C. Peter Wagner Fights The "Religious Spirit"
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 01:02:55 PM EST
"We're in the Second Apostolic Age," declares C. Peter Wagner, "and the government of the church must be in place with apostles and prophets." This new structure is an elaboration on the "Fivefold Ministry" concept in which there are new apostles, who exercise the authority of the Biblical apostles, and new prophets, who are empowered to make new prophecies which have the force of Biblical scripture. Wagner's declaration, on the alleged Second Apostolic Age, is personally convenient because the former Fuller Theological Seminary church growth wunderkind has built, in his International Coalition of Apostles, what may constitute the largest network and political bloc  in the New Apostolic movement.

In this undated video segment recorded at an NAR conference, Peter Wagner describes the emergence of a "new wineskin", which is the new church structure of the "Second Apostolic Age" that Wagner has declared began with the new millennium . "The biggest obstacle to changing something in your church..." Wagner tells his audience, is "the spirit of religion. See, there is a demonic spirit of religion... the spirit of religion is really nasty. Because it is one of the most subtle spirits in the whole kingdom of darkness."

What Wagner, and leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)  attack in this manner is not only all denominationalism within Christianity but also existing doctrine, ritual and most styles of worship. But above all, the notion of a demonic "religious spirit" is used to attack existing denominational and pastoral authority.

In his talk, C. Peter Wagner tells a prolonged 'joke' about a power struggle in a church, between the pastor and the choir director. Wagner's 'joke' describes the choir director's canny choice of hymns that mock the messages of the pastor's sermons. Eventually, the pastor resigns and the choir director mocks even the pastor's public statement that he is leaving his church.

What Wagner describes, as a 'joke', is actually a bitterly fought church takeover and the fact that the takeover is led by a choir director is very significant; the New Apostolic Reformation's approach to worship is heavily experiential and music-driven, and it is an approach to worship from which much of the theological content has been drained out, leaving an emotionally driven, charismatic, visceral and ecstatic framework largely devoid of overt doctrine.

In a November 1, 2005 newsletter of his Global Harvest Ministries, C Peter Wagner described his new book, Freedom From The Religious Spirit:

"In my recent book, Freedom from the Religious Spirit, I pointed out that the chief tactic of this clever demon is to use religious devices to preserve the status quo. If it is successful, the spirit of religion can prevent us from moving into God's new times and seasons.

"...It seems that God is constantly moving us into new times and seasons. He is pouring out new wine, and we are trying to keep up by developing as many new wineskins as we can. And every time we taste the new wine, we get more enthusiastic than ever about moving foward in the next effervescent stream of the Holy Spirit."

On page 12 of his book, Peter Wagner defines "the spirit of religion":

"I have come to the conclusion that the spirit of religion is an agent of Satan assigned to prevent change and to maintain the status quo by using religious devices." [emphasis Wagner's]

Although Wagner and the New Apostolics characterize traditional mainline Protestant denominations as archaic, hidebound holdouts of pro-forma faith and vilify mainline churches, still holding to their traditional forms of worship, as 'dead churches', the New Apostolics typically reserve their harshest criticisms, of traditional Christianity, for the Catholic Church.

In Freedom From The Religious Spirit, Wagner claims that the Catholic Church in Latin America has historically prevented the spread of the Gospel:

"The spirit of religion in the Roman Catholic Church for centuries linked with the political spirit in Latin America and effectively prevented the spread of the Gospel. Once this was broken, evangelical churches began to mushroom." [Freedom From The Religious Spirit, Regal Books, page 22]

Wagner's "spirit of religion" concept fits into an overall style of rhetorical attack deployed by the New Apostolic Reformation against traditional Christianity and against, more broadly, all opposition to the movement;

All opposition to the NAR is quite literally demonized--church opposition is criticized as being under influence of the 'religious spirit' and thus under Satan's sway. Individuals opposing the NAR can be cast as under the sway of the "religious spirit" or even possessed by one or more out of the enormous and growing bestiary of demonic 'spirits' that the New Apostolics seem to be naming and defining into etheric existence . The 'Jezebel Spirit', depicted as the 'spirit of rebellion', is an especially handy spirit for demonizing the opposition because anyone who opposes the NAR is, a priori, under influence of the Jezebel Spirit.

