A Personal Story: Spiritual Abuse through Word of Faith Teachings during Tragic Infant Loss

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Loura Lawrence shares her personal story of infant loss and spiritual abuse through Word of Faith occult-like teachings

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October is the month designated for pregnancy and infant loss awareness, so this story is timely. Last week, I received a personal story of infant loss and spiritual abuse. Imagine combining the tragic loss of a precious baby in addition to false teaching which makes you doubt your faith, or uses doctrine as a spiritual weapon. Imagine being at such a low place emotionally and spiritually and the church’s false teachings and “support” turned out to be more harmful than helpful. Loura and her husband had that experience. Loura now believes what she experienced with her church “family” was a type of witchcraft.

Loura Lawrence (L. Lawrence) is a regular SSB reader and blogger and I’m very thankful she wanted to share her story with us.  ~ja

 


 

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Spiritual Abuse through Word of Faith Teachings during Tragic Infant Loss

Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 10:40PM

by Loura Lawrence

 

The Word of Faith/Believing Prayer Movement is one hallmark of Charismatic church teachings. This subject brings a lot of personal emotions to the surface because I lived this worldview for a brief and very painful time. Being young and naïve, and wanting only to follow Jesus, my husband and I put our faith in sincere and well-intentioned spiritual elders, and bought into this worldview hook, line, and sinker at the start of our young marriage, and especially when our first-born was diagnosed with a fatal heart anomaly in utero.

We were promised that “if we had faith”, if we believed hard enough, God would have to heal our baby. We read in proponents’ books, about certain “spiritual laws” that God was bound by (ha!). We were told that only certain people must be told about the baby’s condition; those discerning few who really knew how to pray “correctly” for her, to “pray believing”.

Here is an example (from CBN’s website) on how to pray believing for “your personal” miracle (though they give themselves an out by not guaranteeing your desired outcome): Can I be healed? 

To my eternal regret, we hurt and deceived a lot of people by lying about the baby’s condition. See, if you admitted there was a problem, even allowed yourself the tiniest thought there might be a problem, you wouldn’t get your miracle (in New Age circles this idea is called “positive thinking” to an extreme, and obviously unhealthy end).

In my naiveté and desperate hope, I clung to the belief my baby would live even after she lay dead in my husband’s arms. I firmly believed God would bring her back from the dead (and I know how crazy that sounds) and awe all the nay-saying doctors, the unbelievers I knew, and the Christians that didn’t pray for miracles.

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It wasn’t until her graveside funeral a week later, when we pulled up to the outdoor awning and I saw her casket, that reality finally hit me. It hit me so hard I refused to get out of the car.

I didn’t want that reality; that was not what I had worked and prayed and vainly hoped and “believed in faith” so hard for. But the death of my Elizabeth Ann nearly nine years ago, has spurred me to look before I leap, and research and study my Bible harder than ever. I can now say unequivocally that the Word of Faith movement doesn’t work, and it is very un-Biblical.

The most hurtful thing after Elizabeth’s death was the lack of apology on the part of those who had pushed their beliefs so hard. Rather than admitting the obvious (this system failed), they pulled away from my husband and I and grew distant and remained quiet. Worst of all, they continue to believe in and promote this garbage. That is when I become very angry.

The same people who convinced me of their beliefs and themselves held my dead baby or spoke at the funeral, continue to refuse to admit their mistake. They seem intent on dragging other people through the hell that I went through.

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Christianity or Witchcraft in disguise?

I now believe this movement is merely witchcraft* in disguise. The idea of having to say prayer in a particular (i.e. ritualistic, formulaic, or prescribed) manner is a key occult practice; they call it incantation or spell-casting. The idea that God must abide by/is bound by certain rules He laid out in His creation is blasphemous-we can never be God’s puppeteers. But this is also a key occult practice; trying to bend the natural or supernatural world and its residents to a “knowledgeable” (i.e. magician) human will.

A third underlying idea is that of keeping secrets, or being made to feel elite in the secret mysteries and understandings of God. The word “occult” literally means “hidden”, and there have always been a plethora of secret societies and mystery religions. But Christianity is not one of them. The Bible is a collection of historical accounts on all the ways the God of the Bible has revealed Himself to people (not just the Israelites) throughout the ages. Daniel 2:47 says God is a “revealer of mysteries”. As God He could be mysterious, but He desires to be known by us and has revealed Himself for our benefit (see: How God Reveals Himself).

Other occult aspects that a particular Word of Faith group may or may not be involved in include divination like reading omens or “signs from God”, classically via tea leaves, hair, wood, screen doors, bird migration patterns, bones, entrails, stars, etc. A group may also use protective amulets and talismans including lucky charms, blessed cross necklaces and the like (see: Christian Amulet Gifts & Cross Charm Jewelry).

Some groups or teachers use astrology (reading the stars to determine God’s path for your life, like horoscopes), and a great many employ “special” prayers, blessings, or adjurations (words against demons) to bring health, wealth, children, etc, like the Prayer of Jabez. Certain music/musicians, scents (candles, oils – Abba Anointing Oils, or incense-also known as aromatherapy), gems, or herbs with purported properties, powers, and abilities, are often used for healing or cleansing the spirit, and bringing a participant closer to God.

Many times rituals or formulaic practices for better communion with God, protection, healing, cleansing, etc. are affected. These may include labyrinths, special prayer routines, meditation/contemplative practices, spiritual disciplines, extreme positive thinking, practicing being in God’s presence**, and more.

Those who practice any or all of these things generally have a scripture or three that appear to back their position. Therefore it is vital to not just read a passage in context of its sentence, but in some cases whole sections and even several chapters are needed to understand it in full (this is where many devotional books and Bible studies fail).

After having studied my Bible a bit better, I have come to the realization that God did not fail my family, false prophets did. If you want to get to know God better, simple prayer and Bible reading is the only way to do it. It is not glamorous and will not usually involve an experience. It will not cater to our human nature to act on or do something. And the Bible does not promise health, wealth, protection, or mysteries to unravel. The only way to “spiritually detox” is through repentance, forgiveness, and the grace of the cross.

 

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*It is rather ironic that practitioners of this movement like to define rebellion as synonymous with “witchcraft”, based on the misunderstanding of 1 Sam. 15:23 (here is an example of this misunderstanding turned “ministry”).

**Being “in God’s presence” or inviting the Holy Spirit “to come” is a nice, super-Christian thought. But if we are Christians, the Bible says we have the Holy Spirit (which is God) living in us, Romans 8:11, Acts 2:4, John 3:34, and John 20:22. Therefore, we cannot invite the Holy Spirit to come more, nor can we purposefully cultivate a sense of God’s presence. These are merely emotional or supernatural highs that we can easily become addicted to. Remember that the Bible also describes a deceptive Satan and demons, as well as God and His angels.

related links:

 

photo credit: Minnaert via photopin cc

65 comments on “A Personal Story: Spiritual Abuse through Word of Faith Teachings during Tragic Infant Loss

  1. Word of Faith is MAGICK (Crowley spelling deliberate). In Magick, the mortal sorcerer is the one in control over the supernatural forces or beings. All the rituals, all the incantations, all the wards and bindings have to be done just so to keep control over the supernatural forces/beings summoned and broken to the sorcerer’s will.

    Specifically, Word of Faith is the Fluffbunny Pop Magick popularized in The Secret. It’s a six-year-old’s idea of magic — just WISH and BE-LEEEVE hard enough and you’ll get what you want. (It worked for the author of The Secret — the book shot up the best-seller lists and the royalties came in in buckets.)

    P.S. “Abracadabra” = “I Say The Words And It Is So”. Slurred Aramaic, from a culture where the words themselves were thought to embody the reality of what they spoke of.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. And in Word of Faith, if what is WISHED for and BE-LEEEEVED does NOT come to pass, IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH FAITH FAITH.

    If it DOES come to pass, the Word of Faith preacher takes all the credit.
    Win-Win for him, Lose-Lose for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You can pray for miracles, but you also have to know that we don’t always get them. These people were horrible liars and have no business telling anyone about faith, healing or even be allowed to open their mouths. There are sad things that will happen to all of us. My only grandson went home to be with the Lord at 9 months from SIDS. Our children are only on loan to us. They are borrowed and belong to God. I am so sorry for what this couple went through.

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  4. My condolences to the poster on the loss of her child. I am also sorry you were treated badly by other Christians in regards to that loss.

    It is true that Word of Faith practitioners tend to be pretty bad about these teachings, that unless you believe right, have enough faith, or do whatever else the prescribe, your prayer will not be answered at all, or not when or how you want it.

    It’s not just WOF -Word of Faith- preachers, however. I’ve seen similar views spouted off by Baptist preachers on TV as well.

    This type of thinking, that any pain you experience in life must be due to a spiritual failing on your part, is rather prevalent among Christians of all denominations and theological dispositions.

    I’ve seen/ heard Baptist preachers tell you that if your prayer is not being answered and /or not in the way you hoped, it’s obviously your fault. They from the outset assume you must have unforgiveness in your heart, or a hidden, on going sin you are not confessing.

    Do they not learn anything from the book of Job in the Old Testament? The book of Job explains a believer can be doing everything right and God will STILL allow all kinds of horrible stuff to happen to that person.
    But almost every time I hear a preacher (and it’s a non-WOF guy at times) answer the question “why is God ignoring my prayers” it’s always “you’re to blame, you don’t have enough faith / are you harboring unforgiveness in your heart.”

    Many Christians will more often than not let you down and blame you for your pain, and at a time you are hurting your worst. This makes me so angry, but it seems to be common.

    I had that happen after my mother died, as I spoke of on a previous thread here a few days ago. After going to Christians for comfort at that time of my loss, I instead got blamed, lectured, scolded, told I should feel sorry for orphans in India or where ever else (my pain was diminished by these people, in that it was compared to other people’s and said not to be as great, so I should just suck it up and move on).

    I used to have depression. I cannot count the number of times I read in Christian books or heard pastors on TV blame me for it. They will tell you if you force yourself to “have joy in the Lord,” or read the Bible daily, or volunteer at some charity, or think about God constantly, you will not be depressed.

    I’m not sure what to make about the Bible’s promises of healing and help. The older I get, (and I’m doubting if God even exists or not any more, but if he does), God does not seem to be keeping his promises in the Bible. You’re told in the New Testament to pray for whatever you ask and believe in a miracle or assistance, and you shall receive it.

    I constantly see testimonies on shows such as The 700 Club (which hosts CBN news, that the original poster referenced in her story) that some family believed in God for a miracle (whether financial help, physical healing, whatever), and they got it, and they usually get their miracle within minutes or days.

    I very rarely see such Christian shows include stories by people who prayed for decades for help or healing and did not get it.

    The Bible says God plays no favorites, but I have my doubts. I have no idea why “Christian Person A” prays, gets a healing in two seconds, while “Christian Person B” prays for 25 years or more and gets no response.

    I’m at a point where if God exists, and his answer to my request in prayer is a “NO,” just tell me NO from the start! Just tell me “No” first thing, I will grieve that, adjust, and move on in life. It’s rather cruel to keep holding out a hope or promise you will give something to someone, but you never do. If you have no intent on giving me “X” just tell me so up front.

    I tired of praying for the same two, three things daily for “X” number decades and getting no reply. I don’t see the point in praying for the same things repeatedly across DECADES and getting no answer.

    The WOF preachers (and ones similar to them, including Baptist pastors) do like to emphasize the positive, that if you only do “X,” “Y” and “Z” every day, God will answer your prayer immediately.

    They seldom address what to do if you’ve been doing “XYZ” daily and years have gone by and still not answer from God. (The exception: they will of course blame you and say it’s your fault, you didn’t pray hard enough, etc).

    But I mean other than the blame game, they need to preach more on the occasions people do pray , do not hold unforgivness in their hearts, and attend church, and do XYZ, and still do not get a response. But not many Christians will address that.

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  5. @missdaisyflower

    Thank you for pointing out that these teachings do not necessarily adhere to labels, but crop up in churches all over.

    “After going to Christians for comfort at that time of my loss, I instead got blamed, lectured, scolded, told I should feel sorry for orphans in India or where ever else (my pain was diminished by these people, in that it was compared to other people’s and said not to be as great, so I should just suck it up and move on).”

    I am so sorry for your loss. My parents are older, but still healthy, and I fear losing them often. I don’t know what I would do without them. I have found this attitude toward the grieving in not only churches, but in society at large. I think many people just don’t know how to help the bereaved.

    Our loss was also compared to others, and we were advised to be grateful for the day that we had, when others had stillbirths. We were told that at least we were young and could always have more. Silly people. I think sometimes they grope for something profound to say, when silence, a listening ear, and a hug are the best gifts.

    I also struggle quite a bit with the concept of prayer, but I stay away from CBN and the like. They make money by telling stories that God may have had nothing to do with. They would lose money by telling the truth.

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  6. @LLawrence:

    Silly people. I think sometimes they grope for something profound to say, when silence, a listening ear, and a hug are the best gifts.

    And when you try to say something profound under those circumstances, you usually end up saying something stupid.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I know the feeling of praying and not seeing answers. I lost a brother to cancer when he was 18 and one family (only one) at our church said that he must not have had enough faith or God would have healed him. That hurt my parents, however, so many other families prayed with them, for them, brought meals, helped in other ways. I did find that people didn’t quite know what to say, but they did their best to show our family loving care.

    I’ve prayed, read the Bible, read theological books and have found comfort in knowing that God is good, He is in control, He is loving and will in eternity answer the many “why?” questions we all have.

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  8. Yes – I think it’s a little over a year old now. There are 4 moderators there and we feed it links of current trending Christian articles (that we may or may not agree with). It has a different “feel” than the blog which feels more like a community to me. But if you want to keep up with current trends, feel free to “like.” SSB Facebook Page

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  9. And here I become confused.

    I had been an ardent WoF disciple since 1981. Recently leaving an abusive church I must now rethink my worldview. That’s hard.

    The problem is, it seems to me like there is much that WoF brought to the table in the early days which the church needed to hear.

    There was a pervasive, almost fatalistic notion of the Sovereignty of God, which sapped any real expectation that God might intervene in the affairs of life if we trusted Him to do so. WoF answered that by pointing to Jesus’ own commendations of the faith of those who came to Him for healing. It presented the promises of God and encouraged believers to believe! The book of James itself appears to give plain instruction on how to ask, say, for wisdom – to do so with no doubting, since a doubter must not suppose he will receive anything from the Lord.

    I could cite many other verses which appear to lay the emphasis on the believer’s response to the promises of God as somehow essential to their fulfilment.

    And this finally leads to the abuses at the extreme end of the Name-it-and-claim-it movement. Extremes that even Kenneth Hagin addressed in his final book, “The Midas Touch”

    I am at a complete loss as to know where what seem to be Truths turn finally into abuses.

    Do I now reinterpret the Bible in much more relativistic and cultural way. Who is to say how far that process should go? How liberal with the text ought I to be?

    Forgive me for not adding anything constructive to this debate, but it has hit a nerve.

    Having once had a carefully constructive and watertight worldview I now find myself all at sea.

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  10. The centrepiece of WoF is, of course:

    “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Mark 11:23

    I now read the Bible asking the question, “Does it really mean what it says?”
    My response is usually, “probably not.”

    But that’s a particularly depressing way to view the Bible. It’s not a great leap from there to assigning it equal significance with any other religious literature.

    😦

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  11. The WOF movement has its roots in the same place as New Age, Witchcraft and Christian Science. It is rooted in the Eastern religions and its major theme is that the mind has and can control the physical. They blend that with with whatever other religion and come up with WOF type of religion.
    The WOF say we can and do be come gods like onto God and have the same creative powers that He does. Faith becomes a substance that with enough of it, anything can be created. They reduce God to a faith being and as we gain in faith, we can become a little god. WOF people usually concentrate on the positive use of the mind as the tool they use to get the things they want where as witchcraft will concentrate of the negative use of the mind to cast negative spells on whoever.
    WOF denies the sovereignty of God by stating that we can control what and how God will do by using our faith to control God.
    Great book on the WOF cult is “Christianity In Crisis ” by Hank Hanegraaff. ISBN 0-89081-976-9

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  12. Chris R.

    I’m glad you chimed in as we have not discussed Word of Faith much here and as you said, it can be abusive just as any church. I see the struggle you are sensing in what you were taught and trying to find balance. Feel free to keep asking specific questions – not so much that someone here has the “right” answer, but so that it gives you the opportunity to think things through and test them yourself. I’ve learned a lot from SSB commenters.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Loura,

    I am so, so sorry for the loss of your Elizabeth Ann. I once visited a woman who had just lost her 2-3 month old baby boy to SIDS. The grief was palpable. I know you will always miss her. I wish you could have been in a more supportive environment to grieve such a loss.

    The WoF stuff was present in my former church to some degree, too. I remember them referring to our faith in terms of the Quantum Leap. The whole universe could realign itself in an instant according to our faith. My minister’s wife once told me that our faith “activates God.” I now think it seems more like having our own personal genie in a bottle. The WoF folks expect God to grant their every wish. It can leave a believer in a state of devastation when catastrophe strikes.

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  14. Chris R.,

    I went through (and continue to go through) a similar struggle. One thing that helped a lot was reading the Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelation. I was amazed at how many times the Bible quotes or references itself, and how many N.T. passages are really O.T. ones used to prove a point.

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  15. My mother followed Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Haigen teachings of “name it and claim it. When my brother was in a car accident and lay in a coma for 30 days, she prayed and believed, but he died. For 40 years she blamed herself for his death. She told me, “I know God forgives me, but if I had more faith, my son wouldn’t have died.” She dearly loved Jesus and I know she prayed for each one of her family to come to Christ, and we all did! However, word faith teachers had perverted her view of God’s sovereignty. That teaching is evil.

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  16. Do they not learn anything from the book of Job in the Old Testament? The book of Job explains a believer can be doing everything right and God will STILL allow all kinds of horrible stuff to happen to that person.
    ____________________________________________________________

    I was an elder in a church where the pastor preached on a Wednesday that Job was put in the Bible to show us how sinful Job was in not having sufficient faith and speaking bad, faith-killing words. I resigned and took my family and left the church the next Sunday.

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  17. L Lawrence / Julie Anne

    Encouraging words. Thank you!

    WoF taught me that the gift of salvation was mine because God had already done everything to save me – it was now up to me to receive that gift through repentance and faith.

    It taught me that being filled with the Spirit was also a gift on offer. To be received the same way.

    It taught me that I could trust the Word which said my sins had been laid on Jesus, the Eternal Son of God who had given His life for my salvation, raised on the third day to glory by the power of God.

    It taught me to be ‘God-inside’ minded. That He was my strength. That His wisdom was available to me. There is an anointing that ‘abides in me’. I am the Temple of the Living God.

    It taught me that, despite my feelings of guilt, I could rely on the Word that declared me forgiven.

    Since disease and sickness were in the atonement, I could treat them as I did my unwarranted guilty feelings, by taking God’s Word for it that I was healed, even before I could see it. Just as I could take a friend’s word that they had deposited £1000 in my bank account before I could see it.

    It taught be to be bold and specific in my requests to God, rather than resigning myself to a more Islamic, fatalistic view of life.

    I was encouraged by Kenneth Hagin’s testimony of healing and His visions. Was he man of integrity – or an outright liar?

    In what way is this not Biblical teaching? (understood that many would interpret ‘healing in the atonement’ differently)

    And yes, JimmyDee, I do see similarities with New Age, Eastern Religion etc.

    WoF teaching saved me from a nervous breakdown in my early twenties.

    And yet.

    To me there is now a hollowness about it.

    I don’t know what ‘healing’ and ‘disease’ actually mean. I have a daughter who is diagnosed Aspergers and a wife who is also on the spectrum. Do they need healing? I don’t think so. Their particular wiring grants them skills many neurotypicals dream of! And yet, further down the spectrum are those with a more significant degree of autism who require permanent care. It’s a spectrum. Where do you draw the line?
    What classifies as infirmity and what doesn’t?

    And, of course, there are the abuses and excesses of those who do, indeed, treat God as though he is a genie in a bottle. The stories of those who are not healed and how they are treated. The abuses of financial manipulation (Send us a debt-removing love-gift!)

    Is it all a question of balance between two extremes: A fatalistic view of God’s Sovereignty on the one hand, and an overemphasis on man’s responsibility on the other? (No, no, no – let’s not start another TULIP debate!)

    What do we do with all those Biblical instructions to ‘Ask, that our joy may be full’; with all those commendations of faith for healing by Jesus; with the knowledge that He never turned down a request for healing; with the understanding that He healed, not primarily to prove His Deity, but because He was filled with compassion?

    “Go in peace, your faith has saved (healed) you.”

    What do we do with all those Scriptures which tell us what is ours because we are ‘in Christ?

    Amidst all the confusion, an atheist view of life almost seems attractive…

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  18. Chris R., Yes, God surely does work to meet us where we are, and good can come in the form of WoF, but we should be very careful about being pragmatic. For every person who finds Christ through these teachings, another one or more leave the faith or begin to go a different path away from mercy and grace (calling themselves Christians, but without real Spiritual fruit, and only an appearance of fruit through experiences). “Since disease and sickness were in the atonement” No, they are not. Or why would Timothy have stomach trouble, and Paul a thorn in his side? When the Bible says that Jesus took our stripes and we are healed, it specifically means healed of sin, not illness. This concept comes up many times in Scripture.

    Asking for joy, asking for wisdom, yes, there are Biblical precedents for these, as there is for asking for faith, and other traits of character. It is not wrong to ask God for healing, but it is wrong to demand it, expect it, or try to manipulate God for it.

    Jesus healed, yes, but we are not Jesus. When Jesus said, “Greater things than this you shall do”, I don’t think he meant miracles and healings, because how much greater can you get than Jesus who saved the world from sin and brought himself back from the dead? Now I am not a cessationist, but I “think” most, if not all of God’s promises involve character and spiritual promises, not physical ones.

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  19. L Lawrence

    Do you have any comment to make about Kenneth Hagin’s testimony of healing? Or his visions?

    Is the man a fraud? It appears from his writings that he never did the money manipulation trick and comes across as a man of real integrity. As I said he slammed much of WoF teaching in his final years.

    He says he was raised from his deathbed as a 16 year old on the grounds of Mark 11.24 His story is that God told him ‘You’ve got to believe you’ve got it before you get it” based on this verse. And that is precisely what got him up walking again, apparently.

    I remember CS Lewis argument that Jesus must have been a) mad b) bad or c) exactly who he said he was.

    It seems a similar argument could be made about Ken Hagin. Mad? Bad? or telling it exactly as it was between him and God with regard to his healing.

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  20. Hi Chris,

    I don’t know about Hagin, other than that he was a featured name in a book that was recommended to me by WoF proponents called “God’s Generals”. It was kind of a who’s-who’s list of famous WoF preachers.

    In general whenever anyone claims “God told them…” I see warning flags. God has told all of us what he expects through Scripture. I can’t say if Hagin is lying or not, because I have had some rather wild experiences and visions and dreams during my time in this movement. I now see the overwhelming majority of them as having a source other than God, whether it was Satan or my own imagination, I don’t know.

    I know that in the Bible, even the major prophets didn’t have visions and dreams anywhere near as often as modern ones or WoF-ers claim to have them.

    I call WoF witchcraft because of the similar actions people in both groups take, but also because the end result is the same: moving further from God, all while having an appearance of holiness/mystery.

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  21. Hagin is considered to the founder of it all (leaning heavily on EW Kenyon) Kenneth Copeland was his number one blue-eyed boy, until Hagin called him to account near the end.

    Having recently witnessed my ageing mother-in-law suffering from a brain difficulty in which her imagination played out as reality, I am prepared to accept that the human mind can play huge tricks on us. Perhaps Hagin was sincere and genuinely believed his visions were authentic.

    Perhaps the name-it-and-claim-it bit is indeed tantamount to witchcraft. Perhaps we are permitted to claim only what God already promises us in His Word. Some would argue that includes healing. I would have argued this strongly myself a few years ago until I started to wonder what healing actually was.

    Other aspects certainly drew me closer to God, I think.

    Believing, for example, that God had placed His nature of love within me, in the New Birth, enabled me to maintain some sort of confidence in being able to do God’s will when it came to loving others. The Scripture that reads “Greater is He that is in me, than He that is in the world” was also pretty helpful, just as was “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, you may abound in every good work”

    Here’s an on-line pdf of Hagin’s last book, which includes chapters on avoiding abuses and maintaining balance.

    http://goo.gl/toqtcU

    Still not sure what to make of it all.

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  22. There certainly does seem to be something wrong with a teaching that encourages you to believe something that, in the end, may not happen.

    And then tells you it’s your fault it never happened.

    Especially when it something that touches your heart so deeply.

    Such a God would certainly be cruel abuser.

    Yes, I need to do much rethinking.

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  23. I’m not sure what to make of it all either, Chris. A few years ago, I read on a forum for ex-Pentecostals that Pentecostalism was the last stop before leaving the faith. I don’t believe that to be true, but I think I understand why someone would say that.

    Charismatic churches have a strong focus on emotional or experiential aspects of faith. This might not be so bad if you are in a relatively healthy and balanced church. When there is abuse or a tragedy of some sort, and the people in your church just get weird, it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.

    There’s also the whole prophecy angle. Ha! If some of the prophecies at my former church had been true the world, as we know it, would have ended by now. They were always chasing dreams, signs, and wonders. After a while, you literally had to have selective memory to survive there.

    I think maybe the problem is one of extremism. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with praying for a healing. The Bible says to seek, ask, and knock. I think the problem starts when we believe we are somehow controlling God by our seeking, asking, and knocking, and that He is now somehow required to perform like a puppet on strings.

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  24. @BTDT:

    I think the problem starts when we believe we are somehow controlling God by our seeking, asking, and knocking, and that He is now somehow required to perform like a puppet on strings.

    i.e. when you have crossed the line between religion and magick.

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  25. @LLawrence:

    In general whenever anyone claims “God told them…” I see warning flags.

    Can’t remember which blog I read this on, but…
    “The phrase ‘God Revealed to Me…’ should be approached with the same caution as the phrase ‘please castrate me.'”

    Liked by 2 people

  26. HUG,

    “The phrase ‘God Revealed to Me…’ should be approached with the same caution as the phrase ‘please castrate me.’”

    That’s pretty drastic isn’t it?? lol

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Loura,
    Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts. I feel for you in your loss of your child and in the spiritual trauma caused by these false teachings. Many have had their faith shipwrecked by spiritual abuse, so I am encouraged that these experiences have drawn you closer to God as He really is.

    Chris R,
    I feel for you in your struggle as well. I think others have offered you sound advice here. I know that doesn’t automatically make things easy. The good thing is that much of what you learned from WoF is just basic Christianity that hopefully you would have learned in other churches that focus on teaching the Bible, so you have a strong foundation on which to build as you go back to the Word and examine what you were taught.

    I personally have been comforted in realizing that God knows and understands our struggles, and that saying “I just don’t know” or “I am not sure” can be a very freeing thing, as it lets me leave in God’s hands things that are beyond my full understanding. Learning to to comfortable with ambiguity doesn’t come easily when you’ve been part of a system that emphasises certainty (especially for analytical types like myself), but I find it is nice at times to be able to say, “Lord, you know, and I don’t, and that’s okay.”

    Concerning Hagen — I don’t know if his testimonies concerning his personal healing and visions were true or not. But assuming they were, and that his heart was sincere before God, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t subject to error in other things. One mistake I think people frequently make is assuming that their own experiences with God are to be normative for all other believers. In the Bible, God at times spoke in special ways and did special things through specific individuals, but the Bible doesn’t say that everyone should expect those same experiences. Not everyone hears God speak from a burning bush (as far as I know that experience was unique to Moses). Most people who are mentioned in the Bible apparently did not routinely experience miracles or have profound mystical experiences — the fact that those things were unusual is what made them stand out, even during Bible times. So perhaps God did things in Hagen’s life that were out of the ordinary, and Hagen, being as fallible as any of us, erroneously concluded (and taught) that God intended to do similar things with everyone. Just a thought.

    Like

  28. AnotherTom

    That’s extremely helpful.

    You have absolutely hit the spot as far as I am concerned.

    Learning to be comfortable with ambiguity….

    One of my most repeated statements at the moment when in conversation with others on matters of faith is, “God is much bigger than I thought He was”.

    In so many matters, I just don’t know. Perhaps that makes me an Agnostic 😉

    That’s a useful insight into Kenneth Hagin too. I have been reluctant to trash him completely as he seemed to across with so much more sense and integrity than ‘the others’.

    You have clearly spent much time thinking about this too.

    Many thanks.

    Like

  29. In traditional Lutheranism, we are taught that the Bible is all about Jesus Christ, and his provision of salvation for us. Thus we’re taught to interpret every passage with Jesus in mind. (I think I’m saying that right.).

    Unlike the WOF folks, we are taught to acknowledge those three little words we all find so hard to say – – “I don’t know. ”

    I distinctly remember, as younger Lutheran, wondering if that were a cop out. In my maturity, I see it more as a humble and factual acknowledgment, which does not take away from my face and certainly does not lend itself to fatalism. My mileage, for what that’s worth.

    Here is a link
    http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=401

    to the conservative Lutheran essay about the Word of Faith movement. Much of it is WOF history, but toward the second pageThe theology that I found to be true is explained.

    Like

  30. jminteriors,

    I like what you were taught. I think the “I don’t know,” puts ourselves in a position of humility and that’s not a bad place to be. We don’t need to know everything.

    I’ve seen sometimes that this need-to-know everything is what fuels tyrants and of course their interpretation is the only right interpretation.

    Like

  31. “I don’t know,”

    That is a beautiful statement. We will be learning until the day the Lord calls us home. It is ok not to know everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Anita said,

    My mother followed Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Haigen teachings of “name it and claim it. When my brother was in a car accident and lay in a coma for 30 days, she prayed and believed, but he died. For 40 years she blamed herself for his death.

    On many of Christian shows, the preachers or Christian host will always assure the viewer that if they have enough faith that God has to give them their miracle, whatever it may be.

    If you don’t get whatever you asked for, it’s always chalked up to your fault in some capacity – they you prayed from a wrong motive, you didn’t have enough faith, or what have you. I’ve also hear non-Word of Faith pastors use these rationales, including one very famous Baptist preacher who has a weekly TV series.

    Anyhow, I think it’s very damaging that these Christian shows only emphasize the happy outcomes of prayer.

    I hardly ever hear Christian preachers or hosts do stories or interviews with people who prayed for decades for “X” (whatever X may be), but they never got a response to prayer about “X” or their answer was a “no” to the prayer.

    I know after years, many years of watching Christian television, I did not find other people’s “answered prayers” stories happy, where they say they prayed for financial help, a healing of cancer, or whatever, and they were delivered.

    These testimonies made me more depressed. I could not understand why God was healing and delivering other people but my prayers were either seemingly being ignore, or I was getting repeated “No” answers.

    My mother had the same problem. She used to watch these shows and would pray along with the hosts for a healing but never got one. She said she did not understand why God was answering all these other people who were hurting or having problems but not answering hers. She stopped watching the shows.

    I don’t think the people who air these shows take this sort of thing into account, how they think they are being inspirational to the public but are actually having the reverse effect on people who are not getting miracles or “yes” answers.

    There’s little material out there for Christians who are getting unanswered prayers, and they are hurting over this and are at a loss

    (With the exception of the “blame the Christian” responses, which insensitively assume you are getting a “no” answer to prayer because, the pastors say, you have unforgiveness in your heart, are praying from wrong motive, etc.

    The few numbers of times I’ve seen Christian hosts try to answer this…. they never know what to say to the sincere Christian who is not praying from wrong motive, who is not living in unrepentant sin, etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Truth Detector said,

    I was an elder in a church where the pastor preached on a Wednesday that Job was put in the Bible to show us how sinful Job was in not having sufficient faith and speaking bad, faith-killing words. I resigned and took my family and left the church the next Sunday.

    Holy cow, that preacher got the point of Job entirely backwards.

    God said in the book of Job that Job suffered because he was righteous (there was also a behind- the- scene bet going on between God and Satan over Job), not because Job “lacked faith” or was in sin or was speaking negative words.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. HUG said,

    Can’t remember which blog I read this on, but…
    “The phrase ‘God Revealed to Me…’ should be approached with the same caution as the phrase ‘please castrate me.’”

    Speaking of which, this reminded me of something.

    I have watched TBN (they air Christian programming) over the years, and I notice that the guests on the various shows, such as Sid Roth’s “Supernatural” are always claiming “God told me…,” or they claim Jesus appeared to them personally in their bedrooms and gave them visions, they got to go to Heave, etc.

    I’m neither firmly in one camp or the other on this stuff. I was brought up Southern Baptist (and SBs are not prone to believing in charismatic stuff, supernatural events, etc), I don’t know if I agree with cessationism or not.

    I’m pretty open minded on speaking in tongues and what all (I’ve never done it but don’t see where the Bible clearly states it was only for the apostles), but I don’t think the odd excesses I see from today’s charismatics are biblical (such as Charismatics barking like dogs in church services claiming that is the Holy Spirit).

    I’m pretty open minded about Christian claims of Near Death Experiences. However, where I am skeptical are these guests who say they met Jesus in person, and it’s always more than one time. For example.

    There was one guy on Sid Roth’s show last week who said Jesus appeared to him in his bedroom and showed him his heart. The same guy said a few weeks or months later, Jesus took him into Heaven, where he got to see streets of gold. Same guy said yet a few more weeks or days later, Jesus appeared to him again (or an angel speaking on behalf of Jesus).

    That is just one guy, but almost every other guest on Roth’s show claims they have been taken into Heaven several times or almost every other week for months or years. It’s ridiculous.

    I was a devout Christian since I was a kid (now having doubts, but anyway), I never once had Jesus appear in my bedroom in person and say hello. I was not taken in to Heaven at any point. Neither were any of the sincere Christians I knew growing up. Both my grandmothers were very devout Christians, neither one of them claimed to meet Jesus in person (and one was Pentecostal).

    I might – might – have been apt to believe you if you said Jesus appeared to you once or twice in your life, or you have a single vision of Heaven, but these guys who make it sound like they visit God several times a week? Give me a break.

    They make it sound like visiting with Jesus in person, or taking trips into Heaven, (where Jesus is usually reported as acting as their tour guide), is as common and frequent like you or I going down to the local grocery store or Starbucks for a cup of coffee.

    Not only do you have some folks walking around saying “God revealed to me” but you have these other ones claiming “God personally zaps me up in to Heaven at least once a week over ten years.” Uh huh.

    I do think, through the Holy Spirit, God can and does reveal personal stuff to people today on occasion (not stuff that is binding as is doctrine written in the Bible), but I think a lot of the Charismatic (and other sorts of Christians) abuse this concept, or are at times mistaken.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Pingback: How I Left a Cult | The Writings and Thoughts of Loura Lawrence

  36. @BTDT:

    I’m not sure what to make of it all either, Chris. A few years ago, I read on a forum for ex-Pentecostals that Pentecostalism was the last stop before leaving the faith. I don’t believe that to be true, but I think I understand why someone would say that.

    I can see the rationale. They’re faltering, so they try to whip up an emotional frenzy to get back to that peak. And then an addiction/tolerance response kicks in requiring ever-more-extreme acts of faith and frenzy. Like the prophets of Baal jumping around screaming and cutting themselves with knives.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Yes, HUG. Sometimes it’s hard to go back to listening for that still, small voice. Or simply worshipping God in quiet awe, because He is.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Lloura I am so sorry for your loss of your infant. and im also so sorry you had to deal with false teachings during your painful season. I am so thankful you shared your story. sadly many Christians fall prey to word of faith movement. it is only through the grace of God that He revealed this to me through a dear friend of mine. God brings healing and comfort in His way and He loves us so much He brings understanding. I pray you and your husband continue to heal and be blessed in sharing the truth. I lost my husband 10 years ago and I can tell you that God is so faiyhful that He saved him 4months before he went home to the Lord. I am still sharing his testimony. God and His word will never pass away. we will be with Him forever. God bless you both.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. At least you still have your faith. The abuse & torment I suffered by church leaders made me distain the church, and the things that pertain to god.

    Like

  40. I am so sorry for your suffering, Free Woman. I know how cruel, how manipulative, and how willing to dump you on the roadside church people and leaders can be. I have thankfully known real Christians and good Christian leaders too.

    I have not been to church in several years, and while every once in a while the desire strikes me, I am soon disgusted by the “methods” I see the organized church employing to gain members, prestige, and money.

    I am not sure what you mean by “the things that pertain to god”. As I read my Bible at home, I see this in both the Old and New Testaments, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.” Micah 6:8

    Bless you, Free Woman, and may you find healing on your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Thank you for taking the time to reply Loura. Its been such a wild ride. I have been through a lot of emotions and ‘stages’. I have grown immensely from it. But, I still have anger, and I think that is natural. I am sure you can relate. I do think you should continue to share your story. From what I see there is a large influx into those teachings rather than away from.
    I will continue to follow your blog.
    PS. I saw your jewelry, its beautiful. I will be purchasing some pieces for gifts and myself. Best to you
    Lisa
    Alexandria, VA

    Like

  42. Aw, you are welcome. It makes me so angry and sad that many who claim to want to make disciples for Jesus, are the very ones who shut the door to the Kingdom in others’ faces. Thank you for looking at my sites, following my blog, and the compliments. 🙂

    Like

  43. Pingback: Josh Duggar Fallout and Personal Reflections on Previously Held Beliefs | The Writings and Thoughts of Loura Lawrence

  44. Sorry to hear the loss of your loved one. I think the readers need to know and read your words as you put it. You put your faith in wof teachers. Clue number one. That is the most condemning phrase that highlights the source of this tragedy. I believed the Lord for healing. Cancer left my mother, and I was healed. Not by teachers, but by the one who is the author and finisher of my faith.try him.

    Like

  45. @ louise.

    I don’t agree with WoF myself but not everyone who puts faith in Christ for a healing gets one, as you seem to suggest by recounting your personal experiences.

    I have had very devout Christian family who trusted in Christ for a healing, but died from cancer, or other causes.

    There is a forum online for people who are paralyzed and in wheelchairs, or who lost limbs (mostly war veterans), who say they are now atheists because they were once Christian, but God did not prevent them from being injured, or did not restore their ability to walk or missing limb when they repeatedly prayed for it.

    You can argue all day that they should not blame God for not receiving a healing, but the point remains not everyone who has faith in Jesus for healing receives a healing in this life.

    I also wonder about your WoF angle. I wonder what it says about the Christian God’s character that He does not go ahead and heal the person who sincerely – and out of honest ignorance – thinks the way of getting a healing is to take the approachof, or advice from, a WoF pastor. You would think God would take pity on such a person and heal him or her anyway, in spite of them turning to a WoF preacher / teacher.

    Liked by 2 people

  46. You may not have meant it this way, but your comment comes across as sarcastic and condescending. Please remember that this is a very sore spot for me, since my baby died.

    I listened to WOF teachers, but put my faith in God. I’m glad you and your mother were healed, truly I am. The main point of sharing my story was to let people know that God does not guarantee healing, something which you seem to believe, based on your comment.

    Liked by 3 people

  47. louise,

    I have said this so many times I can’t count, but here I go again. I can’t see your eyes, or hear the tone of your voice, if I could I might realize that you are not being intentionally superior. Please, no-one who has lost a baby needs to be scolded or lectured. Try to show some compassion & empathy, you know, like the tenderness of Jesus when he wept over Lazarus.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Loura,
    I am so sorry for your loss. My daughter has lost 2 sons, one at 9 months, the other after 90 minutes. We are praying that the little girl she carries will live a long and healthy life. Losing little ones is so hard, but I have always believed that they are immediately in the Lord’s play ground. Recently, I was told that God knows the heart and these small babes could possibly be doomed to Hell. Jesus loves children. The thought that he would condemn any of them is completely ludicrous, in my opinion.

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  49. @Brenda: Thank you so much for your condolences. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandchildren. Your daughter and family are in my prayers for a safe, healthy delivery and baby.

    Our God is a just God and a merciful God. There is no way He would condemn an infant to Hell. Babies are not capable of selfish thoughts, they only act on survival instincts. Even small children, even older children are still learning right from wrong. Adults and older teens have an innate understanding of what is evil, whereas children do not. Or do these Pharisees argue also that God condemns fetuses too (wouldn’t surprise me)?

    Like

  50. Reading the comment from Louise reminded me of how I used to think, and act. It comes from a place of pride, and ignorance. I was so mean, and so judgmental, and I would beat people up with the bible. I spoke just like she did, and way, way worse!

    Sad isn’t it? Guess where I learned it? In church! From the ministry leaders mostly. I can’t even believe I was so heartless to so many people. But then little by little my heart started to change into compassion, and love, and I really started to see those teachings, and people for what it really was. Talk about a long, and very, very painful process of unlearning those teachings. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!

    Take care Loura!
    Lisa
    Alaxandria, VA

    Liked by 2 people

  51. Thank you, Lisa! And thank you for reminding us that people can change, that people can learn, and that each of us has likewise come a long way from where we were.

    I lose sight of that many times, as those who taught me the things mentioned in the article, have yet (12 years later) to give any hint of change or repentance. Poor Elizabeth has become the elephant in the room, everyone sees it, everyone knows, but know one wants to address it.

    Liked by 1 person

  52. Loura,
    I had never heard anyone, ever say that a child could be condemned to hell until this year. I am 58 and had never heard this teaching until a couple lost a baby and there was discussion about the next home of their child. I couldn’t believe people could be so cruel or know so very little about the heart of our Heavenly Father. I’m sure if the Pharisees condemn small children, fetuses would be included. You can hear a babies heart beat at 2 weeks gestation these days. In their minds God knows their heart and has the right to choose. Very distorted view.

    Liked by 1 person

  53. I will be honest, I do not have much faith in the fact that the ones that hurt me so badly will come out either. I also believe that even once their eyes are opened some still stay for whatever reason. I have 2 people that are still in WOF, who used to be very good friends to me. Both burned me very badly, but once a year I write them a letter telling them the truth of what they are in, and begging them to leave it. Our lives were destroyed over religion. You know first-hand the tremendous loss of years of valuable life, money, family ect from being wrapped up in it. So, its disheartening to me to sit by, and see their lives stolen from them. I know their stories on a personal basis, and I know the things that they are “believing God for”, and I know that years have passed them by, and they are still waiting. They are throwing the prime years of their lives away on false teachings, and hope. It hurts my heart to stand by, and watch. Even if nothing ever comes of the letters, I know I tried, and thats what matters most to me.

    I have not found peace yet about all that has happened. I am confident though that someday I will be much more at peace about it all. I am glad you continue to write, because these stories need to be told!

    Liked by 1 person

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