Contemporary Trends in the Treatment of Spiritual Conflict in the Mission of the Church

Charles H. Kraft

The purpose of this paper is to trace some of the contemporary trends in the treatment of spiritual warfare among Evangelicals, especially in the United States. By contemporary, I mean 20th century. By Evangelicals, I mean those faithful to the Bible but not involved in the Pentecostal movement of the early 20th century or the charismatic movement of the mid-century. This is the constituency represented by the Lausanne movement until the latter part of the century when Pentecostal Christianity was admitted into the Evangelical mainline.

I know little of what was going on in the Roman Catholic Church in this regard, except that many Catholics were early participants in the charismatic movement that started in the mid 60s and continue to be renewed through the continuance of that movement. Nor am I knowledgeable about what has been going on in Europe and other areas outside the United States. I apologize for this and welcome additions and corrections in these or any other areas.

I need to make it explicit that I am tackling this subject from a particular perspective. I am not an unbiased observer of the discussion this conference is dealing with. I am one of those carrying the label “Third Wave.”

I have been a missionary and a trainer of missionaries for some 43 years now. I have come from an Evangelical, non-charismatic background, attended Wheaton College and Ashland Theological Seminary, both of which would be considered mainline Evangelical institutions. I went to Nigeria in 1957 with no charismatic or Pentecostal influence in my life but found that I had no ability to deal with the demonic or even to discuss it intelligently. This ignorance stayed with me after I left the mission field and began my career as a trainer of missionaries. Then, in the early 80s, we on the Fuller School of World Mission faculty, feeling keenly the failure in our own missionary experience in dealing with spiritual conflict, invited John Wimber to teach a course on Signs and Wonders within our curriculum.

Starting in January of 1982, then, I began to go through a paradigm shift in my life, my teaching and my involvement in ministry that has taken me big time into the area of spiritual warfare both as a practitioner and a theoretician. By now I have authored five books and a number of articles on subjects related to spiritual conflict and have a regular ministry of inner healing and deliverance both in the U.S. and internationally. In addition, I regularly teach several courses in these areas within the Fuller School of World Mission curriculum.


Time Line

Spiritual conflict was very obvious in the ministry of Jesus and of the Early Church. The Early Church Fathers record that in post-Apostolic times churches were so concerned about demonization that they appointed exorcists to their pastoral staffs. One such church is reported to have had more than 50 officially recognized exorcists.

Through the Middle Ages, however, credulity concerning what were believed to be spiritual manifestations reached such a high level that the Reformers and their followers reacted against belief in supernatural manifestations. This, plus the rise of the universities, the influences of the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and other human being-centered focuses led in western societies to the widespread abandonment of any belief in spiritual reality, except for a belief in God, sometimes accompanied by a vague belief in angels.

United States

In the early 20th Century, however, the movement we know as Pentecostalism arose in the U.S., alerting the western Christian world once again to the existence of spiritual beings antagonistic to the Christian cause. This movement, though shunned by Evangelicals for several decades, understood that Jesus provides His followers with spiritual power to heal and cast out demons. We sometimes refer to this movement as the First Wave in western Christianity of a focus on the Holy Spirit and His activities in spiritual warfare.

In mission lands, even before the rise of Pentecostalism, western missionaries and their converts often recognized spiritual conflict in the form of demonization countered by deliverance in Jesus’ Name and breakthroughs following intense intercessory prayer. Many missionaries, however, made the mistake of assuming that the cultures of nonwestern peoples are so infested with satanic power that they are unredeemable. They, therefore, established schools and other western institutions designed to convert people from their own cultures to western understandings of reality that did not include any but superficial belief in the spiritual reality of the Bible.

In the mid-60s, then, a second wave of emphasis on the Holy Spirit and His power swept through certain segments of American Christianity. This charismatic movement, unlike the Pentecostal movement, took place largely in established churches, including Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. It did not, therefore, result in sizeable denominations as did the Pentecostal movement. Though it enlivened many individuals and congregations, it was widely rejected by the Evangelical mainstream.

In the early 80s, then, a third wave of focus on the Holy Spirit and His power began. This movement is primarily within Evangelical churches and seems to be growing today.

All three of the waves continue, though the charismatic wave may have been largely swallowed up in the Third Wave. There are great similarities between the waves, but some significant differences as well. Each is similar in focusing on the activity of the Holy Spirit in warring against the powers of darkness. Enthusiastic worship, believed to be effective in countering satanic activity, also characterizes all three movements. The Third Wave, however, has the advantage of widespread acceptance of such worship in churches outside of the movement. This fact provides some opportunity for this latest wave to be regarded more positively than the other two in mainstream Evangelicalism.

Evangelicalism largely rejected Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement because of their focus on speaking in tongues and their emotionalism. The Third Wave has muted the emphasis on tongues, focusing more on healing and spiritual warfare. Meanwhile, many Pentecostal churches have become less focused on their distinctives and more like mainline Evangelical churches.

Though Pentecostalism has traditionally attracted a working-class, not highly schooled constituency, both the charismatic movement and the Third Wave have received much of their acceptance among the more educationally privileged classes. Indeed, Third Wave emphases are now being taught in prestigious seminaries and Bible colleges.

All three waves have challenged the western worldview that characterizes most western Christian churches concerning such things as the existence of a spirit world (especially demons and angels), the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, satanic activity in human affairs, faith healing, spiritual gifting and worship. As mentioned, Pentecostalism, in order to focus on its distinctives largely isolated itself from mainstream Evangelicalism. In midcentury, though, both Evangelicals and Pentecostals began to discover that they had more in common than they had previously recognized. Pentecostal denominations, then, were admitted into Evangelical organizations such as the National Association of Evangelicals and increasingly referred to as Evangelicals. More recently, certain Pentecostal scholars have won a great deal of respect among Evangelicals, even rising to prominence as leaders of previously anti-Pentecostal seminaries such as Gordon-Conwell and Fuller. Often, however, this respectability has been achieved at the cost of the muting of Pentecostal distinctives on the part of these leaders.

