Christianity and Iconoclasm

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The parishioners of St. Jacob’s Catholic church, Enugu, were shocked beyond words in January 2019 when a woman went to their Marian grotto on a Sunday morning, doused their statue with fuel and set it ablaze.

Conversely, in several parts of Southern Nigeria, it’s not uncommon for mobs of zealous Christians to seek out pagan shrines, burn them to the ground and destroy their idols.

The same trend is reported in other countries where Christians vandalize Buddhist or Hindu temples, decapitating their images and spray-painting words like “Jesus is the only true God” on their walls.

Many of these Christians fondly see themselves as warriors defending the faith, and would identify themselves as iconoclasts.

The term iconoclasm comes from the word icon (from the Greek eikon, “to resemble”), signifying a religious picture or image, and klan (Gk., meaning “to break”). Hence, an iconoclast was one who advocated the destruction of images.

From history, the use and adoration of images in the church began toward the end of the third century. This was a common practice in the Eastern branch of the church due to the influence of heathen worship (E. H. Klotsche, The History of Christian Doctrine, Grand Rapids, 1979, p. 118).

This trend spread to the West and continued until 726 A.D. when Emperor Leo III issued an edict forbidding the use of images in the church and commanding them to be destroyed. This resulted in the Byzantine iconoclastic movement provoking riots, persecution and destruction of entire monasteries.

Even though some Catholics were also opposed to image worship, the practice began to gain impetus at the Second Council of Nicea of 784.

During the 16th century Reformation, Calvinists led waves of iconoclasm which swept through many Protestant cities and territories in Europe:

“The destruction was radical, but orderly. It was effected by the co-operation of the preachers and the civil magistracy, with the consent of the people. It began at Pentecost, and was completed June 1524 … the churches of the city were purged of pictures, relics, crucifixes, altars, candles, and all ornaments … The Swiss iconoclasm passed into the Reformed Churches of France, Holland, Scotland, and North America” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, VIII ch. 3, S. 19).

This, of course provoked riots from the people, including Lutherans, who favoured such religious arts in their churches and homes.

Other instances of iconoclasm also occurred in several parts of Africa and Polynesia during the colonial era, between the 19th-20th century. Though, the extent of aggression or cooperation involved in these movements is quite debatable.

Those in the West where religions enjoy legal protection, would find it puzzling that someone would have such fanatical zeal to destroy the objects of worship of marginal religions.

But for many of us raised in cultures that were steeped in paganism, the constant tension between indigenous religions and a more civilized religion/faith is an extant reality.

On the one hand, the Christian seeks to eschew idolatry and on the other, in his fervour to please God, he feels the need to obliterate what is detestable in His sight.

How one can balance both levers without falling into the ditch on either side needs to be vigorously discussed in the church, otherwise, we can negate our message with certain actions and stir up bitter hostility where there ought to be none.

Here’s the lingering question: is it biblically and logically right for a Christian today to carry out mass destruction of physical images and structures of other religions?

1. The motive behind every iconoclasm should be weighed. To be sure, iconoclasm has also been (even more) executed by non-Christian religions.

(a) In ancient Egypt, Akhenaten instituted a state monolatristic tradition focused on the god Aten, the solar disk. So he sent his officials to destroy temples and monuments and chisel out every reference to Amun and the names of other deities besides Aten on tombs, temples and cartouches.

(b) When Muhammad and his armies captured Mecca, they destroyed the physical images of all the deities in the Kaaba, though retaining some of their rituals.

Later in the 8th century, the Edict of Yazid ordered the destruction of crosses and Christian images within the caliphate. Islamic conquests also executed iconoclastic agenda against Hinduism, Buddhism, Egyptian religions and the Shi’ite sect. Up till today, historic sites and minority religious structures are being destroyed in Islamic climes.

(c) During the French Revolution, numerous monuments, religious works and other historically significant pieces were destroyed in an attempt to wipe out the memories of the Old Regime.

