The Claims Of Faith Teaching: Examining Divine Health & Wealth
by Rev Rafael D. Martinez, Spiritwatch Ministries
The teaching of the Faith movement has become well known through the colorful couplets that have been coined to describe it over the years since its’ emergence in the mid 1950’s. It has been called "divine health and wealth," "name it and claim it," "blab it and grab it," and "confess it, possess it," among others. It is always interesting how well these couplets so well condense the central claims of the Word of Faith gospel in a form understandable to all, from the “five fold” to the laity. They’ve been echoed in thousands of pulpits for well over fifty years around the world, and they have been exalted as cutting edge revelation to the Body of Christ.
Sadly, such tenets are actually the rearing of the hydra-heads of false doctrine as we shall see, and Christian author D.R McConnell's well known characterization of Faith teaching as "a different gospel" is truly on target. (1) The movement’s teachings on the Gospel - the heart of Christian faith - are a bewildering and paradoxical mixture of sound and false doctrine. Orthodox evangelical doctrinal positions are held on a wide array of fundamentals (such as the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, justification by faith, eternal punishment and rewards, etc.) by almost all of those in the Word of Faith movement. Many sound Pentecostal and Charismatic teachings concerning a practical life energized by the gifts of the Spirit are held by them as well. But tragically, their sound contributions to Christian life are undercut by a hideous tangle of error that in many instances warps or denies it. Under the assumption that what the Faith message teaches are sound Biblical principles based solely upon the "uncompromised Word of God," (a buzz word often used by Faith teachers in their assertions that they are faithfully propagating Biblical truth, suggesting that all other ministers may not be) three generations of the Charismatic and Pentecostal culture have been greatly affected by their almost irresistible influence. They have been led astray through an influence tainted by the destructive stumbling blocks of occultic New Thought disguised as anointed teaching inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The Faith Message: A Closer Look
According to the Faith movement, salvation brings not only forgiveness of sin to the Christian, but a unique variety of pre-resurrection glorification to man’s nature. This glorification is seen as the literal birthing of a new race of mankind, “sons of God” who walk as kings and priests in this present world order. At the moment of their conversion, the spirit of the individual in the process of redemption is so thoroughly recreated, perfected and endued with a new nature by the Holy Spirit that the only thing lacking in their life is their glorified resurrection body. They are destined to enjoy the will of God which decrees that all of His children walk in perfect ("divine") health and wealth, free from "the curse of the law." Irrevocable "spiritual laws" guarantee blessing to those who master them, including Almighty God, who Himself must exercise faith in these "spiritual laws" to rule the universe. (2)
Those in this world who do suffer sickness, privation and financial problems actually demonstrate spiritual deficiency, either lack of faith or secret sins. Faith teachings also claim that the death and resurrection of Jesus paid the price for their deliverance from the effects of the fallen world order around them. In light of the redemptive act just described, the curse placed upon the world by God in the garden of Eden through entrance of sin into mankind has actually been actually lifted. This deliverance, of course, is legally applied to the Christian to the extent they hold fast to audible positive confessions of what one teacher called “faith in your faith.”
In our last article, I detailed a brief summary of what the Faith movement “names” and “claims.” In this article we will take a detailed look at are three central claims of the gospel
according to the Faith movement which become apparent after studying its literature that we should be aware of to understand what it proclaims. These summaries are culled from the widely available sources of Faith teaching and preaching found today.
