Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What is Word Faith? Part 2

Brief History of Word Faith

The first thing is that the history of Word-faith has been confused on different levels. I will start here: Word-faith was often attached an extreme end of the Charismatic movement. This was because about half a decade ago, the Charismatics did a bad thing in that they decided to cast off general discernment regarding doctrines. Their intentions were noble in that they were interested in helping people and of course, doctrine can divide. Now, I will argue, as does the Bible, that is a good thing because doctrine is the core of the Christian life. Never-the-less, although they did this, many Charasimatics maintained sound principles, but some extreme groups found acceptance in the non-confrontive movement. This allowed a foothold into the Christian arena and that has lead to where we are now, which I will pick up next week.

But from where did it come?

Although there are a few different thoughts, the very best analysis and history comes from the work of D.R. McConnell. If I was not sure by the time I finished reading his book, I certainly was when I encountered a Word-faith teacher who basically confirmed that the roots of this movement go back to E.W. Kenyon, not from sound people losing some doctrinal integrity as another author suggests.

Kenyon was a man who was involved in many cults. Now, let me say this, I came from a background where I practiced magick. I am certainly no stranger to these types of teachings, but the thing is that when I came to Christ, I cast them all off, I acknowledged them as lies, and sought sound doctrine in the Christian life. Sadly, Kenyon did not do this, instead, he sought to find the ‘good’ in these things and incorporated these into his theology. What were these things?


To fully understand the significance here, you must know that in Kenyon’s time (post WWII) there were a series of healing revivals. These typically fit under three classes: Pentecostal, Wesleyan-Holiness (of which most became Pentecostal), and Metaphysics. The metaphysical end was not connected to Christianity at all (not in any orthodox sense anyway), but was the healing practice of the mind science cults including Christian Science, New Thought, Unity School of Christianity, and Science of the Mind. Indeed, Kenyon participated in some of these (and other) groups, incorporating doctrines into his own writings which he used the Bible to prove his doctrines to the Christians. In fact, as McConnell is detailing the life and ministry of Kenyon, he writes:

One of the mysteries of E.W. Kenyon is how to account for the discrepancies between his theology and his ministry. Early in his ministry, Kenyon moved in Methodist circles and late in his life in Pentecostal, but his theology reflects neither. In fact, his theology contradicts both Methodism and Pentecostalism. Even those who knew of Kenyon’s cultic ties still have trouble categorizing his theology.

Kenyon even enrolled in a college well seeped in metaphysics. If he had done this for a Biblical analysis, it would be a good thing, much like I analyze the teachings of BWW on this site. But he did not do this; he incorporated these teachings into his philosophy.

Metaphycis is basically defined as the control of your person, perticularly healing, by your mind.

New Thought

New thought is the design of Phineas P. Quimby, who was a secular hypnotist initially, though he later created a quasi-religious method of healing. Since the New Thought was never formally incorporated into any system itself, it became adopted as the core of many of the mind science cults including Unity School of Christianity, Divine Science, the Church of Religious Science, and more. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science also studied under Quimby.

Curious and very significant for those that are involved in a motivational organizaton like BWW, and even for those who used to be involved but have not realized it, New Thought is the basis of most self-help and motivational books such as Magic of Thinking Big, How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Power of Positive Thinking, Think and Grow Rich, among almost all of the others.

Now for a definition, New Thought is a broad world-view of which followers (whether intentional or unknowing) will pick and choose their particulars: The mind is the primary cause of all effects on our lives, God is an indwelling spirit and pantheistic (that is God is found in everything as opposed to being a creator of everything), evil is the absence of good, not a present reality, man is divine (or at least able to control his whole person), sin and disease are caused by improper thinking. It basically is a reinstatement of ancient Gnostic beliefs where people believed in higher levels of people which had a greater revelation of truth. These people could teach the ways for others to receive this exulting gift and thus could achieve themselves.

How did that get in?

Kenyon was undeniably interested in growing the church, but indication would be that, much like today, he was trying way too hard. Kenyon was discouraged that many of these cults were growing at unprecedented rates while the church floundered. In an attempt to explain why, he came to the conclusion that the church was dry and the doctrine started to be ‘boring’. Now, I need to say that although Kenyon had close ties and intimate knowledge of the cults, he did disagree with a lot of their practices, however, he was the same toward Christianity as marked by his constant association with many denominations from Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and eventually, he created his own system. He created his own theology by a principle known as Syncretism, which is the blending of contradictory religious systems into one system. Kenyon’s writings are full of cultic beliefs mixed with Biblical references often taken out of context to prove why the cultic teaching is correct. I would like to add that this syncretism is much more deadly than outright lies because it is harder to spot and determine it is dangerous. Look at it this way: Is it easier to spot a poison in a labeled bottle under the sink or a bowl of candy laced with that same poison? You might even have to be an expert to find the poison in the candy, though it is still deadly. Although Kenyon started with good intentions, he probably did far more harm to the world than all those cults combined.

Connecting the Story

Now that we discussed Kenyon, let us see where he fits in to the modern Word-faith movement. We need to jump ahead a few years to Kenneth Hagin. Now, Hagin is known as the ‘father’ of the Word-faith movement. Although he claims to have made many trips to heaven and hell as well as having face to face conversations with Jesus Himself, the majority of these divine revelations are actually direct plagiarisms from Kenyon, whose writings were not very well popularized in Hagin’s time. It is from these writings, cultic beliefs in all, that the movement has been refined. You see, if I give you a book full of twisted Bible verses and false interpretations, but you are so new to the scripture that you don’t know any better, you might start to believe that is what those verses really mean.

Do you remember that verse I shared last week (2 Timothy 4:1-4)? There is another factor that fits in here. It is not just the false teachings and that Hagin did not know (or chose not to know) any better, but also that we are still sinful and we will have a tendency to try to justify with our mind what the heart wants to do. What better way of doing this than to find a book full of feel good things that exult you all the while being full of Bible references?

And so on

Once Hagin started to get real successful, his work became the basis for more teachers than can be counted. He has influenced so many people who preached about health, money, success, personal fulfillment, and all sorts of other doctrines that people like to hear.

That is a very, very brief summary of how all this occurred. If you would like more information, please consult D.R. McConnell’s book “A Different Gospel”. I would also like to point out that there is another book called, “The Health and Wealth Gospel” by Bruce Barron, but it is not very well detailed, analyzed, nor does it take a discerning approach. I have read both of these books as well as many others, talked to many people, and am very familiar with the teachings of these groups. I can attest that McConnell has the much more thoroughly researched book.


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