Book Review: The Adversary the Christian Verses Demon Activity

This presentation will first give a broad overview and summary of The Adversary by Mark I. Bubeck and then it will offer several critical points of analysis. The first point of analysis will be that although the book is over thirty years old it is still relevant today and perhaps its topic is more exigent.  Next, a discussion on the topic of sorcery will be offered, focusing on the wide cultural acceptance of pharmacological solutions to spiritual problems. Criticism is offered in that his exegesis of Job 1and Revelation 12 does not reflect a sound hermeneutic in light of John 12 and Luke 10. Furthermore, the idea of ancestral demonization has little biblical support. Still yet, it will be argued that many of Bubeck’s critics misrepresent his teaching. Overall, the book is biblically sound and has a great deal to offer the reader in search of strategies to battle Satan and demons.

Brief Summary

The book begins by establishing the biblical basis for the topic of spiritual warfare. Accordingly, Ephesians 6:12 is presented as foundational by indicating that the battle is primarily against the spiritual forces of darkness rather than flesh and blood. Bubeck writes that the battle is on three fronts: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Accordingly, the book is organized as such and chapter two addresses the flesh. While Paul uses the term in different ways, it often refers to man’s fallen sinful nature. Romans 7:23 speaks of the raging carnality which plagues man until he is born again (Jn 3:6-7). Bubeck lists the most common offenses and exposits their primary biblical texts: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, quarreling, jealousy, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, and reveling. Giving way to any of these is an invitation to demonic attention. Bubeck proposes three steps toward overcoming the flesh: 1) a commitment to honesty; 2) dying to self; 3) walking in the Spirit. He includes an appropriate prayer one can employ to this end.

Chapter two is concerned with the world, as rendered from the Greek word kosmos. It describes the dominant order or spiritual system of things that is opposed to God and the Lord Jesus Christ.[1] He discusses the relevant passages and establishes that this is indeed the case (Jn 12:31; 1 Jn 2:16; 5:19).  The fact that Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world is particularly convincing as it would have not been a temptation had they not been Satan’s to give. Bubeck teaches that, “The world system exalts its own intellectual system and rejects God’s truth as foolishness (1 Cor 1:18–31).”[2] This truth is easily seen in worldly skepticism and parody of Christians. Furthermore, the world system tempts believers to conform to its ungodly worldview. Believers are exhorted to resist and conquer the world and its lies by belief and regeneration (1 Jn 5:4–5). Jesus has overcome the world on our behalf and we overcome by the renewal of our minds through God’s word (Rom 12:2).

Chapter four is a thorough examination of the pertinent texts which form a composite picture of Satan and his kingdom. He outlines Satan’s original position as guardian cherub in the garden of God (Eze 28:12–17) followed by his rebellion and fall due to his excessive pride (Is 14:12–15). He lists the many titles a descriptive names: adversary, accuser, Lucifer (light bearer), dragon, devil (slanderer), murderer, liar, deceiver, “prince of the power of the air”, destroyer (Abaddon, Apollyon), tempter, “evil one” and “god of this age.” He is powerful and has a kingdom (Mt 12:26). His sphere of activity is the earth (Job 1:7; 1 Pe 5:8). He entices man to sin by planting false ideas, causes sickness and suffering, holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and specializes in accusing (Rev 12:10). He is ultimately destined for utter defeat (Is 14:15; Rev 20:10). He is a defeated foe and the Christian can resist him through employing his spiritual armor (Eph 6:10–18).

Chapter five examines our spiritual armor as described by Paul in Ephesians 6. It is especially noteworthy that we do not find special rituals or prayers for casting out demons; rather we see the helmet of salvation which a believer always has on, the sword of the Spirit which is God’s word available for us to study and the belt of truth which represents accurate knowledge through study. There are two extremes which must be avoided. One the one hand, many do not take the subject seriously and on the other some become overly interested and enticed by occultism. There are multiple layers of personal spiritual beings in which a believer does battle. Chapter six exhorts the reader to claim his authority and not be paralyzed by fear. The authority of Christ enables believers to overcome. Satan deceives and lies and tempts one to pride. There are degrees of conflict which characterize the enemy’s activity. It is often very subtle.

