- Religion and Philosophy
Word of Faith: A Dangerous Road to Follow
What is Word of Faith? Word of Faith is a movement whose teachings derive from Romans 10:8. It is also famously known as the "name it, claim it, confess it, possess it" theology that is dominating the teachings in churches today. It came out of the Pentecostal movement in the late 20th century, founded by E. W. Kenyon. Later, Kenneth Hagin, who studied under E. W. Kenyon, “made the Word of Faith movement what it is today” (gotQuestions.org).
What does the Word of Faith teach?
The Word of Faith doctrine teaches that God wants everyone to be prosperous and healthy. Seems harmless, right? This movement teaches to have “faith in faith.” It even teaches a more dangerous doctrine telling their followers that they are little gods, taking on God’s nature when they are saved. This is a misinterpretation of verses taken out of context, such as in Psalms 82:6, John 10:34, and 2 Peter 1:4.
For example, in 2 Peter 1:4, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (KJV)Here, the Word of Faith teaching is redefining the word “partakers.” One only needs to look at a Hebrew lexicon to know this word means “partners, sharers, a companion.” It does not say we take on God’s divine nature but that we are made “partners” of His divine nature.
Word of Faith teaches the “positive confession” doctrine. This doctrine teaches that if one believes what they ask for in faith and confesses it, then one will receive what they confess.
Word of Faith also teaches a prosperity theology, also known as the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth gospel.” Their prosperity and health messages teach that God wants His people to be financially prosperous and healthy. It teaches that if you are not prosperous in life or do not have good health, it’s because of a lack of faith and because you have given Satan authority in your life. They extract verses from the bible concerning financial wealth, and contrary to traditional teachings, teach that Jesus and His apostles were wealthy and financially well off.
The Word of Faith teachings appeals to our human weaknesses and needs. Who doesn’t want God’s financial blessing? And why wouldn’t God want to bless us with good health? What’s wrong with all this? After all, miracles, divine healings, and abundant blessings are mentioned in the Bible. True. However, when a church leader’s messages are continually filled with out-of-context, erroneously interpreted Bible verses to justify their Word of Faith messages, and when it encourages believers to ask for nice houses, expensive cars, a position of power and authority, or when it tells you that if you do not have what you asked for (or I should say, demanded from God) it’s because you have no faith, then there is definitely something wrong. These are false teachings.
The Word of Faith teachings revolve around their central theme – name it, claim it, confess it, possess it! They propagate a belief system consisting of a mix of Orthodox Christianity and mysticism to exercise mind control in their followers.
Furthermore, the Word of Faith movement punishes believers by shunning or rejecting them if they are found criticizing or challenging this doctrine. Anyone daring to challenge their teachings is accused of having no faith, of being spiritually immature, and of sowing division in the body of Christ.
What does Scripture teach?
The Word of God teaches us repentance and forgiveness, hope, trust, love, humility, compassion, mercy, and to be a righteous servant of the Lord most high. It teaches us to overcome adversity, to pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. It teaches us to be selfless, and to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.
It also teaches us to have faith in God and not in yourself or other people, and to search for truth in the Scriptures. Acts 17:11 gives us a perfect example in how the Bereans examined scripture daily to see if what Paul was teaching was true. The Word warns us about turning to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). It teaches us to test the spirits (1 John 4:1), and repeatedly warns us about false teachers (see relevant verses). The Word of God teaches us to be righteous, and gives us instructions on how to live a Godly life.
What happens to the Word of Faith victims?
Once a Word of Faith follower sees that there is no truth in what this doctrine teaches and walks out of it, how does it leave him or her? It leaves them with confusion, fear, and guilt. They are left confused upon discovering the contradictions between what this belief system teaches and what Scripture says. They are afraid that if what they were taught was not true, then is there any real truth in what the Bible says. And they experience guilt because they begin to struggle with their faith.
Sadly, many have left their faith as the result. To give an example, someone left me a comment not long ago in one of my hubs about how he lost his faith in Jesus. He felt Jesus lied when He said that if you ask anything in His name, He will do it. And although he felt he had more faith than anyone and believed with all his heart what Jesus said, his prayers were not answered even after asking in Jesus’ name. This sounded to me like false teachings was behind his way of thinking, and it reminded me of the Word of Faith teachings of having “faith in faith.” Once you lose that faith, that is, your ability to believe in faith, the result is a falling away from God.
False doctrine leaves people suffering. Once I met a woman in church, she was in her early 30’s, who made a publicly “positive confession” that left me shocked. She strongly and whole heartedly believed that God was going to give her a new womb because hers was removed in surgery. That was several years ago and she is still waiting on God for this miracle, but not without pain and guilt because she feels her faith is not strong enough to bring about the results she wanted. God heals even when one has little faith. God, not man, is in control.
If you are teaching the Word of Faith doctrine, I urge you to re-examine your teachings and the dangerous path you are leading others into. Remember Paul’s warning to the church elders of Ephesus,
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” NIV (Acts 20:28:31)
The damage false teachings have caused has led many to ask, “Is Christianity becoming a cult?” In certain religious groups you can safely say that. However, a follower of Jesus, breathing and living the truth our Lord teaches, can find comfort in knowing they are not following a cult. On the other hand, anyone following any man who claims to come in the name of Jesus, and outwardly appears to be doing the works of God but is adding, twisting, and taking away from the Word is following a cult.
False teachings is prevalent in many churches today.
Every church I have visited teaches the Word of Faith doctrine to some degree. Whether they teach this doctrine knowingly or unknowingly, it is prevalent in many of the charismatic and evangelical churches of this era. Anyone attending their services is fair game. Unfortunately, there are no warning signs outside church buildings that says “Warning! We teach false doctrine here.“ Therefore, everyone, especially new Christians, will be exposed to heretical teachings even before they begin to read their bible.
Just because someone is teaching from the pulpit with a bible in their hand does not mean they love God and are teaching truth. In Mat 7:21-23, what did Jesus say He’ll say to those who will come to Him at the appointed time claiming to have prophesized, cast out demons, and performed miracles in His name? There are people who appear to love God, but their hearts are full of avarice, self-love, and deception. People like these are giving truth-seeking and truth-following Christians a bad name. It’s no wonder many do not want to be labeled as “Christians” in fear of being looked upon as greedy hypocritical evangelical wolves. It is sad that many idolize and follow blindly after these propagators of false teachings. As one fellow Christian once said to me,“ when you follow people who do not follow God, it is called idolatry.”
The Health and Wealth Gospel is not biblical.
How do you know if what you are hearing coming from the pulpit is truth and not false doctrine? For that you will have to read my other hub, but here’s a tip. If you ever leave a church with the uneasy feeling of having been conned into giving what you can’t give, you have been a victim of the “prosperity gospel.” It leaves one feeling confused and spiritually violated. And it not only leaves one confused but also feeling guilty for not giving joyfully because after all, isn’t it for God? This should be your first sign to leave this church and never come back.
This is not only a form of mind control, but a dirty low-down spiritual mugging. It’s just done in a more subtle and “holier” way. Simply put, it is spiritual coercion. Many fall into this deception for years and do not even realize it until the damage is done. Once people see that this “faith” doctrine does not work, they are left emotionally and spiritually scarred for a long time. The result is many become cynical, depressed, and part away from God. For those who remain, it can take them a long time to heal and gain a new understanding of Scripture. I speak from experience here.
The prosperity gospel goes against all of Jesus teachings. All one has to ask is, does this belief teach one to be selfless? Or does it teach one to be selfish? If it teaches one to give in order to receive blessings, then one is not giving selflessly but selfishly. God does not need our money to bless us. When we give, we are supposed to give not only joyfully, but selflessly, compassionately, and with humility. We are not to expect anything in return from God. His grace should be sufficient. However, God does bless us in many ways when we walk in righteousness.
Here’s another red flag. Have you been told that if you are in financial need it’s because you are not tithing? How about relating your sickness to your lack of tithing? One day in church, while everyone was worshiping and praising God, the worship leader, suddenly in the middle of his singing said, “Are you having financial problems? Problems with your health?” then he laughs out loud as if he knew the answer to our problems and said, “Have you tithed? .. Ahhhhh,” and then laughed again. If this isn’t mind and spiritual manipulation presenting itself at the opportune moment, I don’t know what is. Many were already at the altar on their knees or crying. This is not only a false teaching but a condemnation aimed at believers who hadn’t tithed. It places a bigger burden of guilt on those who are already struggling not only with sin, but with financial and health problems as well.
The final (proverbial) straw that broke me and finally made me walk out of this church and all the false teachings was when one day right before passing the collection plate, one of the elders led the collection with a prayer. He asked for everyone to pull out their wallets and checkbooks, and to hold them up high while he said the following prayer.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for your many blessings and I thank you that as I give tithes and offerings, I am believing the Lord for:
Jobs and better jobs, raises and bonuses, benefits, sales and commissions, favorable settlements, estates and inheritances, interest and income, rebates and returns, discounts and dividends, checks in the mail, gifts and surprises, finding money, bills decreased and bills paid off, blessings and increase.
Thank you Lord for meeting my financial needs that I may have more than enough to give into the kingdom of God and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen!”
The Prosperity Gospel has lead many baby Christians down the wrong path. Some time ago, while talking to another fellow Christian about the necessity of having good reliable transportation, he asked me if I had asked God for a car. Not just any car mind you, but a specific model. Not knowing what he meant, he smiled and gave me a few expensive examples. I looked at him, thinking about the next words that were going to come out of my mouth, and I remember thinking this is someone who has been derailed from that narrow path by false doctrine early in his walk with Christ. He, like many others, had been seduced and brain washed by the false teachings of the Word of Faith movement. My answer to him was “We should ask God in humility and always in His will.”
Avoid those who bring you another gospel.
Today when I turn on the TV and see a televangelist preaching the “Health and Wealth” gospel, I turn it off. It doesn’t matter who’s preaching it or how prominent they are. I sincerely pray that you do the same. Instead open your Bible and read the Word. If you are seeking truth, start there and not with man. Real truth-seekers are a minority.
I am not writing this to condemn or judge anyone who believes or follows these teachings. I was born again in a charismatic church and I, like many, was indoctrinated for years by the Word of Faith doctrine, but I came out of it. I didn’t know at the time that this doctrine had a name; I only knew there was something wrong with these teachings.
After leaving behind this belief, I really struggled with my faith. I was very confused about what the Scriptures really taught, but I persevered and held on to God. I devoured every word I read in my bible, reading it carefully, and studying it. I prayed for truth, guidance, and wisdom. By God’s mercy and grace I came in contact with one Orthodox Christian that put me back on the right path.
In the end, I never stopped loving my brothers and sisters in Christ who shared in the same doctrine as I once did. I continue to pray that they also come out of these false teachings, and many have. Those who chose to heed the warnings and prayed for guidance have left. A few, sadly, avoid me because I no longer belong in their circle. Yet, I continue to pray for them.
I leave you with Paul’s final instructions to the Thessalonians,
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” NIV (1 Thes 5:12-22)
In Christ’s love.