Faith and The Word of Faith

A recent commenter was trying to understand why Charismatics seem to be particularly open to the Word of Faith movement and assume that if you are anti-Word of Faith you are anti-Charismatic. When I was in high school, before I became Charismatic, I remember staying up late with my brother and watching one of the TV ministries with my brother. It was completely ridiculous. I had a hard time even recognizing it as Christian. Yet these guys are raising enough money to stay on the air. It was several more years before I was introduced to the Faith teaching in the church where I came into the Charismatic movement. At the time it seemed that the pastors of that church were more interested in the Holy Spirit than the money and I saw the Faith teaching as something separate from what I had rejected on TV. I saw it as part of believing God. I was believing Him to be a supernatural and victorious person and that entailed an attitude of victory, overcoming and faith. Declaring Scriptures over myself made sense and I was glad to do it. It never got me the breakthrough from lifelong sin patterns, but it gave me a much more victorious mindset. I later found out that the church pastors were in fact not much different from the TV preachers and were making incredible salaries while expecting very high sums out of the congregation in many different ways.

Which leads to my first observation: it’s funny how “faith” always gets tied in with money. I do not think it is supposed to be. When you start going after the money, you end up with “name it and claim it” and a very selfish version of Christianity. That was never what I wanted — perhaps because I had never lacked money or status, or perhaps because I had already put it all on the altar when I accepted Christ. Yet, these faith teachings about money always end up in “give to get.” Instead of giving to speed the gospel, you are now giving to increase your bank account. Count me out. I’m trying to build a heavenly bank account.

My second observation is that the Word of Faith teaching quickly becomes a kind of Gnosticism, much like Christian Science. You are declaring yourself healed even though you are sick. You are declaring yourself free even though you are in bondage. You end up starting by denying reality.This is a fundamental problem that keeps it from “working.” Instead of exposing and confronting you end up denying.

But does that mean I am completely anti-Faith? Actually it doesn’t. After a number of years of not listening to that kind of teaching, I’ve realized that I’ve lost an important part of my Christian identity that I need to bring back in a healthy way. I don’t think that I could listen to the main teachers on this subject for the two reasons above, yet I think that the “Attitude of Faith” is absolutely critical. What would a “Faith” teaching look like without the money stuff and the denying of reality? Hard to imagine isn’t it??

Well for starters, I think it would become focused on victory over sin, demons, and disease, which are the things that I think I remember Jesus focusing on. I think it would also focus on confidence in the face of danger and intimidation. It would focus on bold proclamation of the truth and walking in the full stature of Christ. Secondly, I think that it would begin by recognition of a problem and THEN asserting the will of Christ over it. You are sick but — Jesus makes you well. Instead of Gnosticism we have declarations of victory on behalf of an almighty God. Real Faith is about stepping into the attitude and position of Jesus on the Earth. Hebrews 11 does truly paint a fabulous picture of the “man of faith” that God wants us to be. Is the money really that exciting? Can’t you get hyped about that on a late night infomercial?

Which leaves a question — where do the “confessions” that form the heart of the Word of Faith teaching come in?  Actually these Scriptural confessions were part of why it was attractive to me in the first place. The idea of quoting a Scripture to take authority over my problem made a lot of sense to my evangelical-fundamentalist ears. I moved away from them because I felt that they weren’t really getting the job done and because of the “Gnosticism” issue of denial of reality. I am thinking about bringing them back, but with a different focus — expose the issue, and assert God’s dominion over it.

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4 Comments

  1. I dislike the whole WoF stuff. It is one of my pet hates. It can ruin peoples lives. As an example.

    We had a girl in our church contract a fatal cancer she was in her 20’s or 30’s i think.

    She was part of the WoF group in our church, a sub set of the church who are also Charismaniacs 😉 you know the sort I mean.

    Well when she died they blamed the rest of the church for our lack of faith and that was why she died! Also it knocked a few of them as their ‘Faith’ had not been enough to heal or rescue her from her illness.

    What a load of rubbish.. it really annoys me! I have a little vid of John Piper talking about this on my blog at http://beatthedrum.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/the-properity-gospel-is-no-gospel/

  2. Thinkingriddles,
    Good overview of your understanding of who Valloton is, where he’s coming from.
    I’ve thought about his comments re: how christians derive their attitudes group and individually wise toward the unsaved. While I agree culture, christian culture(including historical or prior culture obviously) has a substantive impact in producing attitudes and corresponding behavior in us, I’ve always felt that the real root of lack of love or understanding for the unsaved derives simply from unregenerated understanding. We have been completely set free from the cross, but not all of our understanding has caught up with the truth of the fact that when Jesus died we also died there. And that this death meant a complete severing of the dominion of sin, and thus the devil as well. While a person can get saved, this does not mean aspects of his or her understanding of the truth on all specific points related to the new life have caught up.

    We treat people ill, think ill of them, care little for them, are judgemental toward them even while we consider they need to get saved, because we look at them from a natural point of view. Never mind that Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world. This really ties into the nature of who God is in or thru Christ. If God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world-which world includes me- why would I think condemningly toward others yet bristle if someone in church(or anywhere) misjudges or prejudges me? Because of contradiction in myself with what the truth is as outlined in the scripture.If God was in Christ, reconciling the world to him, not imputing their trespasses to them, I not only must and do see myself as one of this group whom God is pointing out, but others as well. However, we know the prejudicial nature of people, ourselves included, hateful and hating each other as scripture notes. Having such prejudicial streaks in ourselves does not mean we are not saved, but it does mean that God has not yet been allowed to penetrate our hearts with the understanding our mercy must also then mean the mercy of others. However it is a known fact that christians struggle greatly with condemnation, no great wonder then that we/they easily and quickly judge others in the church and outside and show little genuine care/love.

    Sure, culture plays a substantial role in reinforcing attitudes and behavior. But I believe in our case, culture has something to work with: an unregenerated or very limited understanding of the love of God as it relates to ourselves, and thus naturally also to others be they in the church or outside of it.

  3. Thinkingriddles,
    Just one more comment.
    I think some people joined the charismatic movement, and then became chasm-atics. It struck me as funny, though it’s not funny, since there have been many mixups in people’s lives. I wouldn’t necessarily put all the blame on the “movement”, however there is no doubt, and I’m familiar with it having been around the christian world for 30 years, all sorts of oddball beliefs and corresponding practices have been asserted in the charismatic camp (along with other camps!). No one is really scot-free, including ourselves individually. Blame can be legitimate, but only to a point, since we all in any situation have to move on to productive solutions for ourselves in the journey of our faith. I agree with your not throwing out the baby with the bathwater conclusion in your post. I’ve felt the same way. The word of faith make some legitimate points which are not to be dismissed I think. Just because some of their applications or practices may not be sound does not mean they are completely erroneous.

    Frankly, we all do or have done that: rush to judgement on any individual or group. Not because they are always necessarily wrong completely, but because we as people delight in casting judgement never mind about fairness or understanding for what “differs” from what we know.

    That’s why I think some remain in the chasm-atic camp though professing avowedly and loudly they are not charismatic. Anytime we differ with others because of spite under the cover of ‘noble love of the truth’, we are still in darkness. And there’s plenty of this kind of cover in some of the so called higher criticism of believers against believers. Anyway, not something I want to wade into like I used. We really do need to move on to find our own productive solutions thru the enlightenment of God in our hearts and leave the business of marginalizing the heretics.

  4. Zoran, Thanks for your comments.

    Regarding Culture, you make a good point that ultimately our individual understanding and application of scripture is what needs to change, but I’m going to stand by my emphasis on culture. Even for those of us who go straight to the Bible, our Christian beliefs and attitudes are passed down to use both visibly and invisibly by the group of Christians before us. That’s why it has taken and is taking thousands of years to bring out a bride that looks like Christ. I see it as personal and progressive then.

    Regarding judgmentalism, I believe we are called as warriors, and that means while love all, there are many who are against us or against truth, and whose agendas we must therefore actively resist. We love them, but we don’t just roll over, we engage in the battle for truth.

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