Volume 8, Issue 4: Africanus
Three hundred years from now Christians looking back at the late 1900s will no doubt be appalled at the literature of our day. The guides to quick success decorate our bookstores, promising everything from speed reading to passing the bar exams in just three easy steps. Most alarming to these future generations will, no doubt, be the presence of the same style of literature in our "Christian" bookstores! The "three easy steps" literature reflects, at worst, the disobedience of the Church in our age, and, at best, a misguided Church that runs after no-pain-quick-guaranteed success in so much of what it does.
The most recent fad of this kind on the world missions and evangelism scene is what is being called "high-level spiritual warfare." Maybe "power spiritual warfare" sums it up better. In any case, this current trend promotes "spiritual mapping"identifying by name the hierarchy of demons (authorities and powers), and "territorial spirits" that have been supposedly assigned to specific geographical areasand prayer directed at these strongholds. When this methodology is followed, according to its proponents, receptivity to the Gospel will take place virtually overnight. This new teaching seems to have its origins in a mix of Frank Perretti's novels and a healthy dose of imagination. Needless to say, there are many problems with it.
The first problem is that it is based heavily on subjective experience and not on the Word of God. Most of the evidence comes from missionary stories from around the world. In the Scriptures we are nowhere instructed to bind the spirits when doing evangelism in new places. The Apostle Paul did not "spiritually map" and then "bind the ruling spirits" in Athens or Philippi before preaching there. Any teaching that so heavily emphasizes experience and imagination should be questioned from the start.
Second, in the history of the Church over the last 2,000 years, very little, if anything, directly touching the subject has been written. This also should caution us as to the importance of this new teaching. The question should be asked, "If this new method comes from Scripture, why hasn't anyone seen it over the last two millennia?"
Third, in the current fad and with others like it, the focus tends to be on the evil powers and not on God. Although the Scriptures do not make light of the principalities, powers, and hosts of wickedness, their focus is always on the triumphant Lord Jesus Christ. This new "key" for evangelism, however, serves rather to exalt the enemy and attribute more power to him than Scripture describes. We are given a right perspective as to these powers in passages like John 12:31 where we read, "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out." In Colossians 2:15 we read, "Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it [the cross]." And Matthew 28:18 tells us that "All authority" has been given to Him "in heaven and on earth." The princes of the nations have been overthrown; the stone that struck the image in Daniel is becoming a great mountain and will fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).
Fourth, this method teaches an inadequate view of the fall of man. It would seem that the reasoning is as follows: if the enemy's stronghold over a people or nation can be broken, then people will automatically desire to respond to the Gospel when it is preached. Such a view fails, first of all, to recognize that man in his unregenerate state is a slave to sin and cannot turn to the light. It also takes responsibility away from man for his sin and blames "territorial spirits" instead.
Finally, this teaching emphasizes quick, easy, guaranteed results over obedience to the truth. Because such and such a method seemingly worked somewhere in the world does not mean that it must be true and followed. Our standard for truth is the Bible, and more of our attention should be given to obedience to it. In Ephesians 6:10-20 we find clear teaching on spiritual warfare, and we do well to notice that the two offensive weapons that the Christian is to wield are preaching and prayer. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God; it is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Preaching the Gospel is spiritual warfare. Prayer is the other offensive weapon, and its objective has also to do with the proclamation of the Gospel. Paul says to pray for "all the saints . . . and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel. . . ."
How do we correctly battle against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places? By putting on the whole armor of God. The offensive weapons that we are clearly commanded to take up are the Word of God and prayer. We are also told what to pray for. Praying against "territorial spirits" is not in the text.
Most of the battle is already history. The decisive blow was dealt in history at the cross. Any other emphasis in teaching on spiritual warfare should be suspect. May God have mercy on the Church for neglecting His Word.