On a long road trip recently, I had a chance to put my new phone through it’s paces. One of the cooler features on the new iPhone is my new friend “Siri”. I push a button, tell Siri what I want it to do, and it goes to work; looking up obscure facts, finding the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts, sending a text to a friend. The previous iPhone put the world at my fingertips.. now it obeys the command of my voice! In the end, however, it’s just a phone. A really, really awesomely cool phone, but a phone nonetheless. It can only do what is in it’s limited set of capabilities. “Siri, where is the nearest dry cleaner?” works. “Siri, make me whole.” does not. Why? Even the iPhone is just a phone.
Shortly after playing with my phone, I ended up hearing a sermon from a well known Word of Faith preacher making God sound an awful lot like Siri.
To be honest, this isn’t an article I ever wanted to write, but I really don’t have a choice. So why am I doing it?
I’m called to proclaim the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ to all men, everywhere. I love Christ and I love people, and to sit by while the gospel of Christ and faith in His atonement are misrepresented and men are deceived is unthinkable.
Why is this worth spending your time reading? Well, the scope of this error is staggering:
The Word of Faith error is currently being taught from the pulpit of the largest church in the United States, taught on the most viewed christian TV station in the world*, and is taught via the most downloaded religious podcast on iTunes. To say that this false teaching has replaced the historical, biblical gospel in the American mind would not be an overstatement. I had shrugged my shoulders at this nonsense for so long that I figured anyone who spent any time in the bible would see the obvious error, but during my daily reading, I was hit with a few verses that made me seriously reconsider my reluctance to write this article;
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
(2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV)
and later in James:
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
(James 5:19-20 ESV)
To do this, I’m going to have to do two things that are distasteful in our post-modern society;
1. Call folks out by name.
2. Openly state that they are in error. (Which some would say is judgemental.)
Scripture states that both are acceptable, as evidenced by the following from Paul:
In Acts 20:26-31 Paul had spent 3 years teaching the gospel to the church, Paul gathered the elders in Ephesus and warns the church about those within the church who would teach contrary doctrines and other gospels. INSIDE the church. So, this isn’t a denominational issue. This is a body issue. Paul names them by name: Hymenaeus and and Philetus. (1Tim 1:20), and later Alexander the coppersmith. (2 Tim 14).
I’ll present these errors, show how they stand in opposition to the gospel, and call out names of these teachers so that you may avoid them. Avoid them or not, I will know that my hands are clean, and you will be responsible for the knowledge that these men are teaching a different gospel, contrary to the one handed down. And for that reason:
I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
(Jude 1:3 ESV)
At the end of this article, if you choose to continue to follow a Word of Faith ministry, you will do so with the knowledge that it is a different gospel from the one “once and all delivered to the saints.”
What is the Word of Faith error and why is it a big deal?
I’ll give you a brief history on how the error originated and then get directly to the error:
In the early 1900’s, a man named E.W. Kenyon attended Emerson College of Oratory where the philosophy of “mind science” was all the rage. This belief held that your thoughts could control and create reality. This teaching came from a man named Phineas Quimby, father of the “New Thought” movement. This type of mind-over-matter metaphysics held to the thought that wrong results (including physical sickness) were caused by wrong thoughts, and that proper thoughts and positive confessions would create positive realities. It’s important to understand that while Kenyon was a Christian, these doctrines were imported into his faith from outside of orthodox Christianity. To prove this out, look at any history of the church, or ancient christian dogmatics. Do you see this teaching ANYWHERE before the Quimby or Kenyon? (No.)
Over time, Kenyon developed the following doctrines:
1. God did not create the universe from nothing, but by speaking faith-filled words (and we can do the same thing).
2. Faith isn’t a belief, rather a tangible substance. God’s words were merely containers for this tangible material called “faith”. (Faith is an object, a THING).
3. Therefore, we can create our own physical reality (including health and wealth) by positive confession, or speaking these things into existence using words as containers of this tangible thing (faith).
Do you wonder why someone like Oprah would be comfortable with having Joel Osteen or TD Jakes on the stage with folks like Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, and “New Thought” (remember Quimby) teacher Iyanla Vanzant? They teach the same mind-science (metaphysics)!
Kenyon developed other unorthodox theories, adopted by many (not all) Word of Faith preachers, which I won’t cover in this article. This week, I’ll simply focus on the most common heresy to come out of this movement; Positive Profession (the belief that we can speak things into existence) , and how it’s taken root in the body of Christ.
Kenyon’s works would likely have been lost to obscurity had they not been discovered and quoted (unsourced) verbatim, and popularized by a man named Kenneth Hagin (1917-2003).
Hagin is known as “Dad Hagin” and has spawned the Word of Faith movement which includes: Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, TD Jakes, Fredrick Price, Joyce Meyer, Marilyn Hickey, Paula White, Bennie Hinn, Paul Crouch, Robert Tilton, Myles Monroe, and others less known.
Hagin claimed that much of what he taught was received directly from Jesus during 8 personal visitations (one of which was for this teaching quoted directly from Kenyon, above). Why is this problematic? The following from WoF preacher Gloria Copeland:
Gloria Copeland: “You say why do ya’ll talk so much about Kennith Hagin when you do this? Because he is where we learn how to walk in the spirit. How did he know it? He had the very unusual experience of jesus himself coming to teach him these things, and then he called him to teach all of us.” The problem is that not only is this not a biblical doctrine found in scripture, origin is not Jesus, but taken from Kenyon.
So, to recap so far.. we’ve got a non-Christian mind-science philosophy discovered and blended into christian language by an obscure writer (Kenyon). We then have a man named Hagin discover and quote (unsourced) these ideas and claim they came form a direct visit from Jesus himself. This doctrine is now being taught from the pulpit of the largest church in the US, dominating the airwaves through the largest christian TV station in the world, and listing as the most downloaded religious podcasts on iTunes. See the problem?
So, let’s go to the Word of Faith preachers themselves for some quotes. Then, let’s see how they justify this biblically, and finally look at the verses they use in context.
“The force of faith in the spiritual realm is very much like forces in the physical realm; Gravity, electricity.. measurable, actionable, conductible, perceptible to the touch. ” – Kenneth Copeland and Paul Crouch on TBN
Sound familiar? This is Kenyon’s theory that faith is an actual, tangible THING which is released through the containers of our words.
“What do you need? I need Money. Start creating it. Start speaking about it, start speaking it into being. Speak to your billfold, say “You big billfold full of money!” Speak to your checkbook, say “You checkbook, you have never been so prosperous since I owned you! You’re just jammed full of money. You got pain and disease in your body? Speak to your body. Got will create the fruit of your words.” – Marilyn Hickey
Speak it into being? Folks, that’s not christianity, that’s voodoo. It’s mind-science goofiness. Seriously, this is NOT historical, orthodox Christianity.
“That same holy spirit wants to send spiritual light into a dark word, but he is waiting for us to speak and decree that thing and it will come to pass. Whatever you speak will come to pass. You’ve got to speak it and decree it.. you decree the thing, you pay your vow, and it comes to pass.” – Paul Crouch, Founder and President of TBN
There’s an underlying theology here that I won’t address in detail, but in short, WoF teaches that God is unable to work on earth until we permit him to due to Satan being the legal guardian of earth after the fall. Here’s a stunning summary of that doctrine by WoF preacher Miles Monroe:
“God can do nothing on earth, god could do nothing on earth without human assistance. God has the power, but you have the permission. God has the power, but you have the license. God can only do what you permit him to do.”
How big is the WoF view that man can limit God’s plan with the words of his mouth? How about this from the pastor of the largest church in the United States, Joel Osteen:
“It’s because God knew that Zechariah’s negative words would cancel out His plan . . . See, God knows the power of our words. He knows we prophesy our future. And He knew Zechariah’s own negative words would stop His plan.”
If that doesn’t set off every warning alarm, I’m not sure this article will do you much good.
Zechariah’s words would stop God’s plan? Really? REALLY?!?
Do you see the problem? It’s heresy 101: Make God smaller, and make man bigger.. and in the end you get the ability to have your fleshly desires of wealth and prosperity. It’s no wonder this is being gobbled up by the public, it requires no repentance of sin! It allows sinful man to gain his desires! Is this the gospel? Good grief, no!
Here are some of the favorite WoF proof texts: (A proof text is a portion of scripture used to support a position. While it’s easy to take a single verse, or a single phrase out of context to make it say whatever you like, context will always clarify the author’s original intent.)
Note: I’ll limit these specifically to “The Big 3” of those used for “Positive Profession”. I may do an article later covering the “Health and Prosperity” verses.
Proof Text 1:
“Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.”
(Mark 11:23 ESV)
“Get ready to release your faith right now for whatever you need from God. Mark 11, verses 22-24, will work for any need. And Jesus answering them saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Whosoever shall say unto this mountain.According to Jesus, in order to change things you are to speak to the mountain. The mountain is the obstacle or need in your life. Let’s assume that your need is financial – you just simply need more money to live and to give. Say this: “Poverty, I speak to you in the name of Jesus, and I command you to be removed from my presence and my life. I will no longer tolerate you. I forbid you to operate against me in any way.” You do not talk to God about the problem. Talk to Him about the answer – the Word of God….Most people want God to talk to the mountain for them, but HE WILL NOT. He has given the believer that authority; and if you want results, do it His way. TALK TO THE MOUNTAIN!”
– Gloria Copeland, God’s Will is Prosperity, 103
Historical understanding of these verses, in context:
Jesus entered Jerusalem as one coming in the name, that is, the authority, of the Lord with a God-given mission of salvation (“Hosanna” means save now). By riding a colt, Jesus laid claim to His own brand of messiahship—not conquering hero but humble servant (see Zech. 9:9).
The cursing of the fig tree was a prophetic act meant to illustrate God’s judgment upon the temple, which had proved unfruitful by not realizing its mission as a place of prayer for all people. What is necessary for experiencing God is not the temple (see 13:1–2) but “faith in God.” Indeed, faith makes the temple obsolete. The one who believes can cast the temple mount into the sea (contrast 1 Kgs. 8:29–30). Forgiveness of sins is not experienced in temple sacrifice but in sharing God’s willingness to forgive. The “forgiveness requirement” warns believers not to turn their prayer time into a robbers’ retreat.
Understandably, the religious leaders questioned Jesus’ authority because cleansing the temple was the responsibility of the Messiah or the end-time prophet (Mal. 3:1–5; Zech. 14:20–21). Leaders had earlier questioned Jesus’ authority to announce God’s forgiveness (2:1–12), celebrate God’s new work (2:18–22), and do good on the Sabbath (3:1–6). Jesus’ question suggests that His authority was God given.
Which exalts Christ and which exalts man? Let’s do a reality check here. You think that this message of “speaking to your mountains” would have been foreign to Paul, who was plagued with health problems his entire life? To the apostles who were executed?
Not convinced yet, my WoF friends? Here’s the challenge, Old Testament Style:
This is Mount Wycheproof in Wycheproof, Australia. Standing at 43 metres (141 ft) above the surrounding terrain, Mount Wycheproof has the distinction of being the smallest registered mountain in the world.
So, go ahead and cast that one into the sea. I’m giving you a break here with a “starter mountain”. I mean, if you can’t even cast the smallest mountain into the sea, well, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do. (OK, so you’re going to allegorize; these aren’t actual mountains here, but circumstances.) Fair enough, here’s another one, one that Gloria Copeland says you’re supposed to control; The weather! (https://marc5solas.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/512/)
Central and Western Nebraska are in what the US Drought Monitor calls “Exceptional Drought”, their highest rating. If you could go ahead and send them a few inches of rain, that should suffice. You should probably go ahead and let them know. I’m sure the farmers would be overjoyed!
Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but the point should be clear: You don’t speak to mountains, you don’t control the weather, and you don’t speak things into existence. There’s as much a difference between you and God’s creative power as there is between me and Siri. Scripture says that people get sick, people were cursed, nations were conquered and taken into captivity, the sun stood still, rain came and rain was witheld. Why? That we might know that He is God.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
(John 9:1-3 ESV)
Proof Text 2:
“for as he thinketh in his heart; so is he”
– Proverbs 23:7 (first half of verse)
“Where the mind goes, the man follows. God’s Word says: As (a man) thinketh in his heart, so is he!” – Joyce Meyer
Historical understanding of these verses, in context:
First of all, I’d like to point out 2 tools used by teachers trying to smuggle their own views into scripture. Both of these should jump out at you immediately:
1. One half of one verse is quoted, and it’s not even a complete sentence!
2. This verse is ALWAYS quoted in the King James Version. Does your pastor preach from the KJV? If not, why does he quote this verse in the KJV? Here’s why:
King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
Even in the only version which could be used to make it appear that what you think dictates what you become, the error is obvious when the entire verse is used. Seriously, even using the rest of the single verse used shows this as bogus.
More proof? Here’s why your pastor teaches this verse from the KJV; It plays on the antiquated KJV grammar and how we would read it now. How about a ton of other reputable translations, which your pastor actually teaches from which blow this proof text up?
New International Version (©1984)
for he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.
New Living Translation (©2007)
They are always thinking about how much it costs. “Eat and drink,” they say, but they don’t mean it.
English Standard Version (©2001)
for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.
New American Standard Bible (©1995)
For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (©2009)
for it’s like someone calculating inwardly.” Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.
International Standard Version (©2012)
for as he thinks within himself, so he is. “Eat and drink!” he’ll say to you, but his heart won’t be with you.
King James 2000 Bible (©2003)
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, says he to you; but his heart is not with you.
American Standard Version
For as he thinketh within himself, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; But his heart is not with thee.
Because like a soothsayer, and diviner, he thinketh that which he knoweth not. Eat and drink, will he say to thee: and his mind is not with thee.
This verse isn’t talking about your thoughts creating your reality, here it is in context to be ridiculously, simply, clear:
Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,
for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
(Proverbs 23:6-7 ESV)
It’s about a guy who is hypocritically generous. Eat and drink! He says, but he doesn’t mean it.. he’s inwardly stingy.
Makes you wonder if the abuse of this text is accidental, doesn’t it? How would a man who has “studied to show himself approved” to handle the biblical text (and teach it to others) use only 1/2 of 1 verse, out of context? Shady, no? (By the way, the book picture above, “As a Man Thinketh”, by James Allen? Allen wasn’t a christian, he was a well known British philosopher and “New Thought” proponent. Seeing a trend yet?
Proof Text 3:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:13 ESV)
“Remember, the power that is in you is greater than the power of fear. When thoughts come that say, ‘You’re not able’, choose faith by saying, ‘I can do all things through Christ!”
– Joel Osteen
Historical understanding of these verses, in context:
First of all, did you catch the red flag here? “the power that is in you is greater than the power of fear”? Huh. What power? I looked at over 20 translation, including the original Greek and all say “He”.. the pronoun “He” referring to the original subject at the beginning of the sentence (wait, using half sentences again? fail.) The original subject is “God”.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
(1 John 4:4 ESV)
Where does it say you have power inside of you? And greater than “the power of fear”?
No, greater than “He who is in the world”. Hmm. If only we had a way of knowing who “He” is.. Oh, wait, I know.. the previous portion of the chapter in context! (sarcasm)
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
(1 John 4:1-3 ESV)
Sorry, Joel, you fail miserably here. Not only do you not get the verse in any sort of context, you actually somehow make the real spirit of God in me and real enemy of the saints in the world about me and my fear. Surprised?
As for the “I can do all things”? I Here it is in a previous blog article: https://marc5solas.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/stuff-the-bible-doesnt-say/
If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s the 10 second version:
“All things doesn’t mean everything, it means all ‘these’ things, which are listed earlier in the CONTEXT:
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.
(Philippians 4:10-14 ESV)
The Marc5Solas “Put up or Shut up” Challenge: If you really believe you can do all things, you need to get off your computer, drive to the nearest children’s pediatric ICU and start healing kids.
So, to wrap up this week, we’ve got a non-christian mind-science philosophy, completely foreign to the orthodox, historical faith, being brought into the christian world in the mid 1900’s. This theology clearly takes scripture out of context to support this foreign philosophy, yet has the largest audience of any faith in the United States. Folks, wake up. This is a problem. This junk is being sold to millions of people as Christianity. It’s far past hair-splitting theological positions like eternal security, or end-times events. If these folks aren’t being called to repentance and faith in Christ’s atonement, they’re still under God’s wrath. I’ll continue with additional proof texts and additional doctrines of the WoF movement next week!
* Not everything on TBN is WoF. I would recommend against watching TBN due to the ratio of error to truth. There’s just too much nonsense on TBN for me to recommend it to anyone. Any of the legit ministries on TBN also have their own websites and portals to access their broadcasts or content.