Clinton Arnold: Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul's Letters

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by BayouHuguenot, Oct 9, 2018.

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  1. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Arnold, Clinton. Powers of Darkness: Principalities and Powers in Paul's Letters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsityPress, 1992.

    In many ways this is a shortened version of his dissertation. But it can also function as a supernaturalist, evangelical response to the then (and now) current leftist evangelical fascination with “powers-talk.” It also documents how conservative evangelicals, thanks to some Charismatic influences, are taking the Bible seriously on principalities and powers.

    It’s important to read Ephesians. It’s even more important to read the sections in Acts where Paul engaged in “Power Apologetics” against demons, magical grimoires, and riots.

    The Stoichea

    Arnold follows the RSV/NEB/TEV in reading the elemental spirits as personal beings, and not as abstract elements (Arnold 53). This seems to be the correct reading because it echoes Galatians 3-4 in seeing them as guardian tutors.

    He has an excellent section on Judaism. I say excellent in general, for I will push back on some parts. He notes that Jews did have categories for the “demonic,” even if they weren’t as explicit as in New Testament times. This is true, but scholarship has since shed more light on this. Take Deut. 32:16-17. Most translations read something like, “They sacrificed to demons.”

    By itself this isn’t too problematic, but it leads Arnold to draw some conclusions that are in tension with the rest of his work. Arnold writes, “Biblical writers attributed no real, independent existence to these deities. Instead they called them idols” (56). I know what he is wanting to do. He wants to safeguard against henotheism, and I commend that. But if he calls these entities demons, then he is forced to admit that they do have some kind of existence.

    Sure, Zeus doesn’t exist. But I don’t see what exactly is gained by saying Zeus doesn’t exist, but the demonic presence behind Zeus does exist. But is that even what the text says in Hebrew? It says they sacrified to “shedim.” This is a territorial guardian spirit whose Akkadian root word connects it to the underworld. This doesn’t refute Arnold’s analysis, but it makes it much richer.

    And while Arnold does posit some sort of pre-creation angelic fall, he realizes that the Old Testament never really says that. It posits Satan’s falling, to be sure, if only by implication.

    Paul and the Powers

    Fairly standard NT theology material here. Examines Paul’s use of “powers-language” and makes clear that gnosticism was not involved.

    Contra Walter Wink

    There has been a tendency in recent theology to equate the powers with socio-economic structures. Earlier theology would have seen the powers as influencing these structures but never identifying the two. He incorporates Paul’s use of “in Christ” language to negate any perceived need for a young believer to go towards angelic intermediaries, power-intermediaries, etc.

    Hilariously, Wink commits the “illegitimate totality transfer fallacy” by arguing “that one term can be made to represent all the uses” (quoted in Arnold 199).

    The book ends with practical guidelines for spiritual warfare today. He understands that belief in "Powers" and "spirits" today bothers Christians, even professed conservative ones. And he doesn't back down. The bold believer is one who affirms the reality of shedim, powers, demons, etc., and is willing to engage them in spiritual warfare.
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  2. TheInquirer

    TheInquirer Puritan Board Freshman

    Good review, thank you. How detailed does he get into spiritual warfare practically? I am becoming more convinced of the need to address this issue for a variety of reasons. I've been intrigued by Unseen Realm as I work through it (only a quarter of the way through) and see that work as a useful biblical theology on the topic so far but wanting some solid practical works as well. I am aware of Precious Remedies but always on the lookout for more.
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I think you are looking for this book.

    He goes into it some, even providing a brief checklist/bullet point. The best practical works:
  4. TheInquirer

    TheInquirer Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the recommendations Jacob.
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

  6. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thank you for the thoughtful review. This is a topic that I am particularly drawn to. Most of my life was plagued with paranormal events. I have many witnesses to the occurrences. I spent many years studying this from different angles. It wasn't until I came faith that the paranormal occurrences ceased in my life. The Biblical worldview also filled in many missing elements for me. I have been wanting to write a book on this topic for many years. Lord willing, I will be putting pen to paper for the book this winter.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    In our tribe and the surrounding tribes, they have personal names for particular demons that bother them as well as a generic name for demons in general.

    How does Clinton Arnold deal with the belief that God has divided up the nations to the gods?

    Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (NRSV), part of Moses' song:

    "When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; the LORD's own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share."
  8. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    I can not speak to Arnold but these books talk about what is called the" Deuteronomy 32 worldview:"
    The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible

    God's Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? Insights from the Bible and the Early Church
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    That is the only part of the book where is scholarship is out of date. On one hand he doesn't want to say Zeus exists, for obvious reasons. He does say, however, that territorial spirits do exist. That's the plain reading of Daniel, for example.

