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Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute. Editor-in-chief, Elliot Miller. Used by permission. For more information on the Christian Research Institute, go to http://web.archive.org/web/20030212144905/http://www.equip.org/.

“Ye Are Gods?”
Orthodox and Heretical Views on the Deification of Man

Robert M. Bowman, Jr.

from the Christian Research Journal, Winter/Spring 1987, page 18. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

Is the belief that men were created to be “gods,” either in this life or in some future exaltation, a Christian teaching? Is it in any sense Christian to speak of the “deification” of man – to say that God created or redeemed man in order to become deity? What do various religious groups who use such language today mean? Are they all saying the same thing? Are all who use such terminology heretics? If not, how do we tell the difference? All of these questions will be addressed in this article.

DIFFERENT IDEAS OF DEIFICATION

The first step in answering these interrelated questions is to recognize that talk about men being gods cannot be isolated from basic world views, or conceptions of the world and its relation to God. Norman Geisler and William Watkins have pointed out that there are seven basic world views: atheism (no God), polytheism (many gods), pantheism (God is all), panentheism (God is in all), finite godism (a finite god made the world), deism (a God who does not do miracles created the world), and theism, or monotheism (a God who does miracles created the world), which is the biblical view (and is held by orthodox Jews and Muslims as well as Christians).[1] Not all doctrines can be neatly categorized into one of these seven world views, since some people do hold to combinations of two views; but such positions are inherently inconsistent, and usually one world view is dominant.
            In this article our concern will be with doctrines of deification which claim to be strictly Christian. (This means that we will not discuss, for example, New Age concepts of deification.) Varieties of such “Christian” views on deification can be found among adherents of monotheism, polytheism, and panentheism.

Monotheistic Deification

It may surprise some to learn that a monotheistic doctrine of deification was taught by many of the church fathers, and is believed by many Christians today, including the entire Eastern Orthodox church. In keeping with monotheism, the Eastern orthodox do not teach that men will literally become “gods” (which would be polytheism). Rather, as did many of the church fathers,[2] they teach that men are “deified” in the sense that the Holy Spirit dwells within Christian believers and transforms them into the image of God in Christ, eventually endowing them in the resurrection with immortality and God’s perfect moral character.
            It may be objected that to classify as monotheistic any doctrine which refers to men in some positive sense as “gods” is self-contradictory; and strictly speaking such an objection is valid. Indeed, later in this study it shall be argued that such terminology is not biblical. However, the point here is that however inconsistent and confusing the language that is used (and it is inconsistent), the substance of what the Eastern Orthodox are seeking to express when they speak of deification is actually faithful to the monotheistic world view. The language used is polytheistic, and in the light of Scripture should be rejected; but the doctrine intended by this language in the context of the teachings of the fathers and of Eastern Orthodoxy is quite biblical, and is thus not actually polytheistic.
            Thus, it should not be argued that anyone who speaks of “deification” necessarily holds to a heretical view of man. Such a sweeping judgment would condemn many of the early church’s greatest theologians (e.g., Athanasius, Augustine), as well as one of the three main branches of historic orthodox Christianity in existence today. On the other hand, some doctrines of deification are most certainly heretical, because they are unbiblical in substance as well as in terminology.

Polytheistic Deification

Two examples of polytheistic doctrines of deification are the teachings of Mormonism and Armstrongism, although adherents of these religions generally do not admit to being polytheists.
            The Mormons are very explicit in their “scriptures” that there are many Gods; for example, the three persons of the Trinity are regarded as three “Gods.”[3] Since they believe that many Gods exist but at present worship only one – God the Father – at least one Mormon scholar has admitted with qualifications that their doctrine could be termed “henotheistic.”[4] Henotheism is a variety of polytheism in which there are many gods, but only one which should be worshipped. Thus, the meaning of deification in Mormonism is radically different than that of the church fathers who used similar terms, despite Mormon arguments to the contrary.[5]
            The Worldwide Church of God of Herbert W. Armstrong (who died early in 1986) claims to believe in only one God. However, Armstrongism defines “God” as a collective term (like “church” or “family”) referring to a family of distinct beings all having the same essential nature. Presently this “God family” consists of two members, God the Father and Christ, but it is their plan to reproduce themselves in human beings and so add millions or even billions to the God family.[6] Therefore, by the normal use of words on which our categorizations are based, Armstrong’s world view is also polytheistic.

Panentheistic Deification

An important example of a panentheistic doctrine of deification within professing Christianity is Union Life, founded by Norman Grubb, who at one time was a respected evangelical leader. In 1980 Cornerstone, an evangelical magazine, ran an article arguing that Union Life was teaching pantheism or panentheism.[7] Union Life has attempted to argue[8] that panentheism, unlike pantheism, is not heretical (despite Grubb’s admission that he does not know the definition of pantheism![9]). However, neither pantheism nor panentheism separates the creation from the essential nature of the Creator, though panentheism does posit a differentiation in which the creation is the expression of the Creator. The heretical nature of Union Life is made evident by such statements as, “there is only One Person in the universe,” “everything is God on a certain level of manifestation,” and “Nothing but God exists!”[10] Therefore, Union Life’s claim to following the tradition of the church fathers[11] is no more valid than that of the Mormons.

Positive Confession: Monotheistic or Polytheistic?

Not all views of the deification of man are easily classifiable. Perhaps the most difficult doctrine of deification to categorize into one of the seven basic world views is that of the “positive confession” or “faith” teachers, including Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Frederick K.C. Price, Charles Capps, Casey Treat, and many others.
            In brief, the “faith” teaching maintains that God created man in “God’s class,” as “little gods,” with the potential to exercise the “God kind of faith” in calling things into existence and living in prosperity and success as sovereign beings. We lost this opportunity by rebelling against God and receiving Satan’s nature. To correct this situation, Christ became a man, died spiritually (receiving Satan’s nature), went to Hell, was “born again,” rose from the dead with God’s nature, and then sent the Holy Spirit so that the Incarnation could be duplicated in believers, thus fulfilling their calling to be little gods. Since we are called to experience this kind of life now, we should experience success in everything we do, including health and financial prosperity.
            Some aspects of this teaching have been documented and compared with Scripture in articles published in previous issues of this journal.[12] Regarding the claim that men are “little gods,” there is no question (as shall be demonstrated shortly) that the language used is unbiblical, but are the ideas being conveyed contrary to Scripture as well? Specifically, is the world view of the “faith” teaching monotheistic or polytheistic?
            A simple answer to this question is somewhat elusive. The positive confession teachers have made statements that seem polytheistic, and yet often in the same paragraph contradict themselves by asserting the truth of monotheism.[13] At least two positive confession teachers, Frederick K.C. Price and Casey Treat, have admitted that men are not literally gods and have promised not to use this terminology again.[14] In many cases, the dominant world view appears to be monotheism, with their teachings tending at times toward a polytheistic world view. It seems best, then, to regard the “faith” teaching as neither soundly monotheistic nor fully polytheistic, but instead as a confused mixture of both world views.
            This means that the “faith” teaching of deification cannot be regarded as orthodox. Their concept of deification teaches that man has a “sovereign will” comparable to God’s, and that man can therefore exercise the “God kind of faith” and command things to be whatever he chooses.[15] At least one “faith” teacher, Kenneth Copeland, seems to regard God as finite, since he says, speaking of Adam, “His body and God were exactly the same size.”[16] Again, it is the context in which the doctrine appears that determines whether the teaching is orthodox or heretical. In this case, there seems to be significant evidence to show that some, at least, of the “faith” teachers have a heretical view of God, as well as a heretical view of the nature of the believer. Nevertheless, there also appears to be evidence that not all of the “faith” teachers are heretical in the same sense as, say, Mormonism or Armstrongism.
            At this point we will turn to the biblical teaching relating to this subject to see whether the Bible teaches deification at all.

THE BIBLICAL TEACHING

All of the various doctrines of deification discussed above appeal to the same passages of Scripture and the same biblical themes to validate their teaching. Besides the passages where men are called “gods” or “sons of God,” there are the biblical themes concerning men in the image of God; the close relationship between Christ and Christians; and the statement in 2 Peter 1:4 that Christians are “partakers of the divine nature.” In this article we shall discuss briefly each of these texts and themes.

Are Men Called “Gods” in Scripture?

The Bible in both Old and New Testaments explicitly and repeatedly affirms that there is only one God (e.g.,Deut. 4:35-39; Isa. 43:10; 44:6-8; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19). Therefore, the Bible most definitely rejects any sort of polytheism, including henotheism.
            The Scriptures also very clearly teach that God is an absolutely unique being who is distinct from the world as its Creator (e.g.,Gen. 1:1; John 1:3; Rom. 1:25; Heb. 11:3). This teaching rules out pantheism and panentheism, according to which the world is either identical to God or an essential aspect of God. Since He is eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, God is totally unique, so that there is none even like God (e.g.,Ps. 102:25-27; Isa. 40-46; Acts 17:24-28).[17] The Bible, then, unmistakably teaches a monotheistic world view.
            In the face of so many explicit statements that there is only one God, and in light of His uniqueness, it may seem surprising that anyone would claim that the Bible teaches that men are gods. However, there are a few passages in Scripture which seem to call men “god” or “gods.” Most or all of these, however, are irrelevant to any doctrine of deification. In practice, the question of whether the Bible ever calls men “gods” in a positive sense focuses exclusively on Psalm 82:6 (“I said, ‘you are gods'”) and its citation by Jesus in John 10:34-35.
            The usual view among biblical expositors for centuries is that Psalm 82 refers to Israelite judges by virtue of their position as judges representing God; it is, therefore, a figurative usage which applies only to those judges and does not apply to men or even believers in general. If this interpretation is correct, Psalm 82:6 is also irrelevant to any doctrine of Christian deification.
            An alternative interpretation agrees that the “gods” are Israelite judges, but sees the use of the term “gods” as an ironic figure of speech. Irony is a rhetorical device in which something is said to be the case in such a way as to make the assertion seem ridiculous (compare Paul’s ironic “you have become kings” in 1 Corinthians 4:8, where Paul’s point is that they had not become kings). According to this interpretation, the parallel description of the “gods” as “sons of the Most High” (which, it is argued, is not in keeping with the Old Testament use of the term “sons” of God), the condemnation of the judges for their wicked judgment, and especially the statement, “Nevertheless, you will die as men,” all point to the conclusion that the judges are called “gods” in irony.
            If the former interpretation is correct, then in John 10:34-35 Jesus would be understood to mean that if God called wicked judges “gods” how much more appropriate is it for Him, Jesus, to be called God, or even the Son of God. If the ironic interpretation of Psalm 82:6 is correct, then in John 10:34-35 Jesus’ point would still be basically the same. It is also possible that Jesus was implying that the Old Testament application of the term “gods” to wicked judges was fulfilled (taking “not to be broken” to mean “not to be unfulfilled,” cf. John 7:23) in Himself as the true Judge (cf. John 5:22,27-30; 9:39).[18] Those wicked men were, then, at best called “gods” and “sons of the Most High” in a special and figurative sense; and at worst they were pseudo-gods and pseudo-sons of God. Jesus, on the other hand, is truly God (cf. John 1:1,18; 20:28; 1 John 5:20) and the unique Son of God (John 10:36; 20:31; etc.)
            Neither the representative nor the ironic interpretation of Psalm 82 allows it (or John 10:34-35) to be understood to teach that men were created or redeemed to be gods. Nor is there any other legitimate interpretation which would allow for such a conclusion. The Israelite judges were wicked men condemned to death by the true God, and therefore were not by any definition of deification candidates for godhood.
            If, then, the deification of man is to be found in Scripture, it will have to be on the basis of other biblical texts or themes, as Scripture gives men the title of “gods” only in a figurative or condemnatory sense.

