The concept of ‘spiritual warfare’ sometimes gets a bad press. Lurid descriptions of demons battling for air supremacy over cities and towns were very much du jour in the 1980s, catapulted into prominence by the runaway success of Frank Peretti’s fantasy novel, This present darkness.
Lengthy and loud prayer meetings given over to binding and loosing identified principalities and powers were cutting edge. People like arch-Charismatic John Wimber gave conferences over to the subject of ‘spiritual warfare’ and the late C. Peter Wagner coined the phrase ‘strategic level prayer’ to make these practices sound respectable.
Sanity and sound biblical reasoning were the crying need of the hour back then. The need has not diminished with the passage of time. So, Keith Ferdinando’s recent contribution to the subject of ‘spiritual warfare’ could prove to be valuable.
‘The Bible Speaks Today’label can be a disappointment in terms of the authors invited to address us and the way subjects are addressed. This present title is largely exempt from this concern. It is well written, well argued, Christ-centred and handles its main theme in a way many of us would heartily commend. It arose out of the author’s time spent teaching in a university in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he encountered people holding to erroneous notions about evil spirits and the powers of darkness.
A range of authors are cited, some of whom, by virtue of their liberal pedigree, might justifiably have been airbrushed from the text. However, the text itself is not too scholarly or beyond our reach, nor is it overly spoiled by liberal implants, although with 21 chapters, it is no light undertaking to read it.
For which readership is it intended? It breaks down a bit here. The author is not too sure himself. In answer to a question on IVP’s website, ‘Who do you hope will read this book?’, his answer is, ‘I do not have particular categories of people in mind, but I hope it will be widely read’.
His hopes may be fulfilled. I can well imagine pastors, preachers and Bible teachers finding its contents useful. I can also imagine those with more than a passing interest in the subject tackling its 270 pages. If its readership went no further than that (and it might), it would be something of a pity, as the grand overarching theme of Christ’s victory is soundly handled. If the book’s findings were closely applied to the life of the Christian, any one of us will only be stronger for it.
As to its structure, the book has four sections. ‘The sovereign Creator and a fallen world’ comprises the first part and includes reflections on the person and work of Satan. ‘The warfare of the Son of God’ takes up second position and includes the subject of demons. (By the way, the author is definite that Christians cannot be possessed by demons). Third up is ‘Liberated and liberating’, which looks at the secure place of the believer and our gospel work, among other things. Finally, there is ‘Fighting in hope’, which is pastoral and practical, with plenty of useful material for our earthly pilgrimage.
The theme of Christ’s person and accomplished redemption ensures the focus throughout is healthy and faith-building. Perhaps the book could have interacted more fully and definitely with some of the writers and ideas in our first paragraph above, but overall it stands as a profitable read.