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Cults and World Religions

Faith Healing



Word Faith

 

Did you ever stop to think about having faith in your own faith? Evidently God had faith in His faith, because He spoke words of faith and they came to pass. … Having faith in your words is having faith in your faith. That’s what you’ve got to learn to do to get things from God: Have faith in your faith. 83
Kenneth Copeland

 

The whole point is I’m trying to get you to see—to get you out of this malaise of thinking that Jesus and His disciples were poor and then relating that to you. … The Bible says that He has left us an example that we should follow His steps. That’s the reason why I drive a Rolls Royce. 84
Frederick K.C. Price

But consider,

The test of anything calling itself Christian is not its significance or its success or its power, though these make the test more imperative. The test is truth. 85

As we stated in the last chapter, this is a course on cults, not on denominations. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Pentecostal movement was born. The “father” is generally considered to be Charles Fox Parham of Kansas. At the turn of the century Parham founded a short lived school. His students learned to study by topics and never considered verses in their context. After studying holiness, the students decreed a date to revive the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit with its manifest gifts as on Pentecost. The Pentecostal movement was off and running.

While we do not agree with some of their practices, such as speaking in tongues, the basic tenets of the Pentecostal movement are the essential doctrines of Christianity.

I have become both weary and wary of those who use the perversions of the Faith movement to drive a wedge between charismatic and noncharismatic Christians. Frankly this is both counterproductive and divisive, for the Faith movement is not charismatic; it is cultic. 86
Hank Hanegraaff

In the last forty years or so, the charismatic movement has been born. The distinction here is that charismatics are not a denomination. Rather, they are believers within denominations, often mainline 87 ones, who have accepted the application of the “sign” gifts of the Pentecostals. 88 The “father” of the charismatic movement is usually considered to be Dennis Bennett, an Episcopalian.

For our purposes, more important than the acceptance of the sign gifts, the movement adopted the measuring stick of the Pentecostals, the experience of the signs. The Bible is given second place in the measuring of truth. 89

Faith Healers

Within the boundaries of these groups, comes another group, one which is Christian, and, yet, is not. This is the group of the faith healers, currently referred to as the Word Faith movement. 90 This movement involves names such as Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Hagin, Jr., Kenneth Copeland, Frederick K. C. Price, David (Paul) Yongii Cho, pastor of one of the largest churches in the world in Seoul, Korea, Gloria Copeland, Robert Tilton, John Avanzini, John Osteen, T. L. Osborne, Marilyn Hickey, Jerry Savelle, Morris Cerullo, Casey Treat, Dwight Thompson, and Oral and Richard Roberts. The list of unknown faith healers seems endless. The Word Faith movement is, to a great extent, a creature of the media industry. This involves both radio and television, as well as a vast publishing arm. In particular is the support given to the Word Faith movement by the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

One critic calls the Word Faith gospel “the most subtle heretical system to emerge in our own times.” 91 Using evangelical / Pentecostal terms, mixed with an abundance of biblical “proof texts,” the Word Faith movement presents the appearance of a valid Christianity, lulling its followers into a false sense of security over its teachings.

But, upon review, the theology of this group appears to be a mix of gnosticism and transcendentalism. This makes the group, at least, a cousin to Christian Science, New Thought, and Unity. What is particularly frightening about this movement is that there are many fine, born again believers within its ranks. This segment appears to have missed or failed to internalize the actual teachings being presented to them. The “name it and claim it” approach either appeals to their lusts, or they are not mature enough in their Christianity to recognize the lack of biblical support.

True Christians within the faith movement have failed to learn what it is they should believe!

Faith in Faith

The initial fault of this movement is that their faith lies in their faith. By placing full weight upon the power of faith, the movement will make man as powerful as God. Man will become a “little god.” Again as quoted in Kingdom of the Cults:

Word Faith celebrity Kenneth Copeland says, “What you are saying is exactly what you are getting now. If you are living in poverty and lack and want, change what you are saying. … The powerful force of the spiritual world that creates the circumstances around us is controlled by the words of the mouth.” Kenneth E. Hagin, who served for many years as Copeland’s mentor, echoes his protégée: “Your right confession will become a reality, and then you will get whatever you need from God.” 92

Notice that Hagin says when you speak, God must act!

