Spiritual Warfare - Book Review

Posted on: 
May 23, 2024

How should Christians navigate between the two extremes of a charismatic fascination with supernatural activity on the one hand, and a purely naturalistic mindset that denies its existence on the other? Timothy Warner attempts to present a balanced view on the subject that is rooted in the spiritual reality we see in Scripture.

Warner opens the book with a story of a missionary’s defeating encounter with demons and the appalling lack of available training on spiritual warfare for missionaries. He then lays the foundation of the book with a tour of Satan’s history, from the very beginning of time when the angels were created, through Satan’s power grab as described in Isaiah 14, on up to his tactics and strategies in the current age.

Satan’s war is primarily waged over his lust for God’s glory. Since man was made in God’s image, is the representative of God on earth, and has the potential for eternal glory, mankind has become the target of the devil’s envy and rage and the battle has shifted from heaven to earth. Warner writes, "The Devil cannot deprive God of glory in heaven, but he can keep God from having His rightful glory ascribed to Him by people on earth." (p.22)

He then gives a brief overview of spirits from an animistic worldview, a western worldview, and a biblical perspective. He claims that, "if you want to find out what individuals really believe — what their worldview really is — you don’t ask them, you watch them." (p.24) The problem we have as missionaries, Warner says, is that our western worldview denies the existence of spirits. Not in theory, perhaps, but in function. He claims that, "We have become functional deists" (p.27) and maintains that Western missionaries have been a huge "secularizing force" in the world. (p.29) In a striking statement that concludes a Scriptural worldview of spirit beings, Warner states that, "Far from being an impersonal, material world operating by 'natural' law, the world is functionally upheld by the power of God exercised by his authority through angels." (p.30, emphasis mine)

Warner then turns to the Old Testament examples of Mount Carmel and God’s defense of the nation of Israel to demonstrate that, "the glory of God is the fundamental issue in any situation…" (p.34) He argues, "The real issue was between God and the gods, not just between the people in the nation of Israel and the people in the other nations." (p.37) In other words, Warner sees many of the Old Testament stories as representing the age-old battle for glory that has been raging in the spiritual realm since the beginning of time. This view of history highlights the importance of "power encounter" in missions. He writes, "the demonstration of His glory through power to meet every circumstance of life is basic to our witness to the world." (p.44)

The author presents the intriguing idea that, "The Christian life is the exciting process of trying to keep yourself in balance." (p.46) A core assumption behind this philosophy is that Satan has no creative power of his own, but can only pervert what God has done. Someone has correctly observed that for every road, there are two ditches, as Satan "always sends errors into the world in pairs… of opposites." (p.49) This theory holds relevance for our tendency to either embrace or ignore the supernatural. "On the one hand there are those who want to see demons as the cause behind every human problem… More frequently, however, the tendency has been to ascribe no causation to the spirit world." (p.48) Warner warns that, "large segments of the church have become so accustomed to operating with no demonstration of spiritual power that they are bothered by any demonstration." (p.49)

Next, he takes a brief look at the under-appreciated "victory view" of atonement and its implications for believers. "The decisive battle has already been fought and won… at the cross. The resurrection followed immediately as a demonstration of the power to be made available to the church for its battle with Satan and his forces." (p.55) He claims that a great need of the Church is to "bring the truth about the victory of Christ and of the power of the Holy Spirit from the realm of theory or professed belief into the realm of practical experience." (p.66)

Too often, Warner says, we are afraid to use the authority we’ve been given over the devil and content ourselves with praying about him rather than directly resisting him. He compares this authority to that of a state policeman who stops traffic even though he has no physical power to do so. It’s the authority he represents that enables him to do his job; he has no power or authority of himself. And even the newest officer has the same state authority at his command that a veteran has. He stresses that it’s the relationship to the authority figure that matters — not some formulaic rendition of, "in Jesus’ name."

