This article first appeared on Talk2Action.
Peter Wagner has responded to the national press coverage of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) that has introduced many Americans to the NAR for the first time. This includes a page on the International Coalition of Apostles’ website, an article in Charisma Magazine, and an audio interview with Voice of America. In these articles and interviews, Wagner claims that the criticisms of the NAR are coming from the secular and liberal press, but proceeds to counter the accusations that have come from conservative evangelicals and Fundamentalists. (I’m referring to the theological meaning of Fundamentalism, not the generic term.) Wagner also claims in his VOA interview that the NAR respects other religions and religious pluralism.
Wagner has a gift for making the NAR’s agenda of elimination of all other belief systems sound benign, as he speaks glowingly of a future without poverty, disease, and corruption. In these interviews Wagner does not specify how this utopian vision is to be achieved or the role that the demonization and scapegoating of others plays in bringing it about. The movement has developed a blueprint for justification of the demonization of others and markets it as love, charity, and social justice.
Who is Wagner Responding To In These Articles and Interviews?
Each of these responses by Wagner is similar and framed in terms of countering the secular press and attacks on conservative political candidates. But it is not the secular press that has made the specific accusations enumerated by Wagner. His responses are to the complaints of conservative evangelicals, Charismatics, and Fundamentalists, who are objecting to: 1) NAR-initiated changes to the internal structure of churches and reorganization under the authority of apostles; 2) the NAR’s specific brand of spiritual warfare and obsession with demons; and 3) the use of this concept of spiritual warfare for the purpose of taking “dominion” over institutions of society and government in the natural world.
No doubt the national press coverage has brought increased attention to the NAR’s growing political clout from both those who have been critical of the movement for years and evangelicals who may have been unaware of the movement altogether.
Wagner’s defense of the NAR in these articles and interviews is similar to that found in Spiritual Warfare Power, a July 2011 release of a revised version of Wagner’s 1996 book Confronting the Powers. Wagner’s defense of the movement’s “strategic level spiritual warfare” and components such as “spiritual mapping” are clearly a response to objections from Wagner’s peers in the conservative evangelical and Fundamentalist world, not the secular press or general public, most of whom had no idea the movement even existed in 1996.
In Confronting the Powers, under the headline “Radical Varieties of Prayer,” Wagner stated,
“A number of these forms [of prayer] are coming as rather unwelcome surprises to some leaders, especially in cases where neither their training or experience has furnished them with theological hooks on which to hang some of the more radical concepts and practices seen today.”
“One of the newer varieties of prayer currently gaining wide attention among Christian leaders around the world is being called ‘strategic-level intercession.’ Very few of us, particularly in the United States and other nations of the Western world, had even so much as heard either this term of related ones, such as ‘spiritual warfare,’ ‘territorial spirits,’ ‘spiritual mapping,’ ‘warfare prayer,’ ‘tearing down strongholds,’ or ‘identificational repentance’ during our seminary or Bible school days. Many of these terms have been coined in the 1990s.”
Wagner also describes this as controversial among his peers.
“Certain highly respected leaders, I must report, have been stretched out of their comfort zones by some of the things I have recently been talking about, writing books about, and teaching in my classes at Fuller Theological Seminary. They have therefore become upset, and many of them have not hesitated to express their concerns in public.”
Wagner goes on to tell the story of how he became the “lighting rod” for this new “spiritual technology” of the 1990s. He recognizes the contribution of Frank Peretti, whose fiction books about angels and demons in the 1980s, prepared the way for the 1990s introduction of new spiritual warfare strategies. Wagner states,
“I believe that God providentially used him to prepare the way for the insights about strategic-level spiritual warfare that are now coming from non-fiction authors as John Dawson, Cindy Jacobs, Francis Frangipane, Dick Eastman, Charles Kraft, George Otis, Jr., Ed Silvoso, and many others who have been writing in the 1990s.”
Wagner also stresses that the demonic principalities that they are fighting literally exist and are not “socially generated forces.” In other words, Wagner is not just spiritualizing poverty, corruption, crime and other social ills. Wagner and other apostles of the NAR teach that demons must be literally removed from society in order to eliminate poverty and other societal problems.
This is repeatedly demonstrated in the prototypes presented in the Transformations series of movies, produced by George Otis, Jr., and the “transformation” media of Ed Silvoso, founder of the International Transformation Network. The NAR teaches that these “transformations” can not take place in society until the demons are “bound” or pushed back from a community. The corresponding natural world results of this prayer effort are advertised as including the fleeing, maiming, or death of individuals in society believed to be demonic, and the destruction of icons and institutions of other belief systems.
Lausanne Consultation in 2000
The arguments over the NAR’s brand of spiritual warfare have been intense including a special consultation of the Lausanne Movement, an umbrella organization for evangelical world missions. The consultation was held in Nairobi from August 16 -22, 2000, as Wagner’s brand of spiritual warfare was gaining popularity around the globe. The Lausanne Movement is the outgrowth of the Billy Graham-initiated International Congress on World Evangelization and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.
One of the consultation participants in 2000 describes the impact that Frank Peretti’s novels about demons have had on both religious and secular interest in the demonic. In the consultation paper titled Gaining Perspective on Territorial Spirits, [10/17/11: Link broken, use this one] author A. Scott Moreau writes,
“Parallel to this development in our culture is the development in Christian and especially mission circles of a fascination with territorial spirits. C. Peter Wagner even goes so far as to say that in engaging territorial spirits as part of our ministry of setting people free to respond to the gospel we have introduced a ‘spiritual technology’ which will bring the greatest power boost in the mission of the church since William Carey’s started the Protestant missions movement at the end of the 18th century. Wagner is not alone in advocating strategic level spiritual warfare prayer against territorial spirits as the single most important strategy we can utilize in reaching the unreached, though he is the most commonly cited authority on the topic.
…In a nutshell, what Wagner and others are calling ‘strategic-level spiritual warfare’ is praying against these territorial spirits, seeking to ‘map’ their strategies over given locations by discerning their names and what they use to keep people in bondage and then to bind them in turn so that evangelism may go unhindered. The idea of ‘spiritual mapping’ is one in which people research an area and try to identify the spirit(s) who are in charge over it so that ‘smart-bomb’ praying may loosen the hold of territorial spirits over the people in a territory who may then come to Christ more freely.”
“A whole new vocabulary has been coined to distinguish strategies, characters, practices, and issues related to territorial spirits. Before evaluating such practices associated with territorial spirits, we need to explain them. Wherever possible in the discussion below, we use definitions given by those advocating SLSW and engaging territorial spirits.”
Moreau provides a list of some of the new terminology, including Identificational Repentance, Reconciliation Walk, Levels of Spiritual Warfare, Prayer Journeys and Spiritual Mapping, and warns that these activities come close to what could be called “Christian magic” and is approaching a form of Christian animism. The author also states that the use of militant terminology borrows heavily on,
“the myth of redemptive violence that pervades human cultures.”
Note that these comments are from participants in the evangelization mission of the Lausanne Movement, and coming from individuals who can not possibly be described as secular liberals. What is also clear in this argument, is that in 2000, when this consultation took place, the larger evangelical missions movement viewed these particular spiritual warfare strategies as a recent development.
The consultation author Moreau quotes George Otis, who is credited with coining the term spiritual mapping and is the producer of the Transformations series of movies promoting this brand of spiritual warfare.
“Spiritual mapping is a means by which we can see what is beneath the surface of the material world; but it is not magic. It is subjective in that it is a skill born out of a right relationship with God and a love for His world. It is objective in that it can be verified (or discredited) by history, sociological observation and God’s Word.”
Moreau continues with a quote from Harold Caballeros, one of the other pioneers in the movement.
“In some cases, spiritual mapping will give us a series of characteristics that will guide us directly to the territorial prince or power. In other cases, we will find ourselves facing a natural person whom Satan is using.”
Wagner’s August 24 Charisma article is titled “The New Apostolic Reformation Is Not a Cult.” Again Wagner begins by attacking the “liberal opponents” of conservative political candidates. And again, this article is clearly a defense of the NAR from accusations that have come from inside the conservative evangelical, Fundamentalist, and even the Charismatic/Pentecostal world. It is not the secular press that has been buzzing for years with claims about the NAR’s “heresy.”
The NAR’s Respect for Other Religions?
Perhaps the most surprising statement in Wagner’s interview with the Voice of America’s Jerome Socolovsky is the claim that the NAR respects other religions and religious pluralism. (See my previous article on Apostle Samuel Rodriguez, who wrote articles for the Washington Post in which he also claimed support of religious pluralism, while simultaneously initiating and serving as vice president of The Oak Initiative. The Oak Initiative is currently preparing for a spiritual warfare assault on Islam and freemasonry to culminate in The Call Detroit on 11/11/11.)
The VOA article includes a quote from Catherine Bowler, an assistant professor at Duke University Divinity School, who claims that “critics are reading the movement too literally.” Bowler adds,
“The language is pretty metaphorical – like the spiritual battle language. While it stresses people out, it’s still within the realm of unseen forces.”
The NAR teaches that these unseen forces are the structure behind all other religions and philosophies as well as things designated by the movement as evil. When the NAR leadership conduct ceremonies, they believe they are having a direct impact on the natural world. In some of these examples, they claim to have damaged icons and statues of other religions and even caused the spontaneous burning of buildings.
Harold Caballeros, quoted in the Lausanne Consultation paper above, is a Guatemalan apostle who served as the Spiritual Warfare Network regional coordinator of the Spanish-speaking world (according to Wagner in Confronting the Queen of Heaven) and is a star in the first and several subsequent Transformations movies. Caballeros makes it clear that “the strong man,” a term used by the movement to describe the demonic entities which must be overcome, also refers to humans. In Victorious Warfare, Caballeros states,
Many times there is a strong man; literally, a human being who has made covenant with the devil or certain demons, and who has been given spiritual dominion over a territory.
..It is men or women who, in order to obtain power, praise, and worship establish (sic) covenants with Satan. The result is what we find in the Bible as a strong man, a person who is `connected’ to Satan, who serves him, and through whom the devil exercises authority or power over a territory, community, or a social conglomerate.
…Our interest in this subject derives from the fact that we have seen over and over again that when the strong man is vanquished in a given territory, the inhabitants become free to receive the light of the gospel.”
The NAR’s apostles repeatedly refer to the Seven Mountains Mandate as a campaign to take art, business, education, family, government, media, and religion from the demonic strong men that they claim now hold these positions of power.
When Harold Caballeros ran for president of Guatemala in 2007, it was applauded by apostles around the globe. Charisma Magazine quoted Wagner,
“‘Christians in the global South are way ahead of us in this area,’ C. Peter
Wagner, founder of Global Harvest Ministries and head of the International
Coalition [of Apostles], told Charisma magazine. ‘The values of the kingdom of
God should penetrate every level of society, and they understand that….
[Caballeros is] doing it right, going right to the top and taking dominion.’”
At the time of the publication of this article, both the editor and owner/publisher of Charisma Magazine were listed in the membership directory (June 1, 2007) of the International Coalition of Apostles led by Convening Apostle C. Peter Wagner.
Apostle Mary Glazier, who has served as a member of the International Coalition of Apostles and of the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, also described the concept of defeating the strong man in political terms at a conference in 2008. Coincidentally, in the same speech, she stated that Sarah Palin had been part of her prayer network since Palin was 24 years old. Glazier stated,
“Hu, I believe in warfare. We were given an assignment in Alaska, God gave us that strong man. And the first thing he had us to do was begin to pray for the government. Our government at that time, we had the very liberal candidates running for governor, and we began to pray for God to give us a Christian. Thirty days before the election, I won’t go into great detail, but a Christian man was called to throw his hat in the ring.”
Later in the same speech delivered to the conference of leading apostles, Glazier stated,
“There is a tipping point, at which, at which time, because of the sin of the land, the people then have to be displaced. But while this measure of wickedness is rising, the measure of faith in the church is rising. God is preparing a people to displace the ones whose sin is rising so that then they tip over and the church goes in – one is removed and the church moves in and takes the territory. Now, that does not mean that the people are removed, because God removes them from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light. They are given an opportunity to change allegiances.”
Blueprint for Scapegoating Other People and Beliefs
What happens to those who want no part of the vision of the “Kingdom” of Glazier, Caballeros or Wagner? What happens to the individuals or “people groups” the NAR describes as an obstruction to this utopia on earth? In the worldview of the NAR, those resisting their movement are controlled by demons and the cause of ongoing droughts, crime, corruption, poverty, and illness in their communities.
Wagner has dedicated entire books to descriptions of spiritual warfare excursions by NAR leadership against what Wagner describes as the Queen of Heaven. This is supposedly a demonic principality that prevents the evangelization of both Roman Catholics and Muslims.
The Lausanne Consultation paper by Moreau describes Wagner’s emphasis on the Queen of Heaven and his claim that this demon has presented herself as Diana of Ephesus, the Sun Goddess of Japan, and is currently disguised as the Virgin Mary as venerated by Roman Catholics. Moreau includes a quote from Wagner’s book Confronting the Queen of Heaven.
” . . she is the demonic principality who is most responsible under Satan for keeping unbelievers in spiritual darkness. It could well be that more people are in Hell today because of the influence of the Queen of Heaven than because of any other spiritual influence.”
Contributors to Talk2action.org have written numerous articles on the NAR’s demonization of other religions and belief systems, their extensive media claiming both the physical destruction of icons and artifacts of other religions, and their claims of prayer-induced destruction of both icons and buildings of other religions and philosophies.
Simply stated, the movement teaches that their spiritual warfare directly impacts the natural world. Whether one believes that these prayer warriors actually achieve these results or not, the NAR has reached millions with the message that elimination of certain people, practices, and beliefs will ultimately result in the eradication of the societal problems which plague humanity. The apostles clearly and repeatedly state that their spiritual warfare is not limited to the cosmic world but is about changing the physical world. Additionally, they teach that God is providing direct and extrabiblical instructions to the apostles and prophets of the movement, something that I will discuss at greater length in the next article in this series on the NAR’s brand of “apostolic government of the church.”