Review: Principalities and Powers (Montgomery)

Montgomery, John Warwick.

This is the best mature Evangelical treatment on the subject. Conservative evangelicalism faces a schizophrenia on this topic. On one hand, they know that the demonic and occultic exist because the Bible says so and modern experience is becoming almost overwhelming. On the other hand, they tend to write this off as charismatic kookiness and with the view that spiritual gifts have ceased today, they really don’t know what to make of this indisputable phenomenon.

Principalities And Powers; The World Of The Occult by John Warwick Montgomery

Montgomery approaches with a relatively open mind. He resists the urge to write off all of the paranormal as demonic. He introduces a key distinction: we must separate the fact from the interpretation of that fact. He also points out where individuals find themselves with ESP-like abilities in situations that are neither angelic nor demonic.

He does move his analysis into the occult, however. He gives a brilliant summary of the history of occultism and Cabalism. He has a fascinating analysis of how to interpret “ghosts” (for lack of a better word). All the while he remains faithful to biblical revelation on the afterlife.

He ends with a humorous, if quite interesting, fictional short story of a liberal minister who becomes convinced of the demonic.

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Developing an Enochian Worldview

Some of these are inspired by Dr Michael Heiser’s writings, though much of it came from my own working through both the Scriptures and tradition.  Our problem is that we are all students of Dante, whether we admit it or not.  An Enochian worldview, by contrast, sees how “angels” (more on that term later) function within the Divine Realm.

We say things like “we need a biblical worldview” (I used to say “supernatural,” but after talking with some guys on a Reformed online forum, I can’t take that for granted anymore), and we piously nod at the Bible when it says “angels are ministering servants,” but we really don’t let the Bible correct our understanding of Dante.

What Did Dante Say?

You already know this.  If I say “hell,” you think of a fiery underworld.  More to the point, you think there is a class of beings known as demons/devils/fallen angels.  They are either being tortured by fire or torturing others by fire (pop culture tradition isn’t too clear).

But there are some problems with this picture (though it did inspire good music).  The Bible contradicts it in various places.  If you hold that there is one class of beings called angels, which are subdivided into good and bad, with all of the latter in a subterranean realm (or if you are a bit more sophisticated, another dimension), then the following problems occur:

  1. Why is Satan called the prince of the powers of the air (Eph. 2:2) if he is locked underground?
  2. If all the demons are in hell, then why do we wrestle against principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 6)?
  3. If Ha Shatan is locked underground, then how did he appear before God in Job?
  4. If all the demons are in hell, then how did they possess people in the NT?
  5.  Yet Peter says some were thrust into Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4).
  6. Why does Peter use the word Tartarus when he could have simply said hell or hades?
  7.  Was the spirit in 1 Kings 22:19-23 good or bad?  If he was good, then was God commanding him to lie? If he was bad, then why was he in heaven?
  8. Is God the only kind of Elohim?  You have to say no, because God (singular Elohim) is often speaking to plural Elohim, and even if the latter are just men, they aren’t the kind of Elohim that Yahweh is.

That’s enough for now.  These questions show that the pop worldview about demons is wrong.  Now for my own theses, drawn from Michael Heiser and Derek Gilbert.

1. Sons of God in Genesis 6/Psalm 82:Dt.32:8 refer to elohimic beings, not men.  I won’t argue that thesis at this point. I also think these are what Enoch called the Watchers (alluded to in Peter and Jude; mentioned in Daniel, though those Watchers are good).

2. Their offspring were the Nephilim.

3. Some church fathers and Philo said that the departed souls of the Nephilim were what we call “demons” today.  Maybe.  That might not be provable, but it does remove certain problems.

I am closely following Heiser’s analysis on issues like the Rephaim.

4.  Rephaim: Heiser–”When the term is translated, it is rendered “giants” (1 Chr 20:4 ESV), “shades” (i.e., spirits of the dead; Isa 26:14 ESV), or simply “the dead” (Job 26:5 ESV)”.  Specifically, they are the spirits of dead warrior-kings in the underworld. They are also giants whom the Ammonites called Zamzummim (Deut 2:19–20 ESV).

