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of Faith


Wrestling with Demons?

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by Dr. Charles Hoole, Principal, Baldaeus Theological College, June 2001

An increasing number of Christians see a demon behind every bush. Some even go so far as to view all the problems of life as demonically animated. As such their own problems - temper, sexual lust, discouragement, overeating, loneliness, disappointment, poverty - would become personalized as demons of the respective sin or struggle that needed to be cast out. They live their `Christianity' as if the universe teemed with demonic agencies whose will and activity provide life's ultimate explanation for human evil. With this mindset they would habitually bind, rebuke and attempt to cast/drive out demons from all manner of places and people.

What we are witnessing here is a new approach to spiritual warfare which is presently sweeping through churches and missions in Sri Lanka. For those who value the Bible and Bible-based spiritual practices this is a very disturbing development. Indeed a large number of classical pentecostals and evangelicals are discarding their own traditional spiritual disciplines in favour of new ones as they embrace the spiritual movement that is called `the third wave of the Holy Spirit'. The practice of casting or driving out spirits captures the most distinctive feature of the movement. It began in the early 70's centering around Fuller Theological Seminary, U.S.A., since then it has under American patronage grown into a world-wide movement.

This Third Wave movement is in reality more pagan than Christian (see my article in Dharma Deepika, Dec.1998, pp.45-51). The defining distinctive of a Third Wave ministry is to deliver others of evil spirits. Evangelism thus seeks to drive demons out people and places; while sanctification seeks to break demonic strongholds inside Christians. Such methods of spiritual warfare grow directly out of people's worldview, and in this case it has a great deal of affinity with animistic paganism - a world, including material objects, that is animated by the spirit. It is the initiation into an animistic worldview that enables Third-Wavers to see a demon behind every bush. For in that world, rivers, trees, stones, mountains, the sun, moon and sacred objects are considered to possess spiritual power caused by the indwelling of spirit beings. This sort of world teaming with spirits would no doubt produce widespread fear which in turn drives people to the shaman (kapurala, kattadirala, suniyakkaran) who attempts to control the spirits by mediating between this world and the world of the spirits.

Based on this animistic-pagan assumption Third Wave proposes miraculous solutions to all manner of human problems. But these solutions verge toward the occult and ecstatic. Here in Sri Lanka Third Wave ministries and their proponents have gained in influence owing to their close links to EASL (Evangelical Alliance Sri Lanka). Many Third Wave events are sponsored by EASL, giving them a great deal of prominence within conservative Christianity.

Two examples below illustrate the heterodox (unorthodox) character of Third Wave and the ensuing dangers it poses to orthodox Christianity.

Prayer Warfare in Colombo Reaching for Reconciliation conference held on 1-4 Nov. 2000 again reveals Third Wave's distinctive approach to resolving the ethnic conflict. The event was sponsored by EASL and in the long list of local conveners, Tamil leaders were conspicuous by their absence. The arrival of an international team of intercessors from the AD2000 & Beyond Prayer Movement for Liberty of Nations gave the event specific direction and heightened expectation of dramatic changes in the nation's history. These internationals under the leadership of Peter Wagner have made some astonishing claims about the effects of warfare prayer, how it has freed cities and nations of the world from the powers of darkness. That it altered history by helping to bring down the Berlin Wall, depose the tyrant Manuel Noriega, revive the economy in Argentina, and so on. Here their task was to engage the spiritual powers that operate behind the warring ethnic groups. It requires identification of names and territories of ruler demons and involves prayer journeys to specific sites.

The conference therefore engaged in prayer warfare with the aim of releasing the warring ethnic groups from demonic captivity. The overriding character of prayer warfare is aggression. Christians are to go on he offensive, take the war into enemy territory. First is to seek the name of the ruler spirit and to identify its territory. Possession of this information renders the spirits more vulnerable to attack. The second step is to use a demon's name in direct rebuke, conveying power over it. It needs to be said that this sort of fascination with and use of names of demons in religious rituals is more akin to occult than Biblical Christianity.

Daniel and Prayer: Nonetheless Daniel 10 is often cited by Third Wave proponents as providing evidence of prayer warfare against ruling spirits. On the contrary, Daniel never seeks the names of demons or the angels, nor does he use them in prayer. In fact the only names he receives are those of Gabriel and Michael, the angels helping Israel (8:16; 9:21; 10:13, 21; 12:1). Moreover the evil spirits are known simply by their generic titles, "prince of Persia" and "prince of Greece". Being knowledgible of the indigenous religion and culture Daniel would have known the personal names of the national gods - similar to Nata, Kataragama, Vishnu and Pattini of Buddhist Sri Lanka - but he prefers to use a singular generic title which would encompass a plurality of guardian deities. In chapter 10, he simply prays for the explanation of a dream; he prays to his God, not at certain demonic powers. In none of his prayers in the book does he rebuke the demons; neither does he shout, `I bind you!' Only one extended prayer is recorded in the book and that is a prayer of confession and repentance (9:2-23). It is clear that Daniel never practices prayer warfare.

Territorial Spirits in Hingurakgoda During the past few months many prominent Third Wave national leaders based in Colombo have been regularly visiting the Polonnaruva district in an attempt to engage in strategic-level spiritual warfare against spirits of various ranks that rule over that geographical region, including the towns and villages. According to Third Wave teaching, the spirits - which act as Satan's agents - blind the people from coming to faith, by occupying specific territory where they tend to attach themselves to buildings and idols, or indwell trees and mountains.

Much of the Third Wave activities in the region centred around the Christian Centre in Hingurakgoda. Local leaders were trained by the Colombo teams to engage in warfare against the territorial spirits such as Minneriya Deviyo and Bisso Bandara Deviyo. Subsequently, rituals of shouting and binding, of cursing and rebuking were performed at selected sites in and around Hingurakgoda. One of the local pastors from a rodi- kattadirala background soon became the foremost exponent of this type of warfare. All these activities happened only weeks before tragedy struck Hingurakgoda. It may be observed here that these rituals have their parallels in the anti-sorcery rites performed by the Buddhist kattadiralas and Hindu suniyakkarar.

Third Wave will no doubt continue to make fantastic claims about their contribution to World Christianity. But a serious assessment of their activities proves otherwise. In Polonnaruva district alone their aggressive warfare methods have had a destructive effect on Christian-Buddhist relations. Many traditional Christians living and witnessing in that region are under a lot of pressure, some have been summoned to appear before the Polonnaruva magistrate without being charged.

These two examples show that a great deal of fiction, superstition, fantasy, nonsense and downright heresy flourishes in the church because the world around us has become increasingly pagan. With the death of the belief that science could know all things and solve all problems, the spirit world is growing in its influence; occult thinking is on the rise, including astrology and spirit religion as reflected in the spread of the cult of Huniam and Kali. As such people are fascinated with spirit powers, and also with violence and sexual perversion. It is precisely these beliefs and practices of our surrounding cultures that are infiltrating the church, particularly through the Third-Wave movement.

To counter this growing threat of subversion the church must reclaim the true spiritual warfare. It recognizes the effectiveness of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:14-16). Scripture is God's Word. God thus speaks and acts through his Word in the power of his Spirit, in order to deliver others from evil and restore them to himself. The alternative is to rely on direct revelations to Third Wave leaders. The leading elements of the biblical mode of warfare is best captured by Eph. 6:10-20: reliance on the power and protection of God, embracing the Word of God, specific obedience, fervent and focused prayer, and the aid of fellow believers. God has given his people effective weapons for the warfare we must fight. By believing, praying, repenting, obeying, seeking and serving, we entreat God to bring light into darkness, freedom from bondage, sanity where there is confusion.

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