Pentecostals have often taken a dim view of the Third Wave movement. Possibly some have felt that we of the Third Wave are “stealing” some of their distinctives. Or, perhaps, in their drive toward Evangelical respectability, some have adopted a good bit of western skepticism toward spiritual reality. They may also be reacting against some of the emotional excesses of early Pentecostalism and the tendency of the movement to go to certain extremes with regard to the spirit world (e.g. a demon under every bush).

For whatever reasons, more non-Pentecostal western Evangelicals have become open to the concept of spiritual warfare and other emphases that were once limited to Pentecostals and charismatics. It is probable that the wide popularity within Evangelical circles of the 80s novels This Present Darkness (1986) and Piercing the Darkness (1989) by Pentecostal Frank Peretti had something to do with the move toward openness. So also did the early Calvary Chapel emphases, springing out of the Jesus People movement, the healing seminars and teaching at Fuller Seminary of John Wimber and his disciples in the 80s and 90s.

Two-Thirds World

While these things were happening in America, we can point to at least two major developments in the Two-Thirds World. On the one hand, in many places, missionized people, most of whom were/are deeply into spiritual power assumptions and practices, began to see discrepancies between the largely powerless Christianity brought by Evangelical missionaries and that portrayed in the Bible. This factor played a major part in the splitting off of literally thousands of groups from mission-founded churches to establish independent brands of Christianity, most of which focused a good bit of attention on spiritual conflict.

In Africa, for example, 5,000 or more such churches have been identified in South Africa alone, with many hundreds more in East and West Africa. Healing and deliverance from demons are often major emphases in these churches, though excesses abound.

Not entirely unrelated to the independency movement is the fact that Pentecostalism has, from the beginning of the 20th century, mounted the largest missionary thrust in Evangelicalism. The Pentecostal emphasis on spiritual warfare has clicked with the concern for spiritual power of most of the peoples of the world and resulted in rapid spread and growth of Pentecostal Christianity.

Whether they are Pentecostal or influenced by the recent openness to charismatic emphases, numerous churches in each country in the Two-Thirds World include spiritual conflict among their major emphases. And some of these churches are among largest in the world today.

Innovator Categories

Before turning to the topic of publications and conferences, it might be well to focus on the process of innovation of a concern for spiritual conflict among American Evangelicals. Everett Rogers (1995) and others have pointed to several stages in the process of the acceptance of innovations. Given the virtual captivity to western worldview assumptions concerning the spirit world on the part of Evangelicals, we can helpfully point to such steps in the emerging consciousness of sizeable numbers of Evangelicals to the reality and scriptural appropriateness of a focus on spiritual warfare.

When a new idea is introduced, the research shows that about 2.5% of those exposed to it will accept it. These are the innovators, people who are frequently way ahead of the majority of their group in accepting new ideas. As these innovators practice the idea, another group watches and soon adopts it also. These are the early adopters. They make up 13.5% of the population of those who will eventually accept the idea (we are not counting those who will never accept it). This group is followed by the early majority (34%), the late majority (34%) and eventually by those who do accept but only after everyone else who will accept has come in. These are what are called the laggards (16%).

My assessment would be that many American Evangelicals are in the early adopter stage of this sequence with regard to the acceptance of the innovation, spiritual warfare. Theologians, of course, are mostly either ignoring the movement or negative toward it. The “common people,” however, are much more likely to see the relevance of spiritual power issues, with pastors somewhere inbetween.

The innovators in dealing with spiritual warfare among Evangelicals cover a wide spectrum of time. This period would seem to extend up to the 1980s. Though Pentecostals were practicing and doing some writing early in the 20th century, Evangelicals pretty much isolated themselves from Pentecostal influence.

Publications and Conferences Before 1970

Prior to the 1970s, there were few publications dealing with our subject that attracted Evangelical attention. There were, of course, more on the Pentecostal side of the fence. And the rise of the charismatic movement during this decade added a few publications. One of the books that attracted a very limited amount of Evangelical attention was that of Jesse Penn-Lewis’ 1912 volume‚ War on the Saints, but often in its abridged edition. More attention was given to this book at a later stage, however.

Merrill Unger at Dallas Seminary was active in teaching concerning demonology in the 40s and 50s, publishing his classic Biblical Demonology in 1952. In that volume he contended that Christians could not be demonized, a position that personal experience plus the experiences of former students led him to abandon in his later books.

An example of the typical Evangelical attitude during this time was the experience of R.A. Torrey. Though he had written extensively on the person and work of the Holy Spirit even before the Pentecostal movement began (e.g., his 1897 work entitled Baptism With the Holy Spirit and a long section on the Holy Spirit in his What the Bible Teaches 1898), the great respect that was his among Evangelicals did not include the acceptance of his ideas on the Holy Spirit. I have even heard that the section on the Holy Spirit was omitted in a Moody Press reprint of his What the Bible Teaches (1898) but have been unable to verify that rumor.

Two startling books by the Lutheran James Kallas The Satanward View and Jesus and the Power of Satan (1966, 1968) attracted some attention, though they deserved more. In these books Kallas contends that there are two very distinct themes in the NT, the “Godward view” and the “Satanward view.” These views are both there, apparently contradictory at various points: for example, the Godward view is high on human responsibility for what goes wrong while the Satanward view implies that we are victims of a power much greater than ours. He contends, then, that, in spite of the nearly total concern of Evangelicals with the Godward view, some 80% of the teaching of the Synoptic Gospels concerns the Satanward view. At a later date, this understanding fed into Wimber’s teaching and thus into the Third Wave perspective.

