Biblical Resources on Animistic Powers and Practices

Western missionaries and theologians, having mind-sets conditioned by the secular perspective in Western theology, are consistently surprised to hear that their host peoples interpret literally biblical passages that they have either ignored or in some way demythologized.  For example, P.T. O'Bien, who taught in an Indian theological school, relates the dissatisfaction of Asian students with Western commentaries because they fail to "take seriously the accounts about demons, exorcism, or Christ's defeat of them" (1984, 130).  Thus James Stewart, in a perceptive article in the Scottish Journal of Theology, called the study of spiritual powers "a neglected emphasis in the New Testament theology" because these elements "are integral and basic components to the gospel" (1951, 292, 294).  Since Stewart's day, a few good commentaries and descriptions of spiritual powers have been written.  Some of these are included in this bibliography.  If you know of other sources that also should be in this bibliography, please Gailyn Van Rheenen.

Arnold, Clinton E. 1992a. Ephesians: Power and Magic. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

________. 1992b. Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul's Letters. Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

________. 1996. The Colossian Syncretism: The Interface between Christianity and Folk Belief at Colossae. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

________. 1997. Three Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Berkhof, Hendrik. 1962. Christ and the Powers, trans. John H. Yoder. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press.

Garrett, Susan R. 1989. The Demise of the Devil: Magic and the Demonic in Luke's Writings. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

MacMillan, John A. 1980. The Authority of the Believer. Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, Inc.

McAlpine, Thomas H. 1991. Facing the Powers: What are the options? Monrovia, CA: MARC.

O'Brien, P.T. 1984. Principalities and Powers: Opponents of the Church. Biblical Interpretation and the Church: Text and Context, ed. D.A. Carson. Exeter: Paternoster Press.

Page, Sydney H.T. 1995. Powers of Evil: A Biblical Study of Satan & Demons. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Stewart, James S. 1951. On a neglected emphasis in New Testament theology. Scottish Journal of Theology 4: 291-301.

Van Rheenen, Gailyn. 1993. Cultural conceptions of power in biblical perspective. Missiology 21, No. 1. (January): 41-53.

________. 1991. Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts (part 2 -- Thinking Theologically in Animistic Contexts). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

________. 2000. Theology of Power. Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, ed. A. Scott Moreau. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Wright, G. Ernest. n.d. The Old Testament Against its Environment. London: SCM Press.


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