(d) During the Chinese Tang dynasty and Xinhai Revolution, there was widespread destruction of Buddhist temples, images as well as historical artwork – whether secular or religious. The same occurred during the Northern Expedition in Guangxi in 1926 and the Cultural Revolution led by Mao Zedong.

Iconoclasm in these instances was about power – one side with dominant political power seeking to establish itself by eradicating others. Iconoclasm can have purely political, expansionist and triumphalist motives.

2. Granted, God commanded the Jews to “destroy their altars … break down their sacred pillars… cut down their wooden images” (Dt. 7:5), “burn the carved images of their gods” (Dt. 7:25).

However, these were directed at the pagan nations inhabiting the Promised Land which God had given to the Israelites. They only carried out iconoclasm on specific pagan nations as God directly commanded them.

These iconoclastic commands have not been given to any other nation since then, and it can’t be properly applied to the Church – since it’s worldwide and doesn’t have an earthly Promised Land. Thus, those passages have limited application.

3. When Israel became an identifiable nation with God-chosen Judges, Kings and Prophets, national repentance was often signified by collective destruction of pagan artefacts, altars and shrines and renunciation of pagan worship (e.g 2 Kgs. 10:27-28; 2 Chr. 17:5-6).

These were purgings initiated by converted hearts, even if mediated by monarchial or prophetic orders. An analogy can be drawn from these today when a community forsakes their idols and turn to the Living God.

This is by far the most legitimate expression of iconoclasm. This occurred during the 20th century revivals held by Apostle Joseph Babalola in the South West.

4. Christian iconoclasm, however, can have a boomerang effect if it’s ignited by legalistic and totalitarian objectives. It can have both good and bad outcomes.

Let’s take the Protestant Reformation as an example. Though Calvin himself did not support iconoclastic violence, many of his associates and followers did.

In Switzerland, in the Rhenish and Netherlandish territories, and in England, 16th century Calvinists defaced, destroyed, and confiscated a great many works of art, paintings, sculpure, stained-glass windows, ecclesiastical furnishings and whole buildings.

Libraries were burned, pianos were removed, tapestry and other ornaments were sold or given away. Though their intentions were to purify Christendom, their methods were extreme and severe. Eventually, it didn’t fare too well.

When iconoclasm is animated by legalistic impulses, what qualifies as “sacred” and “abominable” is often subject to the view of the iconoclast.

For instance, some Christians believe jewelleries, hair extensions, make-up, body ornaments and even statues or paintings of animals like frogs, fishes and fishes are demonic and detestable before God. If they should carry out a mass purging of a city they deem to be ungodly, all these materials will fall under their destruction category.

Such a move may be touted as a discontinuity with the past, but it can actually revive a need for continuity with the old trends. This is a consequence of imposing true worship with the arm of the flesh.

5. In addressing iconoclasm, we also need to understand that idolatry is nuanced and complex. It is more than just physical images. It has spiritual, mental and psychological hold on people.

Spiritual, in the sense that whenever people make an idol – whether with wood, clay, bronze or gold – and gather to worship it, some evil spirits are assigned by Satan there to hover around the shrine and influence the lives of those worshippers. They can also speak through the priests and priestesses to the adherents and from there, rites of worship develop.

Mental, in the sense that an idol is often a representation of a god or gods conceived by the mind of man. So an idol may not necessarily be a physical image or representation. A person can have an imagination or false conception of God (or a god) and direct his worship toward that false god. It’s still idolatry, but a mental one.

Psychologically, most idolaters make physical images from the archetypes embedded within their psyche. No Catholic has seen the actual Mary before. No Hindu has seen Vishnu either. But they attach that name to whatever image has been made with human hands and infuse it with certain features and attributes which they desire in themselves or seek to banish.

Therefore, merely destroying physical images of idols or pagan deities doesn’t solve the problem. The worshipper can simply pick up the same idol in another form.

This is obviously why God didn’t command Christians to go from house to house destroying people’s physical idols in the New Testament like it was done in the OT.

The reason is simple: it would be a useless exercise if the spirits behind those idols are still influencing the people and those image archetypes still exist in their minds.