Chapter six is an important one as it is where he explains his views on the various levels of demonization believers and unbelievers experience. In order of intensity, the levels are oppression, obsession and possession. The first, oppression, is experienced by all believers and it is an outward attack. The second, obsession is a twofold term in that it can refer to a believer with an obsession to study the occult or the obsession of a demon with a particular believer. Of the latter category Bubeck argues that “Paul’s thorn in the flesh a messenger of Satan” is an example (2 Cor 12:7-10). The third level is possession and Bubeck argues that the biblical materials are somewhat vague here. He states, “The way the Greek language handles this problem is to call such people demoniacs or that they ‘had a demon.’”[3] Unbelievers are possessed either by invitation or folly. He argues that Mark 9:21 supports the idea that children can be possessed by ancestral wickedness. Although he argues Christians can be severely afflicted and challenged, he clarifies that he does not think born again believers can be possessed in the same sense that an unbeliever can.

He then transitions to the importance of sound doctrine and the practice of doctrinal praying. Jesus’ use of Deuteronomy during his desert trial is a model of using doctrinal truth in spiritual warfare (Mt 4:1–11). Doctrinal praying is the practice of praying the objective, absolute truths of the Bible to address specific needs. Chapter eight offers further exhortation to pray aggressively for intercession. He provides example prayers and anecdotal accounts of encounters. He teaches that one needs to be specific and forceful standing firm in warfare prayer. This prayer discussion reaches an apex with chapter nine concerning bold confrontation.

In the ninth chapter he relates a chilling story about his own daughter’s demonic oppression. He argues that all believers have the authority that Jesus invoked in confronting demons. He laments that many believers live in denial that their loved ones might be demonically oppressed. His daughter’s story seems genuine and honest as it is not particularly flattering for a pastor to confess. He confronts the spirits commands them to desists and binds them in the name of Jesus. He warns the reader not to make too many assumptions as these situations are unpredictable. He then lists a series of practical dos and don’ts which seem prudent if not essential. The focus expands to the issue of church wide deliverance.

Bubeck’s discussion of revival and his reservations concerning the charismatic movement will be discussed below in the critical interaction section. Chapter 11 turns to practical application in discussing the tools of our warfare. Accordingly, he uses Dr. Victor Matthews’ “The Daily Affirmation of Faith.”[4] This affirmation is commended to be read aloud on a daily basis by those engaged in intense warfare. He then offers a warfare prayer also by Matthews. He also provides a list of symptoms which are indicative of demonic affliction. Furthermore, he includes some statements of renunciation and affirmation for those with potential ancestral demonization. The last chapter discusses the need for Christian unity. He points out those passages on spiritual warfare like Ephesians 6 are addressed to churches not individuals.  He appeals to the imminence of the Lord’s return and encourages unity for the purpose of battle. In the end, we stand together in victory against the devil and his designs.

Critical interaction

Although written in 1975, Bubeck’s book still seems current. If anything, the cultural trends discussed have only been exacerbated by an increasing skepticism on one hand and naïve openness on the other. Increasing skepticism is seen in that many theologians, especially in the mainline liberal denominations, have written Satan and demons off to superstition. Naïve openness manifests in an open embrace of demonic spirits by New Agers and even worse by undiscerning charismatic Christians. Amongst the emergent church movement, there is a growing yet troublesome emphasis on experience which could lead many otherwise doctrinally sound evangelicals astray. Bubeck writes, “Today man’s debate centers upon whether you are a ‘biblical supernaturalist,’ or an ‘investigating supernaturalist’ who wants to experiment with occult phenomena or dabble in the various branches of sorcery and witchcraft.”[5] Apart from the small naturalist segment of the population, this has held true. While there has been a revival of naturalism in the new atheist movement it is relatively fringe as most people find it a woefully inadequate worldview. Gary Habermas’ research indicates that there is a paradigm shift occurring in which the paranormal is becoming normal.[6] In fact as the evidence mounts, naturalism is becoming increasingly marginalized. The cultural embrace of the occult is ubiquitous.

