by Ed Cardwell
It should be obvious to the discerning eye that Satan, as some authors have aptly written, is very much ‘alive and well’ today in our culture. Anyone surveying the broad landscape of religious life in the U.S., examining both the health of the church and the influence of Christianity overall, will most likely conclude that the Adversary of Truth is intensifying his efforts perhaps as never before, and he is winning converts in staggering numbers propelling toward the total collapse of our very foundation.
When Paul the Apostle referred to this arch enemy in 2 Corinthians 2:11 he asserted; “We are not ignorant of his devices”. Paul surely was using the editorial ‘we’. It seems clear from the evidence that much of modern Christendom has left its spiritual weaponry back in the temple. Much of its authority to examine, challenge, and expel the works of darkness, even within its own confines, seems to have been surrendered. But Paul encouraged that struggling church in
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through
God to the pulling down of strong holds.” (2Cor 10:4) We are called to engage, to contend for
the faith (Jude 3), not surrender, not capitulate, not even agree to a
The first principle in waging war against a determined foe is: know your enemy! Can it be said that we even partially realize the nature of this great adversary? I recall a conversation years ago with a young Christian convert who had recently arrived in the
He marveled at the ignorance of Americans about the awesome power of Satan. He
related how his family, even entire surrounding villages, were brutally
dominated by demonic spirits. He found it disappointing that Christians on this
side of the Nigeria Atlantic were totally unaware of
their suffering from such daily oppression. The events he described are quite
extraordinary and, as many would find them incredible, any retelling would seem
Have we not lost the true significance and magnitude of Jesus’ description of Satan’s basic character? He spoke explicitly in John 8:44: “He was a murderer from the beginning… there is no truth in him… he is a liar, and the father of lies.” Joh 8:44(NAS)
No more powerful statement could be given. It defines the essence of our enemy in absolute terms.
Even a cursory review of Bible verses that refers to this arch enemy reveals an impressive but frightening summation of his strategies and abilities. Besides being able to confer on his earthly representative “all power, and signs, and false wonders” 2Th 2:9(NAS), we can learn from the following:
He disguises himself as an angel of light – 2Cor 11:14
He prowls like a lion and seeks to devour – 1Pet 58
He takes away (steals) the Word from the heart – Mar 4:15
He takes advantage for evil wherever possible – 2Cor 2:11
He thwarts (hinders) godly efforts– 1Th 2:18
He tempts man to sin – 1Cor 7:5
He captures (binds, chains) his prey to do his will – Luk 13:16; 2Tim 2:26
He oppresses, buffets (strikes) his victims – Acts 10:38; 2Cor 12:7
He weakens the nations – Isa 14:12
He deceives the whole world – Rev 12:9
His earthly vassals take their cue from him. In the comfort and serenity of the church they are in disguise - as soldiers of the cross, as bond servants to the saints, as counselors and advisors to the distressed and needy. They speak the holy language, they wear the uniform of Christian piety, offer themselves as willing bond servants, often sacrificing much to do what they believe to be the Master’s work. In time they often rise to positions of leadership, influence and authority. Some work quietly in the background and without any notoriety. But wittingly or unwittingly, their work among the saints results in a weakening of the church and a dilution of faith in the very words of God. Ultimately they wreak havoc and destroy the work of God.
Paul had warned the saints of this eventual invasion:
“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Act 20:29(NAS)
“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.” 1Tim 4:1(NAS)
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” 2Tim 4:3(NAS)
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On a rare occasion there is bold confrontation. Some people love the thrill of combat. Frankly, I try to avoid it like the plague. But I experienced a very extraordinary one several years ago that is worth the retelling. It illustrates, I believe, the degree to which the enemy is embedded in our camp. It occurred in, of all places, the church. What I eventually discovered from that encounter may help to explain to some degree why we have been witnessing the very rapid and steep decline of our Christian-based culture for more than a half-century.
While attending seminary several years ago, I had been asked to fill the pulpit at a local church (The pastor had run off with his secretary - Ahem!). After the preaching service one Sunday morning I was pressured by an elderly lady to fill in for her Bible class – presumably because their regular teacher had phoned earlier that he could not be in attendance. Unable to find a legitimate excuse to dodge this invitation, I finally succumbed to her persistence. But little did I know I was going to square off against a most unlikely adversary.
The class consisted of about 30 adults between the ages of 60 and 85. The atmosphere was warm and friendly and, though my throat was sore from preaching, I felt quite at ease with this group, all at least 30 years my senior.
