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The Word-Faith Movement

Roots and History
of the Word-Faith Movement

and the Influences Upon Today's Word-Faith Teachers

Information compiled by Elizabeth McDonald
March 2016

 

The Word-Faith Movement

"The Word Faith (WF) movement emerged within Charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity in the latter 20th century.  The movement as a whole has no formal organization or authoritarian hierarchy, though it does have a number of high-profile teachers who heavily influence Word of Faith theology" [1].

 

Kenneth Copeland

Kenneth Copeland is seen as the de-facto 'leader' of the Word Faith movement today.  "Although he briefly attended Oral Roberts University, Kenneth Copeland points to Kenneth Hagin as his mentor, not Oral Roberts. ... in spiritual matters, when Hagin [spoke], Copeland ... [listened]" [2: p.4].

 

Kenneth Hagin

"Kenneth Hagin is often referred to as the 'father' of the Word Faith movement" [1].

"Called by Charisma magazine, 'the granddaddy of the faith teachers', Kenneth Hagin is generally considered to be the founder of the Positive Confession/World movement.  Most of today's leading faith teachers credit Hagin as their mentor, and it is his gospel they preach.  After them, comes a growing number of young pastors and faith teachers (many of them graduates of Hagin's Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma) who are doctrinally almost carbon copies of either Hagin or his most successful protegé, Kenneth Copeland" [3: pp.63-64].

"Every doctrinal distinctive of the Faith movement is traceable to Kenneth Hagin ... [but] Word faith teachings did not originate with Hagin; he gleaned them from the writings of the faith evangelist E.W. Kenyon" [4: pp.350-352].

"Much of Kenneth Hagin's teaching can be traced back to the writings of E.W. Kenyon, who first taught 'the positive confession of the Word of God' and must be recognised as the real founder of today's Positive Confession/Word Faith movement" [3: pp.63-64].

"Although there is little doubt that E.W. Kenyon is its founding father, the contemporary Faith movement is virtually incomprehensible without explicating the role played in it by Kenneth Hagin.  Kenyon may have authored the teachings on which the Faith movement is based, but Hagin is the man who fashioned these teachings into the fastest growing movement in charismatic Christendom" [2: p.57].

"Kenneth Hagin is the man who single-handedly took Kenyon's teachings and from them forged a movement, the Faith movement.  Hagin's influence is omnipresent in Faith circles.  His mark is printed indelibly upon his countless disciples, such as Kenneth Copeland, Fred Price, and Charles Capps. ... Hagin was the key player in the early Faith movement.  But Kenyon was the author of its major doctrines" [2: p.13].

"All of the major ministers of the Faith movement readily admit Hagin's tutelage. ... Hagin is the man whose leadership forged the movement that has catapulted Kenyon's doctrines throughout the world.  Charismatics look to Hagin not primarily as a healer of a miracle worker, but rather, as teacher and a prophet whose ministry can be trusted" [2: pp.57,77].

"As the father of the Faith movement, Kenyon introduced metaphysical ideas into the Faith theology.  As the popularizer of Kenyon's Faith theology, Kenneth Hagin unknowingly incorporated these metaphysical ideas into the contemporary Faith movement" [2: pp.24-25].

"All of the major doctrines of Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, and other Word Faith teachers have been taken directly from the writings of E.W. Kenyon" [2: p.22].

 

E.W. Kenyon

"Kenyon's reach of influence within Pentecostal circles was not confined to Kenneth Hagin.  He was apparently widely-read and quoted by the post-World-War-II healing revivalists, including William Branham and T.L. Osborn. Kenyon is also said to have visited the meetings of Pentecostal leaders such as F.F. Bosworth and Aimee Semple McPherson" [5: pp.331-332].

"It was E.W. Kenyon who first presented to the church the idea of 'now faith'; that faith 'is a confession'; that 'what I confess, I possess'; and that we create reality with the words of our mouths - 'Faith's confessions create realities'.  Kenyon also taught the basic principles that make Positive Confession possible: that man is a little god 'in God's class and therefore can utilise the same universal forces that God does and which are available to Christian and non-Christian alike.  All this laid the foundation for what Hagin presents in [his book] Having Faith in Your Faith and which Paul Yonggi Cho layer developed in more detail in his best-selling [book] The Fourth Dimension.  Kenyon even acknowledged that the Mind Science cultists could utilise these 'spiritual laws'.  He said:

'Natural man can develop his spirit until it becomes a force in him.  We see this in Christian Science, Unity, Spiritualism and other psychological religions' (The Hidden Man: An Unveiling of the Subconscious Mind, 1970)" [3: p.64].

