The "Word-Faith" movement(also called "Health-Wealth") is very popular in America today. There are many "Word-Faith" churches and there is even a "Word-Faith" television network. For many who may know very little about Christianity their only exposure to the Bible and to Christianity is by "Word-Faith" teachers and preachers.
As a former Protestant (and I was even an adherent of the "Word-Faith" teaching for a short time) I view the "Word-Faith" teachings and doctrines as merely a side-effect of the Protestant foundation of Sola Scriptura (scripture only). If the only authoritative guide for our interpretations of the Bible is our own opinion we can develop and defend almost any doctrinal system.
The "Word-Faith" teaching claims to be based on sound Biblical interpretation but there are Biblical passages which highlight the problems.
The main problems with the "Word-Faith" teaching:
In this article I briefly discuss the problems using a few passages from the Bible.
When I first became a Christian I joined a "Word-Faith" church. What attracted me to it:
Within a year I quit the "Word-Faith" movement altogether. I was disillusioned with its claims which I now consider to be false. These false doctrines of the "Word-Faith" teaching are:
When I was attending a "Word-Faith" church I diligently attempted to follow the teachings of the "Word-Faith" movement.
At one point I got stirred-up into believing that I could have perfect vision and would no longer need to wear glasses if I could only have strong enough faith. After one sermon I realized that by wearing glasses I was demonstrating the weakness of my faith in the miraculous healing of my own eyesight. In order to have faith I had to act as if the thing I was "believing in" was already a reality. I drove home that night without my glasses. Yes, the "Word-Faith" teaching encourages people to do stupid and unwise things.
After a while the charismatic sessions with people being "slain in the spirit" stopped having any meaning for me. I couldn't muster up the necessary energy and excitement (so they didn't want me to sit in the front row anymore where my lack of enthusiasm could be seen by others and would dampen their spirits). I started to doubt whether the tangible spirit which was present in the meetings was the Holy Spirit or something else.
I looked on as people were wheeled in on wheelchairs desperate for healing. Then they were wheeled back out after not receiving their healing. I had to wonder whether they really had weak faith or whether the "Word-Faith" teaching was somehow flawed. And I felt sorry for the people who were wheeled away unhealed. They were looking for any hope in the "Word-Faith" teaching and they were disappointed.
I started noticing that people were hiding their weaknesses so that others would not think that their faith was weak. There was incredible social pressure for people to pretend that they were wealthy, prosperous, and healthy.
I became frustrated that the "power of faith" didn't work for me. I kept trying to tap into this "faith" power so I could affect the world and change my life. I don't even know why I wanted to change things so badly since I was pretty content with my circumstances in life. But the constant pressure to use our faith to do something made me always want to do some amazing miraculous thing.
What finally got to me was when I would listen to the preacher quote a passage from the Bible and explain what it means. When I started noticing that the scripture passages were actually saying the opposite of what the preacher said they said, I knew it was time to find a new church.
I noticed in the "Word-Faith" meeting that there was an emphasis on showmanship. I find this to be very different than the ideal to live a simple, meditative, and devotional life of prayer to God and to act in service and charity to others.
In the "Word-Faith" teaching there is a focus on materialism. I prefer to focus on meditation and devotions, and on becoming a person who pleases Jesus.
A few questions:
In charismatic church services it is often easy to sense a presence; a spirit of some sort. But what is this spirit? Is it the Holy Spirit?
In charismatic church services it is assumed that the tangible spiritual energy which can be felt is the Holy Spirit. I began to question whether it really was the Holy Spirit or whether it was something else. At first the only other alternative I could think of was that it was Satan's spirit. But one day it occurred to me that it could be man's spirit.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11)
Notice that the spirit of man and the Spirit of God are two separate things.
For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. (1 Corinthians 14:14)
Notice that man's spirit operates beyond his understanding.
The "Word-Faith" teaching claims that it is God's will and promise that believers are materially prosperous. But the Bible says otherwise.
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? (James 2:5,6)
The following verse is used by the "Word-Faith" teachers to support their view of material prosperity:
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
Notice that in this verse the prosperity and success is not a result of a person's faith but rather on:
Their prosperity and success has nothing to do with their faith but rather on their life of obedience to God's law and their devotional life.
The "Word-Faith" teachers teach that faith is a force which believers can tap into. Once we have the power of faith at our disposal we can perform any miracle.
In another article I analyze the uses of the word faith in the New Testament. There is not one passage which says that faith is a force (read it).
The "Word-Faith" teachers would have us to believe that we should be free from suffering. But the Bible says otherwise:
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. (Philippians 1:29)
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:17,18)
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26)
The "Word-Faith" teachers explain the source of Job's troubles as his own lack of faith. But in the book of Job, God had a different opinion of Job:
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. (Job 1:1)
And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? (Job 1:8)
And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. (Job 42:7)
In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. (Job 1:22)
The "Word-Faith" teachers typically explain that the reason that Job's troubles came upon him is because he was fearing that this would happen:
For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. (Job 3:25)
But God doesn't agree with that assessment since He considered Job to be perfect and upright (1:1,8).
I once heard Benny Hinn mockingly say the phrase "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away" and then strongly assure us that "that's not Bible!" But actually it is Bible and Benny was mistaken:
And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:21)
You don't have to listen too long to "Word-Faith" teachers to hear them twist the obvious meaning of Bible verses. I began noticing this and found it to be troubling. It is one of the reasons I abandoned the "Word-Faith" teaching.
The book of Deuteronomy refers to blessings and cursings:
And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. (Deuteronomy 28:2)
But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. (Deuteronomy 28:15)
But these blessings depend on whether the people obey the commandments and not on whether or not they tapped into the force of faith.
And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth. (Deuteronomy 28:1)