Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Spiritual Formation Institute
Does God Want You to Be Healthy, Wealthy and Wise?
Dr Alex Tang
A. Introduction: The Word-Faith Movement
Recently TIME magazine Sep.18, 2006 in the United States ran an article, Does
God Want You to Be Rich? Subtitled: A growing number of Protestant evangelists
raise a joyful Yes! But the idea is poison to other, more mainstream pastors.
The picture on the front cover shows a Rolls Royce with a cross on it! Health
and wealth are two major concerns of many people. Therefore anyone who offers a
guaranteed package of health and wealth will attract many people. Three of the
four megachurches in the United States belong to the Word-Faith movement. These
churches are Osteen’s Lakewood in Houston, Creflo’s Dollar World Changers near
Atlanta and T.D.Jakes’ Potter House in south Dallas. Prosperity gospel also
known as the Word-Faith movement. It is also called the Positive Confession
movement because of the importance it placed on the spoken Word of God and God
Faith. Others call it the “Name It and Claim It” movement or Health and Wealth
theology. It came into being about the time that the Pentecostal movement became
a worldwide phenomenon but it is not associated with the Pentecostals.
Nevertheless many proponents of the Word-Faith movement such as Kenneth Hagin,
Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn had some Pentecostal or Charismatic background.
What was impressive is the tremendous growth in their ministries.
B. Roots of the Word-Faith Movement
a. Kenneth Hagin (1917-2003)
Kenneth Hagin is considered by some as the one who started the Word-Faith
movement. However that are some who considered E.W. Kenyon as founder and that
Hagin has copied most of the teaching from him.
Hagin was born premature and has a deformed heart. He was sickly when he was
young and became an invalid when he was 15 years old. He said that his heart
stopped three times during a 10 minute period and each time he saw the horrors
of hell. This resulted in his conversion in 1933 and he went into ministry as a
lay preacher for the Southern Baptists in Texas. In 1937 he received Baptism of
the Holy Spirit and because a Pentecostal pastor. Hagin became an evangelist in
1949 and in the 14 years period after Hagin reported he had a series of eight
visions of Jesus Christ. As a result of his last vision, he set up his own
ministry in 1963 which in 1978 became the Rhema Bible Church aka Kenneth Hagin
Ministries in Broken Arrow, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He started Rhema Bible Training
Center in 1974, a syndicated radio show, Faith Seminar of the Air which is
carried by about 250 radio stations; his own magazine, The Word of Faith and is
authors of more than 125 books and pamphlets.
Kenneth Hagin’s theological roots seem to come from his personal spiritual
experiences and from his Baptist and the Pentecostal background. He did not
receive any formal theological training. Though he was a prolific writer and
speaker, he did not acknowledge the work of E.W. Kenyon from whom some scholars
suspected he plagiarized his writings.
Kenneth Hagin writes "I am fully convinced - I would die saying it is so - that
it is the plan of Our Father God, in His great love and in His great mercy, that
no believer should ever be sick; that every believer should live his full life
span down here on this earth; and that every believer should finally just fall
asleep in Jesus" ( Seven Things You Should Know about Divine Healing, p. 21).
b. E.W. Kenyon (1860-1948)
Born in 1860, E. W. Kenyon is generally recognised by some as the real founding
father of the modern Word-Faith Movement. Beginning as a Methodist, he became
quite ecumenical, associating with the Baptists. Some of his work even resulted
in the founding of a few Primitive Baptist Churches. Late in life, Kenyon moved
into Pentecostalism. At the same time, he combined elements of the metaphysic
cults, such as Christian Science, New Thought theology, and Unity School of
Christianity. New Thought theology can be traced to Phineas Quimby (1802-1866).
Quimby studied spiritism, occultism, witchcraft and many other aspects of
parapsychology. He tried to make witchcraft credible by using scientific
language. It was Quimby who influenced Mary Baker Patterson Eddy who went on to
found Christian Science, a cult. Quimby also had a profound influence on Kenyon
who borrowed heavily from his work.
