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Identificational Repentance

The Doctrines of Dominionism: Part 9

“Identificational Repentance

“For me at least this is very new. I have been a Christian for 45 years, and I never once recall hearing a sermon from the pulpit on identificational repentance. I have four graduate degrees in religion from respectable academic institutions, and I was never taught a class on the subject. You do not find the issue raised in the writings of Martin Luther or John Calvin or John Wesley.

“Fortunately, we now have a textbook on the subject, namely John Dawson’s remarkable book, Healing America’s Wounds (Regal Books). In my opinion, this is one of the books of the decade for Christian leaders of all denominations. Only because we now have access to this book has the United Prayer Track or the AD2000 Movement been bold enough to declare 1996 as the year to ‘Heal the Land,’ featuring massive initiatives for repentance and reconciliation on every continent of the world. This is so important to me that I require my students at Fuller Theological Seminary to read Healing America’s Wounds and I invite John Dawson himself to come in and help me teach my classes.”
–C. Peter Wagner, “The Power to Heal the Past,” Renewal Journal, 1996.

In a review of a video by Aloha Ke Akua, “God’s Fingerprints in Japan,” Sandy Simpson and Mike Oppenheimer in their new book Idolatry In Their Hearts describe a major event in the practice of a new doctrine called “Identificational Repentance”:

“[Daniel] Kikawa is on YWAM’s International Reconciliation Coalition which goes around doing ‘identificational repentance’, believing that this breaks strongholds. It is a soulish act to elicit a spiritual effect. Its real goal is to unite two opposing groups. The Bible tells us the cross has already broken down any partition (Eph. 2) and one must be in Christ for it to be effective. Instead, apologies are made for something done in the past that did not involve any of the current parties and this is supposed to affect us today.

“The video ends with the NARRATOR stating:

“‘As a member of the International Reconciliation Coalition board, Daniel believes that it’s important to let the Japanese people know that God loves them just the way they are.

“Kikawa – ‘We have told you that your culture is not honorable, and not good enough for God. As an American Christian I want to ask you for forgiveness for that. And tell you that God has left so much beauty in your culture. Please, I want to do this, to say please forgive me.’

“Kikawa then bows to the floor before men and women — apologizing. For what?” (p. 287)

The backdrop to this episode of “identificational repentance” is a full chapter (13) from Idolatry In Their Hearts analyzing a video in which Japanese gods of “creation” are exalted as “heavenly deities,” Buddhist shrines are “sacred,” and the pagan Japanese tea ceremony is equated to biblical communion — all flagrant acts of syncretism.

This context to this act of “identificational repentance” is interesting because it is found in the “redeeming cultures” movement. The original marketing plan for “identificational repentance” was the spiritual warfare movement but it crossed over into mission “evangelization.” This new doctrine was concocted as part of the massive overall of theology launched by the neoevangelical Fuller Theological Seminary during the 1980s. It was popularized by John Dawson, author of several books that introduce the topic, Taking Our Cities for God (YWAM, 1989) and Healing America’s Wounds (Regal). (Incidentally, Dawson endorsed Daniel Kikawa’s video cited above.) While Dawson carried water for the new doctrine, C. Peter Wagner was busy cheerleading for it. Wagner wrote:

4. We must remit corporate sins.
“We are now realizing as never before the extent to which poverty, social degradation and resistance to the gospel can be traced back to corporate sins committed in past generations.

“Although some Christians are still uncomfortable about repenting for the sins of our fathers; Christian leaders are rapidly coming to understand the biblical theology under girding identificational repentance. Some also are seeing the immediate healing effects it can have.

“Of inestimable help on the subject of identificational repentance is John Dawson’s watershed book, Healing America’s Wounds (Regal).”

Meanwhile, the more liberal elements of the Protestant and Catholic church were busy building an international “Reconciliation” movement, with similar ideologies and goals. And YWAM, an influential neoevangelical mission organization, was busy organizing “Reconciliation Walks” which had “thousands of Christians tracing the path of the Crusades and repenting on behalf of the original Crusaders to Muslim populations. . . .”

What is “identificational repentance”?

Al Dager, in his book The World Christian Movement (Sword 2001) presents a short synopsis:

“The idea of identificational repentance is to stand in the gap as a substitute for a corporate people in order to nullify so-called ‘generational curses.’

“In essence, it is to identify oneself with a corporate group of people to confess that group’s social sins (e.g., I’m a white man who killed an Indian and stole his land). This is the basis of the Reconciliation Movement.” (p. 125)

C. Peter Wagner, chief “apostle” of the New Apostolic Reformation, lists “Identificational Repentance” as one of the “10 Major Prayer Innovations of the 1990s,” which includes “Strategic-level spiritual warfare,” “Prayer evangelism,” “On-site praying,” “City transformation,” “Commitment to the land,” and “Spiritual mapping,” among others. This list is basically a compilation of the new prayer-warfare doctrines that were promulgated during the 1990s. It is also significant that this list is found in a “Summary Report: AD2000 United Prayer Track,” which was ostensibly a mission organization with the goal of “evangelizing” the planet by the year 2000. This list does not include a simple, basic presentation of the Gospel from Scripture!

