A Short History of C. Peter Wagner’s Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare in Action:Using Harold Caballeros’ “Spiritual Espionage” in Guatemala
Thank you for providing these clear and biblical guidelines with your counterbalancing notes from David Powlinson’s book. They are really very helpful. However, I am distressed that your critique of this overview of the four models of modern Spiritual Warfare ended so soon. Do you plan to continue your assessment of this work by looking at the even more wildly aberrant method of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare propagated by Wagner? This is desperately needed, as there is little understanding in the mainstream church of the anti-gospel roots of these kinds of Warfare Prayer techniques, such as Prayer Walking and Spiritual Mapping, that he helped to popularize.
And sadly, because the heretical movement Wagner leads — the New Apostolic Reformation– has been able to masquerade as Evangelical for so long, and because their propaganda arm — the series of Transformation videos Wagner produced with George Otis, Jr. — are so effective at spinning the truth, many of their teachings and technologies have seeped into the orthodox church. The popular idea of prayer walking, for example, abandons one-on-one evangelism for marching about a neighborhood, claiming territories for the Kingdom, binding spirits that hold people and cities captive, and changing the ‘spiritual atmosphere.’ The focus is not on the person and work of Jesus Christ, but on Satan and his minions. Wagner also teaches that it is people groups who are first saved, and then individual souls. Sadly, the gospel is often not preached to those individuals, in lieu of this unbiblical focus.
Wagner’s technology of Spiritual Mapping has had a particularly malign influence in the world of missions. It again focuses prayer away from the Gospel and moves it towards the heroic efforts of Spiritual Warriors who battle demonic forces, and their influence over societies. It becomes very dangerous when coupled with the authority Wagner cedes to his coalition of Super Apostles, who issue decrees based on very questionable prophecies and words of knowledge.
We see the toxic effect of these Spiritual Warfare technologies, which can demonize whole populations, in the blighted country of Guatemala through the influence of C. Peter Wagner’s co-author, the Super Apostle and mega-church pastor Harold Caballeros. This flawed theology, combined with the Dominionist culture of the New Apostolic Reformation that borrows heavily from Old Testament types, created a perfect scenario for the scorched earth policies of President Rios-Montt – a terrifying eighteen months in which the native Mayan peoples were systematically eliminated by death squads because their heritage was considered satanic.
He supervised a short reign of terror in which an estimated 70,000 unarmed civilians were killed or disappeared, and is now finally on trial there for crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, one of his former generals, fellow School of the Americas alumnus Otto Perez Molina, is now president. And Molina installed New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) apostle Harold Cabelleros as Foreign Minister, who is featured prominently in those Transformations videos, mentioned above. He is a long-time colleague of Peter Wagner, he ran for president of Guatemala himself, and is founder of El Shaddai, a 9000 member church in Guatemala City.
Harold Caballeros has had connections to many of the controversial figures in Guatemala’s political struggles — such as church member Edward Perisen, former head of the PNC, the national police force. According to the New York Times, several officers in the PNC were dismissed in 2007 after a series of extra judicial killings. As reported in the Times on 3/05/07, one PNC official said, “The officers in these squads belong to evangelical churches, and see the extrajudicial killings of gang members, known here as `social cleansing,’ as holy work. But they also have begun to commit crimes for their own profit.” And as Perisen explained on a weekly television show produced to provide police officers with the “spiritual resources they needed to combat the forces of evil” before he fled the country:
The prophet and Apostle of Christ, Brother Harold Cabelleros and his wife, the prophetess, of whom I am a humble servant, instrument and means for taking them to Power in Guatemala and having a Government of God, were charged with the moral and spiritual motivation…
“The death squads that still function within the PNC and the Ministry of Government, are a holy enterprise that is organized by agents and personnel from Evangelical churches that know our obligations to society…I must recognize that the story published in the New York Times on March 5 of this year is true; the “social cleansing” that, together with Carlos Vielman as Minister of Government we carried out in the institution, had to be done and must continue, as I understand has been ordered to the new authorities…it is not a justification; it is, rather, a recognition that when one is humble and is an instrument of DIVINE JUSTICE…
In a 2007 interview with Charisma magazine, C. Peter Wagner said during Caballeros’ unsuccessful bid for the Presidency in Guatemala:
“Christians in the global South are way ahead of us in this area,” Wagner said. “The values of the kingdom of God should penetrate every level of society, and they understand that. … [Caballeros is] doing it right, going right to the top and taking dominion.”
Later, with Rios-Montt on trial for human rights violations, Wagner did some revisionist history, as is his wont, and blamed the president’s generals for the problems. But that same general, Molina, is now in power and appointed as his foreign minister Wagner’s fellow apostle– the pastor whose church members ran death squads for God! A man who wrote a rather interesting chapter in the book Wagner edited, Breaking Strongholds In Your City: How To Use Spiritual Mapping To Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Targeted and Effective . Caballeros writes that he had been reading the biblical verses that describe the binding of the “strong man.” A dream was told him of three rough hands holding transparent ropes joining three specific Guatemalan cities. Then another believer named the three who held the ropes. Investigations revealed those three persons were conducting “evil works of the devil” in those three cities, through money, politics and drug dealing. After Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare, the first was jailed awaiting trial, the second lost his office, and the third’s power was greatly diminished. Caballeros said this of Spiritual mapping in the book he helped Wagner write, “Spiritual mapping is a means toward identifying the enemy. It is our spiritual espionage.”
