A way to deal with witchcraft

Timothy Stabell

May 31, 2011

Mr/Dr. Stabell,  
Even though witchcraft seems to be used as a weapon to diminish one's foes, is there still a place in the church for routing the demonic?  And how is it done there where you lived?  Is deliverance offered still? Or has the cry of witchcraft made such ministry laughable now?

May 31, 2011

With a little condensing, your comments about Africa hit home here in North America...

"The great deceiver...has used cultural stronghold(s)...reinforced by ungodly gossip...to keep people in bondage to fear and to the kind of social discord produced by suspicion, rumor and false accusations."

Charles Chapman
June 1, 2011

Dr. Stabell has reminded us of the danger of getting on the band-wagon of
condemning so-called witches.  He speaks from many years of living and working with a people whose fear of the demonic results in chronic injustice.  I have known Tim since I worked with his father in the Congo.
I believe his insights are authentic and valuable for mission work.

Tim Stabell
June 2, 2011

Hi Kris,
I don't deny that demons still play an active roll in the world. We see evidence of that in the gospels of course, and Paul in Ephesians tells us that our real struggle is not with "flesh and blood" but with "principalities and powers in heavenly places." But how are we supposed to deal with this reality? If our struggle is not with "flesh and blood" (i.e., human beings), why should I be afraid of witches? In fact, the Bible never gives any clear support to the idea that another person can "use" demonic power to harm others. Demonized people in the Bible tend to be portrayed as victims needing deliverance, not as evil people of whom we should be afraid. Hope that helps!

Tim Stabell
June 2, 2011

Good insight, Jim. The inner dynamics of sin (gossip, social discord, suspicion...) are the same in different societies even if people have different systems of belief and these tendencies manifest themselves in different ways in different contexts.

Walt Vanderwerf
June 3, 2011

"Witchcraft" is one of the works of the flesh, according to Galatians 5, and is combined with idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy and fits of rage."  Many of these works are based in fear and are attempts to control what others think and how they react.  Such witchcraft is not only practiced in Africa and other Eastern cultures, but also here in North America.

June 5, 2011

Very insightful comments, Dr. Stabell; thank you for sharing. 

I'm not sure I agree, though, with an assumption I see in what you say: that condemnation of witches is a problem limited to the third world. It seems that every time there is a natural disaster or seemingly meaningless attack, there is some Christian clergyman pointing out who is to blame. 9/11 was God's judgment against NYC's sinfulness. Katrina, similarly, was due to Mardi Gras and other sins of New Orleans. Haiti's earthquake and everything else was because they had made a pact with the devil. And so on.

It's a psychologically useful lie - to give a reason, something that can be fixed so this never happens again. It actually strikes me as similar to what you see in abused children, where they blame themselves for their parents' actions because it's the only way to (a) not make the parent out to be a monster, and (b) think that the suffering can be avoided in the future. That doesn't make it true, though, and in much the same way our *need* to have someone to blame doesn't mean there *is* someone to blame. I don't know what the other option would look like (God allows evil? God cannot prevent evil?), but I still think living with that mystery is better than a pat answer. Even if no one gets hurt - which, as you point out, is hardly the case in many instances.

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