major pride and anger issues. He recently received spiritual warfare counselling, in which the spirit of his dead grandfather was discovered to have been inhabiting him. The counsellor asked grandad if he wanted to accept Jesus and the grandad decided to face the Lord on his own.
Since then, our friend swears he has been a much nicer person all round, and blames all his pride and anger problems on his grandad, who has now gone.
Which is pretty nifty.

Nathan said...

And I was hoping one day to take a shotgun to a demon. Or at least a chainsaw.

Rob Wilkerson said...

I'm crawling out on a thin branch here, commenting on Phil's blog and all. But, and we knew there had to be one posted eventually, an emphasis on de-emphasizing spiritual warfare abuses often reveals a pendulum swing, which makes the contrary emphasis as bad as the erroneous one!

A pendulum swing might be present when motives or interpretation are condemned rather than observed or analyzed. There are various reasons why these 'types' of charismatics hold to these theories and practices. For some it may undoubtedly be a desire for an easy rationale to explain their inherent sinful desires and struggles. But for many of them, it merely began with a recognition of demonic realities (starting with the Scriptures) and a desire to see them defeated. We all desire that, don't we? We all desire to see the gospel continue to have it's lasting effect on the demonic realm until the King Himself returns to finish what He started at Calvary.

As one whom Phil would refer to as a 'mild' charismatic, I see in many who hold to erroneous warfare convictions a true gospel-filled heart of love for people who suffer, as well as an awareness of Satan and his realm that Word-based Reformed folk like me often tend to forget or overlook (e.g. 1 Pet. 5:7 ff; Eph. 6:10 ff., et. al.).

Broken Messenger said...

True spiritual warfare is not about territory; it's about truth.

And that is true.

Brad

Jim Crigler said...

I'd like to echo a modified version of what andrew rowell responded earlier: Yes, legal systems have a profound territorial influence on perception of the truth, but language and ethnicity do as well.

I also thought about a joke about the "demonic" use of the apostrophe in in the posessive form of "it" ("its" not "it's"!!!), but I decided not to tell it.

Libbie said...

Rob W.

Good point. I have another friend who is living in an inner-city area and reaching those whom the comfy middle-class would be absolutely terrified of. She prayer-walks the area often, and usually meets new people as she does so, and is able to help and witness to them.
She's keen on the charismatic understanding of spiritual warfare, but she does at least attempt balance in the subject, and tries not to see 'spooks in trees' as she puts it. I disagree with much of her theology on that point, but I can't diss her compassion for the lost, or the fact that she takes the whole business very seriously.

Winston Smith said...

"True spiritual warfare is not about territory; it's about truth."

Wow. Deep.

Micah said...

A lot of this comes from a flawed understanding of Satan's role in Scripture. Charismatics generally see Satan loosed, active and powerful. They may give lip service to the Sovereignty of God, but I don't believe (speaking from 20+ years as a charismatic) it ever crosses their mind that God is in control of even Satan.
When encountering such individuals, we would should seek to respectfully encourage them to, rather than succumb to fanciful superstition, seek the true nature of Satan's role in God's eternal plan and purpose as expressed in Scripture.

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

Just a thought for your consideration:

The use of terms like principalities, powers, thrones, dominions, etc. as well as the Devil's description as "a prince" seem to accord with Jewish apocalyptic descriptions of demonic forces behind pagan nations. And while that doesn't imply that fighting such spiritual warfare involves "territorial voodoo", it does mean that there's a much closer tie to the structures of this world's political system in its opposition to the kingdom of God. There seem to be some indications in the Old Testament that angelic powers have various roles in manipulating nations in God's war against evil and struggle to establish His kingdom over the whole earth. 1 Kin. 22:19-22 describe a divine council of angels reflecting over matters of millitary conflict. Israel is frequently attended by angels in her war against pagan powers (Deut. 33:2, ps. 66:18, Josh. 5:14, etc.). Moreover, the actual battles fought against pagan nations corresponded to invisible armies of angelic hordes (2 kings 6:17). All of the prophets likewise see the affairs of nations, and their various rising and falling as a part of a larger spiritual battle (see Ezk. 8-11, Zech. 1:7-17, 3:1-2, 6:1-8). God's war on behalf of the kingdom of heaven is consistently characterized in the OT, especially in OT apocalyptic, as a clash against nations (see Dan. 10:13, 20, 7:13-14, 7:26-27 and 12:1).

I think this observation makes Paul's point about Spiritual warfare a little clearer -- God's war for the kingdom of God isn't being fought in national conflicts (Israel vs. Gentiles) anymore. He's won the victory through the death of Jesus, and thus our conflict with the nations is by living out this victory in Spirit-filled kingdom living. In other words, it's to be fought not just by individuals critiquing pagan ideologies (thought that's part of it), but by the Church living out their victory in Christ through communities that stand as an alternative social order to the political/social kingdoms of this world (which are ruled by Satan's evil armies). That's why the passage in Eph. 6 is preceded by the "household codes" of proper relationships in the church (between husband-wife, parent-child, slave-master).

Much more could be said, but check out Daniel G. Reid's article on "the Principalties and Powers" in The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. J.H. Yoder's treatment of the subject in The Politics of Jesus is thought provoking, as is Clinton E. Arnold's various treatments of the subject (summarized well in his Anchor Bible Dictionary article). Also check out Newsom's article on Angels in the ABD.

TheBlueRaja said...

Correction -- God's war for the kingdom of God isn't being fought in national MILLITARY conflicts (Israel vs. Gentiles) anymore, but through carrying the cross and conforming to the image of Christ's death in our suffering for the world, and proclaiming God's victory in Christ.

