Dealing with a spiritual stronghold
[June 14, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
We’ve been talking recently about Why Are Pastors Afraid to Permit Divorce for Abuse?
So far, we’ve come up with this list of reasons why pastors are afraid:
- Pharisaical religion uses fear to keep people in bondage. Pharisaical religion teaches that the first is first; the last must remain last, and the first can oppress the last. The company line is abusive: it is power and control and it reigns through fear.
- Fear….of loss of reputation, loss of power, loss of friends, loss of colleagues, loss of stalwart givers in the congregation, loss of tithes, loss of pastoral career, loss of one’s own family. And I’ll add another one here: fear of having one’s own abuse memories brought to the surface so one has to deal with them.
- The brainwashing of tradition.
- Plain, unregenerate evil that seeks to eradicate truth.
- It’s a spiritual stronghold.
Jeff Crippen brought up the idea of a spiritual stronghold, saying (Emphasis added.):
….there is also a spiritual element here — one of the strongholds that the Apostle Paul talked about. And the only way it is going to come down is by the use of spiritual weapons. Prayer, and especially God’s truth as given us in God’s Word. We have to take that Word and bring it to bear on this issue [of domestic abuse in the evangelical church]. And that means first exposing the issue to these people. Telling them exactly what these abusers do to their victims in all the ugly terms necessary. And any person who doesn’t want to get themselves soiled by hearing about these ugly things, well, all I can say is that they are the Levite and the Priest who walked by the beat up guy that the Good Samaritan rescued.
It is a darkness. A blindness. It has been a stronghold among us for far, far too long and it is time the spotlight be put on it. Over and over and over until eyes start opening. Books need to be written and distributed. We need to speak on this issue even if our congregations don’t want to hear about it. And we need to confront people.
I like to describe a horrific case of abuse in which a mother and her two daughters were blasted with a shotgun and killed in a restaurant last year. I tell people, “so if the mother had survived and her husband had too, are you telling me that you are going to counsel that woman that God forbids her from divorcing him? You say divorce for adultery is ok but not for murder? Don’t you think that says that either you are….well, crazy….or you have gone horribly wrong in your application of Scripture?” People really don’t have much at all to say at that point.
Spiritual strongholds are energized and maintained by Satan. They are based on lies: complex architectural structures of tightly engineered lies, dovetailed, bolted and jointed together. They have stood for centuries. We are often so used to them that we hardly notice them: they are just part of the landscape, the wallpaper, the air we breathe.
We can learn much from 2 Cor 10:4-6.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (ESV)
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. (KJV)
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (NIV)
Many people think of spiritual warfare as prayer warfare because this is how the Charismatic church has portrayed it for decades.
Yes, we pray. Certainly we pray.
But the warfare Paul is describing here is a warfare involving argument, ideas, thoughts, beliefs. We are to demolish false beliefs. Destroy arguments. Cast down imaginations and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. That’s how we demolish a stronghold. That’s how we cast down a tightly jointed fortress of lies.
When I was a kid, Whelan the Wrecker was the demolition firm in my town. When Whelan the Wrecker was working on a building, they used various techniques and strategies. They would start off climbing around and inside the building removing various pieces of it by hand. The workers probably unscrewed lots of screws, undid lots of bolts, and removed lots of panels, fittings, and elements of the structure piece by piece – perhaps for salvage and resale, perhaps because it would be easier to convey them to the dump if you got them off in one piece.
But there would come a time when they had taken out all they could or needed to take out, and then they would swing an enormous metal ball at what remained of the building to crack its structural beams and the whole thing would collapse. It was very impressive: swing, ###crack###, crumble, collapse….and the dust rises.
Mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. Pulling down may be the part where we undo bolts, unscrew screws, knock apart dovetail joints and remove various elements of the building piece by piece.
We take the false doctrine of regeneration (“you can be saved without having to obey Christ as your Lord; so however much you sin, you are still called a Christian”) and we unbolt this ugly thing from the front entrance of this giant building. We send it in a big dump truck straight to the tip where it is buried under masses of household garbage.
We take the misunderstood and confused ideas about forgiveness and explain that forgiveness has three different aspects (judicial, psychological, and relational) and we must not confuse them. This is like taking off the marble panels and flooring, polishing them up and recycling them at high-quality building materials stores.
We take the idea that abuse isn’t grounds for divorce, and show how illogical, unscriptural and morally ludicrous it is. This is like taking out the antiquated plumbing in the old building, all the ancient rusty twisted pipes, and while we could just throw them on the dump, or turn them into scrap metal, some artistic person had an idea and turns them into a piece of public artwork: a gigantic, twisted, tortured pipework sculpture that is mounted like a tangled monster in a courtyard at the city museum, as an ever-present reminder of how ludicrous this doctrine was. Passers by will look at it and laugh, and cry, over this crazy doctrine that locked so many people into staying married to abusive spouses.
And there are many other distorted doctrines and misunderstandings that can be taken out too, but I’m going to make this post too long if I go into them all.
So we’ll jump to the swinging ball part. Perhaps the most exciting part, and the most scary part. The final demolition. This is, I think, what God does. After all, who among us has what it takes to swing that giant ball? Or even has a device to hold the ball up, in order to swing it? Prayer has been important all along, but I suspect that this is where prayer becomes the preeminent thing. Like Moses holding his staff up all night praying, while God blew that wind to part the waters of the Red Sea.
We are at the stage, I think, where we are pulling down and taking out pieces of the building one by one. And I am trusting that God will show us what to do next, and He will swing that ball when the time is right.
I’ll leave it to readers to suggest what might be meant by the last part of the passage: and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
[June 14, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to June 14, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to June 14, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to June 14, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (June 14, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]