The result of this is that Christians have authority over angels, including demons, because Jesus gave us that authority. He delegated his authority to us to use according to his will on earth. We are, in fact, God’s sons and daughters. So we exercise spiritual authority in God’s name, and demons must obey us, just as they did Jesus. However, although the authority has been given to us, the power comes from God. If we misuse our authority, God will may not exercise his power. Thus it is important for us to spend time to with God, just as Jesus did, in order to figure out what His will is. It is only by knowing God’s will that we can confidently exercise our authority.
It is also important to recognize some limits to our authority. We are to only use it in love, as a servant, to help others. It is not to be used for building our power or reputation. We need to be humble, because the Almighty God is trusting us with His authority. We need to examine whether our exercise of authority results in godly fruit. We must use our authority in obedience—we cannot command God, just name-it-and-claim-it, or expect God to bless the plans we made without asking Him. We should also recognize that even though we have God’s authority, and we may His overall will, this particular time might not be when He wants to accomplish His will. And we need to remember that it is not our power that is doing this, nor are we indispensible to God.
Kraft contends that God has ordained an authority structure which the spirit world must obey. One main rule appears to be that the spirit world must obey the authority structure set in place in the human world. Naturally, we have authority over ourselves. So if we give ourselves to Satan, we have given him authority. If we give ourselves to God, then He has authority to work. In fact, since we are initially Satan’s, God cannot work in us until we give Him that authority. Another authority structure is the husband-wife-children hierarchy that God instituted. Thus the husband has spiritual authority over the family, and can command demons residing in his wife or children. (Likewise, he could invite demons if he is not a Christian.) This authority is tempered by 1 Cor 7:14, which gives the believing wife some authority of her own over herself and her children. Finally, the structure of authority that we have created for ourselves must be obeyed: leaders have authority over their followers, whether that be the pastor of the church or the ruler of a nation. Kraft quotes Peter Wagner describing ministry to a tribal group spanning two countries. On one side they were resistant to the Gospel, but on the other side received it gratefully. In fact, the same person would have differing reactions depending on the side of the border he was on.
The implication of this spiritual authority structure is that those in spiritual authority should be diligent in exercising it. Kraft suggests that husbands tell the spirit world that if they want to attack his family, they must go through him first, and that, in Jesus', name he forbids them to do that. He also suggests that pastors do something similar through their authority over their churches.
Some things will give demons the authority to reside in people or places. (Kraft does not suggest that this is “demon possession,” meaning the person has no will, but “demonization,” meaning that they reside in the person and harass or tempt them more than they would be able to do otherwise.) One of the main ones is sin. Sin in our lives gives demons rights to attack us. Likewise, sin in a location gives demons the authority to inhabit those locations. He cites the example of a church where adultery had occurred regularly in the church building (unknown to the pastor), or a church built on or near an Indian burial ground (where people had been dedicated to evil spirits). In both cases commanding the demons to leave resulted in the strange and spiritually hindering things ceasing. Likewise, Kraft suggests it is important to cleanse a new house and grounds of demons, in case the previous owner had sinned and allowed demons to inhabit the property. He also reports that several teachers who regularly cleansed their classrooms found that their students’ formerly disruptive behavior noticeably changed.
Somewhat similar is the discussion of curses. We can curse ourselves, sexual organs being a common target, which can even cause disease in the cursed parts. Since we have authority over ourselves, we can cancel these curses simply by stating so. Similarly, vows that we have made (“I will not let myself be hurt like that again”, etc.) can allow demons to gain a foothold and should be canceled. Curses can also be directed at someone else, but there must be a place for the curse to land (Prov 26:2). Particularly insidious is that curses may not say “I curse...” but simply express dislike or disgust for someone. Likewise, we can bless others in Jesus name. Blessings and curses are owned by the blessor or cursor and can be retracted by them (Luke 9:4-5, 10:5-6).
Kraft also suggests that spiritual authority can be extended to inanimate objects. Objects, land, and buildings can be dedicated to either God or Satan’s benefit. He suggests that objects dedicated to demons allow demons to reside in those objects and harass the house in which they are located. Likewise, objects (such as letters) that are blessed carry God’s power.
Authority for demonic activity remains until it is canceled. Thus an ancestor who invited a demon into the family permits each successive generation to be affected by the demon unless one of the descendants specifically cancels it’s authority. Kraft sees this as particularly important for adopted children, as they may have been cursed by the birth mother (“I wish I didn’t have this child”) or even dedicated to Satan.