The Image of God: An Exact Duplicate?

One biblical teaching upon which great emphasis is usually laid by those who teach some form of the deification of man is the doctrine of man as created and redeemed in the image of God. Of the many examples that could be given, two will have to suffice. Casey Treat’s claim that man is an “exact duplicate” of God is based on his understanding of the meaning of “image” in Genesis 1:26-27.[19] The Mormon apologetic for their doctrine that God is an exalted Man and that men can also become Gods typically appeals to the image of God in man, and to the parallel passage in Genesis 5:1-3 where Adam is said to have begotten Seth “in his own likeness, after his own image” (Genesis 5:1-3).[20]
            These claims raise two questions. Does the creation of man in the image of God imply that God Himself is an exalted man (as in Mormonism), or perhaps a spirit with the physical form or shape of a man (as in Armstrongism)? And does the image of God in man imply that men may become “gods”? There are several reasons why such conclusions are incorrect.
            First, there are the biblical statements which say that God is not a man (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Hos.11:9). Second, there is the biblical teaching on the attributes of God already mentioned, according to which God obviously cannot now or ever have been a man (except in the sense that the second person of the triune God became a man by taking upon Himself a second nature different from the nature of deity). Third, in the context of Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:1-3 there is one very important difference between the relationship between God and Adam on the one hand and Adam and Seth on the other hand: Adam was created or made by God, while Seth was begotten by Adam. To create or make something in the image or likeness of someone means to make something of a different kind that nevertheless somehow “pictures” or represents that someone (cf. Luke 20:24-25). It is therefore a mistake to reason backwards from the creation of man in God’s image to deduce the nature of God. Genesis 1:26-27 is telling us something about man, not about God.
            Besides the passages in Genesis (see also 9:6), the Old Testament says nothing else about the image of God. The New Testament teaches that man is still in God’s image (1 Cor. 11:7; James 3:9), but also says that, in some unique sense, Christ is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). Christians are by virtue of their union with Christ being conformed to the image of God and of Christ resulting finally (after this life) in glorification (2 Cor. 3:18; Rom. 8:29-30), which includes moral perfection (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) and an immortal physical body like Christ’s (1 Cor. 15:49; cf. Phil. 3:21).
            Orthodox biblical theologians and scholars do have some differences of opinion as to how best to define and explain what these passages mean by the “image of God.”[21] However, these differences are relatively minor, and do not obscure the basic truth of the image, which is that man was created as a physical representation (not a physical reproduction or “exact duplicate”) of God in the world. As such, he was meant to live forever, to know God personally, to reflect His moral character – His love – through human relationships, and to exercise dominion over the rest of the living creatures on the earth (Gen. 1:28-30; cf. Ps. 8:5-8).
            From the biblical teaching on the image of God, then, there is nothing which would warrant the conclusion that men are or will ever be “gods,” even “little gods,” as the “faith” teachers often put it.

Sons of God: Like Begets Like?

Although men are never called “gods” in an affirmative sense in Scripture, believers in Christ are called “sons” or “children” of God (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-23; Gal. 4:5-7; 1 John 3:1-2; etc.). Based on the assumption that sons are of the same nature as their father, some conclude that since believers are sons of God, they must also be gods. This reasoning is thought to be confirmed by those passages in John’s writings which speak of believers as being “begotten” or “born” of God (John 1:13; 3:5-6; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18).
            As convincing as this argument may seem, it actually goes beyond the Bible’s teaching and is at best erroneous and at worse heretical. The above Scriptures do not mean that the “sonship” of believers is a reproduction of God’s essence in man for the following reasons.
            1/ In one sense all human beings are God’s “offspring” (Acts 17:28), so that even Adam could be called God’s “son” (Luke 3:38); yet this cannot mean that human beings are gods or have the same nature as God, for the reasons already given in our analysis of the “image of God”.
            2/ Paul speaks of our sonship as an “adoption” (Rom. 8:15,23; Gal. 4:5), which of course suggests that we are not “natural” sons of God.
            3/ John, who frequently speaks of Christians as having been “begotten” by God, also tells us that Jesus Christ is the “only-begotten” or “unique” Son of God (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). At the very least, this means that we are not sons of God in the same sense that Christ is the Son of God, nor will we ever be. Christ was careful to distinguish between His Sonship and that of His followers (e.g., John 20:17). For this reason Kenneth Copeland’s assertion that “Jesus is no longer the only begotten Son of God”[22] must be regarded as false doctrine.
            4/ Finally, the New Testament itself always interprets the spiritual birth which makes believers sons, not as a conversion of men into gods, but as a renewal in the moral likeness of God, produced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and resulting in an intimate relationship with God as a Father who provides for His children’s needs (Matt. 5:9, 45; 6:8, 10, 32; 7:11,21; Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:6-7; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1-5).
            The biblical doctrine that believers in Christ are children of God is a glorious teaching, to be sure, and what it means we do not yet fully know (1 John 3:2). But we do know something about what it means, as well as what it does not mean. It does mean eternal life with Christ-like holiness and love, in which the full potential of human beings as the image of God is realized. But it does not mean that we shall cease to be creatures, or that “human potential” is infinite, or that men shall be gods.

Union with Christ: Are Christians Incarnations of God?

The doctrine that Christians are adopted sons of God is closely related to the doctrine of the spiritual union between Christ and Christian believers. This union is expressed both as a union between Christ and the individual believer and as a union of Christ and the church. Paul in particular teaches that Christians are “in Christ” (a phrase which occurs over 160 times in Paul’s letters), “with Christ” in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension (Rom. 6:3-8; Eph. 2:5-6), corporately the “body” of Christ (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:12; Col. 1:18), that they have Christ, or the Spirit of Christ, dwelling within (Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:17-20; 2 Cor. 13:5; Eph. 3:16-17), and that Christ Himself is their “life” (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4). On the basis of this teaching, many have concluded that Christians are in fact either a corporate extension of the Incarnation (as the church) or replications of the Incarnation (as individual Christians). Such a conclusion is often tied to the teaching of some concept of deification. The question is, does the Bible support such a conclusion?
            As with the doctrine of Christians as the sons of God, such ideas go far beyond the teaching of Scripture. To say that believers are “in Christ” means that they are somehow spiritually united to Christ, not that they are Christ. When Paul says that we have been crucified, buried, raised, and ascended with Christ, he is not speaking literally, but means simply that by virtue of our legal identification and close spiritual relationship with Christ we benefit by His death and resurrection. The teaching that the church is the body of Christ is also not to be taken literally, and should not be pressed to imply that the church is Christ or even an essential part of Christ. That the relationship between Christ and the church involves a substantial union without the church becoming Christ is best seen in the figure of the church as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:28-32): the bride is physically united to her husband, yet they remain distinct. The Spirit indwells the believer, to be sure, but the believer does not become divine as a result, any more than the temple under the old covenant became a part of God simply because His presence filled it (cf. 1 Cor. 3:17). Christ is our life, not in the sense that our individuality is replaced by His person, but in the sense that we have eternal and spiritual life through our union with Him.
            Finally, the notion that each believer is somehow a duplicate of the Incarnation deserves a closer look. The rationale for this view is that an “incarnation” is defined as the indwelling of God in a human being; and since, we are told, this is as true of the Christian as it was of Christ, it follows that the Christian, as Kenneth Hagin puts it, “is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.”[23] The error in this reasoning lies in the definition of “incarnation.” Christ was not merely God dwelling in a human being, a heresy (known as Nestorianism) the early church condemned because it meant that the Word did not actually become flesh (John 1:14) but only joined Himself to a human being. Rather, the incarnate Christ was one person in whom were perfectly united two natures, deity and humanity; the Christian is a person with one nature, human, in whom a separate person, God the Holy Spirit (and through Him, the Father and the Son as well), dwells.

Does Partaking of the Divine Nature Make Us Gods?

In 2 Peter 1:4 we are told that through God’s promises Christians may “become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” This text, even more so than Psalm 82, has suggested to many a doctrine of deification. And indeed, if by deification one means simply “partaking of the divine nature,” then such “deification” is unquestionably biblical. The question, then, is what does Peter mean by “partakers of divine nature”?
            Since the word “divine” is used earlier in the same sentence (“His divine power”, verse 3), where it must mean “of God,” “divine nature” must mean God’s nature. The word “nature,” however, should not be understood to mean “essence.” Rather, as the context makes evident, Peter is speaking of God’s moral nature or character. Thus Christians are by partaking of the divine nature to escape the corruption that is in the world because of sinful lust, and are instead to exhibit the moral attributes of Christ (cf. verses 5-11).

