Spiritual Warfare Review

March 26, 2014

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Avoiding Extremes

In Spiritual Warfare, Brian Borgman and Rob Ventura have teamed up to author a concise introduction to what the Bible teaches about spiritual warfare. Both are pastors at Grace Community Church. However, Ventura pastors in Rhode Island and Borgman in Nevada. The book is the cross-country effort of two pastors who want to remind the church of the war we are in. Once they’ve done this, they want to equip Christians “to think and fight biblically in a practical way” (ix).

The introduction alerts readers to the two extremes when it comes to spiritual warfare. One is to pretend it doesn’t exist. The other is to obsess over Satan, demons, and have an unhealthy interest in all things unseen. Avoiding these extremes is the balanced part of the perspective Borgman and Ventura are trying to capture.

A Biblical Perspective

As for the biblical part of the perspective, the rest of the book is a mini-commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20. Each chapter focuses in on bits and pieces of these important verses. Chapter 1 begins with the call to “be strong in the Lord and the power of his might.” Chapter 2 introduces the armor as well as the need to stand and fight. Chapter 3 outlines the schemes of the devil. Chapter 4 uses verses 12-13 to give an overview of the type of conflict spiritual warfare entails.

Starting in chapter 5, the authors explain each piece of armor in turn. Starting with the belt of truth, they then move to the breastplate of righteousness (chapter 6); the gospel of peace footwear (chapter 7); the shield of faith (chapter 8); the helmet of salvation (chapter 9); and finally the sword of the Spirit (chapter 10).

It is significant that this latter piece of armor is the only offensive weapon. But alongside the sword of the Spirit, we also have the power of prayer. Chapter 11 explains the nature of “warfare prayer.” Then in chapter 12, the authors unpack connection between warfare prayer and proclamation of the gospel. The final chapter is a debriefing and overview of the ground covered, followed by 3 appendices. The first explains the activities of Satan within the context of God’s sovereignty. The second deals with whether a Christian can be demon-possessed (no). The final one is brief exhortation for readers to pray for their pastors in light of the battle they are engaged in.

Attention to Background

A particular aspect of this book that many readers will find helpful is the attention to background details. Clinton Arnold who has done much to enhance our understanding of ancient Ephesus, and the authors take note. Particularly significant is the obsession with magic and the occult that saturated Ephesus. It is to this context that Paul writes about spiritual warfare, but does so in a way that relies on “ordinary” means of grace. Too often, it is tempting to think that spiritual warfare requires special practices. Whether it is confronting demons, spiritual mapping, or other various activities, it is easy to think that the mundane won’t do in “real” warfare. Paul seemed to think otherwise. Even when writing to an occult obsessed culture, he focuses on the importance of prayer and the Word. In their exposition, Borgman and Ventura do the same.

Once they’ve set Ephesians in its social context, the authors also help readers visualize the armor. It is likely that if Paul is writing Ephesians from prison, reflecting on his guards equipment informed much of what he says about the armor. The authors do a concise and informative job of explaining the significance of each piece of armor and then drawing spiritual significance from it. In doing so, they help readers see how Paul might have been thinking, and how you can use everyday things to unpack spiritual realities.

For Biblical Counselors

On the whole, the book has many similarities to David Powlison’s approach to spiritual warfare. He outlines his perspective best in Power Encounters, but also more briefly in his essay in Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views. In the context of counseling, it is easy to think that people who are having significant mental disturbances have somehow come under the influence of the demonic realm. That may be the case, but Powlison provides many counter-examples where ordinary means were able to effectively minister to the person in question. Rather than being quick to think “demons!” we ought to make sure our biblical bases are covered and that we are following the protocol laid out in Ephesians 6. Borgman and Ventura provide just the kind of concise explanation of the strategy every counselor needs.

For Counselees

This book belongs alongside Powlison’s on every counselor’s shelf. But more than that, it is also short enough to be excellent for a counselee. Each of the chapters is 5-8 pages in length. Each chapter also has 4 well-thought out questions for reflection and discussion following it. As part of a counseling program, this would make for great initial homework to provide grounding in spiritual warfare. The reading assignments would be light enough to be easily achieved on a weekly basis, and the questions would provide for rich discussion in the session.

Even outside of the counselor’s office, this is an excellent, short introduction to spiritual warfare. The book is an easy read, but it offers much food for thought on a very important topic. For readers looking for an accessible introduction that is tethered to Scripture, this is the book to pick up. In achieves what its subtitle aims for, and in doing so, will benefit many who take it and read.

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