"Kenyon's concept of 'creative faith' formed the basis for Hagin's teaching that anyone can develop these universal 'laws of faith' to get what he wants.  Kenyon's teachings about the 'power of words' and his warnings never to make a 'negative confession' but only a 'positive one', not only deeply influenced Hagin but changed the thinking and ministry of many others who are recognized today to be the leaders of this movement, eg Kenneth Copeland" [3: pp.64-65].

"What are E.W. Kenyon's roots?  This is a most important question, because anything that influenced Kenyon has undoubtedly also influenced the modern faith movement" [2: p.16].

"E.W. Kenyon's roots were in the metaphysical cults.  He was a faith healer, not in the Pentecostal tradition, but in the tradition of Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science.  He attended Emerson College of Oratory on Boston, which specialised in training lecturers for the metaphysical science cults.  And he imported and adapted into his own system most of the essential ideas that these cults propagated" [4: pp.350-352].

"One of the things that puzzled me in those days was the similarity between what he [Kenyon] taught and what was taught in Christian Science.  We discussed this similarity at the time.  And he acknowledged the similarity.  I can remember his saying, 'All that Christian Science lacks is the blood of Jesus Christ'.  He was not only very conversant with Christian Science concepts but also with a lot of details of how Christian Science originated.  I can hear him yet talk about the philosophical roots of Christian Science and Hegelian thought, or about some international lawyer who on an ocean voyage influenced Mary Baker Eddy.  He admitted that he freely drew the water of his thinking from this well" (John Kennington, E.W. Kenyon and the Metaphysics of Christian Science, 1986, emphasis added) [2: p.25].

E.W. Kenyon "undoubtedly was influenced by Mary Baker Eddy ... My major reason for saying that is not just that I would pick that up from the kind of metaphysical things that he said in the name of Christianity, but that visiting in my home on one occasion ... he was sitting at a reading spot in my living room where I had some miscellaneous books in a shelf, one of which was Mary Baker Eddy's Key to the Scriptures, which I kept there for reference purposes, being vigorously opposed to her whole position from just about every standpoint.  But I found him reading it, and I smiled as I passed by, not wanting to disturb him.  I came back 30 or 40 minutes later and he was still reading it.  Then I made a comment and he responded very positively that there was a lot that could be gotten from Mary Baker Eddy.  That alerted me.  I can't say it surprised me, but it alerted me to the fact that he probably wasn't formulating his faith positions entirely from Sola Scriptura and that he was influenced by the metaphysicians" (Ern Baxter, emphasis added) [2: p.26].

"[Ern] Baxter believes that Kenyon was also 'fairly widely read' in Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism, the major forerunners of New Thought metaphysics.  This transcendental and metaphysical background was the basis of Kenyon's philosophy, which, in Baxter's opinion, controlled the way Kenyon interpreted the Bible" [2: p.26].

"Three or four words pretty well identify the New Thought and those kindred movements that derive from it: health or healing; abundance or prosperity - sometimes even wealth; and happiness" (Charles Brandon, Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought, 1966) [3: pp.58-59].

"New Thought, which arose in America during the close of the 19th Century, can be traced to Phineas P. Quimby.  He was 'regarded as the founder of the [New Thought] movement' (Spirits in Rebellion)" [3: pp.58-59].

"It was Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866) who laid the foundations [for the Word Faith movement]. ... It was Quimby's metaphysical teachings that influenced E.W. Kenyon, and it was E.W. Kenyan's teachings that in turn influenced Kenneth Hagin. Most prominent Word of Faith teachers today draw their inspiration from Kenneth Hagin" [1].

 

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby was a 19th century mystic, faith-healer, and mesmerist (hypnotist).  He claimed to have discovered various metaphysical "truths" which he called "The Science of Health and Happiness", and which he described as follows:

"Our lives are what we believe them to be; all health, wealth and happiness comes from our thoughts and feelings; and we have control over our lives simply by what we believe to be true. ... all mental and most physical diseases [are] the result of faulty reasoning ... disease is not the cause of illness, but is the effect of a conflicting existing within the mind [i.e. mind over matter]. ... Disease is an error of the mind and can be corrected by the understanding of the right relation between the divine and the human" [6].


Metaphysics

Mention has been made of 'metaphysics' a few times so far on this page...  Metaphysics is a system of thought that believes (amongst other things) that "the spiritual realm is the only true reality and is the cause of every effect in the physical realm ... man must use his spiritual faculties (his mind) to control and create his own reality" [2: pp.28-29].

"If I believe I am sick, I am sick, for my feelings are my sickness, and my sickness is my belief, and my belief is my mind.  Therefore all disease is in the mind or belief" [7: p.186].

