Word of Faith (& Prosperity Teachings)
Word of Faith (also known as Word-Faith or simply Faith Teachings) is a doctrine in many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches as well as individual ministries worldwide. It is akin to Prosperity teaching, but not completely identical - usually both are preached together. The movement emphasizes speaking, stating, or confessing verses found in the Bible, in orer to activate them (almost automatically) aside from the will of God.
Prosperity teaching applies the Word of Faith technique of claiming the promises in the bible to wealth, well-being, prosperity, advancement and success as well as healing and even cheating death. It is taught that financial blessing is the will of God for all Christians, and that faith, positive speaking, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one's material wealth. In a similar way, perfect health is taught as the gold standard of the bible and through faith Christians should claim and believe for this at all times. Being ill therefore is often condemned as a "lack of faith".
by Tricia Tillin
(This is a short summary. For an in-depth scriptural study please go to "Wells Without Water".)
When 'Positive Confession' first arrived in this country, it transformed some dead churches and struggling Christians. Many who had fought against the odds to survive as Christians found a new life of victory; the idea that believers were doomed to be the victims of circumstance and helpless in the face of satanic attack was challenged. This was good and useful, and served to increase our faith in the truths of scripture.
However, as so often in Church history, a movement that came to popular acclaim through such supposedly good fruit soon revealed its true nature as something more like a cult, with extremes of belief that brought the Name of the Lord into disrepute. Unfortunately, it seems this was inevitable - the roots of the doctrine were firmly planted in the soil of the metaphysical cults. The errors that produced New Thought and Christian Science had also produced Word-of-Faith as a Christianised version. (for more information, see the tract 'They Want Your Mind'.)
Now, the whole content, goal and product of the various Word-of-Faith ministries has to be questioned. Although there seems to be fruit, in the form of healings and new converts, we have to ask how genuine these are and how sound is the foundational teaching such new converts will receive? We also have to question the need for Ministers to live in great luxury, demanding millions of pounds for an ever-increasing number of projects, some of which never materialise.
The ultimate goal of such ministries also needs to be examined in the light of scripture. Are we witnessing a global awakening that will transform all nations and bring wealth and success to all the Church? Or is this triumphalism a delusion which will ensnare thousands of well-meaning believers in the satanic trap of the New Age, and cause them - unthinkingly - to set up a worldwide kingdom for the Antichrist? READ ON for ten reasons for rejecting Word-of-Faith doctrine.
It requires 'revelation knowledge'.
Like the gnostic heresies all through the ages, Word-of-Faith needs special knowledge in order to be effective. Leaders see themselves as having a commission to bring new spiritual revelation to the Body, and they condemn 'sense-knowledge' as inadequate. In this scheme, it is not sin and disobedience that causes us to fail, but ignorance of the Word. Moreover, this revelation knowledge is limited to the few who can receive it; the less intelligent are at a disadvantage. This is elitism.
It makes the Almighty God and Creator a weak 'faith-being' who is at the mercy of His own universal laws.
Although Word-of-Faith ministers speak of God in a personal way, they treat Him like an impersonal 'energy source' with 'forces' that can be operated by the use of laws - laws which even God has to obey in order to create and run His universe. God, they say, has left the control of the planet in man's hands and is powerless to intervene without a covenant partner. God's omnipotence and sovereignty is damaged by these teachings.
It makes the Divine Son of God into a born-again man who had to die in Hell to pay the price for our treason.
Jesus, according to Word-of-Faith doctrine, discarded His divine powers and walked earth as a mere man filled with The Spirit. He had to use the Word and the laws of faith to do miracles. When He died, His blood did not atone, but He had to take upon Himself the very sin-nature of the Devil, causing His spirit to die, and suffer three days and nights of hellish torment AS A MAN before the Father gave the command for Him to be re-created as a re-born man. Thus, they say, Jesus was just the first of many sons, the Pattern for us all to follow.
It elevates man to equality with Jesus.
A consequence of the 'Jesus-died-spiritually' doctrine is that all born-again Christians stand in the same place of power and authority as Jesus - not by virtue of their unity with Him, but in themselves, as men filled with the Spirit. This would mean that we have already been resurrected from the dead and it only remains for us to gain 'knowledge' of our new condition in order to discard the trappings of the fleshly body and begin living as spiritual gods on earth!
Thus, the Christian walk is one of education in using the same spiritual laws as Jesus in order to dominate the circumstances and do miracles. In Word-of-Faith teaching, believers do not depend on God's own power, nor submit to His will, but feel they have the right to develop their own powers, and to discover the laws governing creation and dominion on the earth.
It makes man a god.