DISCERNING ORTHODOX FROM HERETICAL TEACHINGS

It is not always easy to tell the difference between heretical and orthodox doctrines. Often people of different religions use the same or nearly the same words to express widely different ideas. One of the marks of the “cults,” in fact, is the use of Christian terminology to express non-Christian concepts.[24] This is very much the case with deification.
            How, then, can Christians tell the difference? There are four essential elements to an orthodox view of the relationship between God and man, and any doctrine which compromises or denies these teachings is less than soundly orthodox. These four elements are monotheism, trinitarianism, incarnationalism, and evangelicalism.
            Monotheism, as has already been explained, is the view that a single, unique, infinite Being (called God) created all other beings out of nothing, and that this Creator will forever be the only real, true God. Trinitarianism is the distinctive Christian revelation of God, according to which the one God exists eternally as three distinct but inseparable persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[25] Incarnationalism is the teaching that the second person of the Trinity (called the “Word” in John 1:1, 14, and the “Son” in Matthew 28:19), without ceasing to be God, became flesh, uniting uniquely in His one undivided person the two natures of deity and humanity. Evangelicalism is the belief that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
            With these four criteria of orthodoxy in mind, how do the various doctrines of deification measure up? The doctrines of the church fathers, as well as of Eastern Orthodoxy, are, as we have already indicated, thoroughly orthodox on all four points. Mormonism and Armstrongism fail on all four counts, and are therefore heretical. Union Life appears to hold to the Trinity and salvation by grace, but sets these doctrines in the context of panentheism; therefore, it too is heretical.
            But what shall we say about the “faith” teachers? They do affirm a monotheistic world view and generally affirm the Trinity (though there is some evidence of confusion on that score). Some at least of these teachers consider the Christian to be as much an incarnation as Jesus, and thus fail the third test. Most speak unguardedly of man as existing in “God’s class,” of being the same “kind” as God, and so forth, even while occasionally making disclaimers about men never becoming equal to God. Are these teachers heretics, or are they orthodox?
            It may be that a simple black-or-white approach to this question is inappropriate in some cases. Certainly these teachers are not to be placed in the same category as Mormonism and Armstrongism, since the “faith” teachers affirm monotheism and trinitarianism. Yet too many statements have been made by these teachers which can only be called heretical, though it may be that such statements are due to carelessness or hyperbole and not actual heretical belief. It is to be hope that the “faith” teachers will recognize the errors of their unbiblical statements and repent of them. Until that time, their doctrine of men being “little gods” is so far from being orthodox that it should not be placed in that category either. How, then, should we categorize such teachings?
            In recent years ministries which specialize in discerning orthodox from heretical teachings have been using the term “aberrational” to describe teachings which do not fit neatly into either the orthodox or heretical category. Specifically, “heretical” teaching explicitly denies essential biblical truth, while “aberrational” teaching compromises or confuses essential biblical truth. Both are in error, but a heresy is an outright rejection or opposition to truth, while an aberration is a distortion or misunderstanding of truth only. Aberrational teachers affirm the essential doctrines of orthodoxy, and then go on to teach doctrines that compromise or are otherwise inconsistent with orthodoxy, while heretics actually deny one or more of the essentials.
            It we apply this distinction to the cases at hand, their usefulness becomes apparent. Mormonism and Armstrongism both explicitly reject certain essential teachings of orthodoxy; they are therefore heretical. Union Life rejects monotheism in favor of panentheism; it is also heretical. Many of the “faith” teachers affirm the essentials, but then go on to teach doctrines which undermine their professed orthodoxy; their doctrine is aberrational and false. On the other hand, there are, unfortunately, at least some “faith” teachers (for example, Kenneth Copeland) whose teachings are so opposed to orthodoxy that they can only be regarded as heretical.
            It is not always easy to decide whether a teaching is orthodox, aberrational, or heretical. Nevertheless, it can be done, and we should not allow the unpopularity of making doctrinal judgments to deter us from the necessary (if sometimes unpleasant) task of evaluating questionable teaching. In doing so, we must avoid the extreme of labeling as heretics absolutely everyone who uses the term “deification,” as well as the extreme of regarding as Christian any doctrine of deification which makes reference to Christ. It is the substance of each doctrine which must be examined as the basis for discerning whether it is orthodox, aberrational, or heretical. Only in this way can the church’s calling to “test the spirits, to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1) be fulfilled.

NOTES

1 Norman Geisler and William Watkins, Perspectives: Understanding and Evaluating Today’s World Views (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life, 1984).
2 See, for example, Gerald Bonner, “Augustine’s Conception of Deification,” Journal of Theological Studies, n.s., 37 (Oct. 1986): 369-386.
3 Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966), 317.
4 Van Hale, “Defining the Mormon Doctrine of Deity,” Sunstone 10, 1 (1985), 25-26.
5 See especially Philip Barlow, “Unorthodox Orthodoxy: The Idea of Deification in Christian History,” Sunstone 9 (Sept.-Oct. 1984), 13-18.
6 See “A Summary Critique: Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong,” elsewhere in this issue of CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL.
7 “A Case in Point: Union Life,” Cornerstone, 9, 52 (1980), 32-36.
8 Norman Grubb, “The Question Box,” Union Life 6 (May-June 1981), 23.
9 Norman Grubb, “The Question Box,” Union Life 6 (July-Aug. 1981), 23.
10 See “A Case in Point: Union Life,” 32-33.
11 Tom Carroll, “The Mystery According to St. Augustine,” Union Life 10 (Nov.-Dec. 1985), 20-21.
12 Brian A. Onken, “A Misunderstanding of Faith,” FORWARD 5 (1982), and Onken, “The Atonement of Christ and the ‘Faith’ Message,” FORWARD 7 (1984).
13 E.g., Casey Treat, Complete Confidence: The Attitude for Success (Seattle, WA: Casey Treat Ministries, 1985), 319-324.
14 At private meetings between Walter Martin and Larry Duckworth with Frederick K.C. Price on May 1, 1986, and between Walter Martin and Casey Treat in early April, 1987.
15 Treat, 82-83, 306-327; Holy Bible: Kenneth Copeland Reference Edition (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1972), iii.
16 Holy Bible: Kenneth Copeland Reference Edition, lvi.
17 On the biblical teaching on the nature of God, see The Nature and Attributes of God, by Robert and Gretchen Passantino of CARIS (write to CARIS, P.O. Box 2067, Costa Mesa, CA 92628), or this author’s outline study, “The Attributes of God,” available from CRI (order #DA-250).
18 E. Jungkuntz, “An Approach to the Exegesis of John 10:34-36,” Concordia Theological Monthly 35 (1964):560.
19 Casey Treat, Renewing the Mind: The Arena for Success (Seattle, WA: Casey Treat Ministries, 1985), 90.
20 Barlow, 17.
21 See G.C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God, Studies in Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962), 37-118.
22 Kenneth Copeland, Now We Are in Christ Jesus (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1980), 24.
23 Kenneth E. Hagin, “The Incarnation,” The Word of Faith (Dec. 1980), 14.
24 Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, rev. ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1985), 18-24.
25 Introductory literature on the Trinity is available from CRI.

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Some of the Real Rotten Roots of Modern Word of Faith Theology

I posted an article before on Positive Confession, Word Faith, Logos and Rhema, and some of the heresies associated with it. {see here http://endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com/2008/11/19/positive-negative-confession-word-faith-logos-rhema/ }

Some of the modern Positive Confession Word Faith heresy has evolved from the Christian Science of Mary Baker Eddy, which although known by most folk today as a cult run by a blasphemous false prophetess, influenced to varying degrees ‘the church’ during the late 1800s/early 1900s.

Prayer, from the Christian Science perspective, does not appeal to ask God to intervene in a situation, but is rather a process of learning more of “God’s” spiritual reality within all of us [typical new age] – “awakening mortal thought” to the so-called spiritual truth there is no such thing as evil, disease, death and it is all an illusion. So battling for the mind and the thoughts and getting that ‘right’ by basically being in denial, and utilising mind over ‘illusionary’ matter – and basically mesmering/hypnotising oneself to be well by positive thought. {Interestingly, Eddy thought conversely that ‘negative’ thinking could kill, even from another from a distance, and claimed one of her husbands died this way.]

Note already the similarities with these ideas promoted by Eddy and some modern church thinking within the prosperity gospel/word faith movement.

If you are struggling to see the pattern at the moment, just exchange some of the Christian Science terminology for more familiar Christian sounding words commonly distorted and used out of context today, such as:-

faith
confession
believe
seed
holding on
holding onto the promise
taking authority over
take full authority
command
creative force
speak out
declare
decree
rebuke
bind
cast out
denounce
throw off
casting down each thought
taking each thought captive
foothold
renewal/battle of the mind
visualise
eyes of faith
rhema
word of faith
word of life
’mustard seed’
taking the land
destiny
crossing the Jordan
achieving victory
victorious
spiritual breakthrough
anointed
power
spiritual laws
dominion
defeating the enemy
prosperity
health
name
claim
inheritance
being a champion
positive
negative
thought life
spiritual warfare

And conversely ‘negative words/thinking’, ‘critical spirit’, ‘unbelief’, ‘fear’, ‘doubt’ ’witchcraft’ et al.

Among other terrible things Christian Science teaches [and again you should see the similarities of thinking within the word faith movement, just dressed up a little in a more ‘palatable’ form, and I have included as well as the similarities the blasphemy and other nonsense just so you can see how rotten its roots actually are] –

“In Christian Science we learn there are not two powers – a good one that overcomes an evil one. There is only one power, omnipotent, omnipresent good. Christian Science therefore recognizes all discord such as sin, disease, death, lack and limitation as merely illusion. In this realization – in our ability to rest in the Word of God – the problem that confronts us dissolves; healing takes place.

Mrs. Eddy continually admonished students to expose and denounce evil and errors of every nature but recognize no reality in them since they are illusions, hypnotic suggestion only.

What Conclusion Should We Arrive At?

If you think about it seriously must you not arrive at the conclusion that if God is All, is infinite, is good only, is omnipotent and omnipresent–and there is nothing present but infinite good, it’s nature and its qualities–then must not sin, disease, lack, and limitation, discord of any kind, be illusion? Must these not be the result of universal hypnotic suggestion?

When we believe disease has power, and try to rid ourselves of it, we actually increase its seeming power over us, but if we hold to the Truth that omnipotent Mind–the Mind that is our real Mind–possesses all power, and this power is in the invisible spirit of God within us, we gain the conviction that there is no power in the visible form–the body, the condition, the person, place, thing–and therefore the discord or disease disappears.

The false sense disappears because we have obeyed Jesus’ admonition to resist not evil – resist not illusions, hypnotic suggestions, animal magnetism. The discord has disappeared because the spirit of Truth, the kingdom of God within our consciousness, has acted to dispel the illusion.

Jesus’ life gave us a monumental demonstration of overcoming the illusions of mortal mind. Was there ever a greater seeming defeat, from the mortal standpoint, than Calvary? Was there ever a greater victory than the resurrection? Mrs. Eddy’s life too was a series of snatching stunning victories from the jaws of defeat (illusion, hypnotic suggestion). What these two Wayshowers accomplished we can accomplish, too. These victories are also available for us.

Dispelling the Illusion

Because mortals have been reared in a material sense of life they hold themselves in bondage to form, and so commit idolatry–they bow down and fear a form labeled body, disease, money, person, place, thing, condition. But Christian Science reveals there is a presence and power, which as we contact it, becomes a law unto us; it becomes “He that performeth that which is given me to do.”