Quimby's 'Mind Over Matter' philosophy displays the same elements as - and/or has since been taken up by - a variety of groups and religious organizations such as:

  • Christian Science: Founded by Mary Baker Eddy who had visited Quimby for healing of various ailments, and, influenced by his thinking "after Quimby's death , began to develop her own system of spiritual healing built on the principle that mind is the only reality and matter an illusion" [8: p.279];

  • Unity;

  • Divine Science;

  • Science of Mind;

  • Positive Mental Attitude;

  • Positive/Possibility Thinking;

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson / Transcendentalism;

  • New Thought.

"Phineas Parkhurst Quimby popularised the notion that sickness and suffering ultimately have their origin in incorrect thinking.  Quimby's followers held that man could create his own reality through the power of positive affirmation (confession).  Metaphysical practitioners have long taught adherents to visualise health and wealth, and then to affirm or confess them with their mouths so that the intangible images may be transformed onto tangible realities" [5: p.29].

"Quimby's studies in mesmerism (hypnosis), spiritism and kindred phenomena ... laid the basis for a new structure in the world of thought" [7].

"This New England mesmerist, who healed Mary Baker Patterson (later Eddy) in 1862 must be credited with the genius of dressing ancient shamanism (witchcraft) in scientific terms to form what he called 'The Science of Christ or Truth', and what he later termed 'Christian Science'.  Quimby's influence continues in the many Mind Science churches that now form the International New Thought Alliance" [3: pp.58-59].

 

Word Faith Theology

"The leading faith teachers at times preach the simple gospel that Christ died for our sins.  It is the mixture of seeming orthodoxy and outright error that makes their teaching so confusing.  Although it seems to be a harsh charge to call the Positive Confession movement a charismatic form of Christian Science, which in turn is an Americanised version of Hinduism, that charge has been made by many and can be substantiated by simply comparing the similarities in their common beliefs.  The leaders in the movement are aware of these similarities and deny the charge:

'You see, sometimes when I start teaching on this, folks will say it sounds like Christian Science. ... It's not Christian Science.  I like what Brother Hagin says, "IT'S CHRISTIAN SENSE".' (Charles Capps, The Tongue - A Creative Force, 1976, p.27)'." [3: pp.58-59].

"Positive Confession is basically warmed-over New Thought dressed in evangelical/charismatic language. ... At its 1986 National Congress, the president of the Alliance, Unity Church of Christianity minister Blaine C. Mays, declared, 'Finally it's coming out.  When one goes to hear them [Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller] they are giving the New Thought message.'  It is no mere coincidence that - like NVP's and RS's Positive/Possibility Thinking - Word Faith/Positive Confession sounds so much like Christian Science.  Their roots are undeniably the same.  E.W. Kenyon, the true founder of Word Faith, did adhere to a religious scientism dangerously close to Christian Science" [3: pp.58-59].

"Not only Charles Capps, but Frederick Price and Kenneth Hagin also admit the confusing similarities but don't seem to understand the reason.  Hagin writes:

'When I preach on the mind, it frightens some congregations.  They immediately think of Christian Science' (Kenneth Hagin, Right and Wrong Thinking, 1966)" [3: pp58-59].

"Although proponents of Faith theology have attempted to sanitize the metaphysical concept of the 'power of mind' by substituting in its stead the 'force of faith', for all practical purposes they have made a distinction without a true difference.  The similarity of the theology of the metaphysical cults and the Word Faith  movement can be seen in the following statements:

'Faith is the most intense form of mental action' and 'The effect of the suggestion [i.e. the positive affirmation that the patient is well] is the result of the faith of the subject' (Warren Felt Evans, New Thought writer); and 'There is power in our word of faith to bring all good things right into our everyday life' (H. Emilie Cady, Unity School of Christianity writer)" [5: pp.29-30]

"'At one time I was a blind follower of E.W. Kenyon ... Now with the passing of a little time and with a little more understanding I have come to realise that E.W. Kenyon has simply 'baptised' many concepts from Christian Science.  In so doing, he became a source for a form of 'Pentecostal Christian science', even though Kenyon himself was not a Pentecostal' (John Kennington, E.W. Kenyon and the Metaphysics of Christian Science, 1986)" [2: p.25].

"'An extremely important point needs to be stated here: the doctrines of correct thinking and believing, accompanied by positive confession, with the result of calling a sickness a symptom (denial of reality supported by a Gnostic dualism) are not found in Christian writings until after New Thought and its offsprings had begun to develop them.  Therefore, it is not unreasonable to state that the doctrine originated and developed in these [metaphysical] cults, and was later absorbed by Christians in their quest to develop a healing ministry' (H. Terris Neuman, An Analysis of the Sources of the Charismatic Teaching of 'Positive Confession')" [2: p.30].

"In his attempt to help the church respond to the 'challenge' of the cults, Kenyon 'absorbed' metaphysical concepts in order to restore the healing ministry to the church" [2: p.30].

