Word of Faith
Word of Faith (also known as Word-Faith or simply Faith) is a worldwide Evangelical Christian movement which teaches that Christians can access the power of faith or fear through speech. Its teachings are found on radio, the internet, television, and in many Charismatic denominations and communities. The doctrine renounces poverty, physical suffering, and defeat as necessary to a godly life and glorifying Jesus Christ. It teaches that the salvation won by Jesus on the cross included health and prosperity for believers; this is derived from its definition of the word sozo (salvation).
|Word of Faith|
|Theology||Neo-charismatic movement, Prosperity Gospel|
|Founder||E.W. Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin|
Evangelist E.W. Kenyon (1867–1948) is usually cited as the originator of Word of Faith teaching.
Kenyon's writings influenced Kenneth Hagin Sr., the recognized "father" of the Word of Faith movement. Hagin (1917–2003) believed that it is God's will that believers enjoy good health, financial success, and a blessed life.
Distinctive Word of Faith teachings include physical, emotional, financial, relational, and spiritual healing or prosperity for those who skillfully manage their covenant with God. The movement urges believers to speak what they desire, in agreement with the promises and provisions of the Bible, as an affirmation of God's plans and purposes. They believe this is what Jesus meant when he said in Mark 11:22–23 that believers shall have whatsoever they say and pray with faith. The term word of faith itself is derived from Romans 10:8 which speaks of the word of faith that we preach.
The Word of Faith teaches that complete healing (of spirit, soul, and body) is included in Christ's atonement and therefore is available here and now to all who believe. Frequently cited is Isaiah 53:5, "by his stripes we are healed", and Matthew 8:17, which says Jesus healed the sick so that "it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet, 'Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses'."
Because Isaiah speaks in the present tense ("we are healed"), Word of Faith teaches that believers should accept the reality of a healing that is already theirs, first by understanding that physical healing is part of the New Testament's promise of salvation. It is reinforced by confessing the Bible verses which assert this healing and believing them while rejecting doubt. This does not deny pain, sickness, or disease, but denies its right to supersede the gift of salvation in Isaiah 53:5 and many other passages. According to adherents, sickness is generally Satan's attempt to rob believers of their divine right to total health.
Word of Faith teaching holds that God wants his people to prosper in all areas of life, including finances, health, marriage, and relationships. Word of Faith teaches that God's blessing empowers his people to achieve the Bible's promises. Thus, suffering does not come from God, but from Satan. Kenneth Copeland's ministry has said that God does not use suffering for our benefit, and this idea is "a deception of Satan" and "absolutely against the Word of God." If someone is not experiencing prosperity, it is because they have given Satan authority over their lives, and God will not do anything except when a believer invites him to.
- Jesus' ability to travel without apparently working to earn a living for three years
- References by Jesus and the apostles to owning homes
- Jesus had a treasurer (Judas Iscariot)
- Jesus consorting with the upper echelons of society
- Jesus' miraculous ability to command abundance - feeding the 5 thousand, finding tax money in a fish, telling Peter where the fish would overflow his net, etc.
- The businesses that each of the apostles apparently owned/worked in
This is contrary to the traditional view of Jesus as a poor, wandering teacher. Based on their belief that Jesus and his apostles were wealthy, the historical examples of wealthy Christians, and the promises of prosperity throughout the Old and New Testaments, Word of Faith proponents teach that modern believers also have access to the blessing of financial wealth. Teachers like Kenneth Copeland assert that total prosperity is validated by the teachings of the Apostle John: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (3 John 2). Copeland posits that “as the seeds of prosperity are planted in your heart, in your will and in your emotions...they eventually produce a great financial harvest."
Faith and confession
In Word of Faith teaching, a central element of receiving from God is "confession", often called "positive confession" or "faith confession" by practitioners. While similar, it should not be confused with Norman Vincent Peale's positive thinking theology focusing on the individual, as evidenced by the motto, "Faith in God and believe in oneself". Noted Word of Faith teachers, such as Kenneth E. Hagin and Charles Capps, have argued that God created the universe by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1), and that God has endowed believers with this power. Thus, making a "positive confession" of God's promise and believing God's word stirs the power of resurrection which raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20 Ephesians 3:20), and brings that promise to fulfilment. This teaching is interpreted from Mark 11:22-23. A more recent variant of positive confession is "decree and declare". Word of Faith preachers have called faith a "force".
