In a short article in Christianity Today (July 13, 1998), Chuck Lowe asks the question “Do Demons Have Zip Codes?” Chuck Lowe, the author of the book “Territorial Spirits and Evangelism” notes that exorcism of ‘territorial spirits’ is a growing practice around the globe, including among evangelicals in America.
We have now arrived at the point where many evangelicals wouldn’t think of preaching the gospel in a new locality without first confronting local, territorial spirits. John Dawson asserts: “We must overcome the enemy before employing other methods of ministry.” (Dawson, “Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits,” Regal Books, 1991). This smacks of an animistic worldview in giving names to spirits in certain localities.
Charles Kraft, a fellow missiologist with C. Peter Wagner at Fuller Seminary, submits that we must learn from pre-rational cultures regarding the naming of spirits. The fact is, however, that identifying and naming regional demons finds no support from scripture whatsoever. In response, Kraft declares: …”we contend that ideas and/or practices may be scriptural as long as they are not condemned by scripture”… This means we have arrived at the point that the scripture is inspired not only for what it says but for what it does not say.
In this issue of Plumbline, I will include a short article that summarizes the teaching of geographical spiritual warfare: a concise summary that provides a comprehensive view of this subject. Following this article, I will summarize the historical milieu from which these practices have evolved. C. Peter Wagner, as well as others, did not cut the current warfare worldview from new cloth.
Indeed, some of the early church fathers tried to reconstruct demonic hierarchies and the medieval church attempted to do the same. The current ‘pop deliverance’ practices, however, do not stem from the early church fathers or from the rank superstitious practices of the medieval church. Rather, C. Peter Wagner and others have simply organized and given a modern military expression to ideas that were birthed fifty years ago. The current literature regarding territorial spiritual warfare evangelism is large, consequently at this point, David Dunlop’s concise article will be helpful to us.
JUST THE FACTS…
about Territorial Spirits and Spiritual Warfare
By David Dunlop
– Definition –
This doctrine called “Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare” (SLSVV) is a popular charismatic method of casting out demons from geographical locations or territories. It identifies three levels of demonic control on earth. Firstly, are “Ground-Level” demons, which possess people. Secondly, “Occult-Level” demons empower witches, shamans, magicians. Finally, “Strategic-Level” demons which are the most powerful of the three, are said to rule over certain regions or territories. Their main purpose is to hinder people from coming to Christ.
– Proponents –
C. Peter Wagner (Engaging the Enemy, How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits) of Fuller Seminary School of World Missions; John Dawson (Taking our Cities for Christ) of Youth With a Mission; Frank Peretti (This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness).
– History –
In the early 1990’s, there were a number of city-wide gospel campaigns in Latin America. Some of the evangelists attributed their success to days spent wrestling in prayer against the powers of darkness. Author Frank Peretti stirred the imagination of believers with his two early books: This Present Darkness (1986) and Piercing the Darkness (1989). These fictional books demonstrated in graphic and sensational detail the battle of believers with territorial spirits. In the early 1990’s, Charismatic leader C. Peter Wagner linked himself with the movement and has been its most vocal spokesman and most prolific writer. The movement has been tremendously successful in making inroads into the evangelical church. A number of evangelical organizations, such as Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Bill Bright’s Campus Crusade for Christ, currently practice its techniques and are supportive of the goals of SLSW.
– Theological Support –
Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare leader C. Peter Wagner has attributed astonishing claims to the use of Spiritual warfare claiming:
10 million Japanese will come to Christ by the year 2000; it helped to bring down the Berlin Wall and opened Albania to the gospel; it deposed dictator Manuel Noriega; it lowered the crime rate in Los Angeles and broke the power of demons over Japan (Breaking Strongholds in Your City, 1993, P. 25).