4a. Og was a Rephaim (Josh. 13:12).

5.  Demons aren’t the same as fallen angels, rephaim, or nephilim.  

  1. They aren’t the celestial ones of 2 Peter 2 and Jude.  Angels are very cautious in the celestial ones’ presence.
  2. With Heiser, I highly recommend questions 72-75 of Doug Van Dorn’s primer on the supernatural.
  3. At this point we see several levels of differentiation:
  4. The corrupt sons of God put over the nations are called shedim, a term of geographical guardianship (van Dorn).
  5. The fallen angels, or Watchers, are imprisoned in Tartarus until the Final Judgment (2 Peter 2 and Jude).
  6. Whatever demons are, they aren’t those above.
  7. A demon, at least in the Gospel exorcism passages, is an unclean spirit.
  8. If Jewish intertestamental literature is to be trusted, demons are the departed spirits of dead Nephilim.  Granted, this isn’t inspired literature, but it was the worldview/social imaginary of those who lived in the apostles’ time.  Jude quoted 1 Enoch, and while 1 Enoch isn’t inspired, Jude acted like it had a lot of truth.

Opening notes on Heiser’s Unseen Realm

This study outline is kind of like a middle east targum.  It is combination paraphrase/outline. For a general idea of this type of thinking, see the following

Satan’s Psy Ops.

unseen realm

God’s Entourage

Job 38.4-7 identifies the heavenly host, the morning stars, with the sons of God (Heiser 23). He isn’t saying that the stars are little gods.  He is simply noting that there are moving entities “up there” in the heavenly realm.

divine council

Angels aren’t exactly the same thing as the beney elohim, as the former are lower-level messengers.

God’s Household

Layered authority: high king → elite administrators → low-level personnel.  Psalm 82 is the clearest example in the OT (25). The first Elohim in 82:1 is singular, since it has a singular verbal form (stands).  The second is plural, “since the preposition in front of it (“in the midst of”) requires more than one.”

Chapter 4: God Alone

Divine Beings are not human

The divine beings in 82:1 can’t be the Trinity, since God says they are corrupt.  It can’t be human, since Jewish elders weren’t given authority over the nations (28). Further, God’s divine council is in the heavens, not on earth.

Other biblical passages:

  • Job 1.6: the beney elohim came to present themselves before God.
  • Judges 11:24; 1 Kgs 11:33.  Gods of other nations
  • Dt. 32.17; demons (shedim)
  • 1 Sam. 28.13; the deceased Samuel
  • Gen. 35.17; angels or Angel of Yahweh.

Plural Elohim Does Not mean Polytheism

Would any Israelite believe that these Elohim were on the same ontological level as Yahweh?  The term elohim is not a set of attributes–that would be polytheism. It means an inhabitant of the spiritual world.

Are They Real?

Dt 32 seems to imply they are. If you believe in the reality of demons, then these elohim/shedim (v. 17) are real.

The “denial statements” (no God besides me) don’t mean that they don’t exist.  Similar language is used of human cities (Is. 47.8 and Zeph. 2.15), yet Nineveh and Babylon aren’t the only cities that exist (34).

What’s the point of even saying God is greater than these elohim if they don’t exist?  It’s like saying, “Among the beings we all know don’t exist, there is none like Yahweh.”

Idols: the ancient world didn’t seriously believe the idol was real, but that demons inhabited them (1 Cor. 10:18-22).

What About Jesus?

Does this mean Jesus wasn’t the only divine Son?  Monogenes doesn’t come from mono + gennao, but from mono + genos (class kind).

As in Heaven, So on Earth

Image/imager: If Gen. 1:26ff doesn’t refer to the Trinity but to the divine council, this doesn’t mean we are created by other Elohim. The following entail:

  • Both men and women are equally included
  • Divine image bearing is what makes us distinct from animals.
  • We either have the image, or we don’t.  It isn’t incremental.

