by Clete Hux –
Many times in the history of the church there have been winds and waves of heretical teachings passing through and Christians have been alert enough to spot the errors. Other times, the Church has not been quite so discerning and the result has been reaping a whirlwind of counterfeit beliefs and practices. Such is the case of gnostic elements in the “word-faith,” “word of faith” (WOF), or “positive confession” movement.
All too often Christians have spoken out against the blatant and excessive abuses of the so-called “name it and claim it” or “health and wealth” gospels of the WOF movement without realizing there are far more serious teachings of the movement which need to be addressed. Why do many Christians fail to spot the real doctrines of the WOF? Perhaps one reason is the camouflaging of Gnostic beliefs with Christian terminology.
The term Gnosticism derives from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” A person designates as “gnostic” is one who exalts knowledge above any spiritual, moral, or intellectual value. Knowledge becomes the tool for controlling life. As a first century heresy, Gnosticism taught that there is “secret knowledge” or “gnosis” and that these esoteric secrets are obtainable only to an elite group of Gnostic priests.
The elite group in the WOF movement claims to receive “revelation knowledge” (apart from the scriptures). They say they are the “Lord’s Anointed” (Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Charles Capps, Frederick Price, Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton, etc.) and impart these revelations to others who sit under their teachings.
Cerinthus, an early Gnostic heretic, tried to merge Christian doctrine regarding Christ with more mystical concepts. He taught a distinction between the man and the “Christ spirit” which descended upon Him at His baptism and later departed at His crucifixion. This information is well documented in Ireneaus’ monumental work, “Against Heresies.” This doctrine is repeated within the WOF teachings as the leaders of the movement claims that Christ died spiritually and thus gave up His divinity and was born again in His resurrection.
Judith Matta documents in her book, ‘The Born Again Jesus of the Word of Faith Teaching,” that many doctrines of the WOF movement were lifted directly from the writings of 19th century Mind Science cults such as Christian Science and New Thought.
How could this early Gnostic teaching get into the modern day WOF movement? D.R. McConnell in his penetrating book, “A Different Gospel” has documented that the real father of the WOF movement is E.W. Kenyon, who died in 1948. McConnell shows that Kenyon was heavily influenced by the Mind Science cults.
In the second chapter of his book, McConnell records this statement from John Kennington, once a follower of E.W. Kenyon, “At one time, I was a blind follower of Kenyon… Now with the passing of a little time and with a little more understanding, I have come to realize that E.W. Kenyon has simply ‘baptized’ many concepts from Christian Science. In so doing, he became a source for a form of ‘Pentecostal Christian Science,’ even though Kenyon himself was not a Pentecostal” (McConnell, “A Different Gospel,” p.15).
Today, Kenneth Hagin is viewed as being the father and founder of WOF. However, McConnell documents that Hagin actually plagiarized Kenyon, getting most of his teaching from Kenyon’s published works.(Ibid., p.6)
Greg Durand of Logos Outreach, another counter-cult ministry, in their publication, Outreach Expositor, ties Gnosticism and WOF together. He says, “Like all forms of Gnostic philosophy, the Faith movement downplays the significance of the physical realm… To those in the WOF man is a spirit, has a soul and lives in a body” (Vol.5, No.2, p.16).
Durand goes on to say, “To those entrenched in the WOF, the real man is supposedly a spirit creature that exists in God’s Class…the body is seen as merely the tabernacle in which the spirit man temporarily resides” (Ibid., p.16).”
The Faith teachers believe that only through the Spirit can one receive direct communication with God, or “Revelation Knowledge” as it is called. On the other hand, the soul or mind of a person, is viewed as bound by “Sense Knowledge,” and therefore completely incapable of understanding spiritual matters. (K. Hagin, “Man on Three Dimensions, “Faith Library, 1991, pp. 5-8).
A dualistic rivalry is created between spirit and matter, wherein logical thought processes, as well as physical senses, are to be rejected in favor of the intuitive impressions of one’s heart or spirit. In Paul Crouch’s words, “The man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument” (Trinity Broadcast Network, 23 October 1992).
Kenneth Hagin states it this way, “One almost has to bypass the brain and operate from the inner man, which is our heart or spirit” (“Right and Wrong Thinking,” Rhema, 1986, p.27). Hagin seems to be unappreciative of the human mind as the gift of God and quite valuable for objective reasoning of truth and error.
The Lord tells us that as Christians we are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2); to think in accordance with who we are positionally in Christ, not to reject them as unreliable sources of information (see I Cor.2:16). In Isa.1:18, God makes an appeal to man’s ability to reason.
In accordance with Scripture, let us with our minds, using the reasoning ability God gives us to discern truth from error empowered by the Holy Spirit, look to see if this “Revelation Knowledge” the WOF leaders say they are receiving is from God and aligns with His truth or not?
First printed in Watchman Expositor Vol. 10, No. 3, 1993.