Book Review: The Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson

This essay will first give an overview and summary of The Bondage Breaker, and then it will offer several key points of analysis. The first point of analysis will be Satan’s status as accuser, which naturally leads to how one interprets several pertinent passages of scripture. Drawing on a critique by Elliot Miller of the Christians Research Journal, the issue of the sin nature and the believer and the demonization of believers will be examined. The issue of ancestral curses will be examined along with Andersen’s hermeneutic of exclusively using the epistles for spiritual warfare theology. Finally, my personal experience will be discussed. The paper will attempt to show that this book is overall quite sound and that it has been of enormous benefit to my own journey.

Brief Summary

Neil Anderson is genuinely concerned with freeing folks from spiritual bondage to fear, depression and addictions through the provision of Christ who is the bondage breaker. The book begins by addressing some common misconceptions held by sincere Christians. He argues that many of us actually have an unbiblical worldview influenced by naturalism. For instance many think that demons were active during the first century but their activity has subsided. This is a non-starter if one accepts Ephesians 6:12 as part of their worldview. Similarly many believe that medical science has proven all such demonic phenomenon to be mental illness. In fact he argues that a biblical worldview will recognize that all problems are spiritual. There is no psychological problem which is not spiritual and vice versa. He also argues that it is a common misconception to think that Christians cannot be affected by demons. Furthermore demonic influence need not be overtly obvious it is often subtle deception. He argues that freedom is not gained by a power encounter rather a truth encounter. Affirming the truth of Christ’s victory is the primary defense against the enemy’s intimidation.

The second chapter is focused on the issue of worldview. He argues that the western world is experiencing a paradigm shift away from naturalism toward the embrace of New Age spirituality and mysticism. Yet it is more correct to see it as a two tiered system with the natural rational world on bottom acting within the laws of science and the transcendent spiritual realm in which modern man relegates the supernatural. Westerners living in this secular two tiered paradigm are actually in the excluded middle which is in fact reality. Many Christians live as though the supernatural has no effect on their lives and are deceived by the culture. The primary spiritual battle is in the mind. Satan seeks to promote selfishness and self-centeredness. The way of Christ is to deny yourself. Anderson makes an important distinction between self-denial and denying one’s self. Self-denial is regularly practiced by narcissistic persons who want to be thin or physically fit. It still is self-focused for self-gratification. Anderson contends, “To deny ourselves is to deny self-rule. Dying to self is the primary battle of life.”[1] He exhorts the reader to sacrifice the pleasures of the world to gain the eternal. The Christian life is one of humble service and has no room for worldly egotism.

Much of the battle for the Christian is in recognizing their identity in Christ. Chapter three presents a list of important scripture passages which assert the believers acceptance, security and significance. He explains that people who are demonically oppressed have a hard time acknowledging their worth and position in Christ. Anderson explains that when one accepts the Gospel and is born again a transformation begins and the believer is no longer subject to the law of sin and death. An important line in the book contends, “It is not what we do that determines who we are. It is who we are that determines what we do.”[2] This runs counter to conventional cultural wisdom but is coherent with biblical revelation. He then resents a dialog with Dan which illustrates the process of someone coming to understand this truth. It is largely a battle for the mind.

Chapter five codifies the teaching on the believer’s authority in Christ with a discussion of the relevant passages and principles. Believers carry Jesus’ authority, the right to rule, and power, the ability to rule. Luke 10:17 is a foundational passage where the disciples realize that the demons are subject to them. He also argues from Ephesians 2:5-6 that because we are seated with Christ at the right hand of God that through him we have authority over the demons. He lists four essential qualifications: 1) Belief; 2) Humility in that one can do nothing without Christ; 3) Boldness (2 Timothy 1:7); 4) Dependence in that our authority is in God’s calling. We put first things first.[3] Chapter six encourages the reader that Jesus will protect.

Anderson makes a very apt analogy to germs and disease. Most people are aware that we are always surrounded by invisible bacteria and germs that can potentially make us ill. Even still, we do not live in constant fear and apprehension because we trust that a reasonable level of care and sanitary practice along with our natural immune system will keep us healthy. When people do become hyper-vigilant in this area it can lead to paranoia and paralyzing fear. Michael Jackson’s practice of wearing a mask in public bore the brunt of many jokes but is an unfortunate example. This transfers nicely to the believer’s position with demons. We know that they are all around us influencing our world but we trust in Christ and by the daily maintenance of our spiritual condition that they cannot harm us. The discussion of the spiritual armor in Ephesians six reveals that these elements are received at salvation and much of our battle is in claiming and believing our position in Christ. Prayer is our greatest defense against spiritual blindness. The next couple chapters cover some tempting errors.