As a simple example, the movement would teach that if you need money, just take out your wallet and pray over it. If you have faith, the wallet will be filled! Or, do you need healed? Just pray – or let one of “us” pray for you! Healing will follow. Speak to your circumstances in faith and all will be well!

According to the “Faith” teachers, God automatically responds and accomplishes what we command when we positively confess our needs and desires in faith. 93
John Ankerberg/John Weldon

While it is important not to downplay the power of God, the Bible does not teach that man can do anything outside of the will of God. The Word Faith movement makes the will of God equal to the wants of man. And, if you do not get what you asked for, well, your faith was just not strong enough or was improperly focused. “As Frederick K. C. Price says, ‘If you keep talking death, that is what you are going to have. If you keep talking sickness and disease, that is what you are going to have, because you are going to create the reality of them with your own mouth. That is a divine law.’” 94

Experience versus the Bible

The results of the faith are measured by experience. They are subjective. This is the path followed by both the Roman Catholics and the Pentecostal movements. Adverse to this is the objective, historic theology of the Reformation followers. Over time, both subjective and objective truths cannot be true.

By using experiences, this group is claiming the Word of God is not closed! Consider the comments of John F. MacArthur, Jr.:

The truth, however is that there is no way to “protect the distinctiveness of the Bible” if God is inspiring new revelation today. If the canon is still open, and if God is still giving new prophecies, new songs, and new words of wisdom, we should be earnestly seeking to compile and study these most recent revelations along with Scripture – and maybe even more diligently, since they speak expressly to our time and culture. 95

Unfortunately, under this approach, suffering and the evil events in one’s life are not the result of sin and Satan, or even God’s testing. Rather, these events result from “simply” a lack of faith. Health, happiness, prosperity, and success become the standards of the movement. These define God’s will for the individual, if the individual shall only act upon them. Man becomes the source of all suffering. The tongue is the instrument of one’s destruction, because it is used in a lack of faith. To quote Copeland, “God did not allow the Devil to get on Job. Job allowed the Devil to get on Job.” 96

Be Well

Using Isaiah 53:4-6 97 (out of context), the Word Faith movement adopts the attitude that it is the will of God that no one be sick – ever! Again, to quote Copeland: “God intends for every believer to live completely free from sickness and disease.” 98 Personal lack of faith becomes the basis for suffering. In this case, lack of faith is presented as the reason for sickness. To quote Jerry Savelle: “When symptoms come, it is nothing more than the thief trying to steal the health which is already ours. In other words, divine health is not something we are trying to get from God; it is something the Devil is trying to take away from us! … When the Devil tries to put a symptom of sickness or disease in my body, I absolutely refuse to accept it.” 99

The sad thing about such teachings are the tragedies which arise from following the faith concept. For example, consider the story of Larry and Lucy Parker and their son, Wesley. Believing the faith teachings of this movement, the Parkers withheld insulin from Wesley, preferring to confess and pray his illness away. On August 23, 1973, Wesley died of insulin shock and his parents were convicted of manslaughter. 100

True, there are some healings. Consider Gerstner’s observation:

What is the conclusion of the matter? Two facts seem clear: There are some exceptional, perhaps inexplicable, cures; but these are few in comparison with the initial or subsequent failures. The “cures” are dramatized and conspicuous. The noncures are not dramatized. But they are far more numerous. This fact is to be noticed for what it is worth. 101

As has been implied, the real question in all of this healing is, what is God’s relationship to these miracles?

While there may be miraculous healings brought about by God, there are no miracles. First, the Bible always links miracles and revelation. The miracles authenticate the messenger. But the New Testament, in general, and Hebrews 1:1-4 102 in particular, make it clear that the revelation of God ended in Jesus Christ. Once His story and teachings were made clear in the pages of Scripture, there was no further need for revelation.

