Cure All Bondages

(This originally appeared in the Summer 1999 edition of the MCOI Journal beginning on page 4)

Bondage graphicOne only has to glance at (he shelves of the local Christian bookstore to surmise that the topic of spiritual warfare is a hot one. It seems many authors are expounding on the best way for Christians to gain victory over sin and Satan. One such writer is Neil T. Anderson, former Professor of Practical Theology at Talbot Seminary, Christian counselor, and head of Freedom in Christ ministries. Anderson’s best-selling book, The Bondage Breaker, seeks to give believers the tools they need to overcome

“negative thoughts, irrational feelings, and habitual sins.”1

 Anderson seeks to show Christians a theology right out of the New Testament that breaks the bondage of Satan in their lives. He does this by describing a believer’s identity in Christ and how this knowledge can lead to victory over the wiles of Satan.

While Anderson does a thorough job of helping Christians understand who they are in Christ, he also delves into the issue of spiritual warfare. He believes demonic control is at the heart of all habitual sin and proceeds to give the methods by which this demonic influence can be combated. Here is where I must differ with Anderson.

In this article, I will critique some of the strategies Anderson offers. I will show that Anderson’s view of the demonic is not only absent from Scripture, but it actually has more in common with the occult. I DO NOT mean by this that Anderson is practicing the occult. On the contrary, I have found him to be a very sincere Christian counselor with a genuine desire to help struggling Christians. Be that as it may, he is misguided in his theology. This is due to some misinterpretation of Scripture, an over-reliance on experience, and an occult view of reality creeping into his Christian worldview.

Freedom and Bondage

Before I begin to evaluate Anderson’s views, it is necessary for me to outline his basic teachings in the Bondage Breaker Anderson begins by denying that a Christian has any sin nature Anderson states,

 “I have been spiritually circumcised. My old unregenerate nature has been removed “2

“When you came into spiritual union with God through your new birth, you didn’t add a new divine nature to your old, sinful nature You exchanqed natures “3

Christians must reprogram their mind to the fact that they do not need to follow the old patterns of sin—they are new creatures in Christ Since (according to Anderson) believers no longer have any inherent nature to sin, there must be another cause for Christians caught in the ‘bondage” of habitual sin. That cause, he believes, is demonic. Once a believer commits some sin, it opens the doorway for demonic infestation (my word) which can bind the believer into a habitual pattern of sin. This also can occur if the believer ha ancestors who had participated in some sin pattern such as alcoholism or witchcraft. From this, the Christian can inherit “demonic strongholds that are passed on from one generation to the next” that will keep him from gaining victory.

Unless the demons are dealt with, there can be no victory. Unlike the deliverance movement devotees, who say someone other than the individual affected must deliver the host from its demon, Anderson says each Christian has the ability to exercise this control over the demonic by using a series of prayers and affirmations called the “Steps to Freedom in Christ.” This demonic element can cause believers to be powerless to control their compulsions. They must go through the steps in order to be free and then they are still susceptible to demonic control if another door is opened for demonic infestation. There is never a point when a believer is not subject to potential satanic bondage, says Anderson.

“It is my observation that no more than 15 percent of the Evangelical Christian community is completely free of Satan’s bondage “4

The ways a believer can open himself up to demonic control are myriad and listed in what Anderson calls a “Non-Christian Spiritual Experience Inventory” which includes being in a cult, hypnosis, Ouija boards, etc. It’s important to note these activities may have been experienced before salvation and that the “bondage of demonic control” must still be dealt with even years after someone is saved. Also, the demonic bondage can be inherited from an ancestor. For this reason, Anderson asks many of his patients if they are adopted, for they may have garnered a spirit from their unknown parentage.

 Can A Christian Lose Control to Demons?

