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Fall 2000 · Vol. 29 No. 2 · pp. 100–113 

Biblical Faith Confronting Opposing Spiritual Realities

Willard M. Swartley

To consider biblical faith with regard to opposing spiritual realities requires a double focus: on the one hand it calls for showing how biblical faith in the canonical Scripture demonstrates a confrontation with opposing spiritual powers, and on the other how biblical faith as professed today leads us to confront opposing spiritual realities. Along the way we will also look briefly at the historic practice of the Christian church. 1

If we are to be God’s witnessing people, it is imperative that we know whom we serve and whom we have renounced. The matter of allegiance is all important.


In the Scripture, Israel’s very existence was a confrontation of opposing spiritual powers. The clash, during Israel’s exodus from Egypt, between the power of the LORD God of Israel and the power of Pharaoh’s gods was dramatized through the plagues. As stated repeatedly in the plague narrative, the purpose clause is “that you may know that I am the LORD (Yahweh)” (e.g., Exod. 10:2; 14:4, 18 NRSV, passim). The gods of Egypt, and specifically Pharaoh, whose power actualized that of the gods, will come to acknowledge that Yahweh is God alone. As one writer puts it, “the plagues expose and call to account the powers of darkness.” 2

Walter Wink shows how the notion of the powers has a multidimensional reality. They are to be understood both as spiritual-psychic entities and as sociopolitical entities. 3 Liberation theology, in its appeal to the {101} Exodus, stresses the political-economic dimension and God’s liberation of Israel from that oppression. This point is valid, but not if it is disconnected from the spiritual and religious issue at stake in the event. Israel’s call from bondage and establishment as a covenant people is first and foremost a mighty demonstration of Yahweh’s power and right to covenant sovereignty as God over Israel.

Israel’s liberation is at once also her loyal subjection to God’s rule. The first commandment that marks life in the covenant insists, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3). The second preserves the freedom of God to be God: “You shall not make for yourself an idol” (Exod. 20:4), i.e., you shall not attempt to manage God through an image or a representation of the divine Yahweh power. Israel is reminded who they are as creatures, and the gods of the nations are exposed for what they are.

From this foundation, Israel’s life and history continue. Joshua calls the people to a renewal of their covenant decision: Will you serve the gods of the nations, or will you choose to serve the LORD, Yahweh, who delivered you from bondage? (Josh. 24:14-15). The command to drive out the nations around about Israel is rooted in God’s own holy war against false deities, together with accompanying religious practices (Deut. 18:9-14).


Idolatry, allegiance to and worship of other powers and gods, is the fundamental issue of biblical faith. The story of David and Goliath puts the point unforgettably. Goliath marched up and down the Elah Valley defying the God of Israel and claiming supremacy for the gods of the Philistines. All Israel’s military sharpees were scared spitless. Only the shepherd lad with a sling and five pebbles, armored by trust in God, was ready to take him on. Listen to David’s piercing weapon against Goliath:

You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand . . . that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand (1 Sam. 17:45-47).

Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel continues the theme of gods and the true God in dramatic style: “How long {102} will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). The end of the contest leads to the great outburst, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God” (1 Kings 18:39).

Israel’s struggle with war and use of military might was part and parcel of her submission to or rebellion against God’s sovereignty. In the same way God fought for Israel in the Exodus—when Israel had only to be still and trust God—so God wanted Israel to trust for divine victory to gain the land and to be politically secure. But Israel desired a human king like the nations round about. Then also came the armies and the idolatries of the surrounding countries.

As Psalm 106:36-37 puts it, “They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons.” Compare Deuteronomy 32:17: “They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to deities they had never known.” Because Israel went after the idols and forsook Yahweh, the Lord eventually consigned them to exile.

Yet some Israelites remained faithful to the Lord even amidst the pressure of opposing spiritual realities. The note of God’s victory again sounded forth as Daniel and his friends were protected from the gods and the kings of the Babylonians. After Daniel’s survival of the lion’s den by God’s arm of protection, King Darius was ready to own the LORD God’s sovereignty. He issued a decree calling all people in his kingdom to “tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: For he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end” (Dan. 6:26).