Sled Dog said...

I agree that the Perretti/Neal Anderson types of spiritual warfare venture far from the path, but I do believe that there can be a "real estate" aspect to spiritual warfare. The dominion takes place when truth is eliminated. There are nations and regions that remain in the grip of Satanic forces.

I'll never forget the feeling I got when I was in Russia (St. Petersburg) right after communism collapsed. It just felt spiritully vapid, in an incredibly oppressive way. Some folks told me to expect this sense of spiritual darkness, but until I faced it for myself, I couldn't imagine what they meant.

TheBlueRaja said...

I agree, Sled Dog, but I think spiritual warfare really has a lot less to do with territory than it does with the clash of civillizations -- that of the old humanity, dead in Adam (and the culture of death and rebellion it creates) that of the community of God's people, the new humanity alive in Christ (who live out an alternative social order as citizens of a different kingdom under a different king). If the kingdom of God were being manifested through the Church it would bring with it political tension with reigning regimes, as it did in the 1st C., and in Russia before the curtain fell (with persecuted house churches standing against the rival claism to lordship in Russias assorted dictators). After the curtain fell, however Christianity was, to a greater degree, "Americanized" and the sharp distinction between the life which the church advocates over against the state's demand for allegiance was blurred, which can be a very bad thing.

Sled Dog said...

Concur, Raja. That's really at the heart of it, but it's amazing how the effects can fall along man-made borders. It isn't really about real estate, but it can appear that way.

What was odd was the strange sense I experienced when I crossed the "line" from the main section of the St. Petersburg airport (full of drunks, pickpockets and cold-faced individuals into the British Airways terminal. I could almost immediately feel the difference between darkness and light. Night and day!

The one place I experienced light in Russia was in the orphanages. The women who ran these institutions radiated love, sacrifice and compassion. Every else it was fend for yourself.

Jeremy Weaver said...

I think theblueraja and Sled dog both make good points, as long as we remember that the initial battle is over truth and not real estate. And I think that is what Dr. Phil is pointing out. If there is demonic control of nations and regions, it is held in the minds of those dictators and presidents and kings who rule in those nations or regions.

TheBlueRaja said...

It's amazing how the power of Jesus' resurrection can cause bursts of new creation light from the dark, dead holes you described. I've had similar feelings of dread created by the cult of patriotism in my neck of the woods (and the disdain for other people groups it encourages).

Jeremy Weaver said...

And again out warfare is not about feelings and emotions as we can be swayed by the visible poverty that exists in virtually every country outside of the U.S. and Britain. It's always best to look to the Word of God to find out what spiritual oppression really is and not rely on how we feel in certain places.

farmboy said...

Mr. Johnson notes that true spiritual warfare is about truth and/or belief systems, not about territory and/or real estate. Several posts question this lack of a territorial dimension to spiritual warfare. For example, Mr. Rowell observes that “Legal systems are in their very nature territorial.” Mr. Crigler adds that “Yes, legal systems have a profound territorial influence on perception of the truth, but language and ethnicity do as well.” These two posts, then, offer legal systems, language, and ethnicity as evidence supporting a territorial dimension to spiritual warfare.

Is it possible, however, that legal systems, language, and ethnicity actually support Mr. Johnson’s claim, that spiritual warfare is about truth and/or belief systems? Yes, specific legal systems, languages, and ethnicities exist in a specific place during a specific time (there is a correlation between these concepts and the place-time locus). But, the place-time locus is not the key determinant (causation is different from correlation). Instead, specific legal systems, languages, and ethnicities all flow from specific worldviews and worldviews are all about truth and/or belief systems. For example, the American experiment of limited government under law had everything to do with the worldview of America’s founders. It had much less to do with the specific geography of the east coast of North America in the 1700s.

To borrow the title of Richard Weaver’s book, ideas have consequences. In this regard, Mr. Wilkerson notes that “There are various reasons why these 'types' of charismatics hold to these theories and practices [for conducting spiritual warfare].” Ultimately, these reasons flow from the worldview these charismatics hold. This is the point of Mr. Johnson’s post: Does the way in which a person understands, and hence conducts, spiritual warfare flow from Scripture? Using 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Mr. Johnson argues that “The ideas of ‘territorial demons’ and fanciful combat strategies like
‘spiritual mapping,’ ‘prayer marching,’ and similar nonsense have no basis whatsoever in Scripture.” These ideas are non-sense because they do not correspond to the “sense” of Scripture. This is the light in which “jen_est” should interpret Mr. Johnson’s comments.

Sled Dog said...

Yes, Doxo, I know that I walk a thin line when I use the word "feelings" here in Pyroville! No question that truth and the Word are the plumbline in this discussion.

Still, I do believe our senses reveal much to our hearts. The hardness of the Russians (who were not impoverished in slum like conditions)had much more to do with thier disconnection from God and Christianity than poverty. For far too many years they were spiritually destitute.

I've been in some pretty bad slums in the "free world" and seen more laughter and thankfulness than I ever did in Russia.

Phil Johnson said...

Sled Dog, Raja, Andrew, John, etc:

Regarding the "territorial" aspect of legal systems, voodoo cults, evil cultural influences, etc., I agree that demonic power can be focused in a particular geographical region where such ideologies hold sway, and in that sense can be "territorial."

My point, however, is that the problem is still more ideological than territorial, and that even in the worst cases where evil dominates a region, the remedy is still truth, not mapping, marching, and magical incantations that involve "pleading the blood of Christ" and other such abracadabras.

TheBlueRaja said...

