Word of Faith Movement
What's Wrong With the Word of Faith Movement?
by Hank Hanegraaff
What's wrong with the "Faith" movement? Its leaders include many of the most popular television evangelists. Its adherents compose a large percentage of charismatic evangelical Christians. Its emphases on faith, the authority of the believer, and the absolute veracity of Scripture could appear to be just what today's church needs. And yet, I am convinced that this movement poses one of the greatest contemporary threats to orthodox Christianity from within. Through it, cultic theology is being increasingly accepted as true Christianity.
This article will highlight several serious problems with the Faith movement by providing an overview of its major sources and leaders. Part Two will focus on the movement's doctrinal deviations as represented by one of its leading proponents.1
Its Debt to New Thought
It is important to note at the outset that the bulk of Faith theology can be traced directly to the cultic teachings of New Thought metaphysics. Thus, much of the theology of the Faith movement can also be found in such clearly pseudo-Christian cults as Religious Science, Christian Science, and the Unity School of Christianity.
Over a century before the Faith movement became a powerful force within the Christian church, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866), the father of New Thought, was popularizing the notion that sickness and suffering ultimately have their origin in incorrect thinking.2 Quimby's followers held that man could create his own reality through the power of positive affirmation (confession).3 Metaphysical practitioners have long taught adherents to visualize health and wealth, and then to affirm or confess them with their mouths so that the intangible images may be transformed into tangible realities.4
Although proponents of Faith theology have attempted to sanitize the metaphysical concept of the "power of mind" by substituting in its stead the "force of faith," for all practical purposes they have made a distinction without a difference. New Thought writer Warren Felt Evans, for example, wrote that "faith is the most intense form of mental action."5 In treating a patient, Evans commented that "the effect of the suggestion [or positive affirmation that the patient is well] is the result of the faith of the subject, for it is always proportioned to the degree in which the patient believes what you say" (emphasis in original).6 Likewise, H. Emilie Cady, a well-known writer for Charles and Myrtle Fillmore's Unity School of Christianity, explained that "our affirming, backed by faith, is the link that connects our conscious human need with His power and supply."7 Cady also claimed that "there is power in our word of faith to bring all good things right into our everyday life."8 Such statements strongly indicate that the distinction between the "mind" of metaphysics and the "faith" of Faith theology is nothing but a figment of the imagination.
Substance, Style and Scams
There is no denying that much of Faith theology is derived directly from metaphysics. Some of the substance, style, and scams endemic to the movement, however, can be traced primarily to the teachings and practices of certain post-World War II faith healers and revivalists operating within Pentecostal circles.9 With regard to substance, for example, both Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin point to T. L. Osborn and William Branham as true men of God who greatly influenced their lives and ministries. Of course, Osborn himself has consistently followed E. W. Kenyon's (see below) Scripture-twisting antics,10 and Branham has (among other things) denounced the doctrine of the Trinity as coming directly from the Devil.11
Unfortunately, Hagin and Copeland are not alone in affirming Branham; Faith proponent Benny Hinn gives him a hearty "thumbs up" as well.12 When it comes to style, however, Hinn gravitates more toward such faith healers as Aimee Semple McPherson and Kathryn Kuhlman. In addition, Hinn has given his endorsement to notorious revivalist A. A. Allen,13 who was truly a huckster if there ever was one - which brings us to our third "s," the scams.
Faith teachers such as Robert Tilton and his female counterpart, Marilyn Hickey, have copied many of the scams pioneered by Pentecostal preachers such as Oral Roberts and A. A. Allen. In fact, Tilton and Hickey have managed to exceed even their predecessors' outrageous ploys. This is hard to believe when one considers what sort of schemes they had to outdo.
In like fashion, A. A. Allen "scammed" his followers by asserting that he could command God to "turn dollar bills into twenties."Roberts, the reader may recall, is the man who claimed that Jesus appeared and told him God had chosen him to find the cure for cancer. In a lengthy appeal, Roberts avowed that the Lord told him, "I would not have had you and your partners build the 20-story research tower unless I was going to give you a plan that will attack cancer." Roberts then said that Jesus instructed him to tell his partners that "this is not Oral Roberts asking for the money but their Lord."14 (The project was completed, but has since been "shut down and sold to a group of investors for commercial development."15 Not surprisingly, no cure for cancer was ever found.)
In like fashion, A. A. Allen "scammed" his followers by asserting that he could command God to "turn dollar bills into twenties."16 He was also known to have urged his followers to send for his "prayer cloths anointed with the Miracle Oil,"17 and he offered "Miracle tent shavings" as points of contact for personal miracles.18 Allen even "launched a brief 'raise the dead' program."19 Of course, it died.
