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Guest Book Review

War on the Saints. Jessie Penn-Lewis. Whitaker House (1996).

Written in 1910, following the acclaimed Welsh Revival, Jessie Penn-Lewis analyzed the reasons for the eventual decline of the spirit of revival. She comes to the conclusion that “Revival is the hour and power of God, and of the devil, for the descent of the Divine power brings the accompanying onslaught of evil supernatural powers. It means movement in the spiritual realm. Revival itself is the hour of God, when heaven is opened, and the power of God works among men, but when the Divine power appears to pass away, and evil supernatural powers manifest their workings in a man, or a church, or a country, then men marvel that the devil's work should be where God had been so manifest, not knowing that the devil was planting his seeds, and doing His work, from the dawn of revival. Revival ebb began with its flow, but all unseen” (Chap. 12: “Revival Dawn and the Baptism of the Spirit,” emphasis hers).

In this way, Ms. Penn-Lewis proceeds to systematically rip off the scales of deception and self-delusion that are the causes of spiritual bondage, and the effects it has on the spiritual man.

Used as a practical diagnostic tool, War on the Saints identifies the many forms of spiritual deception to which every believer is susceptible, and gives practical instruction on how one may uncover such falsehoods in one's own doctrines, practices and belief systems.

This is not “spiritual warfare” in the common, misused term. There is no instruction on how to cast out demons, or how to pray “properly” for the healing of the sick. On the contrary, this book focuses exclusively on the idea that spiritual warfare is very much like real, military warfare, and that we must “take back ground” that has been lost to the Adversary in our own minds, lives and congregations due to false teachings and the conclusion which have been drawn from those false teachings.

As an example, Penn-Lewis discusses in Chapter 4 the idea of passivity, where she states, “But ‘possession’ is much more wide-spread than is supposed, if the word “possession” is taken to mean just what it is, i.e., a hold of evil spirits on a man in any shade of degree . . . The chief condition, therefore, for the working of evil spirits in a human being, apart from sin, is passivity, in exact opposition to the condition which God requires from His children for His working in them . . . God requires co-operation with His Spirit, and the full use of every faculty of the whole man . . . . There is a passivity of the will; the ‘will’ being the helm, so to speak, of the ship. This originates from a wrong conception of what full surrender to God means. Thinking that a ‘surrendered will’ to God means no use of the will at all, the believer ceases to (1) choose, (2) determine, and (3) act of his own volition . . . The origin of the evil passivity which gives the evil spirits opportunity to deceive, and then possess, is generally a wrong interpretation of Scripture, or wrong thoughts or beliefs about Divine things.”

While the sentence structure occasionally requires some concentration, the book is written in brief, easily digested snippets. Ms. Penn-Lewis provides excellent “meat” for the experienced and inexperienced believer alike. Her style of writing simply and logically addresses the various forms and methods of spiritual deception used by the Adversary to coax, confuse, blind, and entrap the man of God, to either limit his usefulness or derail him/her completely from God’s path for his/her life. As the book delves into the shockingly successful methods and processes used since the beginning of time, the reader will discover, if honest, that s/he too may have been duped by the Adversary. Once the deception is uncovered, practical suggestions are given for the “renewal of one's mind” by means of focusing on “rightly dividing the Word of Truth,” God’s peace, and God’s expectation of how we are to live our lives. The instruction contained within targets specifically how to fight against the wiles of the Adversary, but leaves the application and the practice of these devices to the believer. As such, an individual can take this concept as far as s/he may desire to go.

When I first read this book, I was aghast that the Body of Christ had ignored such an important and enlightening work for nearly 100 years. I have been to many healing sessions (as both practitioner and recipient) and many sermons on the “gifts of the Spirit” and other “charismatic” teachings. When I compared the structural fluff of most of those teachings with the densely compacted instruction of this book, I wanted to cry. This is real meat; it does not pander to the modern-era “feel-goodism” or the “pre-chewed spiritual food” that is prevalent in the Church and many congregations. It does not accommodate the idealistic, self-congratulatory delusion that we, at the end of the age, are in the process of reaching some spiritual pinnacle, at which the whole world will marvel. Rather, I discovered how deeply deceived I had been regarding the very concept of spiritual warfare. This book empowered me to reassess my understanding of God’s work in my life, and equally importantly, the Adversary’s undermining work as well. Once I discovered the means to identify the “wiles of the Adversary,” I could effectively and powerfully utilize God’s word in removing the foundations that the Adversary was laying through lies and doctrinal confusion.

The book can be acquired in two formats. The abridged version, which completely removes the discussion of “manifestations,” is available as a paperback at many quality, secular bookstores (specifically, Barnes and Nobles). The unabridged is out-of-print, though available at online in the public domain. The abridged version is excellent for the new believer, but even those who have been part of God’s church for many years will benefit highly from this version. For the serious student-for the person who desires to walk in as much light as possible, and to effectively fight against the Adversary—the unabridged version is a must.

This book is preeminent in its field. Next to your Bible, it is the most important book you can ever read. Go buy it immediately. You will not be disappointed—but the Adversary will be.

Reviewed by Linda Williams