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Christian White Magic: Q and A, Part 3

Should an “Evangelical League Dark” rout demons in the evil places normal Christians fear to trod?
| Sep 15, 2016 | 12 comments | Series:

Riddle me this: what is the only acceptable form of Christian white magic?

Answer: God’s spell!

With this truth in mind, and I hope also with the true and saving Gospel of Jesus Christ in mind, let’s finish this series that fleshes out Six Christian Spells Worse than Fantasy Magic. We have one common Christian white magic spell left: unbiblical “spiritual warfare” spells.

4. How can you say that prayer and demon-challenging are ‘Christian white magic’? Jesus and the apostles did this all the time.

Several readers challenged my view that certain modes of anti-demon-warrior behavior or prayer count as Christian white magic. Before, I quoted from spiritual warfare author and teacher Neil Anderson. He claims demons can own physical territory or objects, and writes:

When I rent a room in a hotel, it is under my stewardship. I have no idea what occurred in that room before I rent it, so I renounce any previous use of the room that would not please my heavenly Father. … Next, I commit the room and all that is in it to the Lord and command Satan and all his evil workers to leave the room in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, I ask for the Lord’s protection while I sleep.1

justiceleaguedarkAnderson and some other authors/teachers act as a sort of evangelical Justice League Dark. In other words, standard Christian heroes handle regular matters such as preaching, local church organization, and counseling related to human sin. But the Evangelical League Dark goes where standard heroes fear to tread, into the paranormal realm of evil spiritual forces.

In this view, this is where the real battle lies—a battle far removed from ordinary spiritual actions, such as Bible teaching, prayer, local church fellowship, or discipling your children.

But this is a notion I do not see in Scriptures. Jesus indeed confronted demons. Sometimes the apostles do the same. But in their teachings and writings, the apostles do not emphasize their dealings with demons. Instead they value the non-paranormal aspects of Christianity: teaching, prayer, fellowship, pursuit of holiness, responsible practice of spiritual gifts, evangelism, being good citizens, living quiet lives and working with their hands.

This is why I found fault with the “praying against the devil” scene in the movie War Room. While the story is of course fiction, the scene’s intent is clearly to show that Christians really should “rebuke Satan” aloud in real life. Many Christian moviegoers will assume this practice is biblical. But Scripture never encourages this response to the devil. Even if we assume the devil is anywhere near, or involved with our struggles or situation, the Bible never gives an exorcism guide in the way some Christians seem to want. Instead, James says, as a side comment to his exhortations to “regular” Christian actions, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”2

Photo and comment by CW Briar.

“I think having an understanding and equipping for spiritual warfare is important, but I also know when a lot of Christians are blaming ‘demons,’ they’re really just succumbing to superstition. This book was a laundry list of out-of-context verses that I doubt will teach discernment in the matter.” Photo and comment by CW Briar

Moreover, Scripture never encourages us to treat physical spaces or objects as if they could be “haunted” by demons. When Jesus cast out demons, he knew the person was under demonic influence. Even when the apostle Paul cast out a demon, he waited days before taking action against a stalker servant girl who wasn’t just unstable.3

Finally here, a more-personal note. In one relationship conflict I’m aware of, one party (of Christians) did not want to approach the situation with emphasis on personal sins and disagreements. Instead, Party 2 veered toward a paranormal-style approach, of insisting that Party 1 had been influenced by demons in order to disrupt Party 1’s family.

That is not someone’s wrongful abuse of an otherwise healthful “Evangelical League Dark” approach to Christian spiritual growth. It is a mindset that fits exactly with this anti-biblical emphasis. It values supposedly biblical methods to defeat demons with spiritual prayers or other practices. And it devalues our need to confront personal sin in the light of Christ’s death and resurrection—the very spiritual warfare practices the apostles valued.

I can’t help but wonder if such an Evangelical League Dark emphasis can sidetrack some Christian fiction. Might this lead us to focus on angels, demons, and “spiritual” realities, rather than exploring the depths of humans where spiritual battles are actually fought?

