The area of Colorado Springs in the state of Colorado is lovely and has drawn quite a few Christian ministries, some of them quite well-known, to base their headquarters there. But recently the area has experienced more than its share of terrible disasters. Catastrophic fires have ravaged the area in 2012 and then again in 2013. Because the natural terrain was razed by the fires, the area was then submerged by rainwater coming down from the mountains. Affected by these disasters are the many God-fearing believers whose homes were destroyed by fire or flood. Since not all the homes were sufficiently covered by insurance, those Christian families affected must be suffering from unimaginable hardship. To add insult to injury, this was followed by another (as in Columbine) shooting in a Colorado school.
Then in late 2013, Colorado received the dubious distinction of becoming one of just two states in the US where marijuana was legalized.
Is there more than simply a natural explanation for these events?
One explanation could be that the enemy despises the Christian ministries concentrated in Colorado Springs, and so has focused his wrath on that area. They are being “persecuted because of righteousness” according to Matthew 5:10. Perhaps, however, that explanation may be a bit simplistic given the magnitude of the disaster upon sincere believers in a God-fearing area like Colorado Springs.
Might we explore the possibility that believers are being subject to the enemy’s wrath because we have been unwittingly misled and committed the sin of presumption?
Colorado Springs is the birthplace of a Christian ministry which popularized the teaching and practice of “strategic-level spiritual warfare.” According to this widespread teaching, believers are to directly address territorial spirits in the heavenly realms, rebuking them and commanding them to leave a specific geographic area. This is for the advance of the gospel in that area.
Since it is for the purpose of freeing people in a certain area from the power of the devil thus making them receptive to the gospel, this teaching may be well-intentioned. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ never specifically commanded his disciples to engage in such actions against high-level, powerful demonic beings in the heavenly realms. He clearly commanded us to preach the gospel to the lost, to heal sick people, to cast out demons from demonized people, and to make disciples. This is ground-level warfare for the body of Christ on earth. But there is no such corresponding command to perform “strategic-level warfare” against demonic beings in the heaven realms.
The manual Confronting the Powers was written by a well-known Christian author to explain this type of spiritual warfare. A review of this book was published in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1997 — Volume 10:18. In THE GOSPEL AND SPIRITUAL WARFARE: A REVIEW OF CONFRONTING THE POWERS, Moody Bible Institute professor Dr. John F. Hart writes:
“In Confronting the Powers, spiritual warfare is handled like a Western social science involving case studies, innovative experimentation [italics ours], and the gathering of data from all sources. [The author of Confronting the Powers] writes: ‘Nevertheless, certain people such as shamans, witch doctors, practitioners of Eastern religions, New Age gurus or professors of the occult on university faculties are examples of the kind of people who may have much more extensive knowledge of the spirit world than most Christians have.’
…[The author of Confronting the Powers] would have us believe that all innovative methods involving spiritual warfare are amoral. As his defense for experimenting with new techniques for discovering the spirit realm, he cites the debates Christians have over amoral issues such as erecting church buildings, celebrating Christmas, using instruments for music in church, and preaching in stadiums…
The false assumption is made that every NT believer has authority over the demonic world and therefore can investigate and interrogate demons, sifting for profitable knowledge to advance God’s kingdom. No mention is made of God’s commands that seeking information from the spirit world is strictly prohibited…”
…The supposed inadequacy of Scripture becomes the unconscious grounds for appeals for experimentation: “If we are not satisfied with the fruit of our current evangelistic activities, whatever they may be, strategic-level spiritual warfare might at least be worthy of some experimentation” (p. 152, Confronting the Powers).
…One major unit of the first chapter is entitled, “Radical Varieties of Prayer.” “Experimentation” is also a common word he applies to strategic-level spiritual warfare (e.g., pp. 20, 27, 33–34, 152).
