Controversial View in Spiritual Warfare

The word “controversy” and “C. Peter Wagner” stand next to one another when it comes to spiritual warfare. Wagner, a missiologist whose views on spiritual warfare have been transformed from “field” studies and from the social sciences, has made rather well known a view of spiritual warfare involving “territorial spirits.” He’s got a number of books, but today we are using his article, co-authored with Rebecca Greenwood (who wrote most of the substance of the article), in the book Understanding Spiritual Warfare (ed. J.K. Beilby, P.R. Eddy).

Wagner begins the study by sketching his experience at Fuller seminary where he was called before faculty about his controversial view, and all of this is now brought together in a book called Confronting the Powers.

What do you think of this “strategic” spiritual warfare and of “spiritual mapping”? Any experience here?

Rebecca Greenwood speaks her mind about the two major issues — her commitment to the praxis and the lack of concern with the praxis in the Western church: “I am a prophetic warfare intercessor and have actively and consistently engaged in strategic-level spiritual warfare, addressing territorial spirits since 1991” and “I have witnessed the lack of awareness concerning the enemy, especially in the Western church” (177).

Her biblical sketch includes the reality of Satan, that he is the prince of the air, that Jesus drew swords with the Satan, and that there is plenty of evidence in the Bible for power encounters. She thinks spiritual warfare occurs at three levels: ground level, occult level, and the strategic level.

Ground-level: breaking the demonic powers in individuals.
Occult-level: witchcraft, et al.
Strategic-level: power encounters with high-ranking principalities and powers. These are the territorial spirits, charged with the captivity of a large number of individuals in a territory.

At the praxis level, Rebecca Greenwood is interested in spiritual mapping. One discerns the weapons through intercessory spiritual warfare prayers. They seek to identify the spiritual conditions at work in a community. Irresponsible stewardship leads to capture. That means bloodshed, idolatry, sexual immorality and broken covenants.

Once one maps a place one then moves to “identificational repentance.” This means someone acknowledges one’s group sins and the plea that God will use the rejection of that sin by a person as a beachhead of transformation.

Next is prophetic decrees (God’s revelation to God’s people who make them known to the evil powers), acts that foreshadow doom and victory (like prayer walking), and power encounters.

She tells, candidly, the story of her spiritual warfare with abortion in Wichita KS and the Dr Tiller’s death … which was contrary to the designs of those who were praying.

I can see why Wagner was called in for questions at Fuller.

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  • Mark Stevens

    I used to be involved in a group that held to Wagner’s theology. We were taught exclusively that his approach was the key to church planting. It is woeful theology and I feel kind of embarrassed I fell for it. Thankfully after attending seminary I have, as they say, seen the light.

  • I don’t have so much experience with it. But my African (Nigeria and Uganda respectively) pastor friends wholly believe in the need for spiritual mapping when ministering in a particular geographic area. There is no dichotomy of the natural and spiritual world in their worldview, it is all one. Land areas can be under the control of an evil force just as people can be influenced.

  • Jarrod the Aussie

    Best end to a post… ever.

  • Mike

    “I can see why Wagner was called in for questions at Fuller.” I’m really interested in your view here Scott? Are we supposed to dismiss Wagner altogether as a pre-modern, superstitious quack? Or is there some truth to his ideas, maybe not “mapping” per se, but that there is some “hierarchy” in the spiritual realm, that is of course if we even entertain the notion of “demons”. My influences are strongly charismatic/renewal but I’ve become a big fan of yours. Is there any room here?

  • scotmcknight

    Mike, I’m a Bible guy. To make something important or to raise something to the level of significance Wagner and Greenwood have — as sketched above — I want some biblical evidence for what they think is so important. I see none. In my view, most of this takes something clear (Satan, demons, etc) and then imagines a way into a cosmology and then constructs a series of praxis-shaped ministries on the basis of the imagined cosmology.

  • RogerJS

    Evangelical theologians, firstly, need to realise that, in the charistmatic field, jargon is rampant. Beginners get fixated by terminology; the experienced hands look past the jargon, and test the substance of what is happening.

