Who are the Leaders of the Word-Faith Movement?
In the USA Word Faith doctrines are commonly disseminated through radio broadcasts, tapes, books, and tracts, primarily through the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), which regularly airs the programs of more than a dozen of these teachers. Paul and Jan Crouch, the directors of TBN, who are themselves deeply involved in the movement, have also featured Word Faith teachers as special guests on their “Praise the Lord” and “Praise-a-thon” (fund-raiser) programs. The Crouchs’ worldwide platform has mainstreamed Word Faith theology to the lives of millions of Christians who would not otherwise have encountered Word Faith theology. Christianity in the western world has been heavily influenced in many quarters by this movement to the point where many consider it the main thrust of the charismatic movement. In Europe these doctrines are brought in through visiting USA speakers and their materials, and by influenced pastors and leaders – and also through the “GOD Christian Channel” which concentrates on many of tese teachers via Satellite and Cable TV. In South Wales the main adherents are pastored by Ray Bevan in King’s Church, Newport, but the influence is also noticeable in the Elim and Assemblies of God Pentecostal movements.
What is the attitude of Word-Faith teachers?
The vibrant message delivered with great authority through these media, and seemingly backed by Scripture and buttressed by claims of the miraculous, has led many astray. These teachers often deliver cautions against those who would criticize the doctrines.
Such people are called “nay sayers” and negative influences. If such people cannot be won over to Word-Faith teachings, the listener or reader is told, they should be avoided. An example of the kind of sneering and contradictory attack launched on anyone who questions their beliefs and doctrines can be heard from Ray Bevan’s ministry (King’s Church, tapes – 6th & 13th September ’98). Often when a Word-Faith teacher or their teachings are criticized, there will be allegations of “sowing division in the body” or lack of belief in healing, or demons, or the miraculous.
A classic example of this can be seen in a quote from Word-Faith teacher Kenneth Hagin: “When the Lord was dealing with me concerning the prophet’s ministry, He said that if a church doesn’t accept my ministry then I should go my way, shake the dust off my feet against them so to speak; but He would remove their candlestick. He would take away from them what power they had left. …. He said that judgment must begin in the house of God, and if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and the ungodly appear. If a church won’t accept this ministry, then they wouldn’t accept His Word and He can’t help them”(The Ministry of a Prophet, p.19).
We believe in divine healing, both instantaneous and gradual, the existence of demons and deliverance from them; and that the gifts of the Spirit are for the church today as they have been since its beginning. Criticizing a body of teachings is not the same as judging one who accepts those teachings. However, Christians are told to compare any teachings, and the gospel they bring, to the Word of God and to cast off any that contradict Scripture (Acts 17:11; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
If a person reads into the sacred text something that does not belong there and is not consistent with sound exegesis and hermeneutics, then Christians have a right to challenge and expose error and point out to brethren who these mistaken teachers are (Acts 20:28-31 & 2 Timothy 2:16-18). It does not mean that these teachers are not true brethren, although they may not be. It does not mean that we should love them any less. It simply means that an error has been found and exposed and should be dealt with in love for the truth, and compassion for those damaged by the deception.
You will be like God – says Satan! (Genesis 3:5)
The bedrock of Word-Faith doctrine is what Kenyon calls “new creation realities.” For the rest of the Word-Faith assertions to work, man first must be exalted to a high position. Word-Faith teaching puts man on the same level as Jesus Christ. This is done by assembling Scripture passages to purportedly prove that once a man is in Christ, then the “new creature” spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5:17 is recreated as a new species of being. Kenyon writes: “You see, man is a spirit being. He is in the same class with God. He was created in the image and likeness of God. He had to be in order to become a partaker of the Divine Nature. When he sinned he became a partaker of Satan’s nature, selfishness. … The part of man that is re-created in [sic] his spirit. God imparts to our spirit His own nature, Eternal Life” (The Hidden Man, p.121).
When that happens one is “a new species of being that never existed before” (Kenneth Copeland, Now We Are In Christ Jesus, p. 5). Hagin says “the believer is as much an Incarnation as Jesus Christ” (Faith Food, p. 23). Kenneth Copeland says “Jesus is no longer the only begotten son of God” (Now We Are In Christ Jesus, p. 24). “We are the Word made flesh, just as Jesus was.” (Gloria Copeland, quoted in Crenshaw, Man as God, 202). So, in the Word-Faith teaching, Jesus loses his uniqueness. The believer is elevated to the position of being a God-man the same way Jesus was a God-man. They claim that the only difference is Jesus obtained his position by birth and the rest obtain it by a re-creation of the spirit. Read Isaiah 44:8: “Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any” (cf. Isaiah 43:10; John 1:18; John 5:44; John 17:3; James 2:19; 1 Timothy 2:5; Colossians 1:14-17; Hebrews 1:2-3).
A further denial of the uniqueness of Jesus occurs in Word-Faith teachings on the atonement. According to their interpretation of Scripture, much more happened during Christ’s crucifixion and death than is orthodox or Scriptural. “Jesus went into hell to free mankind. … When His blood poured out it did not atone.” (Kenneth Copeland, quoted in McConnell, Different Gospel, 120). “When [Jesus] said ‘it is finished,’ on that cross, He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. The plan of redemption had just begun. There was still three days and three nights to go through. … [in hell], He suffered punishment for three horrible days and nights . . . “He’s [Jesus] separated from His God and in that moment He’s a mortal man: capable of failure, capable of death”” (Kenneth Copeland, What Happened from the Cross to the Throne, cassette tape). “Jesus died as our substitute. He who knew no sin was made to be sin. He took upon Himself our sin nature. And He died – He was separated and cut off from God. He went down into the prison house of suffering in our place. He was there three days and nights . . .”Not only was He physically resurrected – His body resurrected – but His spirit was made alive unto God again. He had died spiritually. He took upon Himself spiritual death – for us. And He is the first one who was ever born again. His new birth is our new birth” (Kenneth Hagin, Made Alive, April 1982, p. 3). “He suffered in his own body, and more important, in His spirit. Jesus experienced the same spiritual death that entered man in the Garden of Eden [i.e., He took on Satan’s nature]. … After Jesus was made sin, He had to be born again.
… Jesus was a born-again man” (Gloria Copeland,God’s Will For You, p. 50). “Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God.” (Frederick K. C. Price, “If Christ Did Not Rise … What Then?” Ever Increasing Faith Messenger (June 1980): 7). “Jesus went into hell to free mankind. … When His blood poured out it did not atone.” (Kenneth Copeland, quoted in McConnell, Different Gospel, 120). Read Hebrews 12:2: “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross [not torture in hell], despising the shame” (bracket added). “In whom [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7, emphasis added).(cf. Psalm 139:7-8; John 5:26; 10:17-18; 19:30; Colossians 1:19-20; 2:13-15; Revelation 1:5).
In summary, the Word-Faith plan of redemption says: Man was created as the “same order of being as God.” A spirit temporarily housed in a body. He was given dominion over the Earth. When he committed “high treason” by following Satan instead of God, man then gave up the divine nature and took on the nature of Satan. Satan then became the god of this world and man thereafter was born with the satanic nature. “Suddenly, God was on the outside looking in” (Kenneth Copeland,Our Covenant With God, p. 8).
Jesus came so that man’s spirit might be re-created (i.e., man might reclaim the divine nature). On the cross, the plan of redemption merely began. It was there that Jesus took on the nature of Satan, lost his divinity, became a mortal man, and went to hell. There he suffered torture at the hand of Satan until God said “enough.” Having kept the Law of God perfectly, the man Jesus was declared to be “illegally” in hell. At that point, Jesus’ spirit was re-created. He again had the divine nature – Jesus was then born again! The way was then clear for man to have his spirit re-created – to receive the divine nature and to become as much an incarnation as Jesus was! Re-created men “now have the nature of God… the ability of God” (E.W. Kenyon,What Happened from the Cross to the Throne, p. 82). There are no verses in Scripture to support this blasphemous theology – read Exodus 8:10: “There is none like unto the Lord our God” (cf. Exodus 9:13-14; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; 2 Samuel 7:22; Isaiah 46:9; Jeremiah 10:6; Hosea 11:9).
Word of Faith Wrests Scripture!
This scenario is read into the Bible so that it may be extrapolated again in several ways. The first is a fanciful system of Scripture interpretation that arbitrarily assigns new meanings to words and has no regard for the context of passages. For example, Kenyon says: “Adam gained an education through his five senses. His spirit was being made prisoner of his five senses. The psalmist cried, ‘Bring my soul out of prison” (Psalms 142:7). The Hebrew word should have been translated ‘spirit’ instead of ‘soul (The Hidden Man, p. 8). However, a Hebrew lexicon will show that the word for “soul” (nephesh) and “spirit” (ruach) are two different words. The psalmist in 142:7 uses the word “nephesh.” It cannot be translated “spirit.” Word-Faith teachers also redefine terms in 2 Peter 1:4, a key verse in their doctrine. They claim that the phrase, “you might become partakers of the divine nature,” means that people actually take on God’s nature. This is blasphemy! “A man is re-created by receiving God’s nature into his spirit, which makes him a New Creation and gives him a new self” (The Hidden Man, p. 8). The Greek word translated “partakers” is koinonos, which, when used as a noun, means “partner.” (See W.E. Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 161.) Peter was saying that Christians are made partners with the divine nature. The Holy Spirit now bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Many other ploys are used to read Word-Faith doctrine into the Bible. Space allows examination of only two of the most outrageous. The first is that of interpreting certain verses to mean the opposite of what the writer intended. Referring to the King James Version’sJohn 14:14, where Jesus says, “if ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Hagin says: “Here, the Greek word translated ‘ask’ means ‘demand.’… You’re not demanding anything of the Father. … You’re demanding of the devil” (Faith Food, Winter Edition, p. 58). The Greek text of John 14:14 or a modern translation based on the Greek text has Jesus telling His disciples “If you ask ME anything in MY name, I will do it.” The second ploy is that of denying the validity of a passage that does not square with Word-Faith teaching. Concerning the statement of Job 1:21, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away,” Word-Faith teacher Charles Capps says, “Job did say it, but it is not a true statement. It is a lie. … Job sure was not under the anointing when he made that statement” (The Tongue – A Creative Force, pp. 8-9).
When this kind of fanciful ‘cultic’ Bible interpretation is used, the Scriptures can be made to say anything you want them to say.
Now you are “Divine” you can “Name It And Claim It!”
Clear Scripture passages are altered to fit the Word-Faith system to establish the believer as one who possesses the divine nature so that he can realize his “legal authority.” With this realization comes the knowledge, power, and ability of God. Kenyon says you can “walk as Jesus walked, without any consciousness of inferiority to God or Satan” (The Hidden Man, p. 24). Once the position of being “the same order of being as God” has been established, then it becomes necessary to demonstrate that this “re-created spirit” has unlimited power to create his own reality through positive confession. Capps in his publication, The Tongue – A Creative Force, explains: “God’s Word is spiritual law. It functions just as sure as any natural law. Words governed by spiritual law become spiritual forces working for you. Idle words work against you. … The natural world is to be controlled by man speaking God’s words” (p. 8-9) “You have to believe that those things that you say – everything that you say – will come to pass” (p. 24). “Man was created in God’s class. … a spirit being, very capable of operating on the same level of faith as God. …This is not theory. It is fact. It is spiritual law. It works every time it is applied correctly. To imitate God, you must talk like Him and act like Him” (p. 130-131). “The Word of God conceived in the heart, formed by the tongue, and spoken out of the mouth is creative power. …The spoken Word will work for you as you continually confess it” (p. 148).
The Scriptures used to support this position are selectively chosen from verses affirming that God will give believers what they ask (demand) from Him (Mark 11:23-24, John 16:23-24) to the exclusion of the verses that put these petitions in the perspective of God’s sovereign will (Matthew 6:10; 1 John 5:14). In Word-Faith teaching, man is given the position of a god on Earth. At the same time they denigrate the position of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth and declare that, although Jesus walked with God and that God was in Him, he never actually claimed to be God (Kenneth Copeland, “Take Time to Pray,” Believer’s Voice of Victory; February 1987: 9). This nonsense is amply refuted by the scriptures, for instance John 1:1; 5:18-23; 8:24,58; 10:1-39; and 20:28 all clearly testify to Jesus’ claim to equality with Almighty God.
In common with similar cultic heresies, such as that of the Mormons, man is now raised to a position never given to him in the Bible: “Well, now, you don’thave a human, do you? No, you are one. You don’t have a God in you. You are one,” Copeland declares (The Force of Love, cassette tape). “I am a little God! Critics, be gone!” (Paul Crouch, Praise the Lord, Trinity Broadcasting Network, July 7, 1986) “We are a class of Gods!” (Copeland, quoted in Hanegraaff, Crisis, 116). “As a believer, you have the same spiritual capacity that Jesus has. … Your spirit is just as big as God’s because you are born of Him.” (Copeland, Realm, 16). They claim that once man has been given that position then, with his positive confession, he can create his own reality. The implications of these presumptive teachings are horrifying. The sovereignty of the infinite God is replaced with the sovereignty of finite man. To teach that man can “demand” from God and have everything that he says pre-supposes that man knows what is best in every situation. The only way that could be true is if man is all-knowing. Man is not all-knowing and because of that cannot know what is best in every situation. Only God is omniscient. That’s why we have to rely on His judgment as a loving Father to give us what is best even if it seems harsh at the time. This is what it means to pray “Your [God’s] will be done.” This is true faith!
Despite all the fantastic convolutions that Word-Faith teachers go through to try to explain the nature of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7), it is a clear-cut situation where Paul prays and God answers in the negative! Even though it seemed harsh at the time, it was the act of a loving Father and worked ultimately to Paul’s benefit. It is clear from Scripture that God will refuse some requests and this makes the whole idea of faith as a ‘force’, operating unalterably in accordance with a formula, unsustainable. Further, once we have affirmed that requests must be evaluated in some way, then we have put it back in the hands of God to evaluate all requests. No longer can faith be considered a tool to create realities in accordance with our will, but a trust that God will answer our requests in accordance with His will. (1 John 5:14).
Bring on the Rolls-Royces – give us the cash!
Financial prosperity to those in the Word Faith movement is more than just a blessing. It is an absolute right. In Kenneth Copeland’s words, “Jesus bore the curse of the law on our behalf. He beat Satan and took away his power. Consequently, there is no reason for you to live under the curse of the law, no reason for you to live in poverty of any kind.” (Copeland, Laws, 51). The Bible names countless individuals who, although they were righteous before God, were poor: Paul the apostle (Philippians 4:11-12) who, if you believe Copeland et al, must have lacked faith because he wasted his time making tents (Acts 18:3); his companions (1 Corinthians 4:9-13); the Old Testament faithful (Hebrews 11:37). Even the Lord Jesus lived in poverty (Matthew 8:20)! These facts, however, are vehemently denied by Word Faith teachers, especially John Avanzini, who assures everyone that “Jesus was handling big money.” (Praise the Lord, Trinity Broadcasting Network, videotape, September 15, 1988). In fact, he claims, “Jesus had a nice house, a big house–big enough to have company stay the night with Him at the house.” (Believer’s Voice of Victory, Trinity Broadcasting Network, videotape, January 20, 1991). Frederick K. C. Price agrees: “The whole point is I’m trying to get you to see–to get you out of this malaise of thinking that Jesus and His disciples were poor and then relating that to you. … The Bible says that He has left us an example that we should follow His steps. That’s the reason why I drive a Rolls Royce” (Ever Increasing Faith, Trinity Broadcasting Network, videotape, December 9, 1990). Is the average Word-Faith believer driving a Rolls? No – but is it because he doesn’t have enough faith? Or is it the high price he pays for the teaching materials and demands for tithes and offerings that keep the leader in luxury – and the duped followers in poverty? Scripture nowhere indicates that Jesus was wealthy. Instead, it clearly portrays Him as being poor: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). We are made rich in spiritual rewards on earth now and in our certain future destiny in heaven. Paul’s words regarding honest labour and contentment with our present position (Ephesians 6:5-7; Colossians 3:22-24) is mocked by these false teachers. Spiritual wealth or life comes to us sinners through the death of Christ. Christians are to be rich in spiritual things (James 2:5), including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Revelation 2:9 speaks of believers who, although poor by worldly standards, are still “rich” because of the spiritual wealth they possess. Temporal riches are of much less value than spiritual riches. According to Paul, “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Jesus himself said, “Lay up not for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
What happens to the victims – those who lose “Faith in Faith”?
In counselling those who have been caught up in the Word-Faith doctrines and then have been disillusioned, one finds many who have difficulty breaking free of these teachings. A consistent pattern of behaviour can be observed in these people. First, as with all cultic teachings, no one has ever come up with this teaching through Bible study alone. People generally find it through the influence of Word-Faith churches and the literature, tapes and seminars which originally promulgated from the USA. At this level, strong indoctrination takes place. It is through the literature and seminars that people become “positive confessors.” At this point, no negatives are allowed. God wants you healthy, wealthy, and wise. Sickness, poverty, and want are signs of spiritual weakness. If something does not go right, lack of faith is at fault. There are unfortunates, deceived by this heresy, who are still awaiting the replacement of an artificial leg or eye “when they have enough faith.” Unfortunately the Word-Faith teachers never mention the casualties of their deception which are often picked up by orthodox Christian counsellors.
At this stage, Word-Faith adherents often gain an attitude of superiority. Word-Faith adherents consider any criticism of their doctrine to be an attack by those who are not “spiritually mature,” and have not had this “higher revelation.” Then, some time later, after all the teaching, confessing and testifying, reality begins to rear its ugly head. Common human suffering teaches Word-Faith adherents that their system just does not work! By embracing a faulty view of faith, thousands have exposed themselves to the power of Satan and the results are seen in the depression which results from inevitable failure to achieve the claimed results. Breakdown of relationships, loss of faith and personal tragedies at work and in the home result – with inevitable breakup of families through divorce and despair. People have died or lost their children because they denied the reality of sickness and were persuaded not to take medical advice but to rely on this “faith in faith!” Once faced with this, they either admit hat Word-Faith teachings are fallacious and throw themselves into the arms of a loving, sovereign God, or they begin to consciously deny reality. Word-Faith victims who seek counselling often display three characteristics: confusion, guilt, and fear. The confusion is usually the result of inner conflicts set up by contradictions between what is taught by Word-Faith teachers and what is in the Bible.
But “Confessing It Means Possessing It”?
Faith in Doctrines of Demons (1 Timothy 4:1-5) leads to Fear and Death!
Guilt is generally brought about by the tension generated when one was positively confessing but getting no results. According to the Word-Faith position, no results equals lack of faith or open sin in one’s life. This can, and usually does, cause excessive introspection and a tremendous guilt feelings. Sometimes the guilt is real and needs to be dealt with, but often there is no reason for the feelings. Whatever the person was positively confessing was not in God’s plan and He is not going to bring it about.
Fear comes from two areas. First is the obsessive compulsion to be positive in every word. Even using phrases such as “I’m just dying to do that” or “that joke just tickled me to death,” release satanic powers, say the Word-Faith teachers(The Tongue – A Creative Force, p. 90-92). People become afraid that they are going to slip up, utter a negative word, and give a place to Satan. Secondly, fear is a corollary to the guilt mentioned above. Fear and guilt usually work in a downward spiral. One feels guilty because of supposed lack of faith, then afraid because the confession is not “working.” Then there is more guilt, then more fear, and so on down into further despair. This cycle can be extremely spiritually and physically debilitating. All of these spiritual and psychological difficulties can be directly attributed to elevating man to the false position of being a god and saying that he has powers far greater than he really does.
Unfortunately, Word Faith proponents explain suffering through a convenient appeal to the sovereignty of man. There are no victims, nothing is out of control, and everything can change because those afflicted are calling the shots. As long as someone possesses enough knowledge about what God has promised, says the right words, and has enough faith, all will be taken care of–bills will get paid, family members will be healed, and money will fall like manna from heaven. One’s own words control life because words “are the most powerful things in the universe today.” (Capps,Creative Power, 25). “HEALTH, SUCCESS, HAPPINESS and PROSPERITY are God’s Will for YOU when you believe His Word enough to ACT ON IT.” (T. L. Osborne, quoted in Hanegraaff, Crisis, 361). In the Word Faith movement, all suffering is caused by man, rather than God. As Frederick K. C. Price says, “You are suffering because you’re stupid!” (Price, quoted in Crenshaw, Man as God, 156). The only alternative they suggest is blasphemous: “If God is running everything, He does have things in a mess.” (Hagin, The Interceding Christian (Tulsa: Kenneth E. Hagin Ministries, 1978, 14). The stupidity to which Price refers is expressed either through speaking negative confessions or through not realizing that positive confessions will bring about good things.
How should the church respond?
We have seen enough evidence to conclude that the Word-Faith message is a dangerous soul-destroying heresy that simply does not work. It is a body of presumptuous teachings that lacks the authority of the Word of God. It is a system of thinking that has been generated by a group of men drawing from each other’s teachings with an amalgamation of Christian theology, mysticism and Gnosticism bound together by one of the most fanciful methods of Scripture interpretation ever devised. All of this is buttressed by a mutual admiration society among the most popular of the Word-Faith teachers that admonishes critics to “touch not the Lord’s anointed,” often under dire threats of divine displeasure.
The Word-Faith movement has done more than its share of producing strife in the body of Christ. Scores of well-meaning Christians are in bondage to this unscriptural philosophy. The results of the Word-Faith teachings is to leave many people full of confusion, guilt and fear – the very things that the Word-Faith movement professes to eradicate.