Secondly, once past the New Testament Apostles, the great Christians of history – Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Edwards, Moody, Graham - have never done or claimed to have performed miracles. Third, miracle workers have been the source of evil. The arguments for miracles always seem to bring out the extremists in history. Fourth, as noted above, a vast amount of damage is done to people because of the “failure” of miracles. Frequently, this damage is spiritually fatal.

And, as noted above, the theological basis of almost all the sensational events are contrary to the Word of God. At the extreme example, if faith healing is successful, why do the saints die? And why is there this vast implication of the greater faithlessness of the unhealed compared to the healed? How does one account for the evangelistic success of a David Ring 103 under these conditions? Consider the following comparison:

Biblical Miracles

Modern Wonders

Always successful

Usually unsuccessful

No know relapses

Admitted relapses

Always immediate

Usually not immediate, often gradual

The dead are raised

Dead are not raised

All varieties of disease

Usually functional disease

Usually played down

Usually played up

Included power over non-human nature

No power over non-human nature

Credentials of messengers of Christian Revelation

Not credentials of messengers of Revelation

No noticeable dependence on psychological build-up

Conspicuous dependence on psychological build-up 104

Romans 10:17
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The practice of “decreeing” things into existence can be seen in some occult and Eastern groups such as The Church Universal and Triumphant, and Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. 105

Christianity and the faith of the believer rests upon historical objective revelation. That revelation is recorded in the Bible. Scripture is the test of everything – the standard.

Jude 3
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

The Greek word translated “once” means “once for all!” It is finished! God has provided all of the revelation He is going to give us. The Holy Spirit will illuminate our hearts using the truth of Scripture, speaking to us in our circumstances. But, there is no new Scripture.

Although charismatics deny that they are trying to add to Scripture, their views on prophetic utterance, gifts of prophecy, and revelation really do just that. As they add – however unwittingly – to God’s final revelation, they undermine the uniqueness and authority of the Bible. New revelation, dreams, and visions are considered as binding on the believer’s conscience as the book of Romans or the Gospel of John. 106

In the second century, a heretic named Montanus, together with his followers claimed to receive revelation from God. This revelation supplemented and expanded the Word communicated by Christ and the Scriptures. 

They believed the Holy Spirit spoke through the mouths of Montanus and the two prophetesses. Montanus believed he was living in the last days immediately before the return of Christ. . . . The contemporary charismatic movement is in many ways the spiritual heir of Montanism. In fact, it would not at all be unfair to call today’s charismatic movement neo-Montanism. 107

How many of the beliefs of the other cults have you found in these teachings? The metaphysical teachings of Christian Science and Unity are apparent in the Word Faith movement, added to the Montanism.

Concerns of Word Faith

Ankerberg presents the following list as problems with Word Faith. 108

 