Conversely, "negative confession" can harm, so believers should be conscious of their words. This is argued on the interpretation of Proverbs 18:21, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and they that love them will eat the fruit thereof", also Numbers 14:28, "...saith the Lord, as you have spoken in my ears, so will I do", among other scriptures.
Critics and controversy
Many of the movement's essential beliefs are often criticised by some Christians as diverging from Christian orthodoxy. Christian author Robert M. Bowman, Jr. states that the word of faith movement is "neither soundly orthodox nor thoroughly heretical".
One of the earliest critics of Word of Faith teaching was Oral Roberts University professor Charles Farah, who published From the Pinnacle of the Temple in 1979. In the book, Farah expressed his disillusionment with the teachings, which he argued were more about presumption than faith.
In 1982, one of Farah's students, Daniel Ray McConnell, submitted a thesis, Kenyon Connection, to the faculty at Oral Roberts University, tracing the teaching back through Hagin to Kenyon and ultimately to New Thought, and calling the distinctive Word of Faith beliefs a heretical "Trojan Horse" in the Christian church. McConnell's repeated this argument in his book, A Different Gospel, in 1988.
One of McConnell's classmates, Dale H. Simmons, published his own doctoral research at Drew University, arguing that Kenyon was influenced by heterodox metaphysical movements and the Faith Cure movement of the nineteenth century. In 1990, The Agony of Deceit surveyed the critiques of Word of Faith doctrines. One of the authors, Christian Research Institute founder Walter Martin, issued his personal judgment that Kenneth Copeland was a false prophet and that the movement as a whole was heretical.
Milder criticisms were made by William DeArteaga in his book Quenching the Spirit. He concedes some New Thought influence in Kenyon's teaching, but argues that Kenyon's views helped the church rediscover some biblical truths. Arguing similarly but in an opposite direction is Robert M. Bowman, Jr., formerly of the Christian Research Institute. His book The Word-Faith Controversy is more sympathetic to Kenyon's historical background yet more critical of his doctrine than is DeArteaga's work.
Baptist evangelist Justin Peters, an outspoken critic of the Word of Faith movement, wrote his Master of Divinity thesis on Benny Hinn and has appeared frequently as an expert on Word of Faith pastors in documentaries and TV news stories. In his seminar "A Call for Discernment", he traces the movement's origins to the Phineas Quimby's New Thought Movement and Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In contrast, Pastor Joe McIntyre, now head of Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society in Washington, argues that the primary influences of Kenyon were A.B. Simpson and A.J. Gordon of the Faith Cure branch of the evangelical movement. McIntyre's version is told in the authorized biography, E.W. Kenyon: The True Story.
That same year, Pentecostal scholar Gordon Fee wrote a series of articles denouncing what he called The Disease of the Health-and-Wealth Gospel.
In 1993, Hank Hanegraaff's Christianity in Crisis charged the Word of Faith movement with heresy and accused many of its churches of being "cults." He accused the Word of Faith teachers of "demoting" God and Jesus, and "deifying" man and Satan. Hanegraaff has focused a significant portion of his anti-heresy teaching since the 1990s on addressing and refuting Word of Faith teachings.
Other critics, such as Norman Geisler, Dave Hunt and Roger Oakland, have denounced Word of Faith theology as aberrant and contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Critics have also condemned the teachings on wealth, arguing that the Bible condemns the pursuit of riches.
John Piper points out that Christ warned the apostles that they would suffer great persecution for his sake: except John, all eleven, after Judas Iscariot, suffered martyrs' deaths. In a January 2006 sermon entitled "How our Suffering Advances the Gospel," Piper stated bluntly that "the prosperity gospel will not make anybody praise Jesus; it will make people praise prosperity."
'Little gods' controversy
Many Word of Faith teachers have sought to emphasize the full meaning of the believer's status as a child of God (through Christ) by using phrases such as "little gods" to describe them, a practice that has garnered some criticism from some other segments of the Christian community. Kenneth Hagin wrote that God "made us in the same class of being that he is himself," and that the believer is "called Christ" because "that's who we are, we're Christ!" According to Hagin, by being "born again", the believer becomes "as much an incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth". Hagin like Kenyon reasons that humans are made in God's image. Since God is spirit, then humans must essentially be spirit as well and ‘in God’s class’, and thereby ‘gods’. Kenneth Copeland says Adam was "not a little like God... not almost like God...", and has told believers that "You don't have a God in you. You are one." Based primarily on the Psalms 82:6, which says "I have said, Ye are gods and all of you, children of the Most High," this was also corroborated by Jesus making reference to this scripture in John 10:34. A common theme in Word of Faith preaching is that God created man as "an exact duplication of God's kind." (Hebrews 1:3, John 14:12, etc.) It does not argue that man can work independently of God, but rather that the believer can live in God.
