For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NASB)
If you saw the 2015 “Christian” film War Room you might recall the scene described below by Justin Peters in his review of the movie. (If you didn’t see the movie, you can safely skip it, as there is more to refute than there is to extol.)
In one of the more emotionally rousing scenes of the film, upon discovering her husband’s philandering ways, Elizabeth retreats to her war room. As she repeatedly cites to herself James 4:7b, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” indignation swells within her and she begins to talk to the devil. “No more, you are done! Jesus is Lord of this house and there is no room for you anymore! Go back to Hell where you belong and leave my family alone!” she shouts.” Justin Peters
As Peters points out in his review, “there are at least two significant problems with this.” He correctly reminds readers that “Satan is not in hell,” though that’s a popular notion believed by many. Peters reminds us that, according to 1 Peter 5:8, Satan is “prowling about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”
Peters’ second point is much more important for believers to understand … “we as believers are not to be addressing Satan. Ever!” Citing Jude’s account of the spiritual battle over Moses’ body that occurred between Michael the archangel and the devil, Peters points out that, according to Jude, God’s highest ranking angel “did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!” Jim Osman, pastor and author of Truth or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare, concurs. “What God’s highest holy angel would not dare to do, sinful, fallen men presume the authority to do. It is unthinkable.”
But there’s a third element of Shirer’s scene that reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of spiritual warfare itself. It implies that this warfare, even as a spiritual endeavor, also has temporal, geographic, and boundaried implications. Shirer’s character was issuing a rebuke to Satan staking a claim for the territory of her house. “Jesus is Lord of this house and there is no room for you anymore.”
(Shirer, by the way, wrote the foreword for her father Tony Evans’ book, Prayers For Victory in Spiritual Warfare, a book that touts to provide prayers based on “biblical strategy,” but actually engages in patently unbiblical endeavors, such as directly addressing Satan. This Peters-Osman series will highlight many of the ill-founded notions that happen to be promoted by Shirer and Evans. You can read a review of Evans’ book HERE.)
This territory view reflects the prevalent – and growing – understanding of spiritual warfare among many professing Christians. C. Peter Wagner, the recently deceased “apostle” of the New Apostolic Reformation, an illicit and dangerous charismatic movement, wholeheartedly embraced the “territory” view of spiritual warfare and contributed to its acceptance within the wider evangelical church. Wagner and his modern day “apostle” colleagues even went so far as to establish the “Spiritual Warfare Network” to engage in territorial spiritual battles with the forces of evil.
“The group of 25 or so met several times and adopted the name ‘The Spiritual Warfare Network (SWN). It was then, in the early 1990’s, that we agreed on the terminology: ‘ground-level spiritual warfare (casting out demons), ‘occult-level spiritual warfare (confronting organized forces such as satanism, witchcraft, New Age, Freemasonry and Eastern religions) and ‘strategic-level spiritual warfare’ (engaging high-ranking principalities of darkness, such as territorial spirits).” C.Peter Wagner (Changing Church, copyright 2004, p. 109)
Wagner’s associates in the United States established a “functional Strategic Prayer Network” with “50 state coordinators, several regional coordinators, and thousands of registered intercessors in each state.” He claims in response to particularly intense Satanic and demonic activity, “our ability to mobilize targeted and informed intercession is unprecedented.” According to Wagner’s book Changing Church, the group even has an elite corps of at-the-ready “rapid-deployment, special prayer forces that are ready to move immediately to any part of the world.” (So spiritual warfare itself is not only territorially oriented, the prayers uttered during the fight must also be uplifted from the scene of the diabolical battle, one presumes.)
While it cannot be disputed that either the lingo or the practical implications of Wagner’s approach haven’t become commonplace in the church today (Do a Google search for ‘territorial spirits’ and choose from over 470,000 links, including some from the egregiously ecumenical and doctrinally-loose Lausanne Movement. Or, at your own peril, peruse Charisma News under the search topic ‘spiritual warfare’ for an abundance of examples of such unbiblical nonsense.) the question we should be asking is decidedly Berean.
Is a territory view of spiritual warfare the correct Biblical view?
Justin Peters and Jim Osman addressed this question in the third installment of the Justin Peters Program that focused on spiritual warfare. The complete audio of that broadcast, originally aired on Worldview Weekend, is provided below.
As Peters and Osman discuss, there are two broad views about spiritual warfare. The first – and Scripturally-correct – one is the truth view. The second, perhaps more prevailing, but no less erroneous, view is that spiritual warfare is about territory.
The territory view, as Osman defines it, envisions that “we are casting down demons, we are attacking spiritual fortresses, spiritual strongholds, generational curses, praying hedges, removing hexes, mapping out spiritual territory, taking back the seven mountains and the five cultures – gaining territory for the Lord.”
The accuracy of this approach is confirmed by Wagner in Changing Church, in which he cites another adherent to the territory view.
“We are called to bring the nation itself to Christ. And the nation is made up not only of the people who live there but of the arts, the sciences, education, law, political systems, the media, business and so on – in short, every area of life …our task is to bring every one of those areas of life under His influence and under biblical principles.” Bob Weiner, author of Take Dominion (As quoted by Wagner, page 95)
Osman says, according to this view, “We’re supposed to take over all of this territory that Satan has been in control of and has been manipulating and we have to take that back.” In order to accomplish the task of regaining territory lost to Satan – territory which Christ expects the believer and the church to regain – “we need to do this through praying certain prayers and casting down certain strongholds and hand to hand combat with demons, much like you would have in a This Present Darkness or Piercing the Darkness type storyline.”