The occult is an old temptation which promises power through secret knowledge. It is expressly forbidden in the Bible and is identified as demonic. Even so, it is being repackaged as “spirituality” and is more popular than ever. At the time of Andersen’s writing the New Age movement was gaining popularity but today it is the norm. Oprah Winfrey has almost single handedly made alternative spirituality the main stream. He then covers temptation by breaking it into three categories: 1) the lust of the flesh; 2) the lust of the eyes; 3) the pride of life. The latter entails the temptation to take charge of one’s own life and supplant God’s role. Anderson advises that one capture every thought because the battle always begins in the mind. The solution is submission to God. He teaches, “Submission to God involves more than confession. It requires genuine repentance which means a change of mind and way of life.”[4] Confession without repentance is empty. Freedom requires change. Next, he covers the discouragement by accusation. One of the enemy’s common strategies is to confound the believer by destroying confidence.

Satan is an accuser. In fact, that is what the term means in Hebrew. Satan and his minions will tempt and then accuse. The strategy is to make one despondent and ineffective. One should claim the truth that there is no condemnation for those in Christ (Rom 8:1). He makes the important distinction between conviction and accusation by appealing to 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. He also dispels a common misunderstanding about the unforgivable sin. Many falsely believe they are beyond redemption due to blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Proper exegesis reveals that this was actually the sin of those who accused Jesus of working miracles by the power of Satan. Andresen argues that the unpardonable sin is rejecting the witness of the Spirit, which is necessarily impossible for a Christian. The enemy thrives on deception.

Satan’s number one strategy is deception. Anderson discusses a plethora of manifestations in three categories: self-deception, false prophets/teachers, and deceiving spirits. Our primary defense is to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). There is an excellent discussion on signs and wonders and discerning the counterfeit from the real. Spiritual discernment involves examining one’s motives and the goal is to distinguish right from wrong in order to humbly obey. He moves into controversial territory by arguing that demons can indwell believers. He addresses the argument that the Holy Spirit and a demon cannot dwell in the same place with, “Satan is the god of this world and ‘the prince of the power of the air’ (Eph 2:2). Thus Satan and his demons are present in the atmosphere of this world, but so is the omnipresent Holy Spirit—which means they sometimes coexist.”[5] This seems fair enough God is allowing their existence for now. Chapter 12 examines many pertinent Bible passages and offers client testimony. Anderson then lays out his steps to freedom.

Chapter 13 presents the seven steps to freedom. The first step is to renounce all past or present involvement with occult practices and non-Christian religions. The second step is to open one’s eyes to having been deceived by the world system and coming into truth. Step three involves forgiving others and letting go of all bitterness so Satan cannot take advantage (2 Cor 2:10-11; Eph 4:31-32). Step four entails submission to proper authority. The fifth step is repentance from pride and selfishness. The sixth step involves confession and repentance in submission to God (Jms 4:7; 1 Jn 1:9). In the seventh step Anderson exhorts one to, “renounce the sins of your ancestors as well as any curses which may have been placed on you by deceived and evil people or groups.”[6] This entails ancestral curses and demonization which will be further discussed in the next section. Each step includes appropriate prayers and practical advice on working through the issues. He also advises that the battle is never over; walking in freedom requires maintenance by walking in truth, confessing and repenting as necessary. The book concludes with some advice on helping others to find freedom.