6. Indeed, some Christians have shared genuine experiences where they were led by the Holy Spirit to engage in spiritual warfare prayers and some pagan idols or altars were supernaturally destroyed.

While I do not discredit such experiences, I will say that these are exceptional cases.

I know that many Christians involved in “spiritual mapping” and territorial warfare prayers visit shrines or temples and pray against the idols there, with the intent that the ruling demon would lose its hold and the worshippers will be saved.

Some Christians even proceed to deface and wreck religious artefacts, like the examples given at the outset, drawing on the example of Gideon in the OT.

My take is, unless God specifically directs you to go on such an assignment, you are skating on thin ice. One, because you can’t successfully fight a battle that our Captain (Jesus) hasn’t authorized you to fight.

Two, you can’t expel an evil spirit from its residence unless its legal right to rule has been revoked. As long as its altars, images, emblems and the shrines are there, the demon still has the right to reign there.

Three, having studied the book of Acts over and over, I can’t find a place where the apostles or early Christians (who lived in pagan cultures) were praying against the spirits of Zeus, Mars, Artemis, or Castor and Pollux or destroying their images and temples so that pagans would massively come to Christ.

Instead, they went about preaching the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit and many were saved. That’s the power of God’s Word. When the people were truly converted by the Holy Spirit, they gathered their own occult books and burnt them in public (Acts 19: 19).

7. The Bible says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5)

In other words, our battle is not really against physical structures or images and it shouldn’t be fought with physical weapons.

Therefore, as true Christian iconoclasts, we are to demolish arguments and imaginations that fuel false worship and bring down false ideas, philosophies and imagery that enslave people to them.

When those freed now decide to physically destroy their objects of false worship, we know the victory won in the spirit has been sealed in the physical.

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A Cross or Torture Stake: Evaluating the Watchtower’s Claims

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There is perhaps no other Christian symbol that is despised by Jehovah’s Witnesses as the Cross. This is reflective of their contempt for the Christian Church, which they derogatorily term as “apostate Christendom.”

This piece intends to demonstrate that the very belief of Watchtower Society regarding the cross of Christ actually exposes it as an organization that every truth-seeking individual must reject.

An Innovative Idea

At its inception in 1884 and for more than half a century, the Watchtower Society held the cross in high esteem. Many of their publications during these early years contained references – some with vivid illustrations – of Christ’s death upon a cross.

For example, the Society’s early symbol, a cross and crown, was featured on the cover of each edition of The Watchtower magazine.

Their founder, Charles Taze Russell’s pyramid monument at his gravesite in Pittsburgh’s Rosemont United Cemetery, also bears this cross and crown image.

In 1921, the second president of the Watchtower Society, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, wrote:

The cross of Christ is the greatest pivotal truth to the divine arrangement, from which radiate the hopes of men” (The Harp of God, p. 141).

An illustration from a book titled Life, written by Rutherford in 1929 clearly showed Jesus carrying the cross on the way to Golgotha (page 198).

But in 1931 things began to change. First, the cross and crown image was dropped from their magazine. Then in 1936, Rutherford released a book, Riches, where he declared that: “Jesus was crucified, not on a cross of wood … Jesus was crucified by nailing his body to a tree” (p. 27).

Since then, the current JW position was affirmed: “We know that Jesus was nailed to a torture stake” (The Watchtower, January 15, 1966, p. 63).

The Watchtower Society illustrates this torture stake as a single standing pole without a horizontal cross beam, with one nail piercing both of Jesus’ hands – which were placed above His head.

All the artistic renditions in Watchtower publications present this, yet we are told:

“In one instance, he invited Thomas to inspect the wounds inflicted in his hands by means of the nails [John 20:19-29]” (The Watchtower, January 15, 1966, p. 63).

Now this is a contradiction. If Jesus died on a torture stake, it would require just a single nail piercing both hands, yet this Watchtower article is telling us about “wounds inflicted in his hands by means of the NAILS.”

