Of all the questions I field from readers of blogs, and all the subjects covered, one of the most popular is that of spiritual warfare.
Often, people will ask, “Can a Christian become possessed?” That kind of thing.
Fortunately for bloggers like me, experts in these various subjects also write books. A new and terrific one on the subject of spiritual warfare is “Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization and Deliverance.” Author Dr. Karl Payne tackles the issues head on, with biblical answers. It’s quite a fascinating read.
Adding some spice to an already hot topic, Payne reveals a “secret” in the title of Chapter 1: “How Did a Non-Charismatic Ordained Conservative Baptist Minister Ever Begin Working with Demonized Individuals?” (He also embraces the truth of inerrancy, by the way.)
Payne’s look at spiritual warfare is controversial, as you might expect. But to be very frank, he raises issues that must be discussed, because they affect individuals leading very “normal” lives, those who seem to come under attacks that can’t be reasonably explained.
In fact, in the foreword, Dr. Fred Dickason (Moody Bible Institute) alludes to this:
“For those who have been confused and trapped in a seemingly hopeless battle with intrusive thoughts and suspicions of insanity, this book offers a very plausible and possible solution.”
There you have it; don’t we all know at least one person who fits this description? Payne rightly recognizes – while giving proper due to modern medicine – that some afflictions cannot be explained “normally.” For what he’s really talking about here is the reality of demonic attack.
To allay fears about Payne’s conclusions, let me say this: He is clear that Christians cannot be possessed by demons, but they can certainly intrude into the lives of anyone.
Payne’s quarter-century of experience in confronting this difficult problem makes “Spiritual Warfare” a probable bestseller, so widespread do these problems seem. He also backs his conclusions with Scripture, and gives all due credit to the power of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
It is clear, at least to me, that even when Dr. Payne makes provocative statements, he does so with a compassionate heart.
For example, early on, he makes this rather startling statement: “I personally believe that demonic deception is increasing, even within the Christian church, and that the worst of this deception is still to come. If God allows demonic activity to increase until His return, I believe He will also train up and equip a growing number of His children to faithfully and effectively contend with the powers of darkness who oppose His plans and people. Too many North American churches are well on their way to becoming the same spiritually dead museums as Western European churches.”
He also reveals that after years of not dealing with these subjects, his own brush with mortality, and a ghastly encounter with a friend who exhibited classic possession, changed him from a silent observer to one engaged.
Payne also goes to great lengths to present the biblical truth of possession and demonic oppression, which most of us are quite aware that Jesus and the apostles encountered, and often.
Payne describes his first encounter with the supernatural in a chilling account involving a neighbor who served as some sort of spirit guide for folks who would show up at his home at all hours.
One day, Payne decided to confront the spiritual presence indwelling his neighbor. In the man’s living room, reading from 1 John 4, Payne encountered a classic demonic possession. You’ll have to read it for yourself, but the incident convinced him of the reality of such entities.
Payne also confronts the fears and frustrations of believers who realize they are in the grip of “something,” but cannot pinpoint the source of their crippling struggles. He outlines the cleverness used by demonic spirits, who lie to individuals. The result is often that the oppressed person begins to doubt whether God will help him or her. Payne outlines these lies, and solutions for dealing with them, so “Spiritual Warfare” is not a book written on theory, but practicality and compassion.
Chapter 9 (“Demonic Warfare: Common Questions”) is worth the price of the book. One of the things I like about this book is that Payne doesn’t “conjure” an answer if he can’t answer. For example, when asked, “How and where do demons attach themselves to a believer?” Payne says clearly that he does not know, but cites Ephesians 4:27 as an example of a demon able to control a place (or space or territory) in a believer’s life.
Such questions and answers are throughout the book, which is also, I would like to add, saturated with Scripture.
All in all, Karl Payne has become one of my favorite authors, with this single volume. His profound humility, balanced with enough saucy commentary and courage, makes “Spiritual Warfare” a book that needs to be read and discussed widely. Every day, I talk with Christians who believe “something is in the air.”
Surely, the subject of this fine book is front-and-center in that world we all find ourselves in.