A Historical Survey of the Concept of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare: Spiritual Mapping, Territorial Spirits, and Related Praxis
by Paul L. King, D.Min., Th.D.
The concept of “strategic level spiritual warfare” (SLSW) involves collective or corporate strategies of doing spiritual warfare, not merely on the level of demonic deliverance of individuals on earth, but dealing with principalities and powers in the heavenlies. SLSW teaches that there are ruling demonic spirits, often called “territorial spirits,” assigned to geographical areas, such as the “prince of Persia” of Daniel 10. Consequently, the spirits need to be dislodged through war-like strategies of intercession, binding and loosing, direct rebuke or command of spirits, and spiritual mapping. Spiritual mapping is the process of determining the forces and circumstances that hold a territory in spiritual bondage.
Territorial Spirits Concept in the Church Fathers
This interpretation of the “prince of Persia” of Daniel 10 as an example of doing warfare against territorial spirits in some fashion is not a recent innovation, but has a long record in church history. For instance, as early as the 2nd century, Church Father Justin Martyr acknowledged a principality over the city of Damascus that was dislodged by the Incarnation of Christ: “For that expression in Isaiah [8:4], ‘He shall take the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria’ foretold the power of the evil demon that dwelt in Damascus should be overcome by Christ as soon as He was born, and this is proved to have happened.”1 Justin explained further that this demonic force had authority over all Arabia through the occultic religion of the Magi. The Incarnation of Christ conquered that power by attracting the Magi to worship Him: “For the Magi who were held in bondage for the commission of all evil deeds through the power of that demon, by coming to worship Christ, show that they have revolted from that dominion which held them captive, and this [dominion] the Scripture has showed us to reside in Damascus.”2 The third century church father Origen likewise believed in territorial spirits, noting the prince of Persia in Daniel and the prince of Tyre in Ezekiel.3
- Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 78,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, eds., Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), 1:238.
3 Origen, De Principiis, bk 3, ch. 3, par. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10:239, 243; bk. 1, ch. 8, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 65.
Renewed Teaching on Territorial Spirits and Spiritual Warfare
During the medieval period there does not seem to be teaching on territorial spirits. However, in the post-Reformation period, such emphasis appears to reemerge. Territorial revivals have been noted in the Great Awakening of 1738-40 involving Jonathan Edwards and the Great American Revival of 1858. Preceded by fervent prayer, such revivals would appear to involve the overthrow of territorial spirits, binding their influence and loosing the power of the Holy Spirit.4 Revival historian Wesley Deuwel identifies such territorial revival phenomena as “zones of holiness” or “a canopy of holy and awesome revival influence—in reality the presence of the Holy Spirit” during the 1858 revival.5
Classics scholar G. H. Pember wrote in the 1870s that from Daniel and Ezekiel 14 Satan “divides the world into different provinces according to its nationalities, appointing a powerful angel, assisted by countless subordinates, as viceroy over each kingdom to direct its energies and bend them to his will.”6 In 1897, speaking in a missiological context at a China Inland Mission Conference in London, Keswick leader Jessie Penn-Lewis, probably influenced by Pember, taught that there are “principalities who rule over various lands.”7 In 1904, S. D. Gordon declared, “Intercession is winning the victory over the chief, and service is taking the field after the chief is driven off.”8
Canadian Presbyterian missionary revivalist Jonathan Goforth was aware of conflict with territorial spirits. An article in 1920 described a revival in South China with Jonathan Goforth preaching. Missionaries reported that principalities and powers in the air and the prince of the kingdom of China were hindering, but through much prayer there was a breakthrough on the tenth day with weeping and confession with more than 700 inquiring about salvation.9 Robert Jaffray, a Canadian Presbyterian colleague of Goforth who became director of the South China mission of the Christian and Missionary
- Neill Foster with Paul L. King, Binding and Loosing: Exercising Authority over the Dark Powers (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1998), 254-255.
5 Wesley Deuwel, Revival Fire (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 102, 133.
6 G. H. Pember, Earth’s Earliest Ages (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1876; reprint, Grand Rapid, MI: Kregel, 1975), 44.
7 Jessie Penn-Lewis, The Warfare with Satan (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1963),
- See also Jessie Penn-Lewis, Prayer and Evangelism (Dorset, England: Overcomer Literature Trust, ), 34-35.
8 S. D. Gordon, cited by Timothy M. Warner, “Dealing with Territorial Demons,” Engaging the Enemy: How To Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1991), 53.
9 Mrs. L. L. Hess, Preaching and Prayer or Special Services at Wuchow,” The Alliance Weekly (AW), April 24, 1920, 56.
Alliance, wrote in 1927 of territorial spirits, saying, “There is today a Prince of Tibet, of Afghanistan, of Cambodia, of Arabia, of Mohammedanism, of Bolshevism, who are prepared to defend their lands.”10 A year later while pioneering a new work in Borneo he fell under a deep depression that he recognized was a result of stepping “on the enemy’s territory,” calling that enemy “the Prince of Darkness.”11
Parallel with these developments, in 1916 E. W. Kenyon, considered the father of the modern faith movement, also believed in a concept of territorial spirits. Theologian and historian Douglas Jacobsen notes, “Kenyon believed Satan divided the world into a host of separate ‘kingdoms and states, and communities’ and gave various demons control over those territorial domains. Virtually every community was assigned a territorial demon to oppress and control all forms of life in that region of the planet.”12
Further Development of the Concept by John MacMillan
C&MA missionary John MacMillan, perhaps more than any other Christian leader of his day, began to develop more of a concept of territorial influences. Some personality trait weaknesses that are usually considered characteristic of a certain nationality or ethnic group, MacMillan suggested, are “quite as likely to be a working of that undercurrent of Satanic force.”13 He posited the atheism of Russia and the unexplainable submissiveness of its people as due to an occult power, what he calls a “hellish counterfeit.”14 For most heathen religions, MacMillan explained, “Every god is confined to definite territorial limits, outside of which his influence does not extend.”15 MacMillan viewed Daniel 10 as an example of prayer activating God’s interference with “mighty intelligences” manipulating people, governments, and circumstances.16
MacMillan suggested that unusual physical disorders which may manifest in one environment, but not another may be due to the influence of what some today call territorial spirits.17 These forms of oppression, he believed, are overcome through what
- A. Jaffray, “Our Great Unfinished Task,” AW, July 9, 1927, 456.
- W. Tozer, Let My People Go! (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1990), 90.
- Douglas Jacobsen, Thinking in the Spirit: Theologies of the Early Pentecostal Movement (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2003), 329; see E.W. Kenyon, The Father and His Family, 11th (n. p.: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Co., 1964), 36-37, 71, 196.
- “The Weakness of Power,” AW, Apr. 2, 1938, 211.
- “Our Most Stubborn Foe,” AW, June 27, 1942, 402.
- “Daniel and the Unseen,” AW, Feb. 12, 1944, 99.
- MacMillan explained, “Cases have been seen, on the foreign field, where a physician’s diagnosis has apparently revealed serious functional disorder, and the patient has been invalided [sent home on disability leave] home. Yet, when the home physician has examined the worker, no trace has been found of the
are sometimes today called “truth encounters,” by exercising the authority of the believer, binding the enemy, and confessing the truths of the Word of God.18
Although MacMillan did not use the current terminology “territorial spirits,” he clearly understood the concept of demonic strongholds over a region. He appealed for intercessors at home “to roll back the powers of the air, and make it possible to bring the Truth to bear on these regions where the devil is blocking the way.”19 The “principalities” of Ephesians 6:12 he regarded as “satanic princes, angels whose principalities cover the countries of this world.”20
As a professor at the Missionary Training Institute in Nyack, New York, he would involve his students in “praying geographically,” interceding for specific locations and missionaries around the world.21 Though not nearly so sophisticated a strategy as presented today, nonetheless fifty years before the SLSW movement MacMillan taught and practiced a rudimentary form of what today is known as spiritual mapping.22
Similar to the cautions of some critiquing SLSW movement today, MacMillan cautioned that this type of ministry is not for everyone, but rather “men and women whose lives are yielded to God,” for “true geographic prayer ministry needs close abiding in God.”23 Those who engage in this kind of ministry need to exercise spiritual discernment. They are to be “watchers,” who have their heart and mind “trained in spiritual observation” and “can discern constant shifting of the lines of combat, which is indicated trouble. The change of environment has seemed to remove all signs of physical weakness. If we consider this to have any connection with the working of the enemy, it would appear as if there was oppression on the field, which did not exist at home, the pressure being removed when the patient reached the homeland.” John A. MacMillan, Encounter with Darkness (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1980), 50-51.
