16 January 2012

Word-of-Faith Doctrine: A False Religion Full of Greed and Discontent

by Phil Johnson

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have" (Hebrews 13:5).

I wrote the following article at Jovan Mackenzy's request for his album, "Famine."

n 1 Timothy 6:6-11, the apostle Paul writes:
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
    But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

Paul's own testimony gives us a vivid picture of true faithfulness and blessedness: "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need" (Philippians 4:11-12).

Clearly, contentment is a great virtue, especially in times of suffering and poverty. In fact, this is the consistent teaching of Scripture from beginning to end: God's blessing is not measurable by a person's material prosperity. True biblical prosperity is about spiritual health, joy in the Lord, rewards in heaven, and grace in the midst of earthly sufferings. True prosperity has nothing whatsoever to do with material wealth or an abundance of worldly riches. In fact, those things are often hindrances to spiritual blessings.

The wicked often prosper materially, while truly godly people suffer. "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12-13). Christ himself suffered, "leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps" (1 Peter 2:21).

All of that flatly contradicts the message of the Prosperity Gospel—the so-called "Word of Faith" movement. Word-of-Faith teachers insist that worldly wealth, physical health, and material prosperity are the ultimate gauge of how blessed you are by God.

Furthermore, they say, you yourself are the one who ultimately determines how much or how little of God's blessings you enjoy. You can manipulate God with your words. You have it within the power of your own heart to summon enough faith to claim whatever blessing you want. And if you are not materially prosperous; if you are sick; if you suffer in any way, you are the one to blame because you didn't have enough "faith" in your own ability to create a new reality by making a positive confession. You didn't claim your own dream by faith.

That is a lie from the pit of hell. In John MacArthur's words, the prosperity gospel "is no different from the lowest human religions—a form of voodoo where God can be coerced, cajoled, manipulated, controlled, and exploited for the Christian's own ends." It is rooted in greed. It glorifies the sinner at the expense of Christ. It fosters unbelief and spiritual defeat rather than genuine trust in God and triumph in Christ. It makes faith into a formula for manipulating God, rather than a humble, repentant trust in him.

In fact, Word-of-Faith doctrine flatly contradicts everything Scripture says about faith and the promises of God; about suffering and prosperity; about contentment and covetousness; about the work of Christ and the depravity of fallen humanity. It is the religion of mammon-worship; it is not the way of the cross. In short, it is a false gospel—meaning it is no gospel at all. It is a damning and damnable lie, and those who follow such a false and materialistic religion are on the broad road that leads to destruction.

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Adam Rodriguez said...

Thanks for posting this. The prosperity gospel bothers me very much, especially how prosperity preachers focus so much on things like money. They miss the point entirely! Or they just don't want to see the real point. Either way it's not good.

So thank you for being a light of truth in a sea of lies. Blessings!

Bill (cycleguy) said...

Concise. To the point. And dead on. Thanks Phil for the clarity.

Robert said...

One can only imagine how much God hates these people taking His holy name in vain for the purposes of greed. Of course, He hates my sin, too, but that shouldn't stop us from pointing out how heretical this whole name it and claim it mess is.

I guess that in Jesus' parable about the rich man and the beggar Lazarus, the rich man had faith, but Lazarus didn't? I mean, how do the people in this movement actually read parts of the Bible like this and make any sense out of what they claim to believe?

Nash Equilibrium said...

It's amazing (sickeningly) how pervasive this thinking is, even when it's not overtly taught. The idea that pervades a number of suburban churches is that Christians are always doctors and lawyers or wealthy businesspeople, or expected to be on the road to that. I guess it comes out of Dominion Theology (when I've encountered it, at least) but as you say, no matter where it comes from it is a damnable lie. Thanks Phil for another great essay.

donsands said...

Excellent word. I was watching Paula White last night for a few moments. She does use the Bible, and has an appearance of goodness.
These phony baloney preachers are very deceptive.

"True prosperity has nothing whatsoever to do with material wealth or an abundance of worldly riches. In fact, those things are often hindrances to spiritual blessings."-Phil J.

I shall put this thought in my mind. And I shall keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, and His wounds for me. What greater treasure can there be, then to have Jesus Christ's love. To know Him as my Savior, and to serve Him as my Lord, and to be able to cast all my cares upon Him as my Friend.

