What kind of evil are we supposed to fight?
There’s a group of us who meet about every three weeks to discuss doctrinal issues. The time is always stimulating, and yesterday’s discussion centered around the subject of angels – fallen and unfallen (the good kind and bad kind), and what role, if any they play in the earth’s history in general and humanity’s in particular. The argument (among those who believe in such things at all) is between those defining evil forces as impersonal spirits who empower structures (such as governments and families), and those defining evil forces as personal spirits who empower people (as in the case of demon possession, or some entrenched phobias and destructive patterns in one's life).
Some theological arguments can seem meaningless, but not this one. The implications are rather profound, leading one to focus energy either on social reformations OR personal evangelism and the transformation of individual hearts. For centuries, it seemed that choosing one invariably meant excluding the other and there was great divide among Jesus’ followers. Now, thankfully, a tribe is rising that is less inclined to either/or positions on such important matters. Among this group, Jesus’ words about setting the captives free are viewed both literally and spiritually: the bondage of demon possession, the bondage of fear and lies believed, the bondage of addiction, AND the bondages of poverty, slavery, prostitution, greed, injustice, isolation.
There are two important effects that come from embracing this holistic approach to battling principalities and resisting the devil:
- We are all struck, immediately, with the realization that we can’t fight this battle alone – it’s enormous global scope means that some will be on the battlefield of tribal warfare in Africa, while others are working with addicts in
. This is one of the most compelling arguments for identifying with a faith community, for Jesus’ mantle is too heavy for anyone to carry alone – and I am strengthened by joining together with others to do what I know I can’t do by myself. New Hampshire, as others do prayer counseling in Bakersfield
- The ‘evil structures’ are suddenly seen to be, not communism, or dictatorships, or democracies – but rather the spirit empowering them. A quick look at history shows every system tending towards emptiness and oppression – even the best of them.
Consider a favorite passage of mine from Malcolm Muggeridge's "A Third Testament":
Standing on the
The battle for meaning, beauty, intimacy and freedom is global and local – inward and outward – societal and personal – spiritual and physical – and we who follow Jesus are called to fight on all fronts. Don’t try to fight alone. Celebrate the victories along the way. And remember the end of the story!