(According to Amazon, “This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti, is among the classic novels of the Christian thriller genre. First published in 1986, Peretti’s book set a suspenseful standard in spiritual warfare story-telling …” But, please note: this book, as is Peretti’s Piercing the Darkness, is fiction.)
In refuting the erroneous territory view of spiritual warfare, Osman responsibly turns to Scripture, exegeting 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (cited above) as the correct biblical foundation for the truth view. “In 2 Corinthians 10, the Apostle Paul defines and describes the essence of spiritual warfare,” writes Osman in his book. “In these verses, he tells us how we fight, what we fight, and why we fight. In 2 Corinthians 10, we have a definition and description of spiritual warfare which plays a critical role in equipping us to engage our enemy.”
“The truth view is that the spiritual warfare we are called to fight is a battle for the truth.” Jim Osman
From the Scripture, Osman explains clearly, both in the interview with Peters below, and in his book, the biblically correct approach for believers when it comes to spiritual warfare. “We are to stand for the truth, love the truth, proclaim the truth, preach the truth. The fortresses we are to attack are mental fortresses. They are false ideologies, deceptions, lies, and falsehoods,” says Osman. “Man makes all kinds of mental fortresses. Man surrounds himself with deceptions.”
“Evolution is a lie, atheism is a lie, moral relativism is a lie, the modern notion of political correctness and tolerance, and theological liberalism, and naturalism, and rationalism, and humanism – all of these things are lies. Men surround themselves with these lies and they barricade themselves against the true knowledge of God in these mental fortresses.” Jim Osman
A few chapters earlier in 2 Corinthians, Paul points out the blindness of unbelievers in discussing the light of the Gospel. The apostle’s words validate Osman’s biblical assessment of the true nature of spiritual warfare as a battle over truth with men whose minds have been corrupted by false, damning beliefs.
“The fortresses we are destroying are not physical fortresses. They are not demonic mantras, spells, or curses. They are not demonic hierarchical power structures. The fortresses are mental fortresses. We destroy ‘thoughts’ and ‘reasonings.” Jim Osman (Truth Or Territory, pg. 27)
Christians who are obedient, and eager, to share the truth with unbelievers will recognize the reality of Osman’s explanation of this spiritual blindness. We’ve all run into unbelievers who simply are unable to grasp the reality of truth that we can easily understand from God’s Word. While we recognize the necessity for the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the Word to us, we acknowledge the continued need to fight the spiritual battle by consistently sharing the truth of His Word to unbelievers. Salvation belongs to the Lord, (Psalm 3:8) and until He graciously, sovereignly chooses to open eyes, our job yet remains to always, faithfully, proclaim the truth.
But, as Peters notes in his conversation with Osman, it is not always and only unbelievers who have “mental fortresses” that prevent them from understanding the truth of God. Believers can have fortresses, too.
“We have this idea that these fortresses are something they’re really not, but the fortresses that we’ve got to bring down are very real. They are things like evolution. They are things like atheism and political correctness and theological liberalism. But there are also evangelicals who are inside their own fortresses and don’t even recognize it. For example, they reject the sovereignty of God in salvation … and yet, that’s how God has revealed Himself. We’ve created this false notion of God. We’ve created a God about how we want Him to be rather than how He has revealed Himself to be.” Justin Peters
The soteriological example is just one of many false understandings that professing believers have about God. The very example of believing in spiritual warfare as hand to hand combat with demons, taking over spiritual and literal territory, is itself another ill-founded, unbiblical, ideological fortress many believers hold to. This points to the rampant problem from which these illegitimate theological fortresses gain a foothold – the general disregard of Scripture.
“Once we jettison the sufficiency of Scripture then that opens us up, ironically, to the very demonic delusion and deception that spiritual warfare is supposed to protect us from. It opens us up to the temptation of walking ‘according to the flesh.” We see that in today’s church. We see in the church growth movement and all these methods to grow churches. We want to do it our way rather than the way God has prescribed.” Justin Peters
Obedience to the Great Commission means we must understand that every unbeliever we approach is trapped in a false, diabolically-induced ideology. We’re not called to spar with the devil but rather to attack the false beliefs that imprison lost souls. And the weapon we have to thwart that is a sovereignly powerful one. “Spiritual warfare is attacking … with the truth … through the proclamation of the truth … and that happens through the Gospel,” proclaims Osman. “The Gospel is our weapon.”
For believers trapped in theologically-aberrant fortresses, the importance of the truth of God in His Word cannot be over-emphasized. Believers MUST “abide in my word” (John 8:31) or risk being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine.” (Ephesians 4:14) There simply is no excuse for believers not to know the Truth. We have the Word and, as Jesus prayed, “Your Word is truth.” (John 17:17) It is the preeminent duty of the believer to take that Word and, as the KJV puts it, “study to shew thyself approved …” (2 Timothy 2:15).
“True spiritual warfare is not a battle for territory but a battle for truth.” Jim Osman
Listen below to Justin Peters & Jim Osman from The Justin Peters Program.
Spiritual Warfare Part Three: Taking Down Strongholds
Topics in upcoming articles will include:
- Hedges of Protection
- Generational Curses
- Binding & 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]