    Here’s an example. We spent a year discipling a group of men. Each week the session ended with extended prayer where we learned to sense the point of “breakthrough”. Throughout the year of discipling, there was no tangible evidence that this “breakthrough” was real, only that all the men sensed it at the same time. This continued for a year. Theologians looking in could dismiss this as pop psychology and, as admitted, there was no tangible proof it was real. A year later, the group went on the mission field. There was a girl motionless in a coma for 3 days. We were told witch doctors had cursed her. The instant the command was given, “Out in Jesus name” she started writhing like a python and slid into the shape of the kali-God – with one wrist cocked up, and the other wrist cocked down, all the while remaining unconscious. The group prayed for her for an extended period. At the instant that the group was used to calling it a “breakthrough”, at that instant, the girl, who had been in a coma for 3 days, jumped up and was relieving and smiling.

    Ok, let’s examine jargon vs substance.

    Much of the jargon mentioned in the above article can, in some circles, be used to describe what happened with our group. I hate jargon. And just because some circles can’t talk in any lingo apart from jargon, does that mean there is no substance to what happens? Theologians think that because they can dismantle the jargon means they have proved there is no substance. No, they have only dismantled the jargon.

    If Americans say they fill their cars with “gas” — and university scientists know that gas is a vapor, does that prove that Americans never fill their cars with liquid petroleum. No, the crazy jargon used by Americans does not prove there is no substance.

    I personally, instead of jargon, can describe the above experience using heavy seminary theological terminology, and cite major extended passages from the epistles to substantiate the above. When one knows two languages, you can translate between the two. When you only know one language, the other sounds like nonsense.

    The fact is, most charismatic Christians only talk in jargon, and have no idea how to link their jargon to theological concepts – but that doesn’t mean there is no link. It just requires being bi-lingual.

    It sounds like Scot doesn’t have a clue how to link the above charismatic jargon to standard theological concepts. The funny thing is, most charismatics don’t either. But there is a link, and it requires being experienced in the standard theology, and experienced in the street-lingo so that you can see the link.

  • scotmcknight

    RogerJS, you colonized my points by turning this into a conversation about “jargon.” It’s not. Greenwood and Wagner are talking about territorial spirits and mapping … that’s not jargon. Clear as a bell to me. Show me where the Bible teaches (1) that each area has territorial spirits and (2) that we need to map the spirits by discerning and (3) develop ministries on the basis of our map?

  • The concept of strategic-level warfare lends itself horribly to a formulaic approach to the gospel, an ‘if-then’ condition. I researched this briefly at college and found that, whereas there are some grounds for the first two levels of warfare, the geographical ‘strategic’ stuff has no merit, and to some extent Wagner capitulated to this (I’ll have to dig out the reference).

    The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that it puts too much focus on satan and his bunch, and not on the transformative power of Jesus, that is above all powers. SL warfare becomes an ‘acceptable’ excuse for non-transformation.

  • If territorial spirits and strategic warfare have any validity then attacking racism and the legacy of slavery in America the proliferation of the prison industrial complex should keep these people busy for the rest of their lives. If perhaps they should be victorious in that battle they could take on environmental devastation, strip mining, top soil depletion. And if they should start making progress there then they could also attack the spirit of militarism or economism and the enslavement to debt that holds so many captive. But then again maybe praying outside abortion clinics is the key to it all. Yeah, right.

  • Keith Irwin

    “I can see why Wagner was called in for questions at Fuller.”

    You’re the man.

    I wonder how difficult it would be to set up ministries if the demonic pigs keep running away.

  • Percival

    I’m going to go out on a limb here endangering the thin twig of credibility I have (with some people) at Jesus Creed by saying that I don’t think that this view of spiritual warfare is totally without Biblical substance, and that these practitioners are not completely crazy, and that we may need to listen to what they have to say without a dismissive attitude. Sure, they can go too far and are unbalanced at times and they try to squeeze every circumstance into their interpretive mold, but who among us does not sometimes? How’s that for faint praise?

  • Charlie Clauss

    I have been wracking my brain trying to remember where I saw a Christian philosopher (JP Moreland?) argue that in the absence of Biblical warrant, human experience can constitute valid spiritual knowledge. Any one know what I am trying to remember?

    Scott, does Daniel’s experiences in Daniel 10 (” But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me”) open the door to considering “territorial” spirits?

