Friday, May 27, 2022

The Weapons Of Our Warfare

Let me tell you about my mate John. John is a bit of an eccentric. He has a Ph D from Cambridge, four kids, a long beard and a depilated crown, which he protects from the elements with a tweed cap. One of his favourite tricks is to pull his whiskers up over his face and head and then don a pair of sunglasses. He looks like a genial troll.
I seem to recall him wearing a tie once or twice, but with his spreading beard, it is hard to tell. When he speaks, it is with deep, mellifluous tones that sound more English than Aussie. When he dons his academic gown and velvet hat and stands at a lectern, he looks for all the world like a sixteenth century Reformer. One almost expects him to start denouncing the papacy as the antichrist and the very furnishings to tremble at the sound of his resonant voice.
My first encounter with John took place some years ago at an Anglican church where, as Principal of Tabor College, I had been asked to teach a seminar on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The hall was crowded with standing room only. Came question time and things were going along in a friendly fashion when from among those at the back, John raised his hand. I couldn’t help wondering who was this bearded bloke with the polished pate.
I don’t remember exactly what he asked but I do recall that as soon as he spoke, many in the assemblage turned his way and regarded him with a kind of reverential awe. Obviously he was a significant personage among them. I also recall that although he smiled amiably, there was a cutting edge to his words and the hint of mischief in his eyes.
Time went by as it does and several years later, somehow or other, John finished up doing some visiting teaching at the College and ere long was invited to join the staff. The chairman of the board, together with another board member, who was helpfully Anglican, and I, visited his home to interview him.
His house had been built on the side of a hill and the driveway was steep. We parked in the safety of the street. Because of the slope, there was room under the house at the back for a carport. John had converted most of it to a study. There was a desk and a chair, piles of cartons (he had not got around to unpacking everything since moving back from the UK) and over-stacked bookshelves, all resting on a plain concrete floor. It must have been as windy and chilly in winter as a monastery cell, but on summer evenings, a cool breeze tended to meander and dance its way up the valley and tip-toe through the carport-come-study under the house. It was a pleasant place in which to ponder.
However, I am getting ahead of myself. On this occasion, we were ushered into the dining room and served a pleasant morning tea. There was a comforting chaos about the place. I suppose everything had a place, although whether there was a place for everything was a justifiable question, and it was safe to assume that John and his wife and children knew exactly where to look for whatever they might have needed. For strangers walking in, however, the challenge was to locate convincing evidence of intelligent design.
Still, the refreshments were exceptional, the interview was successful, and John became part of the Tabor team. At that time we had two city campuses and he finished up being head of one of them while I was at the other. This meant substantial communication by email.
John proved to be a scintillating correspondent. You had to read every word – including the contact information at the end which, except in extreme cases, no one usually reads. For you never knew how John would sign off. He could be ‘course coordinator’ but he might be ‘coarse coordinator’. He was actually a ‘lecturer in Church and Society’ but he might sign off as ‘lecturer in Church impropriety’. He might identify himself as ‘academic dean’. But he might also be ‘Full-time assessor of undergraduate outpourings’, or, ‘Part-time teacher, cleaner, coffee-maker, librarian and maintainer of pot-plants’.
Several times he concluded an email to me with ‘Warm regards, John 0{8-)=====+.’ To this day I haven’t the faintest idea what that means.
He does have a way with words. He once wrote of a church leader who released a statement that turned him overnight ‘from pinup to pariah.’
John is innovative and creative. His classes were highly interactive and he tended to let students nut things out for themselves. Then he enjoyed chatting with them over coffee. Of course, they all loved him. And he is the perfect gentleman.
Having soared in the upper atmosphere of Cambridge, John had glided through clouds that I, with my less-exalted Macquarie University degree, had never penetrated. His area of expertise was Karl Barth’s Theology of Joy. Mine was Australian Pentecostal history. Alternately, John could give you a lengthy study on the writings of Jeremiah as an example of Hebraic prophetic lament. I preferred David’s, ‘This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ And when it came to baptism, we sometimes found ourselves immersed in the subject, but never to the same depth. On one occasion he commented, ‘I expected that Baptists would fade during the drought, but God is truly gracious.’ Anglicans, of course, would have had no problem.
In the course of my work, I had written a number of study manuals for undergraduate students, among which was a set entitled Spiritual Warfare. John never said anything, but I have a hunch that he would like to have seen more references to Barth and less to Bonnke. In any case, he was more interested in postgraduate work.
One summer evening, he was sitting at his desk in his under-house-study marking assignments or something and enjoying the evening zephyrs as they gently caressed him and ran their long fingers through his bushy beard. Pausing for a brief time of relaxation, he gazed absent-mindedly into the garden. It was a beautiful evening and he savoured the moment.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a movement on the floor, a shadow, a slight thing. But there, creeping towards his bare feet, probably seeking a mate or perhaps the safety of the darkness under the table, was a large, black, sinister Funnel Web spider, one of the most venomous spiders in the world. Its inch-long body gleamed in the reflected light from John’s desk lamp. Its two fangs protruded with menace. It was centimetres from John’s right foot.
He felt a spasm of fear race through his veins and froze momentarily with alarm. Then he grabbed the first thing he could find – a substantial A4 study manual of some 200 pages. He swung his arm high, his eyes flashing above that prolific prophetic beard, and brought the book down with a loud smack on to the spider.
He lifted his weapon carefully but there was now no danger. The evil enemy was dead, pounded and flattened on to that rock-hard concrete floor. John breathed a sigh of relief. It was only then he checked to see what it was he had actually used for a weapon. It was a copy of my volume Spiritual Warfare.
Later when he told me what had happened, he emitted a deep, resonant chuckle. ‘Looks like your stuff on spiritual warfare works after all,’ he said.
‘Very funny,’ I replied.
But on reflection, I thought of the words of Scripture – ‘You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent’ (Psalm 91:13). The Psalmist doesn’t precisely mention Funnel Web spiders, of course, but the principle is no doubt the same.
And when I wrote those many pages on cosmic conflict, I wasn’t thinking about Funnel Web spiders either. But when it comes to our combat with Satan, the enemy of our souls, I’m sure there’s a parallel somewhere.
The weapons of our warfare are not carnal; they are mighty through God to the bringing down of spiritual strongholds.
Although even carnal weapons may be effective. At least with spiders.

Barry Chant

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Barry Chant is a regular speaker at church services, seminars, conferences and conventions. Hundreds of thousands of his books have been sold around the world. He has degrees in arts, theology and ministry, a diploma in education and a PhD in history. He was the co-founder and former president of Tabor College, Australia.

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