Suffer the Children, a documentary highlighting some of the teachings of the Word of Faith movement, shows Creflo Dollar teaching the "little gods" doctrine to his congregation based on the notion that "everything reproduces after its own kind":
Dollar: "If horses get together, they produce what?"
Dollar: "If dogs get together, they produce what?"
Dollar: "If cats get together, they produce what?"
Dollar: "So if the Godhead says 'Let us make man in our image', and everything produces after its own kind, then they produce what?"
Dollar: "gods. Little "g" gods. You're not human. Only human part of you is this flesh you're wearing."
This teaching has drawn the sharpest charges of heresy. Although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, citing the Bible and the early Christian church, teaches that men can become gods after eons of exaltation, the LDS scholar Stephen E. Robinson has declared the "little gods" teaching heretical. (The LDS view is also considered heretical by mainstream Christianity.) Many Evangelical critics have condemned the "little gods" teaching as cultic; Hank Hanegraaff, for example, contends the 'little gods' doctrine is on a par with the teaching of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Jim Jones. Justin Peters, whose first encounter with Word of Faith doctrine came at the age of 16 when a faith healer "slayed [him] in the spirit" in an attempt to cure his cerebral palsy, states in A Call for Discernment that the "little gods" teaching is the foundation of the Word of Faith focus on health and wealth: "A god should never be sick, and a god should never be poor." Word of Faith defenders have responded that the teaching simply underscores the biblical view of the believer's "true identity in Christ".
Critics, such as Christian apologist and CARM founder Matt Slick and Bible critique author W. Gary Phillips, believe referencing scriptures Psalms 82:6 and John 10:34, where it is said that men are gods, is using these Scriptures out of context. These verses were originally addressed to the Judges of Israel, who they were called gods not because they were themselves divine, but because they pronounced the judgement of the true and only God. The Hebrew and Greek words used in both Scriptures for "gods" can also be applied to magistrates, and may be translated as "mighty". However, Jesus himself uses this same passage, in John 10, to refer to his own divinity.
Jesus died spiritually
Jesus died spiritually (abbreviated JDS) is a view of the substitutionary atonement of Christ in which Jesus is considered to have suffered both physical death (on the cross) and spiritual death (in Hell) as the complete penalty for sin. In this view, spiritual death (defined as separation from God) is considered the ultimate penalty for original sin, and proponents assert that Jesus must have suffered the complete penalty for sin in order for his substitutionary sacrifice to be effective. Accordingly, those who support the JDS view also teach that Jesus was spiritually born again at his resurrection. Not all Word of Faith teachers believe this, rather preaching something similar to the Harrowing of Hell. The Word of Faith group does believe that the Harrowing of Hell was part of the plan of redemption, and that Jesus himself was never a sinner, but on the cross Jesus was forsaken by God as a payment for all sins.
E.W. Kenyon, a minister important to the Word of Faith movement and some other Pentecostal denominations, popularized the idea that Jesus died spiritually in his books What Happened From The Cross To the Throne and Identification: A Romance In Redemption. It is claimed that Kenneth E. Hagin taught JDS ideas but such citations are singletons taken out of context. Kenneth Hagin mentioned Jesus harrowing hell in The Name of Jesus (1978 edition), which has caused many to believe that he supported JDS. Kenneth Copeland did claim that Jesus suffered in Hell, nor that Christ's resurrection parallels the believer's born again experience. While it is not a central doctrine of the movement, it has received some condemnation for this belief. For example, D.R. McConnell claims the teaching to be heresy.
- Mark 11:22, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Romans 10:8, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Isaiah 53:5, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Matthew 8:17, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- 3 John 1:2, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Genesis 1, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Ephesians 1:19-20, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Ephesians 3:20, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Mark 11:22, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Proverbs 18:21, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Numbers 14:28, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Psalms 82:6, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- John 10:34, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Hebrews 1:3, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- John 14:12, King James Version (Oxford Standard, 1769)
- Romans 12:2
- Matthew 11:25-30
- Galatians 5:1
- Mark 11:12-25
- Colossians 2
- Hebrews 6:1-2
- 1 Corinthians 3
- Galatians 3
- Romans 7:1-6
- Matthew 18:1-6
- 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
- Matthew 17:14-20
- Matthew 20:1-16
- Matthew 8:5-18
- Matthew 25:14-30
- Luke 19:11-27
- 1 Corinthians 13
- Matthew 22:36-40
- John 21:15-19
- Matthew 16:13-20
- Matthew 6:5-14
- Matthew 7:15-23
- 1 John 4:6
- 2 Peter 2
- 1 Corinthians 5
- Hebrews 11-13
Notes and references
- Word of Faith Statement of Faith, Christian forums.
- Gilley, Gary E, The Word-Faith Movement, Rapid net.
- Kenneth E. Hagin, Right and Wrong Thinking, (Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1966)
- Jerry Savelle, If Satan Can't Steal Your Joy..., (Harrison House, 1982)
- Creflo Dollar, True Prosperity v. False Prosperity, Creflodollarministries.org
- Understanding Chastisement, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, retrieved November 7, 2009. Subsection, "Knowing Your Enemy", paragraph 3
- Understanding Chastisement, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, retrieved November 7, 2009. Subsection "Does God Permit Bad Things to Happen to Us?
- Was Jesus Wealthy? Atlanta Journal Constitution 22 October 2006, AJC.com
- Jesus was not poor, Harvestchurch.org
- "Was Jesus Rich". www.letusreason.org.
- Televangelist spreads the 'Gospel of Bling,' lands himself in hot water, Mike Aivaz and Adam Doster (article and associated video), Rawstory.com
- John Avanzini, "Was Jesus Poor?" (videotape)
- ”Kenneth Copeland, How to Prosper from the Inside Out, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, KCM.org
- "How We Help".
- Denver Cheddie, Is Decree and Declare Scriptural?, Bible Issues, bibleissues.org
- Kenneth Copeland, The Force of Faith, (KCP Publications, 1989)
- The Word-Faith Controversy, Watchman.
- Farah, Charles (1979), From the Pinnacle of the Temple, Logos.
- "Walter Martin's Warning to the Church". Let Us Reason Ministries. 1988. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
- King, Paul L, A.B. Simpson & the Modern Faith Movement, Hope, faith, prayer.
- Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis, (Harvest House, 1993)
- "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Luke 18:24.
- "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort", Luke 6:24.
- Mark 10:30
- Kenneth E. Hagin, Zoe: The God-Kind of Life, (Kenneth Hagin Ministries, Inc., 1989)
- Kenneth E. Hagin, "The Virgin Birth" in Word of Faith Magazine (December 1977)
- E. W. Kenyon, The Father and His Family (Lynnwood, WA: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 32nd printing, 1998 [1916, 1937]), p.34
- E. W. Kenyon, What Happened from the Cross to the Throne, (Lynnwood, WA: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 13th printing, 1969 ), p.62.
- Kenneth E. Hagin, New Thresholds of Faith (Tulsa, OK: FLP, 2nd ed, 1985 ), p. 56.
- Kenneth Copeland, "Following the Faith of Abraham", (teaching tape, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1989)
- Kenneth Copeland, "The Force of Love", (Teaching tape, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1987)
- Charles Capps, Authority in Three Worlds, (Harrison House, 1982)
- West Coast Believer's Convention 2006 Monday Morning Service 10:33-11:19
- "Suffer the Children". Archived from the original on 23 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-26.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), a Trevor Glass film, 2006; retrieved April 25, 2008.
- Robinson, Stephen E., Are Mormons Christians? (ISBN 978-1570084096)
- Deification of Man - FairMormon http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_the_nature_of_God/Deification_of_man
- Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis, (Harvest House, 1992)
- Peters, Justin, "A Call For Discernment", 2005-2006; retrieved 2008-03-18.
- Christian Apologists Bible Commentary, 9; retrieved May 15, 2008.
- Dictionary to the Hebrew Bible by James Strong, no. 430
- D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, updated edition, (Hendrickson, 1995), p117
- D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, updated edition, (Hendrickson, 1995), 114-131
- "Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages". biblehub.com.