Allen was eventually kicked out of the Assemblies of God denomination when he jumped bail after being arrested for drunk driving.20 In 1970 he died from what "news accounts report [as] sclerosis of the liver."21
As we proceed to examine the primary purveyors of Faith theology, we will see living proof of the maxim that "error begets error and heresy begets heresy." If, for example, one examines the cultic progression of E. W. Kenyon's theology, one will discover that his original deviations from orthodox Christianity were minor compared to those that characterized the later stages of his ministry. And with each of Kenyon's successive disciples, the errors become even more pronounced. Hagin, who popularized and plagiarized Kenyon prolifically, not only expanded Kenyon's perversions but added to them as well.22 The progression from bad to worse has continued with people like Kenneth Copeland and Charles Capps, and is now reaching heretical heights that are almost inconceivable through ministry leaders like Frederick Price, Benny Hinn, and Robert Tilton.
The Dangers of Todd Bentley Theology
By Hank Hanegraaff
I was just talking to a friend of mine, Gerry James, who once was a Mr. California who, as a long drive champion, he's quite a physical specimen. We've been friends for a long time. He told me that he had just returned from a Todd Bentley healing extravaganza in Lakeland.
He said that he had gone to lend moral support to his sister Angela, who had taken what little she had and arranged for a long trip from Michigan to Florida. This was at great financial cost to her. She did it because like thousands of others she was just plain desperate. The Christian grapevine, from Charisma to God TV has certainly provided the hype. "Thousands have experienced miraculous healings. Some are even being raised from the dead." And so with faith and expectation she loaded up her wheelchaired daughter and headed off to Lakeland. For two and a half hours she sang and swayed along with thousands of desperate people. And then came the testimonies.
A visiting speaker, Dr. Malone, elevated expectations with stories of dramatic healings. He said that that hundreds of Hindus who had poured into his meetings in India had been miraculously healed. In fact, he described the palpable sounds of hundreds of tumors exploding. He talked about the exuberant shouts of the lame as they walked away from their crutches and the cries of paraplegics who were leaving their wheelchairs behind. He said that in sharp contrast to the healings of the Hindus, none of the Muslims in the meeting experienced the miraculous. That is, he said, until a Muslim woman stepped forward and surrendered her child to the Christians on stage. While still in a quandary over why God had healed the Hindus and not the Muslims, the Spirit of the Almighty God allegedly spoke to Malone and demanded that the child be thrown to the ground. Incredibly, says Malone, the child was healed in mid-air and subsequently the Muslims in the meeting experienced miraculous healings - every one of them.
Of course these kinds of stories elevated expectations to fever pitch, and so with tears streaming down her face Angela wheeled the most precious of her possessions towards the stage. This was her moment. This was the culmination of all her hopes and dreams. Within moments the paralysis of her daughter would be but a distant memory.
Suddenly, however, an agony beyond the burden that she carried in her heart for all these years cascaded down upon her and in that moment her dreams were dashed. You see, an usher blocked her entrance to the stage, saying that only the healed had entry to the healer. Angela ended up leaving dejected and discouraged.
Ironically, Gerry's son Taylor, who suffers from epilepsy, left feeling that he had experienced the miraculous. Had Taylor been interviewed that very moment he would have testified to complete and total healing. Gerry, however, left in a quandary. He said that the healer was a fraud. He risked damaging the faith of his son. If he threw away his meds his son would experience a grand mal seizure.
I was thinking about that experience when I got a letter from a lady who said:
"I catch your show every now and then on the air. I know you love God and are committed to serving Him, but I've noticed that you come against other Christian teachers on your show. Mr. Hanegraaff, a house divided against itself cannot stand. God sent many different types of preachers into the world who have different styles and different audiences. Not everyone is going to use your approach. You give sound bites of other preachers' sermons, and they may be off a little bit and erroneous. As smart as you are, I find it frustrating that you don't see that you're causing more harm than good. As long as the other preachers pass the "Jesus is Lord" test I wish you would trust the Holy Spirit to take care of the rest. He doesn't need any help, sir! Don't you get it? When we all get to heaven we'll see who really had the anointing and who really was led by the Spirit to do what. Until then, love covers a multitude of sins."
This is by a lady named Heather. So on the one hand I have Gerry talking about the experience he had at one of the Todd Bentley events, the aftermath of discouragement and dejection, not knowing if God loves you or if you had enough faith. On the other hand, I have a lady named Heather who tells me I should butt out. I'm bringing more harm than good by bringing these things up on the air.
This raises the question: Should Christians judge the teachings of their leaders?
Not only is judging permissible - it is a responsibility. Nobody's teachings are above sound judgment. Especially those who have influence and power. Biblically, authority and accountability go hand in hand. The greater the responsibility, the greater the accountability. The precedent for making right judgments comes from the Bible. In the Old Testament the Israelites were commanded to practice sound judgment. They were told to thoroughly test the teachings of their leaders. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul commands the Thessalonians to test all things and to hold fast to that which is good. Paul lauds the Bereans for doing just that, for testing his teachings.