Doxy,

I agree that spiritual warfare isn't about our feelings, but I don't think being moved with compassion by the innumerable starving deaths of the world's less fortunate is a very good example of "relying on the word of God instead of our feelings". M point was that the Bible calls us to spiritual warfare beyond issues of privatized personal piety, which means being concerned about social issues.

Philys,

Of course I agree about the abracadabra territorial spirits mumbo-jumbo. But my point was that spiritual warfare should be construed as going beyond the ideological to the structual, societal and political. It involves seeking to demonstrate the reality of the kingdom of God in the way we address problems like starvation, disease, death, immorality, oppression, inequality, injustice, and every form of unrighteousness that stands opposed to the Gospel.

Sled Dog said...

Referring to Raja's comment,

In my mind, a very challenging balancing act occurs as we seek to address and solve social issues. I know too many believers that subscribe to a Christianity like Bono's, that sees the church's primary calling to relieve suffering and injustice in the world. Working to make a difference in these areas is important (re: Jesus' Good Samaritan parable). But man's greatest need is the redemption with a Holy God, and his greatest counselor for life is the Word. I fear that some have decided that it's better to give a man a fish, rather than teach him to fish. Spiritually speaking, we are often imparting spiritual good works on others, without transferring the source of our spiritual activity.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to speak in a prison which held lifers...all 17-18 year olds with no hope of freedom. At first I felt a bit depressed that I counldn't offer something to relieve their despair. Then I realized the only thing I could offer them was the Gospel. Though imprisoned, they could be free.

Once again, social action ought to be a mark of the believer's life. Expressing compassion and mercy are good traits. But ultimately, we have one primary calling. Preach Christ, teach the Word.

Libbie said...

So, what do we make of the 'transformations' videos? They show examples of greatly spiritually oppressed areas being dealt with in the territorial spirit manner, and then the light of truth shining forth, etc.
What's happening here?

Gaddabout said...

Rob Wilkerson beat me to the punch. In criticizing those who see a demon under every rock, it's also easy to escape Biblical grounding on the issue and avoid acknowledging any kind of demonology.

I like Mr. Johnson's thoughts on the subject.

Phil Johnson said...

I gotta agree with Sled Dog here. Divorce "social action" from the ideology of the gospel, and you're no longer doing spiritual warfare at all; but you're doing just what Paul said not to do--trying to fight the spiritual battle with carnal weapons.

Justice, equality, morality, etc. mean nothing apart from the gospel context. These too are really ideological, not just territorial, issues.

I agree that we MUST see embrace our duty to address injustice, hunger, and the plethora of evils Raja named. But such evils will only be truly and finally remedied not by territorial solutions like the redistribution of land and wealth--but by ideological means, namely the advance and ultimate triumph of truth.

TheBlueRaja said...

Sled,

I guess I don't see a balancing act, because I don't hold the proclamation of God's kingdom apart from living in it myself. I see the righteousness of God and the doctrine of redemption in a much more wholistic way (ala Abraham Kuyper) such that the proclamation of the Gospel is at once addressing spiritual AND social issues. We preach salvation not only from Hell, but from sin and the destruction it wreaks on God's good world. That means taht relieving suffering and injustice in the world is part of our proclamation that God is rectifying all things under His Son. I think holding these things apart was part of the reason Jesus rebuked the nation of Israel with the Good Samaritan parable. Man's greatest need is for God, and to experience life on God's world the way God intended. The message of the minor prophets rebukes the violence, oppression and injustice of the nations (not just Israel) because God's plan of redemption is bigger than just a get-out-of-Hell-free card. The doctrine of the resurrection also demonstrates God's commitment to this world, and not just an otherworldly ethereal heaven. I think that there's a legitimate loss of credibility in preaching God's justice, righteousness, holiness, goodness and sovereignty as Creator if our vision of salvation is nothing more than assenting to a few propositions and experiencing personal spiritual fulfillment. God's vision is for the world, and for these wrongs to be righted. Jesus will do that when He returns, but in order to be faithful to call people into that kingdom we have to be faithful workers of it ourselves, seeking to bless the poor, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness/justice, and those who are powerless, just as God does. The call to be merciful, peacemakers and purveyors of righteousness in the world is what draws persecution upon us - testifying to the injustice of godless men and seeking to right wrongs God's way will bring conflict with powers and authorities whose power is questioned by our loyalty to a different king. All of that to say, I think we should hold these things together instead of playing them against one another in an artificial tension.

TheBlueRaja said...

Amen, Phil! But lest we think we're actually fighting the battle simply by talking about it, we're called to confront these ideologies with hands and feet, not just words and books.

That's why I think its important to draw attention to how spiritual warfare is actually fought - socially. It's by shaping communities who live by a different rule than the kingdoms within which they live, and seeking to instill God's justice in the world through the Gospel proclamation, confrontation and activism. That's what it means to be a city on a hill or a light on the lampstand, in my estimation. Did you ever get around to reading that J.K.A. Smith article called Worship as a Public Disturbance ? It really pertains to this topic, I think.

farmboy said...

Referencing the conditions in post Cold War St. Petersburg, Russia, “theblueraja” notes “I've had similar feelings of dread created by the cult of patriotism in my neck of the woods (and the disdain for other people groups it encourages).” As I read this, my thoughts are two: First, I have a hard time following how this observation relates to Mr. Johnson’s post concerning the scriptural basis for understanding and conducting spiritual warfare. Second, I have a hard time understanding how one can equate life in the United States of America with the dread of living in post Cold War St. Petersburg, Russia.

