Book review: Spiritual Warfare

(I’m writing reviews of each of the 30 or so books I finish reading this semester.)

Review of: Spiritual Warfare, by Karl Payne

Finished in mid-August, 2013

Disclaimer: I believe in demons and demon-possession and all that stuff. If you don’t, then this review will make me sound like a loon to you. 🙂

Karl Payne is a non-charismatic Baptist who was led to what charismatics call a “deliverance ministry”, i.e., to praying over people to cast out demons.

In this book he has three aims: to present a balanced view of demonization, to admonish Christian leaders to be willing to take demonization seriously, and to teach what he does in a way that will be easily transferable to other Christian leaders.

He seems to me to be one of those people who doesn’t get every detail right but who communicates the total package clearly and accurately. I found it most helpful when he was explaining his transferable method of praying against demonization.

To get a balanced perspective, he focuses on there being three different sources of temptation – the world, the flesh, and the devil – and on the importance of our discerning which one we are dealing with, in order to respond to it appropriately. His point is that we should respond differently to the flesh than to the devil, for instance. When he counsels people, he assumes to start with that they are struggling with the world or the flesh, and only looks at demonic stuff when the first two approaches don’t work.

I agree with the general point, but I think he misunderstands the world and the flesh a little, mainly because he doesn’t recognize the degree to which all three are interwoven. For example, he interprets 1 John 2:15-17 as being about the world only, whereas I think it shows how the world can involve the flesh and the devil as well.

He argues that between demonic oppression, which most people take to mean regular day-to-day demonic activity that can happen to believers and unbelievers alike, and demonic possession, which most people take to mean control by evil spirits and cannot happen to believers, we need a third category, demonization, which can happen to believers but which involves demonic attack at a level far beyond the norm. He uses the analogy of a house with rooms. God owns the house, and we are landlords, but we can let demons become tenants. They never own us (“possess” us), but they “inhabit” us in a meaningful way.

I agree.

One of the most important points I found was his encouragement to us to pray Ps 35:1-10 and Ps 83 as “offensive prayers”, specifically with demons in mind. This turns out to be surprisingly helpful in my own life. (Actually he says Ps 35:1-8, I added the last two verses.)

When he describes what demonization looks like in our day, in our country, he gives a moving picture of people who hear a constant barrage of voices in their heads, accusing and condemning them, in the second person (page 102).

I loved the part of the book where he describes what he does when he prays over someone for their deliverance from demonization. He has step-by-step instructions that helped me understand exactly what the experience is like. One of the most interesting points was that he starts by establishing ground rules that forbid demons to make a scene, or to control the counselee’s tongue, mind, or body. He “talks to the demons” only by asking the counselee what thoughts are coming to mind.

Payne mentions a few other authors as being good sources for more information: Merrill Unger, Mark Bubeck, C. Fred Dickason, Ed Murphy, Neil T. Anderson, Charles Swindoll.

My brother David and I had an interesting conversation about whether this is real, and, since we are both willing to accept that it may well be, whether it is useful or important. David’s opinion based on his experience as a pastor and counselor is, not so much. I think there is a little more to this than that. About a week after reading the book I set aside an afternoon to pray through the question of demonization in my own life, and I believe the results in my life have been positive. More on the subject later, perhaps.

I give this book a pretty high rating — about 7. Useful and balanced. Not brilliant.

Would I re-read it? Probably not the whole thing, but I’ll keep it around as a reference and re-read the important chapters from time to time.

Would I recommend it? Sure, to people to whom it is relevant.

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