In the Days of Caesar
Jared A Laskey
Amos Yong’s, In the Days of Caesar, addresses Pentecostalism and political theology. Yong was the J. Rodman Williams Professor of Theology at Regent University and is currently the director of the center for missiological research at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. In this book Yong encourages Pentecostals to, “craft a distinct political theology from their own Pentecostalism rather than merely adopt an external framework for theological self-understanding,” (Back cover).
Addressing the Pentecostal Intersection with Political Theology, Yong said, “For Pentecostals, fundamentally, salvation is to be found in Jesus and in His name, ‘For which there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12),” (122). Then expanding on this thought he stated, “From the beginning, Pentecostals have experienced Jesus as saving them not only form their sins, but also from their sicknesses and diseases. In the world Pentecostal context, especially in the global south, this salvation includes a redemption from the powers of the devil and his demons since these are, ultimately, the causes of sickness(both physical and psychosomatic), poverty, and other material and socio-economic ills that keep human beings from experiencing the abundant life promised by God,” (123).
Yong discusses principalities, powers and other demonic spirit beings, such as the concept of “territorial spirits.” He said on page 130, “…notions of spiritual warfare against territorial spirits have emerged across the spectrum of global Pentecostalism. By this is meant the concerted and focused activity of congregational or parachurch agencies that identifies the ‘spiritual strongholds’ over specific geographic territories, cultural regions, or national governments or institutions, engages and or resists the corporate sins and activities perpetuated by such spirits, and mobilizes sustained warfare prayer devoted to neutralizing, binding, and rendering impotent such powers.”
Yong addresses how during election years Pentecostal prayers may be intensified, and their attitudes toward politics may become more spiritual as they stress the importance of praying, and engaging in combat demonic forces that are attributed to influence political leaders. In some sectors of the world the Pentecostal church promotes the importance of having Christian leaders in office, and can sway votes in their direction. Sometimes, this may be good but at other times the leaders can demonize anything that is not ‘biblical’ and do more harm for the gospel in office. This impetus can be seen in our North American churches, as during every presidential election year Christians promote and host large rallies on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C. Though they do not profess that it is politically motivated, these rallies tend to pray for leaders and espouse the view that it is every person’s responsibility to vote biblically. In the year 2000 I was part of The Call D.C. where 400,000 people prayed and fasted with specific guidance on praying for the election, and this year, 2016, I will be taking my children with me to the Mall for Together 2016.
I find this book as a great resource and understanding of Pentecostal engagement with political theology. Yong tracks the history of Protestant views of political theology from the Reformation and traces these ideas to modern day Pentecostalism. His insights on the topic are insightful. Yong is very familiar with the praying habits of Pentecostals for political processes. The concept of territorial spiritual warfare is a hot button issue, and though I may have participated in some of these forms of prayer I realized that warfare should be engaged from a place of relying on the victory Christ already one, so positionally we are seated with Him, far above all principalities and powers. Warfare and readiness is part of our Christian walk, but instead of working up a sweat in a prayer meeting, I think that groups engaging in territorial warfare can easily be sidetracked if focused too much on the demonic, when our warfare prayer needs to be relying and resting in Jesus in us.
I have seen people pray over pornographic businesses, work up a sweat as they bind and rebuke the enemy, and declare the spirit fell…yet the business remains years later. I have also seen well-meaning Christians engage in warfare on their own when they do not fully know their identity in Jesus, and instead they attract dark supernatural forces and then become influenced by them. Spiritual warfare should only be engaged by those who are trained biblically
There is a time for warfare prayer, but I think it should be when the Holy Spirit illuminates it and draws us into it, as long as we know our identity in Jesus and that He has already won the victory, we just need to enforce it at times when the powers reveal themselves. With deliverance ministry in mind, I have learned that if a spirit manifests itself then, when they revealed themselves around Jesus, He cast them out. But Jesus never went hunting for demons, as some ‘deliverance’ ministries do. When they finish their work, there are traumatized and spiritually confused people left in its wake when not done from an attitude of love and grace. And these precious people who were used or manipulated into deliverance sessions walk away thinking they are cursed or demonized when they really were not, but the ministers declared and ‘prophesied’ and worked up a sweat when praying over them.
Deliverance and warfare prayer should be from the position of abiding in Jesus, knowing He has won the victory at the cross, and that greater is He in us than he in the world. Deliverance is to be first and foremost a ministry that operates in love for God and love for the person who needs freedom.
(This paper was for the Global Theology of Mission course with Miguel Alvarez, Ph.D., at Regent University, summer 2016)