The spirit of Truth can dispel the illusion only when we arrive at the inner conviction that power does not exist in the visible form. Spirit–infinite good, reality–is the only substance; it shadows forth infinite forms, but the power remains in the Mind, the Spirit, the Principle. For example, the principle of mathematics has infinite forms each of which can be erased from the blackboard, but the principle can reproduce the examples, the calculations, the forms, because the power and reproductive capacity always remains in the principle. It is the same with the Principle of our being. The power is never in the visible form. Jesus told his listeners, “Destroy this temple [this body, this form] and in three days, I [my divine Mind, the ‘I’ that I am, the Principle], will raise it up,” will reproduce it.

When error looms, we have a decision to make. We will have a battle (since the illusions seem so real, and continually present pictures to us of things that do not exist in reality). Christian Science asks: Is there a something, a condition, that has to be overcome? Is there a condition that Truth must do something to?

Christian Science teaches that other people do not have the power to bedevil our life. But we must know this. When we expose and denounce evil we must at the same time recognize no reality in it.

We Must Know the Truth that Frees

One of Mrs. Eddy’s most valued students, Flavia Knapp, felt keenly the envy, jealousy, malice, hate, and persecution directed against her; therefore at a testimony meeting, after testifying of her many wonderful healings, she concluded by asking: “For which of these works do ye stone me?”

Two weeks later she died. She had personalized error, had made it real. It was the suggestion, illusion, appearing in her own thinking, that caused her to believe in the power of animal magnetism (error, hypnotic suggestion, illusion) and which prompted her to enter her public protest against this illusion. Jesus said, “A man’s foes shall be those of his own household.”

Mrs. Knapp had failed to heed the Christian Science teaching that when we feel thoughts of error we should vehemently enter a protest against our own belief in it. She should have understandingly declared: “No, you are not real; you can’t be real since God, the kingdom of God within me, is All, and has sovereign power; therefore I know you are nothing but hypnotic suggestion. This error has no power of its own; it is coming to me to give it life, and I refuse to give it any!” Then the error, the illusion, would have vanished, and Mrs. Knapp would have continued with her wonderful mission on this plane of existence.

Our great work in this world is to let the light within our own consciousness expand further and further into the darkness until this light– from “the kingdom of God within [us]“banishes all darkness and error.

What Makes Evil, Error Vanish?

If we stand fast in divine Science, the divine knowing that God, infinite good, is All, is One, is omnipotent and omnipresent, then is there a discord to be overcome? Is there disease, lack and limitation to be overcome? The answer, of course, is “No!” Christian Science calls on us to decide between reality and appearances, between the Spirit and the flesh. “The belief that life and sensation are in the body should be overcome by the understanding of what constitutes man as the image of God [our true Mind]. Then Spirit will have overcome the flesh” (S&H 289:4). When we are in that consciousness where “the spirit of the Lord God is upon [us],” evil of every nature vanishes.

Mary Baker Eddy’s great discovery revealed that materiality and the discords confronting us are not a power. They cannot be a power since God, our real Mind, alone is power; Spirit (reality, good) alone is power. Clinging to this truth we prove that materiality and discords are not a power. They are false concepts, misperceptions.

…. Belief in Two Powers Caused Suffering

Now we can understand why, even though the Bible was the guiding light and impetus for the ventures undertaken in the discovery and settling of America, so much adversity and suffering was encountered.

It was because the people involved–and this is still true of most of us–had a religious background which had instilled in them the belief of two powers.

They prayed to a God that did not exist. They prayed to God as a great power that could overcome other powers such as sin, disease, hunger, cold, or danger. There is no such God. God, our true Mind, “the kingdom of God within” us, knows no sin, disease, death, discord, or error. These people believed that evil was real and that God knew about evil; hence they were praying to a nonexistent God.

God’s nature as omnipresent good can have no opposite, hence evil is unreal. God is All; His work is done; evil is merely an illusion. But only as people understand the nature of God and the nature of man can there be unfailing, systematic demonstration of God as the ONE power, the only power.

Evil’s unreality was the great revelation that came to Mary Baker Eddy. So powerful was this revelation in Mrs. Eddy’s time that some practitioners took 100 patients a day and healed them all! This spread Christian Science around the world and built up the thousands of Christian Science churches.

Until Mrs. Eddy revealed the allness and ever-presence of infinite good, people did not realize that even “religion,” which believed in two powers–a good and an evil power–was a barrier to understanding the kingdom of God within their own consciousness; hence the suffering and hardship that has accompanied mankind’s progress.

…committing adultery, lying, cheating, getting drunk or smoking. The writings of Mary Baker Eddy–the second coming of the Christ–reveal sin as far more encompassing.

Sin is dishonoring God, the kingdom of God within our spiritual consciousness, by accepting the universal hypnotic suggestion that there is a material universe, and that humanity is separated from the one Mind, God–the real Mind of man.

This belief in a material universe, inhabited by flesh-blood-bones bodies, is what is meant by having “other gods.” It breaks the First Commandment.

From the point of view of the Science of being there is no difference between the belief in lack, sorrow, and disease, and the belief in any other so-called sin, such as adultery or stealing. They are all ILLUSION, merely hypnotic suggestion. God being All, there is naught besides. Error of any kind is unreal. Once we see this we can heal, just like a mathematician can “heal” 2×2=5, because he has learned it is 4.

….. Christian Science instructs us to dwell on what we already are and what we already have because of the fact that “I and the Father [Mind] are one….And all that the Father [Mind] hath is mine.”….I and the Mind that is Love are one, and all that Mind hath is mine. This is a great impersonal universal truth that applies to every man, woman, and child in the universe.

The understanding and acceptance of this Truth would end greed and every form of discord, and bring into focus the ever-present reign of harmony, the kingdom of heaven.

Christian Science asks: if you accept an infinite God, an infinite good that is all, omnipotent, omnipresent, an infinite Spirit beside which there is naught else, can there, in reality, actually be discord such as sin, disease, lack?”

{source http://mbeinstitute.org/America/AmerIntro.html#anchor873259 ]
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THE HARMFUL TEACHINGS OF KENNETH AND GLORIA COPELAND Written by Cedric Hohnstadt

(NOTE: I want to be honest and fair, so all quotes are footnoted. Any time I used a quote that I could not personally verify, it is preceeded by the word “allegedly”, as in “Copeland allegedly said…”. Also, in August 2004 I submitted an early draft of this article to the Kenneth Copeland ministry and asked for their feedback. I have yet to receive a response.)

Why worry about doctrine anyway? Click HERE to see what the Bible says.

Introduction: So What’s The Big Deal?

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland teach some wonderful things: We must have confidence in God’s Word and obey it; we must resist the Devil; we should praise God, and boldly pray, and have faith; we should serve God and love others and give sacrificially. But the Copeland’s also have some dangerous teachings that are not only unbiblical, but unhealthy and even harmful.

I have no desire to slander a well-meaning ministry. But I believe the Copeland’s teaching is very flawed–so flawed that, if followed wholeheartedly, it can only lead to disappointment, frustration and disillusionment…or worse. That bothers me. The Bible is very clear that false teachings are harmful and should be exposed (in humility and love). But don’t take my word for it; turn to the Scriptures. I will quote a lot of Scripture in this article. Please click on the links so you can test what I am saying. God’s Word is more powerful than any words I can come up with.

The Copeland’s are leaders in what is commonly referred to as the Word of Faith Movement or the “Prosperity Gospel”, which (falsely) teaches that God’s will for believers is always prosperity, health, and victory—no matter what. When hard times hit (and they eventually do), what are we to make of them? Could it be that God has some sovereign reason for suffering, or that He uses it to teach us or to help us grow? Copeland says no! In Word Faith theology failure, sickness, and hardship are always attacks from Satan and are never God’s will.

Copeland is wrong. The Bible clearly tells us that sometimes it is actually God’s will that we suffer (1 Peter 3:17; 4:19; Hebrew 12:7).

Here are twelve reasons why I believe this teaching is very harmful, followed by a critique of three false promises of Copeland’s prosperity gospel:

What’s Wrong with the Prosperity Gospel?

1. Materialism keeps people out of heaven.
The Copeland’s tout the Gospel as a way to live “the good life” and claim wealth is a sign of spiritual maturity. Such a message appeals only to our sinful, selfish nature. True Christians are not to love the world or anything in the world (1 John 2:15). Jesus repeatedly warned that wealth can be dangerous to our souls (Luke 8:14; 12:15) and even keep us out of heaven (Matthew 19:21-24; Ephesians 5:5). Rather than indulging ourselves with material “blessings”, the true Christian message is to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ, for “you cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).

2. Lack of true peace.
Word of Faith preachers teach that God is just waiting to bless us. So if the believer isn’t experiencing “victory”, the problem must somehow be with the believer. This false teaching causes the believer to constantly strive harder, sacrifice harder, confess harder, and believe harder in order to achieve some mystical level of pure, unpolluted faith. The believer has no true peace until this “victory” is achieved.

In reality the Bible does NOT promise constant prosperity and victory (see below, False Promise #3: Victory and Success for Believers). Sometimes it is actually God’s will that we suffer (1 Peter 3:17; 4:19; Hebrew 12:7). The apostle Paul was able to proudly rejoice in his sufferings (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)! The mark of the true Christian is not freedom from suffering but peace in the midst of suffering (2 Thess. 3:16; Phil. 4:6-7; John 14:27; 16:33; Romans 8:6; 15:13; Heb. 12:11).

Despite what the Copeland’s say, pain and hardship need not shake our faith or rob us of our peace!

3. Unnecessary guilt and worry.
Copeland’s teaching makes God’s blessing conditional on our ability to strive and perform. On their website Gloria Copeland writes: “So our protection depends on our walking in fellowship with God and obedience to His Word.”6 and “Your security will be determined by how much time and attention you give to God and His Word in this life”.7 This is not only unbiblical (our security is in Christ, not our efforts), it is the exact opposite of grace! The Copeland’s also insist we must tame our tongues to secure God’s blessing,8 even though the Bible says that is impossible (James 3:8).

When suffering persists, Prosperity teaching actually creates doubt and worry (“What am I doing wrong?”; “When have I done enough?”) and destroys any real confidence in God’s sovereignty and mercy.

4. Unnecessary fear.
Anything negative, especially doubt, will supposedly cancel out your faith and short-circuit God’s blessing in your life. As a result, when hardships come the believer puts pressure on himself to do the impossible: to never have a negative thought. The result is bondage to a constant, superstitious fear of anything negative.

