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Word of Faith (also known as Word-Faith or simply Faith) is a family of teachings in some Christian churches as well as a label applied by some observers to a teaching movement kindred to many Pentecostal and charismatic churches and individuals worldwide. The basic doctrine preached is that of salvation through Jesus Christ and what that salvation entails. It is based on Jesus’ teachings concerning the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven and the state humans can receive through the atonement and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. These teachers state that this state of new being or creation (found in the biblical passages 2 Corinthians 5:17[bible 1] and Galatians 6:15[bible 2]) can be received only through faith in the Word of God.
The Word of Faith movement has many distinctive features. It shares teachings with prosperity theology, but they are not the same thing. Additionally, many beliefs that the movement holds as essential are often criticised by some Christians as diverging from Christian orthodoxy. Christian author Robert M. Bowman, Jr. states that the word of faith movement is "neither soundly orthodox nor thoroughly heretical". The movement emphasizes speaking, stating, or confessing verses found in the Bible, called the Word of God. The belief is that if one believes the Word of God and confesses it then the believer shall receive what they confess. This act of believing and speaking is said to be described by Jesus in Mark 11:22-23[bible 3]. The term word of faith itself is derived from the biblical passage Romans 10:8[bible 4] which speaks of "the word of faith that we preach."
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The concept of a blood covenant is relevant to the Word of Faith movement. A blood covenant is a contract that binds two parties together as one "blood", or family, and pledges them to the mutual interest and prosperity of one another. This kind of covenant would be symbolized by a "covenant cut" and the spilling of blood, for example with circumcision in Genesis 17:10[bible 5]. In Genesis 17[bible 6], a covenant is established by God with Abram and his descendants, the future Israel. God pledges himself to the well-being of Israel including protection from violence, sickness, poverty (which meant overall financial prosperity), etc. In return Israel was expected to "fully obey" and pledge itself to the interests and service of God; for example, in blessing the nations in Genesis 12:3[bible 7]. The movement considers that Christians are heirs to that covenant by identification with Abraham's descendants through Jesus Christ in Galatians 3:29[bible 8].
The Word of Faith teaches that complete healing (of spirit, soul, and body) is included in Christ's atonement and therefore is available here and now to all who believe. Frequently cited is Isaiah 53:5[bible 9], "by his stripes we are healed", and Matthew 8:17[bible 10], which says that Jesus healed the sick so that "it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet, 'Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses'."
Because Isaiah speaks in the present tense ("we are healed"), Word of Faith teaches that believers should accept the reality of a healing that is already theirs. Accepting this healing is done by confessing the verse or verses found in the Bible declaring they are healed (i.e. Word of Faith) and then believing them fully without doubt. It is not an act of denying the pain, sickness, or disease, but an act of denying its right to supersede the receiving the gift mentioned in Isaiah 53:5. According to adherents, sickness is an attempt by Satan to rob believers of their divine right to total health.
Word of Faith teaching holds that God wants his people to be financially prosperous, as well as have good health, good marriages and relationships, and to live generally prosperous lives. Word of Faith teaches that God empowers his people (blesses them) to achieve the promises that are contained in the Bible. Because of this, suffering does not come from God, but rather, from Satan. As Kenneth Copeland's ministry has stated, the idea that God uses suffering for our benefit is considered to be "a deception of Satan" and "absolutely against the Word of God."  Additionally, if someone is not experiencing prosperity, it is because they have given Satan authority over their lives. God will not do anything at all unless the person invites him to.
It is argued that Jesus and the apostles were financially wealthy, owning homes, having monetary resources and businesses. The following arguments have been offered for this claim:
This is contrary to the traditional view of Jesus, who is often viewed as being a poor, wandering teacher. Based on the concept that Jesus and his apostles were arguably wealthy, as well as the historical examples of his people having great wealth, and the promises for financial prosperity throughout the Old and New Testaments, Word of Faith proponents teach that modern believers also have access to the "blessing" and may also become financially wealthy. Teachers like Kenneth Copeland assert the Prosperity Gospel is validated by the teachings of the Apostle John: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (3 John 2[bible 11]). Copeland posits that “as the seeds of prosperity are planted in your heart, in your will and in your emotions...they eventually produce a great financial harvest."