The first problem I see with Anderson’s theology is the question of exactly how much influence can Satan have in the life of a believer? As stated above, Anderson contends Christians can become so demonically influenced that they can lose control of their actions.5  He justifies this with several Scriptures that he cites as proof that Satan (the demonic) can take control of a believer. While it is beyond the scope of this article to refute the idea of Christians being possessed,6 I would like to address a few of the verses he employs:

1 Luke 13:10-18: A woman was crippled due to some demonic influence. Anderson contends that, since she is a “daughter of Abraham,” this indicates she is a Christian.

2 Luke 22:31-34: Jesus tells Peter that Satan has “demanded to sift you like wheat

3 James 3:14-17: James indicates that if we are bitter, that “wisdom” is “demonic.”

4 Ephesians 4:26-27: Paul admonishes us not to let Satan have a foothold. Anderson points out that in the Greek, “The word foothold’ literally means ‘place’.”7

5. Acts 5:3: Peter tells Ananias that Satan has filled his heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.

First concerning the “daughter of Abraham,” there is no indication this term refers to one who had believed in Jesus. It is an indication of her heritage. She is Jewish. The context is completely Jewish. She is in a synagogue and what is in question is whether Jesus should perform the work of healing on the Sabbath.

Second, the statement that Satan wants to test Peter does not indicate any possession. Anderson goes completely beyond the context and into speculation when he concludes Peter had, “given a foothold to Satan through pride when he debated with the disciples about which of them was the greatest …8 The text does not even indicate which disciples were debating. It only mentions there was a dispute among them (Luke 22:24). One wonders why the others also did not garner a demonic infestation.

As to the “demonic” wisdom in James chapter three, one must only appeal to grammar to refute this one. The word for “demonic ” (Greek = δαιμόνιον, daimoniodes) is used as an adjective. It can be translated “devilish.” James is merely contrasting heavenly wisdom which is “peaceable, gentle, reasonable,” etc.

Furthermore, in one of his anecdotes, Anderson relates how a prostitute challenged the faith of one of his students. This young man then acquired this “demonic logic” and fell into heresy.9 This clearly is not the context, since James says the devilish wisdom comes from “bitter jealousy” and “selfish ambition” not from being questioned by a prostitute!

To question the allowing of a “foothold” we can appeal to linguistics. The word “topon” (Greek = τόπος) can be translated “place” but it can also have the idea of “opportunity” as it does in Romans 12:19 and 15:23. We are admonished not to give Satan an opportunity in our lives.

The last reference is a little more difficult since we have to look at the verses that follow Acts 5:3. In verse three, Peter asks Ananias why “Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” In verse four, Peter says Ananias literally “purposed in your heart” to do these things. Here it is Ananias who has done this on his own! How can this be? Anderson interprets verse three to be saying Satan occupied (filled) Ananias’ heart and caused him to do these things. Instead of “Satan filled his heart,” Anderson says Satan filled him with “Satanic deception” and “{Ananias} allowed Satan’s deception to fill (control) his heart.” He underscores this by saying the word used for “filled ” (Greek = ἐπλήρωσεν, eplērōsen) is used for the filling of the Holy Spirit. There are two problems with his argument First, the text does not say Ananias’ heart was filled with Satan, but rather that Satan filled Ananias “to lie to the Holy Spirit” I think this refers to Satan filling (influencing) Ananias to do something—namely the desire to lie to the Spirit. This is not possession but rather temptation. Furthermore, if Anderson insists on using the connotation of “eplērōsen” in regard to being “filled with the Spirit in the same manner as being “filled with Satan,” then this defeats his assertion that Ananias has lost control. When a believer is filled with the Spirit, there is no loss of control. We still have free will to obey or disobey God, but this is contrary to Anderson’s point when he says:

“Those who say a demon cannot influence an area of a believer’s life, [sic] have left us with only two possible culprits for the problems we face: ourselves or God. If we blame ourselves, we feel hopeless because we can’t do anything to stop what we are doing.”10

This is the real danger I see in Anderson’s theology. There is no personal responsibility for habitual sin. The person who struggles with sin is not met with the crushing conviction of their own sinfulness and their need for dependence on the Spirit (without whom none can do good) Instead, the person is told demons have control. If someone feels the deep conviction that, “’…nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh …’11 I am in this flesh and basically depraved” they are counseled that such thinking is from Satan:

“Instead of recognizing that their [believers’] minds are being peppered by the fiery darts of the enemy, they think the problem is their own fault. ‘If these foul thoughts are mine, what kind of person am I?’ So they end up condemning themselves while the enemy continues his attack.”12

 I think the answer to the question. “What kind of person am I?” is that while we live in these unredeemed bodies, we are depraved. But for the power of the Holy Spirit, we are incapable of doing good—as Paul says, nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” Anderson, however, teaches the believer has become inherently good, saying

“The Bible doesn’t refer to believers as sinners, not even sinners saved by grace the Bible never refers to believers as sinners.”13

So, therefore, any thoughts of imperfection are condemned as demonic. As to the issue of personal responsibility, Anderson answers the objection by saying he does not allow anyone to use the old Flip Wilson cliché, “The Devil made me do it.”

“I never tolerate someone saying, The Devil made me do it.’ No, he didn’t make you do it; you did. Somewhere along the line you chose to give the Devil a foothold He merely took advantage of the opportunity you gave him.”14

Anderson previously defined a “foothold” as being infestation even to the point of losing control. If this is the case, then all that has been done is to move the culpability one step further. If Anderson is correct, then the Devil didn’t make you do it. You allowed the Devil in, and then he made you do it! He goes so far as to interpret Paul’s admonishing believers to not let sin reign in your mortal body15 within this construct:

“I personally believe that the word sin in Romans 6:12 is personified, referring to Satan … Satan is sin .I would have a hard time understanding how only a principle [sin] would reign in my body in such a way that I would have no control over it.”16

This is simply bad hermeneutics. There is nothing in this text or its context to indicate Paul means this. Paul is personifying the sinful life as having the ability to reign (like a king) in the life of a believer. Again, this is succumbing to temptation not possession by Satan.

I see one other point of confusion in Anderson’s definition of demonic infestation Anderson voices the same doctrine as deliverance teachers: he makes the distinction between demonic control and demonic ownership, indicating that demons may infest (my word) a Christian but not possess a Christian.

My problem with this is that the characteristics Anderson gives a person under the control of a demon are exactly the same as those of the unsaved demon-possessed in the Bible. There is no difference in the extent of control. Perhaps an analogy would be helpful. If I have a title to a car in my name, I own the car. I have the free will to do what I want with my car. I can drive it where I want. I have control of its movements. I can gas it up. I can sell it. Now, let’s assume someone steals my car and gets away. The authorities have given up the search. The insurance company has paid the claim. The thief is home free. Now, the question is: Does the thief have the free will to do what he wants with my car? Yes. He can drive it where he wants. He has control over its movements. He can gas it up. He can even sell it on some black market. The thief does not own my car legally; but practically, what is the difference? Anderson’s definition of demonic control of believers sounds just like demonic possession of New Testament unbelievers. There is no Biblical precedent for this. There is no demonic possession of believers in the New Testament! There is no instance in the New Testament of someone becoming a believer and then being delivered from a demonic spirit—even in the cases of people who, according to Anderson’s theology, were in a position to open the door to demonic control such as the Philippian jailer who was a converted pagan (Acts 16:34) or the myriad of Corinthians who were involved in all manner of non-spiritualpractices including idolatry before their conversions.17

Indeed, one of the real problems with Anderson’s “Steps to Freedom in Christ” is the deafening silence of any Christian epistle on this subject. There are no instructions for ridding a believer of demons. If these steps are so vital to overcoming sin and living victoriously, one would expect them to be mentioned in the New Testament. They are not there. Instead, what we have are warnings and exhortations—flee sexual immorality ” (1 Cor 6:18), be nourished up in… good doctrine(1 Tim. 4:6), “… turn away from evil, and do good…” (1 Pet. 3:11).

