This multipart article is excerpted from my book, Uncovering the Myth of Spiritual Covering, which is adapted from my book, Charismatic Captivation—Authoritarian Abuse & Psychological Enslavement in Neo-Pentecostal Churches, first published in 1996. That book exposes the widespread problem of authoritarian abuse that has been flourishing virtually unabated for decades since it was first infused into the very fabric, foundation, and functions of the Charismatic/Neo-Pentecostal church during the false movement known as the Discipleship/Shepherding Movement (1970-77). The frequently quoted and alluded to volume spotlights the salient signs and symptoms of authoritarian abuse, dissects the fallacious doctrines behind it, and offers victims clear, concise steps for recovery from the psychological trauma and restoration from the spiritual damage they’ve experienced.
In the two decades since it was first released at the time of the publishing of this extract of it, Charismatic Captivation has been appraised and praised by Bible scholars and commentators, ministers, and laymen as the most comprehensive and convincing volume written to date on the particulars of the prevalent problem of Neo-Pentecostal authoritarian abuse, or what is also referred to as “spiritual abuse.” Many readers and analysts over the twenty years since it was first published have come to concur with the somewhat audacious claim emblazoned on the back-cover blurb that despite being “disdained by defiantly unrepentant perpetrators of Pentecostal predomination, Charismatic Captivation is undeniably a genuine prophetic word ordained by God to which He is now demanding obedience.”
If you have not read that book, I strongly recommend that you do for a better understanding of the context of the subject matter of this book and the larger issue of the widespread problem of authoritarian abuse transpiring particularly in the Charismatic/Neo-Pentecostal stream.
Owing extensively to the aforementioned Discipleship/Shepherding Movement and the teachings that were promulgated during that false movement, hyper-authoritarian doctrines and practices have become cemented into the foundation, fabric, and functions of many churches, major segments of some denominations, as well as many of the protodenominational apostolic networks of churches, ministries, and ministers that have emerged over primarily that last four or five decades. The problem has become so widespread that it has now reached pandemic proportions in Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal streams.
One of the chief reasons these scripturally-condemned doctrines and practices have been able to proliferate and endure is that they have been going on for so long that the present generations of church-goers in these ecclesiastical groupings have been spiritually reared in church cultures where domination and control by church leaders is the norm and thus accepted as being normal and proper. The purpose of this book is to analyze against the foundation-stone of Scripture, one of the foundational elements of this hyper-authoritarian ecclesiastical culture, demonstrate its irrefutable incongruity with Scripture, and disabuse believers from acceptance of and adherence to it, thereby liberating them from the invisible chains of psychological enslavement that have been holding them in bondage to the illegitimate authority structures of men that have captivated them.
By way of definition, hyper-authoritarianism is predominance or psychological control imposed by spiritual leaders upon their followers or congregants with respect to not only their involvements within the church or ministry, but also regarding the personal and private matters of their lives. Ministries and church-groups practicing this illegitimate domination employ various means and degrees of psychological indoctrination and coercion to compel congregants or adherents to subject and conform their personal activities, behavior, and affairs of life to the leadership-prescribed standards, rules, expectations, and collective corporate goals of the church or ministry. The purported pretext for the imposition of this scripturally-prohibited religious governance is an adulterated or perverted concept of ecclesiastical authority. Promulgators and practitioners adamantly claim that the mechanisms of manipulation they employ are a perfectly Scriptural system of “discipleship” or “spiritual training” in fulfillment of the role and responsibility of spiritual leaders to “make disciples.”
However, the fact of the matter is this kind of “discipleship” exceeds by far the bounds and intents of legitimate, that is, Scriptural and Godly, authority. This kind of so-called “shepherding” is not that which is inspired by the Good Shepherd, but by His arch-rival, Satan, for it is nothing other than witchcraft and unauthorized meddling into the personal lives of God’s Flock. It is blatant misuse and abuse of authority, and is Scripturally-prohibited usurpation of believers’ God-given prerogative or right of personal autonomy. God, The Spirit, Himself declares in His Word:
For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. (2 Tim. 3:6-9).
Indeed, the full context of this passage indicates what ilk of individual it is who engages in this kind of ungodly, self-aggrandizing governance over others, how others should treat them, as well as their ultimate fate:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two came to be. (2 Tim. 3:1-9)
Such dominating ecclesiastical autocrats indoctrinate followers with fallacious, psychologically enslaving teachings, predicated on subtle twisting and outright perversion of Scripture, requiring them to strictly adhere to rules and demands set by the leadership if they are to have the approval of and be in the good graces of the leadership, as well as the collective group. Ultimately, submissive members are compelled, cajoled, and/or coerced to commit everything possible of themselves and their resources unto the support of the group’s leaders, mission, calling, and purposes.
Nothing could be further from the clear intents and purposes of the genuine Gospel of Christ, which is not the bondage of servitude to men that hyper-authoritarian teachings promulgate and produce, but freedom:
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in MY WORD, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will make you FREE.” (Jn. 8:31-32)
It was for FREEDOM that Christ set us FREE; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a YOKE OF SLAVERY. (Gal. 5:1)
Concerning the subject matter of this volume, allow me to speak plainly and directly: “spiritual covering” as theorized by those who teach, promulgate, and adhere to it is an absolute myth. No semblance of the version of “spiritual covering” taught by its proponents exists anywhere within the pages of Holy Writ (Scripture).
I will take it a step further and state straightforwardly and unambiguously: “Spiritual covering,” in the vein that it is presented by its proponents and proliferaters, is an unmitigated lie and total myth! It is a complete fabrication concocted by the originators of these fallacious doctrines by which to facilitate and perpetuate their purely self‑aggrandizing objectives of subjugation, domination and control of the sheep of God’s Flock.
Indeed, what the Discipleship proponents refer to as “spiritual covering” is really “spiritual control.” However, even the use of the word “spiritual” in this connection requires some qualification, because the only thing “spiritual” about this unauthorized control is that it is inspired by demon-spirits of deception and error. As we shall discuss later in Chapter Nine, what the Discipleship version of “spiritual covering” really is, is nothing less than witchcraft and sorcery. When the myth has been thoroughly debunked, as it will be within these pages, it will be clear that this doctrine of “spiritual covering,” like all the other aspects of the Shepherding heresy, is a patently false “doctrine of demons” being manifested in these last days precisely in accordance with Holy Prophecy of Scripture that foretells of deception such as this being propagated by the inspiration of demons in the last days, leading to many falling away from the Lord into apostasy:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of LIARS seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron. (1 Tim. 4:1-2)
With the foregoing as our introduction and backdrop for our discussion, let us now continue on our journey to dissect and analyze this matter of what I see as a diabolical, dastardly, and deceptive myth of spiritual covering or the “covering doctrine.” It is the centerpiece of the heretical hyper-authoritarian teachings I’ve previously described, which are the bane of groups and churches that are ruled by autocratic leaders intent upon captivating a contingency of unsuspecting subservient believers to make their personal slaves to construct their private kingdoms and cash-cow businesses that they have they unmitigated gall to blasphemously call “churches.”
Concerning the subject of Prophetic Function, the late Art Katz once eloquently wrote:
A prophet not only identifies falsity, but he ruthlessly destroys it. There is something about his word that is like a fire. It is plucking up, rooting out and destroying before it is planting and rebuilding….They not only just bring things into question, but they absolutely reduce it to rubble before your eyes. For you to pick it up after that is to touch the unclean thing. They have identified it and now you are stuck with that word.
Frankly, my hope for the message of this article/book is that after reading it the reader will have such a keen knowing of the utter falsity of the dastardly spiritual covering identified and addressed herein that to pick it up afterward would be to touch the unclean thing and by it be defiled.
Five Biblical Coverings
With respect to our subject matter, the sum of what we will discover in these pages is that there are five “coverings” mentioned in the Word of God, four of which are authored or made by God Himself, and therefore are holy, good, and proper. The other covering is authored by Satan, and therefore is unholy, evil, and improper, and is instituted by Satan’s human agents or cooperatives on earth in the natural realm.
The Covering of God’s Presence
The first covering we’ll look at is the covering of the mercy seat by the wings of the golden cherubim, which sat atop the ark in the sanctuary built by Moses at the command of and according to the pattern given him by God (Ex. 25:20; 37:9; 1Kgs. 8:7; 2Chr. 5:8). It was between the wings of the golden cherubim that covered the mercy seat that God appeared to Moses and gave him commandments concerning Israel:
“There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.” (Ex. 25:22)
When, as long as the tabernacle existed, the High Priests would enter the Holy of Holies once a year to sprinkle the blood of bulls and goats upon the mercy seat as a covering for the sins of the people of Israel, the Lord God (Jesus) would “appear” in a mysterious spiritual form by the Spirit between the two golden cherubim that were affixed to the ark of the testimony and suspended over the mercy seat. This mysterious manifestation of the Lord God served as a divine pronouncement that the shed blood had once again been received and accepted by God as temporary symbol of the satisfaction of sins of the people—a symbolic temporal propitiation of sin—until the coming of the Messiah who would effect the final shalom (peace) between God and mankind.