By Dr. Orrel Steincamp, The Plumbline Newsletter Archive, republished with permission
Some time ago a pastor was telling me his thoughts on how to reach his city for Christ. He had come to town to grow a large church. He had tried many canned programs with little result. He was now thinking about an organized “prayer walk” street, contesting the yet-to-bedetermined ruler demon who held people captive and resistant to the gospel message. His background and training gave no hint that he would even be open to this militant evangelistic technique, but here he was, seriously proposing this particular “Spiritual Warfare” tactic. The teachers of this view assured him that after these spiritual warfare exercises were completed, all that remained to be done would be to go in and “mop up,” to bring people to faith and enlist them in his church; he saw this as possibly the answer to his church planting frustrations. When I mentioned that this technique was part and parcel of an identified aberrant teaching, though he was first of all surprised, he then replied in effect, “Anything is worth a try.”
Beware. Techniques and tactics usually come with conceptual strings attached, often with unrecognized but vital presuppositions. My pastor friend had no idea about the source of the techniques and tactics that he was about to tap into, nor that they are part of a system that is alien to the Bible.
A “world-view” is an arrangement of ideas in and through which a person interprets and judges reality. It is a background “script” that undergirds, consciously or unconsciously, more or less consistently, a person’s thoughts and actions. In the jargon of biblical/theological studies there is a long German word “Heilsgeschichte,” meaning roughly “salvation history”. “Salvation history” is the series of events and truths that portray God’s redemptive plan across the ages, a worldview focused specifically on the elements of salvation. From it is drawn the church’s historical teaching about salvation. It is broad in scope, usually beginning with creation and the fall and moving on through the incarnation of Christ, His substitutionary death for human sin, His resurrection from the dead, His ascension into heaven, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the founding of the church by the apostles, the second coming of Jesus, the final resurrection and judgment, and the final state of glory. It is a consistent biblical paradigm of what God has done in history to make salvation from sin not only possible, but an assured reality.
There is room to flex when interpreting some of the details, but all orthodox Christians “color within the lines” and remain true to the overall script of biblical salvation history.
Again, beware. In recent decades a radically different script of salvation history worldview has entered the scene. Unfortimately, it is rarely recognized as being outside the boundaries. It has many things in common with orthodox Christianity, but its underlying heilgeschichte is fundamentally different. It is a rival salvation history, which promotes a false gospel. The current evangelical culture of downplaying theology in favor of pragmatic evangelistic strategies is a main reason why this alien heilgeschicte is often undetected when it creeps, or even stalks boldly, into the church. This movement appeals widely because it promises heretofore unheard-of success in evangelism and rapid church growth.
A play has a plot, or story line, that drives the whole presentation and the dialogue supports the plot. While enacting the play there may be some room for improvisation in reciting the scripted lines, and even miscues and blown lines don’t usually ruin the play. But just think of the chaos that would result if an actor slipped into a different role and began reciting lines from a different play. My pragmatic pastor friend was about to import lines and stage directions from an alien script.
Does the idea of a radically alien view of God’s redemptive plan frighten you? It does me!
The evangelical community has always known that evangelism is an attack on Satan’s domain and that at times there will be confrontation. That is nothing new. But “Spiritual Warfare Evangelism” is not simply a new way to “get the job done.” Though it claims to be within the broader evangelical view of salvation history, it is an alien technique, masquerading in faux-biblical costuming.
Again, the danger is that, for many, when they adopt these new spiritual warfare practices, there is little awareness of their origins. The new Spiritual Warfare (SW) teachers have a unique and consistent theological paradigm which underlies and undergirds all they do and is thestandard by which they interpret and judge everything. Prayer walking, spiritual mapping and whole-cityreaching are connected to recognizing a return of the offices of apostle and prophet. This theology sometimes is called “Dominion Theology” or “Kingdom Now.” This teaching is a mutant form of the “Latter Rain,” a radical fringe movement of Pentecostalism that flourished at mid20th century and then went underground for a period of time. It has been and is now reappearing, often unrecognized, within Pentecostal and Charismatic churches as well as in wider evangelical circles.
While participants of this view of salvation history often disagree with each other about the details, they are sufficiently homogenous to know and recognize each other as comrades. They may have their “family squabbles” and disagree about how they “color within the lines” of their novel scheme of salvation history, but they all know they are in the same extended family. They draw from one another the support needed to develop their strategies for gaining preeminence in the church around the world; they all zealously propagate new revelations from their restored prophets; they also assert that there is a restored office of Apostles who have absolute authority in the church. They believe God has reserved all of this for the very last days of the church. But it is their basic, alternate and aberrant view of salvation history, their Dominion / Kingdom Now theological paradigm, which forms the common conceptual framework on which the techniques and tactics are hung.
