The Dark Side of Discipleship | Book Review


In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis wrote,  “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

Gary Tyra carefully avoids both errors in The Dark Side of Discipleship. He offers a realistic but not sensationalistic perspective on how Christians should “deal with the devil” as they pursue “spiritual, moral, and missional faithfulness” to Jesus Christ.

Tyra is professor of biblical and practical theology at Vanguard University of Southern California and an ordained Assemblies of God minister.

He divides The Dark Side into four parts:

Part One examines “the devil’s reality, origin, nature, and deal (what he’s about).” In conversation with contemporary scholarship, Tyra affirms the traditional view that the devil is a fallen angel. Citing Scripture, he shows that the devil’s “primary goal is to keep human beings from entering into, and then enduring in, a restored, intimate, interactive, life-story-shaping, fruit-bearing relationship with their creator.”

In Part Two, Tyra identifies four strategies the devil uses to achieve his goal: seduction, deception, alienation, and temptation. The devil directs these strategies against “the four cardinal components of the Christian life”: worship, nurture (i.e., teaching), community, and mission, respectively.

Tyra’s emphasis on missional faithfulness is especially helpful. Too often, church discipleship efforts are inward-focused, but following Jesus requires an outward focus, too.

After all, as Tyra summarizes the matter, Jesus’ mission was twofold: “revelation and redemption.” He came to show humanity “who God truly is and what he’s really about.” More than knowledge, however, Christ came to effect a restored relationship between “fallen, sinful humankind (and all creation) to its Creator.”

Christ now sends the Church into the world with this redemptive message. A failure of mission, then, reflects a failure of discipleship. To follow Jesus, disciples must follow Him to the lost whom He came to save.

In Part Three, Tyra outlines seven “spiritual warfare moves” to resist thedevil’s strategies. Spiritual warfare is a hot topic in Pentecostal and charismatic circles these days. Unfortunately, some spiritual warriors exhibit the excessive interest Lewis described — going well beyond biblical revelation and into the region of human imagination. By contrast, Tyra hews closely to key biblical texts, especially Ephesians 6:10–20, highlighting their “pneumatologically real” aspects.

Pneumatological realism — which Tyra explores at length in a previous book, Getting Real —  “insists that, rather than conceive of the Holy Spirit as a philosophical concept or impersonal force that is simply presumed to be at work in believers’ lives, he can and should be known and interacted with in ways that are personal, phenomenal, and life-story-shaping.”

For Tyra, Christians deal with the devil most effectively by drawing ever closer to Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, in Part Four, Tyra turns to an apologetic question: Given the devil’s destructive goals, why does an all-knowing, all-powerful, completely good God allow him to operate? Philosophers refer to questions such as this as “the problem of evil.”

Interacting with open-theist theologians particularly, Tyra advances “a biblically informed theodicy that retains the emphasis [open theists] place on the relational nature of God, but doesn’t require a revised understanding of his foreknowledge.” Moreover, he believes this theodicy “encourages an enthusiastic participation in what the Bible portrays as God’s defeat of Satan.”

That defeat is God’s final word about the dark side of discipleship. In this life, we cultivate what Tyra calls a “lifestyle spirituality” of spiritual, moral, and missional faithfulness to Christ through an ongoing experience of the Holy Spirit. All the while, whatever difficulties we encounter, we retain hope because we believe the truth of Paul’s words:

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).

I recommend The Dark Side of Discipleship to church leaders and church members. It offers a faithful, Pentecostal perspective on a controversial topic. Reflection questions at the end of each chapter make it ideal for use by small groups and book clubs.

Book Reviewed
Gary Tyra, The Dark Side of Discipleship: Why and How the New Testament Encourages Christians to Deal with the Devil (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. You can also listen to my Influence Podcast with Gary Tyra about the book here.

P.P.S. This review appears in the January 2021 issue of Influence magazine and is posted here by permission.

The Dark Side of Discipleship | Influence Podcast


“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils,” wrote C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. “One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

With Lewis’s insight on the need for a balanced view in mind, in this episode, I’m talking with Gary Tyra about what the Bible teaches Christians about why and how to deal with the devil.

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine, and your host.

Gary Tyra is professor of Biblical and Practical Theology at Vanguard University of Southern California, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, and author of The Dark Side of Discipleship, recently published by Cascade Books.

P.S. You can read my review of The Dark Side of Discipleship here.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Monday, May 9, 2011


This year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Over at ChristianityToday.com, Mark A. Noll asks, “What would it have been like if the KJV had always been only one among several competing English-language versions of the Bible?”His answer:

When the KJV became the cultural and literary standard for the entire English-speaking world, it was easier to focus on the literary excellence of the translation without stopping to face the divine imperatives and promises that are any Bible’s primary reason for existence. The pervasive cultural presence of this Bible also made it easy to exploit scriptural words, phrases, images, and allusions for their evocative power, even when those uses contradicted the Bible’s basic spiritual meaning.

Yet even soberly considered, the immense good accomplished in and through the KJV is a marvel. When the KJV became the cultural and literary standard for the entire English-speaking world, the spiritual impact of the Bible was certainly enhanced because the scriptural message was carried far and wide via an all-pervasive cultural standard. The substance of divine revelation that lay immediately beneath the words of the KJV could also exert a dramatic public impact for good, precisely because this translation so dominated the English-speaking world.

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Over at Patheos.com, John Fea concludes an excellent four-part series on the Civil War as a war between two “Christian nations.”

  • Part 1: “One Nation, Under God, Indivisible”
  • Part 2: “God’s Judgment Upon the South”
  • Part 3: “The Confederacy’s “Christian Nation”
  • Part 4: “A Slaveholding Nation is a Christian Nation”

Fea’s conclusion is worth keeping in mind when you hear talk about America as a “Christian nation”:

As we’ve seen over the past four columns, by 1860 there were two visions of Christian America. Many Northerners believed that the national Union was sacred because it was created and blessed by God. Many Southerners argued that the Confederate States of America was a Christian nation because the Bible’s teachings were compatible with a southern way of life.

Throughout American history there was seldom a common understanding of what it meant to be a Christian nation. The Civil War is merely one example. This is certainly something to remember whenever we get the urge to talk about America’s so-called Christian roots.

If you like what you read, check out Fea’s America as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction.

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C. S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design.

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The Arts & Faith Top 100 Films does not include The Mission but it does include The Story of the Weeping Camel. Something’s seriously wrong with this list.

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Who is the devil like? David Bentley Hart offers these thoughts:

  • “the sort of person you try your best to get away from at a party”
  • “A merciless real estate developer whose largest projects are all casinos.”
  • “Donald Trump—though perhaps just a little nicer”

Ouch. And, heh.

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“Faith unshaken by tornado.” Well, yeah. Psalm 46:1–3.

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“Bin Laden’s theology a radical break with traditional Islam.” That’s both true and good to know, although Mollie Hemingway has some questions.

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“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” There Be Dragons, a new film about Opus Dei founder Josemaría Escrivá, gets a good review from Cathleen Falsani Possley.

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