Israel’s worship centered on the triumph of God and the protection of his people. Whether we look to the Song of the Sea in Exodus 15, the Psalms as Israel’s hymnbook, or the praise oracles of the prophets, the focal point of all the great hymns of worship is, “The LORD God reigns.”

Isaiah 40-55 dares even to poke fun at the idols of the nations: “They hire a goldsmith, who makes [the gold and silver] into a god; then they fall down and worship!” (Isa. 46:6b). The kings of the great empires are doomed: King of Babylon, Day Star/Lucifer, quickly fallen from the throne, cut down to the ground, brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit, “maggots are the bed beneath you, and worms your covering” (Isa. 14:12, 14-15, 11).

The worship stream of the Bible declares that God triumphs over the {103} opposing spiritual realities, including human armies with sword and spear. So Psalm 96: “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. . . . Say among the nations, ‘The LORD is king!’ ” (Ps. 96:4-5, 10a; cf. Ps. 18:1-2).


In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God, in word and deed, is the deathblow to the opposing spiritual reality headed by Satan. About one-third of Mark’s Gospel contains exorcistic emphases, including one nature miracle in which the sea chaos is rebuked as though it were incited by demonic power (Mark 4:36-41). Mark’s lead story of Jesus’ ministry describes Jesus casting out a demon in the synagogue (Mark 1:23-28). Numerous similar stories occur.

Further, Jesus’ ministry is defined in its essential essence as that of plundering Satan’s ranks. As Matthew puts the key text, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (12:28). Marcus Borg, in his book, Jesus: A New Vision, presents Jesus and his mission as empowered by his Spirit-filled relation to God. 4 Jesus was first and foremost a mediator of the world of Spirit-power into the material world. His exorcisms and miracles should be seen in that context.

Borg holds that it is impossible for us as moderns to rightly grasp Jesus and his mission until we critically come to terms with our own culture. Enlightenment rationalism and empiricism have defined the limits of our reality, effectively excluding the realm of Spirit. Jesus knew that Spirit was ultimate reality, and he ministered on that basis, filled with deep compassion for those possessed by demons and suffering from illness. Only against this portrait of Spirit-power and intense compassion can we rightly glimpse the historical Jesus, the One whom his followers later described with a rich variety of christological titles. 5


Luke’s story of Jesus and the early church in Luke-Acts makes it abundantly clear that Jesus came to destroy the powers of evil that held humanity in its oppression. Luke’s story turns a wide furrow, showing how the gospel grows in the cradle of Judaism, how Jesus’ ministry is empowered by prayer, how Jesus, anointed by the Spirit, proclaims in word and deed a gospel that “loosens the bonds of wickedness, undoes the bands of the coercing yoke, releases the oppressed into freedom, and breaks apart every unjust contract.” {104} 6

Luke’s gospel story is a story of peacemaking as well. Susan Garrett, in her book on Luke-Acts entitled The Demise of the Devil, shows how Jesus’ gospel mission is the downfall of Satan. 7 Many instances could be cited, but I will note one in Luke and several in Acts. In Luke 10:17-20, when the seventy return from their mission of proclaiming the peace gospel and are jubilant because even the demons were subject to them, Jesus exclaims, reporting apparently a visionary experience, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you” (Luke 10:18-19).

Confrontation of demonic power lies, in fact, at the very heart of the gospel story. As James Kallas puts it,

The arrival of the Kingdom is simultaneous with, dependent upon, and manifested in the routing of the demons. The Kingdom arrives in a limited localized area as the demon’s rule is broken. The Kingdom will arrive on a world-wide basis when the world-wide rule of Satan is broken. The Kingdom’s arrival is to be seen . . . in the cleansing of the world which has fallen captive to and obeys the will of the God-opposed forces of the evil one. 8

Luke sums up Jesus’ ministry as that of “preaching good news of peace. . ., how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:36-38 RSV). Similarly, Luke sums up Paul’s mission to the Gentiles as one of opening their eyes, “that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified” (Acts 26:18).