"Can a Christian be demon-possessed?" Warner argues that this is the wrong question to ask. Christians are owned by God and have the Spirit of Christ in them. Neither should we view "Spirit-filled" as being "a matter of space," as if our bodies are spatially filled up with the Spirit. Rather, it is "a matter of the degree to which all of my life is lived under the guidance which comes from God…" (p.83) Likewise, with evil spirits, we should view their influence as degrees of surrender and subsequent demonization. The real issue is, "to whom do I yield control"? (p.85)

Warner then gives examples of physical demonic attacks through disease, through appetites, and through physical objects, before going on to discuss common spiritual attacks — those on the mind, through occult connections, through curses, via personal sin, and due to ancestral sin. He especially singles out unforgiveness as a primary cause of demonic influence and says, "To choose not to forgive is to choose to allow someone other than the Lord to control our life." (p.105)

In a transition from defense to offense, Warner challenges us to obey our Lord’s commission and invade enemy territory to turn people "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God." (Acts 26:18) He points to Israel’s conquest of Canaan as an illustration of our doubting, fearful tendencies, but also as a model for the battle. "In every battle it was spiritual power that determined who won" — not Israel’s own resources or strategy. (p.113, emphasis in original) Yet, Israel always had some small part to play, and it was different every time. The obvious point of this, Warren says, was to remind them that victory is always from God.

Regarding the prominence which power encounters should have in missions, Warren posits that the answer is somewhere in between the powerlessness of a large segment of the Church on one hand, and the "constant round of supernatural manifestations" of the charismatic segment on the other. (p.115) The main point is that we should allow our Commander to assess the battle, supply the resources, and give the victory whenever he sees fit. He writes, "We live in a world where spiritual power is still the real power behind what happens, and we need to be prepared to operate in the sphere of the power of God under His divine leadership." (p.117)

Toward the end of the book, Warren presents the different ways the Church can engage in this spiritual battle: evangelism, the destruction of occult objects, physical healing, public confrontation with occult practitioners, casting out of demons, and prayer.

Prayer is presented as the ultimate weapon against spiritual darkness. In fact, he posits that "prayer is not simply a weapon we use; it is the battle. (p.134) Here, Warren introduces the idea of territorial demons, but cautions against making them a primary focus. The point is that we need to pray big. He says, "If most of our prayers are really a reflection of our concept of the glory and power of God, our theology is in need of a serious overhaul." He clarifies that "warfare praying is not a negative kind of praying — that is, praying against territorial spirits," but "is a supremely positive kind of praying in the form of affirmations of the sovereign power of God." (p.139, emphasis in original)

Warner concludes with a warning: If we engage in the kind of fervent, persistent prayer that Daniel engaged in that caused a three-week battle in heaven between Michael and the prince of Persia, we might soon find ourselves taking the brunt of the enemy’s wrath. As Warner says on page 143, "Welcome to the war."

Key Quotes:

"We have tried to ignore the enemy, but that only gives him a strategic advantage in the ongoing battle." p.12

"Satan’s primary tactic is deception… and the degree to which we believe any of his lies… is the degree to which Satan or demons have control of our lives." p.12

"Spirits are not a functional part of our worldview." p.23

Satan is not "the eternal counterpart of God". p.28

"There is, indeed, a scientific orderliness about the world, but it had its origin in God’s act of creation, and it is maintained by his sustaining power." p.29

"Our tendency to focus on methods, media, strategies, techniques, formulas, and the like betrays our failure to root our ministries in a reliance upon and demonstration of the power of God." p.39

"In reality, it is our syncretism which has produced the syncretism on the mission fields." p.41

"…One third of the healings by Jesus recorded in the Gospels involved the casting out of demons." p.43

"Perversion is the essence of Satan’s work." p.46

"God’s power, then, is an essential for victory in this warfare… His power is good and not something to be feared or shunned." p.52

"Many people struggle with areas of bondage in their lives because they have never clearly identified who they are 'in Christ.’" p.62

"To be Spirit-filled… is to have all areas of life under his direction." p.64

"Satan is not threatened by religious activity, but he is threatened and angered by the demonstration of the power of God to live victorious, godly lives." p.82

"…The issue is not whether a demon is in my body causing some undesirable activity, but whether it has access to my mind through my failure to use my defenses against it." p.85

"…Warfare praying is not a negative kind of praying…" (against demons) but "a supremely positive kind of praying in the form of affirmations of the sovereign power of God" p.140

Book review by TM
Book author: Timothy M. Warner

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  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
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  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
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  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
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