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

 

Since the practice of spiritual mapping lacks clear biblical support, where does it find its support and inspiration? The aforementioned analogies, anecdotes and inner-guidance of the adherents appear to offer the main support for the doctrine. However, when pressed on the issue of biblical support, proponents sometimes graft in extra-canonical sources or pagan worldviews to fuel their positions.75 Concerning the latter, for instance, Wagner tells a story about a demon being attached to furnishings in his home office;76 his testimony reflects a common belief associated with animism. Cindy Jacobs offers a comparative account of a Bible being placed in the cement foundation of a building site, as a means of dispelling spiritual powers connected to an Islamic group that planned to build a training facility.77 Thus the Bible was treated as a sacred charm—with inherent powers of its own—a practice known in religious studies as “fetishism.”

As a believer in the supernatural power of God, I find it awkward—even embarrassing at times—to feel the need to question some accounts of healing miracles. For example, we read of a five-year old boy who is healed of severe leg cramps. We hear the familiar story that, upon examination, his doctors can offer no natural explanation.78 His anxious but devoted mother, on the other hand, having a more invested interest in the boy’s recovery, searches frantically for a cure. A careful inventory of the boy’s bedroom reveals a dog statue that had been purchased in a foreign country. It immediately becomes suspect as a demonic residence. After angrily destroying the object, the mother is soon delighted to find her son miraculously healed. The demons have apparently been evicted along with the artifact.

The question is: is this practice, as well as others associated with the spiritual mapping movement, part of a “new work of God?” Or, are they an indication that a more primitive and dualistic worldview is being revived and propagated in the church? Wagner, himself, avoids the direct criticism that he is a practicing dualist, since he admits that Satan and his demons may only perform acts that God permits.79 Nevertheless, by attempting to identify specific demonic forces by removing statues and other artifacts, or by examining the history of a community or a region’s distinctive cultural features, his position is open to the charge that it is more characteristic of a primitive worldview than of biblical faith. It invites us into the world of divination and shamanism—and a search for spirits both past and present. Given our own country’s long and illustrious history with Native Americanism, “spiritual mappers” will no doubt be prosperous on the road ahead.

My challenge is this: must we resort to manipulation and ritualistic contrivance to outwit the devil? Is the greatest weapon of the church and the individual believer reduced to a complex methodology in which good triumphs over evil in the same way a better chess player checkmates his opponent? Once again, the picture I reject is one that suggests Satan is the current landowner, and God’s people must wrest it from him. Rather, it is an impoverished theology that maintains the sovereignty of God and the inherent power of the gospel is insufficient to crush the enemy.

According to the proponents of spiritual mapping, the war depends on church leaders and, especially intercessors, to rout the forces of evil. Based upon its early relative success, it would seem that human nature, typically restless and malcontent with God’s more patient strategy, appears ready to receive this doctrine with “itching ears” (II Tim. 4:3). One gets the impression that Christ’s simple directive to obey the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) has been transformed into a complex set of human formulas and conference lessons that, once again, promise to be the latest answer to the church’s problem of ineffectiveness.

The net result is a powerful and popular movement, especially among Pentecostal and charismatic churches, where prophetic insights sometimes transcend biblical boundaries. Unfortunately, this is a movement whose doctrine remains, at best, dubious on scriptural grounds and, at worst, a sign of a revitalization of primitive and foreign cosmology that is symptomatic of our so-called open-minded churches80 today. Therefore, it is my conclusion that, while the interest and call to new levels of spiritual warfare is biblically-based, the fascination and practice of spiritual mapping is not.

 

Returning to the Basics

Finally, I conclude by appealing to the hearts of the shepherds and calling the church back to its heritage—admittedly a distinctive Western heritage—that properly balances the physical and spiritual world orders and recognizes the critical role of biblical inspiration. Do we really need to understand the nature of the powers of darkness behind the scenes in order to rebuke the demonic reality that’s portrayed right in front of our noses? Fighting pornography, disease, malnutrition, prostitution and poverty still require a balance of spiritual warfare and deliberate, organized action.

“It is my conclusion that, while the interest and call to new levels of spiritual warfare is biblically-based, the fascination and practice of spiritual mapping is not.”

Let us face the biblical facts; the devil is a real influence in the world today, the church has not always performed its duty with respect to its commitment to the Great Commission, and our civilization has suffered from roughly three centuries of humanistic tradition.81 My advice is simple: we do not have to abandon our Western Mosaic cosmology in order to benefit from the war being waged against Satan. We must, instead, 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.

 

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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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