Ok, so I was looking through my most recent posts and somehow I have turned myself into the book-reviewing, resource recommending guy here at Parking Space 23 (insert preferred happy/joyful emoticon here). However, as I considered this self-applied label I am not actually disappointed at this discovery. Like my co-contributors I am a man who is consumed by books and one Book in particular. And the books I normally spend my time reading are in the pursuit of knowing more about the one Book which occupies the major portion of my life. Therefore, I will continue to read and report to you, our readers, what I am learning and how it might be useful to you.
So, with that in mind I want to turn your attention to a book I read some time ago which might be helpful to you in our current “holiday” season. You see I live in an area in which the Halloween decorations and costume displays went up in mid-September. The folks here in Utah take this particular time of festivities very seriously, who knew? I of course would rather that October be more well known for Reformation Day, but more on that in my next post in two weeks.
This is that time of year when horror movies, ghost stories, and demon possessions are glamorized in almost every media imagined. And while I acknowledge that some purveyors of these tales are talented writers, actors, and directors I am most often disappointed that these same sources of “entertainment” are the sole source of many (maybe even most) people’s theology in the area of angels, Satan, and demons. Therefore, I return to my original intent for this post in reviewing/recommending the following resource to help you address this subject from a biblical perspective.
C. Fred Dickerson’s revision and expansion of his work Angels: Elect and Evil (Moody Publishers; 1995) with the continued purpose that the student of the Bible might be able to survey the scriptural teaching about angels, Satan, and demons (p. 13)comes twenty years after the publication of the original.
Dickason spent thirty-four years as a professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute, including being chair of the department until his retirement in 1995. In addition to his time behind the lectern, he also authored five other books in the field of theology. Three of these books deal specifically with other areas of angelology and demonology. Furthermore, Dickason has put into practice the things he has learned in the arena of Christian counseling, having counseled some five-hundred demonized individuals over the course of his Christian life (p. 205).
The book is divided into twenty-three easy to read chapters, which are grouped into two parts according to major subject addressed. Part 1 deals with angels in general and holy angels in particular in ten chapters which begin by developing the positions for believing in the existence of angels and ending with an explanation of the believer’s relationship to/with angels. Part 2 is dedicated to the discussion of Satan and demons. This “half” of the book is a bit longer in that it contains thirteen vice ten chapters, and is approximately twenty pages longer as well. Dickason includes a helpful appendix addressing two of the major difficulties in angelology (pp. 243 – 248), as well as end notes and an updated bibliography (pp. 254 – 260).
A distinctive advantage to the way in which this book is laid out is that it is not necessary to read it from “cover-to-cover” in order to obtain a benefit from the information contained within its pages. Dickason has presented each chapter in an easy to follow outline format which is easily understood, as ample foundational material is provided to allow the reader to digest the information presented. A possible drawback to this approach is that some information is repetitious if one does read the book from front-to-back. However, despite this minor repetition throughout the book much of the foundational work establishing the existence and origin of angels in Part 1 is only referenced when the same arguments are addressed in Part 2, concerning Satan and demons.
A further strength of the work is found in much of Part 2, as Dickason strives to make no claims nor arrive at any conclusions apart from Scripture when dealing with the subject of Satan and/or demons. This is a further strength for this is the same methodology observed in Part 1 where the author addresses holy angels with the same degree of scrutiny and application of Scripture to determine what can and should be concluded.
Unfortunately, this is found only in much, perhaps even in most, of Part 2; for in Chapter 20 Dickason wanders completely off the reservation in dealing with the question of whether or not the Christian can be demon possessed or demonized. In this chapter instead of appealing to Scripture to support his answer (which is yes), Dickason appeals to both his own experience and the experiences of others to support his claims that Christians can be demonized (pp. 207 – 209). In fairness to the author he does point out in this section that “we” do not base doctrine on experience but that for this Scripture is sufficient (p. 207). However, with the exception of citing two passages to support that the demonized Christian does not have to continue in this estate (of being demonized), this section is devoid of scriptural support or example (p. 208).
An additional sticking point for this reviewer is the integrationist model of counseling proposed by Dickason (pp. 211 – 212). If the problem encountered is indeed demonization as Dickason seems to indict is the case in a great number of instances (p. 205), how is psychological training on the part of the counselor to be of benefit to the one on need of spiritual counsel. It is the opinion of the reviewer that this argument is sufficiently addressed by the overwhelming majority of nothetic counselors who routinely refer counselees to medical doctors for examination to have those who are educated in physical ailments address those issues, while those who are equipped to handle spiritual issues handle those.
In the end Dickason accomplishes his goal of providing a book which is a survey of the subject of angelology, including demonology which finds ninety-nine percent of its basis in Scripture. Even with the weaknesses noted above the reviewer would recommend this book to those who desire to have a “quick-reference” of the subject available to them. However, the recommendation would come with an explanation of the noted weaknesses and offer to discuss them with the reader as the book was digested.
And don’t forget to check back here in two weeks when I will be providing an overview of why I think Reformation Day should be way more celebrated by Christians than Halloween. See what I did there – I gave you a little tease of something sweet – so now you will have to come back to see if it was a trick or will be a treat.