Truth or Territory – A Book Review

truthTruth or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare
Jim Osman
227 p., paperback

Shortly after I came to know the Lord, I began attending a Baptist church that had an unhealthy fixation with spiritual warfare techniques. Leaders modeled such practices as praying hedges of protection around individual people, their homes, and our church, binding Satan, and identifying territorial demons who ruled over neighborhoods and cities.

I remember once how a prayer walk was organized during which members of our church marched around the parameter of the state university campus in our town in a “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho” fashion binding demons and claiming authority over the place in Jesus’s name. Thankfully, the campus wasn’t too big, because I just remember it being blazing hot that day.

On another occasion, a deacon teaching our Sunday school class solemnly warned us of how foolish it is to leave your house or dorm room without spiritual protection from God. He lectured us on the importance of praying a hedge around ourselves and our families so as to prevent demonic influences in our lives.

Still another time, we had a Southern Baptist “evangelist” named Sam Cathy come to our church to lead a series of revival services for the week. Each evening he entertained us with his fantastic adventures fighting demons. He told us of how demons were typically behind every sinful choice a person made. He told us how he commanded demons to tell him their plans, and in one case, the demons were arranging homosexual liaisons for a particular pastor with the intent of bringing him to be the president of the SBC and exposing him in a devastating, nationwide scandal.

My church was supposed to be a non-Charismatic Baptist church, mind you; yet the books of Frank Peretti and the counseling of Neil Anderson shaped the spiritual environment.

What I was taught about the devil, demons, and spiritual warfare is not isolated. The average church-goers today, both charismatic and non-charismatic, believes genuine spiritual warfare involves binding Satan, identifying and fighting off territorial spirits, and praying up hedges of protection around themselves and their families. This extremely misguided perception of our enemy is why Jim Osman’s book is an important polemical work addressing the topic.

Osman is the pastor of Kootenai Community Church in northern Idaho. Like me, he came to the Lord in Christian circles that had an aberrant perspective of the demonic. He was taught the same superstitious nonsense I was taught about fighting Satan. Methodologies that Osman rightly identifies as more akin to Harry Potter novels than biblical Christianity.

His study is broken into four parts (all beginning with the letter “E” so you can remember them).

Part one is where Osman establishes the biblical principles regarding spiritual warfare. He opens by bringing us to our starting point, the authority of holy Scripture. As he points out, one’s personal experience often trumps Scripture, especially among the modern spiritual warfare practitioners.

He then provides a brief overview of 2 Corinthians 10 and explains how our battle with spiritual forces has to do with defending biblical and theological truth and nothing at all with taking back physical territory allegedly held by a hierarchy of demons. He ends the first section discussing our true enemy that is a spiritually lethal combination of the Devil, the world, and our flesh.

The second part exposes the key, unbiblical practices of spiritual warfare teachers. He spends five individual chapters exploring what he calls “carnal weapons,” that he defined in the first section in his study of 2 Corinthians 10. Those five practices are praying hedges, hexes, binding Satan, rebuking Satan, and spiritual mapping. Osman thoroughly goes through each one, looking over the proof-texts spiritual warfare experts use to defend them and explains why many of them have nothing whatsoever to do with “spiritual warfare.”

Part three explains four important biblical perspectives that comes along with spiritual warfare teaching. He answers three questions, Can a Christian be demon-possesed?, Is Christ’s authority ours?, and What about exorcisms? The fourth perspective is what the Bible teaches regarding spiritual warfare and Christian sanctification and he answers the notion that demons are the source of a person’s sin problems.

Lastly in the fourth section, Osman spends a couple of chapters examining Ephesians 6 and the whole armor of God. He provides an exposition of the passage, contrasting what Paul actually taught on the subject of spiritual warfare and what spiritual warfare proponents teach. It is a well done part of the book.

In my opinion, pastor Osman has provided Christians with a valuable apologetic resource. He is training Christians how to think about spiritual warfare by addressing a topic that is pretty much avoided because no one really knows exactly how to interact with the claims put forth by a number of alleged spiritual warfare experts. His book not only debunks their assertions, but also gives the reader a much needed response in dealing with a pervasive false teaching that has infected numerous congregations. It is well worth the investment.


9 thoughts on “Truth or Territory – A Book Review

  1. Pingback: Reviews | hipandthigh

  2. Interesting post, especially as spiritual warfare is such a neglected subject except amongst some who think of little else!

    Personally, I believe in a hierarchical creation, with angels and corresponding fallen angels or demons above man in this creation. It is clear that there is spiritual warfare in the heavenlies as revealed in Daniel, but there is no commmand for us as believers to get involved in this.

    I have also been struck by a verse in Jude – But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” . Even an archangel is below Satan in rank, and therefore only God can deal with him. Some Christians think they now outrank Satan and the principalities and powers and can ‘bind’ such strongholds of evil power, but there is no scripture commanding us to do this. I think this is for God alone to deal with.