While our Lord cautioned followers not to judge self-righteously, He also counseled them to make judgments based on right standards, and in the contest of oft-quoted commands by Jesus such as "Judge not or you too will be judged," Jesus also exhorted us to judge false prophets whose teachings and whose behavior lead people to abject misery. Thus, while we're commanded not to judge hypocritically, we are, nevertheless, called to judge.
Common sense should be sufficient to alert us to the importance of making public as well as private judgments regarding false doctrine. Remember the infamous Tylenol scare in 1982? Public warnings were issued by the media as well as by the medical community regarding the physical danger of ingesting Tylenol capsules that had been laced with cyanide. I think this is an apt illustration because spiritual cyanide is being dispensed within the Christian community, and therefore we are duty-bound to warn the public. We have a biblical precedent for this. Paul publicly rebuked Hymenaeus and Philetus for teaching which was false and was spreading like gangrene. Today we are in much the same condition.
We have the gangrene of Todd Bentley spreading like a plague, and we have Charisma Magazine, God TV and God knows what other media outlets hyping these guys to the extreme. And essentially, just like Heather, they're saying "Look, let's just see if this turns out to be a wonderful move of God and let's not judge!" Well, my friends, if no one sounds the alarm there are going to continue to be thousands and thousands - dare I say millions - of disillusioned people that don't know what to believe or who to trust. People like my friend Gerry. People like his sister Angela. Their kids. Sometime in the future I'm going to tell you the story of William Dembski. He's one of the brightest guys on the planet. He just experienced the same thing. You want to cry when you think about it.
These people end up thinking God doesn't care for them, they don't know what to believe or who to trust. Many of them are shipwrecked in their faith. This is a gangrene, a cancer, a distortion of truth in our midst, and it needs to be called out for what it is because people are losing their ability to discern. A lot of you reading this blog right now are rational and coherent, but after three hours of singing one song over and over again, or a few lyrics, you are in an altered state of consciousness, you're willing to believe virtually anything that enters your mind, no matter how mundane or outlandish.
Well, if nobody else is willing to say it - and I don't care how many Heathers stop supporting this ministry - I'm going to continue saying what I'm saying. Todd Bentley is a spiritual fraud. He's communicating spiritual cyanide by the megadose. His messages are merely stories. They're the figment of his own fertile imagination. When he talks about tens of resurrections from the dead he doesn't give you any details. Why no details? Why wouldn't he give us any kind of indication who these people are? For example, according to Bentley one man, unembalmed, was dead for 48 hours in a coffin. When the family gathered around it in a funeral home the man knocked from inside the coffin and asked to be let out. Conspicuous by their absence, however, are names, death certificates, addresses, phone numbers and eyewitness testimony. Imagine if this is how we testified to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We would be, as Peter put it, communicating cleverly invented stories. But Peter said "No, we didn't. We told you the truth. We looked at Him we saw Him, we touched Him, we handled Him. We know He's the Word of Life." They gave evidence. Bentley does not.
Christianity In Crisis: The 21st Century
Nearly two decades ago Hank Hanegraaff's award-winning Christianity in Crisis alerted the world to the dangers of a cultic movement within Christianity that threatened to undermine the very foundation of biblical faith. But in the 21st century, there are new dangers-new teachers who threaten to do more damage than the last.
These are not obscure teachers that Hanegraaff unmasks. We know their names. We have seen their faces, sat in their churches, and heard them shamelessly preach and promote the false pretexts of a give-to-get gospel. They are virtual rock stars who command the attention of presidential candidates and media moguls. Through make-believe miracles, urban legends, counterfeit Christs, and twisted theological reasoning, they peddle an occult brand of metaphysics that continues to shipwreck the faith of millions around the globe:
"God cannot do anything in this earthly realm unless we give Him permission."
"Keep saying it-'I have equality with God'-talk yourself into it."
"Being poor is a sin."
"The Jews were not rejecting Jesus as Messiah; it was Jesus who was refusing to be the Messiah to the Jews!"
"You create your own world the same way God creates His. He speaks, and things happen; you speak, and they happen."
Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century exposes darkness to light, pointing us back to a Christianity centered in Christ.
The Cast of Characters
Twisted texts, make-believe miracles, and a counterfeit Christ are all common denominators of the Faith movement's leading teachers. And, as all who look into the matter will clearly see, it all began with the metaphysical teachings of Essek William Kenyon.
