Saturday, January 30, 2016

AFRAID: DEMON POSSESSION AND SPIRITUAL WARFARE IN AMERICA - A Review

It has been about three years since I read the last book by Dr. Robert Bennett, entitled I am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare. I posted about this book, but looking back I notice that I did not review it after reading it.  In short, it was a very enlightening and eye-opening work about demons, exorcism, and spirituality from the perspective of the Lutheran church in Madagascar.  The book is the fruit of his Ph.D work at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, and much of it reflects his research conducted in Madagascar.  Nevertheless, it was very applicable to the situation here in the US.

The description of the book from the Concordia Publishing House site offers a nice summary:
While Africa and Madagascar seem like strange and faraway places, the world in which we now live has become much smaller than many of us could ever have imagined. Moreover, even our neighbors visit the local fortuneteller, read the horoscope page in the newspaper, and attend séances that seek to reach departed friends, lovers, and family members. Consequently, as we begin a journey into faraway places, we may soon find they are not as far away as we may have expected.
— Chapter 3

I Am Not Afraid is Rev. Dr. Robert Bennett’s fascinating first-hand account of the spiritual warfare found within the Lutheran Church of Madagascar. Is spiritual warfare something new to the Church? Bennett reviews what the Bible, Church Fathers, and contemporary Lutheran leaders have to say.
Part One includes recent conversations dealing with spiritual warfare, an introduction into the Malagasy Lutheran Church, and the traditional Malagasy worldview. These are the stories of those who have been rescued from the darkness of sin and brought into the light of the Gospel.
Part Two looks to the Bible and the Church for explanation and historical perspective on the spiritual warfare found in the Malagasy Lutheran Church. Is it something only found in the time of Jesus and the apostles? What has the Church said in the past about such activities? Bennett explores the views of Martin Luther and other Lutheran leaders, and finally provides some helpful contemporary material and resources for dealing with spiritual warfare in today’s context.
Includes a glossary of key terms, transcripts of personal interviews, bibliography, Scripture index, and subject index.


This year he followed up with a second work, Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare in America.  Focused more on conditions in this country, this second volume touched on topics not necessarily handled in such a work.  For example, there are chapters on Vodoo and Indian religion.  Again, it is not simply a retelling of other second hand sources, but in many cases reflects his own research in the field.  As I look back on my ministry it is apparent that there was little in the LCMS to refer to when dealing with the demonic in actual parish situations.  The Pastor's Companion (Lutheran Service Book portable agenda) for the first time provided a full house blessing rite along with additional resources for dealing with the demonic and occult.  Bennett has added to these resources with two easily read books that offer practical advice and insight to those working in real world situations.  I could only wish that such resources had been available in my early ministry. Yet even now in the last third of my active years, I am thankful to finally have someone not only address the issue, but offer information for pastors to become better educated and equipped.

I picked up my copy at the recent Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions at CTS-FW last week and read it within the week after I returned. Dr. Bennett was gracious to sign my copy and included in his signature the reference Rev 2:10, which happens to be my confirmation verse.  Dr. Bennett, by the way, is not the executive director of Luther Academy.


Both books can be ordered from Concordia Publishing House.

Again, the summary from CPH offers additional information for any who may be interested in reading the book:
A fascinating and unnerving book, Afraid is a must-read that equips all Christians to recognize the devil’s influence in our society and to act on it.
Robert Bennett describes real events and actual confessions people have shared with him of demonic encounters—in America, in our modern age. Summoning demons, interacting with “ghosts,” and holding séances led to what many may call horrifying hallucinations and even schizophrenia. But for many Americans, these things are their spirituality.

How can we break free from the despair and crushing fear that such encounters can bring? How do we come to the aid of our neighbors who are lost in Satan’s deceptions? Bennett points us to the only way out: God’s grace and the medicines He gives to His people.


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