- , 55-59.
- A. MacMillan, “Our Mohammedan Problem in the Philippines,” AW, June 22, 1929, 404.
- The Full Gospel Sunday School Quarterly, Aug. 9, 1953, 18.
- Paul L. King, A Believer with Authority (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 2001), 153.
- MacMillan wrote, “There is among the saints of the Most High a chosen group—perhaps larger than we think—whose divinely appointed ministry is that of the prayer closet. There, on their knees with a world map before them, its members individually and methodically pray out the problems of the advance of the kingdom. They precede missionaries into areas where Christ has not been named; they observe them as they attack firmly-placed barriers, breaking down by the high explosive of authoritative prayer the Satanic opposition that continues impedes the forward progress of the gospel. Because the working of the Spirit of God is everywhere, working through some mysterious law, dependent on intercession, these unseen workers are the real pioneers of Christian missions. Unknown to themselves their word in the heavenlies is mighty through God to the overthrowing of principalities and powers. National boundaries are melting down before the faith and fervor of their supplications.” John MacMillan, “Praying Geographically,” AW, Sept. 14, 1946, 579; The Full Gospel Sunday School Quarterly, Aug. 9, 1953, 18. This is not to say that he would embrace all that is taught and practiced regarding these concepts today.
- MacMillan, “Praying Geographically,” 579.
not obvious to others.” He warned that “it is also a service of peculiar peril to those involved. For the enemy strikes with malignant vigor and keen knowledge at every opportunity.”24 He spoke out of the authority of his own experience, having done battle with such spirits in the Philippines.25 He had viewed his battle for his wife’s life as an “infernal fiat” intended to crush them because they were dislodging the spirits that held the territories of the Philippines in darkness. MacMillan thus promoted the idea of praying against territorial forces, but not directly commanding or rebuking such forces as advocated by SLSW proponents today.
Late 20th Century Development of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare
In 1955 Gordon Lindsay, founder of Christ for the Nations Institute, taught on the basis of Daniel 10, “The real ruler of a Gentile nation is not a king or a human potentate, but rather a prince of the kingdom of darkness. This powerful spirit prince has a legion of lesser sprits under him, who carry out his orders, and by them, Satan maintains his kingdom and accomplishes his purpose of seducing and deceiving men.”26 He acknowledges, “Spiritual powers in high places are dislodged only by spiritual warfare.”27 For Lindsay, such spiritual warfare consists of persistent, persevering prayer such as Daniel’s, which “aided in releasing the spiritual power [reinforcements by the Archangel Michael] that in the end defeated the powers of darkness.”28 He gives the example of Charles Finney wrestling and agonizing in prayer before the great 1857-57 revival broke out.29
Although he did not teach directly on SLSW, Frank Peretti’s fictional books This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness have probably had more impact than anything else in raising the awareness and popularizing the concept of warfare in the heavenlies. Additionally, according to Keith Bailey, “Timothy M. Warner is credited with being the first missiologist to use the term ‘territorial spirits.’”3
- John A. MacMillan, The Authority of the Believer (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1980), 38.
- Gordon Lindsay, The Secret of Prayer That Moves Mountains (Dallas, TX: Voice of Healing Publishing Co., 1955), 88.
- , 90.
- , 90-92.
- Keith M. Bailey, Strange Gods: Responding to the Rise of Spirit Worship in America (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1998), 229.