Critical interaction

Satan’s foremost device is deception and this is necessarily so because in reality he is a defeated foe by the cross and his days are numbered. The extent of his defeat is controversial. Like Bubeck Anderson thinks, “Satan now has access to our Father in heaven,”[7] but it seems to me that he was cast out after Jesus death and resurrection (Jn 12:31). I believe he lost his official capacity in heaven (Col 2:15). The Amillennialist would actually take this even further to argue that Satan is bound in chains (Rev 20:2-3). However, this is one the best arguments against Amillennialism because post cross 1 John 5:19 says, “…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Even more, Revelation 20:3 says that Satan is bound so that he will “not deceive the nations any longer” but Paul says he blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor 4:4).  While this seems devastating to Amillennialism, we must reconcile Jesus’ remarks in Luke 10:18 and John 12:31.  I believe that the best course is to see the war in heaven described in Revelation 12 as roughly coinciding with the ascension and that Satan was subsequently banished from heaven.  Accordingly, I do not believe Satan is in the role of the accuser in the divine council as presented in the book of Job and Zechariah.

Eliot Miller wrote a scathing critique for the Christian Research Journal called, “The Bondage Maker: Examining the Message and Method of Neil T. Andersen.”[8] A primary criticism is that Miller thinks Anderson believes that, “Christians no longer possess a sin nature.”[9] This seems misplaced because Anderson never directly says we do not have a sin nature. His evidence appears to be cherry picked and misconstrued. For instance, he quotes this from The Bondage Breaker as evidence, “At salvation God changed our very essence; we became ‘partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust’ (2 Peter 1:4).”[10] He quotes from other books as well but none of the statements seem to fully add up to the charge. In fact, Anderson explicitly argues against it:

Being a saint or a child of God doesn’t mean that you are sinless (1 John 1:8). But since your old self has been crucified and buried with Christ, you no longer have to sin (1 John 2:1). You sin when you choose to believe a lie or act independently of God.[11]

Elliot accuses Anderson of confusing legal status before God with actual holiness.[12] However, Anderson fully acknowledges the need for sanctification. He writes, “Being alive and free in Christ is part of positional sanctification, which is the basis for progressive sanctification.”[13] Theologian, Millard Erickson writes, “Sanctification is a process by which one’s moral condition is brought into conformity with one’s legal status before God.”[14] Indeed, there seems to be a lack of clarity between positional justification and actual sanctification but the error is Miller’s not Andersen’s. Anderson specifically acknowledges the distinction.

Another major criticism offered in the article is that Anderson teaches, “Christians can be and often are demonized (indwelt and controlled by demons).”[15] Miller argues that it is not possible, “The presence of the Holy Spirit within believers — which is not conditioned on their obedience — guarantees this (2 Cor. 6:14-18; cf. Matt. 12:43-45; 1 John 4:4; 5:18).”[16] While this seems like a good argument, others disagree. Unger contends,

The claim that the Holy Spirit could not dwell in the same body with an evil spirit overlooks an important theological observation. It might with equal cogency be asked how the Holy Spirit can dwell in our bodies, which are still possessed of the old nature and therefore subject to sin. Yet He does because of our redemption and the presence of the new nature.[17]

It is ironic that Miller was arguing against Anderson insisting on the presence of the sin nature. This seems inconsistent with his argument that the presence of the Spirit precludes demonization. While I never felt completely controlled, my personal experience is that I definitely experienced hearing voices and internal presence of evil spirits which could manipulate my body as a new convert. Because this happened to me, I side with Anderson and Unger.

Like Bubeck, Anderson also believes in generational curses and ancestral demonization. This seems to assume that one’s acceptance of Christ does not break the connection. Anderson writes:

Iniquities can be passed on from one generation to the next if you don’t renounce the sins of your ancestors and claim your new spiritual heritage in Christ. You are not guilty for the sin of any ancestor, but because of their sin, you may be vulnerable to Satan’s attack.[18]

Yet, we know that Christ’s salvific work is complete so it does not seem justified to believe in ancestral curses. It may be that demons are territorial and the perception of ancestral curses may have more to do with proximity or where one resides than any spiritual connection. Demons may simply lie and use an ancestral curse as a ruse to instill fear and in so doing manipulate. It seems likely that is nothing more than an issue of convenient proximity as families have relational contact. Some of Andersen’s weaknesses may derive from his neglect of the Gospels.

