Phillip Johnson has finally found an issue on which I am uncomfortable discussing with him. The Pyromaniac takes on the fringe element of spiritual warfare in his post entitled, Real Spiritual Warfare is Not Like A Round of Doom.
Johnson's glib view of charismata should surprise no one. He is the director for Grace To You, a tape and radio ministry by John MacArthur. Those who know of the pastor will recall his popular book of criticism, Charismatic Chaos. It only makes sense that Johnson's and MacArthur's views of charismatic organizations would line up.
I have been blessed by MacArthur's radio ministry, and I consider him a leading voice for prudence for a worldwide Church chasing after things that do not build God's kingdom. I also agreed with a host of concerns he expressed in Charismatic Chaos. However, I feel MacArthur's book lacked a measure of charity, unintentionally I believe, by lumping a lot of unrelated things together just because they fall under a charismatic title. For example, I am a charismatic and I believe in the authority of Scripture. My affiliation, Vineyard USA, does so. Other charismatic/Pentecostal organizations such as Assemblies of God, Foursquare Churches, Calvary Chapel, and many others as part of the mainstream of the movement do so and practice so. For whatever reason, I felt MacArthur -- in general -- refused to let to the mainstream speak to his charges, instead sometimes lumping all of us in with "health and wealth" practitioners and other harmful ideologies -- including Scientology!
That said, I'm more than satisfied to leave my disagreement with MacArthur and his organization on the side because we agree on the main and plain, and his general concerns about the charismatic movement match my own. Furthermore, I believe MacArthur's ministry is vital to the modern Church. Since Johnson brought up the issue, however, I'm going to engage him from a distance and offer my own point of view on spiritual warfare.
In Johnson's post, he references the ministry of Dr. Charles Kraft, a man I have actually met and witnessed his work in ministry. Johnson links to an article by Dr. Kraft.
Dr. Kraft is not a holy roller. In fact, he's fairly meek, quiet man with a self-effacing sense of humor. He is not a theologian. He is an anthropologist and linguist who, unless things have changed recently, is on staff at both Biola and Fuller.
Dr. Kraft's deliverance theology is born much out of the experiential, based on testimonies from missionaries in the third world. There, he says, unprepared Christians without a theology of angels and demons are confronted with the spiritual world in a very real way. He has developed a ministry model based on a wholesale acknowledgment of those missionaries' tales and his understanding of Scripture.
One thing I do not want to be perceived here is that I am some sort of apologist for Dr. Kraft. I'm not. Frankly, I don't understand much of his ministry, and I can understand criticisms that his worldview is out of balance with Scripture. However, I think there's some value in what he has to say, because I've seen it in practice.
I recall my own experience watching him at work. As he began deconstructing a woman's physical pain by asking her questions about its history, she started -- out of nowhere -- discussing horrific details of her rape by her doctor. She was a member of our church. No one knew about this, not even her husband. As Dr. Kraft began to ask her spiritual questions about her experience, such as her ability to forgive this doctor, something manifested in her. Something evil. And she/it refused to forgive, cursing the doctor at every turn.
Mind you, the goal of this particular day of ministry was to help people recognize the bitter roots in their lives. The point was to seek forgiveness and to let go of our bitterness. We didn't go in with expectations with deliverance, particularly since none of us were aware of Dr. Kraft's type of ministry.
The woman was eventually delivered of her bitterness -- and whatever that manifestation was -- and continued to receive ministry for it.
Now I know this opens the door for a lot of other questions, none of them I care to respond to right now. Another day. What I want to draw your attention to is Dr. Kraft ministered to someone, and I know that event has led to the person producing good fruit today. Her life has been changed forever.
I write all this because I believe there is a balance to spiritual warfare. Yes, some of it I'm not afraid to classify it as downright wacko. On the other hand, there is a very real nature to the things we cannot see, and criticism should not be born out of a total denial.
In the interest of fairness, I want to point out that Johnson did not deny the importance of spiritual warfare. He simply disagreed with the emphasis on geography -- territorial demons and what not. On this issue, I think there's a more important point my Sunday School teacher once taught me:
Don't throw rocks at rabid dogs.
The point: There are real dark principalities out there. Without God's discernment, and outside the will of God, praying against something rather than for the advancement of the kingdom of God only serves rile up dark forces against us. It would be like David deciding he was going to conquer the world when God just wanted him to unify Israel. It would be like Abraham deciding he needed to raise up a Hebrew army against the Egyptians, rather than following God and leading the Israelites to flee Egypt.
I think my pastor explained it best. He said when we focus on fighting dark things, our focus is off God, and the enemy probably receives that as worship. The enemy's only goal, he said, is to take our eyes off of God.
For further insight into my opinions on the topic, read this archived take.