Obviously Kenyon had his theological roots both from his Christian background
and from the occult. It is significant that Hagin borrowed “heavily” from his
writings. Kenyon’s writing also influenced the “Oneness” Pentecostals.
c. Kenneth Copeland
Copeland has a similar history as Hagin. He is not as prolific a writer as
Hagin. Most of the information about his teachings comes from his seminars,
cassette recordings and radio/television telecasts. He is a televangelist and
faith healer. Copeland is also heavily influenced by Kenyon’s teaching.
d. Benny Hinn
Benny Hinn was often put forward as a successor for Kenneth Hagin for the
Word-Faith movement. The other contender was Kenneth Copeland. Unlike Hagin and
Copeland, Hinn came from an Anglican background. However he was strongly
influenced by the faith healing ministry of Kathryn Kullman. After she died, he
worked with her ministry for 5 years. Then he started his own healing ministry
based on Kullman’s style of ministry. Benny Hinn is famous for ‘slaining people
in the Spirit” by a wave of his coat or his hands. He was the pastor of Orlando
Christian Center in Orlando, Florida. In the 1980s, he was influenced by the
Word-Faith teachings of Hagin and Copeland. However, he was challenged by two
Christian cult watch group, Christian Research Institute and the Watchman
Fellowship which were unhappy with his Word-Faith theology and his healing
practices. In 1993, Hinn renounced Word-Faith theology and became affiliated
with the Assemblies of God (Pentecostal). Presently he resides in Dallas and
runs World Outreach Center Benny Hinn Ministries which include a Signs and
Wonder Bible School. He reaches the world through his evangelistic rallies,
television shows and books. His main ministry is miracle and faith healing. It
is interesting to note that even though Benny Hinn has distanced himself from
the Word-Faith movement, the movement still regards him as one of their own.
e. Paul/David Cho Yonggi
David Cho Yonggi is the pastor of Full Gospel Yoido Church in Seoul, Korea. He
was Paul Cho Yonggi until recently when he said Jesus said he has died and am
now raised as David Cho Yonggi. He declared that he received his power from a
demon in the fourth dimension. The first three dimensions are physical and are
controlled by the spiritual which is the fourth dimension. He taught this
concept as the “Fourth Dimension”. If a person (Christian or non-Christian)
follow the formula of positive confession (more about this later),
visualization, they “incubate” and eventually give rise to their desires. Cho
Yonggi is aware that these are occultic methods but believe that Christians are
allowed to use occultic methods to achieve their ends.
The proponents of the Word-Faith movement have colorful and interesting life
experiences. However, it is obvious from this brief review is that we can trace
their teaching back through Copeland and Hagin to Kenyon. And from Kenyon to
Quimby who was involved with the occult and metaphysics. David Cho seems to be
the exception in that he approaches the occult directly. However, it must be
said that not all followers of Hagin, Copeland or Hinn buy totally into the
theology of Word-Faith.
C. Five Doctrines of Health and Wealth
a. The Power of Positive Confession
This is the most well known distinctive of the Word-Faith theology. Proponents
recognize that words are important, so important that coupled with faith it can
create. This means if we confess or proclaim positive things, it will be created
for us. The reverse is also true. If we proclaim in faith negative things, these
negative things will be created for us. That is why Word-Faith theology is also
known as “Name it and Claim it” theology. This doctrine is based on the teaching
that God has faith, a sort of God-faith. God used His faith to create the
universe. God has to speak His word to create. Kenyon wrote, “Faith is the
creative force in man. Faith is the creative force in the Creator. God simply
said, ‘Let there be.’” Hagin continued, “The God kind of faith…is the kind of
faith that spoke the world into existence…God created the universe with words.
Words filled with faith are the most powerful things in all the world.” And
Copeland adds, “God is a faith being…God does not do anything outside of faith.”
God faith is a creative force. Anyone can use this force if he or she has this
God faith. By speaking out using this God faith, we can claim anything we want.
The basis for this doctrine is based on Mark 11:22 and Hebrews 11:3
MK 11:22 "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23 "I tell
you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the
sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will
happen, it will be done for him.
Teachers of Word-Faith theology interpreted Jesus’ saying “Have faith in God” to
mean “Have the God type of faith”. This is based on the grammatical distinctive
of the Greek text echet pistin theou. This was taken to mean that (1) God has
faith (God faith), (2) it is possible for us to have God faith, and (3) we can
use the God faith to move mountains. So the question we need to ask is, “Does
God has faith?” The answer is no. Faith is to believe in someone or something.
God does not have to believe because He knows! God does not have to believe in
Himself. This will throw into doubt the existence of such a force as God faith.