Thanks again for the good word of truth to begin my day:- the Day our Lord has made:- A day I shall rejoice in, and pray much, and be thankful. Lord bless the TeamPyro bros!

Anonymous said...

"...those who follow such a false and materialistic religion are on the broad road that leads to destruction."

And, what of those who teach it?

Mark Lussier said...

I was introduced to Word Faith back in the late 70's as a result of the infulence of the Charismatic Renewal. After that, I attended the two year indoctrination at Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, then moved to Massachusetts to bring their message to New England. The Lord had other plans for me, however, because he set me free from that delusion.

Mark B. Hanson said...

The prosperity gospel, for all its "spiritual" claims, is nothing else than a baptized form of worldliness. If there is no blessing in this world, there is no blessing.

I wonder, do they deal with the book of Job by skipping everything but the last chapter, where Job gets double? Interesting that Job's "word of faith" was shutting his mouth...

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I think the greatest example that really puts the nail in the coffin of this offensive theology is found in Hebrews.

"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward (Heb 11:24-26)."

Moses had the keys to the coffers of Egypt (essentially), and could have lived a very rich life,full of pleasures and ease, but chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God. These verses TOTALLY refute the Health, Wealth and Prosperity gospel. Moses' thoughts transcended this world and all its temporal blessings and benefits because he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Good observation, Mark B. Hanson.

Raine said...

I've wondered how people in the word of faith movement can possibly call any evangelical mean or unloving. As you said, word-of-faith doctrine promises you goods and when you fail to attain to them they pin the problem on you, and defile your conscience for not believing a promise God never made. But the real problem lies in the fact that the God of word-of-faith religion is no God at all.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

We had a good discussion over at The Cripplegate about this, Jan 11th, 2011.

This is my response to Jesse.

Hi Jesse,

Sign seekers generally want Jesus only for His benefits/gifts. Which is not surprising, since this need or greed has spawned and given definition to the health, wealth and prosperity crowd. If you have a chance to debate Pentecostals, or someone in the Word of Faith movement, you can quickly sum up their motives/psychology behind their profession of faith. All of their hopes and desires are focused on their needs and wants being met here and now. Getting their immediate needs met here and now, was/is no different from what the unbelieving Jews hoped Jesus would do for them.

The theology behind sign seekers is they want something tangible in their hands. They want to see, touch, and feel things that can affirm Christ’s existence. They do not live by faith but by sight. I used this quote in one of Mike Riccardi’s articles a while back, and I also used it in my debate with a few Pentecostals. This quote is from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: “A Bird in the hand is worth two in the Bush, is of more Authority with them, then are all testimonies of the good of the world to come.”
[1678 Bunyan Pilgrim's Progress I. 42]

Sign seekers want a bird in the hand, something tangible, and this is of MORE authority with them then are all the testimonies of the good of the world to come. Here and now is their heaven. Their colossal failure is that they fail to see the risen/transcendent Christ, and can only envision a bird in the hand. They do not set their minds on the things above (Col 3:2).

Now, John Piper, being a Charismatic, has a great understanding of Christ’s purpose. In his book Future Grace, page 392, “We must seek our joy in God Himself and not in the health, wealth and prosperity He gives us.” So there is diversity of thought among Charismatics.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Sorry, Jan 7th, 2011.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Mark Lussier: "I was introduced to Word Faith back in the late 70's as a result of the infulence of the Charismatic Renewal. After that, I attended the two year indoctrination at Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, then moved to Massachusetts to bring their message to New England. The Lord had other plans for me, however, because he set me free from that delusion."

If you could answer several questions, it would be very helpful:

(1) How did God deliver you from that delusion?

(2) Have you ever tried to use the same way that you were delivered out of the Word-Faith movement for other Word-Faith adherents? If so, how did it go?

John Dunn said...

There is nothing related to true Gospel grace in this diabolical movement which masquerades as the Faith of Christ. At its core, it is a works-based religion - another gospel.

Any "blessing" which is promised is offered through strict if-then conditions based on human obedience to the rules of the game. If you do X,then you get Y. If you don't do X, then you don't get Y. (see Deut. 28 for the same formula) It is nothing more than a twisted version of Law Covenant with a materialistic spin.

