There is a tendency creeping into Evangelical churches, borrowing from the Word of Faith Movement, that puts a high value on praying using terms like “speaking” or “declaring over”, “speaking into” or “claiming.” There is a fine line between thanking God in prayer for what you know He has done, or what you know He will do as a legitimate interpretation of a clear biblical promise (e.g., raise the righteous to life on the last day, or save by grace whoever calls on His name) and praying as if your words have power to make something happen. The Word of Faith movement gets its name from a heretical misunderstanding of what “faith” in the Bible is. It promotes an idea of “faith” as a sort of creative force emanating from God, activated by the spoken word. As such, Word of Faith ideas have more in common with Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, than with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Word-Faith teachers owe their ancestry to groups like Christian Science, Swedenborgianism, Theosophy, Science of Mind, and New Thought–not to classical Pentecostalism. It reveals that at their very core, Word-Faith teachings are corrupt. Their undeniable derivation is cultish, not Christian. The sad truth is that the gospel proclaimed by the Word-Faith movement is not the gospel of the New Testament. Word-Faith doctrine is a mongrel system, a blend of mysticism, dualism, and gnosticismthat borrows generously from the teachings of the metaphysical cults. The Word-Faith movement may be the most dangerous false system that has grown out of the charismatic movement so far, because so many charismatics are unsure of the finality of Scripture
(John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, p. 290)
There are many perculiar ideas and practices in the Faith theology, but what merits it the label ofheresy are the following: 1) its deistic view of God, who must dance to men’s attempts to manipulate the spiritual laws of the universe; 2) its demonic view of Christ, who was filled with “the Satanic nature” and must be “born again in hell; 3) its gnostic view of revelation, which demands denial of the physical senses and classifies Christians by their willingness to do so; and 4) its metaphysical view of salvation, which deifies man and spiritualizes the atonement, locating it in hell rather than on the cross, thereby subverting the crucial biblical belief that it is Christ’s physical death and shed blood, which alone atone for sin. All four of these heresies may be accounted for by Kenyon’s syncretism of methaphysical thought with traditional biblical doctrine”
(D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel)
One of my hopes and motivations in continuing to work on this series on the Word of Faith is to cause Christians to think more carefully about what we believe and why we believe it. It disturbs me to hear Christians pray things like, “We speak healing into So-and-So…” or “We claim health for So-and-So…” or, “We speak against the Spirit of Poverty…” when I find no such example in the Bible. The primary message of Christianity is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is primarily about what Jesus did to overcome the barrier between God and man caused by sin and death, through His own substitutionary death on the cross. This Gospel has radical and eternal, far-reaching consequences. Some, like peace with God, spiritual life and prayer, affect life in the here-and-now. Others, like permanent healing, resurrection, and absolute prosperity, affect life in the coming age. It is the gray area in between the here-and-now and the coming age that creates confusion for many Christians, thus making them vulnerable to some of the teachings of the Word of Faith Movement.
Pastor Ken Jones has written a contribution to the forthcoming book, Keep Your Head Up, which can help equip sincere Christians to conform our faith and our prayers to the sound doctrines of the Bible.