    Jesus did give his disciples authority over demons or unclean spirits, and in his name they can drive them out. This is still valid for today, but very few Christians would have a clue how to recognise the activity of a demon, let alone know how to deal with it. This unfortunately leaves the field clear for deliverance ‘experts’ who build a huge ediface on very little scriptural foundation.

    I would also agree with you a lot of demonic inflitration in churches and believers’ lives comes in the form of false doctrine. The word of truth which is the sword of the Spirit is the answer to this.

    Nevertheless, for those who have been involved in occult activities, for example, deliverance from demons may be necessary, and I have seen this personally. I’m in no sense an expert in it though, but it is in the NT and it is real.

    I also believe believer’s baptism can be effective in this area.

    I really ought to read Frederick Leahy’s Satan Cast Out again for a sober treatment of a subject that ends to attract extremes. It’s a tad better than Pigs in the Parlour, which blames everything on demons, and is self-refuting!

  3. Thanks Fred for the review. I heard about this book a year ago and downloaded it and have read parts of it. As someone who grew up in denominations much like yours, this teaching about spiritual warfare was revolutionary and it still is. My pastor (Don Green – Truth Community Church) did a great sermon series on Ephesians and his treatment of Ephesians 6 is well worth listening too. Thanks again and I hope everyone reading this will read this book as well.

  4. Many Christians are leaving Christianity. Debates between skeptics and believers on the internet are helping to fuel this exodus.

    I believe that a “one size fits all” approach to debating Christians is misguided. I recently wrote a post on my blog entitled, “How to Debate a Christian”. I believe that the key to debating Christians is to know which type of Christian he or she is: a Liberal, a Moderate, or a Fundamentalist. I believe that each of these three types of Christian has a different weakness in their Christian belief system; a weakness which the atheist/skeptic can take advantage of to win the debate. I would be interested in a Christian critique of my post if anyone has the time and inclination.

    Blog: Escaping Christian Fundamentalism
    Post: How to Debate a Christian


  5. Gary writes,
    Many Christians are leaving Christianity.

    There are no Christians leaving Christianity. There are churched kids who were never saved leaving the Christian faith. I wrote about this at length in these two posts,

    First one,

    second one,

    Read them and ponder. If you used to be in church as you claim and actually paid attention and read the Bible, you know the Scriptures teach that many are false converts and trials expose their lack of faith.

    Debates between skeptics and believers on the internet are helping to fuel this exodus.

    I disagree. The debates I have seen on the internet are two-fold:
    First, there are the kind where both participants are idiots and don’t know what they are talking about.
    Second, there are the kind where the atheist is an idiot and doesn’t know what he is talking about and he gets angry after being exposed as a hack and leaves the debate.

    In both instances, the “debate” hasn’t caused the exodus of anyone. People are already convinced of their position before the debate took place.

    I believe that each of these three types of Christian has a different weakness in their Christian belief system; a weakness which the atheist/skeptic can take advantage of to win the debate.

    I read over that post (helpful hint: Maybe actually put a link in your comment the next time. It’s irritating to have to go and hunt for something), but honestly, it was “meh.” Once I get caught up on some work here, I will read through again and may offer some comments in the form of a post.

  6. Gary – I await Fred’s post with interest.

    For my part, I think you dismiss Christian experience too lightly. Answered prayer is a good example. I know coincidences can occur, but I can speak from limited experience that God does indeed heal physical ailments, you are wrong to assume this never happens despite the charlatans and ‘faith healers’ who are bogus. So you lose your bet that I for one cannot find a ‘miracle’ that can only have a natural explanation. These are cases with medical verification of the condition, both before and after.

    I don’t believe because of answered prayer, however, I have experienced answered prayer because I believe. I would be reticent to make unjustifiably dogmatic claims of this for any one incident, but over the long haul this has undoubtedly happened.

    I also believe the bible because I find its diagnosis of the human condition makes sense, whereas everything else is too shallow, even if it contains some element of truth.

    I am aware of the history of the text of the bible, a fascinating subject. The variations in the text are noted in any good standard translation, and do not make a significant impact (if any) on Christian doctrine.

    I’m not quite sure where I fit in your categories. I do believe the Genesis account of creation – that God created the heavens and the earth is non-negotiable. The length of time this took is secondary – does it really matter? The text itself doesn’t really deal with this. It is literal truth in symbolic language, how literal is a matter of interpretation, not a question as to its veracity. I do not find unguided evolution a very satisfactory explanation of why there is something rather than nothing. Like it or not, anyone debating this has unprovable presuppositions.

    There are plenty of Christians who have ‘science and reason’. Indeed the existence of reason is more in line with the Christian world view than the atheist. Does reason even really exist in an atheist material-only world, or is it the atheists’ imaginary friend? :-)

    May I pose a question for you? I wouldn’t claim Christians have ready answers for all the questions an atheist may put to them, but why when there are good answers that make a criticism no longer tenable do so many atheists ignore the answer and mindlessly carry on repeating the same objections? Is it not because unbelief, like belief, is chosen, rather than being a default position.

  7. Pingback: Books I Heard or Read in 2016 | hipandthigh

Leave me a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s