At the most basic level, an American patriot is one who supports and is proud to be associated with the ideals on which America was founded. According to that definition, I am an American patriot (and I am proud to be such). That being said, I hold no illusions as to the sinless perfection of America. No such nation exists this side of the second coming. Yet, this side of the fall and Old Testament Israel, the American experiment of limited government under law has arguably brought more good to more people than any other nation that has graced the face of the earth. That is more than mere opinion, it is a statement easily supported by the evidence.

When I read the opening paragraphs to America’s founding document, The Declaration of Independence, I find references to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” and to men being “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Without claiming that America was ever a Christian nation in the historic evangelical sense of the word, one can still see that the worldview which informed the American experiment of limited government under law was clearly a God centered worldview. When I gaze on the only American flag with fifteen stripes, the one with fifteen stars that flew over Fort McHenry during the British attack on September 13, 1814, I’m reminded of the words of the Star Spangled Banner which “Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation” and refer to America as “the heaven-rescued land.” Again, the God centered worldview of America’s founders is clearly visible.

Yes, America has many faults and flaws, and an American patriot will do all that he/she can to address these faults and flaws. Acknowledging these faults and flaws, however, in no way diminishes all the good that God, in His providence, has worked through the American experiment of limited government under law. When an author, implicitly, if not explicitly, casts America as the source of all-or virtually all-that is wrong in the world, he/she diminishes the validity of the point he/she is trying to make.

Sled Dog said...

Raj,

Always appreciate e-conversing with you...

From God's perspective, I don't believe that there is a balancing act. You're right on to say that Kingdom living is all about word and action (James 2:14-25)blending together.

But from a human perspective there is the tendency to lean towards one or the other...promoting a social agenda at the expense of a clear, presentation of the Gospel, or on the other side of the pendulum, A declaration of the Gospel devoid of any acts of love and compassion. I guess I was just expressing my realization of the human battle to live in harmony with God's intent.

Dan Edelen said...

I consider myself a charismatic in the same vein as Mahaney, so I don't ascribe to a lot of the charismania that surrounds this topic.

That said, C.S. Lewis noted that there are two errors concerning the demonic: to ignore it completely or focus on it constantly. The charismatic movement has tended toward the latter, while Evangelicals have tended to the former (see my post "The Chthonic Unmentionable" for more on this. I also blogged about the spiritual component behind curses just today, ironically enough.)

It is clear from the Scriptures that spiritual forces, both good and bad, have some sort of hierarchy and territorial nature. The classic opposition of the angel by a territorial demonic power in Daniel 10 is intriguing, but I think that too much is made of creating a theology to fit those kinds of references. In this, many charismatics go waaaaay overboard.

But again, writing off the demonic is just as bad. Too many Evangelicals are far too willing to ascribe psychology to a problem rather than examining for demonic roots in a person's life.

Phil, one question here: Have you ever been involved in an actual exorcism or personally confronted a demon? Let me tell you that if you haven't, it modifies your theological perceptions really fast!

(BlueRaja and Rob Wilkerson: I like what you wrote. Good stuff.)

Phil Johnson said...

What Sled Dog said. Plus, in the symbiosis between faith and works, faith has primacy. Works are the fruit of right belief, not the other way around. That's why spiritual warfare must ultimately be fought as a battle for the truth, not merely a rock-concert-in-the-park-style campaign against poverty and whatnot, even at the expense of truth.

Sled Dog said...

It is amazing, Raja, that we have to think about expressing kindness and mercy to others. They ought to be second nature. They should be flowing from our life. Hopefully we aren't so strategically minded that we question whether or not to walk the older lady across the street dependent on whether or not we see her as a good prospect for the Gospel.

Last week I transported a guy home from the hospital. His wife is a part of our church, and he has a severe drinking problem. He got so drunk that he ended up in emergency. When I picked him up he was still quite out of it. I knew any sharing of the Gospel on the way home would not even enter his cranium. But it should not have stopped me from doing a "good work" in response to my relationship with Christ. But in all honesty, when I got the phone call, my first reaction was not one of great joy. I think the sarcastic thought that ran through my mind was something like, "Oh, joy, I get to drive around with a smelly, drooling, incapicitated guy in my car!"

TheBlueRaja said...

Sled,

I hear you. I just often think about the perception that our concern with the suffering of the world's lost appears to be an act in order to get them on our membership rosters. I also wonder if I'm obligated to state the four spiritual laws when I'm helping a woman push her suddenly-dead car off the road. I guess that just proves your point, though - it's easy to swing from one extreme to another instead of holding these things together.

Philo,

I think it's unwise to separate faith and faithfulness, trust and loyalty, or repentance and obedience. For them to be symbiotic means that they're both mutually obligatory components. Once one component is separated for analysis and given priority, it kills them both. The nominalist distinction you're making between "truth" and "activism" may be in danger of giving priority to accurately describing how one is warmed and filled over actually giving warmth and food.

Phil Johnson said...

Dan Edelen,

Nobody here is "writing off the demonic." Yes, I have dealt with demonized people, with demonic voices speaking out of their mouths. It didn't change my theology. I still think magic words and "pleading the blood" are the wrong remedy. I am convinced the truth is a more powerful weapon against demons than holy water or verbal incantations. When confronted with a demonized individual, I address what I have to say to the person, not the demon. And the substance of my message includes the gospel. In the couple of occasions I have encountered such situations, that has been effective. I see no warrant for any other approach in Scripture.

I do realize, of course, that Jesus commanded demons directly. He also commanded diseases to depart and forgave sins. It seems to me the Christian's armor for spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6 strongly suggests we are supposed to take the approach to spiritual warfare I have suggested and not the one Neil Anderson teaches.

Adam Cummings said...

