As the spring turned into the summer of 1990, I continued to ponder what precisely was accurate about charismatic teaching. I had, however, noticed a trend: charismatics were every bit as PC as everybody else, only they thought they weren’t. Three issues still occupied my mind: Word-Faith views, the lordship controversy, and eternal security. I was torn on the first, settled strongly on the second, and somewhat settled on the third, having traded in my more Pelagian colors for semi-Calvinistic threads.
I mentioned earlier that I read MacArthur’s book regarding the lordship controversy. In the spring of 1990, his radio show began airing on our local AM station. The broader-reaching FM station added him in the fall, and now it was possible to hear John preach without that interference noise I get when listening to the Cincinnati Reds on WCKY when I’m in Omaha. Because of Mac’s book, I got on his mailing list, which became important when I began receiving his ministry’s magazine, “Masterpiece.” It was quite the glossy little thing, complete with articles, items for sale, and book reviews. In the first one I got, the book reviewed a new tome called “The Agony of Deceit.” This was a polemic written by about a dozen authors criticizing the Faith movement (for the most part). The review was mostly positive, with two negatives: 1) it noted that everyone criticized in the book was a charismatic; and 2) it felt the book was too overly negative and implied that no televangelist had ever succeeded without appealing to common desires.
I would go to the local Christian bookstore and scan a few chapters. Some I agreed with, but a lot of it seemed strained. And what exactly WAS ‘Reformation theolgy’ anyway? Most of the authors seemed a little too ‘high church’ for me. And some of it seemed also to be argumentation designed for the scholar, not the man in the pew. Some of it was bad, but was the cure worse than the disease? I finally bought it, read it, and I understood SOME of it.
And then the ‘slain in the spirit’ phenomena began to bug me.
I’d seen this a few times, but what was it. I kept hearing it referenced, but what was it? I heard a local Pentecostal preacher talk about it on radio, so I called his church. The secretary was kind and recommended a book by – are you ready for it? – Kenneth Hagin. She said the name of the book was “Slain In The Spirit.” I told Michelle, she told her uncle, and Christmas Eve I was given (not as a Christmas gift) Hagin’s little pamphlet, “Why Do People Fall Under The Power?” So I read it.
And for the first time my eyes REALLY opened.
I noticed something quite amazing as I read – EVERY SINGLE EXAMPLE Hagin gave of someone who was ‘slain in the spirit’ was an UNBELIEVER. Hmm. The validity of the phenomenon, of course, was assumed. And Hagin told many of his greatest stories, like the girl who danced in mid-air off the end of an altar a few feet off the ground. It was getting so thick that I was going to have to pull my boots up.
Well, my Word-Faith views had never totally crystallized into full-blown WOF theology other than a brief moment in January 1990. I was now skeptical but not openly hostile to it. Yet I noticed that Hagin often made his point at the expense of the text itself. Over the next 18 months or so – from January 1991 to July 1992 – my views gradually transformed into something representing a quasi-Calvinism.
And then I took a trip to Mardel in Wichita Falls, Texas.
I actually had one spare afternoon. I think it was a Friday. I know it was in July of 1992. I had decided to read one of a couple of works I’d heard referenced about the Faith movement. I found Dave Hunt’s book, “The Seduction of Christianity.” Right next to it, however, was work I’d never heard of: “A Different Gospel” by D.R. McConnel. I picked it up and sat down.
A few pages into the book I saw something that absolutely stunned me – documentation of massive plagiarism of E.W. Kenyon by Kenneth Hagin, self-proclaimed prophet of God. Merely reading it was mind-boggling. I was going to have to investigate this a little further. So I had to buy the book.
Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Page after page of plagiarism, refutation – and all by a professing charismatic who had graduated from a charismatic school, Oral Roberts University. It was – to put it mildly – stunning.
I read and re-read and re-read the chapters on doctrine. Incredible. Even the biographical information given on Hagin was more than anyone else had given up to that time. The only part that bothered me just a little bit was that it seemed to me that McConnell really stretched his point on the historical issue of where exactly the Faith movement’s roots were. After all….I knew charismatics who would defend Word-Faith doctrines to varying degrees but who would distance themselves in a heartbeat from the born again Jesus. This was all so confusing. Yet I’d heard a lot of Hagin’s jargon even in charismatic circles.
So what was the truth?