Most striking, however, is the way Luke accentuates the power of the gospel mission as victory over magic, sorcery, and demonic power in the opposing spiritual realities of the Greco-Roman world. The four key stories are Philip’s (and the apostles’) encounter with Simon Magus in Samaria (Acts 8), Paul’s encounter with Elymas the magician in Salamis, Cyprus (ch. 13), Paul’s exorcism of a spirit of divination from a slave girl in Macedonia (ch. 16), and the gospel’s confrontation of sorcery and magical arts in Ephesus (ch. 19).

In this last story some Jewish exorcists tried using the name of Jesus, whom Paul preached, to cast out demons from those demonized, but it {105} did not work. They were not themselves believers in Jesus, and thus were doing exorcism as a form of magic. Paul’s confrontation with Demetrius, the silversmith, falls also into the same category in that it shows the gospel overcoming the powers of idolatry and the demons that inspire that idolatry.

These stories form the inclusios, the beginnings and the endings, of both the missionary spread of the gospel outside Jewish culture and the Pauline mission as a whole. Even the Macedonian mission begins and ends with such stories (chs. 16 and 19). Clearly, Luke is wanting to show that the gospel of Jesus Christ is in its very essence the power of God to overcome magic, idolatry, sorcery, and every spirit reality that ruled and oppressed people in the Greco-Roman world.

In Luke’s jubilee, the gospel of Jesus breaks every yoke of oppression, both in the spirit world and in the socioeconomic political structures that oppress humankind. In Paul’s words to Elymas, it dares to say to every opposing spiritual reality, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10).


Pauline theology has at its center Jesus Christ’s triumph over the powers in his death, resurrection, and exaltation to God’s right hand. Paul holds with boldness the truth that the gospel frees humans from all spiritual political structures of oppression, as well as from the bondage to sin. The gospel frees people from the spirit powers that lie behind pagan religions and philosophies, and also behind the law as means for self-justification (Gal. 4:5, 8-9). Paul speaks of being redeemed from under the law and also from “the elemental spirits (stoicheia) of the universe” (Col. 2:8, 18-23). These structures and rituals were powers that dominated life and thus destroyed freedom. For the Jews it was the law—not the law itself, but the works of the law as a means of salvation. For the Greeks the stoicheia consisted of astrological fate and fortune, powers governing the cycles of nature, imparted secret knowledge, and other occult forms of ordering life.

From these texts we gain a basic understanding of idolatry itself. Structures that provide order for existence are turned into ultimate values, ends in themselves, and thus elevated to powers over one’s life, and then worshiped as gods. Romans 1 shows the same pattern: through sinful impulses humans fail to see God’s revelation in nature and therefore turn to idolatry, worshiping the creation and creature instead of the Creator. Hence, “God gave them up”—repeated three times (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28)— {106} to the course and consequences of their wickedness. Only the power of the liberating gospel can free humans from this chain of sin. Indeed, Jesus “gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age” (Gal. 1:4).

Paul speaks specifically of Christ’s triumph over principalities, powers, dominions, thrones, etc. Astoundingly, 1 Corinthians 15:24-27 claims that every authority, rule, and power has been put in subjection to Christ. When Jesus hands over the kingdom to the Father, they will be stripped of all power. We find further descriptions of Christ’s triumph in other portions of Pauline material (Col. 1:15-16, 20; 2:10, 15; Eph. 1:19-23; 3:9-10; Rom. 8:35-39). We find similar teaching among other apostolic writings (1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 18:2, 10). The New Testament view of the powers holds that they were intended in their creation to serve God, but their rebellious aspirations (as also in Isa. 14; Ezek. 28; Dan. 5-6) have made them adversaries to God.

While these powers have a positive function within the world outside of Christ—restraining evil as agents of God’s wrath (Rom. 13:4)—they readily become instruments of the demonic (recall the Old Testament link between the judgment of God and the demonic). Indeed, these powers crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:6-9).


While Jesus’ life-ministry was a battle against the powers, his death is the final defeat of Satan, the climactic holy war battle. As stated by William Brownlee,

His exorcisms are the inauguration of a holy war which reaches its climax in His death and resurrection wherein He decisively defeated the Devil and his hordes. In this capacity He is acting as the divine warrior. 9

When we view Jesus as God’s divine warrior to conquer evil, we see a major transformation of Old Testament holy war. Humans are no longer the enemy to be destroyed. Rather, Jesus commands, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44), and “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28). With the ministry of Jesus, the fight of God and God’s followers against evil is directed against the spiritual powers that inspire human wickedness.