In his chapter Harold Caballeros also described a case in which one of his El Shaddai Church’s Spiritual Mapping teams was divinely informed that a single individual was responsible for the Satanic forces oppressing a specific geographical area. God then revealed that person’s identity:
“While we were in prayer the Lord spoke and said, “Tomorrow I will give you the man’s first and last name in the newspaper.” He also told us on which page it would occur. It was something absolutely supernatural and exciting to discover right on that page the full name of the person dedicated to these activities.”
One can only guess at the means Caballeros took to deal with this evildoer that the LORD himself identified. He does not say. But Caballeros has publicly suggested that Catholics are not Christians and in his books claimed Guatemala and Central America are cursed due to an ancient Mayan pact with Satan. These kinds of teachings undergirded the hundreds of massacres on Mayan villages that were carried out during the eighteen months of Rios-Montts reign of terror. One Gospel Outreach pastor defended the killings:
“The army doesn’t massacre the Indians. It massacres demons, and the Indians are demon-possessed; they are communists. We hold brother Efraín Ríos Montt like King David of the Old Testament. He is the king of the New Testament. (pg 238)”
Because these Third Wave Hyper-Charismatics operate under an Old Testament typology, and in Exodus 22 God instructs that a witch may not be permitted to live, we can assume that the threat to Guatemala from one of Satan’s local operating agents –remember, God himself revealed this person to Caballeros – was very effectively minimized. As Caballeros wrote here, “when the strong man is vanquished in a given territory, the inhabitants become free to receive the light of the gospel.”
In his writings Peter Wagner has elaborated at length about the Kingdom Now “dominion mandate”and what it means and at a 2008 NAR conference declared,
“Dominion has to do with control. Dominion has to do with rulership. Dominion has to do with authority and subduing and it relates to society… Dominion means being the head and not the tail. Dominion means ruling as kings.”
Guatemala’s history amply demonstrates that this dangerous kind of Kingdom Now Dominionism can also mean demonizing your opponents. And because some in charge there seem to have forgotten that our “struggle is not against flesh and blood”, and have forgotten that we are not an Old Testament Theocracy, it can also mean that when a Dominionist king goes out to war he cleanses the land of those demonic forces oppressing him with Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare. Equipped with some hammers and guns, like in What Happened at Dos Erres. All this so the light of the Gospel could shine. I guess.
Earlier in his career, Wagner defended his models of church growth with a rather blood-chilling quote
“… we ought to see clearly that the end DOES justify the means. What else possible could justify the means? If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good method. If, on the other hand, my method is not accomplishing the goal, how can I be justified in continuing to use it?” (C. Peter Wagner, “Your Church Can Grow – Seven Vital Signs Of A Healthy Church”, 1976, pg. 137. – emphasis in original)
But we know that Scripture asserts that such a pragmatic approach is not a fitting frame for the Gospel. John MacArthur says of such an approach:
But when pragmatism is used to make judgments about right and wrong, or when it becomes a guiding philosophy of life, theology, and ministry, inevitably it clashes with Scripture. Spiritual and biblical truth is not determined by testing what “works” and what doesn’t. We know from Scripture, for example, that the gospel often does not produce a positive response (1 Cor. 1:22, 23;2:14). On the other hand, satanic lies and deception can be quite effective (Matt. 24:23, 24; 2 Cor. 4:3, 4). Majority reaction is no test of validity (cf Matt. 7:13, 14), and prosperity is no measure of truthfulness (cf Job 12:6). Pragmatism as a guiding philosophy of ministry is inherently flawed. Pragmatism as a test of truth is nothing short of satanic. (Ashamed of the Gospel, xii)
The horrifying legacy of SLSW in Guatemala illustrates truth of these charges. Whatever its innocuous original intent, Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare has morphed into an entity with terrible consequences when it is utilized in the real world of governance by unaccountable officials and super-Apostles.
I wrote the above report, very conflicted about the interesting variety of sources I have had to rely upon for historical verification of the facts of this history of the NAR Apostles working in the government of Guatemala through the teachings of Super Apostle Harold Caballeros, and the members of his megachurch, El Shaddai. I am fully aware of the contentious history of this tormented country, particularly the critiques of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberto Menchu by the anthropologist David Stoll, as it has been reported by the New York Times. It causes me no end of grief that there are no solid sources of journalism that readers of this blog would be more inclined to trust, which have an Evangelical imprimatur — such as World magazine.
Nevertheless, the connections between the Dominionist Apostle and megachurch leader Harold Caballeros and the systematic elimination of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala as it filtered its way through the army of Rios-Montt and the secret police who were members of El Shaddai cannot be explained away or ignored by responsible Christian people. It was clearly accomplished because of the teaching of Caballeros that the ‘demonic oppresssion’ the country suffered could be blamed on the indigenous peoples’ Mayan heritage. They are dangerous teachings in actual practice, and must be firmly opposed by the mainline churches.
And still, nearly thirty years later, the blood of an estimated 200,000 civilians in Guatemala cries out from the ground. May the Evangelical Church cry out with them! And may God speed justice for the crimes committed against them!Explore posts in the same categories: Strange Fire comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.