John Dawson’s book Taking Our Cities for God signaled a new level of strategy in dealing with territorial spirits. Yet, as a seemingly prophetic harbinger of the future SLSW movement, he also cautioned:
Very little is revealed about specific territorial spirits in the Bible, and that’s no accident. . . . [The reality of territorial spirits] should not be taken as a mandate for the development of spiritual maps in which we seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge. If we gain knowledge of the name and nature of an evil spirit and publish it broadly, the enemy will only attempt to glorify himself.31
Prayer walking, the practice of walking around a geographic area interceding for the area and people of the area, though practiced broadly outside of the SLSW movement, has become an integral part of strategic level spiritual warfare.32 “Marches for Jesus” became popular, beginning in London in 1987, and organized in 142 American and European cities on May 23, 1992.33 Foster and King support the idea of prayerwalking as biblical, but also give cautions concerning misuse of the concept.34 It should be noted that many churches and ministries engage in prayerwalking without embracing the theology and practices of SLSW. Hawthorne and Kendrick, leaders in the prayerwalking movement, point out, “Exorcism routines that are suitable for dealing with demonized individuals are not necessarily appropriate when dealing with neighborhoods or territories.”35 On the other hand, many of the SLSW proponents practice binding and loosing of territorial spirits in a corporate setting. Ed Silvoso of Harvest Evangelism, and the brother-in-law of evangelist Luis Palau, has engaged in prayer walking, breaking down strongholds, and SLSW, especially in his native country of Argentina.36
- Peter Wagner, one of the chief promoters of SLSW, cites C&MA Navajo Indian pastor Herman Williams becoming sick and going off the reservation for treatment. When he arrived at the doctor, the pain was gone, and the doctor could find nothing wrong. When he returned to the reservation the pain returned and he discerned that there was a problem with territorial spirits.37 Cindy Jacobs, founder of the General of Intercession ministry, advertises their mission as “achieving societal reformation
- John Dawson, Taking Our Cities for God (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1989), 156.
- Steve Hawthorne and Graham Kendrick, Prayer-walking: Praying on Site with Insight (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1993).
- , 198.
- Foster and King, 276-278.
- Hawthorne and Kendrick, 141.
- Hawthorne and Kendrick, 120.
- C Peter Wagner, “The Key To Victory Is Binding the ‘Strong Man,’” Ministries Today, Nov./Dec. 1986, 84; see also George Otis, Jr., The Twilight Labyrinth (Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 1997), 194-195.
through intercession and the prophetic.38 She has produced a series of teaching videos entitled Societal Reformation and Transformation Video Series, as well as numerous books, including Warfare Prayer: Laying Siege to a City through Intercession and Possessing the Gates of the Enemy.39
The ministries of Jacobs, Wagner, Chuck Pierce, and others intersect the prophetic movement with the spiritual warfare movement. This is not to say that everyone in the SLSW movement agrees or identifies with each one, nor that everyone in the spiritual warfare movement is involved in the prophetic movement.
Though not active proponents of the SLSW movement per se, many members of the modern prophetic movement, such as Paul Cain and Rick Joyner, practice corporate spiritual warfare and utilize some of the SLSW principles. Likewise, the New Apostolic Movement also intersects and intertwines with SLSW movement, though not all are involved with both movements. End time Handmaidens leader Gwen Shaw utilizes some principles of the SLSW movement, but is not a leader in the movement. She is somewhat controversial, claimed by some to engage in New Age theology.
George Otis, Jr., explained spiritual mapping as “nothing more ethereal than creating a spiritual profile of a community carefully based on research.”40 Otis elaborates on and documents what he calls principalities as “governmental co-conspirators,” “regional deities,” and “territorial dynasties,” as well as “territorial counterattacks” and in his 1997 book The Twilight Labyrinth.41 He writes of “collective possession and cultural exorcism” in which “whole communities have entered into collective pacts with the spirit world.”42 Otis organized the A.D. 2000 United Prayer Track for evangelism and collective spiritual warfare. He has produced “Transformation” videos, which provide documentaries of cities and regions transformed through spiritual warfare. Otis has formed the Sentinel Group, which promotes itself as “a Christian research and information agency dedicated to helping the Church pray knowledgably for end-time global evangelization and enabling communities to discover the pathway to genuine
- See the Generals of Intercession website at http://generalsorg.zoovy.com/
- Cindy Jacobs, Warfare Prayer: Laying Siege to a City through Intercession; Cindy Jacobs, Possessing the Gates of the Enemy (Tarrytown, NY: Chosen Books, 1991).