The charismatic movement, starting in the mid-60s began to produce some writings. These were, however, largely devoted to personal experience and apologetics for distinctive charismatic emphases.

A book of this period that attracted later attention, especially in Vineyard and Fuller circles was George Ladd’s Jesus and The Kingdom (1964).

The 1970s

The 1970s saw attention to our subject growing among Evangelicals, though it was still considered by most to be a subject that only fringe groups such as Pentecostals and charismatics took very seriously. There were a few practitioners who broke away from Evangelical unconcern such as Ernest Rockstad (1976) and Frank and Ida Mae Hammond (1973), each of whom had Baptist roots. These were largely written off as defectors by mainstream Evangelicals. The Hammonds’ book Pigs in the Parlor (1973) attracted some Evangelical attention.

Zondervan, a thoroughly Evangelical publishing house, published A Manual of Demonology and the Occult by Kent Philpott (1973). And two more volumes by Merrill Unger of Dallas Theological Seminary were published, one by Tyndale (1970) and one by Moody (1977). Mark Bubeck’s helpful book The Adversary appeared in 1975.

A significant scholarly event during this period was a conference convened by the Christian Medical Society in 1975 at Notre Dame University. It was entitled “A Theological, Psychological, Medical Symposium on the Phenomena Labeled As ‘Demonic’.” Twenty-five invited specialists tackled the subject of demonization from their various perspectives. Most of the papers were then published in the 1976 volume entitled Demon Possession, edited by John Warwick Montgomery.

In missionary training, Alan Tippett made frequent mention of what he called “power encounters.” These he defined as encounters between the power of God and that of Satan similar to the encounters between Elijah and the Prophets of Baal and between Moses and Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. Tippett’s research showed that such encounters played a major part in the conversion to Christ of the peoples of the South Pacific. His book People Movements in Southern Polynesia (1971) documents the place of such encounters in the turning to Christ of groups, sometimes large groups, of southern Polynesian peoples.

In Europe and also in America a medical doctor named Kurt Koch attracted some attention among Evangelicals through his books and lectures. Several of his books were translated from German and published by Kregel during the 70s.

The 1980s

We date the beginning of the Third Wave to the early 80s. In mid 1981, the School of World Mission faculty at Fuller Seminary discussed the possibility of offering a course on healing to be supervised by C. Peter Wagner with John Wimber doing most of the teaching. The feeling of need for the course sprang from a deep sense of failure in this area in the ministries of those of us on the missions faculty. We knew and trusted Wimber. So in January of 1982 we started a once-a-week course entitled Signs, Wonders and Church Growth, with 85 missions students and two of us faculty couples.

This course has continued from that day to this and the impact it has had on us and our students in the School of Mission and on many of the theology students has been profound. It resulted in a great deal of controversy both on and off campus and administrative decisions resulted in Wimber being dropped as the teacher, the course being officially discontinued for one year (though the students put it on as a student activity that year) and a change in the course number. But Wagner and I have been able to teach that basic course and to add several other courses dealing with various aspects of spiritual power and conflict, some of which attract very large enrollments.

Through exposure to our Third Wave approach to spiritual warfare, many missionaries, pastors and international church leaders have moved from ignorance and/or apathy concerning these issues into openness and/or active ministry. A steady stream of American and international pastors have also moved into recognition of the need to be active in taking people and places from the enemy. In addition, whether through contact with what we are doing at Fuller or through some other influence, several Evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges now offer courses dealing with healing and/or deliverance.

Publications in the 80s

The 80s saw an increasing number of publications by Evangelicals dealing with healing, inner healing, prayer, deliverance and cosmic-level warfare.

In the area of physical healing and the availability of spiritual power in general John Wimber’s books Power Evangelism and Power Healing (1986, 1987) have been prominent. So was Francis MacNutt’s Healing (1988). Influenced by Wimber, other Third Wave books began to appear, including those by Ken Blue (1987), Don Williams (1989), myself (1989) and Wagner (1988). Part of Williams’ book is devoted to a critique of the position taken by the committee set up to evaluate the Fuller signs and wonders course, published in Smedes 1987.

In inner healing the books by David Seamands (1981, 1985) and John and Paula Sandford (1982, 1985) led the way, with books by Dennis and Matthew Linn (1974, 1978) attracting some interest to this approach on the Catholic side of the fence.

In the area of spiritual warfare and deliverance, Michael Harper published Spiritual Warfare in 1984. C. Fred Dickason, a professor at Moody Bible Institute, published Demon Possession and the Christian (1987), a helpful approach to proving that Christians can and do carry demons. Another book dealing with spiritual warfare by Mark Bubeck appeared in 1984. But by and large, Evangelicals weren’t yet into dealing seriously with spiritual warfare. On the Catholic side, Scanlan and Cirner published Deliverance From Evil Spirits in 1980. A Pentecostal reaction against the possibility of Christians carrying demons was put together by Opal Reddin in 1989 in response to some of the discussion that occurred at the Fuller conference in 1988 (see below).

Among academics, Scott Peck’s People of the Lie (1983) paved the way for many. Morton Kelsey’s Psychology, Medicine and Christian Healing (1988) also attracted attention. In a series on psychological issues, Word Books included Rodger Bufford’s Counseling and the Demonic (1988). Clinton Arnold’s excellent and pioneering commentary on Ephesians in which he sees spiritual warfare as the core of the epistle also appeared at the end of this decade (1989). From an unlikely direction, then, came Susan Garrett’s The Demise of the Devil (1989). And, for those of us who read anthropological literature, it was interesting to find in Goodman 1988 a secular author who takes demons seriously.

