by C. Peter Wagner
March 4, 2011
In our charismatic circles today, “the spirit of religion” is frequently mentioned. I don’t know how far back this goes, but not a long way. The first message I heard on the subject of the spirit of religion was in 2003. I listened carefully because in the previous year, 2002, God had spoken to me about paying close attention to this area, which I had been doing. I soon discovered that (1) this is an extremely important issue, and (2) it is quite a bit deeper than many may have imagined.
Since then we have been making some good progress in understanding more about the spirit of religion. I published a book in 2005, Freedom from the Religious Spirit, in which I invited eight others to contribute chapters. That brought us up to date on what we had been learning. One of the eight, Tommi Femrite, had much more to say than she could include in the chapter, so she went on to write another whole book, Conquering the Religious Spirit, in 2008.
It is important that we continue to learn more about the spirit of religion. We are in a war and a chief rule of warfare is to know your enemy. Paul tells us that if we are ignorant of the devices of Satan, he will take advantage of us (see 2 Cor 2:11). Make no mistake about it, one of Satan’s principal agents for carrying out his evil devices is the spirit of religion. The Spirit of God is urging us to begin to take action – now!
One of our problems is that “spirit of religion” is not a biblical term. You can’t find it in the concordance. That does not mean that it is not a useful term. We can’t find “Trinity” or “abortion” or “Christmas” in the concordance, just to take some other examples, but they are good words that we frequently use. Even the word “religion,” by itself, appears only two times in the Bible. Once it refers to Judaism (see Acts 26:5) and the other simply tells us that true religion, (like true faith) is accompanied by works (see James 1:26-27).
Because of this, we must depend, more than with some other matters, on seeking God’s fresh revelation. If the Spirit is saying this to the churches, which I believe He is, God will show us the direction we need to take.
It is good to start with a working definition, so here is a suggestion. As I have studied this, 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.
I’m using the term “religion” in the common sense of the word, namely beliefs and activities involved in relating to superhuman or supernatural beings or forces.
Knowing what we do about the invisible world of darkness, we can surmise certain things. For example, there certainly must be many spirits of religion, not just one. Consequently, our term “the spirit of religion” should be understood as a generic term, embracing however many of these demons there might actually be.
Now I am going to use my imagination a bit. In doing so, I am identifying with Paul, who said at one point concerning a certain matter: “I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy” (1 Cor. 7:25). Here, then, is my hypothesis. It is my personal attempt to explain a rather complex state of affairs in simple language.