The use of psychoactive drugs in the occult world is self-evident and undisputed. Thus, it seems prudent to look at less obvious manifestations. Secular society has effectively denied the very existence of the spiritual life. The forced secular indoctrination of school children and wide spread acceptance of Darwinism has alienated a vast segment of society from peace and soundness of mind. Instead of turning to God who loves them and wants to give their lives the significance and joy that they rightly perceive as missing, the vast majority are turning to sorceries. Bubeck writes:

It is interesting that the Greek word translated witchcraft or sorcery in our English texts is the word pharmakia, from which we get our English word pharmacy, referring to drugs. The use of drugs for sensational, mind-expanding experience is a form of sorcery. Drug experimentation is a fleshly sin which leads on into deeper bondage with Satan’s kingdom.[7]

 

While recreational drug use is a huge problem, it seems that the charge of sorcery applies to the perfectly legal and government sponsored variety as well as the illicit. In a 2004 Washington post article I read that “One in 10 American women takes an antidepressant drug such as Prozac, Paxil or Zoloft, and the use of such drugs by all adults has nearly tripled in the last decade, according to the latest figures on American health released yesterday by the federal government.”[8] Of course there are beneficial healing uses of psychiatric drugs but in the days gone by someone with an emotional pain or need might seek the counsel of her pastor or petition God in prayer as the first course of action.  Today it is the action of last resort if it is even considered. Christians should be following the teaching of our Lord Jesus who taught, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Mt 6:34). Most drugs are not really solutions; they merely offer temporary relief while the root problem worsens. It seems correct to extend the charge of sorcery to some forms of psychiatry. While the majority of Bubeck’s exegesis is sound, exception is taken with a few of his conclusions.

Bubeck believes that Satan still has access to heaven based on the divine council scene in the first chapter of Job and that he will not be cast out until the tribulation.[9] First, “Satan” in the divine council scene of Job 1 is not a proper name but a title “the Satan.” It means “the accuser” and Hebrew Bible scholars are divided on whether this is one in the same as the devil in the New Testament. Still yet, I tend to agree that “the Satan” is the same entity due to Revelation 12:10 which identifies the devil as the “accuser of our brothers.” But the vision in Revelation 12 is clearly a flashback which includes the birth of Jesus and Satan’s expulsion from heaven is also presented in the past tense. John chapter 12 is decidedly conclusive to this matter:

“This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die (Jn 12:30-33).

 

Referring to his impending passion, Jesus said very clearly that now the ruler of this world is cast out. Not in the distant future end times. Jesus said it was “now”, way back then. Luke 10:18 also seems to hint at Satan’s expulsion in response to the proclamation of the Gospel. Satan and his minions only have the power that we give them by sin and fear. This is why Paul describes them as “weak and worthless” (Gal  4:9). Satan’s days in the divine council are over; he is no longer in God’s immediate presence accusing. Still yet, many have criticized Bubeck of giving too much power to the enemy but often they misrepresent him.

Bubeck has been widely criticized for overemphasizing demonic influence. In reading some of the criticisms on the internet, the majority seem unfair. For instance, Miles J. Stanford seems to charge Bubeck with saying believers can be possessed. He argues, “These demon deliverance leaders formulate imaginary demons in Christians, names and all; and then imagine victory over them. This seems to be a case of straw man burning because Bubeck explicitly writes:

It is my conviction that no believer can be possessed by an evil spirit in the same sense that an unbeliever can. In fact, I reject this term altogether when talking about a believer’s problem with the powers of darkness. A believer may be afflicted or even controlled in certain areas of his being, but he can never be owned or totally controlled as an unbeliever can.[10]