By what means do proponents of SLSW go about breaking territorial dominion? There are a number of detailed steps required. Firstly, seek the name of the ruling spirit and identify its territory. Secondly, seek the function of demons in a particular area. Thirdly, if demons occupy a neighborhood, then a “Prayer Walk” is required. If the demon controls a city, then a “Praise March ” is necessary. If a demon exercises power over a region, then a “Prayer Expedition”: is demanded, and if a demon rules in a nation then a “Prayer journey” should be carried out. “Spiritual Mapping” is the process of discovering the exact location of the demon’s domain. “Identification Repentance” is the practice of discovering the sin and guilt which give the demon a foothold in an area and repenting of that sin to break the grip of demons in an area. Peter Wagner explains:
Spying out the land is essential when warring for a city … Christians should walk or drive every major freeway, avenue and road of their cities, praying and coming against demonic strongholds over every neighborhood … Even if you don’t see instant results, keep the trumpets blowing … always remember God is not slack concerning His promise; the walls will come down!” (Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits – C. Peter Wagner, Ventura, Ca; Regal, P. 98).
The most commonly cited proof of text is Daniel 10:13, 20, which is the battle between the prince of Persia and Michael the archangel. The prince of Persia is said to be an example of a Territorial Spirit which can be defeated through the techniques of SLSW. C. Peter Wagner writes, “This story leaves no doubt that territorial spirits greatly influence human life in all its sociopolitical aspects” (Warfare Prayer, Ventura: Regal 1992, p. 66).
– Biblical Support Against –
However, Daniel 10 does not argue for the detailed and sensational practices of SLSW. It must be pointed out that:
1. The battle was fought in heaven and not on earth.
2. The battle did not involve any human: rather two angels and one demon.
3. The battle was directed by God in heaven and by Michael, not by men on earth.
4. Daniel was not asked to bind a demon.
5. Daniel was not even asked to pray.
Scripture implies that Satan’s minions are highly organized (Ephesians 6:12), but nowhere does the Bible say that Satan has assigned them to every geopolitical unit. Nowhere does the Bible give an example of a believer rebuking or confronting geographical demons. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are to command demons to give up territory.
Yes, Satan is a formidable adversary (1 Peter 5:8), yet the Lord Jesus Christ has already conquered him on the cross (Colossians 2:15) and will one day consign him to hell (Revelation 20:1-10). Jude 8-10 and 2 Peter 2:10-12 rebuke those who verbally abuse spirits. Indeed, we are called to turn them over to God. In the meantime, we are called to oppose Satan through our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:20-18) standing firm in the power of His might, and praying always with all prayer.
by Orrel Steinkamp
The Plumbline contends that the original seedbed of spiritual warfare evangelism can be found in the fertile soil of the Latter Rain. From this seed plot of 50 years ago, many hybrids and mutations have developed.
The Latter Rain originated in a series of revival meetings in 1948 at the Sharon Orphanage and Schools in North Battelford, Sask., Canada. By late 1949 the AOG, in the USA and Canada, declared this movement to be heretical and false.
– A Summary of Latter Rain Teaching –
1. The purpose of the church is to establish on the earth the kingdom of God. The reason the church has failed its mandate, is that early on it lost the offices of Apostle and prophets.
2. In the last days God will restore these offices to lead the church in an end time holy war and all evil will be defeated.
3. A worldwide revival will break out and the majority of the world will be won to Christ. Signs and wonders will include blessings upon those whom the apostles and prophets bless and cursing upon those whom they curse. Through intense worship and praise (Tabernacle of David) accompanied by prayer, fasting and spiritual warfare the church will defeat all demonic strongholds and territorial spirits upon the earth and in the heavenlies.
4. Some adherents of the Latter Rain (though by no means all) believe that the second coming of Jesus will occur with a spiritual experience of believers in which believers are incarnated into the body of Christ upon the earth. This body of Christ will rule the nations. Others in the movement saw the church taking dominion over the earth as a prelude to the return of Jesus from heaven to earth.
In response to the excesses of the LR in 1949, the 23rd General Council of the AOG passed a resolution expressing official disapproval of the LR teachings. The Latter Rain revival died in the early 1950’s, but its’ influence did not. When the Charismatic Renewal broke upon the scene in the 1960’s, some of the churches which had been influenced by the Latter Rain began to participate in the activity created by the new charismatics. The fact that these churches had Latter Rain roots was lost for the most part in the excitement created by the new revival. Most of the doctrines forged during the Latter Rain years were carried over in the new move. As a consequence, teachings from the 1948-1953 period were carried into the 1960’s and 1970’s.