I'm hoping we don't start all of this "Come with me and cast out demons and you'll see the truth of what I'm saying" stuff (experimental argumentation). I've been reading 2 Peter, and it's been a great reminder of what Jude said. This may bit just a bit off subject, but Dominion Theology is clearly contra-scriptural.

"Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord."
--2 Peter 2:10b-11

An example of this is seen here:
"But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'"
--Jude 9

I think people often neglect these biblical truths for the sake of their prided "experience", but God's Word never conforms to experience... it's just the other way around. I know everyone has been getting very indepth and that this is not exactly the most informative post, but these are things to keep in mind.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: Scripture itself makes a distinction between faith and works, and it is an absolutely vital one to keep clear.

I'm not arguing for severing the head from the body. I'm arguing that the two are not the same, and since works are the fruit of faith, faith has primacy.

Adam Cummings said...

I'm referring to my comment, not Phil's post... lol! (it WAS informative)

TheBlueRaja said...

Agreed that the two are not the same. I understand that our salvation is marked by faith instead of by Torah observance, or any other kind, for that matter. But in saying that truth has primacy over deeds of mercy or justice in spiritual warfare, what exactly are you arguing for? What's the cash value of that for how we actually engage in spiritual warfare?

The point of saying that these things are symbiotic is that they must come together -- NEITHER ONE IS PRIMARY in spiritual warfare, since both are of equal necessity. If you advocate a kind of belief that doesn't result in obedience, you don't have what the Bible means by "belief". If you advocate a kind of works that isn't driven, fueled and inflamed by belief, you don't have what the Bible means by "righteous deeds". So what's the point of arguing for the primacy of the one over against the other in spiritual warafre? If you're saying that there are some people who practice what they think are righteous deeds without an understanding of the truth, you're arguing that they aren't holding these things together as they should, and they're illegitimately giving priority to one over against the other. Saying that we should primarily pursue one (truth/ideology), not the other (mercy/justice) isn't a solution to the problem, it's the same problem.

Frank Martens said...

While that's the trivial answer, the deal is... it's really only by the inner working of the Holy Spirit that one's able to come to know the truth.

So we strive to read, study, and listen in hopes that the Spirit will make known to us the riches of truth.

Good post, thanks

burttd said...

Just curious - why do you address the person rather than the demon? The NT pattern seems to be the reverse of that...

Jeremy Weaver said...

I wonder what kind of atmosphere would be "felt" around Job.
I'm just ready to ascribe to the feeling demonic oppression as a means to determining where demonic oppression exists.
I think biblically we have to recogonize that demonic oppression exists everywhere blinding everyone to the truth of the Gospel. it takes an act of demonic repression by God to shine darkness into any heart.
I'm not denying the feeling of strong demonic oppression in a particular place, but I want to remind you that it is always broken by the clear proclamation of truth in the power of the Holy Spirit.

P.S. I do believe that spiritual realities can be felt, but those feelings are not to replace the testimony of Scripture about those spiritual realities from demonic oppression to saving faith.

TheBlueRaja said...

In keeping with the way I've characterized spiritual warfare (through the world's structures and authorities), I think doxy's right on when he says that demonic oppression is far more common and less mysterious than spontaneously Latin speaking white-eyed little girls. Satan's work is in the pervaisve and godless self-dependence, material excess, hyper sexualized media, and other entertaining anesthetics to global compassion and self-giving love.

It's easy to look into communist China to see the socialistic oppression of God's truth and justice, but harder to see the various asphyxiating manifestations of oppression in our own capitalistic societies of Western liberal democracy.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: "But in saying that truth has primacy over deeds of mercy or justice in spiritual warfare, what exactly are you arguing for?"

Why, the principle of sola fide, of course. The truth of Romans 4:4-5, etc.

Raja: What's the cash value of that for how we actually engage in spiritual warfare?

The very heart of the gospel message.

For the record, I edited The Gospel according to Jesus. I do understand the error you are concerned to avoid. Don't fall into the ditch on the other side.

TheBlueRaja said...

I think you missed my point, which was in the second paragraph you didn't quote from. But I don't know how to say it any clearer, so I'll just say, "Uh . . . okay."

You can say that you're not severing the two, but you seem to be.

Ben Myers said...

Well said, Phil. And I assume that by "belief system" you don't mean any kind of general "Christian worldview," but only the gospel of God's saving act in the death and resurrection Jesus, which is really more a "proclamation" than a "belief system."

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: Refusing to blend them is not the same as "severing" them.

According to the OED, "primacy" is "the state or position of being first in order." I think I explained that pretty clearly, too: works stem from faith, not vice versa.

Unless you are determined to define faith so that it actually includes works, I cannot understand why you press your point. If that indeed is what you are saying, I think you are seriously wrong in a way that actually erases the main truth of the gospel.

You can say that you're not confusing faith and works, but you seem to be.

Jeremy Weaver said...

If you confuse faith and works you will also confuse justification and sanctification which would lead you down the road to 'New Perspectivism' or Catholicism.

Bhedr said...

Read tomorrows Oswald Chambers My U.F.H.H

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

You're swinging off topic. We're talking about the way in which Christians should confront the powers, not the way that unbelievers come to Christ. It was said that swinging between the polar extremes of either an exclusively ideological logocentric approach of spiritual warfare on the one hand and something more demonstrable and activist oriented on the other hand was a bad thing -- something you seemed to affirm. Yet, at the same time, you're saying that the one extreme has "priority" over the other in our spiritual warfare. Don't make me use the word postmodern. I'll do it. I may even abbreviate it, for a particularly stinging barb.

Seth Huckstead "The Petty Athanasius said...

Raja,

What do you mean by postmodern? Your last comment was very confusing. It does seem like you are truly mixing faith and works and avoiding any rebuke that this may be the case. It seems that you are dangerously approaching a social gospel and missing the point of the true Gospel.

marc said...