  • scotmcknight

    Faint is fair Percival. I wouldn’t say they are completely crazy either; nor do I want to be dismissive so I did my best to summarize it straight.

    Yes, Charlie, there is some evidence in the prince of the air (that the clear part); it’s what follows at the praxis level that concerns me. Both Powlison and Boyd press against the stuff of Wagner and Greenwood as I am … centralizing what isn’t there.

  • RogerJS

    In a short blog post, there’s no way I can respond to your question.

    Here’s an illustration of where I’m coming from … A civilian goes up to General George Patton (WW2 fame), and says, “We need to do warfare”. Gen. Patton says, “We’re establishing a beach-head, creating supply lines, mounting waves of offensives, creating diversions, flanking the enemy etc”. The civilian – who only knew the word “warfare” – remonstrated that the army needed to do warfare, not realising that the jargon was useful for talking about the detail of what happens.

    Another example. We were in a country closed to the gospel. The group had a prayer time. God touched our hearts. Times of praise. Then the members of the group felt specific conviction about sins. Time of repentance. Hearts were set free. We looked at the clock, and to our amazement, 5 hours had whizzed by. (Scot, from what I’ve described, you, as a theologian would have no trouble linking what I’ve said with theological passages.)

    After that 5 hour prayer time, we went to the park for a late lunch and sat together as a group, no evangelism, just having lunch. In that hour, a steady stream of people came up to the group and asked us about the gospel. A small number accepted Jesus. Note, we weren’t evangelising, just having lunch. It was so spectacular – people coming up to us asking about the gospel, when we hadn’t even advertised we were Christians. It was so stupendous that the leader of the group dropped to his knees weeping at what God had done. In my opinion, the one hour breakthrough — where, for 1 hour, a stream of people, un-prompted, came to ask us about the gospel — was linked to what happened in that prior 5 hour prayer time.

    Scot, the type of prayer that happened in that 5 hour session was meat and potato Christian stuff – praise, worship, repentance, forgiveness, adoration, encouragement, love etc. When Peter Wagner reports and writes about that stuff, he uses the above jargon in your article.

    What seminary theologians don’t seem to realise is that meat and potatoes theological concepts are at the root of what people refer to, in the jargon, as “spiritual warfare”. As said, I can couch it in seminary language, but most charismatic theologians can’t.

    Referring to the 5 hour prayer, was there something we resisted? It certainly felt like it, and it’s not inconsistent with 1 Peter 5:8. What did we resist? What was resisted? Emotions, feelings, or was it, as 1 Peter 5:8 says, something demonic? Who knows for 100% certain?

    Using the civilian vs Patton analogy, let’s unpack it, because if we start going into more detail, we need more vocabulary. What was resisted? Was it mere psychology at work, or were we resisting a spirit? If so, was that spirit the Devil, or a mere evil-spiritual-being? If so, what do we call such? Why wouldn’t it be the devil, and why wouldn’t it not be the devil? If not the devil, does that being have different level of authority compared to the Devil? These concepts are not specifically mentioned in Scripture, but they are subsets of concepts that are mentioned. I’m just brain storming. The point I’m making is that, at ground level, if we delve into more detail, there is a vocabulary that comes from being more specific.

    People like Peter Wagner love to focus on insider-language to describe spiritual warfare. In contrast, I prefer to describe and experience such prayer in the context of the major themes of the gospel — love, forgiveness, access to the Presence — and, in my experience, this is the substance of prayer that overcomes the resistance. What is being resisted? You tell me, based on 1 Peter 5:8.

    No one can prove that the 5 hour prayer time, with its flood of emotion and feelings, was directly linked to the following 1 hour where a stream of people, unprompted, came to ask us about the gospel. All I can say is, it happened.

    I dearly wish that charismatic Christians would communicate what they experience by reference to standard theology. The problem is, in charismatic churches, we are taught the Peter Wagner lingo, so they only way charismatics can express themselves is using the lingo — which is unintelligible to seminary professors. But I can assure you, Scot, that what is happening at heart level is the basics of the gospel. What we have here is a failure to communicate, based on seminary language vs charismatic-lingo.

    It would make communication with seminary professors like yourself so much easier.