While newcomers may not have known the common Latter Rain thread, those who had participated in the Latter Rain revival even as youngsters, recognized the common features. Some Latter Rain leaders moved into positions of prominence with their past roots forgotten (excerpted and adapted from “Kingdom Now,” Gordon Anderson, Paraclete, Summer 1990, Vol. 24, Number 3). In the mid 1980’s, a synthesis of various features of the Latter Rain teaching came to be known as Kingdom Now. It applied certain Latter Rain teachings around the concept of the “Kingdom.” Earl Paulk and his writings employed Latter Rain themes and constructed a “salvation history” for the Kingdom message. Robert M. Bowman Jr., in a Christian Research Journal article, (Vol. 10 No. 3, Winter/Spring 1999) attempted to summarize this Latter Rain teaching now being marketed as Kingdom Teaching.
According to Bishop Paulk and Kingdom Theology, in the very beginning God created the universe and populated it with spirits (or angels) who lived in perfect obedience to Him. However, a third of these angels, led by Lucifer, rebelled against God’s authority becoming demons and seized dominion over part (probably one-third, cf Rev. 8:12 “a third of the stars’ of the physical universe. This angelic rebelling occurred in a “gap” between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The result was that the earth, which was the “capital city” or headquarters of this demonic Evil empire was brought into chaos and made formless and void (Genesis 1:2). In order to win back unchallenged dominion over the universe, God introduced into the earth Man, a race of creatures God intended to become a resistance movement in taking back dominion over the entire universe … Unfortunately, the father of this race, Adam, was tricked by the devil into forfeiting Man’s place in this plan …God was forced to come up with “Plan B” to take dominion over the earth. His solution was to introduce into this fallen race a man in whom the divine nature dwelled fully, who would become the prototype of a new race of human beings in which the original godhood of Adam was restored. This divine Man was Jesus Christ, a perfect manifestation of God the Father and the “first fruit” of the incarnation of God. This race of “little gods” who are spiritually united with Christ as members of His “body” is the church, constituting collectively with Him the complete incarnation, a corporate manifestation of God in the flesh which will win over the devil and restore God’s dominion unchallenged on the earth. Ultimate victory over the devil then depends upon the church accepting its calling to be little gods. It further depends on the church submitting to the fivefold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) through whom God is seeking to mobilize the church into a unified army prepared to take dominion back from the devil …
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of this dominion mythology is Paulk’s acceptance of the “Latter Rain teaching called “Manifested Sons of God.” This is seen in a quote from Paulk: “Everything that Jesus Christ performed, His church must perform including challenging and overcoming death. Death, the last enemy must be conquered by the Bride of Christ.” (Paulk, “Held In The Heavens,” p. 66).
The linkage of aggressive territorial spiritual warfare and evangelism was first introduced at the Latter Rain revival. Perhaps the first actual expression of this teaching was reported in the April 1949 issue of the “Sharon Star,” the official publication of the Latter Rain. “Suddenly without warning a mighty wind swept through the building, Brother Crane was standing teaching the class when he was almost swept off his feet … This great demonstration was accompanied by a vision of the Manifest Sons of God in the last days of this dispensation. This mighty army was seen conquering all before it. Sickness and disease were vanishing and all evil spirits were scattered before the triumphant power of God’s people.” (George Hawtin, “Editorial, “Sharon Star, Dec.1948, p.p.2,3)
Today many people being introduced to territorial spiritual warfare evangelism have no knowledge of the genesis of these practices. Perhaps one of the most surprising examples of this is found in a letter addressed to me, from the leading proponent of territorial spiritual warfare, C. Peter Wagner. In response to an article of mine that Wagner found on the net, he wrote me a personal letter. The tone of the letter is very amiable and is a model of how we all should interact with Christians with whom we disagree. However, the startling revelation in the letter is that he admits to no knowledge, whatsoever, regarding the Latter Rain and its teaching. He states: “So I never even heard of the Latter Rain, Kingdom Now, Manifested Sons of God or any of those things…Now since I have become an advocate for contemporary apostles and prophets, all of these things have been coming up, but I haven’t had any historical hook to hang them on. I’ve asked Bill Hamon and he has tried to explain it to me, but I never really was able to make sense of it until I read your article.”
