Word-Faith Theology

 

GUEST ARTICLE

Word-Faith Theology

God issues a warning to those who attempt to cloud an important issue as Paul says, “charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:14-15).

People who feel intimidated or weak in their position tend to shift focus of the discussion to another topic or to attack the motives of those in opposition, rather than the facts which are taught in scripture.

For example, the pro-abortion group, instead of staying in the arena of facts concerning the taking of a human life, shift the subject to “a women’s right over her own body”, and call their opponents fascists or anti-women.

This same pattern is found with some in the word-faith camp. They typically shift the issue, claiming that those who are opposing them are anti-charismatic (cessationists, believing that the miraculous gifts have ceased). This misinformation or red herring is designed to lead their followers to automatically dismiss anything word-faith critics say.

To set the record straight, the staff of Watchman Fellowship is multi-denominational, as are most of the critics of the word-faith movement. Watchman’s staff is comprised of Baptists, Presbyterians, Assemblies of God members, etc. Our staff knows that God does heal and does the miraculous.

Most of Watchman’s staff believe in the continuance of the miraculous gifts for today. Biblically, all Christians are charismatics in that all Christians possess spiritual gifts.

[Note: This is not the position of this website’s organizer. We believe that the Scriptures would warn against denominationalism and sectarianism, along with every form of non-Scriptural and anti-Scriptural teaching and practice. RH]

Those in the word-faith camp who claim their critics are just anti-charismatic are not accurate even about the biblical definition of charisma (spiritual gifts endowed by God) nor are they factual in their assertions.

To drive this point home it is important for the follower of the word-faith teachers to know that many pentecostals and charismatics are very critical of the word-faith theology.

For example, Florence Bulle, a “charismatic,” has written an excellent book titled The Many Faces of Deception (formerly, God Wants You Rich and Other Enticing Doctrines).

In the first chapter, “Following God for Fun and Profit,” she strongly denounces the “Name-it, Claim-it” teaching, demonstrating how contrary it is to the Scripture and god’s way of living.

Well-known pastor and charismatic leader of Calvary Chapel, Chuck Smith wrote a book, Charisma vs. Charismania, where he writes, “The latest wind of pernicious, unscriptural doctrine to blow through the ranks of some charismatics is the `what-you-say-is-what-you-get’ teaching, otherwise known as the prosperity doctrine” (Chuck Smith, Charisma vs. Charismania, p. 135).

He also soundly condemns the teaching of “negative and positive confession” as well as the teaching that sickness is a result of lack of faith. Smith agrees with Watchman when he states that these teachings “sound more like Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science) than the Apostle Paul” (Ibid., parenthesis mine).

R.L. Whitworth had been senior pastor of one of the largest Assemblies of God churches, Calvary Assembly, for 30 years when he wrote the book God Told Me to Tell You.

In it, Whitworth not only exposes the false demonstrations of “the word of knowledge,” but also ably condemns the doctrines of the word-faith teachers. He too equates the “name-it and claim-it” theory as a “repeat of the Science of Mind ideas of Earnest Holmes,” founder of the New Age church of Religious Science. (R.L. Whitworth, God Told Me to Tell You, p. 121).

 

Dr. George Wood, an Assistant Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal, writes about the multitude of people he has seen who have experienced “devastating spiritual and psychological damage caused by the positive confession movement.”

He observes that there are three basic faulty assumptions controlling the “positive confession” theology.

First, that God wills perfect health, total healing, and complete prosperity for every believer.

Second, that God has obligated Himself to heal every sickness and to financially prosper those who have faith.

Third, any failure is not the fault of God, but is caused by a lack of faith or sin in the individual’s life.

Dr. Wood comments that these teachers “have missed the Bible in three ways: They twist particular verses out of their plain meaning; they refuse to deal with Scriptures which plainly have different meanings than those of the `positive confession;’ and they fail to let the Bible speak for itself” (Dr. George Wood, Mountain Movers, July 1988).

Well known charismatic, David Wilkerson, writes in the late Keith Green’s Last Days Ministries newsletter, that he too has seen many Christians “throughout our nation, whose faith is shipwrecked” because of the “faith” movement.

He writes that they began to “believe that getting every desire of the heart depended simply on getting their formulas correct. They were challenged to launch out in God for prosperity, perfect health, and whatever else their minds could conceive. “Conceive then believe. That includes removing from your vocabulary any negative thoughts, words, or confessions.”

Wilkerson comments, “My friends, that kind of theology is silly,” and proceeds to present the correct teaching about God’s nature and loving relationship in the believer’s life.

 

The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements’ article on “Positive Confession Theology” serves as both a documentation of the heretical teachings and the teachers of the word-faith movement, as well as some sound correction.

It identifies E.W. Kenyon as the founder, and men like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Charles Capps, Frederick K.C. Price, Robert Tilton, Earl Paulk, and others as his disciples.

The article states that the “theological claims, while based on faulty presuppositions, has a universal appeal” as it feeds the natural fallen nature of man.

The article points out that “the Rhema interpretation is their biased selection of biblical passages, often without due regard to their context. This approach not only does violence to the text but forces the New Testament linguistic data into artificial categories that the Bible authors themselves could not affirm” (Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 1988, pp. 718-720).

Other Pentecostal and Charismatic scholars have written in-depth correctives to this harmful teaching. This is significant as none of the word-faith teachers claim to be scholars or well-trained theologically. Many times they admit this and even foolishly ridicule those who have a depth of scholarship.

The Bible is very clear that those who become teachers have a much greater responsibility. They are to be well grounded in sound doctrine. (Colossians 2:6-7; Titus 1:9; Titus 2:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-3, 4:6; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; James 3:1).

Dr. Charles Farah, Jr. was Professor of Theology and Historical Studies at Oral Roberts University and wrote an excellent article for Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies titled, “A Critical Analysis: The “Roots and Fruits” of Faith-Formula Theology” (Spring, 1981, pp. 3-21).

He summarizes his article by noting, “The movement uses Gnostic hermeneutical principles and displaces contextual scientific exegesis. It shares many of the goals of present day humanism, particularly in regards to the creaturely comforts. It is, in fact, a burgeoning heresy” (Ibid., p. 21).

 

A more recent article in Pneuma, “Cultic Origins of Word-Faith Theology Within the Charismatic Movement”, was written by H. Terris Newman, Bible professor at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God. Newman adds Paul Yonggi Cho, Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller to the list of word-faith teacher who reflect more Mind-Science “theology” than Biblical truth.

He concludes, “In view of the fact of the cultic origins of the health and wealth gospel, its heretical Christology, its devastating effects on human lives and the false portrayal of Christianity it presents to the world, this paper is a call to the wider evangelical community also to engage in an apologetic that will distinguish the gospel of Jesus Christ from those who indeed propagate a different gospel” (Newman, Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Spring 1990, pp. 32-55).

Of course one of the most thorough, scholarly works done in this area is the book A Different Gospel, written by D.R. McConnell of Oral Roberts University, himself an unapologetic charismatic.

Dr. Gordon Fee, theology professor at Gordon-Conwell seminary has dealt with the exegetical and interpretive errors of the health and wealth teachings in two articles, one published in The Pentecostal Evangel and the other in Agora, which have been combined into a booklet titled, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels.

Fee points out in passage after passage that those who accept the word-faith teaching are doing so because they want to and because it appeals to man’s base selfish desires. No one can possibly come to their conclusions based on an accurate exegesis and historical view of the Bible.

Two of the most outspoken current critics of the word-faith movement are Christian Research Institute, founded by the late Dr. Walter Martin and now led by Hank Hanegraaff, both “charismatic” Christians, and Cornerstone Ministries, led by Eric Pement, also “charismatic”. Personal Freedom Outreach’s staff member, Steve Cannon, who exposes these errors, also comes from the charismatic-pentecostal tradition.

And last but certainly not least, the Assemblies of God issued an official statement on 1980 on “The Believer and Positive Confession”. It is a sound, balanced view of the issues of faith, healing, miracles, prayer and the life of a believer.

The statement demonstrates how the excesses of the word-faith theology “are in conflict with the Word of God” It correctly points out that true biblical faith considers the will and sovereignty of God which can be discerned from a sound hermeneutic (i.e., rules of Bible interpretation).

In admirable pastoral concern, the statement concludes with, “God’s Word does teach great truths such as healing, provision for need, faith, and the authority of believers. But these truths must always be considered in the framework of the total teaching of Scripture. When abuses occur, there is sometimes a temptation to draw back from these great truths of God’s Word. The fact that doctrinal aberrations develop, however is not a reason for rejecting or remaining silent concerning them” (p. 22).

All of these articles and more which demonstrate the harm and heretical nature of the word-faith movement are available for a donation to Watchman Fellowship to cover expenses.

Pray with us that the leaders and followers will be like Apollos, a gifted and dynamic communicator, when Priscilla and Aquila took him aside to explain “the way of God more perfectly”, he responded and was powerfully used to help correctly teach those “which had believed through grace” (Acts 18:24-28).

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