Since I had not prepared a lesson, I decided to relate some of my observations about our country after my recent return from
. When you leave a place, I
told them, you remember it as it was. And when you return you naturally notice
any glaring changes from what you knew before. I thought it would be instructive
to share with them some of those significant changes that I thought had
spiritual implications and bode ill for our country. Vietnam
One of the first things I mentioned was that in the 12 months that I was overseas there had been a national proliferation of the gaming industry, especially notable was the lottery. I added that it had always been widely accepted that one of the defining characteristics of a third-world country was its lottery system – a shrewd device by a weak government to gain revenue from ignorant people who hoped in vain for a chance to leave their life of poverty. And here in the
now imitating the third-world! U.S.
This group seemed to agree. No problem. Preach on, Brother!
The next example I offered was that of the seemingly headlong rush of our society to the cult and the occult. Why, you couldn’t walk past the check-out line anywhere without a rack full of astrology and occult books staring you in the face.
and the media had
popularized it and it seemed people couldn’t get enough. I mentioned to the
folks that it was a marvel to me why we as an advanced and enlightened culture
would want to invite the Devil and his minions into our daily lives. Hollywood
Well, apparently that lit the fuse.
Toward my left out of the corner of my eye I noticed an elderly woman struggling to her feet and with a hostile, snarling voice demanded, “Young man, did you say that astrology is from the Devil?” Without hesitation I replied, “No ma’am, I didn’t say that.” I paused to let the rising tension settle – then continued politely but assertively: “God did.”
At that moment I became painfully aware that I had been led into a lion’s den. And what does one do who is about to be devoured? Only one thing to do under the circumstances – open the Bible.
Since I had recently read and studied this subject at length, I had made several cross references and notes in my Bible. As I opened to Deuteronomy 18 and began to read my challenger hesitated and reluctantly took her seat. Adding some relevant commentary along the way, I read the text of approximately 20 different passages that spoke of any practice of the occult, including astrology, being detestable to the Lord. I concluded with the summary oath in Isaiah 8:20:
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (KJV)
The atmosphere had become tense and the class was riveted. It may have been because of the excitement of this unexpected challenge to an obviously revered member of their church, and they were spell-bound to see how it would all play out. At least I felt some satisfaction that I had given ample evidence to support the Biblical point of view. (Ignorance can be bliss for the moment…)
Having finished my reading I paused to assess the impact this oral delivery had on the entire class. They looked stunned, as if I had thrown a grenade into their midst. Stone silence.
Then the elderly lady, taking her cue and quivering as she struggled to her feet again, blurted out in a very forceful tone, “WELL, I DON’T BELIEVE THAT BOOK!”
Whew! Well, that made it all quite clear to everybody! You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone sat motionless obviously awaiting the next volley.
Finding herself on the defensive for perhaps the first time her face was flush with anger and her body language became hostile. She attempted to justify her position by proclaiming to be an ordained astrologist, boasting that she had signed with her name in blood (I never did get that one!) that she would not predict the future but only that she would write horoscopes for the newborns in the church. If that wasn’t enough to convince us of her legitimacy, she then proceeded to excoriate Paul the Apostle for his writings about women and summarized her whole theology by affirming that the Bible was written only by ordinary men and therefore quite subject to misstatements, misinterpretation, and error. She proudly insisted that most modern theologians were of the same mind.
I suspected that the class had never witnessed anything quite like this. After all, she was a prominent member of the church; yet they had never thought to question her devices, her ‘ministry’, as it were. They all sat thunderstruck at the realization of her admission and this naked exposure of their beloved ‘friend’.
At the close of the hour I was sapped of all my energy. I felt the physical and emotional strain as if I had been in the presence of a very powerful and influential personage. It had been quite an ‘alien encounter’, to put it mildly.
Exactly one week later after returning home from services I sat down to read the Sunday edition of the Indianapolis Star. (Whose masthead incidentally included a quote from 2 Cor 3:17: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”) When I took out the society section I was stunned and amazed to see a large photograph of this same self-proclaimed astrologist on the front page along with a full half page story about her being honored for her renowned expertise in growing garlic! (Those who are familiar with the occult will understand the connection.) I still have that newspaper in my files today.
It goes without saying that I was never invited into that classroom again. In fact, a week later and before a Sunday evening service I was warned by the wife of the head elder who whispered as she brushed past me: “You leave that woman alone!” I was startled by this ominous threat since I had no intention of renewing the confrontation.