- George Otis, Jr., as cited by Art Moore, “Spiritual Mapping Gains Credibility among Leaders,” Christianity Today, January 12, 1998, 53.
- Otis, The Twilight Labyrinth,181-229, 236-238.
revival and societal transformation.”43 Other research sources refute the extent of transformation claimed by the videos.44
Some teach a concept of territorial generational curses, meaning that a demonic curse can blanket a specific geographical area or nation because of unresolved sins committed by people of earlier generations. Some may in direct commanding prayer break generational curses, while others use a more indirect approach such as corporate repentance, asking specific people or people groups for forgiveness in behalf of former generations’ sins towards that particular people group. This is known as variously as identificational repentance or confession. John Dawson appears to be one of the earliest promoters of this concept, particularly through his book Healing America’s Wounds.45 Some cite historical examples of identificational repentance in the Book of Common Prayer, Elizabethan Prayer Book, the Episcopalian Book of Occasional Services, and the Lutheran Stuttgart Confession of Guilt.46
Another teaching that intersects with SLSW and the apostolic and prophetic movements is the “Joel’s Army” concept, based on Joel 2:2-3, which teaches that God is raising up an end-time army of believers to exercise spiritual authority on the earth and bring end-time “latter rain” revival. Some, though not all, who teach a Joel’s Army idea embrace Dominion theology, the belief that the church will take dominion of the earth (often aligned with post-millennial eschatology). Others are Restorationists, who emphasize end-time restoration of early church characteristics and power that have been lost to the church. Among the proponents of the Joel’s army teaching are prophetic leaders like Rick Joyner, Jack Deere, Latter Rain leader Paul Cain, Francis Frangipane, Bob Beckett, and many others.47
Criticisms of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare
C&MA scholar Keith Bailey questions the exegesis and interpretation of Daniel 10 and other passages of Scripture and biblical concepts such as stoicheia in relation to
- See The Sentinel Group website at: http://www.sentinelgroup.org/
- See the website: http://www.geocities.com/smithtj.geo/transformations1.html
- John Dawson, Healing America’s Wounds (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1994).
- Gary S. Greig, “The Biblical Foundations of Identificational Repentance as One Prayer Pattern Useful to Advance God’s Kingdom and Evangelism,” April 2001, published online at http://www.cwgministries.org/books/Biblical-Foundation-for-Identificational-Repentance.pdf. Greig’s paper is a scholarly treatment supporting identificational repentance.
- See Rick Joyner, The Harvest; Jack Deere, “Joel’s Army,” It Sounds Like the Mother of All Battles, Barbara Aho, “The Elijah Revolution: Joel’s Army Coming of Age,” accessed online at http://watch.pair.com/elijah.html
territorial spirits, saying that “Daniel did not do battle with the prince of Persia. It was the angel who fought this wicked power. It was a battle in the heavenlies with angels and demons.”48 He views ruling spirits as being assigned to political ruling entities rather than geographical locations.