Paul’s most explicit description of Christ’s triumph over the powers says he “disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them” (Col. 2:15), i.e., of how they operated in the cross. Philip {107} Bender regards the middle form of the verb apekdusamenos as significant. He holds that the middle form indicates that Christ, rather than directly attacking the authorities, stripped himself off from their power, thus eluding their grasp, and creating a new community of power independent of these authorities. 10

Finally, the writer of Ephesians sees the new Christian community, composed of previously hostile parties, as God’s witness to the principalities and so-called powers, a demonstration of God’s superiority over them (Eph. 1:20-23; 3:9-10). In addition, the famous text in Ephesians 6:10-18 calls us to Christian warfare. In this battle, our weapons are not carnal or worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds, to destroy every argument that sets itself up as a proud obstacle to the knowledge of God. By this means we take every thought captive to Jesus Christ. Our weapons include truth, righteousness, the peace mission, faith, salvation, and the Spirit-empowered Word of God (cf. Isa. 7:9b; 11:4-5; 49:2; 52:7; 59:17). Prayer is given as the important means by which we appropriate God’s armor for our victorious living (Eph. 6:18).


The Christian church over the centuries knew that spiritual warfare was its primary calling, although for much of its history it failed to use only the weapons of the Word and the Spirit. As Everett Ferguson says of the early church’s missionary success in the first three centuries,

The most notable mark of the early church was its ability to deal with the spirit world in the Roman Empire. . . . I am persuaded that an important factor in the Christian’s success in the Roman world was the promise which it made of deliverance from demons. 11

From the New Testament onwards, the Christian mission was a mission of “driving out” demons. Martyrdom and, later, asceticism engaged a “spiritual prize fight” with this enemy. The bishop’s office was “to tread down Satan under his feet.” Full membership of the Christian church, by baptism, was preceded by dramatic exorcisms. Once inside the Christian church, the Christian enjoyed, if in a form that was being constantly qualified, the millennial sensations of a modern African antisorcery cult. The church was the community for whom Satan had been bound: his limitless powers had been bridled to permit the triumph of the gospel. More immediately, the practicing Christian gained immunity from sorcery. {108} 12

Ferguson further observes that the early church fathers regarded Jesus’ death and resurrection as the defeat of Satan. For Irenaeus, “Christ’s victory over the devil (is) the key motif in developing his doctrine of the atonement.” 13 The preaching of the gospel is a means of the defeat of the demons. It brings the victory of Christ to bear upon the oppression here and now, and releases humans from Satan’s tyranny. “By reason of his baptism,” Irenaeus says, “Christians are delivered from the power of demons and have been identified with Christ. . . . They should have every confidence that they can prevail against the demons.” 14

Precisely on the point of baptism, the early church knew what we have forgotten. Baptism was regarded as a person’s exorcism in many parts of the early Christian church. 15 People came to the gospel from paganism and were under the spell of the demons of the pagan religions. Hence baptism was a rite of expelling the demon powers. Since catechumens were usually baptized on Easter morning, the six preceding weeks of Lent provided the occasion to cleanse the new believer from every defilement of the old loyalty. Those to be baptized would go to the priest/minister every morning for these six weeks to be prayed over. These prayers were focused on the power of the gospel to break every demonic influence from the past, to transfer completely from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.


In his book, Celebrating the Faith: Evangelism Through Worship, Robert Webber of Wheaton College describes these early church practices. The sign of the cross was used to indicate the sealing of the catachumen to Jesus Christ, against all bondage to every spiritual power. Imposition of hands upon the candidate may have been itself an exorcistic act, the mediation of divine power against all other power. The priest/minister also gave salt to the candidate, a sign of hospitality welcoming the person into the covenant. A rite of breathing was also used, in which the candidate blew out every evil spirit and inhaled the Holy Spirit. 16