Is it one nail or two?

Granted, The Watchtower says “the depictions of Jesus’ death in our publications … are merely reasonable artistic renderings of the scene…” (August 15, 1987, p. 29).

If this is true, then their depiction of Jesus’ death should not contradict the Bible, logic, archaeology and history. But this is not the case as I will show.

Biblical evidence

First, the Bible clearly states that Jesus’ hands were nailed with two nails. It quotes the words of Thomas who was an eyewitness to the crucifixion:

Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails...” (John 20:25).

The nails mentioned here were for His hands, not feet. Notice that he used the plural form of the word ‘‘nail,’’ while ‘‘print’’ is singular, indicating a separate nail punctured each hand leaving a single mark in each hand.

Second, in Matthew’s account, we read:

‘‘They put up above His head the
charge against Him, which read,
‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’’’
(Matthew 27:37).

Notice the description provided in God’s inspired Word. Matthew reported that the proclamation of Pontius Pilate was ‘‘set up over his head.’’ If Christ had been impaled as the Watchtower describes, the text would have read: ‘‘set up over (or above) his hands.’’

Evidently, Jesus died on a cross. His hands were stretched out and the sign was placed above His head.

Third, the very words of Jesus Himself prophesying the Apostle Peter’s martyrdom refutes the claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses:

‘‘Truly, truly, I say to you, when
you were younger, you used to
gird yourself, and walk wherever
you wished; but when you grow
old, you will stretch out your
hands, and someone else will gird
you, and bring you where you do
not wish to go. Now this He said,
signifying by what kind of death
he would glorify God” (John 21:18-
19).

Notice again the wording of Scripture as Jesus declared that Peter’s hands would be stretched out, not raised over his head. Peter’s crucifixion is attested to by church history.

Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t have it both ways. They must either accept the inspired Biblical record or cleave to the uninspired Watchtower Society.

Semantic Acrobatics

JWs argue that the Greek words translated as ‘cross,’ stauros, means an upright stake or pole and not a timber joined into a cross.

Indeed, during the BC era, the term stauros strictly meant a pole or stake, but when the Romans adopted Greek language and customs, stauros came to be used to refer to both poles and crosses.

Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (vol. VII, p. 572) gives three meanings for stauros. Only one of them matches the Watchtower’s; the others present other distinct meanings:

‘‘The στανρoς [stauros] is an instrument of torture for serious offenses, … In shape we find three basic forms. The cross was a vertical pointed stake [Skolops] … or it consisted of an upright with a cross-beam above it [T, crux commissa] … or it consisted of two intersecting beams of equal length [† crux immissa].”

Another Greek scholar, Joseph Thayer, agrees with the dual meaning of stauros:

‘‘An upright stake, esp. a pointed
one, … a cross; a. the well-known
instrument of most cruel and ignominious punishment, borrowed by the Greeks and Romans from the
Phoenicians…” (Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 586).

The Watchtower Society dogmatically assert that the word xy’lon used in Acts 5:30, Galatians 3:13 and 1 Peter 2:24 means ‘timber,’ not a cross.

Actually, the Greek word is xulon and it carries more definitions than “the Society” tells its readers.

Greek scholar W. E. Vine translates xulon as ‘‘wood, a piece of wood, anything made of wood’’ and gives its application as ‘‘of the Cross, the tree being the stau-ros’, the upright pole or stake to which the Romans nailed those who were thus to be executed’’ (The Expanded Vine’s Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, p. 1165).

Kittel gives one of its renderings as ‘‘Cross. A distinctive NT use of ξùλον [xulon] is in the sense ‘cross’ (Theological Dictionary, Vol. 5 p. 39).

Strong’s Concordance defines xulon as anything made from wood, be it a stake, cross or a tree. It doesn’t have a fixed usage. In Matthew 26:47, the word is used for wooden instruments and in Acts 16:24 for clubs or stocks.

In non-Biblical texts, like Antiquities of the Jews for instance, Josephus used it to refer to “gallows” (Book II), and Polybius used it for “a cudgel” (Histories, Book VI).