  • A lot of what’s wrong with Wagner’s approach is the attitude in which it is done. Wagner is heavily influenced by Theonomy, under which those at the top of the five-fold offices of the church (namely, the ‘apostles’ and even ‘super-apostles’) are given authority by God over not just their churches, but the (‘temporal’) world they/we live in. (There are other aspects of this insidious [works its way into everything] and invidious [you can’t see it unless you look for it] way of thinking, which I won’t get into here.)

    To illustrate: A Wagnerian (!!) approach has a church map out their town, identify the strongholds of evil, and regularly both pray in their prayer room *and* go there physically to pray judgement *against* the (d)evil, to ‘pull down the strongholds’, and to claim Christ’s (or their own?) power over their bailiwick. But let’s look at the same practice done with different motivation. A church wants to develop a burden for the town they live in. They systematically look at the life of their town: the schools, hospitals, whorehouses, drug dens, businesses, neighborhoods, banks, government, the arts. (Most congregations really have little idea, they just know about the few things their activists are in.) They map it out, and in a deliberate, organized fashion regularly pray for each aspect of the town’s life and each section of town, dividing the task into groups of pray-ers if there are enough members to do that with. And they *go there* together, not to be seen but to see. Seeing actually matters – it begins connecting the people who are praying with the people they’re praying for. Instead of just raining down fire on their enemies, the church prays for the Spirit to lead, to support and protect, to change minds, to ask the Spirit to cause creative changes, to pray for open doors for a commitment to Christ, and to show where and how the church itself is to be involved.

    Two churches, each strategically mapping their prayer life for the community in the robust belief that prayer changes things. One prays to assert authority, the other to love better. This is the critical problem with Peter Wagner’s approach on nearly everything: it favors power and authority when it needs the humility to favor love. It’s also the critical reason so many churches have adopted so many of his methods – they find that many of the practices themselves can make their congregation be more fruitful.

  • RogerJS

    p/s I’m not generally a total Peter Wagner fan.

  • Phil Miller

    I have not read any of Wagner’s book (I think I may have one that someone gave me), but I have seen the whole “spiritual mapping” thing play out in different. In the town that I used to live, there was an interdenominational movement called “Lighthouses of Prayer” that seemed to take many cues from Wagner’s work, but a lot of the people involved were not Charismatic or Pentecostal.

    I guess the thing is I don’t see that most Christians take the things that people like Wagner talk about as an all-or-nothing proposition. I think there are probably some grains of truth in what he says, and I think there are others that are crazy. But when it comes down to it, isn’t that the case with most people who write books?

  • dopderbeck

    I believe in the reality of spiritual powers. I think, however, that this sort of approach to “spiritual warfare” is dangerous. It presumes to know things that we don’t really know, it simplifies complex realities into formulas, and it distorts pastoral care.

    If you’ve ever had a family member who is suffering from depression or other mental illness “diagnosed” by a pastor as being demon-oppressed, you’ll likely know how this kind of thing can lead to abuse and further suffering. The pastor may mean well but probably lacks any sort of training in treating mental illness (and probably, also, lacks deep training in theology….).

    Inculcating sound spiritual practices of prayer and Bible study and fellowship certainly should be part of healing from mental illness and addiction — there is a “spiritual” element to everything — but “power encounters” and so-on IMHO are unhealthy practices.

    The Bible can be used to support some of these ideas: e.g. the pastoral letters in Revelation addressed to “the angel of the Church of….” But the theology underlying this approach to “spiritual warfare” ultimately is Manichean: a battle of “good” vs. “evil” in which “evil” can win and “good” can triumph through quasi-secret (Gnostic) rituals and formulas that only the initiated understand. That is not at all the picture of Revelation or the rest of scripture, IMHO.

    All of this seems very different to me than praying “strategically” for specific needs within a community, as some folks in the thread have mentioned. By all means, it is wise for a local church to understand its local community and to pray for specific needs — crime, hunger, complacency, etc. — and then to act.

  • RogerJS

    @dopderbeck said: “but “power encounters” and so-on IMHO are unhealthy practices.”