Perhaps the most important academic approach of this decade was Walter Wink’s trilogy (1984, 1986, 1992). These were significant from a number of points of view. First, since he comes from a liberal theological background, it is surprising that he tackles this subject at all. And, secondly, Wink’s attempt to wrestle with evil as it has infested the institutional aspects of western societies is truly original. Nevermind that he seeks to deal with the demonic without admitting the personal nature of evil spiritual beings, his approach embodies much insight and his 1992 volume shows a bit of movement in that direction.

On the missiological scene, a truly significant article was published in 1982 by Paul Hiebert entitled, “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle.” This article helped alert many to see the importance of dealing with our western worldview with regard to spiritual reality.

The 80s also gave us two volumes by the Pentecostal Frank Peretti (1986, 1989) that were widely read by Evangelicals. Though he wrote these books as fiction, those of us who have become practitioners in the spiritual warfare arena find a ring of truth in much of what Peretti has written. The function these books played in alerting Evangelicals to the need to take spiritual warfare seriously is a contribution of major proportions. It is unlikely that the Third Wave movement would be having anywhere near the impact it is having had not Peretti’s volumes gained wide attention in Evangelical circles.

Though consciousness of cosmic-level warfare was just beginning to be a factor among Evangelicals at this time, John Dawson’s Taking Our Cities for God (1989) is still a major contribution.

Conferences in the 80s

At least two important conferences on this subject took place in the 80s. The first, convened by C. Peter Wagner, took place at Fuller in 1988. Quite a number of the major players in the Third Wave met there with some Pentecostals and charismatics. The papers and responses presented there have been published in Wagner and Pennoyer (eds.) 1990.

The second and more significant conference was the 1989 Manila Lausanne II Congress. This was a gathering of 6,000 or more Evangelicals (now including Pentecostals and charismatics) to follow up on the 1974 Lausanne meetings. In it a new openness was shown to charismatic influences. The worship was contemporary, people like Jack Hayford (a classical Pentecostal) played a prominent role in plenary sessions and the three most heavily attended workshops all dealt with spiritual warfare. One of my publications (1995) includes several of the papers that were presented in the workshop I led on spiritual warfare.

The 1990s

The 90s saw a major increase in publications and an increase in the offerings at Fuller (at least) in this area. In addition to our basic healing course, we began to offer courses in Power Encounter, Deep-Level Healing and Cosmic-Level Healing.

As a result of the blurring of the formerly clear dividing lines between Pentecostal and charismatic groups on the one hand and non-charismatic Evangelical groups on the other, many from the latter groups regularly attend conferences and events (e.g. Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and Brownsville, Pensacola) sponsored by Pentecostal and charismatic groups.

Significant books were published during this decade by Wagner, White, Silvoso, Otis, Grieg & Springer, C. Kraft, M. Kraft and many others. I have attempted to list several representative titles in the Bibliography.


What is Included in Spiritual Warfare

The traditional Evangelical understanding of spiritual warfare included little more than recognizing that Satan is involved in tempting us to do wrong things. It has been common to deal with temptations as basically a human problem, for which we are completely responsible, but to see God’s enemy as behind the temptations seeking to entice us into disobeying God.

Liberals, to the extent that they acknowledge an evil presence at all, tend to go along with behavioral scientists in seeing that presence in cultural structures. The recent writings of Walter Wink are a more sophisticated approach to portraying this position than anything heretofore published. His approach interprets demonization as a characteristic of structures rather than as infestation by spiritual beings.

Pentecostals and charismatics have from the start of their movements dealt with demonization (incorrectly labeled demon possession). Their tendency has been to assume that if a person is having great difficulty, the major, if not the only cause is demons living inside a person and that the problem will go away when the demons are expelled. For these groups, demons are seen as independent spiritual entities under the authority of Satan, very common and very active in tempting and pushing people to do evil. Spiritual warfare for these groups, then, includes both dealing with temptations and expelling demons. These groups also regularly engage in praying for physical healing, dedication of buildings and intercessory prayer as acts of spiritual warfare. The charismatic movement added inner healing to the list.

The Third Wave has focused on healing (both physical and inner) and deliverance (both of which we include in “ground-level” warfare) and added cosmic-level warfare. Not that cosmic-level warfare had never been spoken of previously, but the Third Wave has moved into a greater emphasis on it that the previous two waves.

Concerning cosmic-level warfare, Evangelicals have always focused on the need for such basic things as righteousness, repentance, intercession, unity in prayer, forgiveness and the like. But Third Wave thinkers (e.g. Wagner, Otis, Dawson, Jacobs, Silvoso) have connected these important ground-level activities with the breaking of cosmic-level spiritual power over territories, institutions, vices and the like.

In accord with Third Wave thinking, I will divide the following into what we call “Ground-Level Warfare” and “Cosmic-Level Warfare” (what Wagner refers to as “Strategic-Level Warfare”). My own classification of the types of spirits follows. In each category the assumption is that there are spirits assigned by Satan and competing spirits (angels) assigned by God. On God’s side we have names such as angels and archangels (Dan 10:13, 21). On Satan’s side we have names such as “wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world:” rulers (principalities, KJV), authorities (powers KJV), cosmic powers (rulers KJV) of this dark age (Eph 6:12 GNB).