An online Greek lexicon work defines xulon (tree) as “a beam from which anyone is suspended, a gibbet, a cross, a log or timber, a cudgel or a staff.”

In English language, the term “tree” has a variety of uses which includes a cross, therefore, its Biblical use is completely justified. The Watchtower is being deceptive by providing a single definition for a word with different meanings.

Misquoting Sources

In Watchtower publications, quotes from the Catholic Encyclopedia, Critical Lexicon and Concordance or Greek scholars are often presented to convince the reader that stauros rigidly means torture stake.

But these quotes usually lack complete references or page numbers so you can’t double-check them. The reason is: Watchtower writers quote their sources out of context as if the authors agree with their views. (See some documented examples here and here)

Two examples will suffice.

(1) They cite the work of a
Roman Catholic scholar, Justus Lipsius (1547-1606), De
Cruce Liber Primus.

The illustration in it depicts a man being impaled on an upright stake and based upon the drawing, readers are told: ‘‘This is the manner in which Jesus was impaled.’’

But when one consults this Latin work (which is difficult to find), the dishonesty of the Watchtower Society becomes evident. The work includes several wood-cut illustrations portraying impalement or crucifixion. Most of these illustrations depict a man on the cross, not torture stake.

And Lipsius never suggested that Jesus was impaled on a cross, but instead argued for a ‘‘cross’’ with such statements as, ‘‘the cross was inserted and the other crosswise bar is joined and inserted with the upright plank, and thus it cuts [divides] itself.” (Justus Lipsius, De Cruce Liber Primus, Ch. IX, pg. 24. Translated from Latin by Marie Tseng, University of Southern California).

(2) They also quote from the Imperial Bible Dictionary (1874, vol. 1, p. 376):

“The Greek word for cross, properly signified a stake, an upright pole … Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and always remained the more prominent part. But from the time it began to used as an instrument of punishment, a transverse piece of wood was commonly added. .. about the period of the Gospel age, crucifixion was commonly accomplished by suspending the criminal on a cross piece of wood.”

The part appearing in bold was conveniently omitted by Watchtower leaders for obvious reasons: it damages their argument. So, they dishonestly cite it as if the author agreed with their theory. This is a common tactic in JW publications.

Archaeological evidence

False beliefs do not usually survive the light of scientific inquiry. The archaeological evidence favouring a cross is much more convincing than the alternative theory.

In his book, Evangelism in the Early Church, Michael Green states:

‘‘Some experts doubt whether the cross became a Christian symbol so early, but the recent discoveries of the cross, the fish, the star and the plough, all well known from the second century, on ossuaries of the Judaeo-Christian community in Judea put the possibility beyond reasonable cavil’’ (pp. 214-215).

In the 1945 discoveries at Talpioth, eleven ossuaries were found and reported to be from Christian grave sites in Bethany. These burial boxes too were engraved with crosses and their burial date was estimated at 42-43 A.D. – slightly more than a decade after our Lord’s death and resurrection (Jack Finegan, The Archeology of the New Testament, pp. 238-240).

Even non-Christians indicate that archaeology favours the cross above a torture stake. In 1971, it was reported that:

“Israeli archaeologists announced that they had identified the remains of the unfortunate young man and found clear evidence of his grisly execution. The Israelis scholars who studied the find for more than two years before making their announcement, were understandably cautious. What they uncovered and authenticated is the first firm physical evidence of an actual crucifixion in the ancient Mediterranean world” (Time Magazine, 1971, p. 64).

Early Church History

From the works of early church writers, one can infer that it was common knowledge that Jesus died on a cross.

In 100 AD, the writer of The Epistle of Barnabas (12:2) says:

“The Spirit saith to the heart of Moses, that he should make a type of the cross and of Him that was to suffer, that unless, saith he, they shall set their hope on Him, war shall be waged against them for ever” (J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, eds. The Apostolic Fathers, p. 278).