Mike Landsman said...

I grew up in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in the early 80’s in the heyday of this movement. My dad worked for one of the main churches there and as a result this sort of ideology was inculcated in me from an early age. When I was a teenager I began to sense that there was a lot wrong with the teachings but I could not quite identify what. As I got older I began to see a disconnect between what was being taught and how life was actually playing out, which made me question what I was raised to believe. Gradually God drew me away from the movement and led me to embrace the doctrines of grace. As a result I have a personal interest in the history of the movement and the underlying theology of the movement. I am always saddened by the ironies inherent in Word of Faith, especially because they insist so heavily on the truthfulness and trustworthiness of God’s word and that God’s word is the final authority while at the same time relying on proof texting (sometimes in ignorance due to lack of proper instruction) to support their ideology

Nash Equilibrium said...

"As I got older I began to see a disconnect between what was being taught and how life was actually playing out, which made me question what I was raised to believe."

That's usually the first tip-off to a lot of people that this teaching is a bunch of baloney!

Solameanie said...

It's always interested me that the Assemblies of God (mainstream Pentecostal) officially rejected the so-called "Latter Rain" movement back in the 1940s, including Kenyon etc. - as being heretical.

W. Ian Hall said...

Thanks Phil for giving the rest us a lesson in how to concisely write concerning false soul destroying doctrine.

It is refreshing to read an evangelical commentator who doesn't feel the need to 'nuance' or 'balance' his comments when speaking of rank apostates.

Mark Lussier said...

The interesting thing about my experience with Word Faith is everything 'worked fine' for me until I left their support system. In retrospect, I concluded that I had a vicarious experience of this heretical belief system that came from the real and or imagined testimonies of it's leaders, such as Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland, as well as my own pastor in Tulsa, Ken Stewart. When I moved away, there was no support, and I soon realized - especially after reading the Seduction of Christianity and Christianity in Crisis, I had been duped! I was devastated, disillusioned, discouaged, and angry - not in a good place. I don't think my experience is unique either.

Mark Lussier said...

(1) How did God deliver you from that delusion?

I reached the place where my self-righteousness gave way to the realization of my own depravity. When I turned back to God after 7 years of sowing to my flesh, The Lord welcomed me back, and showed me a new, biblical perspective on salvation. I now know that His grace is Amazing!

(2) Have you ever tried to use the same way that you were delivered out of the Word-Faith movement for other Word-Faith adherents? If so, how did it go? Everytime I get a hint of Word Faith theology in anyone I meet, I share the doctines of grace with gentlenes and compassion. It's quite a lengthy process that takes years to undo the twisted way in which it's advocates view the scriptures.

Sean Scott said...

Justin Peters is doing a seminar in Tulsa in July about this along with Paul Washer and Living waters Eddie Roman, http://gfbchurch.com/resources/acalltodiscernmentfb/

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Mark Lussier: 'Everytime I get a hint of Word Faith theology in anyone I meet, I share the doctines of grace with gentlenes and compassion."

Mark et al,

Suppose someone you know subscribes to Word-Faith theology and practice, and you print out a copy of this post (or send them an e-mail link to this post), do you think this post has the gentleness and compassion to help steer them free from Word-Faith doctrine?

From your experience, would Word-Faith folks be open to critiques such as the one in this post?

Drew Rankin said...

Thanks, Phil. One wonders how adherents to this teaching fare when prosperity is lost.

Having lost my job, selling my stuff, and liquidating my savings to survive several years ago, Benny Hinn was not the best teacher to listen to. I simply can not imagine being "brought low" in abject poverty or near starvation. People caught in the prosperity trap may not fare well in the Great Turning Away that Paul speaks of with the Thessolonians.

rom623rom828 said...

As a regular attender of MacDonalds Harvest Bible Chapel, I hear bits and pieces of Word of Faith stuff from time to time there.

I have to agree, for example with the "Do Not Be Surprised" blogger who said

"MacDonald used Malachi 3, the quintessential text for Seeker-Driven, Word-Faith-lite preachers to guilt their flock into filling the offering plate. Using this text, MacDonald taught that church members needed to tithe and give generously in order to break any curses they were currently experiencing. Friends, this is a misuse of the biblical text."