Modem evangelistic pragmatists (my pastor friend included) behave as if we can deviate from or even get along without a clear doctrinal “script.” It is assumed that a person or church can mix and match ideas from here, there and everywhere, willy-nilly, as long as they have the prospect of growing the number of churches and growing the churches in numbers
Allow me to use another analogy in giving a bird’s-eye overview of the SW / Kingdom Now / Dominion system into which these individual techniques and teachings fit (remembering that bits and pieces of the SW teaching can be used and/or adopted without the users being aware of the foundational distortions):
On Christmas day there are usually some gifts that have a bonus of “someassembly-required” instructions; they must be followed before the gift can be properly enjoyed. From personal experience, it can be a frustratingly arduous task to follow the instructions point by point. Most often I resort to the picture on the box to get an overall view of how the pieces fit together.
The modem SW proponents have been “presenting” the church with evangelistic techniques, guaranteed to succeed if their detailed, how-to instructions are followed point by point. There is a picture on the box cover, a replica of the SW paradigm, and the pieces inside do, in fact, “fit’ into this picture. The problem is that the picture is distorted. If that isn’t bad enough, the SW picture-on-thebox is nested inside another, bigger box whose box-top panorama is Kingdom Now/ Dominion theology.
In our overview, it will be helpful to name names and cite the words of the proponents of this unbiblical understanding of salvation history.
Using Earl Paulk’s words as his primary point of reference, Robert M. Bowman, Jr. has written about Kingdom Now / Dominion teaching. In the process he has given us a condensed summary of the Kingdom / Dominion ideology. Remember, current SW practice finds its conceptual home in this setting. Bowman writes:
“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 the demons… The angelic rebellionoccurred in a “gap” between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The result was that the earth, which was the “capital city” or headquarters of the demonic Evil Empire, was brought into chaos and made formless and void (Gen. 1:2). In order to win back unchallenged dominion over the universe, God introduced into the earth, Man, a race of creatures which God intended to become a resistance movement that would conquer the Devil’s home planet and thus lead the way in taking back dominion over the entire universe. Man was to be a race of “little gods,” exercising divine sovereignty … thus overwhelming the devil’s forces. Unfortunately the father of this race was tricked by the devil into forfeiting Man’s place in this plan and actually brought God’s first plan to naught. God was then forced to come up with a “Plan B” to take dominion over the earth. His solution: 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 together will overcome the devil and restore God’s dominion unchallenged on the earth. Ultimate victory over the devil, then, depends finally upon the church accepting the calling to be little gods. It further depends on the church’s submitting to the fivefold ministry through whom God is seeking to mobilize the church into a unified army prepared to take dominion back from the devil.” 1
As stated above, Adam was tricked out of his real identity. Kermedi Copeland states, “After Adam had given it away, God didn’t have any more authority here.” 2 Ed Silvoso echoes: “Because Adam, God’s deputy on earth, transmsferred his legal dominion to Satan, God became obligated to recognize Satan’s legal standing.” 3
According to Copeland, Pauk and Silvoso, God’s authority was terminated on planet earth and he was now on the outside looking in. Jesus’ death and resurrection was an attempt to regain from Satan what Adam had transferred to him. It was an attempt to reclaim legal authority over the earth, authority which Adam had forfeited. In what is called “identification teaching” some spiritual warfare enthusiasts teach that after Jesus’ death He descended into hell, was attacked by Satan, and became a sinner. But God raised him from the dead and Jesus was “bom again.” He became the first bom-again man and the prototype or “pattern son” for all born-again believers. Believers are meant to partake of the same power and authority as Jesus and, with this endowment, reclaim the earth and the heavenlies through spiritual warfare. But the Church, like Adam, botched the plan because of its unbelief and ignorance. Finally, now at the end of the age, in the time of the Latter Rain (since the 1950’s), the Church has been given new prophets and apostles to lead the church to establish God’s lost rule in the earth. Using Spiritual Warfare techniques and tactics, the Church will take whole cities and nations for God and will at long last take control of the heavenlies, having cast Satan down.
Ed Silvoso writes: “The Church now has been placed potentially in the control of the heavenly places once ruled by the prince of the power of the air. But this reconstituted church must engage and defeat the enemy and retake the heavenlies in the name of her Lord, so that the eyes of those still being held captive by Satan will be opened.” 4
This is the Kingdom/Dominion planof-the-ages. It is the master plan out of which flows the sundry variety of techniques, tactics, and rationalefound in the SW movement. Leaders, who espouse SW theology and push it, operate knowing the whole of the plan, but often it seems like the movement is marketed like a jigsaw puzzle without the cover picture. Saying this another way, many followers just “belly-up” to the SW smorgasbord and choose those selections that most appeal to them with the hope that these choices will help their plans of evangelism–they are dangerously unaware of the larger and distorted context of the Spiritual Warfare movement.