Blue Raja said:

"But lest we think we're actually fighting the battle simply by talking about it, we're called to confront these ideologies with hands and feet, not just words and books."


In C.S. Lewis book Perelandra, the protagonsit, Ransom, verbally spares with the Un-Man (Satan)until Ransom realizes he must fight the Un-man physically. Ransom actually becomes aware that it is God's intent for him to fight physically.

I wonder if Lewis is making a simlar point to Raja's about spiritual warfare. Not that we actually beat up demons, but that there is a time when we stop talking/praying (I know, pray with out ceasing... you know what I mean here) and actually do something. Both activities (Praying and Doing) guided by our common sense and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's leading.

I might have misunderstood this part of Raja's point... I apologise in advance if that is so.

Jeri said...

I really liked blueraja's first post and I think he brings a crucial reminder to the discussion.

I think that Marc, in the previous post, says it very well. While prayer mapping and the marching stuff may be mere rigamarole, it's not just by thinking right thoughts (even Biblical thoughts) and knowing right doctrine that we conquer in the name of Christ. The powers of darkness in this world do promote suffering, slavery, ignorance of the Word of God, spiritual blindness, bloodshed, and every sorrow.

The Christian is called upon to confront the powers of this world. And for many Christians, it has been a confrontation that led all the way to a cross or a stake or a miserable dungeon. That's part of spiritual warfare too. And I grant, the Christian in chains still faces a larger and larger battle against despair and deceptions in his or her mind, a constant warfare. The battle is rooted there. But the flames, the hunger, the beatings, the stone floors also have their part.

The very real elements of confronting evil, declaring the truth, and being immediately available to obey God in the face of opposition are the manifestations of hearts and minds that know correct doctrine, love the Lord, and are living out Christ.

Spiritual warfare is always rooted in what we know, believe, and continually learn from Scripture. But it goes way beyond that as the power of Christ over this world is worked out in our lives.

TheBlueRaja said...

Marc, and Jeri:

Exactly!

Athanasius,

The first thing to understand is that we're talking about the way in which Christians should confront the powers, not the way that unbelievers come to Christ. So this isn't a "faith vs. works salvation" debate. Of course I beleive that salvation is by faith alone, without any meritorious contribution on our part.

Secondly, the comment about postmodernism was a reference to Phil's apparent contradiction in agreeing that both propositions and acts of justice and mercy were needed, and one musn't swing to extremes of exclusivity on either side in spiritual warfare while at the same time saying that the propositional side is really "primary", and is by itself the essence of spiritual warfare. The "pomo" jab was just a way of saying, "you can't affirm both at the same time".

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: I'm not "swinging off topic"—but now YOU'RE separating things that should not be distinguished by such a hard line. Works flow from faith (and not vice versa) in EVERY aspect of Christian living (including the process of sanctification itself). That's not a truth that applies to justification only.

TheBlueRaja said...

The difference, Phil, is that unbelievers who enter into a relationship with God by faith (not by acts of obedience) are then obligated to obey as Christians. The degree to which this takes place forms a basis for evaluating the genuineness of their belief. So when we're talking about a Christian's obligation to the world, and to fight the forces of evil in this world, it's appropriate to talk about obedience, deeds, actions, conduct, and not merely belief, conviction, and worldview.

You're saying that when it comes to spiritual warfare on the part of Christians, the proclamation of truth against false ideologies is primary, while incarnating the truth by our deeds falls someplace lower on the list. Our primary focus should be heralding the truth in speaking out against injustice, hunger, and the "plethora of evils" which attend those under Satan's dominion, rather than doing the truth in the sacrificial service of alleviating these evils.

My last several comments were critical of viewing the essence of spiritual warfare as purely an ideological war, and the "remedy" for evil as essentially consisting in speaking/writing truth. Your response (presumably defending your putative claim about spiritual warfare as essentially ideological) was "faith is primary, not works! And that goes for every aspect of Christian living, not just salvation!"

But how is that not advocating that Christians should focus more on SAYING (speak the truth) and less on DOING (serving the lost by incarnating the truth)? And if "works necessarily flow from faith", and the two form a truly "symbiotic relationship", why not include activism as an irreducibly necessary, essential part of your definition of spiritual warfare?

Again, if the essence of conducting spiritual warfare is ideological, you're more interested in articulating the various properties of and neccisity of warmth and food instead of actually warming the cold and feeding the hungry. Declaring the truth about Jesus is inseprable from carrying the marks of Jesus in your own body, filling up what's lacking in His afflictions for the sake of sinners (Col. 1:24). The essence of spiritual warfare is bigger than 2 Co. 10:5.

You seem to be saying that ideological wrangling is necessary and sufficient for constituting spiritual warfare. I've said that it's necessary, but not sufficient.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja:

1. "Ideological wrangling" is not the same as sound ideology. When I point out that the latter is the goal of our warfare, I am not suggesting that the former is the only strategy we have for getting there.

2. I am emphatically NOT "saying that when it comes to spiritual warfare on the part of Christians, the proclamation of truth against false ideologies is primary, while incarnating the truth by our deeds falls someplace lower on the list." Those are your words, not mine.

3. I AM saying that works DO flow naturally from sound ideology. If good works don't flow from your faith, your faith itself is deficient. Adding works to a deficient faith won't solve the problem.

4. It seems to me that the spin you insist on putting on my meaning commits the very fallacy you initially said we ought to avoid: you yourself are imagining that faith and works as disconnected, as if there were no cause-effect relationship between them, and as if they were discrete categories that need to be kept in balance by two utterly separate kinds of energy. So when someone says faith has primacy over works, you seem to assume he means that works are optional and somehow unrelated to faith. That's not at all what's implied when we say that true faith is the cause and good works are the effect.