HEB 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command,
so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Kenyon and the Word-Faith teachers interpret this to mean that God created the
universe by speaking the word in faith. Again it is playing with the Greek
syntax. In Greek, the sentence reads as
Pistei nooumen katērthisthai tous aiōnas rhēmati theou
(by) faith we understand were made worlds (by) word of God
Traditional interpretation will be:
we understand (by faith) were made worlds (by the word of God)
we understand were made worlds (by faith, by the word of God)
Hence the interpretation becomes God made the worlds by the word of God faith.
Hagin's theme, as found in his booklet How to Write Your Own Ticket with God,
can be summarized as follows (Christianity in Crisis, pp. 74-75): The formula is
simply: "Say it, Do it, Receive it, and Tell it."
1. Step number one is "Say it." "Positive or negative, it is up to the
individual. According to what the individual says, that shall he receive."
2. Step number two is "Do it." "Your action defeats you or puts you over.
According to your action, you receive or you are kept from receiving."
3. Step number three is "Receive it." We are to plug into the "powerhouse of
heaven." "Faith is the plug, praise God! Just plug in."
4. Step number four is "Tell it so others may believe." This final step might be
considered the Faith movement's outreach program.
b. The Lifting of the Curse
One of the persuasive arguments of the word-faith proponents is that Jesus has
lifted the curse of the law from us.
Kenneth Hagin writes,
What is the curse of the law? The only way to find out is to go back to the law.
The expression “the law” as found in the New Testament usually refers to the
Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. As we go back to these books-or
the law- we find that the curse, or punishment, for breaking God’s laws is
threefold: poverty, sickness, and spiritual death.
What follows from this argument is that since the curse have been lifted from
us, poverty, sickness and spiritual death has also been lifted from us. The
primary text is Deuteronomy 28.
Kenneth Copeland said,
Remember what was listed under the curse in Deuteronomy 28? Poverty of every
kind, political failure, drought, war, every calamity known to mankind; and
Jesus has redeemed us from it all. ALL sickness and ALL disease, even those not
mentioned here, come under the curse. Therefore, we are redeemed from all
sickness and all disease. You need to fight the temptation to be sick just as
you would fight the temptation to lie or steal.
Deuteronomy 28 was directed to the covenant nation of Israelite. God covenant to
bless the Israelites with good health, wealth and safety if they will forsake
all gods, worship Him and be His people (Deu. 28:1-14). If they fail and follow
other gods, then God will punish them. However, there are no indications that
Deuteronomy 28 apply to us who are not of the nation God made the covenant with.
We cannot appropriate or individualise promises that are not made to us.
Aside from Deuteronomy 28, there are other Scriptures used to support their
c. Healing in the Atonement
Most word-faith proponents will focus on health with regards to the atonement
though some will also include wealth.
Benny Hinn in explaining about healing as part of the atonement writes in his
book, Rise and Be Healed, writes, "The Bible declares that the work was done
2,000 years ago. God is not going to heal you now -- he healed you 2,000 years
ago. All you have to do today is receive your healing by faith".
The inference that Hinn have drawn is that healing has already occurred. It is
now up to us whether we claim it or not. Scriptures commonly used in support
Isaiah 53:4, 5
ISA 53:4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
ISA 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
If we are to read Isaiah 53 in context, it is about a suffering servant who was
ugly and sick. It is a poem and so must be interpreted as such. Any reader of
Isaiah at that time will begin to think, “What has this man done to deserve such
punishment from God?” In that time, diseases/infirmities are often regarded as
punishment from God. Verse 4a has the synonyms “infirmities” and “sorrows” and
v.4b “stricken” and “afflicted”. Here the reader was brought to the realization
that this man was actually suffering for them when all along they thought he was
being punished by God for his own sin. In v.5a, there is a pair of synonyms,
“transgressions” and “iniquities”. In the next part there is another pair
“peace/shalom” and “healed”. If we taken into the genre of the passage which is
prophetic poetry, then it is possible to understand v.4 being used to contrast
with v.5: which is about the deliverance from sin. Oswalt notes that this
passage make us ask the question, “Here God has made this person suffer for the
iniquity of “all of us”. Who can this person be?” Hence the passage does not
deal specifically with physical healing.
d. The King’s Kids Rule
As we are God’s “sons and daughters”, we should act accordingly. According to
word-faith teaching, we were under Satan’s domain that is why we were poor and
sick. That is no longer the case. Jesus has set us free by His death on the
cross. Hence, we are no longer the ruled but the ruler of Satan’s domain. This
means we should now be rich and healthy.
Kenneth Copeland writes in Healed ? to Be or Not to Be:
"The first step to spiritual maturity is to realize your position before God.
