Sunday, June 16, 2019

Book Review: David Powlison's Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare

One of the things that struck me first about this book was the irenic way Powlison handles those he disagrees with. The doctrine of spiritual warfare has a wide variety of self-styled experts vying for the attention of Christians. Many of these “experts” appear to draw their doctrine of demonology and spiritual warfare more from the writings of novelist Frank Peretti than from Scripture.

Practitioners and writers on spiritual warfare typically concentrate on what Powlison terms the Ekballistic Ministry Mode (EMM). The Greek derivation of ekballistic means “to cast out.” The idea of identifying, naming, and then casting out demons is the central feature of EMM. Sin, rather than being sourced from our old nature, is largely seen as the product of demons of lust, greed, etc.

Powlison challenges the entire EMM schema. He does so without using any cheap shots (which would be frankly easy to do, given some of the ideas of EMM practitioners). Rather, he makes his points with careful, contextual, exegetical precision, dismantling the careless interpretations of the scripture texts normally cited in support of an EMM-style ministry. In fact, I would say the skillful exegesis Powlison employs is the defining characteristic of this little book.

Another treasure of Power Encounters is the wise manner in which Powlison distinguishes between moral evil and situational evil. His point is that the distinction between the two different kinds of evil calls for a different response to each, a matter that EMM completely overlooks.

Powlison’s answer to EMM is what he calls “classic mode” ministry: helping Christians deal with troublesome sin in their lives, as well as demonic oppression, by taking them straight to the cross. The gospel is the most powerful weapon. It is the only weapon needed to completely defeat the forces of darkness.

The worst part of Power Encounters is that it has gone out of print. That should never have been allowed to happen to a resource this valuable. Every pastor and biblical counselor should have a copy of this little book. Used bookstores are charging three figures for old copies. I purchased mine from and more are available from them. They have secured permission to make reprints. For a slender book weighing in at 160 pages, $30 was a fairly steep price. It was worth every penny. Five stars, highly recommended.