    He really dodges the issue because Paul doesn't say much about it, and this book focuses on Paul's usage of the powers.
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Do you think these territorial spirits are the fallen angels that are said to have descended at Mt Hermon? They were once on the Divine Council perhaps and yet rebelled and now God will replace the fallen angels with his Elect and we shall sit with Christ?

    How would you describe this cosmic warfare?
  11. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

    But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Some are. Most are probably enchained in Tartarus right now.
    I think so.
    Sure. The monkey statue in Indiana Jones wasn't real. But if the demon behind the monkey statue wasn't real, Paul wouldn't have been too concerned.

    But in any case, I don't think demons inhabit statues, since a demon must seek a host (which is why when they are cast out they ask Jesus if they can go into pigs).
    Right. Yahweh is in a class by himself, but fallen angels, territorial spirits, and demons are real. We know that because the Bible says so.
  13. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The "demon" behind the monkey statue is what is sacrificed towards, and as Paul said they are nothing.
  14. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

  15. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    The Mîs-pî ceremony was a common ancient Mesopotamia "ritual and incantation series for the cultic induction or vivification of a newly manufactured divine idol." Ancients believed they were literally opening the mouth to receive a deity into their idols. In their minds they weren't worshipping statues. There are similar rituals found all throughout the Near East.
  16. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    So as I have read you think that spirit could tell the future also, right? Paul took a hold of that lady and he expelled satan from her as much as Jesus took away satans devices from Peter when he (Peter) denied Our Lord.

    So far as Poythress I have no doubt he holds the same unbiblical thinking of some type of territorial demon, spirit, devil or what ever, today. As noted earlier I showed how the idol or the demon behind the idol are nothing.
  17. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Of course we know they were not "opening the mouth to receive a deity". :)
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    No. Satan isn't omnipresent. Only God is.
    Was the archangel Gabriel guilty of unbiblical notions about territorial spirits? And I notice that you failed to engage with Poythress's exegesis.
  19. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    Have you ever studied the Hebrew text or do you just do surface readings of the English? I am not trying to be condescending with that question. I am just curious.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
  20. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    Why must a demon search for a living host? Is it uncomfortable out there "free-floating"?

    Sago grub feast hosts here in the jungle organizing a feast ask the regional demon to enter them and guide them in decision-making and many dances and rituals here in this country involve asking demons to enter them. But this seems momentary.

    One witch-doctor man (at an Independence Day celebration of all things) asked a demon to enter him and he told me this practice was safe for him as long as there were no other stronger spirits to take offense. I told him I had a stronger spirit within me - the Holy Spirit - and so he needed to repent or else be in real danger. Within 20 minutes he was being hauled off to the hospital. He told me I had gotten too close to him. It might have been his "feats of strength" he performed such as eating glass or sticking nails through his septum, however.
  21. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    "Must" might be too strong a word. Generally, though, the language of the NT has a demon, after it gets exorcised, roaming for a place to go.

    I think some principalities, though, aren't demons. So they wouldn't need a host. More like gateways to the spirit-realm. For example, that would explain the weird things, or horrific things, that happen in connection with Ouija boards. A Ouija board isn't a demon, obviously, but it can be a portal to a dark spirit.
  22. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Would you be more likely to speak to or get advice from a demon in a high place, temple/pyramid, or perhaps on a certain day of the year, such as Samhaim? I read a lot on Megaliths and the Druids.
  23. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I hope the "you" is generic. LOL. I think it depends. I know for those in the Santa Muerta cult, and in many satanic cults, it depends on the day of the year. But I think that is more a projected belief than the demons actually coming out more in force.
  24. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

  25. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Where in the world did you get this from what I wrote? Are you possessed or something? What I am saying is that Peter was "possessed" when he denied Our Lord.
  26. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    This means that if Satan is in her, he is not elsewhere. Jesus was using a Hebraic figure of speech with Peter, since Ha Satan in Hebrew just means adversary, not supreme Lord of Darkness.

    I don't think so, but I am probably not the best one to ask.
  27. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    Those are strong words, brother.
  28. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

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  29. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Jacob knows me enough to understand my joke was a joke with a point. :)
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  30. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    When I saw the words "Clinton" and "Powers of Darkness" in the title of this thread you can probably guess what went through my mind. :stirpot:
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