Post 33 / The Next Language
January 11, 2021
Having recently read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti I have been reminded afresh of my multi dimensional experiences working with my animist friends from Siberia to South America.
Outwardly Peretti’s sleepy, middle American town of Ashton looks like any other and the casual passerby could make assumptions about its founding and history. However, Peretti overlays a unique (for 1986 when the book was written) perspective, and the town is transformed into a stage for spiritual warfare complete with ranks of demons and angels, both visible and invisible. “Visible demons?” you may be thinking. Yes. I remember the Yaqui shaman who pointed out individuals in an ordinary Mexican market who he claimed were not really humans. He thought it common knowledge that when you look at a real person you can observe an aura around them. Spiritual imposter-humans have no such aura.
With this animist perspective in mind I am provoked once again to rethink how we package the Gospel. As Western materialists we depend a lot on chronological and logical development in order to make sense of the Gospel, and so we view Bible stories much as that passerby would view Peretti’s town of Ashton. I think my animist friends would primarily see the town with the spiritual overlay that Peretti applies. They have a much better idea of what is really going on than the average Westerner in general.
This has prompted me to seriously consider developing a new series of scripts that presents the Gospel story not so much as a link in a progressive time line but as the capstone to a story of spiritual hierarchy and warfare which goes on behind the scenes all the way through the Bible.
Currently most missions deem it important to fill in the entire chronological back story of the Gospel. This timeline approach to missions is emphatically followed by some, to such a degree that I have been with missionaries that were not able to record with us because the people were still busy learning about Abraham. And a similar timeline is the prime driver of our “Good News” series of 40 stories.
I don’t want to minimize the importance of chronological cohesion – indeed I think one of the Western church’s weaknesses is that we haven’t had a clue what connects Genesis to Revelation. But I notice that when Jesus came into the presence of a demon-possessed Gadarene He did not start with a rational expose of the creation or even the Exodus. He directly connected with the legion of spirits that were tormenting the victim. Curiously, with no introduction, those spirits instantly recognized Jesus as Christ. There was a non-physical, invisible tension that assumed a heavenly conflict with opposing hosts that have been at war with God at least since man became the image bearer of God on earth.
My shaman friends from the past readily understand the concept of rank, conflict between good and evil, and the interplay between spirits and created life in the invisible realm. I know from lengthy conversations that they quickly understood what was going on between God, Adam and Eve, and the serpent. They become visibly engaged when hearing about the 21-day struggle between Michael and the Prince of Persia in order for the Son of God to get to Daniel. They understand Jesus pre-incarnately appearing as a warrior with Joshua (Josh. 5), or as a would-be killer with Moses (Ex. 4:24), or as Melchizedek with Abraham (Gen. 14), or again as three visitors with Abraham (Gen. 18:1-2), or as a pair of guides with Lot (Gen. 19), or as a wrestler with Jacob (Gen. 32). The list could go on. But how many of our scripts even mention these events?
Couple the scene in Job chapter 1 with the temptation of Christ, or consider the many demonic manifestations during Christ’s ministry. The animist understands better than us the real struggle that is going on in these stories. They readily see the mystery that shrouded the crucifixion and recognize its purpose: to keep Satan from realizing he was unwittingly creating his own defeat. They understand why Christ needed to make an open spectacle of them on the cross and how the resurrection broke open an entirely new era in the spiritual realms: a new authority structure with the Prince of the power of the air defeated and any cause for fear of death erased.
I well remember a former shaman recounting to me his trouble getting extracted from the clutches of Satan. He found life and permanent freedom from this passage in Hebrews 2:
Since then the children (us) are sharers in flesh and blood, He also himself in like manner partook of the same (flesh and blood); that through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Heb 2:14-15 ASV).
That ex shaman is now a missionary. You can read his story at an old blog of mine called animist bridges for christ.
As our world becomes more and more cosmopolitan it is hard for the materialistic westerner to even believe these animistic perspectives still exist. To a large degree that is because we are victims of spiritual blindness- a state that well suits the great deceiver:
Thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and naked (Rev 3:17 ASV).
May God help us all to develop a more real understanding of what is really going on around us and the eternal consequences at stake. This understanding will help us all to pray more effectively and fervently. Pray with us at GRN that we will be able to introduce new script material that will powerfully speak to the animist world view.
Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director
Global Recordings Network USA
P. S. As a “thank you” for your continued support of the ministry of Global Recordings Network USA, and in celebration of over 80 years of God’s faithfulness, we have compiled a collection of 80 daily devotions written by GRN founder, Joy Ridderhof. You may read or download your copy of Rejoice Always – 80 Devotions with Joy Ridderhof here.