Balancing the Word of Faith movement

J. Lee Grady has an excellent article at his Fire In My Bones blog at the Charisma Magazine website. Grady is one of the guys I like to read as he’s a charismatic who’s not afraid to criticize aspects of the movement when he feels it’s needed. See, for example, his What Happened to the Fire?: Rekindling the Blaze of Charismatic Renewal which I read about 10 years ago. In the book, he addresses problems in the Charismatic movement like shallow theology, lack of discernment, pride in spiritual gifts, flimsy biblical interpretation and exaggerated claims of healings and miracles. These are of course criticisms that have been constantly leveled against the Charismatic movement. I would consider myself a charismatic, and like Grady, I have no problems with saying that the above criticisms are valid and that I have the same concerns too. There’s no need to be defensive about a movement/tradition you love and identify with because no movement/tradition is perfect. In fact, I always believe it’s good to be critical (in a constructive way) of your own tradition/movement. There will always be excesses and abuses somewhere in every movement and it’s better for the people within to address them, than those from the outside, most (not all) of whom I think would not understand the movement and tend to be ultra-critical, unhelpful and unbalance in their criticisms.

Anyway, his recent blog article is entitled Kenneth Hagin’s Forgotten Warning (7th March 2008). Kenneth Hagin, of course, is known as the “father” of the “Word of Faith” movement. Another name for the movement is the “Prosperity Gospel” movement.

In his article, Grady points out that before Hagin died, he passionately tried to correct the abuses he saw in the movement:

But before he died in 2003 and left his Rhema Bible Training Center in the hands of his son, Kenneth Hagin Jr., he summoned many of his colleagues to Tulsa to rebuke them for distorting his message. He was not happy that some of his followers were manipulating the Bible to support what he viewed as greed and selfish indulgence.

Hagin also wrote a book entitled The Midas Touch: A Balanced Approach to Biblical Prosperity (which is sold in New Creation Church’s bookstore) in 2000, a year after the above Tulsa meeting.

Many people who either criticize or support the Word of Faith movement probably don’t know the above. I’ve been familiar with the movement for about 10 years though only got to know about this book recently. I think many who criticize the movement do so without realizing that there are people within the movement just like Hagin who would not be happy with everything about it. The fact that he was passionate to correct the abuses he saw is totally understandable. That’s because he knew that abuses and excesses within the movement would cause Christians to associate such extreme and unbiblical teachings with the movement as a whole and thus throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Of course, I think it’s totally right to criticize and throw out the very many unbiblical teachings in the Word of Faith movement, as even Hagin himself did. But it’s thoroughly unfair to paint the whole movement as totally unbiblical and wrong. As I wrote here, I think there are some good in it. Critics who only point out the bad and cannot see past the more visible and famous Word of Faith preachers (who, I admit, do say a lot of unbiblical stuff) lose out on a whole lot of good, I think.

Read these two blog entries (here & here) from two Christians who, while generally more conservative, have been able to see some good in the movement, or at least recognize (unlike almost all critics of the movement) that there are some biblical foundations to some of the movement’s teachings.

I’ll just leave you with two criticisms Hagin had according to Grady:

1) People should never give in order to get.

2) The “hundredfold return” is not a biblical concept.

There, you’ve heard it from the “father” of the Word of Faith movement.

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3 Comments

  1. tks for the links to good (& edifying!) writings. interesting reads. at least i’m now more informed (and understand) on why so many christians are against the ‘prosperity preachers’. Like you, i’m into balance & hope to see things in a broader perspective. and your posts has helped alot on that.

  2. Well said. I have never read “The Midas Touch”, but will make it my mission to find and read it. Balance is the key to staying right doctrinally. Our modern movement in america stresses “experience” over doctrine. Many think ‘When I have an experience I “know” its God’…and to Hell with doctrine, right? Like those that stick to the Word are simply legalists. Many shall say Lord, Lord and again, Many shall shall say Lord, Lord did we not… and to all He will say, Away from me you that work iniquity! Man that is scary stuff if you think about it. The Lord dealt very heavily with me and said, “It’s not about the works…its about the fruit…Galatians 5 fruit. It proves which Spirit you have. The devil can counterfeit my 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit, but he can’t counterfeit to fruit of my Holy Spirit.” Oh, Lord…that we might love like you loved… (1 John 5:1-3) Blessings.

  3. “1) People should never give in order to get.”

    Interesting. I didn’t realize that Kenneth Hagin said that. However, his teachings essentially promoted the same practice, whether or not he wanted to admit it. In the past, I read a lot of his books. And while they were helpful in some ways, they were also not helpful (and even hurtful) in many others. His faith teachings basically boil down to legalism IMO. IOW, if you “believe” enough, you’ll “earn” a blessing from God; if you don’t, you’ll never get anything from God. That is very legalistic–basically, if you’re prospering, it’s because you’re “good”; if you’re not, it’s because you’re “bad,” which is exactly what Job’s pseudo-friends told him. Hagin also believed in tithing, but the New Testament has no record of anybody tithing after Jesus went to the Cross. The early Church never practiced tithing, and to force Christians to do so is unscriptural. Now, the early Church gave with unbelievable generosity–but from a heart of love, but not because they were bound by laws and regulations.

    The simple fact is that Jesus’ death on the Cross changed everything concerning how we relate to God. We can never “believe” enough to receive blessings from God–it’s impossible. However, Jesus paid the price for everything we’ll ever need on the Cross–we just have to ask for it. The reason to have faith is to show our love and trust in God, not to try to “earn” his blessings. We can never quote Scripture enough and believe enough to get them–they are a free gift. To try to “do enough” to receive from God basically amounts to dead works, which is exactly what Christ died to save us from.

    In a nutshell, reading Hagin’s books never really brought freedom to me, but in many ways, the exact opposite. However, the the Bible says that the truth will set you free, which says to me that there were a lot of problems with Hagin’s teachings, even though some of them were good. For instance, he definitely emphasized forgiving others, which is very biblical.

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