To understand the special position that Word-of-Faith gives to man, we need to know their interpretation of the Creation. In their teaching, man HAS NO NATURE OF HIS OWN but takes his nature from his 'lord'. When God was his Lord, then man had a divine nature - for he was created as god of the earth, they say - but after man's fall, he took the sin-nature of the Devil and became like Satan. (All this, of course, is contrary to scripture). So, Word-of Faith believers would reason that a born-again man has regained his divine nature. Thus, he is entitled to use the attributes of his divinity, such as creative powers and domination of the environment etc.
It makes the redemption into a restoration of dominion for mankind.
Word-of-Faith teachers stress the loss of dominion over the earth, not sin, as the root problem. So, salvation becomes a matter of re-discovering one's place of godhood and learning to rule as kings on earth. The role Jesus had to play in redemption was that of a substitute Adam, coming to earth to fulfill all that Adam failed to do, demonstrating the possibilities of dominion, and then taking Adam's place in Hell to let mankind 'off the hook'. The worship given to Jesus by Word-of-Faith believers is more from a sense of gratitude than a recognition of His divinity. It also misses the whole point of redemption: that Jesus HIMSELF is the Life and Salvation of mankind and that we are only saved in union with Him.
Its goal is the transformation of the earth by spiritual dominion.
Because Word-of-Faith believers see themselves as having returned to their god-like dominion of the earth, they foresee the time coming when - by sheer force of numbers, probably - all mankind has to bow the knee to God. They teach that all the wealth of the world will flow to the Church, and that the laws, government and entire social structure of the world system will have to change. Despite scriptural warnings of apostasy and increasing wickedness in the end-times, they foresee a great victory for the Church in the future, as the Spirit sweeps millions into the 'kingdom' on earth. Whether or not they claim to believe in the end-times plan of Revelation, the Rapture, the Millennium or any of these things, they still seem to be able to fit a scheme of global Church unity and triumph into the plan of the ages.
It replaces prayer with confession, and God's will with the manipulation of 'forces'.
Word-of Faith teaches Christians to draw upon powerful 'forces' that reside in the human spirit - such as the force of faith - to bring certain laws into operation. They emphasise the word (not the Son of God, but the scriptures) as the power used to operate all these spiritual laws. So, learning and confessing the Word continually is the method used to obtain anything we want. This self-rule leads to pride and greed. But a Christian must deny himself and submit to the entire will of God, as revealed moment-by-moment by the Holy Spirit.
It denies the reality of sin and sickness.
Word-of-Faith ministers teach that the only true reality is spiritual, and the earthly senses are deceptive. Thus, believers are led to deny that they are ill, poor or in any way below par. They are taught to overcome adversity by confessing a suitable 'positive' scripture, instead of seeking God's guidance. Also, the reality of sin, and the need for forgiveness is glossed over by teaching that a simple confession of the Lordship of Jesus will effect a change of lifestyle.
It focuses on self and the world instead of God and Heaven.
The emphasis in Word-of-Faith doctrine is all on success, prosperity, advancement, gain, health and strength. There is little compassion for those who fail to come up to these exacting standards. Any adversity is said to be a 'lack of faith' to confess the appropriate Word. This is a great misunderstanding of the wisdom of God, and His plan to bring his children to glory, for if we refuse to share in the trials, setbacks and persecutions of Jesus, we are not ready to share His glorification. [Rom 8:17]
Some of the Word-of-Faith teachers and ministries have been the worst offenders in bringing the Name and the cause of Jesus Christ into disrepute. Ministries that emphasise prosperity have ended up in greed, manipulating believers into giving money they can little afford. Over-emphasised teaching about God's healing has led to extravagant claims for miracles that have been exposed as hyperbole and sham. Doctrines about man's godhood and superhuman abilities have led to arrogance, self-will and the use of psychic powers to perform miracles instead of a simple dependency on the Holy Spirit. Also, teachings about faith have become rituals and formulas for producing instant result; and many who could not or would not go down this road were derided and rejected as "having no faith".
Legions of hurt people have testified to their bad experiences, both personally and corporately, with Word-of-Faith extremes and excesses. Indeed, the very root of this teaching is bad, coming as it does from Christian Science and the metaphysical schools of thought.
What we can learn from the Word-of-Faith doctrines is really no more than straight-forward biblical teaching in the first place - faith in God and in His Word, belief in divine intervention in our affairs, a positive outlook based on the promises of God, and a knowledge of the defeat of satanic powers in Jesus - all this and more is good and sound, but the Word-of-Faith movement today has gone far beyond these boundaries and created a monster that is devouring both its leaders and followers alike.
It is not necessary to buy into a Word-of-Faith system in order to benefit from the plain teaching of scripture. Any who are followers of Word-of-Faith ministers should think very carefully about their position as followers of men and of a dubious man-inspired system of formulas, and also should be wary of the manipulation to give gifts and tithes to these ministries. It would be better to support your own church, or more humble and doctrinally sound Christian works, and to seek for scriptural inspiration from the Holy Spirit who is our only Guide and Teacher.
© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.