I didn’t know much about evangelicalism when I matriculated at Fuller Seminary in 1990. I went there because a close family friend was a professor, and because I’d just spent four years on the East Coast — I thought some California sun would be nice. I completely enjoyed my time there, and I was intellectually challenged by the likes of Nancey Murphy, Jim McClendon, and Miroslav Volf.
So it came as a surprise to me when, sitting in the office of Geoffrey Wainwright of Duke, I was told that my Fuller degree would cripple my application to the Duke Ph.D. program. Indeed, in the Spring of 1994, I was rejected at Duke, Yale, Emory, and the University of Chicago. Of course, I have no idea what role my Fuller pedigree played in those rejection.
But if Fuller was looked down on in the academy, it may have been thanks to C. Peter Wagner.
Wagner was a professor at Fuller when I was a student there. I never took a class from him, as I am highly dubious of his brand of Christianity, but many of my peers did. Wagner’s classes were rife with healings (usually leg-lengthenings) and maps showing the “territorial demons” that had carved up Los Angeles County for their dominions. He played audio tapes in his class that he had recorded during exorcisms.
Fuller was smart to part ways with Wagner in 2001, when he retired after 30 year there. And, in my experience, an M.Div. from Fuller nowadays is seen as academically on par with the top seminaries and divinity schools.
But Wagner is still up to his silliness. As reported this week in the WaPo, his attendance at a Rick Perry prayer rally has some looking at the ties between the two:
More recently, C. Peter Wagner, an expert in church growth, has become a lightning rod for critics of dominionism, largely because of the extensive research of Talk2Action.org, a liberal investigative site, and one of its writers, Rachel Tabachnik.
Wagner is a former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif., who had noted the rapid spread of independent Pentecostal churches. In 1974, he dubbed the trend the New Apostolic Reformation, and eventually became a leader among these churches. He is now considered an apostle along with his wife Doris, who specializes in healing.
Wagner sharpened the Pentecostal focus on spiritual warfare, through books with titles such as, “Breaking Strangleholds in Your City (Prayer Warriors).” He trains people to use intense direct prayer and other strategies to fight demonic control of specific cities or regions. In addition, he promotes the “seven mountains” philosophy of placing Christians in positions of influence, but insists it is no stealth plan for a Christian-only government. Wagner said that most of the church leaders he works with believe that both major parties are under demonic influence — not just the Democrats — although some individual politicians are “kingdom-minded.” Church members are deeply frustrated about politicians promising to outlaw abortion and address other social issues, but never fulfilling this pledge, Wagner said.
“There’s nobody that I know — there may be some fringe people — who would even advocate a theocracy,” Wagner said in a phone interview from Colorado Springs, Colo., where his ministries are based. “We honor those who have other kinds of faith.”