Clinton Arnold concurs that territorial spirits do exist, but opposes the SLSW movement, citing that Scripture illustrates that believers can cast out individual spirits, but there is no scriptural support for commanding territorial spirits: “The Bible nowhere narrates, describes or instructs us on how, or even whether, we are to engage these high-ranking territorial spirits . . . a strategy for taking on territorial spirits is absent.”49 Foster and King agree with Arnold, concluding, “Spiritual mapping, if it takes a form which focuses on the occult or territoriality of the various dark powers, is likely to carry its practitioners into peril. But spiritual mapping which is more akin to the old-fashioned field study, including some description of the demon powers of false religions, is the kind of spiritual mapping which could be acceptable.”50
Michael Reid, in his book Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare: A Modern Mythology? holds a similar position with Arnold, King, and Foster regarding SLSW, but disagrees on matters of possible demonization of Christians. Reid comments of Wimber, “Although Wimber believed in ‘custodian’ territorial spirits, he rejected the concept of aggressive warfare against the spirits, concluding that it is God who determines the strategy, engages the enemy, and wins the victory. He believed that Christians must oppose Satan but they do not confront the ruling spirits, only the low-level demons.”51
Chuck Lowe, in his book Territorial Spirits and World Evangelization?, presents one of the most broadly touted critiques of the SLSW movement.52 He concludes that there are no such things as territorial spirits, though possibly custodial tutelary spirits, and observes no “shred of support” for the practice of warfare prayer in Scripture.53 He also questions the hermeneutic of some in the movement that if it is not in the Bible it is permissible.
- Bailey, 231.
- Clinton Arnold, 3 Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997),
- Foster and King, 263.
- Michael S. B. Reid, Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare: A Modern Mythology? (Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press, 2002), 103.
- Chuck Lowe, Territorial Spirits and World Evangelization? (Sevenoaks, Kent, UK: OMF, 1998, 2001)
- , 20, 144.
Writing in the Journal of Asian Mission, Malaysian minister Yee Tham Wan has presented a critique of the broader spiritual warfare movement, including in his appraisal a wide array of those who are not identified with SLSW such as Warren Wiersbe, David Bryant and Evelyn Christianson.54 He asserts that the success of the general spiritual warfare movement is due to populist, pragmatic and triumphalistic approaches and techniques, not to theological or biblical soundness.55 Citing Robert Guelich,56 he claims that “Paul writes very little about Satan and demons or evil spirits,” and thus spiritual warfare is a limited concept in the Bible.57 Wan does not, however, engage the comprehensive work by Gregory Boyd tracing the spiritual warfare motif throughout the Bible entitled God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict.58 Nor does he take into consideration New Testament scholar Clinton Arnold’s extensive studies on the powers of darkness in Paul’s writings.59
Kenneth Hagin, in his book The Triumphant Church, acknowledges that demons can “dominate” or “gang up in certain parts of the world or in certain countries,” but believes that people who think they are pulling down strongholds over cities or regions are misguided and such actions are not warranted by Scripture.60 He asserts that Daniel “prayed to God, not against the devil,” yet he believes that Christians can bind the devil in his operations.61
John Paul Jackson, a leader in the prophetic movement that often engages in strategic level spiritual warfare, nonetheless teaches in his book Needless Casualties of War that believers are authorized to do spiritual warfare only in the terrestrial, or earthly, realm, not in the second heaven, which he considers “the command post of Satan and his diabolical spiritual dignitaries which include principalities, powers, rulers of darkness,
- Yee Tham Wan, “A Critique of the Spiritual Warfare Movement,” Journal of Asian Mission 4:2 (2002).
- Wan, 180-186
- Robert A. Guelich, “Jesus, Paul and Peretti,” Pneuma 13:1 (Spring 1991), 42, 45.
- Wan, 184.
- Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997). Boyd only briefly addresses Guelich’s claims directly, but throughout his book counters the idea that spiritual warfare is merely a metaphor that is a minor theme in Scripture. (See pp. 280, 310n66, 392n35.)
- Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities and Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Gove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992); Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians, Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians in Light of Its Historical Setting (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Clinton E.
Arnold, The Colossian Syncretism: The Interface Between Christianity and Folk Belief at Colosse (Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996).
- Kenneth E. Hagin, The Triumphant Church: Dominion Over All the Powers of Darkness (Tulsa, OK: Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1993), 201-222.
