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Worldviews in Conflict: Christian Cosmology and the Recent Doctrine of Spiritual Mapping (Part 2)

 

Moreover, uncritical inner-guidance, without the direct support of Scripture may work occasionally for private decisions, but it is a poor foundation for public doctrine. Wagner appears sensitive and open to criticism of the practice,65 but sometimes seems defensive when asked whether spiritual mapping is biblical.66 He expresses his best and simplest answer for the reason why he is involved in the practice by saying, “We happen to feel that we are being led by the Holy Spirit.”67

George Otis, Jr., considered by Wagner to be the “top leader of the field,”68 appears more irritated in his response to the question about scriptural justification for spiritual mapping. When asked in an interview on Dutch TV about it, Otis, Jr. basically responded by saying that the whole Bible supports the practice.69 Nothing concrete is offered in terms of the practice’s scriptural foundation.

 

Analogies and Anecdotes vs. Biblical Authority

Throughout this study I have refrained from using personal anecdotes and testimonies that contradict the findings of the spiritual mapping proponents. Although I have numerous stories to tell—and I understand the power of a story—I elected to withhold key illustrations in order to speak plainly about my concerns for biblical authority. When someone you trust tells you a story, you tend to believe him—out of respect and devotion for the person. Yet when biblical truth is involved, we are compelled to look deeper at the process of reasoning.

We must rededicate ourselves to the biblical mandate to preach the Word, release the captives, and give ourselves wholly to our cities and communities—as their servants!—and as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many believers today are more interested in the latest “word” and testimonies of miraculous accounts rather than the slow and more tedious task of ascertaining biblical certainty. Like “news from the front,” we exult at the first words of victory. However, it is more characteristic of a nervous people to receive good news uncritically than to probe more deeply for biblical explanations.

How should we respond to the news of several cities across the globe experiencing revival because of the success of spiritual warfare? Admittedly, we have no reason to doubt the credibility of the stories, testimonies and accounts of transformed lives and cities by the power of God.70 Nor should we question the obvious victory of the Kingdom of God in these places over the forces of darkness. Such is reportedly the case in cities such as Almolonga, Guatemala, and Cali, Colombia.71 Christians everywhere should be thankful for the large-scale conversions and give glory to God.

Nevertheless, we have sufficient biblical support to doubt that the main reason for the transformations is reducible to the careful research of demonic powers within those regions. I would argue, contrariwise, that the wonderful transformation of individuals and cities in South America, Africa, and the U.S. is due more to the providential might of God, and the profound willingness of a minority of dedicated believers to actually care for their city, rather than the study of demonic influences.

Some of the church leaders showed the extent of their dedication and sacrifice by literally laying down their lives for the harvest.72 We cannot underestimate the power of God resident in unfettered passion for the lost, nor the resilient efforts by those called to reach a city. Spiritual mapping is not necessarily the reason for success in those cities, the sovereign work of Almighty God and the obedient compassion of a few Christians may sufficiently explain the phenomena. Once again, we must not allow our individual perspective of reality to shape our biblical positions, a point—ironically—that Otis, Jr. makes himself.73

C. Peter Wagner’s attempt to justify the practice of spiritual mapping biblically by the use of analogy also falls short of the mark. He proposes that criticisms about spiritual mapping are similar to the issues raised about the historic Sunday School Movement and the abolition of slavery.74 His basic point is somewhat valid; the church has practices that are only remotely connected to Bible truth, such as our traditional wedding ceremony. However, the wedding ceremony expresses a legitimate biblical and cultural attitude toward the sanctity and regality of marriage. The Sunday School Movement was based squarely on the biblical principle to educate adults and children in the ways of God (Lev. 10:11; Deut. 6:7; Col 3:16; I Tim. 4:11; II Tim. 2:24-25). The practice of slavery, which persisted in the ancient and modern world on the basis of faulty economic grounds, human pride and ignorance, was implicitly denounced by the New Testament teaching of equality in the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:12-26; Gal. 3:28-29).

 

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Category: Living the Faith, Winter 2002

About the Author: Larry L. Taylor, M.A., D.Min., is Affiliate Faculty at Regis University in the Denver area and formerly professor of humanities at Portland Bible College. Larry Taylor founded a church in Colorado and has 17 years of pastoral experience.

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