 

His critics, while often well intended, seem to be mischaracterizing his work. One wonders if the critics simply ignore his admonitions to doctrinal prayer. There is a difference between demon oppression and possession that is overlooked. However, the idea of ancestral demonization is promoted in the book. Most dubious is that his evidence for it comes from the demons, “One wicked spirit claimed to have been working in the ancestral line for over five hundred years.” [11] He argues that they attach to families and ancestral blood lines and that children and grandchildren are under the curse of their distant relative’s actions.[12] There does not seem to be much biblical basis for it.

In trying to examine Bubeck’s claim of ancestral demonization, the biblical evidence is scant. One can establish that children can be demonized by the incident in Mark 9:21 but this says nothing about why. While the Old Testament infers generational curses (Ex. 34:7ff), Ezekiel 18 seems to mitigate this as an ongoing phenomenon, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Eze 18:20). In light of this passage, I am skeptical of ancestral demonization but open to explore the evidence. Still yet, if Christ’s salvific work in a believer’s life does not break ancestral curses, then, Christ’s work on the cross in one’s life is incomplete. However, we know that Christ’s redemptive work is complete (Heb. 9:11-12; 25-28). While he may have experiential and anecdotal support, it does not seem prudent to accept the word of demons at face value.

Bubeck laments that revival had not come to our nation. That was in the 1970s and it seems that the situation has only worsened since then. He seems especially concerned with the charismatic movement and rightfully so. He mentions, “…its emphasis upon experience and its lack of stand on objective, doctrinal truth.”[13] This situation has also escalated since his writing. The modern antics of Rick Joyner, Todd Bentley and the new apostolic reformation are promoting a dangerous heretical mysticism.[14]  Any time that experience is elevated above revealed truth, Satan is given an opportunity to deceive. Theological liberals and charismatics share an inappropriate emphasis on God’s immanence and on human experience. The counterfeit replaces esteem for Christ with self-esteem and sound doctrine for esoteric speculations. Both seem to have lost their way and run off the road into a ditch. Perhaps “pit” is a better choice of words.

 

CONCLUSION

            This paper offered a summary and analysis of The Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Activity. After offering a brief summary, the paper sought to illustrate the value of the book by establishing its relevance. Critical analysis was offered concerning the idea that Satan still has access to God’s throne room and the idea of ancestral demonization. It was argued that many of Bubeck’s critics misrepresent him and that the book is largely sound. It has excellent examples of warfare prayers and prudent advice. The relationship between these points was shown. This book has great relevance to my personal testimony. In the end, it seems that this is a book I will keep on my shelf for further reference.

 



[1]Mark I. Bubeck, The Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Activity (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1975), 46.

[2]Ibid, 50.

[3]Ibid, 85.

[4]Ibid, 136.

[5]Ibid 15.

[6] Gary Habermas, “Paradigm Shift: a Challenge to Naturalism,” Bibliotheca Sacra (146:584 Oct-Dec 1989), 437.

[7]Bubeck, The Adversary, 30.

[8] Shankar Vedantam, “Antidepressant Use By U.S. Adults Soars,” Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29751-2004Dec2.html (accessed 7/29/2011).

[9] Bubeck, The Adversary, 61.

[10]Bubeck, The Adversary, 87.

[11]Ibid, 147.

[12]Ibid, 87.

[13]Ibid, 130.

[14]Chrystal Whitt, “Rick Joyner, Todd Bentley, and the New Apostolic Reformation,” Apprising Ministries, http://apprising.org/2010/06/12/rick-joyner-todd-bentley-and-the-new-apostolic-reformation/ (accessed 7/28/2011).

 

 

About Cris Putnam
Logos Apologia is the ministry of Cris D. Putnam. The mission of Logos Apologia is to show that logic, science, history and faith are complementary, not contradictory and to bring that life-changing truth to everybody who wants to know.

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