- , 239, 242.
and spiritual hosts of wickedness.”62 He illustrates many instances of demonic attack on those who have attempted to do warfare on their own with territorial spirits beyond their sphere of authority: tragedies, illness, miscarriage, depression and death.63
While there are some who disagree totally with the concept of territorial spirits (such as Bailey, Reid, Lowe), others acknowledge their reality, but disagree with the direct encounter approach. Veteran missionary Ed Murphy, for instance, similar to Arnold, advocates asking God to subdue territorial spirits, rather than commanding them.64
Others, like Otis, argue for the need of collective strategic level spiritual warfare: “The spiritual dynamics [of collective pacts with the spirit world] are no longer individualized. Collective action has forced the issue to a higher level. Deliverance strategies must now take into consideration a wide range of sociopolitical expression, each of which may be linked (sometimes quite explicitly) to demonic shadow rulers.”65 At the same time, he cautions against “reckless claims and baseless expectations”, noting that a spiritual warfare rally in San Francisco on Halloween in 1990 (perhaps speaking of Larry Lea) did not “reverse the curse” as claimed.66 He counsels:
Asking God to banish demonic powers from an entire community is to suggest that He set aside the logical consequences of a people’s misplaced choices. It is to assume that our role as “King’s kids” gives us the authority to nullify residents’ free will or the devil’s ability to respond to explicit human overtures. . . . In reality, I have yet to come across a single case study in which this approach has been applied successfully. It is simply not realistic to expect that we can facilitate the wholesale elimination of demonic powers prior to the Second Coming.67
He advocates engaging in strategic level intercession that involves primarily prayer, and direct confrontation with territorial principalities and power only when clear direction and authority have been given by God to do so in a particular situation: “This authority is not for us to use at our own initiative or discretion. It is ambassadorial authority, which means it is to be exercised only at the bidding of the Sovereign.” He indicates that in
- John Paul Jackson, Needless Casualties of War (Fort Worth, TX: Streams Publications, 1999), 55. For Jackson’s discussion of this limitation on spiritual warfare see Jackson, 55-72.
- Jackson, 11-42.
- Ed Murphy, The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1992, 1996), 536.
- Otis, The Twilight Labyrinth, 275-276.
- , 278-279. This is probably the same event led by Larry Lea. Some have seen in Larry Lea’s unsuccessful attempt to dislodge spirits over San Francisco the eventual demise of his ministry as he came under spiritual attack with moral and financial accusations and a nervous breakdown.
- , 279.
scriptural passages in the Psalms that deal with warfare, in only about one percent of the time, does the psalmist speak directly to the enemy.68
Some question identificational repentance, claiming it is neither biblical nor necessary.69 However, while widely practiced in the SLSW movement, identificational confession is also often practiced by many who would not want to identify with SLSW.
Due to the multitude of writings and people in the spiritual warfare movement and the brevity of this essay, many significant writings and leaders of the SLSW movement have been omitted of this survey. It is impossible in a brief overview to touch on all of the significant people, writings, and concepts, but we have endeavored to address the most important ones here.
Most serious students of spiritual warfare throughout church history recognize that territorial spirits do exist in some fashion, but there is great disagreement regarding the appropriate role of Christians in directly countering spirits at that level through spiritual warfare. Likewise, spiritual warfare praxis encompasses a wide range of practices, not used or advocated by all, including spiritual mapping, direct warfare prayer, prayerwalking, generational repentance, and so on. The soundest counsel seems to be that which is thoroughly biblically-based, and has the track record of church history. It is the assessment of many theologians and ministers that much of the current emphasis on SLSW has gone into the realm of speculative theology and praxis. There are signs that leaders of the SLSW movement are beginning to back off their claims, and beginning to return to a biblically-based theology and praxis of spiritual warfare, but the controversies continue.70
- , 282.
- Frank Green, “Identificational Repentance—Is It Necessary? Is It Biblical?”, Manchester, England: September 1999, C.Net Theological Forum, accessed online at http://www.eauk.org/contentmanager/content/acute/green.pdf
- Lowe observes, “Even now the first hints are emerging that SLSW is on its way out. At least the latest book has shifted the focus of its accolades to what was previously an attendant activity, identificational repentance.” Lowe, 150. He is referring to the following book: C Peter Wagner, Praying with Power: How to Pray Effectively and Hear Clearly from God (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1997).