Actually, faith grows stronger if we ask questions and wrestle honestly with our doubts. The Bereans were commended for their healthy skepticism (Acts 17:11). We are to search for wisdom as for hidden treasure (Prov. 2:3-5) and test everything (1 Thess. 5:21).

Fear of anything negative shows how weak and fragile a person’s faith really is, and keeps it from growing stronger.

5. Emotional stress.
The Copeland’s teach that sadness, grief, anger, or frustration are signs of a lack of faith. According to Gloria Copeland, “If you are sad and depressed, that means you’re not believing God”9 . As a result, believers may stuff their true feelings and/or live in denial of them. This can create a host of unhealthy emotional and relational problems.

God knows our hearts better than we do (Psalm 44:21; Romans 8:27). When we mourn He does not shame us–He comforts us (Matthew. 5:4). He is “The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” (2 Cor. 1:3). He desires that we be open and honest with Him about our negative feelings (as David did in the Psalms) so that He can help us to deal with them and overcome them with His peace.

6. Avoidance of serious problems.
Likewise, some people may avoid properly dealing with their problems. Simply accepting life’s difficulties supposedly shows a lack of faith. So when problems arise some feel they must prove their faith by patiently waiting for the “victory” they have been promised. An extreme example of this would be parents who let their children die rather than take them to the doctor, because they are claiming God’s promises to heal and taking them to the doctor would show a sinful “lack of faith”. How tragic!

When problems arise, we are to face them prayerfully with responsibility and wisdom, and then trust God to work all things out for His good (Romans 8:28).

7. A false view of God.
In Prosperity teaching, you must never pray “…if it be Your will”. To consider the possibility of a “no” answer from God supposedly shows a lack of faith (even though both Jesus and Paul did so–Luke 22:42; Acts 18:21; also James 4:13-15). Apparently Copeland’s God is a fickle being who is swayed into holding back blessing simply by praying one wrong phrase (“if it be Your will”). Copeland also allegedly believes God is not all-powerful: “God cannot do anything for you apart or separate from faith”.10 Such a God is not the true God!

8. Raising man and lowering God.
Copeland says believers have the same authority as God: “You have obtained an inheritance, and in that inheritance you have been given all authority.”11 He also says our future is in our own hands: “With [God’s] truth we can set our course…for a life full of success”;12 “You are the prophet of your own life…Your words in your life decide your future”.13 Apparently it is ultimately up to us (not God) to decide what is good for us and what blessings we should have.

Copeland’s God is also weakened by humans because he cannot truly bless us without our believing prayers and confession. So the real power is in our ability to “release the power of faith”. We must have “faith in our faith”14.

The roles are reversed–in a sense we become the masters and God becomes the servant. Copeland allegedly wrote, “As a believer, you have a right to make commands in the name of Jesus. Each time you stand on the Word, you are commanding God to a certain extent because it is His Word”.15 This is a backward, man-centered theology and is outright blasphemy. God is the King, we are but humble servants (Luke 17:10). Copeland’s emphasis is (wrongly) on our ability to drum up enough faith, when instead the emphasis should be on Christ to lead us, provide for us, and empower us to serve Him as He sees fit.

9. A distorted prayer life.
Copeland teaches that just as there are laws of physics that control the power of electricity, there are also spiritual laws that control the power of faith. The secret to the the victorious Christian life is learning how to master these supposed “faith laws” through speaking and believing God’s promises. As a result prayer becomes a constant mantra of “taking authority” and “rebuking Satan” and “speaking faith” and “rebuking doubt”–none of which is a true interaction with God. Prayer sadly gets twisted into a magical, manipulative formula rather than a loving, trusting relationship with Jesus.

10. A false road to maturity.
For Copeland, spiritual maturity equals prosperity. The Bible says the opposite: spiritual maturity comes by persevering through trials (James 1:2-4). Jesus warned strongly against prosperity. Rather than strengthening our faith, wealth can actually choke it out (Luke 8:14), pull us away from God (Matt. 6:24) and even keep us out of heaven (Matt. 19:21-24; Eph. 5:5). “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24).

Instead of following after prosperity, we grow in maturity as we “put to death the desires of the flesh” (which includes greed–Col. 3:5) and take up our cross and follow Christ.

11. It promotes laziness and irresponsibility.
If simply claiming God’s promises entitles us to a life of victory, health, and wealth, then why bother with hard work, education, discipline, exercise, etc.? To the poor and uneducated his teachings may have the same appeal as the phony get-rich-quick philosophy promoted by lotteries, casinos, and other hucksters.

12. It is a trap that leads to disillusionment.
Tragedy and suffering strike everyone sooner or later. When they do, no amount of believing or giving tithes or rebuking the devil can get us out of them. Believers either become trapped in a constant cycle of striving and sacrificing until things improve, or they become bitter and disillusioned and leave Word of Faith teaching (and perhaps Christianity) altogether. Either way, the believer is kept from resting in the true inner peace and comfort that Christ promises in the midst of life’s tragedies.

GETTING SOME BALANCE

Copeland repeatedly bends Scripture to fit his beliefs rather than bending his beliefs to fit Scripture. Let me take three of Copeland’s biggest false promises and balance them with Scriptures that he usually (and conveniently) ignores:

False Promise #1: Financial Prosperity for Believers
The Copeland’s insist that true faith will bring the believer loads of money, despite a long list of Scriptures that teach otherwise. On their website Gloria Copeland writes:

“God’s will concerning financial prosperity and abundance is clearly revealed in the Scriptures”. 16

But what did Jesus teach about prosperity and abundance? While He never condemned money outright, He did warn us not to store up earthly treasure (Matt. 6:19) and preached that those who serve God must despise money (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:15) because their hearts will be wherever their treasure is (Matt. 6:21). He said giving is better than receiving (Acts 20:35). He warned that wealth is deceitful and can choke out our faith (Matt. 13:5,22; Luke 8:14), and to be on guard against self-indulgence and greed in all its forms (Matthew 23:25; Mark 7:21-23; Luke 12:15). He preached woe to the wealthy (Luke 6:24) and said it is almost impossible for the rich to enter heaven (Matt. 19:21-24). Jesus commands all his followers to lay down their lives in self-denial (Matt. 16:24) and told a wealthy would-be disciple to sell all his possessions (Matt. 19:21-24). Jesus himself did not even have a bed to sleep on (Matt. 8:20).

Yet Kenneth and Gloria Copeland teach that if we shun wealth we are sinning against God:

“The man who holds to poverty rejects the establishment of the covenant. The man who holds to the covenant rejects poverty. Faith in the covenant pleases God. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him.” 17 and (allegedly), “Poverty is an evil spirit”18 .

What about the Apostles–did they put a lot of emphasis on financial prosperity? Paul once described himself as “poor” and “having nothing” (2 Cor. 6:10). He wrote that a Christian must flee the desire to get rich (1 Tim. 6:10-11), because greed is idolatry (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5). We must purge every hint of greed from our lives (Eph. 5:3) and be content with whatever little we have (Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:6-8).

The desire to get rich is a trap that brings ruin, destruction, and all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:9-11). We are to have nothing to do with greedy people (Eph. 5:5-7). A true Christian leader must not be a lover of money (1 Tim. 3:2-3), and a greedy teacher may exploit his flock (2 Peter 2:3). Those who think godliness leads to financial gain have been corrupted (1 Tim. 6:5). A Christian must not focus his mind on earthly things (Col. 3:2) or love anything in the world (1 John 2:15-16). He must not pray for money to spend on pleasure (James 4:3), but rather be content with whatever little he has (Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:6-8). Being poor is a high position while being rich is a low position (James 1:9-10).

Nevertheless, the Copeland’s insist:

“Prosperity is a major requirement in the establishment of God’s will,” and “God’s will for His people today is abundance”19.

This is easy for them to say, because the Copeland’s themselves don’t really live by faith at all.

Instead they live lavishly off the donations of poor, struggling Christians who are “sowing” what little they have for the promise of “reaping a hundredfold blessing”20 . If the Copeland’s really believe giving reaps such an increase, shouldn’t they be giving away their own wealth? By asking for donations don’t they show a lack of faith?

False Promise #2: Health and Healing for Believers
On their website Gloria Copeland writes:

“[God’s Word is] so powerful it can cure every sickness and disease known to man. It has no dangerous side effects. It is safe even in massive doses. And when taken daily according to directions, it can prevent illness altogether and keep you in vibrant health.”21

Is this incredible claim really true? If so, are things like wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, and having surgery unnecessary or even sinful?

While God can and does heal, the Bible is clear that it is not His will in every situation. Paul suffered a “thorn in his flesh” which God refused to remove in order to keep Paul humble….and rather than chide himself for lack of faith, Paul rejoiced! (2 Cor. 12:7-10). God used an illness of Paul’s to bring the gospel to the Galatians (Gal. 4:13), and Paul probably suffered from poor eyesight (Gal. 6:11). Timothy was sick frequently (1 Tim. 5:23), but rather than telling Timothy to “claim a healing” or “rebuke the devil”, Paul simply instructs him to add wine to his diet (wine was used as a form of medicine). Paul also left a man named Trophimus sick in Miletus, without healing him (2 Tim. 4:20).

Pastor and author John MacArthur lists the three primary reasons why Christians get sick:

Some sicknesses are from God. “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11). God made the disabled and infirm. Babies are born every day with defects. Many children grow up with congenital deformities. Some people have illnesses that last for years. While it is unexplainable according to our human logic, it is all part of God’s sovereign, loving plan.

Some sicknesses are from Satan. (Luke 13:11-13). God may allow Satan to inflict illness for His own sovereign reasons. The classic example is Job (Job chapter 1).

Some sickness is God’s chastisement for sin. (Numbers 12; Deut. 28:20-22; 2 Kings 5). “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy word” (Ps. 119:67)22

Other examples include God tormenting the Egyptians with skin boils (Ex. 9:8-12), inflicting King Jeroboam with leprosy (2 Kings 15:5), and striking Saul with blindness (Acts 9:1-19).

The Bible also tells us plainly that God disciplines the Church through sickness, hardship, and even death (1 Cor. 11:28-30; Heb. 12:7; Acts 5:1-11) and that we should joyfully accept trials “of many kinds” because God uses them to make us mature (James 1:2-4; Psalm 119:71,75). Clearly God allows and even causes sickness for His own sovereign purposes.

Yet Kenneth Copeland allegedly writes:

“Tradition has taught that God uses sickness, trials and tribulation to teach us. This idea, however, is not based on the Word of God. God HAS NEVER used sickness to discipline His children and keep them in line. Sickness is of the devil, and God doesn’t need the devil to straighten us out!”23

and on his website:

“God never inflicted anyone with disease or anything listed under the curse. SATAN WAS AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN THE ONE WHO KILLS,  STEALS, AND DESTROYS (see John 10:10).” 24

Copeland is wrong, and he is on dangerous ground because He is taking the work of God and attributing it to Satan. That is blasphemy!

