Evangelicals and the Realm of the Supernatural


On Saturday, I was out walking my property and something clicked in my head. One of those seemingly obvious bits of insight, yet it only came together at that moment. Call it a Unified Supernatural Field Theory of Evangelicalism, sort of the holy grail of understanding most evangelical churches’ positions on the supernatural.

Consider these passages:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
—1 Peter 5:8

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
—Ephesians 6:11-12

When you ask many evangelicals to name what opposes them, you’re likely to get a number of answers, but I’m not sure the number one answer would be Satan.

M.C. Escher gets all supernatural

If you read a lot of Reformed/Calvinist books or blogs, Satan is barely a footnote—very odd considering what the Bible says of his place as the prime foe of the Christian. My own experience as part of two large, conservative Presbyterian churches would confirm that Reformed/Calvinist churches tend to place sin over Satan as the primary source of opposition, though sinfulness is a state of being not a personal foe. The Bible, on the other hand, is quite clear (as the two passages above note) that the foe is an entity, the devil.

Consider this: If an enemy drops a bomb on you, the bomb is not your foe; the person who tossed it is. Yet if one reads enough Reformed/Calvinist literature, it’s impossible to escape the reality that the devil doesn’t get much mention, with sin getting almost all the press. This, at least to me, seems a major oversight.

In many other Evangelical churches today, especially nondenominational, the devil gets a minor mention (as does sin), but the real enemy is made out to be negative thoughts patterns and practices. Again, this avoids the very real teaching that our foe is a being.

There’s a reason why these blinders exist.

The problem with these two viewpoints is they both avoid the truth that the enemy of the Christian is a supernatural entity that can’t be dealt with by human knowledge or through behavior modification.  Yet this is how we deal with him in too many of our churches because to deal with him as a supernatural being necessitates holding a worldview that is consistently open to the daily intersection of the supernatural world with our own.

And the supernatural is…well, messy. It involves all sorts of nonrational thinking and practice, which scares the willies out of folks who like to be able to wrap their brains around everything they equate with the realm of God.

So I think that the reason you hear almost nothing about the prime foe of the Christian in large swaths of Evangelicalism is that acknowledging him as a supernatural being mandates believing that the supernatural is the “natural” state of the Christian life. By relegating the devil to a mere mention now and then some evangelicals think they can avoid dealing with the plane beyond this existence. In fact, I would say there’s a distinct inverse relationship: The more an evangelical places the opposition to the Christan in non-demonic sources, the less likely he or she will be to accept visions, charismata, and “mystical experiences” as part of the normal Christian life.

This argument may seem obvious to some of you, but it explains a great deal.

I also find it interesting that we possess this tendency to write off the devil and blame our problems on everything BUT him. Again, though, the Bible clearly states that he and his minions are the foe. And by purposefully downplaying his position as the opponent of the Christian, we naturally underestimate him.

This makes for problems for a Church not given to seeing the devil in his true guise. If anything, the entire book of Revelation depicts an entity doing its damndest, quite literally, to cause as much anguish and horror as possible before it’s cast into the lake of fire. We underestimate such a foe at our own peril, and I would say that, in many ways, we already have. Worse, by underestimating him, we’ve reduced our reliance on the supernatural power available to us Christians to combat the Enemy and use the tools the Lord Jesus gave us to defeat him.

Remember folks: This is not a flesh and blood battle, but a supernatural one.

24 thoughts on “Evangelicals and the Realm of the Supernatural

  1. Dave Block

    You make a good point here. I don’t talk more about demonic opposition with other Christians because a) while I don’t deny that demonic forces are a major foe, I never see clearcut, direct instances of them at work in my life or the lives of those around me, and perhaps more importantly, b) beyond praying against demonic forces and putting on the armor of God, I don’t know what else to do about them.

    I’m open to ideas. Maybe I don’t have a deep enough understanding of what it means to put on the armor of God.

    • Dave,

      I think you see demonic activity here in America in the form of general, often subtle, waves. Elsewhere, it seems to occur in more personal instances, with one or two individuals being the nexus. For instance, what we might attribute to just bad luck here may in fact be demonic activity, whereas we might encounter cases of full-blown possession in Asia or Africa.

      I think the major thing we can do here in America as Christians is to recognize the demonic is real and prevalent. Too many Christians poo-poo the idea entirely, which is exactly what evil wants. Another thing we can do is start asking God to help us recognize the demonic more effectively and also to teach us to understand how to combat it. Those are a start.

  2. Chris E

    beyond praying against demonic forces and putting on the armor of God, I don’t know what else to do about them.

    I would say that beyond praying against demonic forces, confronting them with Christ on the rare occasions when we actually face their ‘naked’ power and putting on the armor of God I don’t think we are CALLED to do anything about them.

