Spiritual Warfare


By Mark Pearson

If you mention the phrases, “evil spirits,” “the demonic,” or “spiritual warfare,” to your friends at work you’ll probably get one of three reactions. Either they think that you’re just kidding, or that you’ve taken leave of your senses, or that you’ve joined a cult.

The reason is often that the only connection they have to such thought is their having read or heard about crazy or fanatic people, or their having watched a sensational Hollywood film.

I recall how decades ago a few of my friends who were not so immediately dismissive of me when I used those phrases asked, “Where did you pick that stuff up?” My answer was not what they were expecting: 

“When I was getting my Master’s degree in Theology at Oxford, I got to know an Anglican Benedictine monk, very calm and gentle, well trained in psychology, who was the chief exorcist of the Church of England.

“He taught me that most of the people he was called upon to minister to had problems that were psychological in their cause, not demonic, but that when confronting a genuine demonic case, the person ministering needed to know what to do. The protocols for ministry were well and long established and the theology behind the subject of spiritual warfare were founded in the basic, historic Christian world view.”

One friend who shares my off-beat sense of humor responded, “In that case, from now on I will be steering all my need-for-exorcism business your way.”

Another friend said, “This is not at all what I expected to hear but it makes sense.” 

Christian orthodoxy teaches that God made a series of supernatural beings we generally, if somewhat incorrectly, lump together under the term, “angels” (see Ephesians 6:12). While the majority of those beings who possessed free will remained loyal to God, some, led by their leader Lucifer, rebelled (see Isaiah 14:12-14, Jude 6).

These fallen angels, now called demons, and Lucifer, now called the “devil” (which means “accuser”) and “Satan” (which means “adversary”), seek to foment rebellion against God and inflict harm on God’s people and plans. Although we know who will win in the end, much satanic harm has been done and continues to be done in the meantime.

One way Satan works is by offering people “spirituality” without either Christ or His cross.

Many people today are spiritually bored and are looking for something that lifts them beyond the material world and the daily humdrum. Available to them are such things as divination, sorcery, astrology, and discerning truth and wisdom via means other than Scriptural revelation, scientific discovery, and the spiritual gifts of wisdom and discernment (see 1 Corinthians 12:8).

The Church speaks against these, not because they’re innocent con games out to bilk naive people, nor because the Church is jealous, but because God said they were wrong and forbade them (see Genesis 41:8, Deuteronomy 18:9-14, Isaiah 47:12, Daniel 4:7). We warn our people against them not because they don’t work, but because sometimes they do work but leave a legacy of spiritual, emotional and sometimes physical harm in the lives of those who practice them.

Some people, having sought guidance and power from sources other than the God of Scripture and His grace as mediated through prayer and the sacraments, have gotten so swallowed up in the demonic that their actions are directly evil in intent. Moreover, the power that fuels what they do is as well.

Another way Satan works is by offering people power and control over others. Five times in Isaiah 14:13-14 Lucifer uses the word “I” culminating with, “I will make myself like the Most High.” While God demands that, “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2 Samuel 23:3), Satan seems to be saying those who seek power at his hand can do whatever they want. Indulging one’s baser passions makes them giddy until they realize that those who make a deal with the devil are always the losers.

No, not every problem is demonic in direct cause although everything wrong with individuals, society and the cosmos can be traced back to original sin and the fall of the human race, tempted into being so by the fallen Lucifer. Often people simply make wrong choices. They may need conversion and submission to Christ in obedience to His Word and in the fellowship of His Church, but they don’t need exorcism or deliverance. 

But sometimes do because there’s more afoot.

Three decades ago I was conducting a healing service in the Chapel of St. Andrew’s Seminary in Quezon City, the Philippines. During the service I noticed two students leering at me and making a mockery of the event. When they came up for prayer, I felt a strong sense of evil and foreboding. I asked them both to repeat the phrase, Jesus is Lord.” They couldn’t.

My prayer partner was the Most Rev. Manuel Lumpias, then-Presiding Bishop of the Philippine Episcopal Church. Together we commanded the evil spirits to depart in Jesus’ Name. We continued to do this for about ten minutes. Finally they both blurted out, “Jesus is Lord,” as they fell physically and spiritually exhausted to the floor.

Bishop Lumpias and I later learned that in the years prior to seminary both had participated in occult healing services in their villages because their priests were devoted to overthrowing what they believed was an oppressive government and not to teaching the faith or ministering the sacrament of healing.

I am an assistant Republican Floor Leader in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and a consultant to a person running for Congress. As I look over the political landscape I see the same differences of opinion we have always had, but I also see something that increasingly troubles me. I see in some not merely opinions which differ from those of others; I see evil. The looting, the arson, the intentional murders of both blacks and of police officers of every race, the glee some take at dismem-bering babies in the womb all remind  me of Ephesians 6:12:

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

While the specific ministry of exorcism is generally reserved to those licensed by a bishop, each of us is called to wage spiritual warfare.

Each of us is to bind evil principalities and powers. Each of us is to take authority in the Name of Jesus against the forces of darkness. We should regularly pray that God sends St. Michael the Archangel to us, that Michael “be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil” (The Prayer of St. Michael). 

When St. Paul speaks of the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18, he is not telling us merely to memorize that passage. God is commanding us through the apostle to put these things on and keep putting them on.

But it is not so we can cower just a bit less before Satan and his minions active around us. We are to go on the offensive, confident that the gates of Hell will not prevail against God’s Church (Matthew 16;18).

If we fight in our own power against the demonic powers seeking to destroy the Church and more fully capture society, we will lose and probably wonder why. Go forward in the Name of Jesus and in the power of the Spirit, go into battle with the defensive armor and the spiritual weapons God gives us and we shall see victory.

That’s how I pastor my Church and that’s how I serve in the political arena. And you can and must, too, wherever God has placed you.

The Rev. Canon Mark Pearson is a priest in the CEC, he lives in New Hampshire.

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