C. Peter Wagner cites “Identificational Repentance” as one of the key “New Spiritual Weapons” for advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. In other words, “identificational repentance” is a useful tool for Dominionism. Wagner believes that in these last days “God has provided the Body of Christ with some new spiritual weapons which will help us penetrate the darkest realms of the Enemy.” Undergirding Wagner’s ideas about spiritual warfare is the erroneous doctrine that Jesus’ work was not finished at the Cross, and that Jesus “has delegated His Church to continue the [war against Satan]” here on earth. Another key component of this new doctrine is the idea of “Corporate Sin.” A corollary heresy teaches that nations are entities (beings) that can corporately experience salvation, and a related heresy teaches that the land itself is spiritual and in need of redemption. These heresies can be found in various traditions of pagan mysticism, but they are not biblical.

C. Peter Wagner wrote in “The Power to Heal the Past”:

“Corporate Sin

“We must recognise that nations can and do sin corporately. God loves nations, and I join those who believe that God has a redemptive plan for each nation, or for that matter for each city or people group or neighbourhood or any visible network of human beings. But corporate national sin damages the relationship of the nation to God and prevents that nation from being all that God wants it to be. . . .

“God desires to bring corporate healing. He wants to heal the land. The way that He does this is parallel to the way He deals with individuals. . . . “

Another corollary to this heresy is that we need to confess the sins of our ancestors. Wagner articulates this with the following detailed rationale:

“The Iniquity of the Fathers

“Why should we be concerned about what our ancestors might have done? This is an important question raised by many who hear of identificational repentance for the first time. The answer derives from the spiritual principle that iniquity passes from generation to generation. One of many biblical texts on the matter comes from the Ten Commandments that Moses received on Sinai: ‘I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations…’ (Exodus 20:5).

“Technically speaking, sin can be understood as the initial act while iniquity is the effect that the sin has exercised on subsequent generations.

“I interpret the reference to the third or fourth generation as a figure of speech meaning that it can go on and on. Time alone does not heal national iniquities. In fact if the sin is not remitted, the iniquity more frequently than not can become worse in each succeeding generation. But the cycle can be stopped by corporate repentance. Quite obviously, the only ones who can confess the sin and put it under the blood of Jesus are those who are alive today. Even though they did not commit the sin themselves, they can choose to identify with it, thus the term ‘identificational repentance.’

“We have two clear biblical examples of how this is done, Daniel and Nehemiah: Daniel said, ‘I was… confessing my sin and the sin of my people’ (Daniel 9:20). Nehemiah said, ‘Both my father’s house and I have sinned’ (Nehemiah 1:6).

“Notice that each of these two confessions has two parts: the sin and the iniquity. Both Daniel and Nehemiah confessed sins that they did not commit, and both recognised that the iniquity had been passed to their own generation. Because of this they admitted that they were not personally exempt from the residue of that sin in their own daily lives. For many of us the second part is more difficult than the first because we have too often tended to fall into patterns of denial.

“When we remit the corporate sins of a nation by the blood of Jesus Christ through identificational repentance, we effectively remove a foothold that Satan has used to attempt to hold populations in spiritual darkness and in social misery. It happens because we are recognizing that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, as Paul says, but ‘mighty in God for pulling down strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4). When we do that, the glory of Christ can shine through and the Kingdom of God can come in power.”

One of the chief ways that this new doctrine is introduced inoffensively to people is through the idea of “Prayer Journeys” which

“are essentially field trips to practice prayer walking and, in some cases, to enable better spiritual mapping. Taken as short-term mission trips, they include short visits to strategic cities or sections of cities within a country or continent.”

These prayer journeys may or may not be accompanied by the more radical forms of advanced “Levels of Strategic Warfare” as contrived by C. Peter Wagner and his associates. Rather, it may first be presented as a sincere prayer activity. Only later will the participants learn “spiritual mapping” (conducting surveys of real or imagined powers and principalities) and “confronting the powers” (casting down evil spirits and principalities). Worse, however, is the fact that these prayer journeys are often fruitless because they avoid an open presentation of the Gospel, possibly with the hidden motive of avoiding persecution. Much money is spent on these mission trips where people never once publicly or openly speak the Gospel Truth!

Pastor Bill Randles, in his excellent little book refuting this type of frivolous spiritual warfare, Making War in the Heavenlies, wrote a section entitled “True Warfare” in which he observed that Paul’s Gospel presentation in Acts 17:1-3; 16-18 consisted of “reasoning, debating, opening and alleging.”