    My experience. The person, per-service, said to the congregation that anyone who was physically sick could stand up for prayer. Therefore, the assumption would be that anyone who stood up presumably had some sort of physical sickness. A man, in the pew behind me, stood up, so I prayed for him. As I started to pray, I got a sense of God’s presence as well as a picture of the man’s situation that was not characterised as a physical sickness. I described the situation to him — un-related to a physical sickness — and he confirmed that it was true. As we sat down, I heard him exclaim to his wife, “Wow, how did he know that? That was amazing.” So, dopderbeck, was that a “power encounter”? I dunno. That’s jargon. There was analogous passages in the New Testament that use more conventional language rather than “power encounter”. I just prayed for the guy. Was what I did an “unhealthy practice”? You tell me.

  • Paul in Seattle

    Scott: “I want some biblical evidence for what they think is so important. I see none.”

    That nails it!

  • “One prays to assert authority, the other to love better. This is the critical problem with Peter Wagner’s approach on nearly everything: it favors power and authority when it needs the humility to favor love”


    Bob Dylan was once asked in an interview if it was going to far to say that all the songs from his latest (at that time) album were about the conflict in Israel (seeing as he was/is both Christian and Jewish). His response was something along the lines of, “No, no, you’re not taking it too far, you’re just making it too specific, is all.”

    Dylan could have said, “No, its not about Israel and Palestine, its about_______.” but he didnt because Dylan recognizes that truth works on many specific levels but that none of them can claim to own it. I think that’s what our problems with theology and “lingo” tend to stem from, namely, a tendency to either nail the truth down to specifics or deny that another person knows the truth when they get too specific. In the end, the truth isn’t so much born by the words describing it but by love in the actions proclaiming it

  • dopderbeck

    Roger (#19) — no, that is not what I meant by “power encounter.” What you’re describing seems to be some wisdom or insight you gained from the Holy Spirit while praying — and I believe that sort of thing happens and even that some people have a spiritual gift for such insight.

    In the “spiritual warfare” literature, a “power encounter” is the direct confrontation of a demon and involves a dramatic kind of exorcism. It’s not just “jargon” — it is a term used in that literature.

  • Karl

    Does “power encounter” also include prayers to “bind” Satan and/or other evil spirits? I have friends and family members who pray this way and have wondered about the legitimacy of/need for such prayers. Someone who does not believe in the practice once pointed out to me that if it is efficacious, then Satan is simultaneously being “bound” by so many Christians all around the world at any given moment that he must be permanently immobilized!

  • dopderbeck

    Karl (#23) — yes it can be, though they might not realize where that lingo comes from. A supposed Biblical basis for the “binding” prayers is Mark 3:20-30, specifically v. 27. Note how it speaks of “binding” or “tying up” the strongman and taking his “possessions.” A related basis is found in 2 Cor. 10: 4: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” as well as the pastoral letters in Revelation addressed to the “angels” of particular churches.

    It might be noted that the hermeneutic employed here is much like the hermeneutics of old-school dispensationalism: verses from different texts are picked up here and there and tied together in support of the system. Not surprisingly, old-school end times dispensationalism also seems to be popular among many spiritual warfare folks.

    At the same time, it’s evident throughout the NT (IMHO) that the Church does have authority derived from Christ to confront all the “powers” of sin and evil that plauge the world. The problem, IMHO, is that “spiritual warfare” methods and systems seem to divorce all this from the broader theological / eschatological picture given to us by scripture. It seems to become more like the Avengers vs. Loki or a Dan Brown novel than like the already innagurated reign of Christ in and through the Church as Christ’s body present until he returns.

  • If you have not seen it, be sure to see Rene Holvast’s extraordinary study of Wagner’s spiritual mapping movement in his marvelous monograph:

    It is the best book in print and Holvast’s wise critique is rooted in his experience as a missionary theologian.

  • T

    For consistency’s sake, I should chime in on this one, even if a little late. A few points, in no particular order:

    First, Scot has rightly said “show me in the scriptures.” While I tend to hold this whole “mapping” idea at arm’s length (or much more), I think one of the main biblical passages for this theology is Daniel 10-12. A possible, if not logical set of inferences from that passage could include, not only hierarchy among angels (Michael as a “chief” prince), but also geographic areas of focus for some angels and demons. I will be the first to say though that this is passage is, at minimum, quite mysterious, but to say that Wagner’s deductions are wholly without biblical basis is an overstatement.

