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‘Spiritual Warfare’: A Dead Metaphor?

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The term ‘spiritual warfare’, referring to the Christian’s battle with evil spirits, was popularized by the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement and is the predominant language used in contemporary Christianity to describe encounters with evil spirits. This paper reviews the prevalence of military metaphors in popular and scholarly writings, and examines the problems associated with warfare language from linguistic, biblical, theological and psycho-social perspectives. I suggest that ‘spiritual warfare’ has become a dead metaphor: its metaphorical insights have been lost and other metaphors are neglected. Therefore renewed attention to metaphor theory is needed along with alternative language with which to discuss demonology and deliverance. I conclude with suggestions for supplementary metaphors/models, including cleansing, setting boundaries on evil, appropriating divine authority, and using light/dark imagery.


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Affiliations: 1: University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK, B15 2TT,


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