Justin Martyr (160 AD) described the cross beam used to crucify Jesus and wrote that, “He will come again in glory after His crucifixion was symbolized by the tree” (Dialogue with Trypho, p. 40).

Ignatius of Antioch, an early church leader, in his Epistle to the Trallians (11:1-2), speaks of the ungodly and says:

‘‘These men are not the Father’s
planting; for if they had been, they
would have been seen to be
branches of the Cross, and their
fruit imperishable — the Cross
whereby He through His passion
inviteth us, being His members.”

Tertullian also said that Christians used the Greek letter tau or T as a sign of the cross after the manner of Jesus’ death (Ad nationes 1:11).

Interestingly, The Watchtower (November 15, 1993, p. 9) quotes Tacitus, a historian saying that the early Christians were “nailed up to crosses” after the manner of Christ.

An ancient drawing (dating back to the 3rd century) called Alexamanos graffito shows a Roman soldier worshipping a man with a donkey head being crucified. The caption on it reads:

“Alexamanos worships [his] God”.

It was probably intended to mock Christians who worshipped a victim of crucifixion.

Early church scholar, Tertullian, made allusion to these mockeries of the Christian faith by unbelievers: “Some among you have dreamed that our god is an ass’s head – an absurdity which Cornelius Tacitus first suggested” (Ad nationes 1.11).

On a final note, true believers do not venerate or pray to a cross as Jehovah’s Witnesses are made to believe. The true Christian focus is not on the cross as a piece of wood, but on what Jesus accomplished on it (Col. 2:14-15)

However, when Biblical, historical, archaeological and logical evidence are integrated, it’s safe to conclude that Jehovah’s Witnesses are in plain error on this one. Their organization has revealed itself as one of the “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18).

Can Christians need Deliverance? (I)

The field of deliverance ministration is one in which many saints have laboured for ages. Today, there are many helpful materials on the subject and it’s not my intention to add to them.

In fact, I wasn’t particularly interested in wading into such an extensive area until a dear friend of mine recently brought up a question on the subject and I couldn’t provide an answer without delving into it. His question was: Can a Christian be infested with demons?

Now, before I give my answer, I need to emphasize that I have read from both sides of the fence – those who argue that a Christian cannot be inhabited by a demon and those who argue otherwise. 

So, my answer to the question is not based on denominational indoctrination, but from personal study, experience, interactions with other believers and logical deduction.

I was raised in a church which maintained that once you are born again, you have been automatically delivered from every demonic connection from your past. We believed deliverance ministration was only for witches, satanists, weirdos and tormented sex fiends.

But as the years went by as I began to critically examine my own life as well as those of others in that church, I didn’t see the “peace and joy” that we often talked about.

The people assured us that they were walking in victory on every side; that they were blessed above measure; that the devil was a babbling fool writhing underneath their feet, but right before my very eyes, I could see that these ecclesiastical idioms were just words they rehashed; their lives belied their gnomic claims.

I also observed strange things (which I later discovered to be demonic activities) operating in our lives. We were not really enjoying the things we claimed to have. But I didn’t want that. I wanted a realistic Christianity; one in which my life spoke louder than my words, and it was while searching for this better way that I realized that I was myself under demonic oppression!

Since my church had failed to enlighten us about demonic oppression or how to deal with it, I had unknowingly allowed demonic bondage persist in my life for several years through denial and loose living.

I was blinded to my own true spiritual state because the extent of the light entering our eyes determines how and what we will see. The extent of the spiritual truth you know will determine how far you will discern. We all see within the limits of our horizons.

Today, this church in question, now accepts the reality that even spirit-filled Christians can also need deliverance. But they were too late in admitting it.

Many sincere folks had left the church in frustration when they couldn’t find solutions to their problems. Many fervent pastors who knew about deliverance also left when they realized their ministry found no acceptance within the church.

Most of those in the “a-Christian-cannot-have-demon” camp are sadly casualties of an all-too-academic war; a war that is usually waged by ivory tower theologians who would not know a demon from a hole in the ground.