    Second, regardless of what one deduces from the Daniel passage, my major response to this theology and practice that Wagner promotes is, similar to what others have said above, “let’s be careful not to major on minors.” Perhaps I am naive, but I deal with demons when I have to. I think that CS Lewis’ famous quote regarding the two common errors concerning demons applies here: “One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe and feel an unhealthy interest in them.” I tend to think that mapping gets into the latter error. I just don’t think demons deserve that much attention. I say this as a person who has participated in more than one exorcism–and I was most certainly not looking for them. Perhaps I am wrong.

    The bigger issue that I see isn’t about where one comes down on the issue of mapping. The bigger issue is the kind of extreme either/or (either demons are real or not; either they don’t affect people at all, or they’re behind every bad thing) that I see way too much in the Western church. We in the Western church have a hard time with finding a practical and balanced approach to demons that avoids total denial on the one hand or unhealthy over-emphasis on the other. Wagner’s mapping theology, based on the Daniel passage and others, may be right in many ways, but I feel like it tends to serve as fuel for the fire that keeps pushing Western Christians to the extremes of denial or overemphasis.

  • I’ve only had time to read about 1/2 of the comments, so forgive any oversights. Without weighing in one way or the other re. Wagner and the specific subject re. spiritual warfare, I do have a couple thoughts I think are important. They are similar to ones I made a couple days ago on another thread on spiritual warfare.

    Not only is it a Charismatic – non-charismatic communication and/or conceptual problem in discussing such things, it is a complicated worldview and spiritual phenomena one which has many angles. One unfortunate result of “modernity” and extending heavily into “postmodernity” as it influenced both broad culture and the Church(es) is closing eyes, shutting down research and most deeper analysis to a wide variety of phenomena. Those may be dubbed “spiritual” (as in spiritual warfare), demonic, paranormal, etc., and include much that is in murkey areas where things are far from clear, neither obviously “godly” nor “demonic” such as spontaneous or cultivated “extrasensory” abilities. I could add a lot to that list.

    A big problem is that neither the vast majority of theologians nor the vast majority of “secular” scientists (whether people of faith or not) have interest and/or courage to research and write about such areas. I criticize “science” as much as I do “religion” for the formation and continuation of a virtual taboo on not only things which do seem clearly of a malevolent basis but a great many that apparently are either “neutral” or potentially beneficial…. they often are part of the energy/information structure of reality that can be tapped for good or for evil, in my studied opinion. Malevolent spirits (or “demons”, whatever their actual makeup) are to be taken seriously but not presumed about. (My earlier comment mentions my serious study years ago on such matters, from an evangelical point of view–no longer my vantage point, but one I still take seriously and as having contributions to make.)

    I followed Wagner only decades ago, last as of when he’d just begun speaking and writing in this area, and then not in depth. However, I’d encourage people to hear him and similar folks out, interact with them, as well as interacting with the substantial literature out from different vantage points, such as scholars of religion, anthropologists, shamans of other cultures, etc. One doesn’t have to be Christian (or conservative Christian) to have good observations that are important, and also potentially helpful analyses.

  • Dan Ortiz

    Wagner’s “theology” is more superstition and syncretism that biblical.

  • Scot and others should be sure and read the post I did a while back on the extraordinary way that Wagner practices this belief in territorial spirits and the conclusions it led him to make about how prayers uttered over a statue led to the death of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana. This is not ordinary belief inspiritual warfare by any definition, charismatic or not. Ill try to post the link later.

  • Andy

    I’m interested Scot – How do you make sense of Daniel 10:13? Surely some kind of territorial view is required for this particular passage.

  • scotmcknight

    Andy, I commented on that above… what is clear for one place does not mean one can discern these things elsewhere, nor does even belief in that lead to the praxis developed.

  • Andy

    Sorry I missed that comment. Thanks Scot.

    The interesting thing out all this demonic stuff is that we westerners come with a very naturalist bias (myself included). When I was in Africa they laughed at me because I had never heard of night dancers before (people that awake in a possessed state at night, run around naked and do other weird stuff e.g. cannibalism). For everyday African Christians, night dancers are ‘obviously real’. To me the idea is seriously weird.