It seems Anderson’s spiritual warfare is analogous to the old children’s game of imaginary bacteria called “cooties ” You could catch “cooties” just by being next to someone or being near a place where someone with “cooties” had been. They could get on you and then you had them until you got rid of them. Anderson’s view of the spiritual is similar. He asserts a young student “caught” (again my term) “demonic logic” simply by being challenged by an ungodly woman. Christians can “catch” a demon by committing some sin. They even can be hereditary. Anderson alleges one pastor “caught” a demon when:

“He attended a Buddhist funeral… participated in the ritual by taking off his shoes, which is an act of worship in many Eastern religions. That night demons mocked him in his devotions.”18

This is absolutely foreign to the Bible. In fact, it’s contradictory. Paul tells those who might unknowingly eat food that had been sacrificed in worship to an idol that an idol is nothing.”[19. 1 Corinthians 8:4] He is not concerned about the Corinthians “catching” a demon, but rather that they do not undermine the faith of a weaker brother. No demonic “cooties” here.

So then, I find Neil Anderson ‘s understanding of the nature of demons and their ability to control believers to be without Biblical precedent It is not part of a Christian worldview. Demons may attack and influence believers, but they do not latch on to places and people simply by contact, nor is there any evidence they possess Christians.

bondage graphic 2

Occult Practices Slipping Into The Church

I said previously I DO NOT believe that Neil Anderson is an occultist, or that he is purposely trying to bring occult teachings into Christian theology. I find him to be a man who genuinely ares about the faith. His sincerity is not in question; his theology is. Occult ideology has been rearing its ugly head in the church since the late eighteen hundreds when the New Thought movement began to influence Christians At that time, it was beaten back by sound theology and preaching.

Today, however, the church has largely abandoned the practice of teaching theology among its laymen and has opted for a more experiential approach. Because the average Christian does not have the tools of philosophy, theology and Bible interpretation to discern what is and is not coherent with the Christian worldview, the occult has been slipping into the church—especially in spiritual warfare, where experience has largely replaced Bible study. I think this is the case with Anderson. I think he confuses the Christian worldview (as defined by the Bible) with the occult worldview that surrounds us every day and depends so heavily on subjective experience. One only has to read a few pages of Anderson’s book to see his reliance on what he calls “case studies ” They are used not only as examples of his principles of bondage and freedom but also as proof of his views of the demonic.19

I want to illumine how this theology fits more neatly into the occult world than it does into the Christian. We already have mentioned one example—that of believers being possessed and losing control of their bodies. In the occult, anyone who opens up to the control of spirits may be overtaken. New Age channelers describe this very experience.20 On the other hand, the Bible indicates believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Demons are not barred from possessing a person by the force of a formula prayer but by the present, indwelling Spirit of God from whom no one can separate.21

There is a problem with the occult concept of sin as well. Most believers take the typical Augustinian view of sin (evil) as a privation. It is the lack of something. It is the taking of something good and corrupting it. Anderson, however, makes sin synonymous with Satan Believers do not continue habitual sin without demonic presence In the occult, evil is not really a moral category, but rather, the opposite side of a coin. George Lucas, an advocate of the occult teacher Carlos Castaneda, described this idea when he spoke of the philosophy behind Star Wars. He stated that he wanted to show there was a good side and a bad side of the same force, but that “the world works better if you’re on the good side.”22

In the occult, this energy and the spirits allegedly can be manipulated by words used in combinations called spells. These spirits are conjured, controlled and manipulated by these spells. The Christian worldview says, while demons are real, they are not “forces” to be manipulated by words. They are spiritual beings dealt with through the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer The power rests with God—it is only exercised through the believer. I think Neil Anderson would agree with the above statement. However, his understanding of demonic combat includes formula prayers that he offers as a way to rid believers of demons. He offers prayers for bondage to homosexuality, for those who have had an abortion, and for substance abuse—different prayers for different occasions.23 Some might object by saying these are only suggestions what to pray, but Anderson never indicates this. He only says to rid oneself of the particular bondage, pray the prayers in the book. This even includes prayers for breaking inherited curses from ancestors:

“In order to walk free from past influences, make the following declaration and pray the following prayer: I here and now reject and disown all the sins of my ancestors As one who has been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, I cancel out all demonic working that may have been passed on to me from my ancestors.”24

Compare this with the occult view that says someone who is descended from a line of occultists may inherit special power. Once again, we can look at Lucas’ Star Wars as an example. Obi Wan says “the force [which can be either good or evil] is strong in Luke’s family,” and therefore, “he has great power.”25 The Bible, however, never speaks of anyone inheriting a proclivity to sin from their parents. One verse that is often misapplied to support this, however, is Deuteronomy 5:9. The King James Version says,

“…for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.

The problem with this argument is that this verse talks about God s punishment26 for sin. Nothing whatsoever is mentioned about “demonic working ” The consequences of the fathers’ sins are for the children to deal with. Moses even told them that if they failed to drive out the pagans, then their children would suffer the wrath and be carried into captivity. This is exactly what happened to Israel, but there are no demons here.

The last thing I will mention in regard to the occult creeping into Anderson’s worldview is his idea of the transfer of demonic influence. Anderson believes being in the presence of the nonspiritual can cause one to acquire demonic influence. Just taking shoes off at a Buddhist funeral or having read books on parapsychology can generate demonic attack. He even has a prayer to designate a specific room or portion of a room as a place of spiritual safety from the demonic 27 One might have to pray these prayers in every room. There is simply no record of this kind of spiritual consecrating in the Bible. The Temple was made holy when the LORD made it a place for his name, not when Solomon prayed the prayer. Likewise, if this theology was true, then one should find Paul warning the Corinthians of “catching” a demon, since Corinth had dozens of places dedicated to false Gods. Anderson even indicates objects can be inhabited by demons.28

Paul, himself, would have been in danger of acquiring demonic influence when he debated with the philosophers on Mars Hill which was dedicated to the gods and had many pagan statues— including “an altar… TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.”29 However, in the occult, this view is very prevalent. In Raymond Buckland’s book, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (St.Paul Minnesota : Llewellyn Pub., 1993), there are special prayers to consecrate an event, a place, or even an object.30 This is not part of the Christian worldview. The New Testament indicates demons are spiritual beings and it gives examples of them possessing unsaved people and animals but never objects. Holiness and evil are not forces or energies but moral categories determined by God. Our prayers are not spells — not cause and effect, but they are communication with and petition to our Creator. The power of the Spirit is infinite to protect, and that power is not dependent upon a special prayer. This is not to say we do not pray, but the results are due to God who knows what we need even before we pray. The power and results of  prayer are not dependent on some mechanism of the words we pray. These teachings are more akin to the occult.

This occult-like worldview is dangerous to evangelism and apologetics. I saw this not too long ago while I was in a bookstore. I was picking up some occult books as primary sources for research. As a Christian occult researcher, I know evil does not reside in the pages of the books, but rather in the ideas. The ideas are demonic, not the pages. There was young a Christian woman (at least she had a book bag from a Christian ministry in the area ) who saw my books and proceeded to make a  beeline as far away from me as possible, presumably because she thought I was involved with the occult. Now, if I had been a warlock , what should she have done? Run away, afraid of catching demonic cooties? No. She should have talked to me and bore witness to Christ unafraid of my books or my ideas, because she had the truth. If we run from the non-spiritual people for fear of being contaminated, the Gospel is stifled. May it never be.

