SPIRITUAL WARFARE, FACT OR FANCY?


IMG_0123One topic I rarelyIMG_0125 hear much discussed among Anglicans is spiritual warfare. We definitely believe it is a vital part of Christian life, and practice it routinely.  We simply don’t speak of it much. In the important ways, Fr. Ernesto’s description below of Orthodoxy and spiritual warfare are the views of Anglicanism and Catholicism. We take the Devil seriously.  I can attest, as does Fr. Ernesto in his post, that as a pastor I, too, have participated in exorcisms and know demons are real and present. I have even been so involved working with Fr. Ernesto in such activity. Spiritual warfare is real.

Among one wing of my Evangelical brethren, it is often a hot topic.  Depending on which wing of Evangelicalism, it is downplayed, railed against, or highly touted. When I was part of independent Christianity, we practiced spiritual warfare against demons,and spoke of it often.

Now for

OrthoCuban’s post.

I was asked recently about the Orthodox belief in spiritual warfare. And, I knew what the questionerArchangel-Michael-battle-gearmeant. He was talking about the more, uhm, dramatic forms of spiritual warfare. The answer is that the Orthodox have a strong belief in spiritual warfare. Before we baptize someone, we do three exorcisms on a person (or baby) and they are clearly called exorcisms. The first one begins, “The Lord layeth thee under ban, O Devil . . .” During the third exorcism we pray, “. . . Rebuke the unclean spirits and expel them . . .” Later the one being baptized, or the sponsors of an infant, are called to renounce Satan three times. This is not mere ritual, it is the recognition that no one can serve two masters, and thus one of them needs to be renounced, rebuked, and restrained. We are truly and honestly doing an exorcism of the one being baptized because that one has been under the influence of the rulers, the authorities, and the powers of this dark world (Ephesians 6:12).

During the annual blessing of the homes, part of the prayer is to rebuke and expel any unclean spirits. Once a year we have the Service of Holy Unction during Holy Week. There one of the prayers says, “. . . having been cleansed of the blood of demons through the Blood that mercifully flowed from thy side.” So, between the blessing of the homes and the Service of Unction, faithful Orthodox have demons rebuked from them at least twice a year. This is not mere ritual, it is the recognition that we are the Church Militant which is involved in serious and unremitting warfare against the devil, and that in that warfare the enemy can counterattack and gain a foothold in us.

I have been involved in more than one exorcism and I can guarantee you that demons are real. The Orthodox have a firm and sound belief in the existence of the evil and the demonic, and take that into account in our prayers, in our liturgies, and in our lives. Nevertheless, that is not the sum total of what we think of when we speak of spiritual warfare. When we speak of spiritual warfare, we are speaking in broader terms of our fight against: the world, the flesh, and the devil. If we have a criticism of those who speak frequently of spiritual warfare, it is that all too often those who speak of it limit it to dramatic, visible, and public actions against only the devil.

But, in order to truly live out the Christian life, the Christian must fight a war on three fronts, the battle against the world, the battle against the flesh, and the battle against the devil. The Orthodox discipline of fasting, the prayers, and the reading of Scripture are all our response to the flesh. We fast in order to teach the flesh that it shall not have charge over us. It, along with prayers and the reading of Scripture, are a way to gain control over our passions that would push us to a life of dissolution. This is not as exciting and dramatic as exorcisms and sprinklings with Holy Water. But, this is one of the key battles against the evil one. Saint James says, ”Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. . . Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We war with ourselves in order to prevent us from warring with others. This, too, is spiritual warfare. As Saint Paul said, “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . .” We war in order that our inward man’s desire to follow the law of God may come closer to becoming a reality.

The final bit of the war is against the world. Saint James says, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” When we do not show partiality–as Saint James says–when we reach out to our neighbors in practical works of mercy, we are warring with the world. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” Our definition of profit is different than the world’s definition of profit. We fight against the world when, by our actions and giving, we clearly show that our profit does not come from greed, from our striving to simply maximize our personal wealth. Our profit comes from God when we give away what is ours–our time, our money, our selves–in the service of others.

Where does the Gospel fit in? It fits into all three categories: the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are to have our feet shod in the Gospel of Peace, as Saint Paul says. It is the fact that we now have God within us that makes us able to have powers over the very demons of hell. It is as we pray that we receive the peace of God which passes all understanding and keeps our minds and our hearts safe as we fight ourselves in order to conquer our passions. And it is the Good News of Jesus Christ that gives us what we say and what we do as we approach those who have been losing that warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is that Good News that gives them the way out of their situation.

So, yes, I do believe in spiritual warfare.ocnewsbg

About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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15 Responses to SPIRITUAL WARFARE, FACT OR FANCY?

  1. Believer says:

    Father Orthohippo,

    I am curious to know if you know the literary works of Malachi Martin, a priest who was given a dispensation from most of his priestly vows (except celibacy) to focus on his research and other works. He was the author of the book, “Hostage to the Devil”. If you are familiar with his work, I am curious to know what your thoughts are on his research and conclusions, if you have read the book. In my own research, his work seems to be the most complete (for the lack of a better word), and most detailed. It also appears to corroborate (and is likewise corroborated) by other Catholic-based screeds about this subject.

  2. The name rings a bell, but I can not place him or his book. I will try to check out “Hostage to the Devil”.

  3. Believer says:

    Most of the book is online at http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vatican/esp_vatican27.htm. Isn’t the internet wonderful, or at least some times?

  4. do you know of any review of “El Ultimo Papa”?

  5. Believer says:

    Who was it written by? There seems to be several books written with the same title.

  6. 1998 Malachi Martin

    Also, I remember that Fr. Martin was historically and primarily a conventional exorcist within the R. C. tradition, and the R. C. rite he used was the historic one. I believe the historic rite is fine, and works. Other variations also work fine in my experience. I have no insight into any speculations he might have written.
    His writings into cultural possibilities were fun to read, but were just that, I think, possible projections in future history.
    In recent decades, I have been only involved with this ministry in a small way. Be careful of the attraction it has for those intensely involved with it. It is a dangerous allure. In my experience, it is a ministry best done by those who do not want to do it.

    • Believer says:

      Yes, I too found his work stimulating and thoughtful. I also am aware that there are effective rites out there (outside of mainstream Catholicism) that are used by preachers. However, I am not too familiar with the procotols associated with the other denominations. As for being careful with reading this type of literature, I can certainly say that I have been. And you’re right, it is intensely alluring, which can be dangerous for those that go beyond curiosity and somehow aim to invite the evil spirits into their lives. However, I am not aware of any cases where simply reading this kind of literature can lead to trouble down the road. If reading this literature can indeed lead to more serious consequences in the future, can you provide some examples or insight on how that can occur?

  7. Yes, but I prefer to follow this up privately. email frbkirk@yahoo.com

  8. Believer says:

    Did you get the e-mail I sent you?

  9. Believer says:

    I re-sent it to frbkirk@yahoo.com.

    Check you spam folder. My original was probably re-directred to another file.

  10. I resent my answer. If you don’t get it, I’ll put it up here.

  11. Believer says:

    I got it. Thank you. On another subject, what are your thoughts about the Vatican inviting the conservative Lutherans to return to Catholicism? If they do, they can keep their Liturgy and spiritual heritage (married priests, etc.).

  12. I’ve not seen anything about Lutherans, just Anglicans. No conclusions yet. I will probably have a post about the possible ramifications of the Roman invitation and Anglican reactions. If you want the comment further on this subject, go to the invitation post.

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