Few to no readers of Six Christian Spells Worse than Fantasy Magic questioned my points about romance prosperity gospel “spells” and “if only” spells. So I’ll end here. Yet I do offer to interact with any further questions about any of the pieces in this Christian White Magic series. Thanks to all our SpecFaith readers for their grace-based challenges and discussion!

  1. Neil T. Anderson, Helping Others Find Freedom in Christ (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1995), 110, quoted by Elliot Miller, The Bondage Maker: Examining The Message and Method of Neil T. Anderson. Part Three: Spiritual Warfare and the Seven “Steps to Freedom.”
  2. James 4:7. The rest of the passage does not emphasize overt “spiritual warfare” versus invisible spirits, but spiritual warfare in how we avoid the world’s temptations, act humble, submit to God’s commands, draw near to God, and more.
  3. Acts 16: 16-18.
E. Stephen Burnett explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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Audie Thacker
Member

A few months ago, I read a book called “Truth or Territory” by Jim Osman. I think he brought some good sense to this type of practice.

Along with pointing out that the Bible does not command or suggest that Christians pray against demons in the way shown in “War Room”, he shows a couple of passages that are actually against it.

II Peter 2:9-11.
9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.

Jude 8-10.
8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

I know that for me it seems counter-intuitive that one could “blaspheme” the devil in any way, yet both passages use that type of language in regards to how the people being talked about were railing against the devil.

Here’s a quote from Osman to wrap up his points.

We dare not rebuke demons! This is a completely unnecessary, unbiblical, and unwise practice. We are not commanded to wage the truth war in this fashion. Like the practices of binding Satan, praying hedges, and renouncing curses, rebuking demons is a tool that God has not put in our arsenal. It is a completely man-made tactic which appeals to the pride of our flesh. Satan does not fear our useless incantations. Let’s abandon them and exchange them for the proclamation of the truth! Truth Or Territory (Kindle Locations 1948-1951)

Travis Perry
Editor

While I can agree that the Scriptures do not teach us to clear rooms (and several related practices), doing so is not “white magic,” technically speaking. I explained in detail on a blog post of my own what “magic” is in the Bible. And according to Biblical use, you cannot actually use the term “magic” for seeking God’s power. (“Heresy” might apply, but not “magic.”)

However, I do admit the point is a bit technical and semantic. It centers on the definition of “magic” and there are in fact multiple possible definitions. If by “magic” you mean magic in the literary sense, yes, such a usage could be termed “white magic” (but again, you are departing from Biblical usage to say so).

The point I really am concerned with you about is that you literally said that addressing Satan in War Room was, literally, praying to Satan. And you were, literally wrong to say so. So much, I am literally angry that you still have not admitted how wrong you were. You literally need to issue a public apology on this subject.

You accused those Christians who are deeply concerned with this sort of spiritual warfare (yes, I agree they act incorrectly in their methods) of being in DELIBERATE allegiance with Satan. Because that’s what saying someone “literally” praying to Satan means. I am not a lawyer, but I am pretty sure that saying what you did qualifies as slander. It certainly qualifies as bearing false witness, because it is a FALSE statement. Nobody is deliberately seeking Satan here.

If you didn’t know if was false to call addressing a demon “prayer,” then it was demonstrated to you from Scripture beyond all reasonable doubt you were wrong. Jesus and the apostles addressed demons and did not pray to them. I am addressing you now and not praying to you. So while the practice may not be encouraged or recommended or not right, it is NOTHING BUT WRONG TO ACCUSE FELLOW BELIEVERS OF PRAYING TO SATAN. It is slanderous and false testimony!

I’ve been pretty mild on this topic, given how serious a breach I feel this was on your part. Well, up to now, that is. I’m not so mild anymore.

It is time to stop hedging, brother. Admit openly (and literally) that you were wrong in calling such a practice “prayer” and you did not mean to say people who have a doctrinal disagreement with you are showing literal allegiance to Satan.