You are a child of God and a joint-heir with Jesus. Consequently, you are
entitled to all the rights and privileges in the kingdom of God, and one of
their rights is health and healing" (p. 25).
Hagin and other teachers of word-faith understand Paul in Romans 5:17 as saying
that Christians are to “reign” in life now. After all, Christians are free from
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned
through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant
provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the
one man, Jesus Christ.
It must be pointed out that Paul is saying, we “will reign”, not we “are
reigning” in this life. Later in the letter Paul instructed the Christians not
to let sin reign in our bodies, a warning he would not have given if we are
already reigning over sin.
e. Health and Wealth as God’s Will
One of the attractions of the faith-word teaching is that God wants us to be
healthy and wealthy. Who can resist such a statement!
Gloria Copeland (Kenneth's wife) in her book God's Will Is Prosperity: "Give $10
and receive $1000; Give $1000 and receive $100,000? give one house and receive
one hundred houses or a house worth one hundred times as much. Give one airplane
and receive one hundred times the value of the airplane. ? In short, Mark 10:30
is a very good deal" (p. 54).
MK 10:29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one
who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or
fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in
this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and
with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.
This text is often used by word-faith teachers to teach that if you give, God
will bless you in return a hundred times. So, one ringgit becomes 100 ringgit.
If you take the verse literally, you will be receiving a hundred homes, a
hundred brothers, a hundred sisters, a hundred mothers, a hundred children, a
hundred fields and a hundred persecutions! What Jesus really meant what that if
it become necessary for you to leave your immediate family for His sake; you
will become part of a bigger family (which is the church) and in the future
We have seen how the doctrines about health and wealth of the Word-Faith
movement come from erroneous hermeneutics. Sentences are either taken out of
context or misinterpreted so as to lead to faulty reasoning and conclusions.
What they have to offer are attractive: positive confession using God faith to
get what we want; the lifting of the curse guarantee us health, wealth and
eternal life; we are the King’s kids so we should act accordingly; there is
complete healing in the atonement; and God wants us to be healthy and wealthy.
What’s not to like? Now that we have examined the beautiful furnishing of the
mansion, let us go down to the basement and look at the foundation.
D. The Underlying Theology of the Word-Faith Movement
What is not obvious to many people who are attracted by goodness of the
Word-Faith movement is their foundational theological construct.
a. God and Faith
As we have discussed, God does not have faith. And there is no such force as God
faith. There are no grounds in Reformed/Presbyterian theology to even consider
God faith. God is the creator. Our faith is in Him. God is God and we do not
have the God power to create no matter how much faith we have. It is good to
have positive thoughts and that is healthy for the body. However, there is no
theological basis for positive confession. We can ask God in faith, trusting in
His goodness but we cannot force God.
b. Adam, Satan and Dominion
Adam did not have a nature when God created him. According to Word-Faith
theology, God created Adam to be the god of this world. When Adam was tempted by
Satan, he gave up his godhood to Satan and took on Satan’s nature. Satan became
the owner of this creation. Apparently there was a “lease” and God is powerless
to take the creation back from Satan.
This is in direct contradiction to Reformed/Presbyterian theology. The Bible
taught that Adam was created in the image of God. Hence he has a nature, a
perfect human nature. He was tempted by Satan and sinned by disobeying God. Adam
was banished from the Garden of Eden because of this sin. Adam was never a god
and Satan did not become a god of this world. Though Adam has fallen, he never
took on Satan’s nature. He retains a distorted image of God which Paul called
our old man or old nature. God is always more powerful than Satan and there is
no grounds to assume that God is powerless before Satan. God has a plan for the
redemption of man and of this creation but God’s plan depends on the partnership
of man. That is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to earth.
There are a few points here about Word-Faith theology atonement we must take
• Jesus came to save mankind. To do that, He became fully human and left His
divine self behind
• To atone for Adam’s sin, Jesus has to die twice: one spiritually and one
• Jesus died spiritually (first death- but not specific when he died
spiritually. Some taught at the Garden of Gethsemane and some taught on the
• Jesus when he died took on Satan’s nature
• Jesus died on the cross after being crucified (second death-physical death)
• Jesus was brought down to hell and was tortured by Satan and his demons
• After 3 days, Jesus found a way to be born again (Jesus was innocent and Satan
had wrongly imprisoned an innocent man. God has tricked Satan)
• Jesus was resurrected with God’s nature
• Because of the atonement of Jesus, we Christians have God’s nature
• We are equal with Jesus
"Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that
were the case, the two thieves could have paid our price. No, the punishment was
to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God" (Frederick
K.C. Price, Ever Increasing Faith Messenger, June 1990, p. 7).
There is no support in the Bible that Jesus left his divine self behind
(where?). Jesus has always been fully God and fully human at all times. He may
put aside his divine attributes but he was never separated from them. Jesus died
for our sin but Jesus did not become sin. Jesus never put on the nature of
Satan. And Jesus was not tortured in hell. In 1 Peter 3:19, Jesus descended to
“prison” often translated as Hades or hell. Some commentator said Jesus went to
hell to preach to the dead and offer them a second chance for salvation. However
the textual support for this is weak. The textual support is stronger that Jesus
went to hell to proclaim His victory over death. There were never any
indications that Jesus was captured or tortured by Satan.
The idea may have been derived from the “ransom” theory of atonement where 1 Tim
2:6 is taken literally and Jesus Christ had to pay a ransom to the Satan for the
release of mankind. This was strongly held by an early church father, Gregory of
Nyssa. However, it was later abandoned because it did not fully explain the
complexity of the atonement. Lim liken the ransom theory to Aslan dying for
Edmund in the C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series.
d. Born Again Jesus
In Word-Faith theology, Jesus has to die and be born again. That is why, they
taught, that Paul considers Jesus the second Adam. Again this does not fit into
Reformed/Presbyterian theology as Jesus could never be born again. Born again is
a term applied to sinful man who is redeemed by Jesus’ atonement. Being born
again means getting a new human nature and the Holy Spirit. Jesus does not need
both of this. Jesus died for our sin, a penal substitution death to satisfy the
justice of God. He did not acquire a human fallen nature. He also does not need
to receive the Holy Spirit because He and the Holy Spirit are one in the
Trinity. Hence we who are born again are not equal to Jesus. Though in God’s
grace, He allows us to partake of the divine nature but that does not make us
gods. There is only one God. We are not little gods and never will be. The
Word-Faith theology makes Jesus so human that we become more powerful than Him!
E. Perspective from Reformed/Presbyterian Theology
I believe this balanced view to be a Reformed/Presbyterian theological
|No healing in the atonement
||Healing in the atonement realised in part now, in full
in the resurrection
||Healing in full now guaranteed by the atonement
|God wants Christians to be poor
||God wants Christians to be faithful; in some cases this
means rich, in some cases poor
||God wants Christians to be rich
|God does not do miracles today
||God does miracles today, but they cannot be predicted
and should not be expected
||Miracles should be a regular part of the Christian experience today
|Sickness has no relation to sin or unbelief
||Some sickness is related to sin or unbelief
||A;; sickness is related to sin and unbelief
An important point Word-Faith teachers tend to miss is the “already and not yet”
concept of Jesus and Paul. Their eschatology is immediate while Jesus and Paul
teach an eschatology that has been fulfilled and yet still awaits fulfillment.
This is where the confusion arises. God does want us to be healed but our
complete healing will only come when we received our imperishable bodies during
the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Until then, we are still subject to the
normal wear and tear of living in the natural world.
Reformed/Presbyterian theology has always been faithful to the Word of God.
Though challenged from time to time, it has always been able to weather the
challenges and become stronger as a result. As we have examined earlier, the
whole theology of Word-Faith teaching is incompatible with Reformed/Presbyterian
theology. The theology of Word-Faith teaching is also incompatible with
Pentecostalism and the Assemblies of God have taken steps to distant themselves
Reformed/Presbyterian theology has always upheld God as a supreme being and that
Jesus’ death on the cross as complete and total for our salvation. It teaches
that Satan is a fallen angel, therefore less than God the creator.
Reformed/Presbyterian theology also have a correct view of man who are not
“little gods”. It has room for a theology of suffering and of redemption.
We have seen how the major Word-Faith teachers derived their theology from
Quimby who is known to be involved in New Thought metaphysics and occultism. The
roots of these teachings have reached upwards into the Word-Faith theology to
humanized God and Jesus Christ and deitified man. The five prominent doctrines
with regards to Word-Faith were found to be based on faulty hermeneutics or
interpretation of the Bible. We have also seen how the foundational theology of
Word-Faith is incompatible with Reformed/Presbyterian theology.
For a more complete review please read my position paper,
Examining the Theology of the Word-Faith Movement
Soli Deo Gloria
|10 November 2006|