False Promise #3: Victory and Success for Believers
On their website Gloria Copeland writes,

“God’s prosperity isn’t just financial blessings. It also includes healing, protection, favor, wisdom, success, well-being and every good thing you could possibly need—all the good things Jesus paid for you to have.”25

and

“It just boils down to this: We have to live by faith and trust in God. In Him we have already been delivered from the whole curse. We’re protected from danger, sickness, lack or any other bad thing that’s under the curse. God promised us in Psalm 91, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect
those who trust in my name’ (verse 14, New Living Translation).”26

Despite what Copeland says, the Bible is very clear that following Christ does not lead to an easier life, but rather to an increase in hardship.

Jesus said that we are actually blessed not through victory and success but through mourning, persecution, insults, poverty, hunger, weeping, hatred and rejection (Matt. 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-23; John 15:18-20). He said that those who follow Him may see their family members become their enemies (Matt. 10:34-36; Luke 14:25-26), and that the world would hate them (Matthew 10:22; John 15:18). All who follow Jesus must give up everything (Luke 14:33) and deny themselves and take up a cross (Matt. 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23), which means embracing an instrument of torture and death.

Throughout the book of Acts the disciples were persecuted, hauled into courts, threatened, imprisoned, beaten, flogged, stoned to death and put to the sword. They faced riots and mobs. False witnesses were brought against them. They were scattered from their homes (Acts 8:1) and some believers even had their property confiscated (Heb. 10:34).

At one point Paul was imprisoned for two years (Acts 24:27). According to 1 Cor. 4:9-13, he and his companions suffered hunger and thirst, their clothing was reduced to rags, they were brutally treated, they were homeless, cursed, persecuted, slandered, and they compared themselves to scum and refuse. They was “hard-pressed”, “perplexed”, “persecuted”, “struck down”, and “always given over to death” (2 Cor. 4:8-11). They faced troubles, hardships, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, riots, hard work, sleepless nights, hunger, dishonor, bad report, beatings, sorrow, and poverty. (2 Cor. 6:4-10). Paul himself was chained and imprisoned frequently, flogged five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, and was constantly on the move from danger. Cold and naked, he sometimes went without food, water or sleep. (2 Cor. 11:23-27) At one point in his ministry everyone deserted him (2 Tim. 4:16), and at another time the pressure and despair was so great that he no longer wanted to live (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

Yet Copeland writes:

“The only suffering we encounter in sharing His victory is spiritual. That’s what the Word is talking about when it says we are to be partakers of Christ’s suffering. In other words, the only suffering for a believer is the spiritual discomfort brought by resisting the pressures of the flesh, not a
physical or mental suffering. Jesus has already borne for us all the suffering in the natural and mental realms. . .That’s why it’s to God’s glory when we are healed or delivered physically and mentally, for we only have to fight in the spirit realm.”27

Apparently Paul just never learned how speak to victory into his life. Are we to assume Copeland is a stronger man of faith than Paul was?

Hardly. Paul understood the essential Christian doctrine of self-denial. He was willing to take up his cross, put to death his sinful nature, and face persecution and death daily as a bondslave of Christ and for the benefit of others. Yet this crucial Christian concept is strangely absent in Copeland’s prosperity teaching.

Hebrews 11:35-39 describes men of God who were tortured, jeered at, flogged, chained, imprisoned, stoned, sawed in two, and put to death by the sword. They wore sheepskins and goatskins and wandered the deserts and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground. The were destitute, persecuted, and mistreated. The Copelands would say these were people of weak faith, but verse 39 says they were commended for their faith!

The Blessings of Suffering, Sickness, and Hardship

Suffering can be a blessing (Matt. 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-23; 1 Pet. 3:14; 4:14). Christians should not be surprised at suffering (1 Peter 4:12; 1 John 3:13; 1 Thess. 3:3-4; Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Thess. 3:4) but embrace it joyfully (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:13). Godliness and suffering go hand in hand (2 Tim. 3:12). Sometimes suffering is actually God’s will (1 Peter 3:17; 4:19; Hebrew 12:7) and He uses it to bring about many positive results, such as:

A greater dependance on God (2 Cor. 1:9; 12:7-10)
Joy (Matt. 5:10-12; Luke 6:22-23; Acts 5:41; Rom. 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 12:9-10; Col. 1:24; 1 Thess. 1:6; 1 Peter 4:13; Heb. 10:34; James 1:2-4)
Patience (2 Cor. 1:6; James 5:10; Rev. 1:9)
Courage (Matt. 10:28; Phil. 1:28; 1 Thess. 2:2; Rev. 2:10)
Freedom from Shame (2 Tim. 1:8,12; 1 Peter 4:16)
Perseverance/Endurance (Rom. 5:3; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:3; 2 Tim. 4:5; Heb. 10:32,36; 12:7; James 1:2-4,12; 1 Peter 4:19; Rev. 1:9, 2:3,10,13)
Character (Rom. 5:3-4)
Hope(Rom. 5:3-4)
A harvest of righteousness and peace (Heb. 12:11)
Closeness to Jesus and a longing for heaven (Rom. 8:17; Phil. 3:10; Heb. 11:26,35; 12:2-3; 13:13; 1 Peter 4:1; Rev. 21:4)
Thankfulness (1 Thess. 5:18)
Blessing and Kindness (1 Cor. 4:12-13)
Gentleness and Respect (1 Peter 3:14-17)
Opportunities to show forgiveness to others (Matt. 5:39-45; 2 Tim. 4:16)
Blessings and Comfort for others (1 Cor. 12:25-26; 2 Cor. 1:3-7; 8:2-4; Eph. 3:13; Phil. 1:14; Col. 1:24; 1 Thess. 3:2-4; 2 Tim. 2:8-10; Heb. 13:3)

Rather than being a sign of “lack of faith”, suffering can be one of the greatest tools God uses for strengthening our faith, and a sign that we are indeed living according to His will!

Yet on his website Kenneth Copeland writes:

“Over the years, this unscriptural doctrine of suffering for God by submitting to such works of the devil as sickness, lack and oppression has become a veritable sacred cow. But it’s time we knocked that cow in the head.”28

One has to wonder if Copeland is even reading the same Bible as the rest of us.

Blessed by God?

Does God desire to bless us? Absolutely!!! But the greatest blessings of God are not the things this world admires, for “what is highly esteemed among men is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15).

We are blessed through suffering and persecution (Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Pet. 3:14; 4:14). We are blessed through being meek and pure in heart, through showing mercy and making peace (Matt. 5:1-10). We are blessed through faithful devotion to Christ (Matt. 11:6) and in understanding who Christ really is (Matt. 16:17). We are blessed by giving to others (Acts 20:35) and by helping the hungry, lonely, naked, sick, imprisoned, poor, crippled, lame and blind (Matt. 25:34-36; Luke 14:13-14). We are blessed by obeying the word of God (Luke 11:28; John 13:17; James 1:25) and by persevering through trials (James 1:12; 5:11). We are blessed by believing in Christ (John 20:29) and through repentance (Acts 3:26). We are blessed through the forgiveness Christ purchased for us on the cross (Rom. 4:6-8) and the hope of eternal life (Titus 2:13; Rev. 20:6)

Conclusion

There are good reasons why the Bible commands us to “test everything” and “preserve sound doctrine”, and warns us repeatedly about false teachers. While the Copeland’s have some good things to say, we must remember that Satan does not feed us poison outright— he hides it in the meat.

Whether they mean to or not, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland mislead people with false promises. Their supposed “life of victory” ultimately breeds guilt, fear, confusion, worry, disillusionment, and lack of true peace.

They keep people from dealing properly with the struggles of life. They present a false view of God, give man control of his own destiny, and attribute some of God’s work to Satan. They turn prayer into manipulation. They lead people to put their faith in the wrong thing and then prevent that faith from truly growing stronger.

They preach a gospel of materialism instead of self-denial, and make it harder for people to learn what God wants to teach them through suffering. Their theology is sloppy and they are misleading many for their own financial gain.

For all of this the Copeland’s must be held accountable. God holds teachers and prophets to very high standards (James 3:1; Deut. 18:20), and so should we.

Footnotes:
(KCM is short for Kenneth Copeland Ministries)

http://www.cedricstudio.com/personal/copeland.html

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Walter Martin: The Errors of Positive Confession – 7 of 7

 

 

Is health, wealth, and prosperity always the will of our Father?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verses against Positive Confession/Word Faith Movement/ Mind Science

By Dwayna Litz

(My notes from a radio interview with True News to expose the occult, February 7, 2007)

Ex. 4:11—“Who had made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not the Lord?”
John 11:4—“This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified.”
Matthew 16:24—Self denial. If anyone wishes to come after Jesus he must deny himself.
Acts 4:28—God is sovereign. We see a plan that He has predestined, and whatever He has predestined will occur.
Can anyone change His sovereign plan? Isaiah 43:13—“I act and who can reverse it?”
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Warning: Hosea 4:14—people without understanding are ruined.
Matthew 7:14—The way is narrow
Jer. 17:15—Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
Flesh profits nothing—John 6:63
The mind set on the flesh is hostile towards God —Romans 8:7
WE RENOUNCE THE HIDDEN THINGS—2 Cor. 4:2
The days are evil (which goes against the world peace movement and one world religion)—Eph. 5:16
Romans 16:20 (for the world peace movement)—The God of peace will crush Satan under our feet!

The spirit of the world is not God—1 Cor. 2:12
Satan is the prince of the power of the air—Ephesians 2:2
Satan is the god of this world—2 Cor. 4:4
The whole world lies in the power of the evil one—1 John 5:19
Recommend “Errors of Positive Confession” by Walter Martin at www.waltermartin.com

The worship of talismans—Rev. 6:15-17—The “great men” of the earth will cry out to the rocks to save them instead of the Lord!
Stop regarding man: Isaiah 2:22
He must increase; I must decrease—John 3:30
Christian boasts in the cross—Gal. 6:14

Repentance: Luke 24:47; Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30; we must FOLLOW Jesus to have saving faith, not just believe. Mark 10:21; if we follow Him we will suffer—Luke 17:25; We are called to suffer—Phil. 1:29
Flesh sets itself against the spirit—Gal. 5:17
All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted—2 Timothy 3:12
Psalm 50:21—“You thought I was just like you”

We don’t get the truth from within:
Matt. 15:18-19—the heart is evil
Prov. 14:12—there is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it is the way of death
Prov. 28:26—“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool”
Psalm 111:10—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”
Jer. 17:5—“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind”
Jer. 17:9—The heart is deceitful and wicked
Prov. 3:5-6—Do not lean on your own understanding

Test the spirits—1 John 4:1

http://ltwinternational.org/verses_occult.htm

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The Power of the Spoken Word – Biblical or Occult Law? PART 2

We Learned in Part One about The Power of The Spoken Word being made out as Witchcraft. The discussion continues in this post.

