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The focus on faith in sections of contemporary Christianity goes beyond the legalistic type of faith in faith considered in the previous article. Having degenerated into a subjective, relative, mystical experience that scorns the need for any validation or authentication from the objective written Word, this modern ‘faith’ has taken on characteristics of pagan spirituality.

This expression of ‘faithism’ is called Word-Faith teaching. Here we confront not one ism but a catastrophic conglomeration of many:  mysticism,  New Age pantheism and visualization,  subjectivism, hedonism, materialism, existentialism, legalism and more, all merged together and masquerading as true Christianity, so successfully that many in evangelical churches have been fooled.

The impact of this movement is by no means confined to Charismatic Christians, (indeed some Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians distance themselves from its teaching, recognizing its dangers). Because some leading teachers of these concepts are also televangelists their influence is felt across a broad spectrum of churches as people hear their deceptive messages in the privacy of their own homes, away from the guiding presence of their church pastors and Bible teachers.

A very brief summary of the most common Word-Faith errors

1. Our faith, (our prayers of faith, our word of faith, our ‘positive confession’), is a powerful force, with the same creative power as the word of God by which he created the world.

2. Our words of faith, our 'positive confession' will create the reality for which we are praying. Our doubts, that is, our ‘negative confession’, our saying ‘if it be thy will’, will stop our prayers being granted.

3. We can, and ought, demand from God health, wealth and prosperity or success. These are the believer’s right. Failure to get them is because of inadequate or wrong faith, and/or sin.

4. We must visualize what we pray for, and pray it into existence.

5. The Word-Faith god is manipulated by man’s faith, a god who has forfeited the right to rule the world. He is limited and controlled by human faith, and cannot act unless we release the force of our faith.

6. The incarnation and divine power of Jesus Christ were not unique. The believer is just as much an incarnation of God as Jesus Christ, and, if he/she has the right faith, can achieve all that Jesus did, including the substitutionary atonement achieved through his death.

In its demotion of God and of Jesus Christ the Word-Faith movement promotes and exalts the human: our faith is in control, not God.  We call the shots; we, by our faith, create our own health, wealth and success. Our access to God is not through Jesus Christ but because of the force of our faith.

In addition to these obvious departures from Biblical truth the word-faith teachers engage in a very subtle twisting of the Scriptures that gives their teaching a superficial appearance of authenticity. It is when one actually sits down and really looks at the way the Scriptures are being used that it becomes very apparent that this teaching is widely divergent from historic evangelicalism and even from straight Pentecostal/charismatic teaching.

What does the Bible say in contrast with the Word-Faith teaching?

In contrast to the self-centred, self-exalting emphasis of the Word-Faith movement, the Bible teaches:

1. God decides how to answer our prayers; we can demand nothing from him. The right approach is that of humble supplication, trusting solely on his goodness and mercy (his undeserved, unearned, loving kindness). Access to God in prayer is never our right. (Read Luke 18:9-14).

2. Faith has no power in itself. The power is always God’s power. The value of faith is never in itself, but in its object, the Lord himself. The Bible never teaches faith in faith. God hears the prayers of the believer because our faith unites us to his son, Jesus Christ, not because our faith has any innate power. Biblical faith is always faith in him.

3. Only God’s word has creative power. He is the Creator, not us. Our words, our prayers, never have creative power, irrespective of the strength or rightness of our faith. 

4. God’s response to our prayer lies in his sovereign will and purpose, not in our visualisation, nor in our ‘positive confession’. God is the Sovereign Lord, Ruler of heaven and earth. He calls the shots. He can never be manipulated by our prayers or our faith. As Psalm 115:3 states: ‘Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.’

5. The Lord told us to pray ‘your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10). He prayed ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ (Matthew 26:39b). According to Word-Faith teaching this is a negative confession. Yet Jesus, the Son of God, prayed it. Should we follow Christ’s example, or that of those who twist the Scripture to promote their perversions?

6.  The Bible clearly teaches that health and prosperity are not the believer’s right. The Biblical believer has no rights. Job endured every form of suffering common to mankind. The Word of Faith movement teaches that Job’s torturous experience was due to his sin, his wrong faith, his negativity. But the Word of God states three times Job ‘was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil’ (Job 1:1; 1:8; 2:3) with the last of these adding ‘he still maintains his integrity’.

God presents Job as a man of faith. Satan claimed Job’s faith was not genuine. When God allowed Satan to blast Job with suffering his faith proved to be genuine. Rather than Job’s suffering being the result of a failure of faith, his suffering came precisely because of his genuine faith, and was totally unrelated to personal sin. In Job 42:7 God states that Job spoke about him ‘what is right’. Job had the right understanding of God and his ways. Satan and Job’s friends, blaming Job’s suffering on wrong faith and sin, had it wrong.

We learn from Paul’s letters that sickness, poverty and suffering are an acknowledged part of the believer’s life. Our relationship with Jesus Christ does not remove us from earth. Heaven, when all suffering and tears will be ended, is not here yet. With all of creation we ‘groan’ waiting for that glorious day. (Study: 2Corinthians 4:7-18; 6:3-10; 11:23-27; Philippians 2:25-30; 1Timothy 5:23; Revelation 21:1-4; Romans 8:18-27.)

7. Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God. He alone is God in flesh: this is the only incarnation. Similarly, the miracles he performed were unique to him: he did them by his own divine power. The apostles performed miracles in the name of Jesus Christ, not by their own power or the power of their faith. To teach that believers are incarnations of God, to teach that by the power of their faith they perform miracles, is to undermine the central fact of the Gospel: that Jesus Christ is the one and only, eternal, Son of God. Along with the idea that believers could do what Jesus did on the cross, these Word-Faith concepts equating us with the incarnate Son of God are nothing less than blasphemy.

Next week we will look at how we should respond to Word-Faith perversions of God's truth.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012