A Book Review from Books At a Glance
By Morgan Walker
We know spiritual warfare is real, but how real? Depending on our culture and experience, each person might answer this differently. In his final publication, David Powlison offers counselors and pastors an accessible resource that provides a biblical assessment of spiritual warfare with practical tips for living in the battle. This book is steeped in pastoral care and seasoned with experience.
When counseling someone in a hard and confusing time, it is tempting to depend on theories of motivation and behavior modification for help, but biblical counsel is more than this. Powlison moves us into a deeper dependence on the Lord who offers no quick fix, but the greatest power in our struggles. To under assume the power of evil at work is to give the enemy a foot hole. While Satan and his work is not the primary focus in counseling, our counsel must have a lens for recognizing the real spiritual battle we are all in.
This book is divided into two parts: Part 1 has three chapters and answers the question what is spiritual warfare? Powlison identifies spiritual warfare as a term that describes “the conflict occurring at the heart of the Christian Life.” In other words, the battle is for lordship of the soul. Powlison identifies the reality of spiritual warfare, biblically testifies to spiritual warfare, and offers an explanation of the weaponry given to us for spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:10-20 is the engine from which this section is driven as piece by piece Powlison dresses the Christian for battle.
Part 2 has seven chapters and considers how to live and counsel in the spiritual battle. Powlison makes it clear that as children of the light we have been called to battle and Ephesians 6 is not just a description of courage. As the anti-image of Christ, the enemy works to steal, kill, and destroy the people of God. While the war was won on the cross and Christian are able to stand firm in the victory of Christ, Satan continues to prowl in the mundane with lies, doubts, and chaos. Our greatest stronghold is to arm ourselves in truth and pray for a strength that is not our own. When most people think of spiritual warfare there is dramatic demonic activity involved, however, in Chapter 5, Powlison first brings attention to the “normal battles” such as anger, fear, and escapism. Chapter 6 unpacks the “battle with the shadow of death” which we will all face at some point through a tragedy, a diagnosis, or a death.
Chapters 7 and 8 then shifts into the battles with the occult and animism. While recognizing the reality of demonic work, Powlison identifies exorcism as far too simplistic. Instead, Powlison’s position challenges us to examine biblical practices and patterns which ultimately call sinners to repentance. The issue at stake is to label the bizarre as abnormal. Instead, the method is to normalize the abnormal in order to get behind the behavior to deeper matters of the heart. Chapter 9 offers insight into the often assumed demonic activity of psychosis. Powlison does a great job of unveiling the evils at work even in our physiological problems. With sensitive explanation, Powlison never gives a one-for-one causation, but he signals us to care for the person in battle with truth, hope, and order. Chapter 10 brings home the “last battle” with an authentic personal testimony of a man standing firm in his last battle.
This short, encouraging book gives biblical confidence to counselors and pastors to walk with one another in spiritual battles. While we are able to actively resist the schemes of Satan and his army, Powlison moves our focus from the battleground towards Christ who has won the battle for us. Hand in hand we are called to walk forward by faith in the light that will outlast the darkness and we will be safe and sound. Until then, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to stand firm in the battle.
Morgan R. Walker holds a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary, is a certified trainer for Beyond Suffering with Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability and is currently pursuing a Masters in Theological Studies at RTS Jackson. She has worked professionally in clinical, educational, and hospital settings with children, youth, and adults affected by various disorders and disabilities. Morgan is married to Sonny and they have two daughters. They are members of Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Ridgeland, MS.
Buy the books
SAFE AND SOUND: STANDING FIRM IN SPIRITUAL BATTLES, by David Powlison