    If a pastor in our western world went around casting demons into herds of pigs, we would call them an extremist and the academics would be at the forefront of that charge. I most probably would think that they were crazy as well.

    I don’t dismiss the territorial spirits idea, but building an entire theology around it isn’t healthy.

    Also Scot I’d love to hear you engage will Bill Johnson’s theology on spiritual warfare. He argues that if spiritual warfare (this side of the cross/ resurrection) focuses about working hard in battle, praying with strenuous activity, shouting loudly etc then it probably doesn’t ‘scare’ the demonic realm. He argues that this is focusing upon human effort and is unsuccessful. He focuses upon the idea of being transformed by God’s truth, confessing God’s truth and resting in God’s victory and promises. I agree with him on this point.

  • @Greg Metzger (#25) That book looks like an awesome study! Just wish it wasn’t $128. I’d gone to the page hoping to find the 9.99 kindle version as Spiritual Mapping tends to be a recurring topic where we are on the field but $128 is a bit out of the mission budget 🙂 Do you have a summary written up anywhere on it?

  • EricW

    We live right down the road from this, so I can scope out or join in their activities anytime I want to:

  • @Brandon–the book’s price is a killer, I admit. I read it through the theological library at a nearby seminary. However, you can read an excellent summary of it online:

    And this is the link to my post on Wagner and the death of Mother Teresa:

  • Thanks for the link! I’ve got it saved to read soon 🙂

  • numo

    For years (30+) I saw charismatics and evangelicals turn “spiritual warfare” into what basically amounts to Christian Magic (TM).

    The amount of fear and superstition involved was/is staggering – from “pleading the blood of Jesus” to “binding spirits” to ceremonies to supposedly dispel the evil Masonic influences on D.C. to people taping Bible verses to doorsteps and lintels in order to “protect” their homes – even as a device to help convert a spouse.

    I have seen firsthand what the beliefs and practices advocated by Wagner, George Otis Jr. (of the Sentinel Group; former YWAM head and advocate of moral government theology) can do to churches and the people in them – including their attitudes toward those who don’t belong to their church or who don’t square with their particular understanding of spiritual warfare.

    It is very ugly.

    I am *not* saying that evil is non-existent, for there’s something very wrong when people focus all their attention on “taking territory for God” and (supposedly) battling demons and none at all on Christ and his finished work.

    In fact… I do think that in many groups, Jesus is kind of a sideline, as their god is much more like that of Zoroastrianism (i.e., they basically believe in a constant dualistic war between a good god and an evil entity) rather than anything to do with Christian belief as expressed in both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds.

    Wagner and his associates believe – among other crazy things – that there is some sort of goddess spirit (their words) that has taken the world captive, and further, that both Princess Diana and Mother Teresa were being dominated by this spirit. They literally believe that both women died as a direct result of their prayers, during something they call “Operation Ice Castle.” I wish I was making this up – Wagner wrote a book about it, though, so it’s there for anyone who wants to take the time to read it.

    Also, I have seen depression and anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, ADD, eating disorders, alcoholism, tobacco smoking and the Lord knows what all else ascribed directly to the demonic. These ideas are rampant in charismatic circles (has been true since the very early 1970s, at least – back when I became an “on-fire” teen).

    I knew people in D.C. who were totally focused on “triangulating” supposed seats of evil powers in the area, as per Wagner’s so-called spiritual mapping theories. You know, there’s something really nutty – and wrong – about adults who are essentially creating this kind of massive “real life” role-playing game. And I knew a lot of them – a few even tapped me for “research” at one point, but after a bit of digging, I just couldn’t see the point and didn’t make myself available for any further attempts at sniffing out supposed demonic influences in local history.

    Have also seen “prayer walking” in action and refused to participate. Ditto for the “March for Jesus” deal, which was intended to somehow sanctify and “reclaim” actual land and neighborhoods for God.

    there is a *big* difference between being concerned for one’s neighborhood and active attempting to drive out supposed demons who hold sway there.

    That this focus on waging war for God can turn into active hatred for those who are perceived as not being “for god” – and violence against them – is a given. See: imprecatory prayer as aimed at the people I mentioned above + pres. Obama.

    (apologies for the lengthy rant; it just floors me that anyone is giving credence to Wagner’s ideas….)