The Warfare Worldview

Dr. Greg Boyd describes the warfare worldview as that being held by pagans, but simultaneously claims it to be the view the Biblical authors held. I find his perspective amazing. He discusses the view of a particular pagan society: “The Shuar Indians of eastern Ecuador believe that there are two levels of reality: the ‘ordinary’ physical world, which we experience with our senses, and the ‘real’ one, which is experienced occasionally, and mostly in dreams or in shamanic journeys.”1 In this view the “real” world is the world of the spirits which is not that accessible. But it is considered the cause of things in the “unreal” physical world. Boyd explains, “This invisible society of spirits is behind everything that occurs in the physical world—though one has to see past ‘the lie’ to discern this society.” 2

Pagan societies, whatever their terminology, create a class of shamans, as mentioned above. Boyd explains how that works for the Shuar:

The primary business of shamans (medicine men) within the Shuar culture, as in many other primitive cultures, is to engage in warfare with these spirits on behalf of the members of his tribe. There is no “natural” evil here; there are only victims of supernatural evil. The shaman’s business, therefore, is to enter into the “real” nonordinary world and fight against such supernatural attacks.3

Spiritual warfare is the business of shamans. Boyd accurately describes the pagan “warfare worldview.”

What shocks me is that he claims it is the Biblical worldview. Boyd writes, “This central thesis of this work is that this warfare worldview is in one form or another the basic worldview of biblical authors, both in the Old Testament and even more so in the New.”4 He offers this definition: “Stated most broadly, this worldview is that perspective on reality which centers on the conviction that the good and evil, fortunate or unfortunate, aspects of life are to be interpreted largely as the result of good and evil, friendly or hostile, spirits warring against each other and against us.”5 This means that our welfare is in the hands of wicked spirits and if we cannot come up with a means of dealing with those spirits we shall become victims.

My disagreement with Boyd is not about the existence of spirits, principalities or powers, nor of Satan or of other spirit beings—or even that the Bible does portray a world influenced by such beings. My disagreement has to do with his conclusion that God is not fully in charge of His own universe. Boyd wishes to absolve God from any possible association with evil by limiting His providential rule of the universe.

The providential view claims that though God allows evil, He nevertheless remains fully in control of His own universe and brings history forward according to His good purposes. Those of us who believe it take passages like this to be literal: “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). There are many other passages that assert that God providentially rules His own universe. The Bible says that He draws the boundaries of the nations (Acts 17:26), ordains the human authorities (Romans 13:1), determines what Satan is allowed to do (Job 1:7-12), that through Christ he created the “ages” (Hebrews 1:2) and “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). The Psalmist wrote: “Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Your ordinances, For all things are Your servants.” (Psalm 119:90, 91).6

The warfare worldview is Boyd’s way of rejecting the providential worldview that I claim to be Biblical. He labels the view I defend the “providential blueprint worldview.”7 I cite Boyd because his is the most scholarly articulation of the warfare worldview—and he admits it is pagan. But other spiritual warfare teachers take this even further by seeking information and technology from the world of the spirits ostensibly to use for the purpose of warfare.