I can of Mine Own Self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is Just; because I seek not Mine Own Will, but the Will of the Father Who has sent Me” (Jn. 5:30).

As we mentioned previously, “Word of Faith” proponents teach that the purpose for believing in the power of the spoken word is so that one may learn to activate creative forces within him that will affect the circumstances and course of his life. New Agers and others follow the “Law of Attraction” to acquire exactly the same kind of power. In other words, the occult world is literally trying to offer mankind the powers of creation and lordship, powers that we as Believers know belong to God alone! God is the One and Only Creator and the One and Only Lord! God never gave man the right to be his own master and live according to his own will. Yet, this is precisely what those promoting occult spiritual laws want. It is, in fact, the exact same offer the serpent brought to Adam and Eve in the Garden — powers that will make you “like God.”

“And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die: For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5).

Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, stated, “Science of Mind teaches that Man controls the course of his life . . . by mental processes which function according to a Universal Law. . . .1

Kenneth Hagin said that through the discovery of the “spiritual laws” established by God to run the universe, the Believer can begin to put the laws to “work” for his own use: “In the spiritual realm God has set into motion certain laws just as He set laws in the natural realm. Those laws in the natural realm work don’t they? Just as you get into contact with those natural laws or put them into practice, they work for you. Over in the spiritual realm, the same thing is true. I have come to the conclusion that the law of faith is a spiritual law, that God has put this law into motion, and that as surely as you come in contact with it, it will work for you.”2

In other words, the “law of faith” is to the spiritual realm what the law of gravity is to the physical realm. Whenever the law is set into motion, it works. Thus, anybody, Christian or non-Christian, can plug into this universal law of faith and get “results.” “It used to bother me,” explains Hagin, “when I’d see unsaved people getting results. Then it dawned on me what the sinners were doing: they were cooperating with the law of God — the law of faith.”3

Since the law of faith is impersonal, just like the law of gravity, it works regardless of who the person is or of where he or she stands with Christ.

FORMULAS?

Essentially, faith teachers are recommending “formulas” that a person should follow in order to get whatever he/she wants from God. And, of course, Scripture Verses are taken out of context and misused in order to try to justify these formulas. One Verse misused is Romans 10:10, which states, “For with the heart man believes unto Righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made
unto Salvation.”

Actually, word-faith theology’s view of spiritual laws and formulas can really only be understood in light of the doctrine of god in the metaphysical cults. The “god” that the metaphysical cults believe in is not a personal God who sovereignly governs the universe, but an impersonal force — “the Force,” “the Infinite Power,” “the Spirit of Infinite Life,” and “the Infinite Intelligence.” This infinite, but impersonal, force rules the universe indirectly through “immutable laws” rather than directly through his presence and wisdom. Through his book, “The Force Of Faith”, Kenneth Copeland has made popular the term “faith force.” What he has really done is no less than turning Christianity into a fictional game of Star Wars, where Believers think they fight evil through “the Force.” “Faith is a power force. It is a conductive force.

It will move things. Faith will change things. Faith will change the human body, it will change the human heart. Faith will change circumstances . . . the force of faith is released by words. Faith-filled words put the law of the Spirit of Life into operation.” 4

Copeland also teaches that since “God is a Faith being” and man is “a faith being,” man has the faith to operate in the same way that God operates. What could be more blasphemous than thinking we have the same power as the Lord? In chapter 1 of his book, The Fourth Dimension, Yonggi Cho says: “What becomes pregnant in your heart and mind is going to come out in your circumstances. Watch your heart and mind more than anything else. Do not try to find the answer of God through another person, for God’s answer comes to your spirit, and through your spirit the answer comes to your circumstances. Claim and speak the word of assurance, for your word actually goes out and creates. God spoke and the whole world come into being. Your word is the material which the Holy Spirit uses to create.”

Similarly, in chapter 1 of his book, Your Best Life Now, Joel Osteen says, “We have to conceive it on the inside before we are ever going to receive it on the outside.”

And similarly, Charles Capps has said:
“In August of 1973 the word of the Lord came unto me saying, ‘If men would believe me, long prayers are not necessary. Just speaking the Word will bring what you desire. My creative power is given to man in word form. I have ceased for a time from my creative work and have given man the book of my creative power. That power is still in my Word.’”5

So, through “creative faith” man becomes not only a god, but a creator. Charles Capps is actually expanding on E.W. Kenyon’s concept of “creative faith” to the point that man, not God, is the only creator left in the universe.

New Thought advocate, Ralph Waldo Triune, said:
“This Infinite Power is creating, working, ruling through the agency of great immutable laws and forces that run all through the universe, that surround us on every side. Every act of our everyday lives is governed by these same great laws and forces . . . In a sense, there is nothing in all the great universe but law.”6

H. Emile Cody, one of the early founders of the Unity School of Christianity, said:
“The mental and spiritual world or realms are governed by laws that are just as real and unfailing as the laws that govern the natural world. Certain conditions of mind that are so connected with certain results that the two are inseparable. If we have one, we must have the other as surely as night follows day.”7

In other words, as Cody explains, “every thought of the human mind causes an effect in the universe through the operation of spiritual laws.”

In such teachings, man does not have to deal with a personal God, but rather with impersonal laws that can be manipulated by anyone regardless of their standing with God. When E.W. Kenyon refers to “the great spiritual laws that govern the unseen forces of life,” he is espousing the metaphysical version of deism, a universe governed by spiritual laws instead of by God.

So, in practice, the Word of Faith “god” differs not at all from the god of the metaphysical cults. Both must do the bidding of universal governing laws that are activated by human faith.

THIS KIND OF GOD

But this kind of “god” is nothing more than the proverbial genie in a bottle, whose power is limited to the demands of human beings who think they are little masters! In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill quotes from a poem entitled Invictus (meaning “unconquerable” in Latin), by British poet William E. Henley. The latter portion of this poem, which Hill trumpets repeatedly says, “. . . It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” Hill says the reason we are the “master of our own fate” is because we have the ability to control our own thoughts.8 Jerry and Esther Hicks, whom Rhonda Byrne acknowledged for their contribution to her book, The Secret, teach on their website: “You are a creator; you create with your every thought. Anything that you can imagine is yours to be or do or have.” What a rude awakening these people will have on Judgment Day. The True God of the Bible does the bidding of no man or any of man’s imaginary laws!

“Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the Earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by Myself, the Word is gone out of My Mouth in Righteousness, and shall not return, That unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Isa. 45:22-23).

THE OPPOSITE OF CHRISTIANITY

These occult teachings are the exact opposite of Christianity! The Devil’s teachings always bring man back to his own will rather than the Will of God. They encourage man to create his own destiny rather than submit to the Plan God has laid out for his life. Even Jesus forsook His Own Will for the Will of the Father.

“And He went a little farther, and fell on His Face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as You will” (Mat. 26:39).

Are we surprised, then, that Satan would directly contradict the Christian life as modeled by Christ? In fact, it was demon spirits which taught the men who claim to have learned the secrets for mastering their fates.

Many of these individuals have even given us firsthand testimony regarding their spirit guides. It is quite obvious that Satan has specifically instructed his minions to plant these teachings into the minds of all men who are willing to listen. God’s Word specifically warned us, however, that this would occur.

“Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the Faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (I Tim. 4:1).

If we listen to the teachings of familiar spirits, we stand without excuse before God, because the Lord has repeatedly told His Followers never to have any part of communication with spirits (or the dead.)
“Regard not them who have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 19:31).

1 (http://www.letusreason.org/WF48.htm)
2 (Hagin “The Law of Faith” Word of Faith. Nov. 1974, p. 2 CF “The Secret of Faith,” March 1968, p. 2)
3 (Hagin, “Having Faith in Your Faith,” p. 3-4)
4 (Ibid., p. 10, 16)
5 (Capps. “God’s creative power will work for you” p. 5-6; Capps. “The Tongue: A Creative Force” p. 8-14)
6 (Ralph Waldo Trine, In Tune With the Infinite. 1910, at sacred-texts.com)
7 (H.E. Cody, “Lessons in Truth,” p. 64-65)
8 (Napoleon Hill. Think and Grow Rich p.32)
September 2008 issue of The Evangelist

http://imablogger.net/2008/09/27/the-power-of-the-spoken-word-biblical-or-occult-law-part-2/

 

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The Power of the Spoken Word – Biblical or Occult Law? PART 1

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Many today in both the secular world and professing church world claim that there are universal spiritual “laws” which exist and that any person may learn to utilize, causing the spirit realm to work on their behalf. Supposedly, these “laws” will work for anyone from any walk or persuasion of life, whether Christian or non-Christian. One of the most popular and all-encompassing of these laws is what New Agers refer to as the “law of attraction.” You will hear it mentioned, however, under a variety of different terms. In the business world, you may hear it termed “the power of positive thinking” or “unlimited human potential.” In the church world, you may hear teachings such as the “word of faith,” the “fourth dimension,” or the “confession principle.” In witchcraft, it is the formula, “as above, so below” (meaning, as it is in the spiritual, so it is in the natural). And, as you may have already realized, these teachings actually go much deeper than mind science religions and philosophy. It is clear that these so-called spiritual laws originated in the occult world and came directly from Satan himself. We will discuss exactly how in more detail later.

THE LAW OF ATTRACTION?

Essentially, the “law of attraction” works by a concentrated focus upon a desire that one longs to have manifest in his life. This focus, of course, must eventually tap into the spirit realm in order to bring the desire into the physical realm. Part of this process involves the person developing a “consciousness” of belief that the benevolent “universe,” which many consider to be “god,” is bringing that desire to him. And, to ensure that his newfound faith doesn’t waver, the individual must think about, speak about, dream about, and even visualize his desire until it materializes in the physical/natural realm. According to one self-proclaimed pagan witch and supporter of the earth-goddess movement, “To work magic is to weave the unseen forces into form, to soar beyond sight, to explore the uncharted dream realm of the hidden reality . . . to leap beyond imagination into that space between the worlds where fantasy becomes real; to be at once animal and god . . . Spells [and magic] . . . require the combined faculties of relaxation, visualization, concentration, and [mental] projection . . . To cast a spell is to project energy through a symbol.”1 Oprah Winfrey has recently promoted a book entitled The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, which teaches this “law of attraction.” In it Byrne says, “Nothing can come into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thoughts.”2 Another important aspect of practicing this law is the belief that there is power in the words you speak. You see, the words we say are considered the tangible version of the thoughts we are thinking. Our words, therefore, have the power to create or destroy our destinies. So, in order to successfully practice this, one should confidently declare the “faith-thoughts” he has been meditating upon, even, at times, speaking about them as if they have already come to pass. Anything else is considered doubt in “god” or the “universe” (or doubt in “oneself,” since some believe that “god” and “self” are one in the same).