* * * * *
A few short weeks passed and I was still in the pulpit as a substitute until a pastor could be found. I felt that under the circumstances it would be useful to begin a Bible study before each evening service to introduce the nature of the occult and acquaint the members with its origins and its consequences. In the absence of ordained leadership no one seemed to object.
The attendance in this evening class was surprisingly high and the interest was fever pitch since the revelations of that first Sunday morning spread throughout the church.
But there was some skepticism as well.
On the 2nd or 3rd evening class one of the men in attendance jumped up in the middle of the lecture and yelled at me as he left the room, ‘I don’t believe any of this!’
A week later he was back and sat through the entire class without any disruption. After the class he and his wife came up to me very apologetic about his previous outburst. He admitted that he had become emotional because he and his wife had been playing with the ouja board. For amusement, they said, he had asked the board if his son would graduate from college. The answer was, ‘No.’ Then he asked the board why his son would not graduate. As he began to explain the board’s answer he walked up to the chalkboard in the classroom and wrote the answer. He spelled aloud as he wrote: ‘M…U…R…D…”, and then he said he was stricken with uncontrollable fear as to what letters might come next, and he overturned the card table scattering everything on it and ran out of the house.
He explained his earlier outburst in the class as an irrepressible emotional reaction to what he was hearing regarding the enslaving and tyrannical power of the occult. He apologized profusely and asked for immediate prayer and forgiveness for entering Satan’s playground.
During the weeks that followed after that first Sunday morning encounter many came to me privately to tell of other mysterious things going on in the church, in group meetings, and in private lives, to include séances held by esteemed church leaders. I learned of a chilling chronology of obscure events including suicides of former pastors and elders, several committed to mental institutions, and strange and bizarre behavior of members during worship services and during meetings in private homes.
After about 10 weeks a pastor was finally called to be the permanent spiritual leader of the church and my short ministry had mercifully come to a close. I had given all I had and it was high time to move on, but I was most thankful for the experience, stressful as it was.
Three months later I heard that the newly called pastor had died. A sad addendum to the dubious history of an already polluted and crippled church.
[For those who might be interested and who might wish to explore the vast consequences of the occult I recommend Christian Counseling and Occultism by Kurt Koch,, especially Parts 3 & 4: ‘Critical Assessment’ and ‘The Way of Liberation From Occult Subjection’.]
* * * * *
I had shared all these issues and events with my seminary colleagues as they unfolded on a weekly basis. They were about 25 men and all current pastors at the time from various denominations. I was quite surprised to find that every one of them, without exception, had discovered some similar occurrences in their own churches.
Over the years I have often referred to the survey published in 1961 by Redbook Magazine and quoted by Hal Lindsey in his book The Late Great Planet Earth. The top pollsters in the nation were hired to survey a ‘full representation of our seminaries’ which were supposedly preparing men for the ministry in Protestant churches. Their results:
Of those surveyed:
56 percent rejected the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.
71 percent rejected that there was life after death.
54 percent rejected the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
98 percent rejected that there would be a personal return of Jesus Christ to this earth.
Several national denominational surveys have followed through the years, including a few of my own, with the same telling results.
One might be curious to know where such skeptics have spent the last few decades. We can’t be sure, but I’ve crossed paths with several of them through the years – Bible teachers, pastors, college professors, even presidents of church councils, and they have been constant in their respective pulpits instilling doubt and unbelief in untold millions in the churches. They have created a climate of disrespect, disregard, and denial of the Word of God. They have replaced a Christian worldview with the philosophies of humanism, atheistic evolution, and a religious position that is Christian in name only.
And one might also wonder how welcome and pervasive occultic practices might be in such a climate. Who can say? But surely we can conclude that wherever there is abandonment of the Word of God as the final authority for faith and practice, then a spiritual vacuum is created, which the Adversary is only too willing to fill with his treacherous lies and deadly devices.
Apostasy begins in the temple. As the church goes, so goes the nation. Can there be any doubt that our disgraceful plight as a once vibrant and proud nation is the result of the Devil and his sycophants having been welcomed into the church and having helped to destroy her life and power?
The words of the prophet Jeremiah ring as true to us today as they did to an apostate people over 2500 years ago:
“An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so!
But what will you do at the end of it?” Jer 5:30-31(NAS)
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Ed Cardwell is my friend and long-time co-worker in the ministry of Christian school education. He spent several years as principal while I was head administrator. He was an excellent and very popular Bible and foreign language teacher. We were of one mind, and it was very natural to work together since we thought so much alike.