As Webber summarizes,

The period of purification and enlightenment, of spiritual journey preceding baptism, emphasizes not instruction, but spiritual recollection and readiness. It brings before the converting person the essence of what it means to be converted to Christ and equips the new convert with the weapons of spiritual warfare. It calls the convert into an ultimate {109} rejection of Satan and all works of evil. . . . Rejecting Satan and accepting the tradition is absolutely essential to conversion. 17

That baptism and exorcism were closely linked in the Eastern and Roman Catholic communions through the centuries is well attested. Henry Ansgar Kelly traces this history in his study, The Devil at Baptism. He tells how at baptism the priest asked the candidates, “Have you renounced Satan?” The candidates answered, “We have renounced him.” In some rites, the candidates were then instructed to breathe out Satan and spit upon him.

Another text speaks of breathing out anything of a contrary nature to the gospel. In some rites long exorcistic prayers accompanied baptism in which words were directly addressed to the devil, commanding him to leave and never to return. For example, a part of a prayer:

Be rebuked and go out, unclean spirit. For I adjure you by him who walked upon the surface of the sea as if upon dry land, and rebuked the storm of winds, whose glance dries up abysses, and whose threat dissolves mountains. For he even now commands you through us. Be afraid, go out, and leave these creatures and do not return or hide in them or encounter any of them or work upon them or attack them either by night or by day or at the hour of noon. But go to your own Tartarus until the determined great day of judgment. Be afraid of God . . . before whom angels tremble. . . . Go out and depart from the sealed, newly chosen soldiers of Christ our God. 18

If we are to be God’s witnessing people, it is imperative that we know whom we serve and whom we have renounced. The matter of allegiance is all important.


Through some brief examples, we consider now where biblical faith would lead believers today. Loren Entz, Mennonite missionary in Burkina Faso, tells the story of how Abou, a Muslim leader who became a Christian, claimed Christ’s power in victory against the sorcery power of the village’s elders:

One night elders who were fetishers invited Abou in order to test him. Was the power of his Jesus greater than their fetish occult power? First they tried to poison him with food, {110} but Abou found victory over that as he offered a prayer of thanks before he partook of the food. God showed himself to be Abou’s right hand and he suffered no ill effects.

Then the elders took him to their sacred grounds late that night. Abou was placed beside a huge gaping hole. The six elders sat on the other side of the hole. Fire escaped from the hole. A special whistling brought poisonous bees from the pit to do their evil work against Abou, but again with no success. Abou could not be stopped.

They had one test left, a test which no one else had ever escaped. The old men whistled a second time and a huge snake about 18 inches in diameter emerged. It came toward Abou. It tried to push him into the pit as countless others before him had been pushed in and disappeared. But the snake could only brush his leg. The snake itself fell into the pit. There was no doubt whose power was greater, God’s power working through Abou or that of the fetishes through the village elders. The rest of the night Abou preached of Jesus to them until daybreak, when he returned to Orodara. 19

At a seminar in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, last spring, a woman who served in a mission in one of the Central American countries told how her life was threatened by a witch doctor who was about to hurl a huge weight upon her. As the man advanced toward her, she and two other Christians, all in their own first (but different) languages, said, “In the name of Jesus, drop it!” The man collapsed and could do no harm. Afterward he acknowledged the power of Jesus over his witchcraft.

Similarly the work of God’s grace continues in North America. In one deliverance session I was spared the clobbering of a man enraged with the spirit of murder by speaking the word of Jesus, “Love your enemy, there is no place here for violence.” The enraged man, almost twice my size, fell back.

In Vermont a young woman who began coming to a Mennonite Church needed to be exorcized to get free from covenant membership in a Satanist coven of sixteen years. The battle was heavy at times, but the Lord Jesus triumphed and she is free. To coven members who put curses on her because she would not come to the annual renewal ritual, she wrote a letter of confidence and joy, expressing her desire that they too come to realize God’s great power and love. 20

In another case, less dramatic but no less significant, a seminary student called together a small group for a prayer-deliverance service. This {111} involved using a liturgy I had developed for such occasions. During group prayer there is time and space for the oppressed person to name each known spirit-bondage and to cut free from it in the name of Jesus. After eight such uses of the liturgy, and naming footholds of bondage for each, the person felt full release and experienced a breakthrough in the healing process. This was followed by anointing with oil for healing, and then communion shared with all present. Since we began with a time of worship (singing, prayer, and Scripture), the event lasted half a day.