Bishop Bill Hamon is clearly one of the few living links with the Latter Rain. In his writings and especially his book, “The Eternal Church,” he clearly and accurately portrays the development of the Latter Rain from its beginning, in the late forties, to its current expression today. Reading Hamon’s book would give anyone all the information needed regarding this teaching.
Latter Rain teaching of territorial spiritual warfare has now become sufficiently disassociated from its historical links so that the spiritual warfare worldview is now becoming widely accepted. Frank Peretti’s novels “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness” teach territorial spiritual warfare in sensational detail. Certain evangelists in Latin America attributed their success to spending days of wrestling with territorial demons.
Gregory Boyd of Open Theism fame (who would have no connection to Latter Rain themes) has written a book entitled “God at War.” But C. Peter Wagner makes a response in the “IVP Book Club Digest, December 10, 2001 regarding this book. “God at War raises the current discussion of spiritual warfare to a new and unanticipated level of scholarly investigation. I am ecstatic with the integrity with which Gregory Boyd develops his convincing argument for a biblical warfare worldview. This is an extremely important work for all who wish to advance God’s kingdom today.” Boyd and Wagner would have many differences, but both have ended up, for their own reasons, on the same square of a “warfare worldview.”
Indeed, the concept of warfare is found in both the Old and New Testaments. Nowhere is it suggested that believers must attack, bind and defeat named local spiritual entities as the indispensable means of evangelism. In contrast to the Qumran community (of Dead Sea Scrolls fame, whose liturgy included curses of Satan alongside praises to God), Jude 8-10 and 2 Peter 2:10 12 instructs believers not to bring “reviling accusations against the devil (NKJV). Satan is indeed a formidable adversary (1 Peter 5:8) yet Jesus conquered him on the cross (Col. 2:15) and will one day confine him in hell (Rev. 2:1 10). In the meantime we are called to oppose Satan, but not by identifying the names of his subordinates, reconstructing their hierarchy or mapping their supposed jurisdictions.
The famous spiritual warfare passage in Ephesians 6:10-18 portrays spiritual warfare as the believer’s defensive stance rather than prescribing a strategy for attacking and binding specific demons. Indeed, Paul states that we wrestle against “principalities and powers in the heavenlies,” but how does Paul describe this wrestling? If Paul meant for believers to attack and destroy these heavenly adversaries, the inspired apostle would have indicated at that point in his writing that he practiced it and expected his churches to practice it in evangelism. But he did not. No! Indeed, as many exegetes have noted, Paul admonishes putting on the whole armor of God in order to “withstand in the evil day.”
In light of the “hosts of spiritual wickedness in heavenly places,” Paul instructs: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and have done all to stand, stand therefore.” (Ephesians 6:13,14a, NKJV). Among the spiritual weapons, the only possible offensive weapon is the “Sword of God’s word.” Even here, the word used for sword is “machaira” which was a short sword, more like a dagger that could be used for attack, but in context suggests personal defense.
The “demolishing strongholds” passage of 2 Cor. 10:4,5 is often used by writers of this movement. In the context “strongholds” are clearly “arguments and imaginations: that challenge the knowledge of God. The means of spiritual attack and advance in the NT is always the preaching and defense of the gospel message. If in the process of preaching there occur overt demonic hindrances, as in the case of Paul and the fortune telling slave girl in Philippi (Acts 16:17), then the demon should be encountered. But as with Paul it is then back to preaching and defending the gospel message.
Well it all started in Brother Crane’s classroom over 50 years ago, but after years of adaptation, it is now widely practiced without any apparent concern regarding its biblical validity. The sword of God’s Word is obviously more effective in evangelism than the spiritual war games of identifying, binding and destroying local demons. The sword of God’s Word is even “sharper than any two-edged sword.”
The coming year will surely present many challenges for Biblical integrity and discernment. May God enable us all to assess all things in the light of God’s recorded revelation in Scripture. May God give each of you a glorious Christmas in Him and may the new year, 2002, be filled with His presence, guidance, tidings and love.
1. David Dunlop, Just The Facts
The Truth of False Teachings
For more about the “whistle blowing” ministry of 4 Truth Ministry, please see our About page as well as our False Movements page which lays out several false teachings/teachers found within evangelicalism.
Another great “whistle blowing” ministry is Christian Research Network.