spiritual warfare

   The term spiritual warfare refers to the use of New Testament military imagery to describe the struggles of the Christian life, from simple resistance to sin to fights against demonic forces. Basic references include Ephesians 6:12, which states, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against . . . the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." The appropriate response for the Christian is to "Put on the whole armor of God . . . Stand therefore having your loins girded with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith." Such passages of "spiritual warfare" have been used throughout Christian history to inspire a life of piety and holiness.
   At times, the term refers to a special ministry of casting out demons in imitation of Jesus and the apostles, part of the healing ministry of the church. While exorcisms have always been present in Christianity, they were a fringe enterprise by the 19th century. in the 20th century, secular psychology offered nonsupernatural explanations of what had been called demon possession.
   However, deliverance ministry, specializing in freeing people from demonic influence and possession, has made a significant return in the contexts of spiritual healing and Pentecostalism. Much of the impetus came from the mission field and the encounter with polytheistic and magical faiths. Simultaneously, spiritualism, fortune-telling, astrology, and other esoteric practices were on the rise in the West, even in a secular context.
   Exorcisms made a significant comeback in the 1970s with the rise of the Charismatic movement. Among leading early spokespersons was Win Wor-ley (d. 1994), pastor of Hegewisch Baptist Church in Chicago, a Pentecostal congregation. Worley wrote no fewer than 11 books and released more than 50 booklets, audiotapes, and videotapes on the subject. Literally hundreds of deliverance ministries have been founded in more recent years. Within these ministries, there has been a tendency to move beyond prayer for people facing dysfunctional mental and spiritual conditions; a whole range of negative life conditions, bad habits, and sinful behaviors are seen as signs of demon possession.
   The rise of deliverance ministries raises serious issues for conservative Christians, especially the basic question of whether a Christian who has been delivered by the grace of God can ever be possessed. Pentecostal scholars and leaders have also criticized the ministries for placing too much emphasis on secret knowledge of the demonic world, distracting attention from Christ's healing power.
   In the 1980s, the notion of territorial spirits entered the deliverance world, apparently from Latin America. Some evangelists talked about powerful demons who ruled over certain regions or territories and whose main goal was hindering people from coming to faith in Christ. in the 1970s, Frank Peretti (b. 1951) wrote two popular books, This Present Darkness (1986) and Piercing the Darkness (1989), that treated battles with territorial spirits. A new picture of the spiritual world became popular, in which the devil assigned demons to different tasks: presiding over territories, assisting magicians and sorcerers, and possessing individuals.
   In 1990, John Dawson wrote a popular treatment of the idea, Taking Our Cities for God: How to Break Spiritual Strongholds (1990). Fuller Theological Seminary professor Peter C. Wagner (b. 1930) also identified with the new movement in his volume Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits (1991). Wagner has gone on to write several books promoting what has become known as Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (SLSW). Adherents practice spiritual mapping by assembling information on a particular region, including the status of Christianity, any historical events that might have caused trauma, the dominant philosophies and religions, and different groups that pose spiritual opposition. All these factors become the focus of directed prayer.
   Further reading:
   ■ Ray Beeson, Strategic Spiritual Warfare: An Interactive Workbook (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson 1995)
   ■ John Dawson, Taking Our Cities for God: How to Break Spiritual Strongholds (Lake Mary, Fla.: Creation House, 1990)
   ■ Peter C. Wagner, Breaking Strongholds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective and Targeted (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1993); , Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1991)
   ■ Win Worley, Conquering the Hosts of Hell: An Open Triumph (Lansing, Ill.: Hegewisch Baptist Church, 1977).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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