Truth or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare
227 p., paperback
The Lord saved me at a Baptist church that had an unhealthy fixation with spiritual warfare techniques. The leaders modeled such practices as praying hedges of protection around individual people, their homes, and our church. They also were into binding Satan and identifying territorial demons who ruled over neighborhoods and cities.
I remember participating one Saturday in a prayer walk. Many members of our church marched around the parameter of the state university campus in our town in a “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho” fashion. The purpose of the march was for reclaiming the college in Jesus’s name by binding demons and casting out Satan. Thankfully, the campus wasn’t too big, because I just remember it being blazing hot that day.
On another occasion, a deacon teaching our Sunday school class solemnly warned us of how foolish it is to leave our house or dorm room without spiritual protection from God. He earnestly lectured us on the importance of praying a hedge around ourselves and our families so as to prevent demonic influences in our daily lives.
Still another time, we had a Southern Baptist “evangelist” named Sam Cathy come to our church to lead a series of revival services for the week. Each evening he entertained us with his fantastic adventures fighting demons. Like he was Hellboy or something.
Demons, he told us, were typically behind every sinful choice a person made. He supposedly had the power to command the evil spirits to tell him their plans. He recounted one case in which the demons were arranging homosexual liaisons for a particular pastor. The demonic horde intended to raise him up as the president of the SBC and then expose him in a devastating, nationwide scandal. Cathy’s intervention saved not only the pastor, but the SBC.
My church was supposed to be a non-Charismatic Baptist church, mind you. Yet the books of Frank Peretti and the counseling of Neil Anderson shaped the spiritual environment.
Truth or Territory
What I was taught about the devil, demons, and spiritual warfare is not isolated. The average church-goers today, both charismatic and non-charismatic, believe genuine spiritual warfare involves binding Satan, identifying and fighting off territorial spirits, and praying up hedges of protection around themselves and their families. This extremely misguided perception of our enemy is why Jim Osman’s book is an important polemical work addressing the topic.
Osman is the pastor of Kootenai Community Church in northern Idaho. Like me, he came to the Lord in Christian circles that had an aberrant perspective of the demonic. He was taught the same superstitious nonsense I learned about fighting Satan. Methodologies that Osman rightly identifies as more akin to Harry Potter novels than biblical Christianity.
His study is broken into four parts, (all beginning with the letter “E” so you can remember them).
Part one is where Osman establishes the biblical principles regarding spiritual warfare. He opens by bringing us to our starting point, the authority of holy Scripture. As he points out, one’s personal experience often trumps Scripture, especially among the modern spiritual warfare practitioners.
He then provides a brief overview of 2 Corinthians 10 and explains how our battle with spiritual forces has to do with defending biblical and theological truth and nothing at all with taking back physical territory allegedly held by a hierarchy of demons. He ends the first section discussing our true enemy that is a spiritually lethal combination of the Devil, the world, and our flesh.
The second part exposes the key, unbiblical practices of spiritual warfare teachers. He spends five individual chapters exploring what he calls “carnal weapons,” that he defined in the first section in his study of 2 Corinthians 10. Those five practices are praying hedges, hexes, binding Satan, rebuking Satan, and spiritual mapping. Osman thoroughly goes through each one. He evaluates all the proof-texts spiritual warfare experts use to defend them. He then shows how none of them really have anything whatsoever to do with “spiritual warfare.”
Part three explains four important biblical perspectives that comes along with spiritual warfare teaching. He answers three questions: Can a Christian be demon-possesed?, Is Christ’s authority ours?, and What about exorcisms? The fourth perspective is what the Bible teaches regarding spiritual warfare and Christian sanctification. There he spends time refuting the claim that demons are the source of a person’s sin problems.
Lastly in the fourth section, Osman spends a couple of chapters examining Ephesians 6 and the whole armor of God. He provides an exposition of the passage of what Paul actually taught on the subject of spiritual warfare. He then contrasts the truth of Ephesians 6 with what spiritual warfare proponents teach.
In my opinion, pastor Osman has provided Christians with a valuable apologetic resource. He is training Christians how to think about a topic that is pretty much avoided because no one really knows exactly how to interact with the claims put forth by the so-called spiritual warfare experts. His book not only debunks their assertions, but also gives the reader a much needed response in dealing with a pervasive false teaching that has infected numerous congregations. It is well worth the investment.