    • Chris,

      The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
      —Luke 10:17-20

      There is an active confrontation going on there that startled the 72. Again, if the devil is our primary enemy, then we ARE called to do something about him and his minions. Our problem is that our worldview downplays that something to the point of nothing.

      • Chris E

        Dan –

        That is why my original comment differs from Dave’s. I do believe we do have a duty to rebuke demons in the name of Christ when we encounter them. I also believe, like you, that the ways in which demonic realm functions can vary from full blown possession to very subtle waves – coming from an Asian background I’ve seen both sorts of things at work. My father, who ministers amongst that community, has faced those issues from time to time.

        However, we are not called to build large edifaces of speculative theology that go beyond what Scripture itself reveals. I’m very dubious about theologies of territorial spirits and the like. I also think that Ephesians 6 *is* very apposite. When discussing spiritual powers and the battle against principalities and authorities Paul answers in a way that is almost completely at odds with the modern signs and wonders movement.

        We have the whole armor of God.
        We have the breastplate of righteousness – which is not our own but Christ’s.
        Shoes that are empowered by the Gospel of peace.
        We have a helmet of salvation – salvation bought for us and not our own.
        We pray – but at all times we only pray with the Spirit – whose offensive weapon is the Word of God.

        We are called to stand firm, we fight with weapons that are not our own. There is not a trace of complex demonology, or seeking to name Spirits, or rebuking demons ourselves (Jude has the Angel Micheal saying ‘The Lord Rebuke you’).

        I don’t think we are as far away positionally as perhaps this comment thread might make it seem. I’d note though that the devil’s ‘best’ work – the Fall – came in persuasion rather than action. Our biggest problem is not the devil but Sin. Yes we do face demonic opposition, but as long as our focus is on Christ we can always be quietly confident in him and not ourselves.

  3. In my circles, I think just the opposite is true– we are more likely to see the devil behind every bush and to blame him for every weakness and failure. To be alert in regards to the devil is not the same as to be fixated on him, Captain Ahab-like. He’ll come looking for us, we don’t have to go looking for him.

    • slw,

      C.S. Lewis said the error on the demonic was to see it under every rock or to ignore it altogether. He could not have been more astute on the issue.

      I disagree on the looking part in that because we dismiss the demonic so easily in some sectors of the church, our best counter is to become more aware, to look more, for demonic activity.

      I fully understand your position, though. The more pentecostal the church, the more it blames everything on the devil. He becomes the de facto whipping boy, forcing us into Lewis’s other extreme.

  4. Jake

    I have spoken personally with of a number of missionaries who have experienced supernatural oppression when serving in foreign continents. Their theological backgrounds vary from mildly-Pentacostal to hyper-fundametalist. Yet, their stories are all marked by real encounters with demonic or Satanic oppression.

    Maybe our American experience is so sanitized that Satan does not confront us in the same way he works elsewhere.

    • Peyton


      I mis-read your last paragraph as “Maybe our American experience is so satanized…”

      I can attest that Satan and his minions are alive and well in America. The Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans all include a form of exorcism into their baptismal rites, and for good reason. The reformed do not. Therein lies a great weakness.

      I wish I remembered where I got this quote:

      Though Jesus took all authority from the devil, he (the devil) still destroys people’s lives, marriages and families through deceit, lies and craftiness.

      C. S. Lewis was, as usual, right on. We do not go looking for demons, but when we find them we cast them out!

      Anything less is folly.

    • “Maybe our American experience is so sanitized that Satan does not confront us in the same way he works elsewhere.”

      I think that your statement is true. I also believe that Satan has a great understanding of the impact of culture. That is why he uses different approaches in different cultures.

  5. Good reminder Dan! I think that all of the “Pigs in the Parlor” “demon under every rock” hoopla from years ago turned a bunch of us off. Your post reminds me of the balance needed in this area.

    Blessings, Bob

    • Ed Smith (Theophostic Prayer MInistry) has an interesting perspective.. he feels that we give access to the demonic by the lies that we embrace.. something to think about..

  6. Over the years, I’ve come to view satan and sin as cause and effect. satan is most successful when he can entice a Christian to sin, so wearing our armor and focusing on Christ not only reduces our sin, it defeats satan at the same time. Being more like Jesus automatically means we’re less like satan.

  7. Loneman

    yes dear Jake
    that was very positively ment 🙂

    It is slippery to tell about ‘expieriences ‘, but yes, there exist even several ‘types ‘ of things, that can ( and WANT to ) ‘harass ‘you.
    It s true – usually, ‘they ‘ cooperate with your own thoughts – and it s almost indistinguishable, what is your own thought – and what is blazen in by something..from outside.

    Everybody s mind is soooo vulnerable: Paul explicitly reminded, to ‘change the thinking ‘- and the ‘thinking ‘ is in the MIND. Don t forget, that ‘Prince of the air ‘, the beast and his image ‘ all refer to the ( sub-)consciousness. In unregenerated state, we ALL came subjected to these ..dark force. No one excluded.