Essek William Kenyon
Essek William Kenyon, whose life and ministry were enormously impacted by such cults as Science of Mind, the Unity School of Christianity, Christian Science, and New Thought metaphysics,23 is the true father of the modern-day Faith movement. Many of the phrases popularized by present-day prosperity preachers, such as "What I confess, I possess," were originally coined by Kenyon. Kenneth Hagin, to whom we next turn our attention, plagiarized much of Kenyon's work, including the statement, "Every man who has been 'born again' is an Incarnation, and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an Incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth."24
Kenneth E. Hagin
As I thoroughly demonstrate in my book Christianity in Crisis (Harvest House, 1993), Kenneth Hagin takes Kenyon's theology from bad to worse. Not only does he boast of alleged visits to heaven and hell, he recounts numerous out-of-body experiences (OBEs) on the earth as well.
On one occasion, Hagin claims he was in the middle of a sermon when, suddenly, he was transported back in time. He ended up in the back seat of a car and watched as a young woman from his church committed adultery with the driver. The entire experience lasted about fifteen minutes, after which Hagin abruptly found himself back in church, summoning his parishioners to prayer.25
Despite his propensity for telling tall tales and describing false visions, virtually every major Faith teacher has been impacted by Hagin - including such "luminaries" as Frederick K. C. Price and Kenneth Copeland.
Kenneth Hagin & Kenneth Copeland - Pentecostal Bedlam
Kenneth Copeland got his start in ministry as a direct result of memorizing Hagin's messages. It wasn't long before he had learned enough from Hagin to establish his own following. To say his teachings are heretical would be an understatement - blasphemous is more like it. Copeland brashly pronounces God to be the greatest failure of all time, boldly proclaims that "Satan conquered Jesus on the Cross" (emphasis in original),26 and describes Christ in hell as an "emaciated, poured out, little, wormy spirit."27
Yet, despite such statements, Benny Hinn ominously warned that "those who attack Kenneth Copeland are attacking the very presence of God!"28
Special Message about Gulf Oil Spill from Kenneth Copeland
Benny Hinn is one of the fastest rising stars on the Faith circuit. According to an October 5, 1992 article in Christianity Today, sales of his books in the last year-and-a-half have exceeded those of James Dobson and Charles Swindoll combined.29 While claiming to be "under the anointing," Hinn has uttered some of the most "off-the-wall" statements imaginable - including the claim that the Holy Spirit revealed to him that women were originally designed to give birth out of their sides.30
Hinn also admits to frequenting the graves of both Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimee Semple McPherson to get the "anointing" from their bones.31 Despite his outrageous antics, Hinn has somehow managed to gain wide acceptance and visibility within the evangelical Christian church. His platform on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), as well as his promotion by a mainstream Christian publisher (Thomas Nelson), have catapulted him into prime-time visibility.
Whether Hinn is referring to his family history or his rendezvous with the Holy Spirit, fantasy is often passed on as fact. A case in point are the thousands of "documented" healings claimed by Hinn. Recently, he sent me three examples - presumably, the cream of the crop - as proof of his miracle-working power. One of the cases involved a man who was supposedly healed of colon cancer. A medically naive person reading the pathology report may well see the notation "no evidence of malignancy" and be duped into thinking that a bona fide healing had indeed taken place. CRI's medical consultant, Dr. Preston Simpson, however, was not fooled by the report. His investigation revealed that the colon tumor in question was surgically removed rather than miraculously healed. The other two cases had comparably serious problems.32
Benny Hinn and "God's Fire"
Frederick K. C. Price
Fred Price is the most notable of a growing number of black prosperity preachers. His church in Los Angeles now claims some 16,000 members. He is seen nationally on television and has referred to himself as the "chief exponent of Name It and Claim It."33 Price has added his own unique twists to Faith theology by asserting that Jesus took on the nature of Satan prior to the crucifixion34 and by claiming that the Lord's Prayer is not for Christians today.35 Despite telling his followers that he doesn't allow sickness in his home, Price's wife has been treated for cancer in her pelvic area.36 Referring to his wealth, Price says the reason he drives a Rolls Royce is that he is following in Jesus' steps.37
Dr. Fred Price and "Redeemed from all Curses"
John Avanzini is billed by his Faith peers as a recognized authority on biblical economics. The truth, however, is that Avanzini is an authority on perverting Scripture as a means to picking the pockets of the poor. He has honed his craft into such an art form that when Faith teachers need money, they inevitably call on "Brother John." Armed with a bag full of Bible-twisting tricks, he tells the unsuspecting that "a greater than a lottery has come. His name is Jesus!"38
According to Avanzini, if Jesus was rich, we should be rich as well. Thus, he recasts Christ into a mirror image of himself - complete with designer clothes, a big house, and a wealthy, well-financed advance team.39 Thinking otherwise, Avanzini claims, will prevent Christians from reaping the prosperity God has laid out for them.40
Avanzini runs the gamut from teaching people how to get their hands on the "wealth of the wicked" to what might best be described as his "hundredfold hoax."41 When it comes to fleecing God's people, few can match the effectiveness of John Avanzini. There is an exception, however; his name is Robert Tilton.