ALTERED CONSCIOUSNESS?

In fact, one must never speak a negative word or thought aloud because such can bring negative things into one’s life. In essence, they say, people will attract into their lives whatever things they consistently think and feel. “The law of attraction is the law of creation . . . You create your life through your thoughts.”3 And what becomes of the sin problem in this case? Well, a confession of sin would be considered a “negative confession,” so one would simply deny that there is even any sin in his life to worry about. People are led to believe that if they think about sin, they will bring more sin into their lives. Under this law, the confession and repentance of sin is eliminated! Therefore, Salvation is eliminated as well! “Science of Mind teaches that there is a favorable physical reaction, an effect, which follows a pattern of thought incorporating ideas of health, for the law of cause and effect governs everything. Similarly, it is held that right thinking will result in a greater experience of success and abundance. A successful person thinks success, and the law of mind that reacts has no other choice than to produce an effect corresponding to the causative idea.”4 It’s similar to the idea of karma, except that the action which brings the result is the person’s meditative (spiritual) thoughts. Actually, the dangerous reality of what can occur when a person repeatedly thinks and speaks the same thoughts is a state of altered consciousness. It is really a form of self-hypnosis brought about by mantra-like repetition and an obsession with one’s desired goal. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit is astounding as the Bible warns us of such a practice: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do . . .” (Mat. 6:7). For example, many motivational/success tapes, lectures, and seminars start you off by helping you make your thoughts repetitive.

Altered consciousness is another subject in itself, which we may also discuss in more detail later. It may cause a person to perform certain tasks with much greater efficiency. It may also act as a defense mechanism for dealing with the uncertainties and hardships of life by giving someone an ability to simply deny a problem even exists and continue on in their state of blind confidence, hence the reason many have ended up with some serious consequences such as total bankruptcy or the loss of a marriage! Most importantly, in this case, altered consciousness is a door into the spirit realm.

CONFESSION?

The “Word of Faith” teachers are probably the most recognized in the church world for believing in and practicing this heretical, and formally esoteric, doctrine. You see, until the recent past, formulas such as this were kept hidden from the general public because they would have been identified as sorcery and witchcraft, and the laws of the land would have punished the practice. So, members of such cults and societies were sworn to secrecy. Times are certainly different now; if anything, our society celebrates witchcraft, often believing that there are “good” or redeeming aspects to the practice. But, remember the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” in the Garden? Man wanted to be like God. Man wanted the “knowledge” that would enable him to operate in the spiritual realm. God, however, told Adam and Eve not to eat from any of the tree, whether the so-called “good side” or the “bad side.” God knew the entire tree was evil, and partaking of it eventually brought about the entire fall of man! Today, the church has fallen so far into darkness that she cannot recognize divination when it is practiced right within her own walls. Those who practice “Word of Faith” are functioning by the same occult “law of attraction,” while thinking they have discovered the key to victorious Christian living. They use the “confession” principle, by their definition, meaning that when one confesses a verse of Scripture or a promise from the Lord, the forces of good (God or angels) are released on his behalf. They believe that confessing the words of Scripture activate the Lord’s supernatural Power. “Christ and the Cross are completely ignored, with the avenue of success being ensconced in the proper Scriptures being chosen and properly confessed.”5

WITCHCRAFT

You see, teachers inside the professing church will incorporate Scriptures whereas secular society simply uses whatever else they may hold sacred and/or believe to possess great wisdom. However, the practical application and overall philosophy is exactly the same! It is nothing less than practical magic. Popular preacher, Joel Osteen, says “Your circumstances will line up with your words.” “Words are like seeds, they have creative power . . . The more you talk about it the more you call it in . . . You can use your words to bless your life or curse your life.”6 Joel Osteen was influenced by the “Word of Faith” teachings of Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland. Osteen also stated in his best-selling book, Your Best Life Now, “We have to conceive it on the inside before we’re ever going to receive it on the outside. If you don’t think you can have something good, then you never will. The barrier is in your mind. It’s not God’s lack of resources or your lack of talent that prevents you from prospering. Your own wrong thinking can keep you from God’s best.”7 A non-charismatic version of “Word of Faith” teaching may be more along the lines of Robert Schuller’s “positive thinking” gospel. Christians must realize that it is not automatically a noble deed in the eyes of God to believe the positive.

Righteousness strives to know what is true, whether positive or negative. Not one of these so called “spiritual laws” or teachings is found in Scripture! God has already given us the law through which His Power (which is the Power of the Holy Spirit) works: “For the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the Law of Sin and Death” (Rom. 8:2). The Holy Spirit works only through the shed Blood of Christ! Instead, what these men have done is ignore the true Source of Power, which is the Cross, and literally transformed the Bible into a witch’s book of spells. The Wikipedia on-line dictionary defines a spell as “A word or formula believed to have magic power.” “Word of Faith” even goes so far as to admit that the unredeemed can tap into these laws if they follow the right rules. But, make no mistake, the Lord does not function through magic! It completely ignores His Sovereign Will for a person’s life as the individual attempts to operate within particular “laws” to bring about what he desires for his own life.

Attempting to operate outside the Will of God and/or rebelling against His Will is witchcraft, pure and simple! “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft . . .” (I Sam. 15:23).

THE NEW THOUGHT MOVEMENT

In The Secret, Byrne “introduces Prentice Mulford (1834-1891) as ‘one of the earliest writers and founders of the New Thought movement’ . . . This quote from Thoughts are Things summarizes his ‘mental and spiritual laws’: ‘. . . In the future some people will draw so much of the higher quality of thought to them, that by it they will accomplish what some would call miracles. In this capacity . . . lies the secret of what has been called ‘magic.’ During the 20th century, such thinking inspired ‘positive thinking’ gurus like Norman Vincent Peale who, in turn, converted Robert Schuller and countless other leaders who are now pastoring churches or marketing the deception through church-related programs around the world. John Maxwell and other global change agents demonstrate the subtle influence of this feel-good, self-empowering ideology.”8 This is exactly the same teaching that motivational trainers like Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, have been saying for years. Hill teaches that “whatever can be conceived in one’s mind can be obtained. He teaches that the desired thing should be visualized in one’s mind, and done so repeatedly.”9 Hill also states: “Christianity is the single greatest force which influences the minds of men . . . it is because of faith.” “Faith is the head chemist of the mind. When faith is blended with the vibration of thought, the subconscious mind instantly picks up the vibration, translates it into the spiritual equivalent, and transmits it to Infinite Intelligence, as in the case of prayer.”10 Another promoter of this law is Yonggi Cho, “pastor” of probably the largest church in South Korea. His term for the power source reached through this universal law is the fourth dimension. “The fourth dimension is the Holy Spirit . . . Men, by exploring their spiritual sphere of the fourth dimension through the development of concentrated visions and dreams in their imaginations, can brood over and incubate the third dimension, influencing and changing it.”11 Norman Vincent Peale was another major proponent. “Peale pioneered the merger of theology and psychology which became known as Christian Psychology . . . Peale said, ‘through prayer you . . . make use of the great factor within yourself, the deep subconscious mind . . . [which Jesus called] the kingdom of God within you . . . Positive thinking is just another term for faith.” He also wrote, “Your unconscious mind . . . [has a] power that turns wishes into realities when the wishes are strong enough.”12 Peale even said this concerning occultic automatic writing: “It little matters if these writings come from Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus of Jane [co-author Jane Palzere], they are all the same consciousness and that consciousness is God. I am a part of God, and Jane [is] part of that same God.”13

BIBLICAL FAITH IS NOT MAGIC

So, now not only do we have the words of Scripture being used as magical spells, we have Faith itself being defined as a magic power. Faith is not magic! Yes, God does send His Power as a result of proper Faith, but Faith is not the Power of God in and of itself. Neither does “speaking words of faith” exercise the Power of God. God exercises His own Power. No human can direct or command the Power of God. Humans only receive what the Lord sovereignly supplies. Also, Faith is not the power of the mind, nor an attitude of mind over matter. Faith is trust and rest, specifically in the Work Jesus did at Calvary! Jesus addressed all our problems there. That is what the Lord wants us to believe in, trust in, and rest in. True Faith is not an exercise of speaking certain words or thinking certain thoughts. It is an assurance of Christ in one’s heart, knowing that because He has paid the price, He will work out everything for our good in His perfect Way and Time. This is the perfect Peace of Christ! “Great peace have they which love Your law: and nothing shall offend them” (Ps. 119:165). When Jesus said to the woman with an issue of blood that her Faith had made her whole, He meant that because she now had the correct Object of Faith (Christ and Him Crucified) that she had all she needed to be whole (Mk. 5:25-34). Jesus did not commend the woman for her positive confession or positive thinking. He commended her for her complete and utter trust that her Source of healing was in Him! It was proper Faith that made the woman whole, not proper confession!

1 (Starhawk, The Spiral Dance. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. p. 62)
2 (Rhonda Byrne, The Secret p.43)
3 (Ibid p.15)
4 (from Visions Center of Religious Science website: http://www.visions-center.com/)
5 (Jimmy Swaggart. False Doctrine Study Guide p.137)
6 (Joel Osteen. “Speaking Faith Filled Words,” Tape # 223 May 2, 2004)
7 (Joel Osteen. Your Best Life Now, ch.1 ‘Enlarging Your Vision’) (http://www.letusreason.org/Popteac29.htm)
8 (Berit Kjos. A New Mask for An Ancient Secret.) (http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/007/secret.htm#1)
9 (Jimmy Swaggart. False Doctrine Study Guide p.133)
10(Ibid p.49)
11(Ibid p.45)
12(http://normanvincentpeale.wwwhubs.com/)
13(http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/guidepo/mag.htm)

August’s issue of The Evangelist.

http://imablogger.net/2008/07/22/the-power-of-the-spoken-word-biblical-or-occult-law/

PART 2 is here –>>https://how2becomeachristian.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/the-power-of-the-spoken-word-biblical-or-occult-law-part-2/

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