6. Please note that my original remarks were a comment on how Paul himself describes spiritual warfare in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

You ask: if "works necessarily flow from faith", and the two form a truly "symbiotic relationship", why not include activism as an irreducibly necessary, essential part of your definition of spiritual warfare?

The question hardly seems to make sense. I didn't give a "definition" of Spiritual warfare. Nor did I object to including works in my description of the tactics of spiritual warfare.

My original point was about the stated battleground and goal of spiritual warfare in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. I pointed out that it is ideological, not territorial.

When you began to talk about faith and works as if works belonged to the definition of faith, I objected.

Works do not belong to the definition of faith--as if they were the very essence of the thing that causes them.

Distinctions are made precisely to avoid that kind of confusion.

Would you make sewage part of your definition of a wedding feast? After all, it is one of the inevitable results.

Works are an inevitable fruit of faith, but they are not the essence of faith itself. Again, there's an important BIBLICAL distinction between faith and works.

farmboy said...

Regarding Mr. Johnson’s original post and following comments, theblueraja summarizes as follows: “You're saying that when it comes to spiritual warfare on the part of Christians, the proclamation of truth against false ideologies is primary, while incarnating the truth by our deeds falls someplace lower on the list.” Given that right practice flows from right teaching, how could anyone find this controversial? This logical order is inescapable.

The practices that Mr. Johnson references (as examples) in his blog post – spiritual mapping and prayer marching – are practices that do not flow from the teachings of Scripture. To practice spiritual warfare in a manner consistent with the teachings of Scripture, a person must first understand what it is that Scripture teaches. This is facilitated by teachers who proclaim the truths of Scripture (as opposed to “teachers” who proclaim false ideologies).

Right teaching is a necessary condition for right practice, but it is not a sufficient condition. Those who sit under right teaching must then act in a manner consistent with that teaching. A theme in comments offered by theblueraja is that Christians are failing to actually conduct spiritual warfare in a manner consistent with the teachings of Scripture. Mr. Johnson’s post deals with one reason for this failure: that Christians have sat under false teaching (teaching that does not flow from Scripture) regarding spiritual warfare. The general issue of Christians who have sat under solid, Scripture-based teaching yet fail to act in a manner consistent with that teaching was not the thematic point of Mr. Johnson’s post.

TheBlueRaja said...

Philys,

We're probably talking past one another, as usual. Whatev.

Jason E. Robertson said...

Raja: If your social/morality approach to spiritual warfare were Biblical then my understanding of Eden and every victory over demons and the devil in Scripture will have to be redefined. For in every instance (starting in Eden, Job, Jesus' Wilderness Temptations, demon possessions of the Gospel, Tribulation, etc.) the issue was one of faith not morality or social vices. Neither poverty, hunger, ignorance or any other social deprevation was the cause of the demonic activity or the victory over it. The issue was always an issue of faith and the gospel, providentially allowed that God's glory might be revealed through redemption.

Jason E. Robertson said...

...through redemption or judgment.

TheBlueRaja said...

If your view of spiritual warfare doesn't have these components, I'd think you probably should redefine your approach to be more in line with the prophets, as per my first comment on this topic. I also think that sin and redemption have all sorts of implications for social ethics, culture, art and politics that I'd characterize as spiritual warfare (ala Francis Schaeffer).

TheBlueRaja said...

The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (one of whose senior associates happens to be Joni Eraekson Tada) more elegantly says what I've been trying to say about spiritual warfare:

"We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men from every kind of oppression. Because mankind is made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, color, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with man is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbor and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead."

This has been my point from the first comment I've made. I think the fact that such an emphasis immediately gets flipped into a "faith vs. works salvation" platform demonstrates the need for the penitence this affirmation calls for. Their website goes on to further explain this statement in the following manner:

"In the past, especially perhaps in nineteenth century Britain, evangelical Christians had an outstanding record of social action. In this century, however—partly because of our reaction against the "social gospel" of liberal optimism—we have tended to divorce evangelism from social concern. and to concentrate almost exclusively on the former. It may be helpful, therefore, to begin this exposition of section 5 with a reference to two sentences, one of confession and the other of affirmation, which occur about halfway through it.

First, we express penitence both for our neglect of our Christian social responsibility and for our naive polarization in having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. This confession is mildly worded. A large group at Lausanne, concerned to develop a radical Christian discipleship, expressed themselves more strongly, "We must repudiate as demonic the attempt to drive a wedge between evangelism and social action." Secondly, and positively, we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. More will be said about this phrase later.

Christian duty arises from Christian doctrine. So this section is not content merely to assert that Christians have social responsibilities: it goes on to outline the four main doctrines out of which our Christian social duty springs, namely the doctrines of God, man, salvation and the kingdom."


In the most charitable reading of the discussion, I think Phil has been emphasizing this last sentiment (about doctrine), which I wholeheartedly agree with. I've been emphasizing the first and second point made there - and I'm still not sure whether he agrees with that or not.

Hopefully that's a helpful contribution to the topic.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: "I've been emphasizing the first and second point made there - and I'm still not sure whether he agrees with that or not."

I certainly wouldn't put it that way. I much prefer the biblical concepts (and terminology) of truth and righteousness over Lausanne's politically-nuanced language of "socio-political involvement [and] judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination."

Frankly, I'm not sure every form of "discrimination" is evil.