John Avanzini Unholy Tongues
Robert Tilton hit the big time as a fisher of funds by developing a religious infomercial called Success-N-Life. It all began when he traveled to Hawaii to hear from the Lord. Says Tilton, "If I'm going to go to the cross, I'm going to go in a pretty place. Not some dusty place like Jerusalem. That's gravel is all that place is."42 While languishing in his exotic wilderness, Tilton "realized his mission was to persuade the poor to give what they could to him - as God's surrogate - so they too could be blessed."43
Then, one day, Tilton tuned in to television and turned on to Dave Del Dotto's real estate infomercials. The rest is history. Tilton used what he saw as a prototype44 for building an empire that takes in as much as $65 million per year.45
It now appears that Tilton's ill-gotten gains may dwindle rapidly amid reports of scandal and a variety of lawsuits.46 Responding to charges from ABC's Prime Time Live that the prayer request letters he promises to pray over end up in dumpsters, Tilton claims, "I laid on top of those prayer requests so much that the chemicals actually got into my bloodstream, and . . . I had two small strokes in my brain."47
Marilyn Hickey, much like Tilton, employs a broad range of tactics to manipulate followers into sending her money. Among her many ploys are anointed prayer cloths, ceremonial breastplates, and ropes that can be used as points of contact. In one of her appeal letters, Hickey promises she will slip into a ceremonial breastplate, "press your prayer request to my heart," and "place your requests on my shoulders" - all for a suggested donation.48
For the most part, Hickey's tricks and teachings are recycled from other prosperity peddlers like Tilton, Hagin, and Copeland. Her message is peppered with such Faith jargon as "the God-kind of faith," "confession brings possession," and "receiving follows giving."
Paul Yonggi Cho (David Cho)
Paul Yonggi Cho - pastor of the world's largest church, located in Seoul, South Korea - claims to have received his call to preach from Jesus Christ Himself, who supposedly appeared to him dressed like a fireman.49 Cho has packaged his faith formulas under the label of "fourth dimensional power."50 He is well aware of his link to occultism, arguing that if Buddhists and Yoga practitioners can accomplish their objectives through fourth dimensional powers, then Christians should be able to accomplish much more by using the same means.51 In case one is tempted to confuse the size of Cho's following with the truth of his teachings, let me point out that the Buddhist version of "name it and claim it" (Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism) has an even larger following than does Cho.52
Cho recently made the news by changing his name from Paul to David. As Cho tells the story, God showed him that Paul Cho had to die and David Cho was to be resurrected in his place. According to Cho, God Himself came up with his new name.53
Charles Capps was ordained as a minister in the International Convention of Faith Churches and Ministers by Kenneth Copeland and derived his teachings directly from Kenneth Hagin. This unfortunate combination has led Capps to make some of the most blasphemous statements in Faith lore. Capps has gone so far as to teach that Jesus was the product of God's positive confession: "This is the key to understanding the virgin birth. God's Word is full of faith and spirit power. God spoke it. God transmitted that image to Mary. She received the image inside of her....The embryo that was in Mary's womb was nothing more than the Word of God....She conceived the Word of God."54
Capps not only preaches the blasphemous, he also preaches the ridiculous. For example, he claims that if someone says, "I'm just dying to do that" or "That just tickled me to death," their statements may literally come true (i.e., they may die). According to Capps, this is precisely why the human race now lives only about seventy years instead of 900 years, as was the case with Adam.55
Jerry Savelle has made his fortune by mimicking virtually all of the Faith teachers mentioned above. His greatest claim to fame, however, may well be his ability to mimic Kenneth Copeland. In fact, Savelle appears to be an exact duplicate of Copeland. Savelle demonstrates a total lack of biblical acumen, as he blindly regurgitates virtually every heresy in the Faith movement.
With regard to health, Savelle boasts that sickness and disease cannot enter his world.56 As for wealth, he says that words can speak your world into existence.57 Savelle now peddles his books and tapes to thirty-six countries at the astonishing rate of some 300,000 copies per year.
