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A Few problems with “Word of Faith”

Every quarter our Southern Ukraine association of churches puts on an all day fellowship/seminar for the brothers.  They invited me to speak this time and I decided to talk about the rise of the “Word of Faith” movement, which is unfortunately gaining a lot of speed in Ukraine as it is in many countries.

If you’re not familiar with the Word of Faith teaching just check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_of_Faith.  Often it is  called “Prosperity Gospel” or “Health and Wealth”. Some of the main teachers you may have heard of such as, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Hagin, Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn to name a few.

Their main teachings revolve around three key points:

  • “Positive Confession”

They teach that words have power in and of themselves.  If you believe it, think it, act like it and say it, then God will give it to you.  Some go as far as to say that we can create with our words, we must carefully use use them because we might accidentally  create something! Check out this example from Pastor Osteen 

  • Little gods

If man is able to create with his words as God is able to create with His words then the logical conclusion is that man must be a god.

  • Limited God

Of course the “little god” doctrine leads to something even worse. If man is a god, then God Himself must be limited in some way.  Thus many of the Word of Faith teacher claim that God the Father has a body and is bound by laws that limit His ability to act.

Problems with Word of Faith teaching

The theological dangers of the Word of Faith movement are many but I would like to note just a few below.

  • It places a heavy burden on the believer. Luk 11:46, Mat 11:30 
What the Word of Faith teachers are doing is really very similar to what the Pharisees did in Jesus day.  If as a believer I am sick or poor there is only one reason; I don’t have enough faith.  In order to fix the situation I must believe and one of the main ways they ask people to exhibit their faith is by giving.  As a result most of the Word of Faith teachers are quite well off financially having made their money on the backs of their followers.
  • It puts constraints upon God. Isa 14:27  
According to Word of Faith teaching God can’t act until we give Him permission with our faith and with our words.  The result is an impotent God manipulated by man’s faith and dependent upon man.
  • It ignores million of Christians who live in persecuted countries. 2Ti 3:12   
Unfortunately Word of Faith teachers completely ignore the horrendous persecution of millions of believers whose faith is most assuredly hundreds of  times stronger than theirs!
  • It places large emphasis upon man rather than God. Eze 36:22   
I think this is the root of why they have gone astray in their doctrine.  It ends up being a very humanistic religion that raises man to heights not found in Scripture, that ignores the great problem of sin and at the same time conveniently lowers the majesty of God making Him man’s genie in the bottle.
  • It cheapens Christianity by making blessedness based upon the external conditions of our life. Mat ch. 5
How is it that Word of Faith teachers have completely missed Matthew chapter 5? Real blessing is not dependent upon the external conditions of our life. According to Jesus, real blessing is dependent on our relationship with God!

Ways to avoid Word of Faith fallacy

  • Make sure our preaching and teaching comes from God’s Word. 2 Tim 2:15-16
Usually this kind of teaching creeps in slowly when we begin to lessen the role of God’s Word in our preaching and teaching.  If you listen to any of Word of Faith teacher you will find one of two things. Either they almost completely ignore God’s Word giving it a token reference or their use of Scripture blatantly ignores context and the most basic principles of interpretation.
  • Encourage our people to investigate God’s Word themselves. Acts 17:11
I firmly believe that as  teacher of God’s Word I need to make sure that my people don’t just take for granted what they hear from me.  I need to give them the tools to study, understand and make informed doctrinal decisions on their own.
  • Make sure our focus is on God’s glory. Psa 105:8
Let’s get back to the basics, it’s about God not about us!
  • Teach people to pray for miracles and healing but we do not demand them from God. Mat 12:39  Joh 9:3  

God can and God does miracles today.  I prayed for God to miraculously heal my son when doctors diagnosed him with cancer.  We should pray these kind of prayers but we should not demand from God or assume that God owes us anything!

Questions: Do you agree? Is there any advice you would add to my list on how to avoid Word of Faith teachings?

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • dad

    Good stuff. Remind me to tell you about Casey Treat in Tacoma gettting fined for his theology. One of our guys was in court on it.

    • Wow, I hadn’t heard about that. You’ll have to fill me in later.

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  • Nathan

    Good stuff. It is a terrible problem here in India. One tip – you alluded to, but did not emphasize that it totally does away with the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. Joe Grisban pointed that out to me. It is part of why he left the movement.

  • Heather

    Thank you for writing about this. I believe the enemy is using these kinds of lies to steer the church away from Truth.

    • Heather you are right on! These doctrines are driving people away from the real truths of God’s Word!

  • Caleb, I would agree with all of your points. I have come across this kind of teaching myself and consider it to be a dangerous deception. It makes me think of the parable of the sheep & the goats in Matthew 25; Deeply troubling.

    On the other hand, I can’t help but be reminded of Christ’s promises that those who believe in him would do greater works than he did during his earthly ministry, and his bold challenge in Luke’s Gospel about when he returns, will he find faith on the earth? Caution can tip over into unbelief if pushed too far the other way, and quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit is a very bad thing indeed.

    I think the key is to retain a proper focus on the centrality of the word and the overarching purpose of the great commission. If signs and wonders follow faithful Gospel proclamation, great; more people being healed and persuaded of the truth is a good thing. However pursuing health, wealth and miracles as an end in themselves is foreign to the teachings of Christ. God’s provision is not to be sought over God himself.

    Being anthropocentric is lethal to the faith life of a believer. After all, ‘he who humbles himself shall be exalted’, whereas he who exalts himself shall be ‘opposed by God’. Not a good place to be! Also, the enemy can and will perform false signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. In all things believers ought to be sober minded and on their guard.

    We live in strange times.

    • Michael, great points. I certainly agree that we need to keep God’s Word central. When the Word is central God should naturally be central and we will be humbled!

  • Giles McKenzie

    Great post! I wholeheartedly agree! These preachers sadden me. Have you seen the new video of Mrs. Osteen “teaching?” Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koIBkYl0cHk

    • Yes, I have seen that video Giles, seems to be pretty popular recently. Unfortunately I do think that is accurately reflects the focus that there church has, which is a focus on self rather than on God!