Anderson believes one should only derive methods for spiritual warfare from the epistles. He argues, “We should derive our methodology for dealing with the kingdom of darkness primarily from the epistles rather than the Gospels and the Book of Acts.”[19] His rationale is that the events in the Gospels were prior to the cross and necessarily under the old covenant. However, this argument does not apply to the book of Acts at all in fact by his own reasoning Acts should be definitive. Yet he cautions, “There is some disagreement among Christians about how much method and theology we should extract from this important book.”[20] I wonder does he question the inspiration of Acts. It seems to me that proper exegesis of Acts should provide our principle models. It is authoritative scripture. What is even more perplexing is in the very same section Anderson breaks his own rule when it suits his purpose:

If you were successful in casting a demon out of someone without his or her involvement, what is to keep the demon from coming back when you leave? Unless the individual assumes responsibility for his own freedom, he may end up like the poor fellow who was freed from one spirit only to be occupied by seven others who were worse than the first (Matthew 12:43-45).[21]

Maybe that would only occur under the Old Covenant? Of course he does not consider that because the Gospels are important for deriving our methodology and he is mistaken and inconsistent for saying they are not.

PERSONAL APPLICATION

I personally came to Christ after being involved in the occult and being demonized. It was this book The Bondage Breaker that helped me to break free. I must admit I was pretty credulous as a new Christian and I was suffering with substance abuse issues and relying on alternative spiritual ideas I picked up from Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. My drug use opened me wide to the influence of demons. I have examined myself critically trying to ascertain if it was simply my own mind malfunctioning due to chemicals or whether it was actual demonic influence. I am convinced that I experienced things that were not a product of my own mind and were necessarily external to me. There came a point where I was able to claim scriptural truths in my own defense and had actual arguments with the “voices.”

I am sure the secular therapists would have labeled me as only insane and in a sense I was for a while. While my sanity was surely lacking in some areas, I was still demonized. I heard internal voices directing me to do things that I had no desire to do. I do not believe they were from me. In fact, they tilted their hand by revealing information that I had no way of knowing that was later verified. However, I also experienced the influence of other spirits who seemed to direct me toward the straight and narrow. I am hesitant to trust any of it in light of, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Co 11:14). However, some of the messages I heard have influenced me for the better. Since, then I have pursued biblical studies and theological training with a passion and I have never had a serious temptation for over five years. Most folks who behave as I did are dead or in prison. Through God’s grace I am alive and well. I would have never thought this level of freedom was possible. I know it must be God’s grace because there is no other viable explanation. I believe this book helped me and that it can help others find that freedom as well.

CONCLUSION

This paper offered a summary and analysis of The Bondage Breaker. In offering a brief summary, the paper sought to illustrate the value of the book by showing how it provides a systematic way to break free from spiritual oppression. Critique was offered in that I disagree with Anderson on Satan’s access to heaven, ancestral curses, and only using the epistles. The work of one of his staunches critics was examined and although some valid observations are made it seems to be somewhat misrepresentative. I agreed with Anderson against his critic that believers can indeed experience a high level of demonization if they open the door through sin. This is born out in my own experience. I was grateful to have this book in my own struggle. In the end, it seems that this book has stood the test of time and is still aiding in setting captives free.



[1] Neil T. Anderson, The Bondage Breaker (Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition 2006), 39.

[2] Ibid, 51.

[3] Ibid, 87.

[4] Ibid, 150.

[5] Ibid, 186.

[6] Ibid, 239.

[7] Andersen, Bondage, 186.

[8] Elliot Miller, “The Bondage Maker: Examining the Message and Method of Neil T. Anderson (Part 1),” Christian  Research Journal, http://journal.equip.org/articles/the-bondage-maker-examining-the-message-and-method-of-neil-t-anderson-part-1- (accessed 08/13/2011).

[9] Ibid, 1.

[10] Andersen, Bondage, 48.

[11] Ibid, 49.

[12] Miller, “Bondage Maker,” 4.

[13] Ibid, 12.

[14]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1998), 980.

[15] Miller, “Bondage Maker,” 1.

[16] Elliot Miller, “The Bondage Maker: Examining the Message and Method of Neil T. Anderson (Part 2)” Christian Research Journal, http://journal.equip.org/articles/the-bondage-maker-examining-the-message-and-method-of-neil-t-anderson-part-2- (accessed 08/13/2011).

[17]Merrill Frederick Unger, What Demons Can Do to Saints, Originally Published: Chicago : Moody Press, 1977. (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1991), 60.

[18] Ibid, 240.

[19] Ibid, 255.

[20] Ibid, 256.

[21] Ibid, 257.

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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