Within Word of Faith teaching, a central element of receiving from God involves "confession". This doctrine is often referred to as "positive confession" or "faith confession" by practitioners. While similar, the teaching should not be confused with Norman Vincent Peale's positive thinking theology. Peale's teaching was marked by its focus on the individual, as evidenced by his oft-spoken statement, "Faith in God and believe in oneself". Noted Word of Faith teachers, such as Kenneth E. Hagin and Charles Capps, have argued that God created the universe simply by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1[bible 12]), and that humans have been endowed with the ability (power) to speak things into existence. Thus, making a "positive confession" (by reciting a promise of scripture, for example), and believing that which God says, generates power which enables those things to come into fruition. This teaching is interpreted from Mark 11:22-23[bible 13]. Word of Faith preachers have likened faith to a "force".
Likewise, according to Word of Faith teaching, "negative confession" can yield negative results, and hence believers should be conscious of their words. This is argued on the interpretation of Proverbs 18:21[bible 14], "Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and they that love them will eat the fruit thereof", also Numbers 14:28[bible 15], "...saith the Lord, as you have spoken in my ears, so will I do", among other scriptures.
One popular critic and opponent of The Word of Faith, D.R. McConnell of Oral Roberts University, has charged in a thesis entitled Kenyon Connection, that Kenyon adopted the teachings of New Thought and relabeled them. Thus, the Word of Faith movement, in McConnell’s view, constitutes a "Trojan Horse". This argument was the primary conclusion reached by McConnell’s master’s thesis published as a book, A Different Gospel.
Similar criticisms were made by William DeArteaga and Robert Bowman. Formerly of the Christian Research Institute, DeArteaga concedes some new thought influence in Kenyon's teaching, but he argues that Kenyon's views helped the church rediscover some biblical truths. The primary work in defense of this theory is DeArteaga's Quenching The Spirit. Arguing similarly but in an opposite direction is Bowman, whose Word-Faith Controversy is more sympathetic to Kenyon's historical background yet more critical of his doctrine than DeArteaga.
Baptist evangelist Justin Peters, an outspoken critic of the Word of Faith movement who wrote his Master of Divinity thesis on Benny Hinn and has appeared frequently as an expert on Word of Faith pastors in documentaries and TV news stories, traces the movement's origins to the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Phineus Quimby's New Thought Movement, Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science) in his seminar "A Call for Discernment". In contrast, Pastor Joe McIntyre, now head of Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society in Washington State, argues that the primary influences of Kenyon were A.B. Simpson and A.J. Gordon of the Faith Cure branch of the Evangelical Movement. McIntyre’s version is told in the authorized biography, E.W. Kenyon: The True Story.
One of the earliest critics of the teaching was Oral Roberts University professor Charles Farah, who published From the Pinnacle of the Temple in 1979. In the book, Farah expressed his disillusionment with the teachings, which he argued were more about presumption than faith.
That same year, Pentecostal scholar Gordon Fee wrote a series of articles denouncing both the health and the wealth gospels. In 1982, one of Farah's students, Daniel Ray McConnell, submitted a thesis to the faculty at Oral Roberts University arguing that Kenyon was the father of the teaching, that Hagin had plagiarized his doctrines from Kenyon, and that the unique doctrines of the Word of Faith were heretical. McConnell's thesis was published as the book A Different Gospel in 1988.
One of McConnell's classmates, Dale H. Simmons, published his own research in earning a doctorate at Drew University. Simmons argued that Kenyon was influenced by heterodox metaphysical movements and the Faith Cure movement of the nineteenth century. In 1990, The Agony of Deceit was published as a conglomeration of critiques of Word of Faith doctrines. One of the authors, Christian Research Institute founder Walter Martin, issued his personal judgment that Kenneth Copeland was a false prophet and that the movement as a whole was heretical.
In 1993, Hank Hanegraaff's Christianity in Crisis charged the Word of Faith movement with heresy and accused many of its churches of being "cults." He accused the Word of Faith teachers of "demoting" God and Jesus, and "deifying" man and Satan. Hanegraaff is derided within the Word of Faith community as a present-day "Christian Witch Hunter." Hanegraaff has focused a significant portion of his anti-heresy teaching since the 1990s on addressing and refuting Word of Faith teachings.
Other critics, such as Norman Geisler, Dave Hunt and Roger Oakland, have denounced Word of Faith theology as aberrant and contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Critics have also condemned the teachings on wealth, arguing that the Bible condemns the pursuit of riches.
The "health and wealth" teachings had been heavily criticized, with opponents arguing that Word of Faith teachers[who?] tend not to stress some scriptures warning against emphasis on material prosperity and telling of the importance of helping the poor.
John Piper points out that Christ warned the apostles that they would suffer great persecution for the sake of his name (except John, all eleven, after Judas Iscariot, suffered martyrs' deaths). In a January 2006 sermon entitled "How our Suffering Advances the Gospel," Piper stated bluntly that "the prosperity gospel will not make anybody praise Jesus; it will make people praise prosperity."