See http://revelation22-20.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-01-10T22:39:00-06:00&max-results=10

Charlene said...

Thanks for this Phil. I was raised on Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Pat Robertson, Ken Copeland/Hagin, John Osteen, and lots of other WOFers. When I was about 12yo my mom even drove me a long way to a Copeland show where Gloria Copeland laid hands on me for healing. Ugh! Even though it didn't "work" for me, the idea that it could work if I had enough faith and claimed the right scriptures kept me going with it into adulthood. When things were bad for me I blamed God--it never occurred to me to blame the WOF theology. I was angry with God (secretly) b/c He saw how hard I was trying and wouldn't cut me any slack. He was mean to withhold the things He promised just b/c I couldn't find the right hoop to jump through. Still, I vehemently rejected any mention of the truth and was stormy and angry with anyone who would try to take away my WOF idols. No one could get through to me. Until one day I was self-righteously reading a book and feeling overwhelmed at all the book said I needed to "do". It was a solid book but I was reading it self-righteously. The more I read, the more overwhelmed I was at what I "had to do". But this time, instead of getting angry at God and putting the book away, I for some reason cried out, "God help me, I can't do this!" and at that moment my eyes were opened. I wept for about half an hour simply b/c I saw God as He really is and realized that He was no One to shake my fist at and that He had been good to me my whole life. I was crushed with the truth and I've never been the same since. What is impossible with men, is possible with God! If He can save me, He can save anyone who is bound by this terrible teaching.

St Badger said...

You guys are spot on! They talk like following Jesus is like a gravy train to a new car. Unfortunately thanks to satellite this is the only Gospel that the world is being exposed to, sad-times.


DJP said...

Charlene, thanks for that word.

donsands said...

"What is impossible with men, is possible with God!"

Amen sister.

I pray for our Lord to help me, to bless my business, which is hurting in this economy right now. I rpay, and know He can prosper me. God has prospered me in the past.
And as I pray in faith, and in knowledge, that God loves me, and He cares about all my cares, I am convinced He knows best, not me.
So my bottom line resolve after I pour out my heart is: "Your will be done Lord. Not mine."
I say this from my heart, and mean it as much as I can by His grace.

May we have a blessed day in Christ, who is always with us, and in us, and He is life, joy, and peace.

Robert said...

Yes, thank you, Charlene, because your words offer encouragement to those of us around people caught up in this...and also help to humble us and remind us that we all came from some sort of false belief system from which God saved us.

Stefan Ewing said...


That is an amazing testimony! It's so humbling to be brought through crises like that to the foot of the Cross, and come face to face with the living God.

Andrea said...

Shucks, Mr. Johnson,

Stop beating around the bush and tell us what you *really* think!

Spot on, as usual, thanks be to God.

Elaine Bittencourt said...

I had someone tell me, a couple of years ago, that "grace upon grace" meant victory over satan with the gain of material things (health and wealth), through the confession of those material things into our lives. You know, our words have power. Even to create I guess. I heard of "Christians" who curse other people too.

This kind of doctrine is what makes the most of evangelicalism in Brazil, btw. I cringe everytime I hear someone say that the Gospel is exploding in Brazil. I agree with that, but not in the sense they mean it.

SavedbyGrace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SavedbyGrace said...

Well written. I love the way you got it spot on. No frills, just the truth.
One thing that bothers me though. You say "That is a lie from the pit of hell" Now, we know that the Bible tells us (In the words of Jesus himself) in John 8:44 "Ye are of your father the devil, ...... for he is a liar, and the father of it." Are you saying then that satan is the ruler of hell? If so, where do you get that? (Interesting that that is an expression used a lot by Joyce Meyers, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.)
Now before anyone goes on the atack, the last bit was just an observation, nothing more. The point is, I disagree totally with the statement about where the lie comes from.

DavPro Publishing said...

I can only thank God for leading me to this post which is an answer to my prayers. I'm engaged in an intense debate with a Word of Faith convert (Deanna) on my web blog, and I need help in countering her arguments. Any replies to her comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance ...