“Be assured, there is nothing new in theology except that which is false.” Charles Spurgeon
Perhaps not since the apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church, still in full swing after all these centuries, has there been such a soul-damning, Scripture-defying movement as the modern day charismatic movement. Charismania, with its aberrant word-faith/prosperity theology, is unparalleled in our times for blazing a path of deception and blasphemy across the planet, all in the name of Christ. The charismatic movement is to evangelical Christianity – whatever that can be defined as these days – what ISIS is to Islam; the latter extremists slaughter in the name of a false god while the former discernment-free adherents damn with a different Jesus and an emotions-intense, “other” gospel.
The influence of the charismatic movement is now seen throughout much of what had always been considered mainstream, conservative Christianity. The movement, itself barely a hundred years old since its Azusa Street inception in 1906, has swiftly entered into historically orthodox denominations that, during the movement’s infancy, declared it fanatical, excessive, and heretical. But particularly since the mid-twentieth century, erroneous charismatic theology gained a foothold within these same historically orthodox denominations.
The ecumenical/unity movement accelerated the relationship between charismatics, previously viewed as extreme, cultic, and aberrant, with more traditional churches, who, in the spirit of unity, let down their allegiance to Scripture by allowing unsound charistmatic doctrine and teachings to creep into once orthodox pews. As the efforts of ecumenism gained prevalence and open-armed acceptance by orthodox denominations, charismatic theology began to enter the evangelical church as it began adopting terminology and theology based heavily on emotions and experience, rather than on a correct teaching of Scripture discerned by “rightly handling the Word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“Spiritual warfare is a topic that everybody seems to be interested in but few people really seem to have a right understanding of.” Justin Peters
In perhaps no area of the Christian life is the charismatic influence seen more clearly than within the framework of spiritual warfare. The once orthodox, more theologically focused mainstream church has allowed its understanding of spiritual warfare to become defined by the lingo of the charismatic movement. The “spiritual warfare lingo,” as Justin Peters calls it, that is common in the broader church today originates from the loose, deviant theology of charismania.
With terms like “binding Satan”, “hedges of thorns”, “hedges of protection”, “rebuking demons”, and “claiming territory” to now widely accepted phraseology such as “I feel led” or “the Lord spoke to my heart,” the extra-biblical excesses once attributed to the cultic practices of charismatics have become commonplace for many Christians. These illicit practices and accepted phrases themselves are evidence of a misunderstanding of spiritual warfare itself, and a willingness to presume extra-biblical communication from God to engage in it.
“… all these notions [binding, rebuking, hedges, hearing from the Lord, etc.] that we associate with spiritual warfare today are unheard of before the middle of the 20th century.” Jim Osman
The popular Christian interest in spiritual warfare, since it is a Biblically-revealed activity, ought to be applauded. But as it is so often viewed – whether from broadcasts on “Christian” television, books about it in your nearest “Christian” bookstore, or blogposts and articles from sensationalizing “prophetic” websites – the clamoring about spiritual warfare is far from laudable. Indeed, it is lamentable for, as Justin Peters remarked, few seem to be teaching it from a right – and that means Scriptural – standpoint.
In order to provide a sound resource for Biblically-informed teaching on spiritual warfare, Peters hosted his pastor Jim Osman for a twelve-part series on the Justin Peters Program in spring of 2015. Peters’ show, broadcast on the Worldview Weekend network, included this series that focused on correcting the erroneous beliefs about spiritual warfare and providing a doctrinally-sound, Biblically-reasoned response to the very popular topic. The show featured teaching drawn from Osman’s highly recommended book, Truth or Territory: A Biblical Approach To Spiritual Warfare, published in 2015. (For a review of Osman’s book, please go HERE.)
As an editor/contributor to Pulpit & Pen, I’m eager to share the Peters-Osman programs in this first of a forthcoming series of articles, each outlined according to the format these pastors followed in their discussions. I’m grateful to each of these men for giving me permission to include their broadcasts, along with a corresponding summary.
Pulpit & Pen, while known as an incisive polemics and discernment site, is also devoted to sharing sound teaching from a Biblically-centered standpoint. The intent of this series of articles, then, is to provide solid, useful edification on a popular topic that lacks much in the way of responsible, reliable teaching. Peters and Osman provide a solid, helpful look at a critical aspect of our Christian faith and practice.
The first two episodes of Peters & Osman’s broadcasts on this critically important topic are included below. The opening episode frames the perspective of the issue borne out of Pastor Osman’s testimony. It also provides an introductory view of Osman’s book on the subject.
The second episode properly strikes at the core of the issue that has foundationally contributed to the acceptance of faulty charismatic teaching on spiritual warfare within the evangelical church.
“I cannot think of a single issue that plagues modern evangelicalism that does not have as its root cause an inadequate view of Scripture or a lack of belief in the sufficiency of Scripture … or a lack of the practice of the belief in the sufficiency of Scripture.” Jim Osman
While the sufficiency of Scripture is given ecclesiastic lip service across every evangelical denomination, practice often defies profession. Pastors, elders, deacons, and denominational overseers behave in ways that clearly betray their professed belief in the Word’s sufficiency. For the pew sitting believer, the result of the shepherds “saying one thing and doing another” is evidenced in the lack of understanding about the truth of spiritual warfare precisely because the Word often lays a dormant, albeit divine, resource that is relegated to an after-thought in lieu of popularized and “Christianized” notions about fighting a battle that is supremely critical for the souls of men. If we do not first rely on Scripture as THE foundation of Truth, error is given a green flag to race for a seat in our pews.
“Whether it’s spiritual warfare or the modern seeker centered church growth movement or hearing the voice of God and all the chaos that ensues from that – all of these issues have at their foundation a lack of practice and belief, of confidence, in the sufficiency of the Word of God.” Jim Osman
Osman emphasizes the practical evidence of the lack of practice in the belief of Scripture’s sufficiency by the very language of the modern spiritual warfare movement commonly heard in the church today.
“I feel led,’ ‘I heard from the Lord,’ ‘the Lord spoke to my heart’ – these are things which are indicative of modern-day further revelation outside of Scripture,” says Osman. “But we (broader evangelicalism) began to embrace things like binding Satan and praying a hedge of thorns and a hedge of protection, and these ideas of exorcism, spiritual mapping …” which have been introduced by charismatic teaching that itself is a novel theology, having come on the scene barely 100 years ago, over against a period of some 1900 years of orthodox faith in which these practices were absent.
Peters echoes the rampant excesses that a lack of practice of the sufficiency of Scripture wreaks within believers’ lives individually and the church as a whole.
“Every cult, every false religion, every denomination that has strayed off into the weeds of theological liberalism, it is begun with an abandonment, a rejection of the sufficiency of Scripture.” Justin Peters
For two primary reasons – a poor view of Scripture and a willingness to rely on extra-biblical revelation – the evangelical Christian church today may be farther from historic orthodox Christianity and the doctrinally-sound, theologically-rich focus on Scripture stewarded by that orthodoxy than at any other point since the 16th century Reformation. This is why, then, Peters can make a stunning, but correct, statement on the condition of the modern church.
“I would say, theologically speaking, the vast majority of churches today are, in fact, in practice, charismatic.” Justin Peters
Charles Spurgeon gave an apt warning to the church facing the epic downgrade of his day, when an eagerness to embrace faulty teaching and heretical notions borne of new and novel approaches to Scripture and faith were prevalent. “Be assured,” said the prince of preachers, “that there is nothing new in theology, except that which is false.”
After nearly two millennia without the excesses of charismania present, today the Christian church is eagerly embracing “something new” in theology. But astute students of the Word will echo Spurgeon, as do Peters and Osman, by declaring these things false.
Please listen (and share) to the first two broadcasts below:
Spiritual Warfare Part One – Introduction:
Spiritual Warfare Part Two – The Sufficiency of Scripture:
Topics included in forthcoming articles will include:
- Taking down strongholds
- Hedges of thorns and hedges of protection
- Generational curses
- Binding Satan
- Rebuking Satan
- Territorial mapping
- The Believer’s Authority
- The Armor of God
For Jim Osman’s book, please go to TruthorTerritory.com
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]