This is the first of several posts in which I reply to a reader request for perspective on spiritual powers and demons. This arises from an earlier post on Preaching and Discovering Incarnation. As I see this as a matter of some importance, I don’t intend to post the whole series in sequence; I’ll publish instead as study and reflection happily furnishes something worth saying on topic. However I will attach the tag, ‘Spiritual Warfare Series’ so that interested parties can isolate the series and read related posts.
An Approach to Spiritual Powers:
I’ve said that I find a discussion of spiritual powers to be challenging area. Today, I name some of the reasons and issues for this.
1] My tradition doesn’t give this area great attention. And it’s a huge task. It is possible to read all Scripture as an intersection of the kingdom of God and of kingdom of Darkness in human affairs. This relates to that part of our tradition devoted to prophetic ministry [not as ‘last things’ but as study/meditation/discernment/warning/directing] which calls us back to Christ and calls us to engage in practices of spiritual warfare.
2] My own thinking here is in flux. And I use flexible language depending on my focus, and as my own understanding of such things expands. For example, I sometimes reference spirituality to to speak of character or spiritual alignment. Sometimes I mean origin or source or spiritual power. Or I may describe opposition to God and his rule in Christ, or to the infliction of misery, blindness or oppression on humanity and the cosmos. This can hold true whether of human or of demonic sources.
3] The relevant data includes far more than references to spirit beings. And often, the meaning of events is not clear at the time. Example: Moses’ confrontation of Pharaoh has the character of an exorcism. But we may not clue into this until we ponder power relations and the miracles of Pharaoh’s priests, with Moses’ miracles performed by God’s power.
4] I associate with the spirit[ual] world the demonic with the ‘powers’ of this age as referenced in Ro 8:38 [death, principalities, powers, and all created things that endeavor (vainly) to separate us from God’s love in Christ] and in Ep 6:12 [rulers, powers, forces of darkness, spiritual wickedness, etc.]. So ‘earthly’ powers are not neutral or benign, but are fallen. Demonic character can be manifested in many ways/things.
5] The cross is essentially an exorcism.
‘”Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out”‘ [Jo 12:31].
The word, ‘cast out’ [ballo] is the same used in Jesus’ exorcisms. The verb is identical. This allows inquiry to follow multiple paths. One is the ‘Satan as a defeated foe’ idea that we associated with Christus Victor theology. Again, this has ramifications for our understanding of the nature of our Christian existence, of assurance of God’s grace, of last things, and more.
I find it challenging to address spiritual warfare because the topic is not small, and I don’t always find Scripture clear on this matter. In addition to the obvious vocabulary, the Bible also employs various narrative forms on topic. God willing, I’ll touch on a few more of those tomorrow. Blessings!