Once we discover a demon inhabiting a person or place the process for casting them out is to first remove any right of authority. If it is sin, that must be repented of, although for the case of sin by previous generations and owners of buildings, Kraft seems to think that the Christian’s authority covers that and does not always recommend repentance. Then it is wise to ask the demon if he recognizes Jesus’ authority (this is also helpful for the client), and finally command him (and any demons under his authority) to leave. If the demon refuses to leave, then there must be some authority remaining that needs to be dealt with. If there are multiple issues, each with their own demon, he suggests putting the demons in a spiritual box as they are dealt with, and then casting them all out at once. For long distance work he suggests commanding no communication between the spirit world and the demons of that person.
I am at a bit of a loss at how to regard this book. Although initially skeptical when my friend suggested it, the prominent endorsement by J.I. Packer on the cover overruled my vague concerns. The first three chapters of the book (our authority as Christians) seem scripturally grounded, as Kraft presents many supporting verses. After that the references become suddenly spartan. Most of the book is spent describing the authority rules the God allegedly set up in the spirit realm and the specific authorities we have, and there is very little scripture mentioned here. Instead, Kraft suggests that the Bible is like a rope that ties a horse to stake in the grass. The horse may freely graze anywhere within the circle, but the rope limits the horse to that circle. Since the Bible does not state these rules, Kraft determines them experimentally, trying them to see whether they work. He also has discovered some by asking demons. He summarizes his view with “If there is some regularity in the interactions between the spirit and human worlds that there is in the physical world (and I believe there is), we can speak of developing a science of the spirit realm by means of the same process described above. (Kraft, 309)” My gut reaction is that any thought of a “science of the spirit realm” is being rather presumptuous.
Some of the ideas he presents seem to me to be closer to an Animistic world view than a Biblical one. He states that “The power of God through blessing apparently extends even to influencing people who use objects that have been blessed. (Kraft, 60)” and also “The dedication of objects to spirit beings enables spiritual power to flow through those objects. (Kraft, 143)” He cites the use of clothing touched by Paul to heal (Acts 19:12) as a scriptural example, and says “People have told me things changed when they blessed letters and sent them to people. (Kraft, 61)” I do not think this is scriptural. Jesus almost always said “your faith has made you well” when he healed people. In fact, he told the woman who was cured of internal bleeding when she touched Jesus’ clothes the same thing (Luke 8:47-48). It seems more reasonable that people were cured by objects Paul touched because they believed in the power of the God that Paul served, rather than an inherent power in the things themselves.
I should note that Kraft explicitly rejects an Animistic view: “Lest we take a magical attitude toward such items, though, we must recognize that the power is not contained in the object itself, as animism would contend. Rather the power comes from God and is merely conveyed through the blessed item. (Kraft, 143)” However, he says a little earlier “Substances like anointing oil, water, salt and food, when dedicated to God, convey God’s blessing to the user. (Kraft, 143)” I see little difference between the object magically containing and it magically conveying blessing. My understanding is that Animism says that the object itself has importance in exerting the effect. Blessing the oil in order to bless the person seems to me to be Animistic. The Christian approach would be to bless the person and use the anointing oil to remind the person of the blessing.
Some of Kraft’s ideas seem to spiritualize causes that can be otherwise explained. He seems to base his view of cursing oneself based on the results that when people renounce those curses they are able to make emotional progress in their lives: “I have seen dramatic changes in people who have asserted their authority to renounce curses they put on themselves or parts of themselves. (Kraft, 61)” I suspect this is related to vows. If a sexually abused person curses their ability to enjoy sex (or vows not to enjoy sex) there is nothing spiritual about changes as a result of them renouncing it. The curse/vow is the sign of a formation of a value system (“I won’t get hurt again if I don’t enjoy sex”); the renunciation is the recognition that this value system is incorrect. The change is not because of some curse that is lifted but from the fruits of a healthy value system.
Kraft’s view of authority seems to require continuous maintenance to remain demon-free. A cleansed classroom will be re-infected by the sin that the children bring in them. Churches will be re-infected by the people that come in the doors every Sunday. I see several problems with this. First, nowhere in the Bible does it suggest that we need to be constantly casting out demons. When Jesus and the apostles cast out demons, there is no suggestion that they returned. Second, the effect of this view of authority is to create a sense of fear (at least, that’s the effect it had on me). Am I being tempted because there are demons that have authority because of sin? Does the pastor need to anoint every chair each week before the service or risk crippling the church’s effectiveness? The Christian’s life is consistently described with the word “freedom”; this view seems to tie a Christian’s effectiveness to their diligence in casting out demons.
The Bible does not seem to take this approach to demons at all. Jesus did cast out a fair number of demons, but it was always in the context of healing people. In fact, Matt 8:16 very strongly associates the two. Jesus never talked about casting demons out of places or inanimate objects. Paul also cast out several demons in Acts, but none of his letters mention casting out demons, or even commanding them in authority. He does, however, repeatedly exhort the believers to have actions that are consistent with faith. Likewise, Jesus stresses obedience in no uncertain terms. Jesus’ view seems to be that the problem is with our hearts. If our hearts have God’s character, we will produce fruits of obedience. If not, we will produce fruit more like the Pharisees'.
