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Gary Tyra: The Dark Side of Discipleship

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), 330 pages, ISBN 9781532691218.

Dr. Gary Tyra has served in pastoral ministry and is currently a professor at Vanguard University where he teaches theology courses. He is also the author of several other books, these include Getting Real and The Holy Spirit in Mission [Editor’s note: See the review by Malcolm Brubaker]. In The Dark Side of Discipleship he addresses the subject of spiritual warfare. He has written this book because he has seen many believers who are not well prepared in this area of their Christian lives.

The main body of the book begins with an introduction, after that the text is divided into four major parts. One of the subjects Tyra raises in the introduction, and refers to at other points in the book, is the subject of faithfulness. He feels that there are three key areas in which disciples of Jesus need faithfulness. They need to have spiritual faithfulness, moral faithfulness, and missional faithfulness (page 1). One thing that can disturb or disrupt this faithfulness is the activity of the devil (page 2). He attacks believers in such key areas as “worship, nurture, community, and mission” (page 9). Though the reality of the devil is downplayed by some believers, especially in the West, he should be taken seriously (pages 2, 7). The author says that there are at least 238 references to an evil spiritual being in the New Testament (page 3). In the introduction Tyra states that the purpose of the book is to enable believers “to experience a vibrant, fruitful, enduring walk with Christ” (page 4) in spite of the attacks of the devil. He sees spiritual warfare as an important component of “spiritual endurance training” (page 6).

Disciples of Jesus need faithfulness.

Part One of the book is “It’s Never Just Us and God: The Need to Take the Devil Seriously.” This section is made up of two chapters. In chapter 1 Tyra writes about the devil’s reality and origin and his nature, that is, what he is about. As he address the subject of the devil’s origin and nature he draws from Old Testament, some non-biblical sources such as the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, a summary of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the New Testament (pages 22-35). He points out that Jesus and the apostles took the reality of the devil seriously (page 21). In chapter 2 Tyra identifies three key aspects of the devil’s nature, he is: “anti-truth,” “anti-life,” and “anti-God” (page 42). In keeping with these themes he shows how the devil seeks to destroy those he afflicts (page 45). One of his tactics is to get people to participate in what the author calls “Self-Sabotage” (pages 48-56).

Part Two is called “Forewarned is Forearmed: How the Devil Seeks to Derail Christian Discipleship.” This section is made up of four chapters. The chapter titles pretty much explain the focus of each chapter. Chapter 3 is called “Seduction: The Devil and Christian Worship, Chapter 4 is “Deception: The Devil and Christian Nurture, Chapter 5 is “Alienation: The Devil and Christian Community, and Chapter 6 is “Temptation: The Devil and Christian Mission.” These chapters deal with four key areas in which Christians will be attacked by the devil. Tyra mentioned them in the introduction of the book (page 9). In these chapters he identifies various ways in which Christians are attacked and how these attacks can be dealt with.

Jesus and the apostles took the reality of the devil seriously. Do you?

Part Three is called “Standing Firm in the Faith: How the Devil Must Be Dealt With.” This section consists of two chapters (7 & 8). The focus of these chapters are the armor of God, that Paul wrote about in Ephesians 6, and some other combat tactics that can be found in the New Testament.

Part Four is called “Standing Firm in the Faith: Why the Devil Must be Dealt With.” This section is made up of two chapters, chapters 9 and 10. Chapter 9 deals with the ultimate “why” question. This question is “If God is both great and good, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?” (page 226). As he seeks to address this question Tyra interacts with the writings of Gilbert Bilezikian and Gregory Boyd (pages 227-445). Both of these authors hold to the open theist point of view (page 233). While Trya values some of the insights of these writers he does not agree with everything they have written. In Chapter 10 the author writes about God’s end game. Here he offers some adjustments to the theology of Bilezikian and Boyd. He also writes about God’s justice with regard to things like the world (pages 260-261), the cross of Christ (pages 262-263), and the church (pages 269-273).

In the conclusion, Tyra wraps the book up with mention of a Bible verse that he has cited a number of times in the course of the text. The verse is the one in which Jesus speaks about receiving the commendation of the Lord for being good and faithful servants (Matthew 25:21). It is possible, and defeating the devil is one of the things that needs to be done in order for it to happen.

You will not find a section on exorcism. Tyra believes New Testament Christians are supposed to focus on drawing near to God.

I think The Dark Side of Discipleship has some valuable things to offer. First, the author addresses an imbalance in Western theology. In the West, some Christians do not take the devil seriously enough. Tyra’s statement that there are about 238 references to our spiritual enemy (this includes all of the names that he is called) was an eye-opener (page 3). Second, Tyra’s diagnoses of the devil’s nature being “anti-truth,” “anti-life,” and “anti-God” (page 42) is very accurate. Third, his explanations of how the devil attacks believers with regard to their worship, nurture, community and mission are also helpful.

One thing you will not find in the book is a section on exorcism. The author does allude to it a couple of times (pages 197-198) but does not go into any detail about it. He knows some readers would be interested in this aspect of spiritual warfare. But he does not cover it because while Scripture does speak about this ministry Tyra believes that the majority of the New Testament focuses on the believer’s drawing near to God (page 198). The main focus of the book is discipleship. That is, preparing yourself, and others, to stand up against the attacks of the evil one. In this regard, I think The Dark Side of Discipleship has some good information and insights to offer. Christians will find profitable material that can help them identify and defeat the devil’s  work in their lives.

Reviewed by John P. Lathrop


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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2021

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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