We normally define image of God in the following ways:

  • Intelligence
  • Reasoning
  • Emotions
  • Communication
  • Sentience
  • Language
  • soul/spirit
  • Conscience
  • Free will.

The problem with the above class is that animals have some of these, too (41). The problem with “soul” (nephesh) is that animals also have a nephesh (Gen. 1.20).

The key to the image of God is in the Hebrew preposition in. In English “in” can mean location or result of action.  In Hebrew we are created as God’s image. It is not a capacity we have but a status (42). Klaas Schilder said the same thing.

God’s Two Family Household Councils

We are created to function as God’s imagers on earth.  But God also created administrators for the unseen realm.

Gardens and Mountains

That the image of God is a status, not a set of attributes, is evident from the fact that we are to take dominion over creation, making earth an Eden.  

Key idea: God decrees his will and leaves it to his administrative household to carry out those decrees (1 Kgs 22; Daniel 4:13, 17; 23).

Only God is Perfect

Key idea: The worldview of the biblical writers was ‘Where Yahweh is, so is his divine council” (54ff).

Who is the Satan in Job?  Heiser suggests he is the prosecutor within the divine council (56).

Peril and Providence

Key idea: divine foreknowledge does not necessitate divine predestination (64).

PART 3: DIVINE TRANSGRESSIONS

Trouble in Paradise

Argument:  The serpent (Nachash) is a substantival adjective.  He is a serpentine being. This bothers people for some reason.

Why wasn’t Eve afraid of a talking snake, if we take the story literally?  Eve was in the garden, which was the meeting place between the heavenly realm and earth.  She knew she was talking to an elohim. Ancient man knew that animals really couldn’t talk.

Another common sense observation: if the enemy in the garden was a supernatural being, then he wasn’t a mere snake.

Ezekiel 28: the prince of Tyre considers himself an el, who sits in the moshab elohim.

Verse 10: why does God tell him he will die the death of uncircumcised strangers?  He is (presumably) a Phoenician and would be uncircumcised anyway (77). The answer: he is sent to the underworld where there were uncircumcised warrior-kings (Ezek. 32.21; 24-30; 32; Isa. 14.9). This is the place of the Rephaim.

He leaves the garden of God and goes to the underworld. Is the prince a serpent?  He is “shining” and “radiant.”

Even the claim that God said the snake will “eat dirt” doesn’t mean Nachash was a real serpent.  Heiser writes, “The nachash was cursed to crawl on its belly, imagery that conveyed being cast down (Ezek. 28.8; 17; Isa. 14.11-12, 15) to the ground.  In Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, we saw the villain cast down to the ‘erets, a term that refers literally to dirt and metaphorically to the underworld” (91).  Anyway, snakes don’t actually eat dirt.

The Nephilim

The Sethite thesis doesn’t make sense out of the language of Jude and 2 Peter 2.  

Daniel 4 describes one of the holy ones of Yahweh’s council as a “Watcher.”

Divine Allotment

God scattered the nations in Gen. 11; Deut. 32:8-9 describes it as disinheriting.

Key idea: God gave ownership of the Table of Nations to the divine council (113). Deut. 4:19-20 makes this clear. Psalm 82 judges these elohim for doing a bad job, and then urges God to rise up for he shall inherit the nations.

Cosmic Geography

David’s dilemma: 1 Sam. 26:17-19; David thinks if he is forced to leave Israel, he will leave Yahweh’s inheritance (117).

Naaman asks for dirt (2 Kgs 5): Naaman views the holy land as holy ground.

Daniel and Paul: Dan. 10. In acts 17:26-27 Paul says that God determined not only the boundaries of the old world, where they could blindly search after God.

The LXX in Daniel 10 refers to the “prince” (sar) as an archonton.  Other Greek translations even older describe both Michael and the enemy as archons, which matches Paul’s language of the rulers of this age (1 Cor 2:6, 8) in the heavenly places (Eph. 3.10).