I assume that cosmic-level spirits have a good bit of authority over ground-level spirits, probably assigning them and ruling over them. I assume also that cosmic-level spirits gain and maintain their rights only through human permission. I doubt that Satan is interested in territory or institutions for their own sake. I believe he is interested in people and the power over such things granted by people, to whom God originally gave authority over everything in the world. In Luke 4:6, then, Satan in tempting Jesus can claim that can give to Jesus all power over the kingdoms of the earth and all their wealth because “it has all been handed over to me, and I can give it to anyone I choose … if you worship me.”

Cosmic-Level Spirits (Eph 2:2 in “the air,” living outside of persons)

1.Territorial Spirits: assigned to territories: nations, cities regions

a. God’s: assigned to enhance God’s plan for territories

a. Satan’s: assigned to disrupt God’s plans

1966 Religion/Institutional Spirits: assigned to religions & organizations

a. God’s: assigned to churches, parachurch organizations, Bible schools, seminaries

b. Satan’s: assigned to nonChristian religions and organizations (e.g. Freemasonry) and to disrupt churches and others of God’s organizations

1 Vice Spirits: assigned to deal with vices

a. God’s: assigned to prevent vices such as divination, prostitution, abortion, gambling, homosexuality, pornography

b. Satan’s: assigned to encourage such vices

1 Nature, Household and Object Spirits: assigned to nature, cultural objects (e.g. artifacts, music) & homes

a. God’s: assigned to protect these places and objects

b. Satan’s: assigned to inhabit dedicated objects and places

1 Ancestral Spirits

a. God’s: assigned to take people to God at death (?)

b. Satan’s: assigned behave like dead ancestors in order to deceive people into believing the dead are still active in human affairs

Ground-Level Spirits (demonic, living in people–the Godly counterpart is the Holy Spirit living in God’s people)

1. Family Spirits: demons inhabiting those dedicated to them and inherited from generation to generation in families

2. Occult Spirits: demons inhabiting those involved in false religions and occult allegiances (e.g. Scientology, witchcraft)

3. Ordinary Spirits: demons inhabiting those wallowing in sinful attitudes and emotions (e.g. fear, anger, rebellion, lust, hatred, shame)

Varieties of Ground-Level Warfare

I will deal with ground-level warfare first, since it is less controversial than cosmic level. Jesus spent a good bit of His time and energy healing and casting out demons. Most of us find, however, that our record for healing is not as good as Jesus’ and that simply commanding demons out as the Gospels show Jesus doing is often not sufficient to get people free. There are, therefore, a variety of styles extant among those of us who are active in healing and deliverance ministries.

To state my own credentials, I have personally led a large number of healing sessions (probably more than 1,500) with at least 1,000 of them involving deliverance from demons. Most of what I have learned, then, has been published in five books and an article in response to some critics. See the bibliography for these titles.

As mentioned, both Pentecostals and charismatics have been active for some time in ministering healing and deliverance. Inner (or “deep-level”) healing was introduced during the charismatic movement. Few, however, seemed to connect inner healing with deliverance in any formal way, though it must have been connected informally by some. Until recently, then, ministries of physical healing, inner healing and deliverance have been looked at as quite separate types of ministry.

Traditional Evangelical (non-charismatic) approaches to spiritual warfare tended to see Satan’s activity limited largely to tempting people to sin. The antidote, therefore, was to learn more about the kinds of temptation employed and how to combat them. Combating them is seen as a matter of recognizing temptation, looking to the Bible for the things to say to ourselves and to Satan and praying to overcome the temptation. If a person seems unable to resist temptations, he/she is advised to pray and study the Bible more fervently. If a person seems to be having emotional difficulties, he/she is advised to see a Christian counselor or, often, to simply forget the past. The latter advice is often based on an out-of-context misinterpretation of Philippians 3:13, “forgetting those things that are behind.”

Two truth-oriented approaches are those of Neil Anderson (“Freedom in Christ”) and Ed Smith (“Theophostic”). Anderson’s approach focuses on dealing with self-image and works quite well with those who are able to take cognitive control of their emotional wounds and to tell themselves the truth of who they are. He has observed what we all see: that Satan’s primary attack on Christians is in the area of self-image. He doesn’t want us to discover who we really are. The answer as he sees it, then, is to go through certain steps toward freedom that involve learning and assimilating basic scriptural truths concerning who we are in Christ. He assumes that when certain truths are believed, emotions get healed and, if there are any demons, they leave.

Another truth-oriented approach is that of Ed Smith, labeled “Theophostic.” From this perspective, healing is attained through discovering the lies we have been believing and allowing Jesus to come and speak truth to us, thus healing the wounds left by the lies. Though dealing with lies and truth appears on the surface to be quite cognitive, Theophostic practitioners are given to encouraging people to deeply feel the emotions associated with the beliefs and to let Jesus heal the emotional wounds as well as the cognitive ones. This takes people well beyond Anderson’s approach and often stirs up demons that have to be dealt with.

Deliverance-based ministries are those that assume that demons are the major problem and that simply casting them out is the way to get people healed. They note that Jesus seemed to do nothing to help the demonized other than to free them from their demons. So they go after the demons and try to blast them out. This has tended to be the approach of Pentecostals and charismatics. It often results in violence, throwing up and other disagreeable things, sometimes resulting in damage to the demonized person in the process of getting the person free.

In addition to Pentecostals and charismatics, certain Evangelicals have taken this position. In our day we can mention Frank & Ida Mae Hammond and Ernest Rockstad (now deceased). Rockstad had an interesting and controversial twist on dealing with demons that were especially difficult to get out. He sometimes had one of his team members call the demons into him/herself as a means of freeing the client. The team member, then, cast them out of him/herself. Rockstad called this method, “pouring the demons through” the team member. It apparently worked.