The Teachings of the Word Faith Movement 109

  1. God is a being who stands approximately six feet tall, weighs some two hundred pounds, and looks exactly like a man.B-13
  2. Faith is the literal substance “that God used to create the universe, and He transported that faith with His words.”B-14 “Here, essentially, is what God did. God filled His words with faith. He used His words as containers to hold His faith and contain that spiritual force and transport it out there into the vast darkness by saying, ‘Light, be!’ That’s the way God transported His faith causing creation and transformation.”B-15 “The way that He created the world was that, first of all, he conceived something on the inside of Him. He conceived, He had an image, He had a picture.”B-16
  3. All things, including God, are subject to this “force of faith” because it works according to spiritual “laws” of the universe. “There are laws of the world of the spirit. … The spiritual world and its laws are more powerful than the physical world. … The world and the physical forces governing it were created by the power of faith—a spiritual force. … It is this force of faith which makes the laws of the spirit world function.”B-17 “The force of faith is released by words. Faith-filled words put the law of the Spirit of life into operation.”B-18
  4. The greatest thing God conceived of and created was an exact duplicate of himself. This duplicate god—named Adam—was God manifested in the flesh.B-19
  5. God eventually went to Adam, who was anatomically male and female, and separated the female part from the male part to make a “womb-man” (woman). Adam named this “man with a womb” Eve. She, like Adam, was a god.B-20
  6. The Fall caused Adam and Eve’s divine natures to be replaced with Satan’s nature. They also lost their rights of rulership to planet earth. Even God was barred from having full access to earth because Adam and Eve were under His lordship when they “fell.” Through their disobedience Satan became the god of this world.
  7. God formulated a scheme to take back the earth, but in order to execute His plan He had to find a human who would invite Him (give Him permission) to work within the earthly realm. Finally, God “got to a point where He had His plan ready for operation. And He saw a man named Abraham.”B-21 In return for allowing God to bring the Messiah through his lineage, Abraham received unlimited health and wealth.
  8. For centuries God visualized Jesus. Then, when it was finally time for the Messiah to come forth, God spoke him into existence through faith in the same way that He had visualized and spoken into existence everything else. Bringing forth Jesus, however, was also dependent upon whether or not Mary would lend her faith to help form the body of the Lord out of the literal “Word” (confession) God spoke to her: “Mary received the Word of God. She actually conceived God’s Word sent by an angel. Zacharias didn’t. … Mary received it. She spoke it when she conceived it in her spirit. Then it manifested itself in her physical body. … This is the key to understanding the Virgin Birth. … God spoke it. God transmitted that image to Mary. She received the image inside her. … The embryo that was in Mary’s womb was nothing more than the Word of God. … Mary conceived the Word in her spirit. It manifested itself in her physical body.”B-22 “Mary conceived the Word of God in her heart. … Mary conceived the Word sent to her by the angel (God’s Word) and conceived it in the womb of her spirit. Once it was conceived in her spirit, it manifested itself in her physical body. She received and conceived the Word of God in her spirit. … The embryo in Mary’s womb was nothing but the pure Word of God—and it took flesh upon itself.”B-23 “The angels spoke the words of the covenant to her [Mary]. She pondered them in her heart, and those words became the seed. And the Spirit of God hovered over her and generated that seed, which was the Word that the angel spoke to her. And there was conceived in her, the Bible says, a holy thing. The Word literally became flesh.”B-24
  9. While on earth Jesus was wealthy. He lived in a big house, had a great deal of money, and wore the finest clothes.B-25
  10. Although Jesus declared that he walked with God and that God was in Him, he never actually claimed to be God.B-26 In fact, during his three years of public ministry “Jesus did not stand in a class by himself. … He was ministering on earth as a human being—a prophet anointed with the Holy Spirit.”B-27 Jesus remained sinless so He could redeem men from their satanic natures.
  11. In order to redeem humanity, Jesus had to die spiritually as well as physically. When He died spiritually, he died in the same way that Adam died. In other words, He lost His divine nature and was given the nature of Satan. Jesus’ death on the cross and His shed blood did not atone for our sins.B-28 The atonement took place in hell through the devil’s torturing of Jesus’ spirit for three days and three nights. Unfortunately for Satan, Jesus was taken to hell “illegally” because He had never sinned. This “technicality” enabled God to use His “force of faith” to revive Jesus’ spirit, restore Jesus’ divine nature, and resurrect Jesus’ body. Through the resurrection process Jesus was “born again.”
  12. When a person is born again they experience exactly what happened to Jesus. Their satanic nature is replaced by God’s divine nature. The transformation is so identical to Jesus’ transformation that Christians become little gods (small “g”) and are as much an incarnation of God as was Jesus.
  13. Because Christians are “little gods,” they now have access to the “God-kind of faith,” which can be used to get virtually anything they want. Christians, rather than God, have authority in the earth over Satan and sickness and disease. Consequently, believers should never pray God’s will be done.B-29
  14. To obtain specific desires, Christians must do three things: (1) loose the power of the “force of faith” by speaking or positively confessing whatever is wanted (e.g., “I am healed,” “I am not sick,” etc.); (2) believe that whatever has been confessed will definitely be received; and (3) ignore or look beyond the visible reality (i.e., remaining sickness, low finances, etc.) and continue claiming what has been confessed.
  15. Everything bad, including poverty and sickness, comes from Satan. God’s people should have a completely blessed life. A Christian not experiencing such a life is either: (1) in sin; or (2) lacking enough faith to bring about what is desired.
  16. The power of audible confession is so great that sometimes a person can unknowingly bring tragedy upon themselves by making negative confessions. For example, a woman who is mugged may have actually caused that mugging if at any time prior to the experience she made comments like, “I live in such a dangerous part of the city that I’m afraid I’ll be mugged.” The woman should have been saying, “I will not be mugged.” Similarly, someone who jokingly says “I feel like I’m going crazy” may actually become insane.

