by Dr. Charles Hoole, Principal, Baldaeus Theological College, 2001
Summary: Sri Lanka has been in continuous crisis since 1983; and as the world around us crumbles many Christians are increasingly turning their attention away from the mundane matters, towards the unseen battles of darkness and light, good and evil. As a result a new approach to spiritual warfare is sweeping through churches and missions. No doubt many are convinced that we live in extraordinary times; as such they demand extraordinary measures.
(Note: This article is as submitted for publication. It was edited by the magazine editor for publication.)
Sri Lanka has been in continuous crisis since 1983; and as the world around us crumbles many Christians are increasingly turning their attention away from the mundane matters, towards the unseen battles of darkness and light, good and evil. As a result a new approach to spiritual warfare is sweeping through churches and missions. No doubt many are convinced that we live in extraordinary times; as such they demand extraordinary measures.
For those who value the Bible and Bible-based spiritual practices this is a very disturbing development. Large numbers 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.
Third wave is deceptive; in reality its spiritual disciplines are more pagan than Christian (see my article in Dharma Deepika, Dec.1998, pp.45-51). Deliverance, warfare, prayer are all terms familiar to Bible-believing Christians, however, the new ministries of the movement have given these terms entirely new meanings. Since the defining distinctive of a Third Wave ministry is to deliver others of evil spirits, evangelism seeks to drive demons out people and places so that individuals and groups can come to Christ who would otherwise be prevented. Sanctification likewise seeks to break demonic strongholds inside Christians; on the understanding that ‘when the demon goes the Christian grows’.
It is evident that for the Third Wave the fundamental problem of humanity is not sin, but instead it is conceived as a spirit problem. Based on this animistic-pagan assumption it proposes thaumaturgical (miraculous) solutions to all manner of human problems. Here in Sri Lanka Third Wave ministries and their proponents have gained in influence owing to their close links to the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (EASL). Many Third Wave events are sponsored by EASL, giving them national 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 prove 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.
The Church must reject the warfare methods of the Third Wave in favour of the classic mode, which recognizes the effectiveness of Scripture (2 Tim.3:14-16). Scripture is God’s Word. God thus speaks and acts through Scripture, to bring people to salvation. The alternative is to rely on direct revelations to Third Wave leaders. Over four hundred years ago Martin Luther expressed his confidence in the power of the Word of God when he penned these words:
And tho’ this world, with devils filled
Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim –
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.