ReThink everything you thought you Knew

God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict

god-at-war-bookAuthor: Gregory A. Boyd

Publisher: InterVarsity Press (1997)

Topic: Bible/Theology: What does the Bible say about God’s warfare against forces of evil?
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Description: We have all heard about spiritual warfare, and putting on the armor of God. But who are we fighting? And what form does our conflict take? In God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict, Greg Boyd attempts to answer these questions and more.

God at War is a scholarly, provocative book, challenging some of our traditional philosophical ideas about God and reality and provoking us to join this cosmic battle on God’s side. Dr. Boyd displays a keen understanding of the scriptural passages about conflict, and he quotes extensively from authors who have studied spiritual warfare. The result is a book both conservative and contemporary at the same time, well worth the effort in reading.

Greg’s story behind the writing of God at War: I encountered my first demonized person in 1988. As a pastor I was called to a home where a teenage girl had been acting like “the Tasmanian Devil” (as her mother put it). The moment I entered the home I knew what she meant. The house had been decimated by this woman’s 15 year old daughter. “Please do something,” the mother pleaded.

The young lady was in the backyard of this farmhouse inside an area fenced by barbed wire. Her arms were badly scraped up because she’d been pushing them against the barbed wire fence. The first thing she said to me was that if I tried to cross the fence she’d kill herself. I complied.

For the next twenty minutes or so this young lady seemed to go in and out of “normal” consciousness, talking with me for brief periods in a semi-coherent fashion, then suddenly going into fits during which she’d growl and shake her head back and forth. During several of these fits this girl would throw herself against the barbed fence, causing more scraping to her arms.

Suddenly, in the middle of one of these fits, the girl reached down and grabbed a scrap piece of barbed wire that was laying on the ground. With lightening speed she wrapped the wire around her neck and, looking up into the sky and howling, began pulling it back and forth – as if she was trying to saw off her head! The surrealistic image is forever seared into my memory.

I jumped the fence and pinned the girl to the ground, preventing her from further harming herself. I screamed for her mother to call for help.

As I struggled to keep the young lady from sawing her head off, I was amazed at how strong she was. I could bench press close to 300 pounds at this stage of my life, yet it took every ounce of strength I had to constrain this rather small teenage girl.

What I noticed next was even more disturbing, however. Holding this girl to the ground for what seemed like an eternity, I noticed that her eyes didn’t seem normal. It’s hard to describe, but they looked cold and hazy – almost lifeless. My body suddenly shuddered, as if I’d been shocked with electricity, when I suddenly got the eerie sense the girl was no longer looking at me through those eyes.

I screamed for the mother to tell the help to hurry up.

As I waited, I recalled a Gospel story about a demonized boy who shrieked when he was brought to Jesus and who would occasionally try to drown himself or throw himself into fire (Mk 9:17-29). I also recalled episodes in the New Testament where demonized people exhibited supernatural strength (Mk 5:3-4; Ac. 19:14-16). It suddenly occurred to me that this is what I was dealing with.

I began to pray and rebuke the demon, but within a couple minutes three people with a straight jacket and stretcher showed up and took the young girl away.

This event forever changed the way I look at the world. I had believed in Satan and demons since my conversion fourteen years earlier, but only now did they seem real to me. I became aware that we humans like in a spiritual war zone. I moved into what I’ve come to call a “warfare worldview.”

For the next seven years I studied the Bible throughly and read many books on the topic of spiritual warfare. Then, in 1995 I presented a paper at an academic conference on Satan and the problem of evil — arguing that the problem of explaining the evil in the world can never be adequately resolved unless we take seriously the activity of Satan and other fallen spirits.

At the end of the conference an editor for InterVarsity Press (Rodney Clapp) approached me and asked me if I’d consider fleshing out my thesis in a book. I jumped at the opportunity.

Initially I planned on writing a book that would 1) lay out the biblical view of spiritual warfare; 2) provide a philosophical defense of the warfare worldview, and; 3) trace how this worldview was developed in the early church and how it was eventually lost when the Augustinian “blueprint worldview” became dominant. I thought the book would run two to three hundred pages. As it turned out, the three objectives became three separate books, forming a “Satan and Evil” triology.

God at War is the first book in this series. It lays out the biblical foundation for a warfare worldview.

Satan and the Problem of Evil was the second in the series, while the third, The Myth of the Blueprint, is in the process of being written.

I’ve been extremely please with the reception God at War has received. As of January, 2008, it’s gone through 15 printings. And I’ve been blessed to see how it’s impacted many peoples’ theology. Numerous people — scholars and laypeople alike — have told me the book revolutionized the way they look at God and the world. Rather than viewing all events as unfolding according to the will of God (what I call the “blueprint worldview”), they now understand that the world is a war zone and that it is up to God’s people to align their will with God’s will for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10).

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