The Faith Gospel's Claim # 1 : Covenant Coverings
First of all, the Faith movement teaches that the New Covenant of Christianity which was established by the life and teachings of Christ contains a charter of spiritual laws that govern the relationship between God and His people. The Abrahamic covenant recorded in Genesis 17:1-9 is the most dominant one. To the Faith movement, the relationship of the New Testament church to this covenant is a central theme of their doctrine of salvation, the atonement of Christ and the relationship of God to the redeemed. The fall of mankind bestowed spiritual death upon mankind and a transfer of the “legal” dominion of man over the earth directly to Satan’s control. Kenneth Hagin explains:
After the fall of mankind, the human race steadily fell away from the knowledge of God. The harvest of sin became more and more apparent. The broken law exacted its penalty of increasing sin, sickness and disease in mankind. God looked down from on high and said, "I created my man to be a companion to me. Sin has stolen him away. I will formulate a plan to bring man back to me; back to where he was supposed to be." God looked down into a place called Ur of the Chaldees and found a man by the name of Abram, whom He renamed Abraham. .. it is through Abraham's seed that you and I come forward in faith to receive the best God has to offer His man. (3)
The fall from Eden made man a slave to sin and subject to physical death, poverty, pain and suffering and, as Kenneth Copeland adds, even severed God from connection with his creation on earth:
After Adam's fall in the Garden, God needed an avenue back into the earth. He needed some way to break the union between Satan and mankind. Since man was the key figure in the fall, man had to be the key figure in redemption; so God approached a man named Abram. .. God offered Abram a proposition and Abram bought it" (emphasis mine). (4)
The "agreement" that God went on to negotiate with Abraham became a pivotal point in his work of salvation throughout history, for this covenant, Faith teaching asserts, has legally bound God to bestow blessings upon all who are in Christ. "God will set or fix this covenant with you and me in our day to such a degree that the promise cannot be altered," wrote Gloria Copeland. "The covenant cannot be established in your life unless you believe God's Word concerning prosperity. Let there be no doubt about God's will. God's will is to establish His covenant in the earth. Prosperity is a major requirement in the establishment of God's will" (author's emphasis). (5)
So therefore, a Christian may come to Christ through confession of sin, repentance and faith in Christ alone for redemption, therefore, and yet be completely found to be out of God's will by not being found in "divine wealth and health." This well known Faith doctrine principle is echoed worldwide through the claims of many “Faith people” who insist that to “be broke” is a sign of living beneath one’s privileges – at best – as a “King’s Kid.” And Rickey Singleton, a Faith teacher from suburban Chicago, concisely explains how this fine point of Faith theology is by no means lost on the rank and file of the Faith movement:
What you must do is learn how to walk in the Spirit. And you want to know what living right really is? Living right means that you are prosperous, you are blessed, you are applying the principles, the rules of faith in your life. That is living right! (6) (Click to listen to Singleton's claim here by Real Audio)
Salvation, therefore, brings a special measure of God’s grace that empowers the believer to live a life of absolute control over their own life as Copeland explains in another of his seemingly innumerable publications: "When you make Jesus the Lord of your life, you receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness to enable you to reign in life as a king! You will be in a position to reign over your life and the circumstances surrounding you the same as a king reigns over his kingdom." (7)
The Faith Gospel's Claim #2: Spiritual Laws Operated By A "God Kind Of Faith"
The second central point of Faith teaching is that the New Covenant is governed under various "spiritual laws" that God himself must follow as well. There are two primary spiritual laws which are described in Romans 8:2 that govern human existence, these being the "law of sin and death" and the "law of the spirit of life." Adam's fall introduced the first into the world, but the resurrection of Christ introduced the second, and our faith is a spiritual force that activates the effects of the latter. Sin and unbelief, of course, empower the former. As we've seen in our previous article, the concept of determinative spiritual laws that control everything in creation is not a unique one and was introduced through the direct influence of Christian teachers who were influenced by occultic teaching.
How these spiritual laws work is explained, according to Faith teaching, through a unique interpretation of Galatians 3:13-14, 29. These verses, it is claimed, show how the lifting of the "curse of the law" which are referred to in Deuteronomy 28 has been done by the redemptive work of Christ. In the saving work of Christ on the Cross, the "blessing of Abraham" then extends to those who are "Abraham's seed, and heirs to the promise." Since the Body of Christ is referred to in the New Testament as “spiritual Israel,” as the Gentiles grafted into the vine of natural Israel who are to receive the blessings of Abraham’s natural children, its’ heritage is meant to include these divine blessings beyond measure. So according to 2 Corinthians 8:9, the atonement provides incalculable riches of healing, blessing and prosperity available to all believers. These choice blessings can only be released through trust in the covenant and personal confessions drawn from a familiarity with it. Kenneth Hagin’s exposition on this is clear:
We find that the curse (of the law, mentioned in Galatians 3:13-14, 29), or punishment, for breaking God's law is threefold. It is poverty. It is sickness. And the second death. (8)
Kenneth Copeland is even more explicit:
A man without God in the world is a man without a covenant. He has nothing to believe. He has nothing to rely upon. .. You as a believer have God's covenant, God's Word. .. if you don't put it to use, you are on the same level as the man who does not know salvation is for him. He is hell-bound. You are poverty bound or bound in some other area where the Word gives you freedom. If you do not use the covenant, you will live in defeat (emphasis mine). (9)
Since the believer has been given freedom and new life as a member of the New Creation, it is then easy to understand the triumphal tenor that Faith life should be lived in. Since the power of the curse over mankind has supposedly been broken, Christians will live only as victoriously as their level of mastery of these spiritual laws makes them. Their dominion and Christian liberty, as Kenneth Copeland states, totally depends upon it:
We are creatures of the world of the spirit, and we need to know how to walk under the laws that govern this spiritual world instead of continuing to walk under the laws that govern the natural, physical world. When we learn the laws, rules and regulations that govern the world of the spirit, we will gain the knowledge of how to govern the world of the natural. (10).
Access to the covenantal birthrights of divine health and wealth can only be achieved by a firm understanding of spiritual laws which govern the operation of the covenant. The importance of these spiritual laws to Faith doctrine can’t be overstated. With an inexplicably mystical bent common to many Faith teachers, Kenneth Copeland explains that "the spiritual world and its laws are more powerful than the physical world and its laws. Spiritual law gave birth to physical law." (emphasis mine) (11). Just how the Faith movement precisely arrived at this rather cryptic conclusion has never been explained. However, it is accepted as Gospel truth with no Biblical basis at all. They go on to further declare that there are variations within the law of the spirit of life such as the “law of genesis” ("every thing was created by God to produce after its own kind .. man takes on the nature of his spiritual father or lord."), the law of “reaping and sowing”, and the “law of love,” among others (12). But the main point to bear in mind is that both the physical and spiritual world are governed by various spiritual laws that are all binding and all powerful. In the work of Christ on the Cross, Faith teaching claims, the “law of life” superseded the “law of sin and death”: how people live in accordance with these laws determines their physical as well as spiritual destiny.
The access to these laws is through a level of faith which Faith teachers continuously exhort their students to seek. It is popularly called the "God-kind of faith," and Christians are to aspire to the same level of perfect faith that God supposedly has. As startling as it is, the Faith movement unblushingly asserts that even the majestic sovereignty of God is subject to these spiritual laws. "God is a faith being," writes Copeland. "You are born of God. You are a faith being. God does not do anything outside of faith. With His faith living in you, you are to operate the same way." (13). Frederick Price, in a classic and concise example, states that "Jesus said, in (Mark 11:22), 'Have faith in God.' In the literal Greek, that statement should be rendered, 'Have the faith of God.' Or, in the vernacular of today, 'Have the God kind of faith'" (author's emphasis). (14).
The late Kenneth Hagin flatly stated in one of his newsletters that "evidently God had faith in his faith, because He spoke words of faith and they came to pass. Evidently Jesus had faith in His faith, because He spoke to the fig tree, and what He said came to pass." (15). Faith teachers also point to Hebrews 11:3 to supply further light upon how God accomplishes his will: by using the only kind of faith that God could possibly use, the "God kind."
God believed in His heart that what He said with His mouth would come to pass, and He dared to say it. In the presence of angels, of Satan, of everything then in existence, God stepped out on space and said, 'Let there be. .. God must first of all believed in his heart that what He
said with His mouth would come to pass; otherwise, there would have been
no reason for Him to say it. (16).
It is just this sort of level of faith that believers are called to aspire to, since being sons of God, they have been supplied the same ability of accomplishment by the utilization of faith. How then, are “Faith people” to express their “God kind of faith” in ways that achieve success, blessing and victoriously “abundant Christian life?”
The Faith Gospel's Claim #3: Creative Confession Of "Words Of Faith"
This leads us into a discussion of the third central tenet of the gospel according to the Word of Faith movement, the belief in the creative power of the spoken Word. Any casual examination of virtually any Faith teacher's material will immediately reveal the profoundly high value they place upon the confession of "faith-filled words," and the rejection of any "negative confession" whatsoever. It is through the trust in the power of confession that the “God kind of Faith” brings triumph to the believer.
In his most well known tract entitled Words, Kenneth Hagin raises the issue immediately when he boldly declares on the first page of his writing that
WORDS are more important than a lot of people realize. WORDS make or break us. WORDS heal us or make us sick. .. Our WORDS - the WORDS we spoke yesterday - made life what it is today. (17).
Since the Word of God is held to be inseparable from His essential nature, and since the Christian has been given the right to speak the Word with the same authority as God, the very nature and power of God can be issued forth from their mouth. Again, this teaching, restated by an army of Faith teachers over generations, overshadows the Pentecostal and Charismatic camps that have accepted Faith teaching as legitimate expressions of their faith. Charles Capps forcefully emphasizes this point to ensure his audience doesn't fail to understand this:
When God's Word becomes engrafted or infused into your spirit it has become a part of you. It cannot be separated from you! It is not only your thought and affirmation. IT IS YOU! THE WORD MADE FLESH. Then your flesh will reflect the life of that Word. When God's Word concerning healing takes root in your flesh, it becomes greater than disease and healing is the result. (18)
The spiritual oneness of the believer with God by the "law of the Spirit," therefore dictates that the word of the believer has the same creative power as God's own spoken Word. This startling claim is Gospel truth to the Faith movement's rank and file and Capps and other Faith teachers endlessly repeat this crucial point again and again. As one verbally confesses in absolute faith Scripture promises in the form of continual personal affirmations, the divine power inherent to the "God breathed" words themselves actually becomes personally incarnated within the spiritual and physical nature of the Christian. With such divine authority made manifest in the life of the Christian, they are then empowered to work miracles of increase, blessing, healing and deliverance - therefore creating "divine health" and "divine wealth." In a televised teaching session, (click to watch) Gloria Copeland elaborates on this point,
What you continually say creates an image in front of you that will come to pass. .. the Word of God and the words you continually speak create an image that comes to pass in your life. You have to change what your heart sees with the Word of God and speak in agreement with that. .. Your words are a fortress for you or a fortress against you!
What she is referring to is the same power of words that Hagin has alluded to, an innate power in the spoken word that can be used for good or for evil, a spiritual force that can be supercharged by the power of the spoken Word of God that is continually confesses. She goes on to say that
what you continually say with your mouth is what you believe in your heart .. you're sowing words all the time and you reap a harvest all the time. Now you sow the right words and you'll sow the right harvest. .. Faith has to be in two places. It has to be in your heart and it has to be in your mouth. Just in your mouth without the Word of God in your heart to back it up is just a mental confession .. it's not got the creative power of God's Word in it to change things. If you just have it in your heart, you believe it in your heart, but you don't say it with your mouth, or you say something opposite that with your mouth, than you haven't done what it takes to release that faith out of you as brother Roberts teaches .. and to apply it to the circumstances that you want to change. The word of your mouth, coming out of your heart in faith, change natural circumstances. (emphasis mine) (19).
This is the ultimate conclusion of Faith movement teachings. The believer has the same power to create through the power of their spoken word that the Father possesses. This creative agency is energized by the power of the Word of God "lined up" with their own audible confessions from both "mouth and heart."
Therefore, since God has given Christians in the New Covenant the ability to use words as Christ did, then these "faith-filled words" will have the same power of the spoken Word of God itself.
This incredible claim is supposedly Biblically based. "Faith is a product of the reborn spirit," (20) a substance that is identified by Hebrews 11:1, said Kenneth Copeland in one of their telecasts. Since Jesus is the author of our faith, all who are in Christ can have that same "faith of God." In Mark 11:23, Jesus shows us that we should have whatever we say, so a "word release" of faith-filled words must precede all our actions of faith. In quoting his old mentor Kenneth Hagin, Copeland states that Romans 10:17, shows that faith comes "by hearing and hearing and hearing" the Word of God (21). It is through this lens of the Faith perspective that other verses in the Bible that refer to faith, healing and blessing from God are always viewed.
These personal declarations are the "positive confession" that has been long used to characterize Faith teaching, the "confession to bring possession." It is the common denominator of all Faith teachers across the world. This confession of "God's Words" concerning the need of the believer will generate a powerful reaction in the spirit realm that will work creative miracles. Since the "faith of God" is directly operative through the audibly confessed "faith-filled words" of the believer that affirm complete agreement with "everything the Word says" about them, it is inevitable that they can take the next logical step and exercise faith in their own gift of faith, since it is "the gift of God."(22)
The Roberts Revelation: How Oral Roberts Reinforced Faith Teaching
These three central claims of the Faith movement, expounded through earnest persuasion or fiery revivalism originating from silver-tongued Faith preachers, come straight from a three fold gale howling out of the depths of a perfect storm of astonishing power. This windstorm is seen in the work of the "Kenyon Connection" which we discussed in our last article that was advanced by Kenneth Hagin. But Kenyon's ideals, rephrased in Hagin's homespun teaching, were launched into global flight upon the soaring wings of what I will call the "Roberts Revelation" set forth by Oral Roberts, the well known Oklahoma "healing evangelist." His entrepreneurial influence was not only as formative to Faith doctrine as that of Hagin's and Kenyon but also made it possible for the Faith movement to assume the global prominence it now holds.
A "preacher's kid" and healed from tuberculosis as a teenager during a tent revival, Roberts accepted a call to ministry in the Pentecostal Holiness church in 1936 and pastored until 1947. It was then that his self-described "spiritual volcano" finally erupted and he began his own "healing" ministry. Saying God had told him "to take My healing power to your generation," and "don't be like other men .. (or) like any other denomination," (23), Roberts began to travel across the nation holding healing crusades in churches, auditoriums and tents in which tens of thousands of people were divinely healed. His evangelistic association's activities so skillfully mobilized TV and radio broadcasting as well as a publishing ministry to augment his healing crusades to a fantastically successful degree (24) that millions of people who would never have thought of entertaining Pentecostalism were able to easily access it by TV and direct mailings. The mass media were profoundly influential for the advance of the Pentecostal movement of the 1950's, which was then encountering unprecedented openness to its claims by the larger non-Pentecostal culture around it. There is much that could be said about how Roberts paved the way for the Faith movement but time will not allow us to explore this more thoroughly. What is clear that his preaching and healing campaigns, along with those of William Branham and Gordon Lindsay, opened doors across Western Christian circles for Pentecostal faith to find new audiences open to their teaching. Without this, the Faith movement might have lingered in sectarian obscurity and the Charismatic movement might never have had the impact that it did.
It is Roberts' teaching emphasis - simple, direct, and easy to understand - that drew him the attention he enjoyed. It wasn't the familiar thunder of a Pentecostal evangelist's call to "turn or burn", seasoned with references to hell and damnation, that Roberts brought to his ministry. Instead, Roberts' passionate oratory preached a revelation of a supposedly long lost spiritual truth, summarized in 3 John 2 where a good God's deepest desire for man is to bless all with prosperity "even as their soul prospered." "Third John 2 became a battering ram that began to tear down the walls for a new theology," Roberts wrote of his encounter with the verse, "That was a revelation to my soul .. I found that there was a true scriptural basis for believing that God wants man to be happy, healthy, strong and prosperous." (25) The verse, as Roberts taught with compelling enthusiasm, is to be viewed as a plain reference to Christian salvation, divine healing and material prosperity and became the cornerstone to his ministry. Roberts' emphasis on prosperity for the whole man - body, mind and soul - had a powerful appeal for his earliest audiences. They found its perspective bringing to them renewal of hope, spiritual inspiration and renewed faith in the goodness of a God who had a plan for their lives of blessing, especially when it was phrased by Roberts as cutting edge revelation that had been missed so completely by the Christian Church.
And just a few years later in 1953, Roberts articulated another unique offering concept he claimed divine inspiration for, originally calling it "my Blessing-Pact Covenant with God" but more popularly known as "seed faith." Based upon what Roberts calls a spiritual law of sowing and reaping, and depending completely on God as the "Source of your supply," offerings should be generously given "that you may receive. In this you give BEFORE you have received, not after" (26) "to claim the return Jesus promised. You sow the gift for the God of the harvest to multiply back to help others, and then yourself. Your continual giving is a continual renewing of your finances"(emphasis author's) (27). Seed faith is applicable to other commodities of offering like love and time, material goods and other things but it's financial focus gained it the greatest attention and wasn't lost on Roberts' massive audience in the 1950's and 1960's.
They responded so liberally that he was able to fund the creation of the university now named after him in fulfillment of an alleged divine commission to do so. Roberts' vision of creating an institution of higher education devoted to his Pentecostal holistic view that sought to bring divine unity of faith and science, spirituality and reason was launched dramatically as Oral Roberts University. Along with his flourishing media ministry came another vision of developing a Christian hospital where his theology of healing by the laying on of hands and prayers of faith could be integrated along side cutting edge medical technology and practice, culminating in the so-called "City Of Faith," a massive hospital venture that never became solvent, caused controversy and eventually was shut down. As for the University, Roberts' son Richard now runs it, but not without allegations of extravagant living that have resulted in a lawsuit.
3 John 2 is now the proof text of choice for generations of Faith teachers who universally view it as the infallible Biblical evidence for the validity of their doctrine. The practice of sowing to receive through seed faith is another Faith movement practice long enshrined in their own thought and practice (28). (Click here to watch Roberts' reaction at how his seed faith doctrine was interpreted by one Faith congregation as he preached) It can be argued that Roberts is singlehandedly responsible for introducing these concepts to the spiritual melting pot of Pentecostalism in the 1950's, both directly and indirectly through Kenneth Hagin's example. For it was around the same time Roberts' healing ministry launched that Hagin left an Assemblies of God pastorate to start his own itinerant evangelistic ministry. His Pentecostal pragmatism already predisposed to adapt whatever spiritual technique he came across that got "results," he was aware of Roberts' "revelations" which undoubtedly reinforced his own doctrinal innovations. It wouldn't be until the mid 1960's that his radio teaching ministry took to the air and 1974 before his Rhema Bible School also started but by then, Hagin's adoption of Kenyon's spiritual framework and its synthesis with Roberts' teachings was already well established.
It would seem that, despite his protests to the contrary (29), Oral Roberts took cues from a third source of inspiration also. Although he claims both divine revelation as well as Biblical texts for the authority of his doctrine, Roberts also seems to lean toward far less inspired source then he would easily admit - that being an alluring and all too familiar notion of "right thinking" and "right belief" that have clear implications of creative power. As part of his seed faith revelation in the early 1950's came "a thought crystal clear, Whatever you can conceive and believe you can do!" (30) Roberts expanded more upon this in his Seed Faith Commentary On The Bible :
A wish is part of receiving our heart's desire. We must have an image of what we desire in our mind. But we must take hold of the proposition and make things happen. Things have to be made to happen. If we want God to meet our needs, we must start thinking toward God. Bringing our thoughts to a climax, making our thoughts a belief .. our belief into faith .. our faith into an act. And we must cause that faith to be released, to explode within us .. until we make our faith a seed we plant (Matthew 17:20). (31)
Roberts freely interchanges his vocabulary in his writing and his definition of faith as "right belief" with a complete guarantee of freedom from fear and the creative manifestation of physical blessings "in the NOW" is a concept his ministry also has emphasized:
Faith or right believing is dominant over fear just as light is dominant over darkness. You can be totally free of fear when you put your faith in control of your life and start believing right and keep believing right. As long as you believe right, fear cannot dominate your life. .. I have never allowed my mind to entertain negative thoughts. For I firmly believe if I allowed myself to become negative in my thinking and believing, my afflictions would return to me. It took positive believing to get my lungs and tongue healed; it takes the same to keep them healed. (32)
We have already seen how the notion of "right thinking" that assures victory, success and blessing is one first pioneered by the mind science metaphysics of the New Thought movement. While there is a measured qualification in Roberts usage of the terminology that does not emphasize a Kenyon-like dogma to the degree that Hagin and subsequent Faith teachers would, somewhere in the midst of his studies, it seems that Oral Roberts used the concept as a stimulus for thought and actively promoted others to do likewise. His introduction to a testimony of Christian realtor Clifford Ford as published in one of his early books makes that clear:
In his fight he discovered a formula for success. It is because of this formula that I say this may be the most important article you have read in years. I have just finished reading it four times and plan to read it again. It has done something in me. You'll be thinking back over this one for a long time to come. (33)
And it is Ford's own testimony as to the conditions of receiving from God's "promise of prosperity" that makes Roberts' commendation even murkier and far more questionable:
.. I saw then that this promise of prosperity was based upon a fivefold condition as follows: First, we must live the right kind of life. Second, we must stand for the right kind of thing. Third, we must keep the right attitude. Fourth, we must think right. Fifth, we must believe right. .. The three things that every child of God should have are, in the order of their importance, personal knowledge of genuine salvation, health for the body, and prosperity. The Word of God gives us a formula for each. (emphasis mine) (34)
From the worse possible quarter it could come from, once more the promises of God's Word and Christian faith were being likened to elements of a formula that could be replicated easily through "right thinking," as a divinely assured certainty of blessing. And as we see, it came from the very same "healing evangelist" whose cultural influence and audience were only being equalled in those times to the Pope of Rome and Billy Graham. Therefore, the implications are disturbing but cannot be ignored.
With references to these specific concepts being made in his ministry heyday, we can see that what Roberts effectively did on a massive scale was to sensitize millions of people to receiving as Gospel truth the claims that spiritual laws based upon right thinking as a faith formula were valid propositions to live by. By using the same conceptual language that Hagin's Kenyon-tinged doctrine used, Roberts' teaching primed untold numbers of people in global Christian circles to eventually associate Hagin's work with his own. As I have already indicated, Hagin's synthesis of his own teaching with Kenyon's New Thought doctrine creation of Faith teaching dogma that explicitly advanced this claim was already established in his ministry.
So between the dual influences of both Hagin and Roberts, between Roberts' paving the way for Hagin's acceptance across global Christian circles, the die for the explosive growth of the Faith movement was cast. With the conditions being right for widespread spiritual innovation in the postwar Pentecostal world of the 1950's and the turbulent emergence of the Charismatic movement of the 1960's, the Faith movement's birth and growth were completely assured.
The Times They Were A Changin': How The Faith Movement Manifested Itself
The 1970's certainly were a time of destiny of the Faith movement. Many of the newer Charismatic constituency began to reject as antiquated - if not misguided piety - much of what Pentecostals had been teaching concerning separation from the world. This also also fed the flames of dissent over them that been emerging in the Pentecostal movement since the 1950's. To the Charismatics, the sacrificial lifestyle of those within the older Pentecostal movement was actually the fruit of exploitation used by the existing Pentecostal denominations in their expansionism over past decades.
"Many of you were brought up in a day when poverty was erroneously deemed by well-meaning preachers and teachers to be glorious and Godly! Unfortunately, the 'poverty is holy' doctrine still hangs around in the back of your mind today" (35). This accusation made by Faith teacher John Avanzini is a typical example of the minimizing of Pentecostal sacrifice that many Charismatics have done throughout the years to dismiss it altogether, as an unthinkable option to more enlightened and spiritual minds (36). Both the passage of time and the demographics of the new Charismatic constituency emboldened these teachers to teach and preach such a position.
To replace such a revulsive notion, several leading Pentecostal / Charismatic teachers began to openly advocate a new understanding concerning the grace of God that placed a unique overemphasis upon his imminence. God's desire to bless his children had been entirely underestimated, even overlooked by "religious traditionalists" (who at best were "well-meaning") who were devoted to keeping them in struggling in "defeat." So the "new revelation" that Hagin and Roberts provided about the blessings of God upon one's material concerns caught the attention and affections of a multitude of Charismatics who never understood or who outright rejected the sacrificial lifestyle of Pentecostal culture and Pentecostals whose third generation of children were wearied of and disillusioned from the extremes and rigors they had been raised in. With the benefits of a postwar economic boom that swept America to "keep up with the Jones" and a continually rising standard of living, it was inevitable that many of them found the teachings of Hagin and Roberts quite irresistible.
So why then is Faith teaching so misguided? How can so many people be so wrong? What is really wrong with the claims of the Faith movement and where does it lead a Christian who follow it? Our next article will discuss these errors of Faith movement and how its doctrinal and practical excesses clearly have departed from orthodox Christian faith and led millions into grievous imbalance in their Christian lives.
(1) McConnell, D.R. A Different Gospel (Hendrickson, 1995) are among the many excellent books that critique the Faith movement that have come out in recent years. Perhaps the best to come out recently is Robert Bowman's probing work The Word Of Faith Controversy (Baker, 2001).
(2) Of course, the Faith movement's most ardent expositors who claim the highest spiritual revelation knowledge from on high are far from unique. The belief that spiritual laws that govern the natural and supernatural worlds has been a persistent one among human cultures for generations.
(3) Hagin, Kenneth. "God's Healing Covenant", p. 6: The Word Of Faith, July 1980
(4) Copeland, Kenneth. Our Covenant With God (KCP, 1976), p. 10.
(5) Copeland, Gloria. God's Will Is Prosperity (Harrison House, 1978), p. 10, 17
(6) Rickey Singleton, a "noted teacher, public speaker and entrepreneur", according to a biography of him on the Amazon.com website, was at one time a pastor of a small Faith church in the south side of Chicago and aired a daily radio broadcast devotional on WYCA, Hammond, Indiana from which this quote was taped back in May, 1986 as I studied Faith movement teaching claims.
(7) Kenneth Copeland, The Force of Righteousness (KCP, n.d.), p. 17
(8) Hagin, Kenneth. Redeemed From Poverty, Sickness, Death. p. 3
(9) Copeland, Kenneth. The Laws Of Prosperity (KCP, 1974) p. 40
(10) ibid, The Force Of Faith (KCP, n.d.), p. 3.
(11) ibid, The Laws Of Prosperity, p. 16
(12) Among the many Faith teacher bearing witness to this steadfast belief in determinative spiritual laws is Creflo Dollar, whose study on this can be found by clicking here.
(13) Kenneth Copeland, The Force Of Faith, pp. 16-17.
(14) Price, Frederick K.C. How Faith Works, (Harrison House, 1976) p. 95
(15) Hagin, Kenneth. "Having Faith In Your Faith, Part 1" The Word of Faith, August 1980, p. 2
(16) Price, Frederick K.C., ibid, p. 99, 101
(17) Hagin, Kenneth. Words (Faith, 1980), p. 2.
(18) Charles Capps, God's Creative Power For Healing, p. 14.
(19) Copeland, Gloria. Believer's Voice Of Victory TV broadcast, December 18, 1994. It must not be overlooked that before edifying her audience with this insidiously occultic teaching, she first ensures they understand the distinction between "Faith people" and "most Christians." With Texas-drawling presumption, Copeland's Faith elitism is arrogantly and sharply highlighted when she intones that "most people, most Christians really pray in unbelief to start with when it comes to anything past the new birth. We have to just find out what the Bible says and act upon it." The clear point is that the prayer lives of Christians not walking in the light of the Word of Faith revelation are futile exercises of unbelief.
(20) Copeland, Kenneth. Believer's Voice Of Victory TV broadcast, May 28, 1989. Audio tape on file. The audio clip at the opening portion of this article is taken from this recording.
(21) ibid, tape on file
(22) ibid, tape on file
(23) Roberts, Oral. Expect A Miracle (Nelson, 1995), p. 32, 67. This interesting autobiography of Roberts is a fascinating look into the life as well as mind of one of the most influential Christian leaders of all time and is worth the read.
(24) Roberts arguably could be called the father of televangelism who, in the words of CBS's West 57th Street reporter Steve Kroft "was really the first person to figure it out." (CBS broadcast of May 28, 1988, video on file). Even after Robert's bizarre 1987 prophecy of his demise by God's decree unless millions of dollars were raised to keep his ministry going, coming after the 1987 PTL scandal that deeply impacted all televangelist ministries including his own, he was still maintaining - according to Kroft - his broadcasts on over 150 TV stations, apart from national network syndication.
(25) Roberts, Oral, ibid, p. 72, 73
(26) Roberts, Oral, Miracle Of Seed Faith. ( Roberts, 1970), p. 24
(27) ibid,pp. 8-9, 27-28. This book points out on pages 6-7 that this idea was inspired by God and given to him during a drive to another meeting in the Pacific Northwest during a fall day in the early 1950's. Oral's booklet Receiving Your Miracle Through Seed Faith Partnership With God (Roberts, 1978) reveals that the year was 1953 (p. 7). Both Roberts and Kenneth Hagin discovered early in their ministries that the preaching of material blessings as a divine right was a doctrine almost entirely unknown in Pentecostal circles: "I hadn't preached along those lines in those days - I would just sort of preach up to it and around it. I knew it was true but nobody else was preaching that God redeemed us from the curse of poverty, so I didn't know whether I should come out on it or not" (emphasis mine). See Hagin, Kenneth, Redeemed From Poverty, Sickness, Death. (Faith, 1966), p. 9.
(28) Roberts is adamant that the Bible is based upon the principle of seed faith itself that he wrote that "since the revelation of the Blessing-Pact Covenant to me, I have studied it in the Bible from Genesis through Malachi in the Old Testament, and from Matthew to Revelation in the New Testament" (ibid, p. 39). It wasn't until he released his Seed Faith Commentary On The Holy Bible a few years later (Pinoak, 1975) that Roberts outlined his study results in a systematic manner, attempting to trace the seed faith principle as supposedly found in every book of the Bible. A careful study of this book, which is outside the scope of this article here, shows that Roberts' claim is highly dubious at best. His commentary for Zephaniah and Micah, for example are more exhortations to endurance than proof that we "give to get."
(29) ibid, Miracle Of Seed Faith. ( Roberts, 1970), p. 10: "What I am saying is based on the Bible, not mere humanism or psychology. It is far deeper than positive thinking. It is our Lord at work, demonstrating in His own life and in the lives of these people whose experiences I relate that He is in the NOW." Although Roberts asserts this point, as other Faith teachers might, that his direct experience with God's revelatory unfolding of certain overlooked Scriptures is proof of their validity, it still remains to be seen that his interpretation is consistent with the balance of Biblical truth that pre-existed their claims.
(30) ibid, p. 7
(31) ibid, Seed Faith Commentary On The Bible, p. 268
(32) Roberts, Oral. Deliverance From Fear And Sickness (Roberts, 1954), p 20-21, 88.
(33) Roberts, Oral with Montgomery, G.H. eds. God's Formula For Success And Prosperity (Roberts, 1956), p. 7
(34) ibid, p. 9, 11.
(35) Avanzini, John. The Wealth Of The World. (Harrison, 1989), p. 23.
(36) Such an "enlightened one" is the self-proclaimed "Bishop" Earl Paulk, Jr., whose opinion is far more blunter than even the abrasive Avanzini's: "Pentecostal women confused holiness with ugliness." Spiritual Megatrends, (Kingdom, 1988), p. 98. This uncharitable remark is but a sample of how dimly some "full gospel" Christians viewed Pentecostal simplicity which offended their finer sensibilities - and whose commitment to holy living probably made them shudder. In Paulk's case, this may well have been the case, having been defrocked by the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) for immorality in the 1960's (see also Charisma, April 1993, p. 10) and having lived a hypocritical life since then until his death in 2009, having been at the circle of numerous scandals involving his sexual dalliances with various women in his church. More about Paulk's loathesome example can be read online here.
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