Whenever I come across preachers or authors who argue that a Christian cannot need deliverance ministration, I always want to assess their backgrounds, their level of experience in ministry, their knowledge of cultural nuances, their denominational positions and of course, their degree of dogmatism.

These are key factors that often shape most people’s acceptance and/or interpretations of spiritual realities.

I have observed that many missionaries who have worked with people from diverse cultures usually have a good understanding of spiritual warfare, deliverance and the operation of the Holy Spirit than many “sit-tight-in-church” clergymen with theological degrees under their belts, daily ensconced in one cool room, in a high brow part of the city.

Besides, you can’t have a vibrant ministry that leads people out of the cults, occult, drugs and sexual perversion and tenaciously argue against the reality of deliverance for believers. Unless, you are wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Granted, as Africans, sometimes when you read books written by some American or European Christian authors, you feel a sense of disconnect because of the differences in our cultural backgrounds.

The depth and scope of prayer ministration that a believer from a multi-generational pagan/occult background would need will not be the same as one from a multi-generational Christian family.

So, when an African or Asian Christian parrots the “anti-deliverance” arguments gleaned from a preacher who thinks the whole world revolves around America or Europe, it amounts to self-harming disservice. I would take the words of a man with experience above the one with an opinion any day.

First, let’s examine some basic facts about this issue:

(1) The Bible shows that deliverance is God’s provision for His people:

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psa. 34:17)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18).

It’s instructive to note that the Greek word for salvation, soteria, or sozo which is translated “to save” is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament that go beyond the forgiveness of sins.

It is used in many cases of people being physically healed (Matt. 9:21-22; 14:36; Mk. 5:23, 28). It is also used of a person being delivered from demons (Luke 8:36) and of a dead person being brought back to life (Luke 8:50). The same Greek verb is also used to describe God’s ongoing preservation and protection from evil (2 Timothy 4:18).

Therefore, salvation should not be limited to the experience of having one’s sins forgiven and being born again – and many Christians have sadly done this. Salvation is the key to abundance, healing, success, blessing and deliverance, which some have dubiously omitted from the package.

2. Deliverance is an arm of the ministry of Jesus Christ which the church must pay attention to.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18).

As Jesus and the disciples preached the gospel and the people believed, they were healed of their sicknesses and freed from demonic oppression (Matt. 10:1, 8; 12:24, 43; Mark 1:26; 3:15; Luke 4:36; 8:29; 9:49, 11:18 etc.). These signs go hand-in-hand with the Gospel and no preacher or theologian has any right whatsoever to set any of them aside.

It must also be noted that Jesus called deliverance from demonic bondage “the children’s bread” (Mark 7:27). The Greek woman had to put her faith in Christ to receive this privilege on her daughter’s behalf; it was (and is) a benefit for only God’s people. If you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, deliverance from all forms of captivity is your “bread”; your spiritual right.

Furthermore, the people from whom Jesus expelled demons in the Gospels were all Jews, under the Covenant of Moses. They could be viewed analogously to Christians in the New Testament under the New Covenant.

The apostles might have been an exception to this because Jesus directly cleansed them: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

3. A common objection frequently raised is, “Jesus didn’t ask the disciples to cast out demons from one another.”

If we apply this argument to the signs Jesus listed in Mark 16:17, then we should also say that Jesus never asked the disciples to minister the baptism of the Holy Spirit to other believers, neither did He say we should lay our hands on other believers to be healed.

Besides, the term ‘disciple’ has to be properly defined. It means a follower of Christ. And there were many disciples – before and after Pentecost – who were set free from the influence of demonic powers by the power of Christ (Luke 8:2; Acts 8:7; 19:12).

The premise behind the “Jesus-didn’t-expel-demons-from-the-disciples” argument is that once you are born again, you will never be physically sick again; you will never sin again, and of course, you wouldn’t need to be prayed for to be freed from spiritual bondage!

That’s more of Word-Faith mental cotton candy which flies in the face of reality and sound Bible exegesis.