Atop the hierarchy of demon spirits are the 'territorial demons', and squatting near the apex, over Mount Everest, is a purported global-level demon spirit called 'The Queen of Heaven' that prevents, according to Peter Wagner, prayers of Catholics, Muslims, and adherents to other supposedly illegitimate forms of religious belief, from reaching God. In 1997, while Wagner was still running the Colorado Springs World Prayer Center (a joint project of C. Peter Wagner and Tedd Haggard), that center mounted an expedition, conceived by former voodoo priestess turned evangelist Ana Mendez, to Mount Everest to do battle with the "Queen of Heaven." Ana Mendez later suggested that the spiritual warfare waged by the expedition team may have helped contribute to the death of Mother Theresa.

The especial animosity of the New Apostolics towards the Catholic Church is not at all surprising - Rome represents, really, the NAR's most significant opposition. Despite the NAR's rhetorical attacks on denominationalism the movement represents the rise within Christianity of a new mega-denomination that based on current growth patters may one day rival, supersede or even supplant the Catholic Church. As C. Peter Wagner boldly proclaims on his International Coalition of Apostles official web site,

ICA is currently the largest professional society of apostles known with nearly 500 apostles as active members who pay dues, attend an annual meeting, connect with each other, and provide mutual support and accountability.

 Apostles are perceived by their constituencies (which can number up to scores or hundreds or even thousands of churches per apostle) as serving in the office that Jesus established at His ascension:  "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-12.)

What is an apostle?  Here is the ICA definition:  "An apostle is a Christian leader gifted, taught, and commissioned by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly for the extension of the kingdom of God." The Second Apostolic Age began roughly in 2001, heralding the most radical change in the way of doing church at least since the Protestant Reformation.  This New Apostolic Reformation embraces the largest segment of non-Catholic Christianity worldwide, and the fastest growing.  Churches of the Apostolic Movement embrace the only Christian megablock growing faster than Islam.

Below: C. Peter Wagner presides over the ceremony 'celebrating the  Apostolic alignment of Todd Bentley'

... I would see this as the rise of the "Church of the Anti-Christ".

I pray that they don't become as powerful as this article indicates.  It would mean worldwide war - they'd get their "Armageddon" as REAL Christians and Non-Christians alike would resist their attempts at taking over and ruling the world.

As far as rebelling against them- their teachings do NOT bring peace.  Their teachings bring pain, misery, and self-hatred.  The only way you'd ever find "peace" would be by their "dying to self"- destroying your own inner being in order to serve them (and that just doesn't work- after all, it's that "self" that God loves!)  Their "spirit" is one of conflict; racism, sexism, homophobia, hate disguised as love, deception, and spiritual violence.  As Christ did not dominate or "rule as the world does", they should realize that they aren't following His spirit.  They're being mislead at best.

I pray that they could see themselves as others see them (this would be a great  gift and a great kindness).  Maybe they'd repent of their wickedness and turn to a more truly Christian path.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 03:48:57 PM EST

Think the New Apostolic Reformation will be the Babylonian anti-Christ system of the last days.

But, I don't think recourse to eschatology is even necessary. In secular terms the NAR is problematic also. It's deeply dishonest and ragingly intolerant.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 04:18:48 PM EST

If they're based upon the theology I've been exposed to (from different sources), I wonder if they don't see all of the parallels.  Possibly from those "ministries" point of view, there are significant differences.  From another point of view, however, those differences are very minor.

If something like this had come along (and was publicized) when I was an AoG cult member 26 plus years ago, I think they would have been having fits and expecting "Jee-ZUHS" any second.

For some reason, I always knew/expected that they would turn into something very like that which they expressed terror of, and I think I was sensing that even when I was a cult member.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Dec 28, 2008 at 05:19:13 PM EST

Where that goes I'm not sure. Games within games, perhaps.

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 This New Apostolic Reformation embraces the largest segment of non-Catholic Christianity worldwide, and the fastest growing. smarsh.com

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by chineseboy on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 06:53:14 AM EST

The 'Jezebel Spirit', depicted as the 'spirit of rebellion', is an especially handy spirit for demonizing the opposition because anyone who opposes the NAR is, a priori, under influence of the Jezebel Spirit.Nelson Ebner

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Ana Mendez later suggested that the spiritual warfare waged by the expedition team may have helped contribute to the death of Mother Theresa.piso de hule

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