Heiser then draws the following conclusion: Paul’s terms–principalities/arche, powers/exousia, dominions/kyrios, thrones/thronos–are terms that are used of geographical domain rulership (121).

 

 

 

We Believe in One God (Ancient Christian Doctrines)

Bray, Gerald. ed. We Believe in One God (Ancient Christian Doctrines). Intervarsity Press, 2009.

I think I have found the best primary source intro to the Fathers. The only drawback is the somewhat steep price. Gerald Bray (in this volume) gives a running commentary on the Nicene Creed using only the writings of the Fathers. He examines each clause of the Creed up to “things visible and invisible.” He alerts us to the hermeneutical sensitivities of the Fathers while pointing to areas where they were either lacking or refused to pursue the logical development. For example, the Fathers, unlike moderns today, be they conservative or liberal, were very interested in the role of Angels and demons. Their cosmology, untainted by post-Kantian gnosticism, allowed for such a role. Further, the fathers did not develop the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge and predestination in any real sense. Augustine did the most.

My main problem with the book is the lack of Maximus the Confessor. In this review I will post an extended outline. I am doing that because the reader needs to see the logical and narratival development of the Fathers’ use of the Creed (or pre-creedal formulae). Finally, the reader should note that the Fathers had values that we do not necessarily pursue today, such as apostolic succession. But it should also be noted that the situation then is different than now.

Bray begins each section with a brief contextual introduction, then summarizes roughly each Father, and then gives a litany of Patristic quotations. It is truly grand.

Movement of the Creed

We believe (which covers the gamut from knowledge of God, Scripture as the basis of knowledge [Clement Strom. 7.16], to the canon of Scripture, to the interpretation of Scripture.

Apostolic Tradition:

  • “found in the Scriptures” (Irenaeus Adv. Haer. 3.5.1) and passed down by bishops.
  • “Unwritten traditions.” Some were passed down, like the sign of the cross (Basil, On The Holy Spirit, 27.66).

In One God.

  1. Who God Is.
    1. God’s unbegottenness is not the same as his essence (Basil 39).
    2. God is one in nature, not in number. My guess is that Basil says this because number implies distinction (Letter 8.2).
    3. Basil distinguishes between God’s energies and his essence (Letter 234).
    4. Yet Augustine says God’s being and his attributes are the same (“In God to be is the same as to be strong/just/wise; Trinity 6.4.6).
    5. God is not a substance but an essence. Substances subsist. This would mean God subsists in Goodness, rather than is goodness itself (7.5.10).
  2. The Unity of God’s Being
    1. God’s unity is beyond essence (Ps. Dionys. Divine Names 2.4).
  3. The Freedom of God
    1. God knows future events (Iren. Adv. Haer. 4.21.2).
  4. The Divine Will
  5. God’s Attributes
    1. God is above both space and time (Clement. Strom. 2.2
  1. Father-Son relationship
    1. Athanasius: the Son is in the Father because his whole being is proper to the Father’s essence (Contra Ar. 3.23.3).
    2. Cyril of Alexandria: Christ is eternal because the Father is not mind-less.
  2. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
    1. Ephrem: affirms the Filioque (Hymn on the Dead and the Trinity). Father = Mind; Son = Word; Spirit = voice.
    2. Basil: Community of essence (Letter 38.4). Identity of operation proves they have the same nature (Letter 189.7).
    3. Basil: ousia = general; hypostasis = particular. The Godhead is common, the hypostatic characteristics are particular (Letter 236.6).
    4. Basil: True knowledge of God moves from the Spirit through the Son to the Father (Holy Spirit 18.47).
    5. Hilary: Difference between beginning and birth. A thing that begins to exist comes from nothing. A thing that is begotten comes from the same nature (De Trin. 7.14).
    6. Augustine: the substance of God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (De Trin. 3.11.21).
    7. Augustine: Person is a convenient description. We use the term “person” because we have no other way of describing them (De Trin.7.4.8).
      8. Cyril of Alexandria: the nature is modulated through the properties of the hypostases. In each person the entire nature is understood along with its hypostatic property (Dialogue on the Trinity 7).