    From GOOD thoughts, you get happy – from wrong desires, the devil makes you suffer.
    I don t plea for ‘positive thinking ‘- I just repeat what He said: ‘My thoughts are not yours ‘. Meaning, that to the soul, when the soul receives every moment total and true and beautiful thoughts, it is
    HIS s; and that s why the soul needs to die to the world: to die to her own desires – so she can see His s.

    ..because the soul doesnt, and cant, desire only onedimensional things ( on this world)

    If You say ‘yes, it is easy for the devil to lure numerous ‘christians ‘ with false premises’ – you re absolutely true. Too many of them have a ‘leak ‘ in whatever wrong way of understanding His Vieuw – and the devil is skilled using those chinks in the armor

    – but
    when one really tries to listen to Him, the materialistic advantage of the devil fades – and, because of new and further ‘insight ‘, the devil ALSO becomes more ‘visible ‘.
    – or, recognizable.
    ..as a real entity, full of hatred and deceit – to what the even serious churches only recognize az a ‘shadow ‘.

    Misuse of human weaknesses, as you call it, is very true – but the more somebody recognizes it s tactics, and the more He learned that somebody to not cling to opinions, worldvieuws and personal survival,
    the more openly vialant it becomes.

    As is His World uncomprehendable for us,
    so is He the only One, who can protect us.
    lots of love for you all,



      beware of this man jan or loneman, talked with his wife she has no idea he is online speaking things i cannot mention on this site , beware carnal sensual man cloud without water.

  8. Loneman

    dear Peyton,

    ..I m afraid, things became a little more complicated, as You wished to express.
    Twenty years, I had to fight with those things – and I learned a lot, a very lot.
    But one of the things, that hurts me the most, is the simplified way, a lot of young serious people consider the way of ‘demonic ‘.

    You have to know, that most of ‘them ‘ laugh their belly out, by pretenting to have ‘dissapeared ‘- fooling both ‘patient ‘as well as ‘ leader ‘.
    If you say ‘but that is not possible: for the Blood, they WILL have to leave ‘-
    I say you, they have gotten so terribly conceited and damned, they don t even care about that no more.

    ..I don t say, it is not possible to cast out. But what I see, is that totally unexpierienced people, who have not the SLIGHTEST idea with what they re dealing with, proudly proclaim that they ‘casted ou t ‘ something, when it only moved from a room in the house to the rooftop therof..

    In Germany a few weeks ago, hundreds of people searched ‘exorcists ‘because of ‘voices in their heads ‘. The whole (satanistic) area of teqnique as UHF, haarp, ULF, EDOM, whatever, what is causing and opening these portals, is TOTALLY misinterpreted and denied by ‘christianity ‘:

    but ninetynine percent of the ‘playing with one s mind ‘is not coming forth no more from ‘demons ‘directly – but from all the devilish teqniques now being purpetraded on nations.
    As long’those who say they are christians, but refuse to learn these things, DENY that this world is a farce and faulplay – a bad theatre – they WILL remain subordinate to false ‘revelations ‘as Lakeland.

    Love You all

  9. Loneman

    – forgive me:

    ofcourse that had to be ‘..and wont admit, AS HE SAYS, that ‘this world is but a farce and faulplay ‘

    ..blame it on my poor English 🙂


  10. Normandie

    In America, in our safe places, hiding out among the like-minded in churches, we may miss the overt demonic manifestations–though certainly not the effects of their influence. But work with the drug addicts and that will change. Go among the “enlightened” who voice otherworldly theories and other practices, and you’ll see manifestations that will either make you crawl back under your bed or get on your knees, pronto. I remember a healing service I attended with two Methodist pastor friends. The “healer” stood at the front of the dias, backed by the two robed ministers of that church. It didn’t take me long to discern by whose power she was “healing.” How the others could have missed it when she denied the blood of Jesus, I haven’t a clue. I wanted to stand up and warn everyone, but my two pastor friends eyed me in horror. They should have been the ones to denounce her and care about the desperate folk looking for relief and finding things they’d never imagined.

    I pray the church wakes to the enemy in our midst. I’m not someone who sees a demon under every rock–and I’m certainly not someone who goes around fighting powers over which I have no authority–though I often have to bite my tongue when I’d like to provide a warning to those who open themselves through their behavior. But they don’t even know Jesus and would merely think me wacko. My husband and I try to stay covered by the Blood, shielded by His armor, walking with the Word as we tackle all sorts of issues on the mission field here in Mexico.

    Thanks, Dan, for the insight you’ve given here.

  11. edward

    come on there is onley one demon and that demon can ‘not show or do any action in the present of humans ……that demon ‘s name is iblis “asrail/saltan/the devil …. so stop talking about it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *