Word of Faith: Finding the balance between truth and abuse

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Word of Faith teachings:  the balance between truth and abuse

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Julie Anne is out on the road for most of the day and she asked me to post a discussion piece about Word of Faith. -Kathi

First, I would like to thank Loura Lawrence for sharing her story with us. I am so sorry for your loss. You have opened up to me a new world that is Word of Faith.

A quick Google search of Word of Faith led me to a Wikipedia article, local Word of Faith churches, and one of many articles on how Word of Faith has gone wrong. When looking into prominent preachers within this movement I started recognizing names: Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch, Benny Hinn, and Robert Tilton. Those of you familiar with the movement will add Kenneth E. Hagin and Charles Capps.

Chris R. left a great comment on the last post that leads to this discussion:

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.

Which leads us to today’s discussion post. What do you know about Word of Faith? If you have been a part of the movement, are you able to share some experiences with us? At what point do we find a balance between truth and abuse?

Image source: Logopond

51 comments on “Word of Faith: Finding the balance between truth and abuse

  1. Thank you, Kathi, for posting this. I saw the destruction of this movement just yesterday on a Facebook conversation about a fetal demise situation similar to Loura’s story, but it extends to many other areas, too. I’ll share more when I get home. I’m looking forward to the discussion and reading about experiences related to this doctrine.

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  2. Perhaps a quick thought about the “health and wealth” “gospel”; if it were God’s will that we should be healed from every disease, and to be healthy and wealthy as a sign of His favor, why does Paul write about the thorn in his flesh, and God responding to his pleas to remove it with “my grace is sufficient for you”? Why did all of the Apostles die penniless? Why were all but one (John) executed–at least according to tradition?

    Why does Jesus confront the Pharisees by pointing out how they killed the Prophets–and why was John the Baptist penniless and then executed? Why does Hebrews 11 list those who suffered and died for their faith?

    Now we contrast that with the miraculous healings of the early chapters of Acts. Interesting dialectic; God can heal, but He does not always heal. God can (Job, Abraham, Solomon) make rich, but He does not always make His people rich. Sometimes He chooses poverty and sickness for some of His people. Sometimes God accomplishes more in me from my suffering than from my blessing. Sometimes I am like a tree with diseased branches that need pruning.

    It hurts, but it sure beats rot in the roots, no?

    One person commented, I forget who, that a fatal flaw in prosperity theology (of which Word of Faith is a variant) is that it substitutes riches on earth for riches in Heaven. I have the thought that as Chris R, God willing, comprehends the breadth of Scripture in this regard, he’s going to see the way out. It is that the primary point of faith is reconciliation with God and the promise of Heaven, not Rolls-Royces and never needing to see a doctor.

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  3. On the one hand:

    What sort of God would encourage us to believe for something so dear to our hearts, which finally doesn’t happen – and then tells us that it’s our fault we have ended in grief?

    Only a monster, surely?

    On the other:

    What do we make of all those promises of deliverance, protection, strength and even success? Some of them certainly appear to apply not just to spiritual realities, but also physical ones: “I have never seen the righteous begging bread….” “My God shall supply all your need” does seem to be written in the context of physical provision.

    I think we all know how the abuses work. I am keenly interested in finding the balance point – and haven’t succeeded yet.

    How should we pray when someone is sick?
    James tells us

    “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”

    And yet the corollary is awful – if the sick person does not get well, the implication is that the prayer wasn’t offered in faith.

    That’s not just WoF. That’s Bible.

    Help!

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  4. @BikeBubba:

    Perhaps a quick thought about the “health and wealth” “gospel”; if it were God’s will that we should be healed from every disease, and to be healthy and wealthy as a sign of His favor, why does Paul write about the thorn in his flesh, and God responding to his pleas to remove it with “my grace is sufficient for you”?

    In mu church tradition (RCC), many of the saints who were known for miracle healings were chronically ill themselves; they healed others but never themselves.

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  5. Bike Bubba

    Don’t worry, I’ve never been after Rolls Royces.

    I’m not particularly ‘prosperity’ minded, although I have clung to God to help me succeed in my workplace, which He has, taking me from virtual nervous-breakdown-hood at the start of teaching career, to a place where I am much loved and respected for what I do and to the place of influence I now have in the school I have taught at for the last 28 years. If I had not trusted him and leant hard on what I took to be his promises of success, I believe I might not have survived.

    In it all, any prosperity I have sought has been on the foundation of wanting to help others. I remember crying as a young man because my own shyness hindered me from being able to be strong support to those who needed it. My growth in confidence I attribute to teachings which came through WoF material. “I can do all things through Christ who stengthens me” was my daily, and much needed confession on the way to school.

    I can’t believe that Christianity is only ‘pie in the sky when you die’.
    There is, at least, some measure in which it is also ‘steak on the plate while you wait’, if the Bible is to be believed.

    1 Tim 4:8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

    I now wonder how much of my ‘faith’ was simply necessitated by insecurities and was possibly misplaced. Perhaps it was simply the positive thinking it entailed which saved me from disaster.

    What can we expect God to do for us in this life?

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  6. Chris: :^)

    I don’t claim to have all the answers, either, but what I can say is that the truth seems to be somewhere as we understand things in terms the question of to whom was the promise made, how we define “need”, and the like.

    Definitely some “steak on the plate”–the guests in Cana (John 2) got some wine that the most avid oinophiles today would lust after–and definitely some evidence of things that characterized the ages of law, of the early church, and so on. But I think all in all, definitely an opportunity for a wider breadth of understanding of Scripture than many denominations have, including my own.

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  7. Christ wrote: “And yet the corollary is awful – if the sick person does not get well, the implication is that the prayer wasn’t offered in faith. That’s not just WoF. That’s Bible.”

    Yet that is but one passage. I always share with people that we should consider what the “whole”, or all, of the Bible shares about an issue. If we do, we see that Paul had an affliction that wasn’t healed. Timothy had a stomach problem that wasn’t healed. Never a mention that either of them didn’t have enough faith to be healed or had sin in their lives and that prevented it. Anyone and everyone in Bible times was not healed.

    WoF is not a good group to get caught up in and there are various layers. You have your “name it and claim it,” “money cometh,” you are to always be healed, and then you can get into all kinds of other nonsense like gold teeth, gold dust, angel feathers, jewels and other such nonsense. Of course, if something doesn’t happen, the blame falls on you. You give to the minister to get a financial blessing and the minister gets richer and you get poorer. It creates a very carnal “gospel” and a seeking after signs “gospel”.

    Through the years I have crossed paths with many people who have been harmed in various ways by this movement and their many ministers.

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  8. I know someone who had a bad cough for months. When I called her a few weeks later, I asked if that was the same cough she had when I was visiting. She said “yes,” then quickly changed it to “no.” I called her on it and eventually she admitted that it was the same cough, but she didn’t want to give Satan a foothold by acknowledging the cough.

    Take this a step further. If she were to have gone to the doctor and described her symptoms she had for now 2-3 months, telling the doctor would only prove her lack of faith. So many, will NOT go seek medical help when they need it because it “proves” their lack of faith.

    There’s a church in Oregon, Followers of Christ, with a graveyard outside with buried babies who had medical issues and parents refused medical treatment. They follow the same kind of very bad teaching. http://www.oregonlive.com/books/index.ssf/2013/10/in_the_name_of_god_review_oreg.html

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

    Oftentimes what happens is when a passage or two are over emphasized (without taking into consideration what the rest of the Bible shows on the matter), taken out of context, words are given different meanings than intended by the author, and the emphasis is placed upon YOUR performance. In other words, it is a performance based “gospel”. If something doesn’t work, it is YOUR fault. If something goes wrong, it is YOUR fault. If something bad happens, it is YOUR fault. If YOU do this, than that is guaranteed to happen.

    The book of Galatians has helped many people who have been involved in unhealthy churches. These Christians started their walk with God in faith but turned toward performance based religion. They started believing there were things they had to do to be saved or to keep saved and starting trusting that they could make themselves right with God by what they did or did not do.

    When you have spent years in a group, it is tough to not read things into the passages of the Bible that are not there. You add things, give words different meanings, and don’t look at the big picture. To help, I would suggest using a different Bible than the one you used there so you don’t run into notes and such. A different translation may work even better. Try reading at first without studying. Then as you do study, take care that you read passages in their context and to compare them with similar ones. Take breaks when needed.

    I personally don’t believe it is about reinterpreting the Bible as that was already done by whatever unhealthy group a person was in. I believe it is about allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

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  10. “I called her on it and eventually she admitted that it was the same cough, but she didn’t want to give Satan a foothold by acknowledging the cough.”

    Oh yes, this goes with being overly concerned with the words you speak- thinking that you can speak things into happening. It is awful when people die unnecessarily, especially children who had no choice in what was done.

    And the emphasis on the devil, you would think he was all powerful and even greater than God by the time some ministers give to him in sermons & teachings.

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  11. So obviously these people don’t have faith that God will heal their vision problems when they are wearing glasses. And I suppose they don’t want to say anything out loud about the tooth ache either. I suspect they go to dentists?

    How do they determine if it’s a real medical necessity requiring treatment and a lack of faith issue? I’m thinking about the several times I’ve taken kids to the ER for a broken limb or stitches. This stuff makes my head go bonkers.

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  12. @Lois:

    WoF is not a good group to get caught up in and there are various layers. You have your “name it and claim it,” “money cometh,” you are to always be healed, and then you can get into all kinds of other nonsense like gold teeth, gold dust, angel feathers, jewels and other such nonsense. Of course, if something doesn’t happen, the blame falls on you. You give to the minister to get a financial blessing and the minister gets richer and you get poorer. It creates a very carnal “gospel” and a seeking after signs “gospel”.

    WIN-WIN for the WoF ManaGAWD.
    LOSE-LOSE FOR YOU & ME.

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  13. “How do they determine if it’s a real medical necessity requiring treatment and a lack of faith issue?”

    One of my husband’s brothers had scarlet fever when he was a young man. His parents decided to pray for him instead of taking him to the Dr. He survived, but half of his face is still paralyzed today.

    In contrast, many of the leaders in that church not only go to the dentist, but go to the most expensive dentist in town. They don’t really advertise that, though. There are images to uphold, you know.

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  14. Julie Anne, I remember a time where a few people broke from my former church and ended up starting their own, which was short lived. They had been influenced by a visiting evangelist that was not from our group, that the pastor had invited to preach a revival.

    It seemed like every time I turned around, there was something else that was wrong. At one point they believed you should not wear your glasses and trust that God would heal your eyes. I don’t think that lasted too long and their vision was not miraculously turned to 20/20.

    With dentists, nah, just wait for God to give you a gold tooth or a gold filling. Then maybe forget that your dentist put that in years before then…..

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  15. @Lois:

    Oh yes, this goes with being overly concerned with the words you speak- thinking that you can speak things into happening.

    “ABRACADABRA” = “I Speak and It Is So”

    And the emphasis on the devil, you would think he was all powerful and even greater than God by the time some ministers give to him in sermons & teachings.

    This is a known heresy: “Attributing too much power to the Devil.” When the Spanish Inquisition rolled on a (rare) witchcraft case, that was usually the charge they pursued.

    It’s a heresy you find all over Spiritual Warfare/Discernment/Demon-Hunter types. Because the more Powerful the Devil, the more heroic and powerful and important the Mighty Spiritual Warriors must be. After all, what would Almighty God do without the Heroic High-Level Spiritual Warriors to fight the Devil for him?

    (Maybe somebody should have introduced these guys to D&D instead; then they could role-play high-level mages and clerics fighting greate supernatural evil without dragging all the rest of us into it as orcs and redshirts…)

    This also explains why these types are also so in-your-face shrill. They have made the Devil so powerful that deep down inside they’re afraid they picked the losing side.

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  16. Here is something that was posted on the board I operate about the WoF.

    In Word of Faith (WoF) churches, what you say and how you say it is very important–perhaps the best way to explain it here is to call it “speech standards”: there were certain things you were expected to say, and certain things you were not permitted to say.

    To complicate things even more, certain words and phrases had different meanings within WoF. This won’t be an exhaustive list, but it is a starting point:

    Faith – This verse was taken literally: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Faith was a spiritual substance — a divine currency. If you had enough of it, you could “cash it in” for things here on earth.

    Full Gospel – WoF folks generally believe that salvation is secured through faith alone; but there was a higher level that you could attain if you accepted the “full Gospel” — which included the baptism in the Holy Spirit and all of the charismatic gifts.

    Spirit-man – Human beings were defined as spirits who had a soul and lived in a body — a kind of ‘human trinity.’ Because God was a Spirit, the spirit-man was the part of us that could have a relationship with God. WoF folks believed that their spirit-man, their true self, posessed all the same powers as God… including the power to create with their words.

    Spirit-filled – a (usually temporary) condition where one is filled with the Holy Spirit.

    Confession – Anything that you say out loud. If you say positive things this is a positive confession and it yields positive fruit. If you say negative things it is a negative confession and yields negative fruit.

    Covering – the authority that you are under (usually your senior pastor).

    Apostle – Any senior leader in the movement / a “pastor of pastors.”

    Apostolic – A ministry that provides leadership “covering” and direction to multiple ministries — usually has a prophetic bent.

    There are a few things that are very specific to the subject of divine healing.

    For example, a true WoFer would never admit to being sick. However, it was OK to talk about “fighting symptoms,” as long as that was followed immediately by a declaration like “But I’m healed and whole in the name of Jesus!” or “By His stripes I AM healed!”

    Receiving healing involved some serious verbal and mental gymnastics. We were given a few “props” to help us in this process. I used to have several printed sheets of “healing scriptures” that I would recite whenver I started feeling “symptoms” coming on.

    You could also receive healing by responding to an altar call and having someone with a gift of healing pray for you… but this was a delicate thing, since the very act of responding to the altar call was an admission that one was sick (and therefore a negative confession).

    You could also get special “prayer cloths” that had been anointed and prayed over during particularly “powerful” services. You were supposed to put the prayer cloths in your pillow case, in your pocket — someplace where it was close to your body. In extreme cases, one would put the prayer cloth directly on the part of the body that was sick.

    Instantaneous healing was possible, but progressive healing was more likely. Any improvement was automatically attributed to God, and any decline was automatically attributed to the devil.

    Cancer, alzheimers, pneumonia, diabetes, heart disease — anything really serious was considered a demon, so often healing ministries included times of dramatic deliverance sessions.

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  17. Here is another post about healing & the WoF:

    In Word of Faith theology, supernatural healing isn’t just possible, it’s expected. They believe that Jesus’ death on the cross provided not just for our salvation, but for prosperity, divine health, and divine favor. If you weren’t walking in these things, then you were not experiencing the fullness of your salvation.

    Most WoF ministries do not forbid the use of doctors or modern medicine; but an admission of failure or lack of faith was implicit in resorting to such things. This is why so many WoF leaders are also proponents of alternative medicine and herbal supplements.

    One of the things you learned early on was to “speak those things which are not as though they are.” (taken from Romans 4:17 in the KJV) This is the backbone of positive confession teaching; and it was a formula that had to be followed. For example, it wasn’t enough to say “I am not sick” — because that reversed the equation, speaking things that were as if they were not! The proper confession had to be “I am healed!”

    Negative confession was far more powerful than positive confession. One negative confession could wreck the whole thing, so it was important to tame the tongue (James 3). Incidentally, this is also why WoFers were taught to pray in tongues when praying about difficult situations, so that they wouldn’t accidentally pray a negative confession.

    The more severe the situation, the more critical it became to stay positive and maintain a positive confession. Over the years, I watched several of my fellow church members die of cancer. The more their situation declined, the more positively the pastor would speak about their prognosis. Often, when they ultimately passed away, the pastor would blame modern medicine for poisoning them with chemicals and negative confessions.

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  18. This was a post that explained binding and loosing in the WoF:

    The idea of “binding and loosing” is pretty common in Word of Faith circles. The phrase comes from two passages in Matthew — Mt 16 and Mt 18. Really, this is a case of taking a couple of verses out of context and framing them within the “name it and claim it” belief system.

    WoF folks already believe that their words have creative power… just like God’s words.

    Lets look at the verses in question:

    “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19)

    “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Mt 18:18)

    I quoted the NASB because I believe that the NASB is a little more “strict” in its translation of things like verb tenses. If you’ve been exposed to this teaching, you’ll notice that this is NOT the version you probably heard. Here’s what you probably heard:

    “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 18:18 KJV)

    or

    “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 18:18 NKJV)

    Can you see the difference?

    In the NASB, the implication is that whatever we’re binding or loosing on earth was already bound or loosed in heaven.

    If I’m remembering correctly, the verb tense here is future perfect — and there is no “perfect” translation of that tense in English, but there is a definite sense that whatever it is we’re binding and loosing was already done in heaven… and that lets some air out of the WoF interpretation immediately.

    But let me give you the view from 50,000 ft:

    Because Binding and Loosing is taught in the context of church discipline (in Mt 18), most WoF pastors believe that if they tell you that something is wrong, it is wrong. Period. It doesn’t matter that the Bible isn’t against it. If they tell you not to befriend someone, and you do–even if there is nothing sinful about that friendship–it is a sin simply because the pastor said it was wrong.

    In the realm of spiritual warfare, they believe that “binding and loosing” applies to the demonic as well. Casting out demons is (in their theology) part of this. The scary part is… the reverse is also believed in some more extreme circles. They actually believe that they can cause someone to become demon possessed (or oppressed)… especially if they do it to “teach you a lesson”.

    WoF folks who also believe the Prosperity doctrine teach that we can “loose” money to come to us… and “bind” it away from others.

    So in a nutshell, “binding and loosing” is applied to many different situations, many of which are tremendous leaps of faith

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  19. After seeing some of the names of people who are associated with WoF, I realized that I had some connection. In college a bunch of us used to gather and a friend’s dorm room and watch Robert Tilton cry and pray over money, prayer requests and red cloth. This was bizarre to me as I had never seen anything like this before.

    The second incident was a summer where I did an inner city church internship. The first thing we did was help with the prayer phone line for TBN. We had full view of Paul and Jan Crouch and my friends and I who were there kept hoping that our phone wouldn’t ring. Why we went here, I’ll never understand. It had nothing to do with the internships that we were setting off for. But, it was a bizarre experience too, especially because there was also a Christian biker gang who joined us. If the folks who called that night only knew who answered their calls.

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  20. …Oh Lord
    wontcha’ buy me a Mercedes Benz
    My friends all drive Porsches
    I must make aymends…

    ~Attributed to an Earthy girl from Port Arthur Texas who sang the blues~

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  21. Lois, you are my hero. I’m glad you posted all those definitions and terms and went into more detail about specific practices. We did it all: the deliverance ministry, special worship services where lights were turned down low and we all danced, moaned, or spoke in tongues (or were expected to), people had “words of knowledge”, visions, and dreams…and most of them were false.

    In addition to constantly praying for my baby, Elizabeth, we prayed for an older lady who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease. She was likewise promised healing, but never received it and died several years ago.

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  22. Yes, WoF is not a good group to get caught up in, for so many reasons.

    I think we’re all pretty much agreed on that.

    The question remains: What does the bible encourage us to expect from God in this life?

    Should we expect deliverance from danger? Should we expect that God will help us conduct our affairs wisely, thus leading to our prosperity? Does the Bible encourage us to expect Him to resolve problems through the exercise of prayer? Does it encourage us to trust Him to meet our physical needs?

    In all honesty, it appears to me that it does! It even encourages us to expect that the prayer of the elders will work when we are sick. It also seems to suggest that believers will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover!

    And soon we are back in WoF territory again.

    I am not necessarily defending the Bible. Just explaining what it seems to suggest to me.

    WoF groups are invariably abusive.

    The Bible has much in it that leads one to ways of thinking typical of some with more integrity in the WoF camp.

    I now, on my more pessimistic days, look at the promises in the Bible with a degree of disappointment – as if they all come with small print providing a get-out clause when they don’t work.

    Simply slamming errant humans within WoF doesn’t answer my fundamental questions here.

    (Have read the entire book multiple times, wearing all sorts of shades of religious glasses!)

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  23. Incidentally, as a once ardent WoFer, despite not being in a WoF church, I never subscribed to Binding and loosing theology, manipulative appeals for money theology, doctors are evil theology, spiritual warfare etc etc.

    I simply read the books, mainly of Hagin and Kenyon and took them as a great encouragement to trust God. I really never liked Copeland and took issue with his theology that never being in debt meant you could never apply for a mortgage!

    Hagin seemed the most balanced of the lot – his version of spiritual warfare was that it primarily meant keeping your own wayward desires under control. He was against using Scripture to manipulate money from people. Yes, he said we should tithe, but that tithe should not be going to ‘big’ ministries, rather to the local church to help keep it afloat.

    I remember the first house we purchased. We were very worried about being able to keep up the payments and my wife asked God for some encouragement that all would be well. She asked for our solicitor’s bill to be paid ‘supernaturally’.

    Someone came round to our house with an envelope containing £800, saying the money was originally going to be used for a family holiday, but they felt a distinct impression from God that we should have it. Our solicitor’s bill for purchasing the house was £798.

    Cloud cuckoo land?

    I am prepared to entertain the thought….

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  24. Regarding the question of balance and abuse, Gordon Fee said this (35 years ago): “If it doesn’t preach in Bangladesh, its not the Gospel.”

    Can the WofF movement be held out as Gospel for a young mom holding an emaciated and malnourished dying baby in Sudan? Can you tell a 13yr old girl being used in the sex trade that these certain prayers will heal her of STD’s? Can that 13yr old ‘bind or loose’ the demons she is subjected to by a pimp?

    The true Gospel is true – everywhere, everyone, for all time.

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  25. Chris R. – Re: talking about errant humans within WoF… So you know where I was coming from during the time I was in college. I grew up in the Catholic church. The first time my family and I stepped foot into a non-Catholic church my mom said, “If they heal up on stage, we’re leaving.” That was our view of any non-Catholic church. By the time I went to college, I had been at a non-denominational conservative Christian church for 2 years. So, my experiences of watching Tilton on TV and answering the prayer lines at TBN truly were bizarre to me. I had never seen or done anything like that before. And, that is the extent of my experience with WoF besides knowing the names of people in the movement.

    As far as the question, “What does the bible encourage us to expect from God in this life?” I understand that the Bible encourages us with a lot of promises from God. Personally, I have kept this verse closer to me than any of the promises:

    John 16:33 – “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

    Honestly, I struggle all the time with prayer. We have prayed for years for certain situations and not see any change. Then we see family members who have everything going for them and they say that God answered their prayers. Do we have a weaker faith than our family members? I don’t think so. I have come to accept the fact that trouble in the world happens, but Jesus is much bigger than that.

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  26. Dear Chris R,

    Thank you for asking such deep and important questions here. I appreciate that you’re struggling greatly with this problem, and I hope I can give you some ideas to consider.

    I, too, have wrestled with the meaning of the passages like those you quoted earlier, when Jesus promised that His disciples could “move mountains”, and that “nothing will be impossible” for them. When I try to make sense of that, I also remember that Jesus prayed earnestly and passionately to be spared the agony of the cross. Yet His Father clearly said “no”. If God was able to refuse a request from His own Son, should it be so surprising that He refuses some of ours?

    I have always been very much impressed by the confession of Daniel’s three friends before Nebuchadnezzar. They were convinced of the power of God to save them from the fiery furnace, and said so in no uncertain terms. But they were also aware that God might choose not to rescue them, and were prepared to face that possibility.

    In general, I look at the promises of God’s earthly blessings to us as promises of His power, rather than His will. They are assurances more of what God can do for us, than what He will do for us.

    When you ask what we can expect from God in this life, my short answer is: For Him to walk with us. I don’t think we should set our hopes on having everything we want, or expect miracles “on demand”. He might answer my prayers in supernatural or “mysterious” ways (as I think He did for you by providing money to pay for your solicitor). Or He might answer my prayers in more ordinary and mundane ways. Or He might allow me to suffer for a while. But whatever the outcome, I trust that Jesus will always be with me, and no matter what I have to face, I won’t have to do so alone.

    I hope this is a little helpful to you. I’ll keep an eye on this thread when I can.

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  27. Dear Lois,

    Thanks for all of these details of Word of Faith teachings! It’s good to have this knowledge, even if it does make me go **shudder**.

    Spirit-man – Human beings were defined as spirits who had a soul and lived in a body … WoF folks believed that their spirit-man, their true self, posessed all the same powers as God… including the power to create with their words.

    This especially reminds me of a certain “applied philosophy” that was dreamed up by a con man some decades ago. He taught that humans are essentially god-like ‘thetans’ (i.e. spirits), that are trapped in hopelessly frail meat-sack bodies. He also claimed to have discovered a technique called “auditing” by which he promised that people could regain their full powers, and be free of disease, suffering, and limitations.

    And yes, in his cult too, it is reported that many long-time members die of cancer and treatable diseases. Not because they disapprove of doctors per se, but because they’re convinced that their “superior technology” makes modern medicine unnecessary. Most insidious of all, they believe that this technology works 100% of the time — when applied correctly. So, if you get sick or have problems, guess whose fault it is?

    When Christianity looks more and more like the Ultimate Con of L Ron Hubbard, you know it’s gone seriously off the rails.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. The worst single moment of abuse I ever heard of in my life was at a WoF church that my family was (unfortunately and stupidly) attending at the time.

    Jane was a very sweet middle aged lady who’d had a bad fall on concrete and cracked most of her ribs on one side and broke her ankle. She was laid up in agony and asked the head pastor of the church to come to her bed and lay hands on her. Pastor sent a messenger to say “Either you show the faith to get up out of that bed and walk through my church doors to get your prayer or I’m not going to see you.” We left that place within two weeks never to return.

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  29. Muff Potter offered: “Oh Lord wontcha buy me a Mercedes Benz”. Thanks for bringing Janis Joplin into the discussion, Muff. As a kid who grew up minutes from Haight Ashbury I always appreciated her.

    And you touch on an aspect of WoF I thought of too: wealth, goods, money, possessions. My rule of thumb – among others – for whether I pay attention to a preacher is if they are telling me I will be blessed if I give them money, I stop listening to them. Such teaching has no place under the New Covenant. That makes it false teaching and it makes them false teachers.

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  30. Can the WofF movement be held out as Gospel for a young mom holding an emaciated and malnourished dying baby in Sudan? Can you tell a 13yr old girl being used in the sex trade that these certain prayers will heal her of STD’s? Can that 13yr old ‘bind or loose’ the demons she is subjected to by a pimp?

    The true Gospel is true – everywhere, everyone, for all time.

    Maureen, I greatly appreciated your comment. That not only applies to this teaching, but a similar thought came to mind when I’ve thought about other teachings in Christiandom – – ie, mothers should not be working outside the home, families should only homeschool, etc. I lived in an impoverished country and it would be near impossible for most families to survive without the help of the mother’s income. God and His Word should be applicable to all.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. My first encounter with Word of Faith teachings occurred while I was involved in a coffeehouse ministry in another city in the mid-1980’s. At that point I had been a Christian for several years but was relatively new to the charismatic movement. A ministry colleague invited me to a satellite TV broadcast at her church featuring Robert Tilton and Norvel Hayes. I was initially impressed. I also recall an emphasis on Jesus being the healer and provider rather than an emphasis on the speakers.

    Fast forward a couple of years. I had just lost my job and was encountering financial difficulty. I watched Tilton on a cable TV broadcast and he spoke a “prophetic word” that promised financial blessings to those who made a vow to God by pledging money. I called the program and made a pledge. Obviously I was quite naive about such matters at the time.

    I began making payments on that pledge as soon as I found a job. That pledge also meant I received Tilton’s magazine, and I noticed there was a lot less emphasis on Jesus being the healer and provider and a lot more emphasis on Tilton’s supposed “anointing.” One day I saw content which was clearly idolatrous in nature. I stopped paying on my pledge as a result. Soon thereafter I received a letter from Tilton’s ministry warning me about going back on my vow to God. I wrote back and asked to be removed from their mailing list. I eventually found another ministry which bore better fruit and sowed the remainder of my vow into that ministry.

    A couple of years later ABC ran the program exposing the questionable financial practices of Tilton and several other televangelists. That program vindicated my decision to stop financially supporting Tilton’s ministry.

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  32. @ Julie Anne October 24, 2014 @ 3:03 PM

    “So obviously these people don’t have faith that God will heal their vision problems when they are wearing glasses. And I suppose they don’t want to say anything out loud about the tooth ache either. I suspect they go to dentists?

    I have often wondered if Ken and Gloria Copeland are praying away the grey in their hair or what! His is jet black and hers is blonde. Ken Copeland is almost 80 and not a grey in sight. And I have seen her wear glasses to read…so I guess God doesn’t heal farsightedness? Or…gasp…Gloria doesn’t have enough faith.

    “How do they determine if it’s a real medical necessity requiring treatment and a lack of faith issue?”

    When it gets in the news? When it’s bad press? This just happened in August 2013 at Copeland’s church–a measles outbreak:

    Former staffer: Measles church counseled faith, not shots

    “After the measles outbreak, Kenneth Copeland said that he “inquired of the Lord as to what he would say regarding these vaccinations,” according to a statement posted on the church’s website on August 15.

    The pastor said that God told him to “pray over it,” and then to “take advantage of what I have provided for you in Jesus’ name.”

    Since the measles outbreak, Eagle Mountain has held two free immunization clinics, where about 220 church members received vaccinations, according to Jones, who said the county assisted with the clinics. Jones said that he is working to ascertain how many of the church’s 1,500 members have still not been immunized.

    Eagle Mountain and Kenneth Copeland Ministries also disinfected their shared 25­acre campus, including the nursery and day care center, Pearsons said at an August 14 church service titled “Taking Our Stand of Faith Over Measles.” The church runs schools for children through the sixth grade.”

    Read more –
    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/08/29/ex-employee-measles-church-preached-faith-not-shots/comment-page-2/

    Disinfected??? How come they didn’t pray away the measles virus? So nice to know God “told” Ken to offer vaccination clinics.

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  33. An old friend of mine who follows
    Hagin and Copeland explained to me that “legally” God can NOT do any work in our lives unless we release His power to defeat Satan on earth with our mouths. Somehow, the Earth is Satan’s domain and only believers have the authority here to “allow” God to intervene.
    Any words we say will “magically” come from the spirit world and manifest on earth. If you say, “I’m afraid I am sick” BAM you let Satan deceive you. She is like JA’s friend who will claim she isn’t sick, even with a 102 fever. If she claims she is healed, than she is ( as she continues to run a fever). Crazy, huh? They base their claim on the verse that says “By His stripes we are healed”.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. “Kenneth Copeland addresses the Ebola virus threat…”

    Watch at your own risk. I cannot watch him for more than a few minutes because I think he is satan in a human body, but he says pray and take authority over that Ebola virus and put a stop to it!!!!!…it’s from satan. Put up the wall of blessing.

    He says Jesus has redeemed us from every sickness and disease (viruses included).

    YET… he vaccinated for measles last year (for free) for those Christians who have been redeemed from EVERY sickness and disease at his church. I guess the wall of blessing fell down?

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Julie Anne: ” I lived in an impoverished country and it would be near impossible for most families to survive without the help of the mother’s income. God and His Word should be applicable to all.”

    I’ve always wanted to challenge a true WofF believer to take it to the streets. If they are so sure of their brand of gospel, why aren’t they all camped out at hospitals, cancer centers, etc., or making a life in 3rd world countries where their zeal for health and money is really needed? If THEY believe what they say they believe, then this should be their ultimate calling, yes?

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Yeah you will be…but I am sick with a bad cold today…yes I said that…lol…anyway, have nothing else to do and feel like junk anyway so I watched that Copeland youtube I posted. UGH. Near the ten min mark iirc he pretty much takes credit for stopping the Ebola outbreak in Texas…he and his prayer of faith/rebuking the devil.

    AFA the glasses thing, Copeland followers (my mil was one) believe in divine health (but not divine staying young) and attribute needing reading glasses to ‘normal’ aging. I imagine they would say the same for a hearing aid or a cane for walking, all while ignoring the disease processes that cause these old age ailments. IOW it’s kinda sorta ok to be hard of hearing when you are 70, but not when you are a child. (But I am not for sure on that since I was never into this sort of belief nor was my husband but his family was.)

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  37. @Diane

    “When it gets in the news? When it’s bad press? This just happened in August 2013 at Copeland’s church–a measles outbreak:

    Former staffer: Measles church counseled faith, not shots”

    I remembered an anti-vaccine church in the DFW area having a measles outbreak. I didn’t know it was Copeland’s. Ooops! I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the closed-door meetings during that fiasco.

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  38. @BTDT~

    Me too.
    I just googled latest news Ken Copeland and there it was. That article…and his FB post you tube video where he says he prayed Ebola away from Texas. o__o

    Like

  39. SKIJ

    Thank you for your comments. They are indeed helpful although many questions remain.

    I think the best I Can come up with at the moment is that God loves me, whatever it may look like. And that all will be OK in the end.

    That leads me away from being specific in prayer and expecting God to respond similarly.

    Incidentally, many years ago I wrote to asking for advice on whether or not to take off my glasses, in faith.

    He wrote back and said, “Dont, unless God has told to specifically to do so.”

    Re: Ebola. Fred Price once wrote a book called Faith, foolishness or presumption. He advised to make sure you had medical insurance, took your pills, for vaccinated. God was gracious and if your faith wasn’t “up there” he wouldn’t condemn you but has provided other means in the interim.

    At least that’s healthier than the familiar abusive “faith stand”.

    The question still remains regarding Jesus’ congratulation of those who came to Him boldly to receive a physical answer, emphasizing that it was their faith which made them well.

    What to make of that? Should I try to emulate them with similar boldness and confidence?

    If I touch His robe I WILL be made whole…

    It really does seem as though Jesus encourages that kind of mentality.

    Still thinking…

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  40. New Thought (Studied by Kenyon at Emerson College) was a system of cultic belief that taught that true reality is spiritual, that spiritual is the cause of all physical effects, and that the human mind through positive mental attitude and positive confession has the power to create its own reality : either health and wealth, or sickness and poverty. (A Different Gospel, D.R. McDonald, p41)

    New Thought (Studied by Kenyon at Emerson College) was a system
    of cultic belief that taught that true reality is spiritual, that spiritual is
    the cause of all physical effects, and that the human mind through
    positive mental attitude and positive confession has the power to
    create its own reality: either health and wealth, or sickness and poverty.
    (A Different Gospel, D.R. McDonald, p41)

    Which takes more faith?

    1. To trust God for physical healing, either your own or for someone else, expecting it to happen.
    or
    2. To ask God for physical healing, your own or for someone else, but then trusting God and His sovereign total knowledge, to do as He pleases and be content that the outcome will be for the best when looking at the situation in the context of eternity and not just for today. (author unknown to me at this time)

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  41. @Ann:

    Any words we say will “magically” come from the spirit world and manifest on earth. If you say, “I’m afraid I am sick” BAM you let Satan deceive you.

    “ABRACADABRA” = “I Say the Words and It Is So.”

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  42. @Lois:

    In the realm of spiritual warfare, they believe that “binding and loosing” applies to the demonic as well. Casting out demons is (in their theology) part of this. The scary part is… the reverse is also believed in some more extreme circles. They actually believe that they can cause someone to become demon possessed (or oppressed)… especially if they do it to “teach you a lesson”.

    “Teaching you a lesson” by sending a demon to possess you?

    Isn’t that called “Hexerai” (Witchcraft)?

    “O GREAT CHEMOSH! O GREAT BAAL! SEND DEATH AND DESTRUCTION UPON THESE MY ENEMIES!”
    — line from some old Cecil B DeMille Bible Epic of the Fifties

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  43. I never heard of the Word of Faith Movement before and just googled it to learn more about it. I agree that a lot of it’s teachings are false doctrines and could do more harm than good. It actually reminded me of a topic posted on my blog that is a little similar where I discussed that philosphy that if Christians just obey God’s laws, He will reward them which is what I’ve read other Christians claim. This is like saying that God will never let anything bad happen to you if you are a true believer who obeys the Lord. The Word of Faith movement seems to say bascially the same, claiming true believers can cure themselves from illness, ensure their success in life etc just as long as they have faith, if it doesn’t happen it’s because the person lacks the faith. These views are legalistic and not biblical at all and can lead to spiritual abuse.

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  44. I burnt all of my Word of Faith books a few years ago in the back forty. I had a very difficult time because they seemed immune to the flames as if they received some form of an anti-inflammatory vaccine….so I tore out a couple of pages from my Joyce Meyer’s book and another few pages from Joel Osteen’s “Your Best Life Now” parody, lit the match, and unlike Lot’s wife; never looked back. Oh, what profound joy!

    Our Glorious LORD works in such mysterious ways that no man can boast….after a scare with cancer and surgically removing a tumor, our LORD showed me through the power of HIS WORD, that Jesus Christ did not come to make me healthy, wealthy, or prosperous……….

    He came to save me, a sinner in the flesh, of my sins, so that I may spend eternity with Him. Oh, what a Savior!

    Endnote to cultivate your minds……..Joyce Meyer teaches that we have power in our words…..alright then……My prayer life included words and thoughts to pray my way out of this fleshly battle growing inside of my body. The secret tears I shed would easily have made me a millionaire for I was fearful of the unknown. And the re-evaluation of what is truly important in my life, my faith in Jesus Christ alone, brought me to my knees in a dirt field where pride was ground into ashes…..for the things of this world are not important to me any longer, fully knowing my citizenship is now in heaven in the presence of our Savior.

    My words couldn’t heal me……I ended up having surgery.
    My prayer life was all I had…..and I called on my own family as well as extended family members who genuinely cared for me…….the pastor who came to visit me before my surgery proudly bragged and boasted of the wonders of himself, his credentials, his ministry, his family, and his religion (Reformed as I recall), all the while holding a Bible in his hands and not once cracking it open to share the glorious Words of Jesus Christ. It is a wonderful testimony fully knowing that pastors are not our mediator between our Father, Who art in Heaven, and us……only Jesus is our Mediator….Oh, what a Savior.
    And when began suffering from anxiety while on my back in the hospital in the dark of night……the memorized Psalms and Scripture verses brought me comfort and settled my heart rate back to normal for there is power in God’s Words.
    And throughout this whole trial……..the human individual who witnessed to me the most……no, it wasn’t the religious churched folks, or the pastor, or the surgeons, or the medical staff…….it was the lowly janitor women who came from one of those blood thirsty European countries……..when I asked her if she saw bloodshed where she lived, her response left me speechless…..this is what she said, and I quote, “I do not want to talk about it. All I see it this, you here in America are NOT thankful for what you have.”

    End of story. Psalm 150:1-2 …..Praise the LORD, Praise God in His sanctuary, Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

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  45. Thank you for sharing your experience, Katy. I love how you were soothed with God’s word. And the janitor’s witness to you probably meant more than 10 sermons!

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