Doris Wagner fits here, though she, like those of the next group, recognizes the need to do or advise the client to do inner healing to get completely healed. Doris uses a long questionnaire from which to discover in prayer what demons are present. She then goes after them one by one without seeking further information from them. She prefers to do any inner healing after the deliverance, though she recognizes the need to sometimes do some inner healing earlier in order to weaken the demons.

Inner healing-based ministries may focus almost exclusively on dealing with emotional and/or spiritual “garbage,” as John and Paula Sandford do (1982, 1985) or, after dealing with the garbage, go on to tackle any demonic “rats” that might be attached to the garbage, as I do (1992). The Sandfords do not completely neglect demons (see 1992), but seem to only deal with them if they make their presence obvious.

My own approach is to look for them (and usually find them) if the amount of garbage the person has been carrying seems to predict that there may be rats attached. We have observed that the strength of demons is calibrated to the amount and kind of garbage in the client’s life. Thus, if we don’t want to have to fight with the demons, the best thing to do is to use inner healing techniques to deal with the garbage, then to free the person from the demons later. With this approach we almost never have any violence, throwing up or other disagreeable happenings.

What I mean by garbage is such things as the following: generational or contemporary dedications, curses or vows/pacts made with enemy spirits or gods, dedications to spirits or gods by persons in authority over the client or by the client him/herself, self-cursing, wallowing in negative emotions such as anger, unforgiveness, hatred, shame or the like, having death wishes or inviting spirits of death in via abortion, suicide attempts or the like, inviting in spirits of homosexuality, etc., etc.

We who use my approach assume that there may be a double cause underlying the person’s problems: a human one (garbage) and a spirit one (demons). We find that if there are demons, we can assume there is a human cause, the garbage. If there is human garbage, though, there are not necessarily demons, especially if the amount of garbage is small.

We recognize, then, that the demons are a secondary problem, not the primary one. In order for them to be there, they must have legal rights given them by those who created the garbage. These can be ancestors, those in authority over the person or the person him/herself. Taking away the demons’ legal rights through inner healing takes away all of their power, cancels their right to stay and makes it easy to kick them out.

Ed Murphy has developed a similar approach (1992).

Cosmic-Level Warfare

Fairly recently there has been an increased emphasis on cosmic-level warfare among Third Wavers. In the forefront of this emphasis have been C. Peter Wagner, George Otis, Jr., John Dawson, Cindy Jacobs and Ed Silvoso. Each has written one or more books on the subject and on related subjects such as intercession, repentance, dealing with territorial spirits and strategies for taking cities. Prominent in these discussions has been the experience in Argentina where evangelists and pastors such as Carlos Annacondia, Omar Cabrera, Claudio Friedzon and Victor Lorenzo have been very successful in winning people to Christ by employing the principles of cosmic-level warfare.

These principles parallel the principles outlined above for my approach to dealing with ground-level demons. That is, cosmic-level warfare approaches the breaking of the power of cosmic-level rats through dealing with cosmic-level garbage. This garbage includes sin on the part of human populations (both present and in the past), the breaking of satanic power gained through past dedications and/or sinful use of a place, disunity and competition among spiritual leaders and neglect of godly use of a place or territory.

The approach, therefore, includes the fostering of unity among the pastors in a given area (including repentance for critical and competitive attitudes). It proceeds with the development and increase of intercessory activity aimed at specific geographical areas and/or spiritual problems. It often requires the breaking of satanic power achieved through dedication and/or sinful use of a place by specifically claiming authority over that place in the name of Jesus Christ.

Along with intercession and the taking of authority in prayer goes the practice of “spiritual mapping”–the researching of the kinds of both God’s and the enemy’s activity both historically and in the present in the area to be attacked. The findings from this research become the focuses of the intercession and the calls to repentance that follow. A major part of the repentance, based on the historical analysis of spiritual problems, is what is called “identificational repentance.” This involves the present generation accepting responsibility for the sins of their predecessors and representing them in repenting to the representatives of the wronged group(s) as did Ezra (Ez 9), Nehemiah (Neh 1) and Daniel (Dan 9).

There will also usually be “prayer walks,” involving the intercessors in walking around and praying over the territory to be taken, thus claiming it for Christ and/or other “intercessory events” designed to break the power of Satan over the area in focus. These will sometimes be held on mountaintops overlooking the area to be captured. Bob Beckett is fond of claiming areas by driving into the ground stakes that have been empowered through prayer. Ed Silvoso employs a combination of techniques designed to take whole cities for God. John Dawson is strong on discovering and focusing on the “redemptive gift” of a city, by which he means God’s reason for the founding of the city.

With all the emphasis on technique, it needs to be underlined that those involved in cosmic-level warfare are primarily concerned about evangelism. The stated aim of these techniques is to break the power of the evil one over people and territory for the specific purpose of winning the lost and enabling people to grow in Christ. The point is made that both Satan and God are interested in people but that people cooperate with either God or Satan to empower places and activities (e.g. rituals, dedications), thus giving one or the other spiritual advantage in that place or activity. If, then, through asserting spiritual power wielded authoritatively in the name of the other power, the ruling power can be broken, and the other power put in control.

Since according to Scripture, the whole world is under the power of the evil one (1 Jn 5:19), the wielding of God’s authority to break that power can give great opportunity for the light of Jesus to flow into the consciousness of people whose minds have been darkened by the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). And this has been the experience in Argentina and elsewhere where cosmic-level warfare has been employed. The conversion record of Annacondia and the other Argentine evangelists is truly impressive.