Many Word of Faith teachers have sought to emphasize the full meaning of the believer's status as a child of God (through Christ) by using phrases such as "little gods" to describe them, a practice that has garnered some criticism from some other segments of the Christian community. Kenneth Hagin wrote that God "made us in the same class of being that he is himself," and that the believer is "called Christ" because "that's who we are, we're Christ!" According to Hagin, by being "born again", the believer becomes "as much an incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth". Hagin like Kenyon reasons that that humans are made in God’s image. Since God is spirit, then humans must essentially be spirit as well and ‘in God’s class’, and thereby ‘gods’. Kenneth Copeland says Adam was "not a little like God ... not almost like God ...", and has told believers that "You don't have a God in you. You are one." Based primarily on the Psalms 82:6[bible 16], which says "I have said, Ye are gods and all of you, children of the Most High," this was also corroborated by Jesus making reference to this scripture in John 10:34[bible 17]. A common theme in Word of Faith preaching is that God created man as "an exact duplication of God's kind." (Hebrews 1:3[bible 18], John 14:12[bible 19], etc.) In all of this, there is no argument of man's ability to exist and operate independently of God, but rather, the emphasis is on what the believer can become in God.
Suffer the Children, a documentary highlighting some of the teachings of the Word of Faith movement, has a video clip of Creflo Dollar teaching the "little gods" doctrine to his congregation based on the notion that "everything reproduces after its own kind":
Dollar: "If horses get together, they produce what?"
Dollar: "If dogs get together, they produce what?"
Dollar: "If cats get together, they produce what?"
Dollar: "So if the Godhead says 'Let us make man in our image', and everything produces after its own kind, then they produce what?"
Dollar: "Gods. Little "g" gods. You're not human. Only human part of you is this flesh you're wearing."
The promulgation of this teaching is one of the most contentious doctrines to its critics, who consider it heresy. Mormon scholar Stephen E. Robinson, whose religion teaches that man can become gods after eons of exaltation, has declared the "little gods" teaching heretical as well. Conversely, Christianity regards this Mormon teaching as heretical also, and entirely unsupported by the Bible. Many Evangelical critics have asserted that the teaching is, in fact, cultic; Hank Hanegraaff, for example, contends the 'little gods' doctrine is on a par with the teaching of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Jim Jones. Justin Peters, whose first encounter with Word of Faith doctrine came at the age of 16 when a faith healer "slayed [him] in the spirit" in an attempt to cure his cerebral palsy, states in A Call for Discernment that the reason the Word of Faith movement holds so tenaciously to "health and wealth" tenets is because of the "little gods" teaching: "A god should never be sick, and a god should never be poor." In response, Word of Faith defenders have claimed the teaching is simply underscoring the biblical view of the believer's "true identity in Christ".
Critics, such as Christian apologist and CARM founder Matt Slick and Bible critique author W. Gary Phillips, believe referencing scriptures Psalms 82:6 and John 10:34, where it is said that men are gods, is using these Scriptures out of context. The biblical application of these verses is addressed to the Judges of Israel where they were called gods, not because they were divine, but because they represented the true and only God when they judged the people. The Hebrew and Greek words used in both Scriptures for "gods" can also be applied to magistrates and used to describe someone as "mighty".
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Often referred to as JDS, there is a teaching that to atone for sins, Jesus had to die both physically and spiritually. As an outcome of his ‘dying spiritually’, the Word of Faith movement argues Jesus thus needed to be born again, as any other sinner, and that although Jesus himself was never a sinner, Jesus was forsaken by God just as if he had committed every sin in human history.
E.W. Kenyon, a founder of the doctrine that later became known as Word of Faith, was the first to explicitly articulate the doctrine in a number of his works, including What Happened From The Cross To the Throne and Identification: A Romance In Redemption. This doctrine was later supposedly taken up by Hagin, Copeland and many of their followers. The doctrine asserts that Jesus’ bodily sacrifice was but the beginning of atonement, which continued with Jesus’ suffering in Hell. Copeland claimed that Jesus took on humanity’s "satanic nature" and was "born again" in Hell. Hagin's teaching was featured in his book The Name of Jesus (1978 edition), yet in a 1991 letter to the Christian Research Institute, Hagin's son Kenneth Hagin Jr. denied this interpretation and claimed Hagin senior had never taught the notion of a born again Jesus or the adoption of Satan's nature. D.R. McConnell has labeled the teaching heresy, believing it compromises the teaching that Jesus' blood atoned for sin.