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Territorial Spirits and World Evangelization?
Reviewed by A. Scott Moreau
Is strategic level spiritual warfare against territorial spirits the key to world evangelization? Is it really the greatest power boost for missions since William Carey's work inaugurating the modern missions era? Proponents tell us it is; and Chuck Lowe responds.
Lowe's work is the first comprehensive review and critique of this topic, which has taken some mission circles by storm. In it he looks, as expected, at the biblical data. He also looks at history from the Intertestamental writings to the early church fathers to the Reformers. He also samples contemporary animistic beliefs, and explores examples where this type of prayer has been said to have made the difference, whether in lowering crime rates or raising the success of evangelistic efforts. As a case study, he examines the ministry of James Fraser, missionary among the Lisu. Finally, he notes the trend towards “new and improved” in American Christianity and indicates the pervasive impact of this trend on how we think about missions.
In spite of the fact that such far-reaching territory is covered, Lowe's work is practical, readable, and down-to-earth. He blends the mind of a New Testament scholar, the heart of a cross-cultural missionary who is passionate about reaching the world for Christ, and a writing ability, which flows easily and accessibly.
While the critique is devastating and occasionally the tenor is strong, the arguments are never vitriolic and the general atmosphere is one of discussion and dialogue over the evidence rather than personal attack. Lowe works through the proof-texting in both Bible and history, arguing not against the reality of spiritual warfare or even against some type of demonic hierarchies. Rather, his attention is on the contemporary teaching that "warfare prayer" against territorial spirits is the key to reaching the world. Throughout the book, his goal is to examine the evidence, and he does not fall into the trap of feeling he has to prove every point made by the proponents is wrong in order to demonstrate that they have strayed from biblical thinking and historical practice. He does not question their commitment to or zeal in the task of world evangelization, but he does challenge them to think more biblically about the direction they are moving. In sum, a Pentecostal colleague of mine remarked that this is the best critique on the subject–and I agree. May it spark response and discussion and rethinking without denying the reality of spiritual warfare, the Christian's need to engage in it, and the role it has in missionary work
Scott Moreau is Associate Professor of Missions and Intercultural Studies, Wheaton College and editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly from which this review is reprinted with permission.
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