SWBC "Jubilee" Declares Jerry Savelle, Phil D. Mighty Horn
Morris Cerullo claims that he gave up a driving ambition to be the governor of New Jersey in order to become a minister of the gospel.58 He purports to have first met God at the tender age of eight. Since then his life has been one mind-blowing experience after another: he says he was taught by leading rabbis;59 led out of a Jewish orphanage by two angelic beings;60 transported to heaven for a face-to-face meeting with God;61 and told he would be capable of revealing the future.62
On one occasion, Cerullo informed his audience, "You're not looking at Morris Cerullo - you're looking at God. You're looking at Jesus."63 Not only is Cerullo a master of make-believe, he is also a master of manipulation. Claiming that God was directly speaking through him, Cerullo uttered, "Would you surrender your pocketbooks unto Me, saith God, and let me be the Lord of your pocketbooks....Yea, so be thou obedient unto my voice."64
Morris Cerullo 'Miracles'
Paul Crouch and his wife, Jan, are the founders of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which today has an estimated net worth of half a billion dollars. As Crouch himself puts it, "God has, indeed, given us the MOST POWERFUL VOICE in the history of the WORLD."65 Unfortunately, this voice is being used to promote teachings straight from the kingdom of the cults. Crouch's influence has become so vast that he can now raise as much as $50 million during a single "Praise-a-Thon." What many of the well-intentioned Christians who support TBN do not know, however, is that part of this money goes to promoting cultic groups and individuals who not only deny the Trinity but claim that this essential of Christianity is a pagan doctrine.66 It is indeed ironic that a broadcasting network called "Trinity" would promote anti-Trinitarian doctrine.
To those who would speak out against the false teachings proliferated on his network, Crouch has this to say: "I think they're damned and on their way to hell; and I don't think there's any redemption for them."67 Shortly after I met with Crouch to prove that the Faith movement compromises essential Christian doctrine, Crouch looked into the lens of the television camera and angrily declared, "If you want to criticize Ken Copeland for his preaching on faith, or Dad Hagin, get out of my life! I don't even want to talk to you or hear you. I don't want to see your ugly face. Get out of my face, in Jesus' name."68
Sadly, Crouch refers to the Faith message as a "revival of truth . . . restored by a few precious men."69
The Faith movement was spawned by the unholy marriage of 19th-century New Thought metaphysics with the flamboyance and abuses of post-World War II revivalism. It should therefore come as no surprise that its doctrine and practices are palpably unbiblical. Yet, some charge that critics of the movement are guilty of committing a logical error known as the genetic fallacy - "that is, rejecting an assumption because of where it comes from rather than disproving the argument."70
While the charge appears formidable, it is in fact defective. For it assumes that the criticisms against the Faith movement are made primarily if not solely on the basis of its historical roots. In truth, the bulk of critical evaluations are leveled directly against the unbiblical teachings of the movement's leading proponents today.71 Historical discussions have, for the most part, served to place the phenomenon in its proper context.72
Now that we've dug up the roots and sampled the topsoil of the Faith movement, we are ready to take a penetrating look at its ripened fruit. Part Two of this article will do just that, by systematizing and critiquing the theology of the movement's premier preacher of another gospel.
Books about the Word of Faith Movement
1. This article is adapted from chapter two of my forthcoming book, Christianity in Crisis (Harvest House). Part Two in this series will be an article specially written for the Christian Research Journal.
2. See, for example, Phineas P. Quimby, quoted in The Quimby Manuscripts, ed. Horatio W. Dresser (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1969 [orig. 1921]), 32-35, 61, 165, 186, 279, 295. Quimby's writings in this book were taken from his manuscripts dating between 1846 and 1865. Note the striking parallel in Kenneth Hagin's remark: "It makes a great deal of difference what one thinks....The reason they [sick people] are not getting healed is that they are thinking wrong." (Kenneth E. Hagin, Right and Wrong Thinking [Tulsa, OK: Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1978], 19.)
3. New Thought writer Warren Felt Evans (1817-1889) is one such example. See Charles S. Braden, Spirits in Rebellion (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1970), 121-23.
4. See, for example, Claude Bristol, The Magic of Believing (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1948), 122; H. Emilie Cady, Lessons in Truth (Unity Village, MO: Unity Books, n.d.), 41:9, 43:17, 45:25, 46:31, 48:40-42, 51:6, 52:9, 53:11, 55:22, 57:32; Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1971 [orig. 1875]), 376:21-27; Charles Fillmore, Prosperity (Lee's Summit, MO: Unity Books, 1967), 103-4; and Ernest Holmes, How to Use the Science of Mind (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1950), 39-45.
5. Warren Felt Evans, Mental Medicine: A Treatise on Medical Psychology, 15th ed. (Boston: H. H. Carter & Co., 1873 [orig. 1885]), 152; quoted in Braden, 121.
6. Warren Felt Evans, Esoteric Christianity and Mental Therapeutics (Boston: H. H. Carter & Karrick, 1886), 152; quoted in Braden, 122-23.
7. Cady, 56:30; cf. Holmes, 72, 78.
8. Cady, 52:8.
9. For a fine historical treatment of the healing revivalists, see David Edwin Harrell, Jr., All Things Are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals in Modern America (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1975). A number of the healing revivalists' unsound teachings and practices can be found in the ministries of their predecessors - most notably John Alexander Dowie, Maria B. Woodworth-Etter, Smith Wigglesworth, F. F. Bosworth, and Thomas Wyatt.
10. Osborn's indebtedness to both Kenyon and faith healer F. F. Bosworth (another "Kenyonite") is mentioned in T. L. Osborn, Healing the Sick, 23d ed. (Tulsa, OK: Osborn Foundation, 1959), 6, 203, 205. Cf. Richard M. Riss, "Kenyon, Essek William," Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, ed. Stanley Burges, Gary B. McGee, and Patrick H. Alexander (Grand Rapids: Regency/Zondervan, 1988), 517; and Don Gossett and E. W. Kenyon, The Power of the Positive Confession of God's Word (Blaine, WA: Don & Joyce Gossett, 1979), 3.
11. William Marrion Branham, "Revelation Chapter Four #3 (Throne Of Mercy and Judgment)" (Jeffersonville, IN: Voice of God Recordings, 1961), audio tape #61-0108, side 2; cf. William Marrion Branham, Footprints on the Sands of Time: The Autobiography of William Marrion Branham, Part Two (Jeffersonville, IN: Spoken Word Publications, 1975), 606-7.
12. Benny Hinn, Praise the Lord (television program), Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), 12 April 1991.
13. Benny Hinn, Praise the Lord, TBN, 16 April 1992.
14. Quoted in Russell Chandler, "Talked with Jesus, Evangelist Says," Los Angeles Times, 3 February 1983, 3,16
15. Clark Morphew, "What's to Become of Oral Roberts' City of Faith?" St. Paul Pioneer Press, 27 June 1992; reprinted in The Christian News, 20 July 1992, 2.
16. A. A. Allen, The Secret to Scriptural Financial Success (Miracle Valley, AZ: A. A. Allen Publications, 1953); quoted in Harrell, 75.
17. A. A. Allen, "Miracle Oil Flows at Camp Meeting," Miracle Magazine, June 1967, 6-7; quoted in Harrell,200.
18. Reported in "New Revival Tent Dedicated in Philadelphia," Miracle Magazine, September 1967, 15; quoted in Harrell, 200.
19. See Harrell, 199.
20. Ibid., 70-71.
21. Ibid., 202. One writer describes Allen's cause of death as "cirrhosis" of the liver (see Gary L. Ward, "Allen, Asa Alonzo," in J. Gordon Melton, Religious Leaders of America [Detroit: Gale Research, 1991], 9).
22. See D. R. McConnell, A Different Gospel (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988), 3-14.
23. See McConnell, 24-56.
24. E. W. Kenyon, The Father and His Family, 17th ed. (Lynnwood, WA: Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society, 1964), 100; cf. Kenneth E. Hagin, "The Incarnation," The Word of Faith, December 1980, 14.
25. Kenneth E. Hagin, The Glory of God (Tulsa, OK: Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1987), 13-15.
26. Kenneth Copeland, Holy Bible: Kenneth Copeland Reference Edition (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1991), 129.
27. Kenneth Copeland, Believer's Voice of Victory (television program), TBN, 21 April 1991.
28. Benny Hinn, Benny Hinn (television program), TBN, 8 June 1992.
29. Randy Frame, "Same Old Benny Hinn, Critics Say," Christianity Today, 5 October 1992, 52.
30. Benny Hinn, "Our Position In Christ #5 - An Heir of God" (Orlando, FL: Orlando Christian Center, 1990), audio tape #A031190-5, side 2.
31. Benny Hinn, "Double Portion Anointing, Part #3" (Orlando Christian Center, n.d.), audio tape #A031791-3, sides 1 and 2. This sermon was also aired on TBN (7 April 1991).
32. See the concluding section of my book, Christianity in Crisis.
33. Frederick K. C. Price, "Name It and Claim It! What Saith the WORD? . . ," Ever Increasing Faith Messenger, Summer 1989, 2.
34. Frederick K. C. Price, "Identification #3" (Inglewood, CA: Ever Increasing Faith Ministries, 1980), audio tape #FP545, side 1.
35. Frederick K. C. Price, personal correspondence, 14 October 1992.
36. Pat Hays, "Betty Price Speaks at 1991 'Wisdom from Above' Luncheon," Ever Increasing Faith Messenger, Winter 1992,12-13.
37. Frederick K. C. Price, Ever Increasing Faith (television program), TBN, 9 December 1990, available from Crenshaw Christian Center, Inglewood, CA (audio tape #CR-A2).
38. John Avanzini, Praise-a-Thon (television program), TBN, April 1991.
39. John Avanzini, "Was Jesus Poor?" Believer's Voice of Victory, July/August 1991, 6-7; cf. Believer's Voice of Victory (television program), TBN, 20 January 1991, and Praise the Lord, TBN, 1 August 1989.
40. Avanzini, "Was Jesus Poor?" 6.
41. See, for example, John Avanzini, Praise-a-Thon, TBN, 5 November 1990. According to the so-called hundredfold principle, those who financially support the Faith teachers will get back 100 times the amount (a hundredfold) of their original donation.
42. Scott Baradell, "Robert Tilton's Heart of Darkness," Dallas Observer, 6 February 1992, 19-20.
43. Ibid., 18.
44. Ibid., 13.
45. Nancy St. Pierre, "Tilton's Wife Tells of Finances," Dallas Morning News, 5 March 1992, 1A, 7A; and Terry Box, "Tax Appraiser Is Scrutinizing Tilton's Church," Dallas Morning News, 22 March 1992, 1A. Cf. Trinity Foundation (Dallas) release, "Does Word of Faith = Wheel of Fortune?" 9 December 1991; and Terry Box, "Backers Think Tilton Will Endure," Dallas Morning News, 16 February 1992, 1A, 12A-13A.
46. At least two of these suits involve widows who have each filed a $40-million claim against Tilton's healing ministry for sending letters seeking donations and promising to heal their already-dead husbands (see Risa Robert, "Tilton Sent Dead Man 'Personal' Mail," Tulsa Tribune, 27 February 1992, 7A; and Nancy St. Pierre, "2nd Widow Sues Tilton over Letters," Dallas Morning News, 18 March 1992, 28A).
47. Robert Tilton, Success-N-Life, 22 November 1991. Tilton has also alleged that the dumpster full of prayer requests found by ABC was actually planted by enemies to discredit him (see Christopher Lee, "Tilton's Wife Defends Ministry, Blasts TV Expose of Husband," Dallas Morning News, 25 November 1991, 1A, 12A).
48. Marilyn Hickey Ministries, direct-mail piece, on file.
49. Dwight J. Wilson, "Cho, Paul Yonggi," Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 161.
50. According to Cho, the material world makes up the first three dimensions, which is under the control of the fourth dimension - the spirit.
51. Paul Yonggi Cho, The Fourth Dimension, vol. 1 (South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing, 1979), 37, 41.
52. See John Weldon, "Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism: Mystical Materialism for the Masses," Christian Research Journal, Fall 1992, 8-13.
53. Paul Yonggi Cho interviewed by C. Peter Wagner, "Yonggi Cho Changes His Name," Charisma & Christian Life, November 1992, 80.
54. Charles Capps, Dynamics of Faith and Confession (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 1987), 86-87; cf. Charles Capps, Authority in Three Worlds (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 1982), 76-85.
55. Charles Capps, The Tongue - A Creative Force (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 1976), 91.
56. Jerry Savelle, "Framing Your World with the Word of God, Part 1" (Fort Worth, TX: Jerry Savelle Evangelistic Association, n.d.), tape #SS-36, side 1.
57. Ibid., side 2.
58. Morris Cerullo, The Miracle Book (San Diego: Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, 1984), x.
59. "God's Faithful, Anointed Servant, Morris Cerullo" (promotional literature, on file).
60. Cerullo, The Miracle Book, ix; and 7 Point Outreach - World Evangelism and You (pamphlet), 4.
61. Cerullo, The Miracle Book, xi.
62. "God's Faithful, Anointed Servant, Morris Cerullo."
63. Morris Cerullo, "The Endtime Manifestation of the Sons of God" (San Diego: Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, n.d.), tape 1, sides 1 and 2.
64. Morris Cerullo, "A Word from God at the Deeper Life World Conference," Deeper Life, March 1982, 15.
65. Paul Crouch, Praise the Lord (newsletter), July 1992, 1.
66. Crouch, for example, pays for and promotes people like Roy Blizzard and Joseph Good, both of whom openly deny the Trinity. Crouch also gave his staunch support to the United Pentecostal Church (UPC), a cult which claims that the Trinity is a pagan doctrine (see Praise the Lord, TBN, 5 September 1991).
67. Paul Crouch, Praise-a-Thon, TBN, 2 April 1991.
69. Paul Crouch, Praise the Lord, TBN, 18 February 1986, rebroadcast on 6 August 1991.
70. William DeArteaga, Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1992), 230; cf. William DeArteaga, "Confusing the Roots with the Fruits," Ministries Today, July/August 1991, 56-62.
71. See, for example, Gordon D. Fee, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels (Beverly, MA: Frontline Publishing, 1985); Elliot Miller, Healing: Does God Always Heal? (San Juan Capistrano: Christian Research Institute, 1979); Brian Onken, "The Atonement of Christ and the 'Faith' Message," Forward, 7:1 (1984), 1, 10-15; and Ken L. Sarles, "A Theological Evaluation of the Prosperity Gospel," Bibliotheca Sacra, October-December 1986, 329-52.
72. See, for example, the Fall 1988 issue of the Trinity Journal, which was devoted entirely to the "Health and Wealth Gospel." This, of course, is not intended to minimize the importance of historical continuity when evaluating theological systems.