Furthermore, the views that demons have authority to reside in inanimate objects and places, or in people due to sin, seem to be simply unbiblical. Regarding sin, the Bible clearly says that God views us as sinless through Jesus’ death (Rom 8:1-2, Heb 9:14, Heb 10:14-18). If God views us as sinless it does not seem reasonable that our sin would give demons any authority. Paul does suggest that unresolved anger gives the devil a foothold (Eph 4:27) but it seems more likely that this refers to his ability to use our anger to tempt us to more sin, rather than authority to reside in us. Regarding inanimate objects, Paul explicitly says that it is acceptable for Christians to eat meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 10:25). According to Kraft’s world view, demons would have the right to reside in the meat (and presumably in us once we ate it) since it was dedicated to demons. Paul, in contrast, suggests that we can eat any meat in thanks to God (1 Cor 10:26-30).
While J.I. Packer’s endorsement is hopeful, Kraft’s other associations appear to point the other way. John Wimber also endorsed the book (although it is rather less prominently placed). Wimber was the founder of the Anaheim Vineyard, a charismatic church that initially had rather questionable practices. Kraft also cites C. Peter Wagner’s books frequently. Wagner seems to have questionable spiritual views (see http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/wagnerquotes.html and http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/vine/vineyard.htm). He is also associated with “rhema” and a search for “peter wagner rhema” reveals numerous accusations of misapplication of Scripture. The fact that Kraft is a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary is disturbing, since the seminary disputes the inerrancy of the Bible.
There seems to be a collection of charismatic leaders that claim to have prophetic words from the Lord. These appear to be the leaders of a revival of the Latter Rain movement, criticized as heretical by the Assemblies of God churches in 1948. Some names in this circle are C. Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets, Rick Joyner, and Bob Jones (unrelated to the university by the same name). Bob Jones, in particular seems to have some rather questionable statements, including that prophets need not have 100% accuracy (see http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/kcp.html). However, a look at the prophecies of any of the men in the Latter Rain movement reveals questionable prophecies.
I strongly recommend avoiding this book. Kraft seems to be endorsing Animism with his view of blessing and curses, as well as the idea the demons can inhabit places and objects. He places an emphasis on demons that is not found in Scripture—Jesus places the emphasis on our heart and our obedience. His views on demons having authority to reside in people, places, and things as a result of sin or dedication to Satan are contradicted by Scripture. Finally, the fact that Kraft is associated with men of the Latter Rain movement who are roundly condemned as false prophets makes me even more nervous. Your time is better spent reading books that adhere to scripture and whose authors do not associate with questionable prophets.
[Update 3/2014] My original review was written before I understood Charismatic thought, and my words represented fear of animism, and unkindness towards Charismatic leaders (whom I had never interacted with in any way, either personally, listening to audio or viedeo, or even through their books). With regard to the leaders that I maligned above, I have since watched the videos of John Wimber’s testimony and messages from the 1985 Signs and Wonders Conference. The testimony video made me want to watch the rest of the conference, and Wimber struck me as being authentic. Conservative, even compared to some other Charismatic leaders. I have also heard stories about Bob Jones, and they suggest that he genuinely did hear from God in a unique and extremely clear way. I believe my comments about Charismatic leaders were ignorant and simply unloving.
With regard to Kraft’s book, much of what he says is standard Charismatic thinking. My reaction to it was based on two things: reaction against animistic thinking and a naturalistic worldview that said that the supernatural does not really exist (with an exception for God, and a theoretical exception for angels and demons, except I viewed them as largely ignorable). I have since come to the realization that animism is simply the demonic attempt to be served and worshipped. But since demons are fallen angels, not everything with an animistic flavor is necessarily demonic; some is probably derived from the angelic culture. While I still suspect that Kraft goes a little far, he is not as far out as my fear of animism lead me to think. Ironically, I am now functionally Charismatic, I think much of what he says is true. My claim that he is unbiblical is simply incorrect (the Bible does not actually say anything explicitly about demonic authority or demons inhabiting objects).
The book is fairly well written. Although there is a bit of repetition, it is well organized, readable, and well-argued, with lots of stories that pique the interest. However, I write “well-argued” with regards to the logical argument. Unfortunately, logical arguments that have no Biblical basis, particularly if they are contradicted by the Bible, are not helpful in the spiritual realm. Furthermore, the stories are uniformly vague. They pique the interest, but offer no substantiable details. The content is of such questionable quality, yet masquerading as truth, that I feel that this book should be avoided.