In dealing with spiritual conflict, there are a number of issues that are disputed. The reasons for dispute are usually claimed to be theological, though I suspect that a closer look would show that it is underlying worldview assumptions more than theological perspectives that are to blame, since the disputes are usually between practitioners with considerable experience and theoreticians with little or no experience.

1. An example of such is the rather wide ranging critique of Third Wave approaches to spiritual warfare launched by Priest, Campbell and Mullen from Columbia Seminary at the meetings of the Evangelical Missiological Society in 1994. This was published with my response in the volume entitled Spiritual Power and Missions (1995). Typical of the way these discussions have gone, Priest and colleagues have had no experience in either ground-level or cosmic-level spiritual warfare. Their critique is, however, strident and pointed, though based only on their theoretical interpretations of Scripture and the literature. It would be interesting to see how experience with demonization and cosmic-level warfare might alter their views.

Nevertheless, the exercise of replying to these authors was a good one for me in many ways. For example, they forced me to clarify the differences between animism and God-given authority. We find in spiritual warfare that on the surface, much of what we do in the power and authority of Jesus Christ looks very similar to what Satan and his followers do. Satan heals, blesses, empowers dedicated objects, infects through inheritance and in many other ways imitates God. The main differences, then, between what Satan does and what God does lie in the source of the power flowing through the activity rather than necessarily in the activity itself.

Priest and colleagues challenged our use of anecdotal evidence without being able to give counter evidence of their own. They were able to disprove one example and to call a few others into question, leading them to conclude inappropriately that there is no evidence for the claims made for cosmic-level success and to dismiss all claims for such success as if these are the only examples available. Though we have had to stop citing the example from the Philippines once claimed by Lester Sumrall, there are plenty of other examples that point in the direction of regarding cosmic-level effort as effective. And as for such evidence being anecdotal, it is interesting that our Scriptures are made up of just such anecdotal reporting.

These critics challenged our claim that demonic influence can be passed down from generation to generation. Had they any experience with dealing with demonized people, however, they would have discovered that a major difference occurs in freeing people whose forebears have been in occult organizations when God’s power is asserted over the spiritual inheritance possibly acquired from those forebears. When one has dealt as I have with hundreds of persons with such a characteristic and seen the positive results from speaking against generational demonic inheritance, one becomes a believer and has little patience with attacks by those with no experience.

Their other areas of critique showed equally that they neither have experience in this area (a fact I have confirmed in face to face discussion with Priest), nor are able to distinguish between God’s activity in spiritual power and that of the enemy. This puts their critique perilously close to those of Dave Hunt (1985), Hank Hannegraf (of Christian Research Institute) and John MacArthur (1992) whose rationalistic worldviews keep them from understanding differences between God’s and Satan’s activities in the spiritual realm.

2. An area of controversy that has been around longer is the question of whether or not Christians can be demonized. Certain Pentecostal groups hold strongly that when a demonized person comes to Christ he/she is freed from demon possession. There are two problems to be addressed here: the concept of demon possession and the possibility of Christians continuing to carry demons after coming to Christ. The first of these problems is raised by the mistranslation in many English versions of the Greek terms daimonizomai and echein daimonion, each of which means merely to have a demon, never to be possessed by a demon. Nothing in the Greek allows the translation possessed. I believe it is misunderstanding concerning the concept of possession that has led these Pentecostals to take such a strong stand against Christians being demonized (see Reddin 1989 for a rather inadequate but spirited attempt to defend the Assembly of God position–again without the benefit of experience).

With regard to the possibility of Christians carrying demons, the problem is again lack of experience versus experience. Anyone who has dealt with demonized people to any extent soon discovers that there are a lot of people whose salvation experience cannot be denied who are, in fact, carrying demons. It is interesting that the scholar Merrill Unger who taught at Dallas Theological Seminary for some time and wrote several books on demonization was forced to change his opinion on this issue when a member of his own family was found to be demonized. This was after he had published his classic Biblical Demonology. Ed Murphy, who had become a practitioner in deliverance already, was also shocked into recognizing that Christians can have demons when his 14 year old daughter began manifesting demons.

There is no doubt that Christians can be demonized. I have dealt with over 1,000 myself. A useful book on this subject is that by C. Fred Dickason, Demon Possession and the Christian (1987). Dickason gives an exhaustive presentation of the scriptural evidence for and against the possibility and contends that one cannot prove the case either way from the Scriptures. He concludes, therefore, that we must appeal to experience. His experience, mine and everyone else’s lead us to the conclusion that Christians can indeed carry demons.

One possibility that Dickason doesn’t address adequately is the probability (in my estimation) that most of the people Jesus healed and delivered from demons were people of faith. He continually says to them that their faith has made them whole (e.g., Mt 9:22, Mk 10:52, Lk 17:19). I believe the meaning is of this statement is that the person has come in faith to the right Source, Jesus. This coming to Jesus in faith is, I believe, salvific.

The situation with respect to demons in Christians is, in my understanding, parallel to that concerning sin. When a person comes to Christ, the spirit part of that person is renewed and called our New Nature (1 Jn 3:6, 9). I believe this New Nature is free from sin. But sin remains to be dealt with in our body, mind, emotions and will. When a demonized person comes to Christ, then, any demons living in that person’s spirit have to leave that central part of him/her that has become a New Nature. They may, however, continue to live in the person’s body, mind, emotions and will unless dealt with specifically.

3. One of the things Priest, Campbell and Mullen do not like about my and others approach to demons is that we talk to them to get information that we can use against them. We find that demons are like “hostile witnesses” in court. They can be questioned to obtain insight into the kinds of things they have a grip on in the person they inhabit. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, they frequently reveal things that we could not have discovered, such as persons that need to be forgiven. We can then use that information to lead the demonized person to take care of the garbage that gives the demon rights. Even though we must always be careful not to trust what demons tell us, we find the information God gives us through them to be very helpful and to often greatly speed up the process of deliverance.

Those without experience who critique this approach, assume that we should simply command the demons out as Jesus seemed to do without any further interaction with them. Those of us who recognize that it is the garbage that is the biggest problem, however, want to find out what that garbage is. We, therefore, seek to use the demons to reveal what they are connected to in order to do the inner healing that will make the person well, since our aim is getting the person healed, not just delivering him/her from the demons.

There are some who work in deliverance who are also against talking to demons. Doris Wagner and Cindy Jacobs are among them. Doris uses a questionnaire to obtain all the information she needs. She prays over the information on the questionnaire to determine what demons are there and commands them out on that basis. This approach works relatively well for her. We, however, have a steady stream of people coming to us who have received ministry from people who simply command demons out without getting information from them. We usually find that the demons did not leave when simply commanded to go.

4. A further controversy surrounds what to do about cosmic-level spirits. Few who take the Scriptures seriously doubt that there are spirits “in the air” (Eph 2:2). There are those, like Clinton Arnold and the late John Wimber, who contend that we have no scriptural warrant for challenging these higher level spirits. They point out that neither Jesus nor his followers seem to have challenged these spirits.

Those in favor of challenging cosmic-level spirits, however, note that the demons in the Gerasene demoniac begged Jesus not to send them out of that region (Mk 5:10). This, they assert, probably means that the legion of demons inhabiting the demoniac had a territorial assignment, even though they were lodged in a single human being. It is also possible that Jesus’ encounter with Satan at the temptations (Lk 4:1-13) had territorial implications.

Wagner, Otis, Dawson, Silvoso, Jacobs and others (including the Argentinians), however, feel there is enough evidence of the success of direct challenges to cosmic-level spirits that we should continue and escalate our efforts in this regard. Wagner has even suggested that this approach may be part of a new technology God is giving us in these last days.

Whatever one’s position in this controversy, I would like to suggest that the ways in which the cosmic-level garbage is being dealt with are scriptural enough to justify most of what the advocates of direct confrontation are into. That is, we know it is scriptural to advocate repentance, unity of spiritual leaders and intercessory prayer. I see no reason to quibble over spiritual mapping or identificational repentance or prayer walking if they enable us to do these things better. Unfortunately, there are those involved in cosmic-level confrontation who are looking for a “fast foods” approach to spiritual warfare in which they do a few things quickly and declare victory over the enemy. These give the scripturally solid features of this approach a bad name.


We recognize that this is an area of considerable unfamiliarity within Evangelicalism. It, therefore, occasions much discussion and debate. I regard the fact that the subject is out in the open as a very good thing. The emergence of the Third Wave plus the inclusion of Pentecostals and charismatics within Evangelicalism promise to encourage the continuance of dialogue concerning these matters.

In the present situation, then, we find a series of polarizations among Evangelicals. It is probable that the vast majority of Evangelicals are showing little concern for the discussion and a fairly significant segment follow those leaders who speak out against a concern over spiritual warfare. These either deny or ignore the reality of spiritual warfare, often claiming that Jesus took care of everything at the Cross so we do not need to be concerned at all about this area. At the other end of the spectrum, then, are those who see “a demon under every bush” and go completely overboard in their attention to both ground and cosmic-level spiritual warfare. These draw appropriate criticism both from opponents of this emphasis and from those who are more balanced because by blaming demons for everything, they avoid assigning much, if any, human responsibility for negative behavior.

Both of these positions are to be regretted. Those of us who attempt to take a balanced position are, however, frequently stereotyped into the latter position and regarded as extremists, especially by those who wish to ignore the reality of the conflict.

A polarity that often plays a part in the negative approach of the conservatives to discussions concerning spiritual warfare is how to use the Bible. Those who are negative frequently call for chapter and verse support for all approaches to our topic. If, then, there are not specific scriptural commands and guidelines, they feel justified in condemning the whole emphasis. Those in favor of an emphasis on spiritual warfare are at another pole in their use of the Bible. They/we claim that this emphasis fits well within biblical boundaries even if we cannot cite specific Scriptures supporting specific activities. We point out that there are several of the activities that Evangelicals regularly engage in for which there is no specific scriptural support. Among these are citywide evangelistic crusades, Sunday Schools, three-point rationalistic sermons, denominations, Bible schools and seminaries, even the ways we go about interpreting the Scriptures and the like. We would contend, however, that these and other helpful activities are neither unscriptural nor anti-scriptural.

A second set of polarities centers around the focus in dealing with spiritual warfare. One of these involves the opposition between those in favor of the emphasis and those against it. The latter, of course, choose to focus on other things altogether. Among these might be any of a number of good things related to such things as evangelism based on rational presentations of the Gospel, church growth, worship, discipleship and the like. Those at the opposite pole into a focus on spiritual warfare would add that dimension to all of these other good things.

A set of polarities within the emphasis is that between those who focus on deliverance and those whose focus is on inner healing. A further set is that between those who focus on ground-level warfare and those who focus on cosmic-level warfare. As mentioned, there is disagreement among those who accept the reality of cosmic-level spirits as to what to do about them. This sets up a polarity between those who seek to attack cosmic-level spirits and those who hold that there is no scriptural precedent and so we should not be involved in attacking at that level.

With these polarities and the other areas of discussion highlighted, we conclude this presentation. Let me emphasize that this is all tentative and subject to correction and improvement. Any suggestions for improvement will be gratefully received and considered.

Date: 22 Aug 2000

Gathering: 2000 Nairobi


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