4. Some Christians object to deliverance ministration by citing Colossians 1:14 and Ephesians 2:6 which say Christians have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and are now seated with Christ in heavenly places. “This is what became our possession when we became born again! We were absolutely delivered!” they argue. The answer to this is yes – and no.

There are two sides to this issue: the legal and the experiential. The answer will differ according to which side we view it from. Let me explain.

Legally, we were delivered from the kingdom of darkness and became heirs of God when we were born again. But experientially, we must appropriate in faith, step by step, all the benefits of redemption that are already ours by legal right through our faith in Christ. This is not automatic.

In John 1:12-13, the apostle says concerning those who have been born again through receiving Jesus, that God has given them “the right to become children of God.” The Greek word translated “right” is exousia, usually translated “authority.”

That’s what a person actually receives at the new birth: authority to become a child of God.

Now, the believer must exercise that God-given authority to experience the actual results of the new birth. This is what deliverance entails: using your God-given authority to completely sever all the links you had with the kingdom of darkness.

Since the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan are in total opposition to one another, you cannot enjoy the full rights and benefits of a citizen in God’s kingdom until you have finally and forever severed all connections with Satan and totally cancelled any claim he may have against you.

Take a look at the example of the children of Israel. God spoke to Joshua on how they were to take possession of their inheritance: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses” (Joshua 1:3).

Note the perfect tense: “I have given [the land].” Legally, the land of Canaan had become the inheritance of the children of Israel, but experientially, nothing had changed. The Canaanite nations and all their giants were still living there.

So the task before Joshua and his people was to move from the legal to the experiential. That’s also the task before us today. The children of Israel were to go to battle – one step at a time – and destroy the illegal occupants until they recovered their inheritance.

Actually, they fought a long series of battles against the various inhabitants of the promised land before they could posses it. Even after much warfare, God still says to Joshua: “There remains very much land yet to be possessed” (Josh. 13:1).

If Joshua had been like some Christians today, he would have led the Israelites to stand before the Canaanite nations, thumb down their noses and fold their hands saying, “Well, God has given your lands over to us. Now it’s our possession! It has been settled and we don’t need to lift a finger to take them.” And the people of Canaan would have laughed at their grandiose claims.

Now, just as Joshua led Israel into the land of promise, Jesus is leading Christians into the land of promises. The legal to experiential appropriation of redemption applies to every area of our Christian life.

Being born again legally delivers you from Satan’s kingdom, but in terms of experience, that’s just the beginning of a long process that requires your actions. You need to still evacuate the strangers nesting in your life and fight to be free. Christianity is not theoretical; it’s very practical.

5. An objection that is often put forth is an appeal to 2 Cor. 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

It is asserted that automatic deliverance from all spiritual captivity takes place the moment we are born again based on this verse.

While I admit that God can sovereignly intervene and completely set a new believer free, those who use this argument either lack a full understanding of the complex, tripartite nature of the human person or do not know what regeneration entails.

Before regeneration, we were dead in our sins and trespasses and separated from the life (Greek: zoe) of God. At salvation, our spirits are “made alive” by indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:5). But our bodies and souls are not born again; they are susceptible to the old ways we lived and the evil spirits we had hosted.

Though our life of sin is legally passed away and we have been made a new being, the responsibility lies on us to use our spiritual authority to bring other areas of our lives completely under the direction of the Spirit of God. This is why self-crucifixion and deliverance are important.

The story of Lazarus in John 11 illustrates this. He had been dead, but Jesus raised Him from the dead and new life entered him. But he still had his grave clothes on. Jesus said: “Loose him and let him go”. He needed others to help him remove those grave clothes so he would be free.

There are many Christians like this; they have been saved for years, they attend church fervently, witness for Christ, know the Bible and even teach it, yet there are spiritual grave clothes wrapped around them, holding them back from complete freedom and enjoying their spiritual birthright.

Though they talk about liberty, they experience spiritual slavery. Though they testify of victories, their personal lives evince defeat. They have the potential to soar high, but their wings have been clipped down. They need to be liberated.