Footnotes:
83. Walter Martin, Hank Hanegraaff, Gen. Ed., The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised), Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1965, 1977, 1985, 1997, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc., PO Box 100, Hiawatha, Iowa., Appendix B.
84. Ibid.
85. John F. MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978, 1992, 20, quoting from Frederick Dale Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970, 33.
86. Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis, Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1993, 47.
87. For our purposes, “mainline” means the traditional, major denominations, such as Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and so on.
88. “Sign” gifts are the gifts of speaking and interpreting tongues, prophecy as fore-telling, healing, and similar miracles given as signs to authenticate the messenger.
89. Depending upon one’s view point, there is a third segment of the Pentecost evolution. C. Peter Wagner, a professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary (California) sees three great movements of the Holy Spirit. The first was at the turn of the century with the founding of the Pentecostals. The second was the movement of Pentecostal ideas into other denominations, the charismatics. Then in the 1980s, came the “Third Wave.” All of these groups measure their faith on the experiences of healing. Wagner, The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit, Ann Arbor, MI: Vine Books, Servant Publications, 1988. Oddly enough, this timing coincides with the growth of television evangelism and the growth of the faith healers.
90. Although this title is fairly recent, we will adopt this title throughout to refer to this class of teachers.
91. Judith A. Matt, The Born-Again Jesus of the Word-Faith Teaching (Fullerton, Calif.: Spirit of Truth Ministries, 1984), 8.
92. Martin, Kingdom of the Cults (Revised), STEP electronic addition, Appendix B. Hagin frequently is called the “father” of the Word Faith movement, but Martin alleges that Hagin plagiarized much of his material from his mentor, E.W. Kenyon. Anker calls Kenyon the founder of the movement. See footnote 11 below, page 35.
93. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on The Faith Movement, The Anker Series, Eugene, Or: Harvest House Publishers, 1993, 6.
94. Ibid.
95. John F. MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, 63.
96. Ibid.
97. Isaiah 53:4-6: 4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
98. Martin, Kingdom of the Cults (Revised), STEP electronic addition, Appendix B.
99. Ibid.
100. Ibid., drawing from Larry Parker, We Let Our Son Die (Irvine, Calif.: Harvest House Publishers, 1980). This section of Martin’s provides other examples as well.
101. John H. Gerstner, The Theology of the Major Sects, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1960, 111.
102. Hebrews 1:1-4: God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
103. Ring is a wonderful evangelist who has cerebral palsy. His speech is difficult to understand and by man’s standards he should not be a public speaker. But, if God’s Spirit is with you as you listen, Ring is a magnificent speaker and a great inspiration.
104. Gerstner, The Theology of the Major Sects, 117
105. Ankerberg, The Facts on The Faith Movement, 35.
106. MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, 75.
107. Ibid., 88.
108. Ankerberg, The Facts on the Faith Movement, 15.
109. Taken from Marin, Ibid. Most of this material has been drawn from Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis. The subscript notations “B-xx” represent the placement of electronic footnotes in the STEP edition of Kingdom of the Cults (Revised) referencing the sources used by Hanegraaff to produce the quotes or examples.

 

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