I hope I am being clear. Please receive the message, admit you were wrong, and apologize.

notleia
Guest
notleia

As much as I like Burnett getting his chain yanked, I think you’re giving him too much credit for all the LITERALLY this and LITERALLY that. Granted, I’m not always 100% sure if/when he’s serious or exaggerating to make his point, but I read that as more rhetorical than otherwise.

Besides, “War Room” is terrible for lots of other reasons.

HG Ferguson
Guest
HG Ferguson

Stephen, once again, I am on the horns of a dilemma with you. On the one hand, I agree with you about the fact that some Christians treat spiritual warfare like pagan magic. But you treat it like a comic book or a superhero movie. In reading your post again — now for the third time — I cannot help but wonder if you honestly believe that Satan, demons, the Devil’s hand and the occult just really do not exist, or at best are mere abstractions, following liberal theology. God’s command to resist the Devil in James is no side comment. It is a summation. You want to reduce it to a side comment, but since when are any of God’s commands side comments? Unless you want to erase them the way you do in Deut. 18 because things like this are “not things” and “not a sin.” But God says they are (I Sam. 15:23) in no uncertain terms. Period.

This betrays your worldview. You downplay spiritual warfare so much you almost want to dismiss it, and it blinds you to what God really says. Yes, battles are fought the way you describe, but when you say “actually fought” you are openly teaching that we do not “actually” struggle with demons or the Devil’s hand. No Christian who’s ever “actually fought” a battle with the Devil’s hand will buy into your thinking for a nanosecond. And if any of you out there reading this HAVE dealt with the Devil’s hand, you know I speak the truth.

Stephen, your worldview blinds you. You bring the Word of God to comics, to superheroes, to Harry Potter and you look at it through these lenses. Of course we can enjoy these stories and appreciate their value. The Avengers is one of my favorite movies and the way Voldemort fragments his soul and ultimately loses it is a masterpiece. But reality, spiritual reality, is what only the Word of God says, not what the word of Rowling says or the word of Whedon says or anyone else. God’s Word is not judged by what they say. What they say is judged by God’s Word. Period.

And what does God’s Word say? You claim there is no basis in scripture for the idea that demons can haunt physical places. Yet that is precisely what God says in Isaiah 34:14. I will not go into an extended exegesis of this (though I can), but here in this chapter you have YHWH’s curse on Edom in some very specific language. Then in verse 14 it gets dang creepy if you know Hebrew and Jewish folklore. “The shaggy goats” cry to each other, and there LILITH will make her abode. The word “shaggy goats” is always associated with demons and demonic creatures in the OT (source, Jewish Virtual Library) and translating it “wild goats” is done by demythologizing rationalists who want to sleep better at night. And Lilith, the Hebrew demoness, the stealer of children in the night, is called here BY NAME. It does not mean “screech owl,” it means exactly what it says, and modern Jewish translations of this verse say LILITH. Even if you want to say “screech owl,” go ahead but realize that this too reflects the connection owls have to the demonic in ancient folklore (source, Jewish Virtual Library). My point: at the very, very least you have demonic entities haunting the ruins of Edom because God has cursed it. Not a place ideal for overnight camping… Yes, demons can and do “haunt” certain places where God’s curse falls, and I believe, great evil has been wrought by the people living there. I may not have any scripture to back that last bit up, but I do believe it. So did Tolkien.

Stephen, you need to cease treating spiritual warfare like this. Harry Potter is not real. Superheroes are not real. But the Devil’s hand is. You love to say that scripture doesn’t say this and scripture doesn’t say that to bolster your attacks. Well, neither does the Word of God ever put the two words “good” and “magic” together, but you are one of the chief apostles of it. You are openly teaching the opposite of what God says about magic in language so clear, and about other things like spiritual warfare in these posts. Did God really say? Do you know who you sound like? With whom you sound like you are standing? Do you?

You need to stop. You need to call things what God calls them, look at the real world the way God does (both visible and invisible), indeed think God’s thoughts after him and say what God and God alone says about things. About demons. About magic. About everything. I say this to myself as well, every day. Let the words of my mouth (my teaching) and the meditations of my heart (my thinking, my feelings, who I am inside) be acceptable in your sight, O YHWH. I long to see the same in you.