CANCER IN THE BODY OF CHRIST: WORD OF FAITH (Part 1 of 4)
by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)
The Word of Faith (WOF) movement reared its ugly head within Charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity some time in the early 20th century, although there were hints of it prior to this. The Word of Faith movement as a whole is not a formal denomination and has no hierarchy of accountability, but the movement does have several high-profile teachers who pretty much define what is accepted and what is denied in WOF theology. Basically speaking it's an odd theology mix of orthodox Christianity, although redefining terms to meet their own needs, and mysticism.
Kenneth Hagin is often referred to as the "father" of the Word of Faith movement, but technically it was Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866) who started the process. It was Quimby's metaphysical teachings that influenced E.W. Kenyon, and in turn it was E.W. Kenyon's teachings that influenced Kenneth Hagin. Nearly all prominent Word of Faith teachers today draw their inspiration from Kenneth Hagin, with Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn being among Hagin's greatest supporters.
The "force" of faith, which is a clearly unbiblical view of faith, is the foundation of Word of Faith theology. Adherents believe they can use literal words to manipulate the faith-force, and therefore actually create what they believe Scripture promises (i.e. health, wealth, prosperity, etc.). Laws which supposedly govern the “faith-force” are said to operate independently of God's sovereign will. They actually claim God Himself is subject to the "laws" of faith.
Essential, orthodox, historic Christian doctrines are not necessarily considered essentials in Word of Faith theology. Word of Faith teachers often redefine or completely reinterpret essential Christian doctrine in order to fit their own unique theological system. These reinterpretations often come from special “revelation knowledge" (i.e. revelations supposedly directly from God, given specifically to the WOF teacher). Putting this "revelation knowledge" in a position above Scripture is one reason why WOF teachers repeatedly contradict Scripture (and at times each other). For example, one WOF teacher, when speaking of God said, there are nine of them (Benny Hinn); and yet another WOF teacher, when speaking of Jesus said that He never claimed to be God.
Word of Faith teachers are commonly teaching everything from heresy to utter nonesense. For example, one WOF teacher has stated that Adam could fly, and women were originally designed to give birth from their sides. I mean come on! That's science fiction, Twilight Zone stuff. I personally believe there are sincere Christians within the WOF movement and are somehow unaware that their favorite leaders believe, and are teaching, doctrines that outright contradict the Word of God. One reason for such a lack of discernment on the part of these followers is that they are told that questioning the teacher is synonymous with "touching God's anointed," or "quenching the Spirit." To question their teaching is to question God Himself. These naive followers are either unaware that Scripture encourages us to test all teaching by the Word of God, or they've been brainwashed and are more confused and afraid than anything.
The Word of Faith movement is a serious threat to the church, I believe one of THE biggest threats to the church and this is primarily because WOF has already made it into the church and is doing damage from the inside, much like a Trojan Horse. Following is a comparison of Word of Faith theology, as it is taught by its prominent teachers, along with the actual teachings of historic Christian doctrine. It is important to remember that these are cross-section examples, teachings from across the WOF board, so some adherents of this movement may believe some, but not necessarily all, of these unbiblical doctrines.
WORD OF FAITH:
God has subjected Himself to the authority of man on earth. In giving dominion to Adam over the earth, God gave up His sole authority and purposefully put Himself under the will and word of His creation. In addition, Word of Faith teachers routinely talk about visions where they have seen God and describe Him as looking very much like a man. In fact, Kenneth Copeland has described God providing his approximate weight, height, and hand width.
You might find this interesting as well: “Satan had gained ascendancy in the earth by gaining Adam's authority, and God was left on the outside. God couldn't come here in His divine power and wipe them out. He had to move in an area where it would be ruled legal by the Supreme Court of the Universe” (Capps, Authority in Three Worlds, p. 51).
With this teaching, God is reduced to some sort of cosmic bellhop or cabana boy. Word of Faith teachers promote the idea that because God is bound by His Word, man can use God’s Word to “force” Him to do things. Clearly this view strips God of His kingship. A God like this is neither all knowing nor all powerful. In addition, to say that God has a physical form, a body like a man, rapes the biblical record of God as Spirit (John 4:4) and nullifies the doctrine of God’s ability to be everywhere at once, and to say that God the Father has shown Himself in all of His glory to the eyes of certain men of late contradicts the passages which say no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 6:46)
“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen” (1 Timothy 6:15-16).
“Then Job answered the Lord and said, I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted'” (Job 42:1-2).
“But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalms 115:3).
“So David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, 'Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone'” (1 Chronicles 29:10-12).
WORD OF FATIH:
Since man is created in the image of God, he is a “copy” of God. They take this to mean that Adam had a divine nature. With the Fall, however, Adam lost his divine nature and authority to Satan who now has dominion over the earth. After conversion, man gets that divine nature back and, with it, a “creative power” that can be used and enacted with enough faith and a literal, audible “positive confession.” Therefore men are indeed appropriately described as “little gods.”
Some more information of interest: Kenneth Copeland, “Every Christian is a god.” (Believer’s Voice of Victory, broadcast July 9, 1987); Benny Hinn, “Though we are not Almighty God Himself, nevertheless, we are now divine” (Aired, 12/1/90, TBN); Kenneth Hagin“You are as much the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was…the believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth”. (“Word Of Faith,” Dec. 1980, p. 14).
This doctrine completely confuses the separate distinction between the Creator and His creation. It also implies a sort of “yin/yang” idea of equal and opposite powers, rather than the biblical idea of God having unquestionable, complete, and sovereign power over all (earth, humanity, Satan, etc.). The church has always understood the imago Dei (image of God) to mean that man has a mind, emotions, and a will; that he is uniquely created, and that he is appointed as a “co-regent,” having dominion over the earth. It has never been understood to mean that man has the actual nature of the one and only divine God, and it has certainly never been understood to mean that man has any authority of any kind, in any way, over God.
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
"'You are My witnesses,' declares the Lord, 'And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me'” (Isaiah 43:10).
“You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, 'He did not make me'; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, 'He has no understanding'” (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6; Romans 9:21)?
“The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalms 24:1).