This Spiritual Warfare scheme and its pattern of “biblical” history is radically different and diametrically at odds with many points of the Biblical model of salvation history:
1. The SW paradigm paints a false view of Adam and the Fall that is taught neither in Genesis nor in the rest of Scripture. It pictures Adam as a god who lost his godhood when Satan tricked him.
The Bible says that Adam, the first man, fell into sin through moral rebellion and this resulted in God’s judgment of death on him and his posterity. (Romans 5:12ff) *
2. SW claims that because of Adam’s failure, God lost His jurisdiction and legal authority over the earth to Satan.
The Bible does not picture God as losing His legal authority over His creation. Multiple texts show the Lord’s original and ongoing control over all aspects of His creation. For example: God controls natural forces (Job 37.-15), the fall of sparrows (Matt. 10:29), and the rise and fall of nations (Dam 4:17). Not only that, Satan had to ask the Lord’s permission to afflict Job (1:6-12) and to sift Peter’s faith (Luke 22:31). God did not lose his authority over the earth to Satan at Eden. Far from it! Jesus Christ has all authority in earth and heaven (Matt. 28:18).
3. Copeland says: “God’s reason for creating Adam was a desire to reproduce Himself.” 5 Copeland and others appear to teach that the Church is as much God-in-the-flesh as Jesus was, that the Church is an extension of the Incarnation. The only occurrence in Jesus is that he was a “first fruit.”
Scripture never suggests that the church is an extension of the incarnation. Jesus in no way was a “Pattern Son” with many other incarnations in Christians. The orthodox teaching is that Christ indwells His church through the Holy Spirit This SW teaching diminishes the unique divinity of Christ and the uniqueness of His incarnation (1) Jesus is God’s “only begotten” Son -John 1:14. (2). Jesus is entitled to equal honor with the Father — John 5:23. (3) Jesus is the Creator of all things — John 1:3. (4) Jesus is worthy of worship — Rev. 5:12.
4. The SW “mythology,” which fuels many of the SW themes and practices throughout evangelicalism, teaches that the Church was given the commission to invade the heavenlies, defeat the principalities and powers there, and occupy and rule the earth from the heavelies.
Scripture never teaches this. Instead the Church is to preach the Gospel and make disciples. (Matt.28:19-20).
Listen to Bill Randles’ pithy analysis to the whole SW ideology:
“Today’s spiritual warfare is all about man, not God. It is man’s attempt to elevate himself to the ‘God-level’ and to intervene in the plans of history… And as for Satan; he is mocking all these human attempts to ‘pull down strongholds.’ He knows full well that his finest hour is yet to come; that he and his cohorts will not be cast down until the appointed time… Satan waves his red rag, and – obediently the Christian Church charges! By all modem standards, Paul failed at spiritual warfare. He never researched the territorial spirits; he didn’t rebuke the strongholds of pagan religion; he didn’t see whole cities come to the Lord. Yet, in truth Paul didn’t fail at spiritual warfare, he won… This [anointed Gospel preaching] wasPaul’s commission, and it is ours. We are called to preach the gospel of grace and forgiveness, turning men from the darkness of this world’s vain philosophies to the light of truth… We wage war against Satan most effectively when we allow God’s anointed Word to go forth to touch unbelievers’ hearts and souls, convicting them, converting them, and opening them up to God.” 6
Bob Dewaay pointedly challenges SW teaching with its alien view of salvation history and its Goddishonoring theology:
“The story of God, man and eternity is not about a cosmic footrace with an uncertain ending. God’s eternal purposes are not tenuous, compromised, and about to be thwarted by man or devil. God will accomplish all of His purposes for His church, Israel, and the human race, these false teachings not withstanding. He will do so through the simple message of the gospel. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (I Cor. 1:21) 7
Bruce Ware clearly summarizes the biblical Gospel this way:
“God, in eternity past, foresaw the future sin and the consequent just damnation (apart from his grace) of the human race that he would create, and he planned then and there to save the lost, helpless, and hopeless sinners. Though all deserved his eternal condemnation, he graciously chose people who would comprise a great host–it would include, in the end, men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation!–and he set out, in love, to save them from their sin. To accomplish their salvation, he chose his very own Son to enter human existence as the incarnate God-man, to live a perfect life, and to offer himself as a sinless sacrifice for the sins of others, payingthe penalties that each of them owed as their sin was imputed to him in his death on the cross. By his resurrection from the dead, God vindicated his Son as the victor over sin and death. And, through repentance of their sin and faith alone in this conquering Savior, all who so savingly believe may be justified before their righteous God, be assured of God’s presence with them through all of life now, and in the end receive eternal life through his name. ” 8
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