Monday, March 6, 2017

Book Write-Up: A Woman's Guide to Spiritual Warfare

Quin Sherrer and Ruthanne Garlock.  A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare: How to Protect Your Home, Family and Friends from Spiritual Darkness.  Chosen Books, 2017.  See here to buy the book.

This is a revised and updated edition of a book that was published in 1991 and 2010.

Here are some of my thoughts about the book:

A.  The authors believe that generational curses (i.e., propensities towards certain sins) can be passed down, and that believers can bind and rebuke demons in the name of Jesus.  Regarding generational curses, the authors do not successfully demonstrate that such an idea is explicitly taught in the Scriptures, but they do raise interesting considerations: Abraham had a problem with lying, and so did his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob; David was sexually immoral, and so were his sons Amnon and Absalom.  On binding and rebuking demons, the authors refer to Gospel passages about the disciples doing this.  At the same time, they do not address a biblical passage that may pose a challenge to their position: Jude 1:9 notes that Michael the archangel himself did not condemn Satan but instead said to him that the Lord rebukes him.

B.  The authors maintain that believers have to be righteous to have success in spiritual warfare.  This is in contrast with Christian teachers who emphasize grace and point out the flaws of biblical heroes, including the disciples.  At one point, the authors quote Puritan pastor William Gurnall, who provided a compelling rationale for their position: that we need to stay in the shade of God’s protection rather than wandering out into the hot sun of temptation.

C.  The book has a lot of anecdotes about the effectiveness of prayer in producing change in people, situations, and events.  The authors only occasionally addressed thorny implications of this view: the question of what the view means in terms of human free will (i.e., are we asking God to overturn other people’s free will?), as well as problem-of-evil questions (i.e., are we to blame if healing does not occur, or if we or our loved ones suffer a misfortune?).  In some places, they seem to acknowledge that the approach that they recommend is not always effective and may have limitations.  Their approach is edifying in two respects, though.  First of all, they may have a point when they argue that we should pray for people and situations rather than starting arguments.  To quote from page 95, which is from one of their anecdotes: “If you spent as much time praying for him as you do judging and criticizing him, I could have done more in his life by now.”  Second, their approach offers hope to people that change is possible.

D.  Related to (C.), the book would have been better had it systematically wrestled with thorny questions.  Does God choose to depend on our prayers to act?  If so, why?  Also, what is the proper balance between prayer and concrete action?  The authors believe that more than prayer is required when it comes to escaping spousal abuse; they also seem open to medicine.  Should that practical approach apply to other issues, as well?

E.  The authors are rather critical of non-Christian religions, treating many of them as realms for the demonic.  At one point, they attribute poverty in a Third World country to its pervasive idolatry.  Such a view does not fit neatly with my pluralist or inclusivist sensibilities, but that is not reason enough to dismiss it.  Still, I do have questions.  Why are there people who possess idols yet do not experience disasters in their life?  Why do Christians experience disasters, when they have the right religion, and especially when they are Christians who walk the straight and narrow?  Also, there are secular, naturalistic explanations for Third World poverty: exploitation, bad economic systems, etc.

F.  The book has an appendix that lists Scripture verses that the authors deem to be relevant to certain issues (i.e., unemployment, spousal abuse).  On spousal abuse, I did not understand how some of the verses related to that subject.  I did find their citation of Ezekiel 28:24-26 to be appropriate to it, however, since that passage relates to Israel finding healing and vindication after being maligned and abused.

G.  On page 221, a sample prayer reads, “Reverse the trends of humanism and socialism in our culture.”  Is God necessarily opposed to socialism, though?  God in the Hebrew Bible sought to establish a society that was compassionate towards the poor and that did not recognize private property as absolute.  I think that my concern here overlaps with my concerns above about the balance between prayer and concrete action.  The authors may think (and I may be incorrect in conceptualizing their views here) that prayer is the solution for poverty and unemployment, so the government need not proactively address such problems.  I think that a balance can be found between prayer and concrete actions.  On the one hand, we need prayer to prosper as a nation because, on some level, abundance depends on factors that are beyond our control (i.e., rain for crops).  On the other hand, God wants a society that is compassionate towards the poor, and God desires that people be concretely generous towards the needy.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest!

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