Friday, July 23, 2010

Spiritual warfare, Zambian style

Matt Harmon, a New Testament professor here at Grace Seminary is teaching for a few weeks this summer in Zambia. Today, he posted about one of his recent classes:

Yesterday during my class on Jesus and the Gospels, the discussion turned to spiritual warfare. Anytime this subject comes up (no matter where I am teaching), I try to explain that there are two extremes within the evangelical church. One extreme says that any talk of demons or spiritual warfare is simply an outdated and ignorant way of thinking about things that have other, "natural" causes. According to this view, such talk was the only way that less enlightened people had of explaining things that were beyond their control such as sickness, calamity, drought, famine, etc. I would suggest that this is the default view of most evangelical Christians in the United States. The other extreme says that virtually everything that happens in a day is the direct result of activity in the spirit world. According to this view, one must be constantly alert to how the spirits/demons are at work to avoid offending them or being somehow hurt by them. This is the default view in much of Africa even among evangelical Christians.

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I might add that the second view was the view in the ancient world, which I sum up as, "Don't tick off the gods!" And, "make sure you have at least one of them on your side, running interference for you." That, by the way, was the job of your personal minor deity, the lamassu in the ANE, the penates and lares in Rome, the Greek word escapes me right now, was it the hermai? A little help, please! Anyway, our concept of the guardian angel comes from this same concern.

The idea is that you keep the minor deity happy with small sacrifices and they will shield you from any unwanted (negative) attention by the major deities. This idea still lives on in popular culture with the various statues, etc. that you see around. And, some of you are old enough to remember when it was not uncommon to throw salt over your shoulder to placate the deities... I could go on, but you get the idea.

Of course, as Matt opines later in the post, both extremes are incorrect and spiritually dangerous. Take the time to look at his post.
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