The Almighty

  1. Augustine: “Almighty” means God can do what he wills (City of God, 5.10.1).

Maker

Heaven and earth

  1. Cyril of Alexandria: No Limits to God. “There is no place that holds divinity, yet it is absent from nothing at all, for it fills all things, goes through all things, is beyond all things and yet within all things” (Commentary on John 11.9).
  2. John of Damascus: God is the Cause of all, the essence of all that have essence (Orthodox Faith 1.12)./
  3. Space and Time:
    1. God’s works are external, unlike the begetting of His Son, which is internal to his being (Athanasius Contra Ar. 1.29).

Of all that is, Seen

  1. Ephrem the Syrian: Threefold nature of Adam’s creation.
    1. Eve took Adam’s body, but not his soul (Comm. on Genesis 1-2).
  2. Augustine’s trichotomism: body, soul, and spirit (On Faith and the Creed 10.23).
  3. Cyril of Alexandria: The soul did not exist before the body (Comm. on John 1.9).

And Unseen

  1. Angels
    1. Shepherd of Hermas: Angel of punishment belongs in the class of righteous angels.
    2. Clement of Alexandria: Spiritual people pray with angels (Strom. 7.12).
    3. Hilary of Poitiers: Angels intercede for us (Homily on the Psalms 129 (130)).
    4. Gregory the Great: Nine different orders of angels: angels, archangels, rulers, powers, principalities, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim (Forty Gospel Homilies 2.34.7).
  2. Nephilim:
    1. Athenagoras–some angels fell into sexual lust. Their offspring were the Giants (Plea Regarding Christians 24).
    2. Tertullian: sometimes angels assume corporeal form, as when the men of Sodom sought them (On the Flesh of Christ 3).
    3. Yet Chrysostom says the angels cannot have sexual relations (Homilies on Genesis 22.2).
    4. On the other hand, John Cassian says some angels have their own type of body (Conferences 7.13).
  3. Guardian Angels
    1. Shepherd of Hermas: each person has two angels, one evil and one good (Mandate 2.6.2).
    2. Origen: churches, apostles, and individuals each have angels (On First Principles 1.8.1). Nations also have their own angels (cf. Greece and Persia in Daniel; Tyre in Ezekiel; On First Principles 3.3.2).
    3. Jerome: each person has a guardian angel from the moment of birth (Commentary on Matthew 3.18.10).
    4. Theodoret of Cyr: Individuals have angels; nations have archangels (Comm. Daniel 10.13).
  4. Demons
    1. Exorcism still takes place today–Theophilus of Antioch (To Autoclys 2.8).
    2. Fallen angels invented magic and astrology (Tertullian).
    3. Demons only harm those who fear them: Lactantius, Institutes 2.16.

They shall expel demons (Prince)

Prince, Derek. They Shall Expel Demons.  Chosen Publishers.

Derek Prince gives an overview of demonology roughly in the same vein as John Wimber and Charles Kraft. This book is level-headed, practical, and filled with sane advice.  Only in a few places does Prince advance strange ideas and even then he is hesitant.  Very accessible and thorough.

Sin and Demons

Prince notes that sometimes our problems are due to our sinful nature and not to demons.  In which case we just need to apply the cross and crucify the flesh.  In other areas it is demonic oppression.

What is a Demon?

This part is tough.  Prince backs up everything he says with Scripture and a lot of it seems to “jive” with observation, yet some of his conclusions run against conventional wisdom.  He notes that the scriptures use several different terms for supernatural entities.  Paul notes that those entities that live in the heavenly places, principalities and powers (Eph. 6:12) are more august, if evil.  I could be mistaken but Paul never (or Daniel for that matter) calls these entities “demons.”  

On the other hand, when Jesus deals with demonic activity it seems to be with earth-bound entities.  Why would angelic beings who rule territories in the heavenly places reduce and limit themselves, for example, to pigs and graveyards?  