Some Christians may be asking, “Are there really spirit realities?” I do not ask that. Instead there are two issues I find vital. First, how do we become a true people of God who have the courage to stand against every opposing spiritual reality, clothed with the full armor of God? And second, how can we make our worship services vibrant proclamations of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that worship is evangelism, an evangelism that delivers from darkness to light?


  1. In an earlier essay on the biblical theology of deliverance ministry, I made the following statement (in reference to the apostle Paul’s proclamation of the gospel as the power of God for salvation): “Evangelism is the primary form of power encounter and deliverance from the bondage of sin” (Thomas N. Finger and Willard M. Swartley, “Bondage and Deliverance: Biblical and Theological Perspectives,” in Essays on Spiritual Bondage and Deliverance, Occasional Papers no. 11, ed. Willard M. Swartley [Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1988], 22). I might well have added, “and deliverance from the bondage of opposing spiritual realities.”
  2. Timothy James Kamp, “The Biblical Forms and Elements of Power Encounter” (M.A. thesis, Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions, Columbia, SC, 1985), 33.
  3. Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992). See also his 1982 and 1986 volumes: Naming the Powers and Unmasking the Powers (both from Fortress).
  4. Marcus J. Borg, Jesus, a New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of {112} Discipleship (San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1987), esp. 39-75.
  5. Borg, 50.
  6. Susan Garrett, The Demise of the Devil: Magic and the Demonic in Luke-Acts (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg-Fortress, 1989), 71-72.
  7. Ibid.
  8. James Kallas, The Significance of the Synoptic Miracles (Greenwich, CT: Seabury, 1961), 78. See also his Jesus and the Power of Satan (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1968), and The Real Satan (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1975).
  9. William Brownlee, “From Holy War to Holy Martyrdom,” in Quest for the Kingdom of God, ed. H. B. Huffman, F. A. Spina, and A. R. W. Green (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983), 286.
  10. Philip D. Bender, “The Holy War Trajectory in the Synoptic Gospels and the Pauline Writings” (M.A. thesis, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries, Elkhart, IN, 1987), 44. Bender sums up his work on this text as follows: “In the context, apekdusamenos, as ‘stripping off from himself’ (Col. 2:15), suggests that Christ’s warfare against the Powers consisted (1) of his obedience to God unto death, resulting (2) in the unmasking of those Powers as adversaries of God and humanity, leading (3) to their disarming through the stripping away of their power of illusion, which now (4) exhibits them as weak and humiliated captives. In Christ, the Powers have been ‘deglorified,’ through the exposure of their presumptuous and hostile claims. Relative to the power of God as evidenced by Christ in his rejection of their claims through obedience to God unto death, the power of the Powers now appears as ‘weak and beggarly’ (Gal. 4:9). For Paul, Christ’s stripping away of the Powers was his instrument of divine warfare and victory.”
  11. Everett Ferguson, Demonology of the Early Christian World (New York and Toronto, ON: Edwin Mellen, 1984), 129.
  12. Peter Brown, “Sorcery, Demons and the Rise of Christianity: From Late Antiquity into the Middle Ages,” in Religion and Society in the Age of St. Augustine (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 136.
  13. Ferguson, 124.
  14. Ibid., 125, some word adaptation.
  15. See Alan Kreider, The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999), 17.
  16. Robert E. Webber, Celebrating Our Faith: Evangelism Through Worship (San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1986), 35-37.
  17. Ibid., 82. {113}
  18. Henry Ansgar Kelly, The Devil at Baptism: Ritual, Theology, and Drama (Ithaca and New York: Cornell University Press, 1985), 164.
  19. Loren Entz, “Challenges to Abou’s Jesus,” Evangelical Missions Quarterly (Jan. 1986): 48-50.
  20. Personal letter.
Willard Swartley is Professor of New Testament at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana. He has served there in teaching and administration since 1978.
A version of this essay was originally presented at the Conference on Deliverance Ministry, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia, October 30, 1989.

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