Word of Faith
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Word of Faith (also known as Word-Faith or simply Faith) is a worldwide Christian movement that teaches that Christians can access the power of faith or fear through speech. Its distinctive teachings are found on radio, Internet, television, and in many Charismatic denominations and communities. The basic doctrine renounces the idea that Christians must be poor and/or suffer defeat in order to live a godly life and glorify Jesus Christ. The Word of Faith doctrine teaches that based on the definition of the word sozo from which Christians get the word salvation, that the saving work done by Jesus on the cross included health and provision in this life.
|Word of Faith|
|Founder||E.W. Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin|
Evangelist E.W. Kenyon (1867–1948) is usually given credit 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 would always be in good health, financially successful, and blessed.
The Word of Faith movement has many distinctive teachings including physical, emotional, financial, relational, and spiritual healing or prosperity for those who skillfully manage their covenant with God. The movement emphasizes choosing to speak the promises and provisions that the speaker wants, that is in agreement with the Bible, as an act of faith and agreement with God's plans and purposes. They believe this is what Jesus meant in Mark 11:22–23[bible 1], when he said believers shall have whatsoever they say and pray with faith. The term word of faith itself is derived from the biblical passage Romans 10:8[bible 2] which speaks of the word of faith that we preach.
The Word of Faith teaches that those who have been freed by Christ's sacrifice are freed from the law and live in the Spirit. Matthew 11:25-30 Galatians 5:1 Mark 11:12-25 (Parable of the Fig Tree concerning the importance of Faith in Christianity).
It teaches that worldly wisdom is not conducive to spiritual understanding but instead is an obstacle. It encourages a call to spiritual maturity to be likened to a child in understanding. Romans 12:2 (Renewal of the Mind) Colossians 2 (Do not be disqualified by the world) Hebrews 6:1-2 (A Call to Maturity) 1 Corinthians 3 (The Church and its Leaders) Galatians 3 (enslavement to the law is a curse) Romans 7:1-6 (A call to live in the Spirit) Matthew 18:1-6 (The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven)
The Word of Faith teaches that there are things to be learned that cannot be learned from the sensuous or carnal mind of the world, but only by the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
Through Faith in Christ, it teaches that anything is possible Matthew 17:14-20 (Faith the size of a mustard seed) and that everyone who believes in Christ is capable of all these things without favoritism by works alone. Matthew 20:1-16 (Parable of the Workers). The Faith of a Roman Officer is another illustration found in Matthew 8:5-18. It teaches that works may be conducive to spiritual growth if there is sincere love according to Matthew 25:14-30 (the Parable of the Talents), the synonymous passage Luke 19:11-27 (the Parable of the Minas), 1 Corinthians 13 (concerning the importance of Love). Matthew 22:36-40 (the Two greatest commandments which are in perfect harmony if we look at how Jesus reinstates Simon Peter John 21:15-19).
It teaches that the authority of Christ was given to those in Christ according to Matthew 16:13-20 (Keys to the Kingdom) and Matthew 6:5-14 (The Lord's Prayer).
Word of Faith is founded on a personal Walk of Faith in a personal relationship with Jesus and guided by Gods Word and Spirit. It is considered unorthodox and heretical by many denominations that feel it may contradict the authority that has been respectively established. It does not appear to be an invitation for complete lawlessness because of the danger of apostasy from seeking worldly things rather than faith in promises made by God. (Matthew 7:15-23 1 John 4:6 2 Peter 2 Jude 1 1 Corinthians 5 Hebrews 11-13)
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[bible 3], "by his stripes we are healed", and Matthew 8:17[bible 4], which says that 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. Accepting this healing is done by first understanding the physical healing is a feature benefit of the salvation that is available through the New Testament. It is reinforced by confessing the verse or verses found in the Bible which assert this healing and then believing them more than they doubt. It is not an act of denying the pain, sickness, or disease, but an act of denying its right to supersede the receiving of the gift provided in salvation as mentioned in Isaiah 53:5 and many other passages. According to adherents, sickness is generally an attempt by Satan to rob believers of their divine right to total health.
Word of Faith teaching holds that God wants his people to be prosperous, which includes finances, good health, good marriages and relationships, i.e. to live generally prosperous lives in all areas. Word of Faith teaches that God empowers his people (blesses them) to achieve the promises that are contained in the Bible. Because of this, suffering does not come from God, but rather, from Satan. As Kenneth Copeland's ministry has stated, the idea that God uses suffering for our benefit is considered to be "a deception of Satan" and "absolutely against the Word of God."  Additionally, if someone is not experiencing prosperity, it is because they have given Satan authority over their lives. God will not do anything at all unless the person invites him to.
It is argued that Jesus and the apostles were financially wealthy, owning homes, having monetary resources and businesses. The following arguments have been offered for this claim:
- 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 resources - feeding the 5 thousand men (plus women and children), finding tax money in a fish, telling Peter where to find fish so his net was overflowing etc
- The businesses that each of the apostles apparently owned/worked in
This is contrary to the traditional view of Jesus, who is often viewed as being a poor, wandering teacher. Based on the concept that Jesus and his apostles were arguably wealthy, as well as the historical examples of his people having great wealth, and the promises for financial prosperity throughout the Old and New Testaments, Word of Faith proponents teach that modern believers also have access to the "blessing" and may also become financially wealthy. Teachers like Kenneth Copeland assert the concept of 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[bible 5]). 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 confessionEdit
Within Word of Faith teaching, a central element of receiving from God involves "confession". This doctrine is often referred to as "positive confession" or "faith confession" by practitioners. While similar, the teaching should not be confused with Norman Vincent Peale's positive thinking theology. Peale's teaching was marked by its focus on the individual, as evidenced by his oft-spoken statement, "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 simply by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1[bible 6]), and that humans have been endowed with the ability (power) to speak things into existence. Thus, making a "positive confession" (by reciting a promise of scripture, for example), and believing that which God says, accesses the resurrection power that was released when Christ was raised from the dead Ephesians 1:19-20[bible 7] Ephesians 3:20[bible 8], which causes those things to come into fruition. This teaching is interpreted from Mark 11:22-23[bible 9]. A more recent variant of positive confession is decree and declare. Word of Faith preachers have likened faith to a "force".
Likewise, according to Word of Faith teaching, "negative confession" can yield negative results, and hence believers should be conscious of their words. This is argued on the interpretation of Proverbs 18:21[bible 10], "Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and they that love them will eat the fruit thereof", also Numbers 14:28[bible 11], "...saith the Lord, as you have spoken in my ears, so will I do", among other scriptures.
Critics and controversyEdit
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Many beliefs that the movement holds as essential 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 the 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, arguing that Kenyon was the father of the teaching, adopting the teachings of New Thought and relabeling them; that Hagin had plagiarized his doctrines from Kenyon; and that the unique doctrines of the Word of Faith were heretical. Thus, the Word of Faith movement, in McConnell’s view, constitutes a "Trojan Horse". This argument was the primary conclusion reached by McConnell’s master’s thesis published as a book, A Different Gospel, in 1988.
One of McConnell's classmates, Dale H. Simmons, published his own research in earning a doctorate at Drew University. Simmons argued that Kenyon was influenced by heterodox metaphysical movements and the Faith Cure movement of the nineteenth century. In 1990, The Agony of Deceit was published as a conglomeration of 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.
Similar criticisms were made by William DeArteaga. DeArteaga concedes some New Thought influence in Kenyon's teaching, but he argues that Kenyon's views helped the church rediscover some biblical truths. The primary work in defense of this theory is DeArteaga's book Quenching the Spirit. 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 who 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, traces the movement's origins to the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Phineas Quimby's New Thought Movement, Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science) in his seminar "A Call for Discernment".
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 the sake of his name (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' controversyEdit
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[bible 12], 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[bible 13]. A common theme in Word of Faith preaching is that God created man as "an exact duplication of God's kind." (Hebrews 1:3[bible 14], John 14:12[bible 15], etc.) In all of this, there is no argument of man's ability to exist and operate independently of God, but rather, the emphasis is on what the believer can become in God.
Suffer the Children, a documentary highlighting some of the teachings of the Word of Faith movement, has a video clip of 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."
The promulgation of this teaching is one of the most contentious doctrines to its critics, who consider it heresy. Mormon scholar Stephen E. Robinson, whose religion, citing the Bible and the early church, teaches that man can become gods after eons of exaltation, has declared the "little gods" teaching heretical; the Mormon view is itself considered heretical by mainstream Christianity. Many Evangelical critics have asserted that the "little gods" teaching is, in fact, 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 reason the Word of Faith movement holds so tenaciously to "health and wealth" tenets is because of the "little gods" teaching: "A god should never be sick, and a god should never be poor." In response, Word of Faith defenders have claimed the teaching is simply underscoring 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. The biblical application of these verses is addressed to the Judges of Israel where they were called gods, not because they were divine, but because they represented the true and only God when they judged the people. The Hebrew and Greek words used in both Scriptures for "gods" can also be applied to magistrates and used to describe someone as "mighty". However, Jesus himself uses this same passage, in John 10, to refer to his own divinity.
Jesus died spirituallyEdit
Jesus died spiritually (sometimes 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 that Jesus died spiritually. Many actually believe 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. The Word of Faith movement does teach that Jesus himself was never a sinner and on the cross Jesus was forsaken by God for humanity paying the price for all sins.
E.W. Kenyon, a minister who is 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's mentioned Jesus Harrowing Hell in The Name of Jesus (1978 edition) which has caused many to believe that he supported JDS. Kenneth Copeland does claim that Jesus suffered in Hell and that Christ's resurrection parallels the believer's born again experience. While it is not a central doctrine of the movement, the movement has received some condemnation from critics 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 referencesEdit
- 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?
- 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
- Guideposts Foundation - Founder Norman Vincent Peale
- 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., 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