“. . . [W]hen Paul’s spirit was stirred up in Athens, because of the gross idolatry, he didn’t wage spiritual warfare against Zeus or Apollo. In fact, he didn’t name any spirit, tear down any principalities or any such thing. Paul waged spiritual warfare by ‘disputing in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily, with them that met with him.’ (Verse 17)

“The warfare intensified when ‘certain philosophers of the Epicureans and the Stoics encountered him. . . ‘ (Acts 17:18). Now here we have spiritual warfare! Out in the marketplace of ideas, Paul was promoting the doctrine of Christ, setting Christ forth in the face of Epicureanism, Stoicism, Platonism, and all the philosophies of the day which Satan was using to darken men’s minds. It is patterns of thinking that need to be directly confronted, philosophies that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God!

“While Christians are waging phoney war against Jezebel, lust and other ‘strongmen,’ humanism, psychology, selfism, and so on are going unchallenged, and are even being promoted in our churches! When Paul waged war in Athens, his spiritual warfare consisted of the ideas of men being confronted by the Gospel of God!” (pp. 25-26)

In his article tweaking the finer points of Identificational Repentance and its accompanying doctrines and activities, Scott Moreau admitted that

“whatever our conclusion as to whether or not spirits are assigned territories, perhaps the biggest obstacle to SLSW [Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare, ed.] is that the fundamental strategy is not found biblically or in church history, at least not without some serious stretching of the accounts.”

It is significant that this article cited above, attributed to the book Deliver Us from Evil: An Uneasy Frontier in Christian Mission (World Vision, 2002), was connected with the Lausanne movement. These spiritual warfare doctrines went mainstream into the global mission world via the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization which held a “Deliver us from Evil Consultation” in Nairobi, Kenya in 2000. Its purpose was to focus on “spiritual warfare with the principalities and powers of evil who are seeking to overthrow the church and frustrate the task of evangelization.” Again, notice that the underlying doctrine is faulty — that Jesus didn’t defeat Satan at the Cross and He has “unfinished work.”

C. Peter Wagner, who is credited with launching this warfare prayer movement in his book Confronting the Powers (Regal, 1996), introduced “Identificational Repentance” in the context of “Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare.” But he acknowledged that this doctrine didn’t have much to stand on biblically:

“. . . [A] growing number of us believe that identificational repentance is an extremely vital ingredient in effective strategic-level spiritual warfare. When we look for the biblical justification for this, however, we find relatively little about it in the New Testament. We may find bits and pieces here and there, such as the analogy of Jesus’ substitionary atonement. . . . [T]he fact remains that the New Testament contains no outright or explicit teaching about identificational repentance.

“The Old Testament, however, contains abundant amounts of material about the principles and practice of identificational repentance. . . .” (p. 79)

The Truth:

Very little has been written to counter the plethora of false doctrines surrounding “Identificational Repentance,” “Reconciliation,” and the accompanying practices. Tragically, many esteemed Christian leaders from all walks of Christianity, have been pulled into the Reconciliation Movement and/or “Identificational Repentance” because it sounded like a good thing to do. And most of these activities have a “feel good” component that makes them seem right. But the plain error of these activities can easily be found in Scriptures and refuted quite simply.

Sandy Simpson, author of Idolatry In Their Hearts, writing about this heresy on his website, observed:

“. . . [T]he Bible is clear that men must repent for their own sins.

“Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

“Notice that ‘every one’ must repent on his own. We know even from the Old Testament that the father cannot repent for the sins of the son.

“Deuteronomy 24:16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

And in a book review by Steve Mitchell of Taking Our Cities for God by John Dawson posted at the same website, can be found the following critique:

“Quick question: Are we taught anywhere in the Bible that forgiveness involves pardoning nations for past deeds by the people who weren’t even there to be offended or sinned against?

“Forgiveness is always a personal action, commanded by God, necessary for right fellowship and communion. (Matt 6:14;Luke 6:37; 2 Cor.2:7). It’s always between people not cities or nations.”

It is significant that the rationale for “Identificational Repentance” must hearken back to the Old Testament for its basis. The examples usually cited are of a few prophets (Nehemiah 1:6,7 and Daniel 9:4,5, e.g.) who interceded for the people and confessed the sins. It is true that the Old Testament prophets were sometimes called to stand between the people and God. But in the New Testament believers go directly to God through Jesus Christ His Son to confess our own sins. C. Peter Wagner, who is most noted for creating a global network of modern-day “apostles” and “prophets,” has actually placed his leaders in between believers and God, creating a modern-day priesthood (a topic which we have delved into many times on this blog).

The Old Testament teaches that the people needed to repent of their own sins. The reader is referred to Ezekiel 18 in which it is clear that people are not involved in the sins and fate of their ancestors. This chapter teaches personal responsibility by illustrating three generations — a righteous father, a wicked son, and a righteous grandson. The chapter declares that God’s forgiveness is available to the repentant sinner, but that those who continue in sin will die in their sins. The chapter concludes with a plea for repentance (verses 30-32).

“What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (Ezekiel 18:2)