If Anderson’s Demonology is not found in Scripture and his ideas seem to fit more comfortably in to the occult — as I have put forth — then we are left with this assessment: His arguments are, at worst dangerous ; at best, they are a waste of time. Paul gives us a good principle for deciding what is important to pursue as a Christian: No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”31 Paul offered this to Timothy as a guide for his Christian life. Later in verse 23, he gives some of those entangling things — foolish and stupid argumentsIn other words, I think he was telling Timothy not to get caught up in things that are non-Biblical and have no bearing on the Gospel. I think, in all love, that Anderson’s teachings fit into this category. They are not found in Scripture and they have more in common with the occult than sound Christian doctrine.Ω

Taking 2 Timothy 3:15 seriously, Jonathan is both a student and a teacher. He currently is working on his Master of Divinity in Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary. He teaches Bible and English at North Hills Christian School, Salisbury, NC He is the most recent addition to the team of Midwest Christian Outreach. Inc in Salisbury, NC

  1. Neil T. Anderson, Bondage Breaker (Eugene. OR: Harvest House, 1993), cover
  2.   Neil T. Anderson, Victory Over the Darkness (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1990), p59
  3. Neil T. Anderson, Victory Over the Darkness (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1990), p73. It important to note other theologians (such as John MacArthur) teach that the believer does not have two “natures” fighting within but one nature hampered by a flesh prone to sin This is an “in-house” debate among theologians. However, there is a crucial difference with .Anderson who claims sin is synonymous with Satan (Neil T. Anderson, Released from Bondage; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1993; p123). Since believers do not have a sin nature, they do not naturally sin after being saved. He then posits a demonic cause for the bondage of the sin
  4. Bondage Breaker, p107
  5. Bondage Breaker. p172
  6. Anderson does not like to use the word “possessed.” He contends “possession” means “ownership.” I disagree and offer my argument for the idea that what he describes is possession whether he calls it that or not
  7. Bondage Breaker, p177
  8. Bondage Breaker, p175
  9. Bondage Breaker, p176
  10. Bondage Breaker, p174
  11. Romans 7:18-19
  12. Bondage Breaker, p107
  13. Bondage Breaker, p44
  14. Bondage Breaker, p180
  15. Romans 6:12
  16. Released from Bondage, p123
  17. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  18. Bondage Breaker, p190
  19. I have no problem with experiences as illustrations. However, I do have problems with doctrine and teaching being derived from subjective experience. Experience can be deceiving and dependent on perspective. The Scriptures are our sole authority. Anderson, himself, asserts this at one point, but then goes on to relate another anecdote to back up his point. He even asserts that discernment cannot be accomplished by reason. While I agree the Holy Spirit plays an indispensable role in interpretation, this argument is circular I must use reason to discern that reason cannot be used to discern. I must also have the Spirit, but how do I know the spirit that influences me is the Holy Spirit except by checking what is taught in Scripture, but I must use reason to do this also.
  20. Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light (New York, NY: Bantam, 1985), p 129
  21. Romans 8:28-35
  22. George Lucas interview by Gerald Clarke, “I’ve Got To Get My Life Back Again,” in Time, vol.121 (May 23. 1983), p68
  23. Bondage Breaker, pp203-204
  24. Bondage Breaker, p207
  25. Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope, produced by Gary Kurtz, directed by George Lucas, 124 min., Lucasfilm Ltd., 1977
  26. Compare the NIV “… punishing the children for the sin of the fathers.”
  27. Bondage Breaker. p212
  28. Bondage Breaker, p211-12
  29. Acts 17:16-34
  30. Raymond Buckland, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Pub., 1993), p56. Buckland’s prayer for consecration of Wiccan objects says:

    “May the Sacred Water and the smoke of the Holy Incense drive out any impurities in this knife, that it be pure and cleansed, ready to serve me and my gods in any way I desire.”

    Also there is the ritual for dedicating a circle to be used for Wiccan rites:

    “God and Goddess. Lord and Lady…Guard me and guide me within this Circle and without it, in all things. So mote it be.” (p44)

    Compare this with Anderson’s prayer of consecration and protection:

     “Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that You are Lord of heaven and earth…We claim this home for our family as a place of spiritual safety and protection from all attacks of the enemy” (Bondage Breaker, p211)

  31. 2 Timothy 2:4

Comments

Cure All Bondages — 1 Comment

  1. Thank you for your research and how you show us a side by side example of where the mis-information is! I love it & love to keep learning Gods promises to us!

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