For the record, when it comes to the realm of "social responsibilities," it seems to me that the works which are faith's true fruit normally fall more in the category of founding schools and building hospitals than in the realm of protest marches and military coups. Not that the Raja would suggest otherwise, but the jargon employed by Lausanne's wordsmiths borrows too much from the vocabulary of Marxists, revolutionaries, and the PC police for my tastes.

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

My initial comment to this post was an attempt to show that the biblical terminology you used to talk about spiritual warfare is much too thin and restrictive, as it doesn't take into account any of the Old Testament context for the concept. Paul's casting of the Christian life as a spiritual battle for God's kingdom isn't a cute analogy drawn from the Graeco-Roman world, but a continuation of OT themes relating to the kingdom of God. The sorts of warfare God was engaged in to establish this kingdom (the nation of Israel), and the way this is expressed in the prophets is inextricably linked to issues of social justice with all the terminology that are too "Marxist and PC" for your taste. It's hard to read Amos or Micah and think that God has no social or political concerns in the advancement of His kingdom. Moreover, your view of spiritual warfare makes it sound as though the "God as Warrior" theme along with the social/political nature of the kingdom of God throughout the OT has simply been spiritualized from Israel to the Church.

God USED to be interested in these issues with the nation of Israel. His kingdom USED to have a socio-political dimension when pursuing that plan. But after Jesus, He took a sharp turn away from those things in favor of more "spiritual" concerns and perhaps the odd hospital or school. Weak sauce on the larger biblical context.

LeeC said...

Raja,
You said "You're swinging off topic. We're talking about the way in which Christians should confront the powers, not the way that unbelievers come to Christ."

But the is exactly how we confront the powers!

One soul at a time, andI see no biblical precedet foranything else. We can change all the laws in the land to be biblical, and even have people prodominantly obey them, and they would stl be well behaved people on the way to hell.

Evangelize them and they CHANGE, and hence,the world around them changes.

As for demons, they are real, andthey posses people so what is our only protection?

Again it is the Gospel.

All social agendas aside from the Gosel and changed hearts is merely spining our wheels and not using the real and effective weapon we have against the kingdom of darkness.

I would rather be used to lead five peope tosalvation tan to change a hundred pieces of unjust legislation. Nations burn away, but the Kingdom of God and it's citizens are forever.

I agree that social action is caled for, but if it is social action that does not proclaim the Gospe, then I will find some other socal action in which I can give people the real answers they need.

Some old friends of mine are seriously liberal Methodists. They onetime for Christas gave us a glass pitcher with a card in it. On the card was a note saying "This pitcher represents $100.00 given to XXXX Catholic ministries for digging wells in Africa. You preset is the gift of water to several villages!"

While I am happy those people might now have water, I can only hope that water was used by God to prolong thier lives until they ca be reached by mssionaries that can countact the damning doctrines they were taught by those well diggers.

What good is it to gain a good well, a home, or even "Social justice" if we don't know how to save our souls?

Bringing unbelivers to Christ is of the utmost primacy and al else should be by products of it.

LeeC said...

And again, I see that if I am to post on my breaks with this keyboard I need to do so in Word first and proofread twice to be legible. My aplogies.

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks, leec. I agree with you that about the Gospel being the only thing that will set people free. But the problem is that in preaching it we also have to conform to the lifestyle it advocates. If we're only concerned about the ultimate penalty for sin (Hell) instead of the ongoing present penalty of sin (injustice, victimization, poverty, disease, etc), we're not really showing concern for the people we're preaching to.

The Gospel gives hope that God will bring a world (through Jesus, when He returns) where a person's children don't die of starvation before the age of 5, where women aren't subjected to systematic rape in organized death camps, and where the fear of sexual abuse doesn't rule a person's life. In other words, Jesus will right all wrongs, judge all sin, and establish righteousness like flowing waters. If we're called to embody that message, how can we neglect our responsibility to provide for them alongside our responsibility to point them to the giver of all good things and the one to whom all glory belongs in the Gospel? They have to be the same concerns, not two different ones.

I understand what you mean by wanting to lead five people to Christ rather than change a country through legislation, and believe me, I agree wholeheartedly that existing political structure won't change people's lives. But what happens when that choice means "leading five people to Christ" vs. allowing millions of men, women and children to be systematically tortured and gassed? The Church was silent in Nazi Germany with this same logic -- heaven is their jurisdiction, not earth. But acting for the Gospel meant not only speaking the truth - it meant hiding Jews in your house on penalty of death. And that wasn't done only to provide an opportunity to speak the Gospel. It was done because doing it for the reasons Corrie Ten Boom did it IS the Gospel (self-sacrificing love for the benefit of others). Social justice is just another way of talking about "loving your neighbor" because you love God.

Adam Cummings said...

Phil,

I know Steve Camp has mentioned this to you before, but it seems you are letting someone get the best of you in here. Debating your view is obviously good (and I certainly have NOT been keeping up with all the dialogue), but let Raja think what he wants and keep posting great posts as you usually do (it seems you've said as much to Raja as you can possibly say). Perhaps I am wrong... just a suggestion.

As soon as I get some free time, maybe I'll catch up on all this. ; ) Good job on the blog award! I didn't notice that until tonight.

TheBlueRaja said...

Adam,

I'm sorry that my posts haven't proven helpful or stimulating for you. I don't disagree with Phil, I just wanted to round out the picture a bit. In any case, forgive me for the distraction, and know that because my posts seem to be taken this way, I'll be commenting a lot less in the future.

In the meantime, though, may I suggest a book by Gary Haugen (forward by John Stott) that I think to be a deeply moving and bliblical account of Christian compassion? It's called Good News About Injustice. It's a heart-wrentching but hope giving read.