Prince notes we “wrestle” with principalities and powers; we “command” demons (95).  If Prince simply wants to make the claim that what we call “demons” is not in the same category as “principalities/powers/dark angels,” then he is probably correct.

Being demonized

A constant variable in demonization is the occult.  Parents who are into the occult, while not necessarily passing a demon on to their kids, bring their kids into a demonic environment.  Another “trigger” is sexual assault, social shock, etc.

Interestingly enough, he warns against the facile laying on of hands. No, we can’t “get a demon” that way, but we can receive negative effects from the one who had the demon (albeit these effects are easily dealt with).

Chemical activities in the brain aren’t demonic manifestations (e.g., smoking, alcoholism) but they can function as a gateway.

The Occult

Two main branches:

(a) Divinization (fortune telling, psychics, ESP; Acts 16:16-22).

(b) Sorcery.  (Drugs, potions, charms, magic, spells, incantations, various forms of music).

Witchcraft

“Witchcraft is the universal, primeval religion of fallen humanity” (129).  Prince shows four levels of modern witchcraft:

(1) Open, public, “respectable.”  This is the Church of Satan and the CIA-handler Anton La Vey.

(2) Underground –Covens. This is the classic idea of “witchery.”

(3) Fifth Column, Disguised.  Rock music.  The danger is anything that breaks down one’s moral reasoning faculties (drugs, certain beats, etc).  Another 5th column is New Age.

(4) Work of the Flesh.  Desire for domination.

Do Christians Need Deliverance?

He notes that the new birth is real and shouldn’t be doubted.  But he also points out that when Christians receive the new birth, they might not have had all forces exorcised from them (especially true in more occult cases). Philip’s ministry in Samaria is instructive:  if demons automatically leave a person upon conversion, then why did Philip even bother to cast them out?

Key Points

(1) Demons operate in gangs (180).

(2) If we have opened the door to a demon by saying the wrong thing, we need to cancel it by saying the right thing (183).

(3) The authority to bind or loose. If there is a gang of demons, then bind the strongman first.

Pros

(1) Exposes Freemasonry (105, 134).

(2) Breaks new ground in our understanding of demonic activity.

You might be a gnostic, if…

Somebody made up a joke like this ten years.  I decided to give it my own spin.  I’ve tried to make it funny and not just mean-spirited.

  1. You might be a gnostic if…you think demons only exist in the Bible and not in real life.
  2. You might be a gnostic if…someone quotes Isaiah without citing it and you accuse them of carnal eschatology.
  3. You might be a gnostic if…you think that connecting bodily habits with spiritual disciplines denies the gospel.
  4. You might be a gnostic if…you think liturgy denies the gospel, even though the Holy Spirit uses that word in Acts 13.
  5. You might be a gnostic if…you deny the free offer of the gospel.
  6. You might be a gnostic if…you are a hyper-Calvinist.
  7. You might be a gnostic if…you don’t realize (5) and (6) are the same thing.
  8. You might be a gnostic if…you have the same view of angels as Immanuel Kant but you know your presbytery will never call you on it.
  9. You might be a gnostic if…when I ask that singing the doxology literally invokes angels in worship but you respond by saying, “That’s just words.  We don’t really mean it.”
  10. That means you are also a nominalist.
  11. You might be a gnostic if…you confuse the intermediate state, which is necessarily dis-embodied and rightly in the presence of God, with the eternal state which is resurrected and drinking wine on Yahweh’s mountain.

Ignatius of Antioch and Archons

St Ignatius of Antioch seems to make a distinction between Archons and Angels.
* In Symrn. 6.1 he mentions the glory of angels and archontes.
*In Trall. 5.1 he mentions the place of angels and the gathering of archontikas.
*In Diognetus 7.2 he mentions that Christ did not send an angel or an archon into the world.
What do we make of this?  I don’t know.  It’s just interesting that Ignatius seems to posit a category beside that of angels and demons.