From this review, we can conclude that even the primary promulgator of strategic-level spiritual warfare in the Church today is aware that the Lord never commanded his disciples to engage in such warfare. He admits that it is experimental in nature. Therefore it is not scriptural. What is the justification for the practice? In his own words above from page 152 of Confronting the Powers, the author writes: “If we are not satisfied with the fruit of our current evangelistic activities, whatever they may be, strategic-level spiritual warfare might at least be worthy of some experimentation.“
The foremost propagator of spiritual warfare essentially believes that Scripture is insufficient in preparing and equipping us to preach the gospel effectively, and that therefore we must look elsewhere outside of the Bible. We must disagree with his position.
We are now seeing that with effective understanding and implementation of ground-level warfare as found in the New Testament, evangelism can in fact be fruitful. By healing the sick and casting out demons as Jesus did, as he taught his disciples in the gospels and as carried over into Acts, we can in fact be satisfied with the fruit of our evangelistic activities. Therefore we do not need to experiment with very risky strategic-level spiritual warfare which is in part based on understanding gleaned from pagan sources.
I submit to you that it may be dangerous to “experiment” in the invisible realm of the supernatural where there is darkness and potential danger. Even the apostle Peter waited for a command from Jesus before attempting to step out of the boat on the Sea of Galilee to perform the supernatural feat of walking on the water. In the same way, before we attempt to move in the realm of the supernatural, we should have a clear command from the Lord to do so. What would have happened to Peter if he had simply stepped out of the boat in presumption without having been commanded by the Lord to “come” to him?
In the same way, when we engage in direct warfare with powerful demonic beings in the heavenlies without having been authorized and commanded by the Lord to do so, we are taking a potentially dangerous risk. Such high-level demons can be angered by our presumptuous attacks and decide to retaliate with fury against us personally and against our loved ones. The retaliatory attacks can include debilitating sickness and mental disease. And the Lord is not obligated to protect us in such a situation because he did not command us to attack them. Such suffering is not “persecution because of righteousness”, but rather unnecessary trials due to our own presumption and disobedience.
Numbers 14:44 Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD’s covenant moved from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.
When in their presumption the Israelites attacked the Amalekites and the Canaanites, they suffered severe defeat at the hands of their mortal enemies. God clearly chose not protect to them.
We ought therefore to consider the possibility that the recent disasters in Colorado and Colorado Springs in particular are neither coincidence nor “persecution because of righteousness.” They may likely be retaliation by the enemy for years of attacks against regional powers and principalities by very sincere but misled believers—action not commanded by the Lord. And do we see “revival” taking place in Colorado Springs because of the spiritual warfare?
Recently we had an opportunity to sit down for fellowship with an Indonesian pastor. Now in Indonesia the practice of this type of spiritual warfare is widespread. Every year there are huge gatherings of believers in stadia where they pray and also conduct strategic-level spiritual warfare. But after several years of such repeated gatherings, some Indonesian leaders are begin to ask questions. What is the fruit of such warfare? Is it really having any effect on evangelism? I would say that one “positive” effect is indeed making Christians “feel good about themselves” for having “done their part” in world evangelism. (What about actually preaching the gospel to the majority followers of the Prophet in Indonesia?) On the opposite side are the painful retaliatory attacks against well-meaning and sincere believers and their families.
The teaching and practice of strategic-level spiritual warfare may be but another passing fad in the history of the Church. Like the extreme teaching of prosperity, it will fade as believers see the truth. Scripture, properly understood and applied, is sufficient to equip us for the task of the Great Commission. We do not need to experiment with practices gleaned from examining the spirit world of “shamans, witch doctors, practitioners of Eastern religions, New Age gurus or professors of the occult on university faculties” as suggested by the author in Confronting the Powers. Knowledge gleaned from such sources—despite whatever particles of “truth” can be sifted out—will ultimately be from the father of lies. We submit to you that Scripture is indeed sufficient to equip us for effective evangelism and to fulfill the Great Commission—as we have already experienced on the mission field. If we really claim to believe in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, let us act upon that pillar of our faith in the all-important area of proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost. Let us reject techniques derived from studying the practices of “shamans, witch doctors, practitioners of Eastern religions, New Age gurus or professors of the occult on university faculties.”
“Sola Scriptura”—by Scripture alone.