"So although most people assume that the Faith theology is a product of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, this assumption is not historically accurate.  The historical origins of the Faith movement are not primarily Pentecostal or charismatic.  The Faith movement can be traced historically to cultic sources" [2: p.xxii].

"Thus, many of the doctrines central to Word Faith teaching are similar to those of Christian Science.  The reason is that a direct line of relationship ties the modern Word Faith movement to the metaphysical cults that flourished earlier in the 20th century, including Christian Science. ... Hence, Word Faith teachers owe their ancestry to groups like Christian Science, Theosophy, Swedenborgianism, Science of Mind, and New Thought - not to classical Pentecostalism" [4: pp.350-352].

 

Word-Faith Substance and Style

"There is no denying that much of Faith theology is derived directly from metaphysics.  Some of the substance and style endemic to the movement, however, can be traced to teachings and practices expressed primarily by certain post-World-War-II faith healers and revivalists operating within Pentecostal circles:

Substance

"Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, and Benny Hinn point to T.L. Osborn and William Branham as true men of God who greatly influenced their lives and ministries.  Osborn has consistently followed E.W. Kenyon's teachings, and has also said:

'He [referring to God] came down in human flesh, and we call him William Branham' (A Tribute to William Branham),

"...while Branham himself as denounced the doctrine of the Trinity as coming directly from the devil (Revelation Chapter Four, audiotape #61-0108).

Style

"Regarding style, however, Benny Hinn gravitates more toward such faith healers as Aimee Semple McPherson and Kathryn Kuhlman.  The influence of these women on Hinn's life and ministry is so great that he still visits their gravesites and experiences 'the anointing', which he claims emanates from their bones" [5: p.30].

 

A New Type of Christianity

"Kenyon believed that his teaching would create a master-race of Christians:

'When these truths really gain the ascendency in us, they will make us spiritual supermen, masters of demons and disease. ... It will be the end of weakness and failure.  There will be no more struggle for faith, for all things are ours.  There will be no more praying for power, for He is in us. ... In the presence of these tremendous realities, we arise and take our place.  We go out and live as supermen indwelt by God' (Identification, (1968), p.68).

"He hoped to create 'supermen', a master-race of Christians no longer bound by 'Sense Knowledge' or by demons, disease, and poverty.  This hope is a central thrust of all Kenyon's writings" [2: p.21].

EMcD:  Please note that this is precisely the same thinking as that found in Manifest-Sons-of-God teachings - which was one of the roots of the Toronto Blessing of the 1990s.

"Just as the overwhelming majority in the Faith movement are ignorant of its cultic origins, so most are also ignorant of the heretical nature of Faith theology. ... Many in the Faith movement have never known anything else of Christianity but Faith theology.  Having never known orthodoxy in the first place, they hold certain heretical beliefs 'in good faith', not realising that they have made some rather serious departures from biblical and historical orthodoxy" [2: pp.20-21].

"It is debatable whether even the founder of the Faith movement realized that he was preaching cultic and heretical doctrine.  Kenyon did, indeed, perceive the need of the church to be 'a new type of Christianity'.  He also saw his teachings as supplying this need.  Unfortunately, 'the new type of Christian' advocated by Kenyon is neither new nor Christian" [2: pp.20-21].

"Kenyon recognised that his theology represented a radical rejection of the Christianity of his day.  But in all likelihood, he also believed his theology to be a restoration of primitive biblical Christianity.  I do not believe that Kenyon consciously preached heretical doctrine.  In his attempt to help the church compete with the metaphysical cults, he drew from cultic ideas and practices.  His motive was pure, but his theology was heretical.  Like many in the modern Faith movement, his heresy is probably only material and not formal.  But it is heresy nonetheless. ... Kenyon's gospel was not 'new type of Christianity', it was not even a 'new type of metaphysics'.  Kenyon taught the same doctrines of healing, positive confession, and prosperity that New Thought and Christian Science had been teaching for decades" [2: pp.20-21].

 

Two Streams of Divine Healing

"There are two stream of divine healing in American church history:

  • The Holiness / Pentecostal stream;
  • The New Thought / Christian Science stream.

"The Faith movement comes from the latter, not the former.  It has often been misplaced in the Holiness/Pentecostal stream because researchers usually assume that, because Kenneth Hagin was a post-World-War-II healing revivalist and charismatic, the Faith movement must also be a recent charismatic phenomenon."  But though "Hagin may be classified as a charismatic healing revivalist", we have seen that he "is not, as commonly believed, the Father of the Faith movement ... All of the Faith teachers, including Hagin and Kenneth Copeland ... are the spiritual sons and grandsons of E.W. Kenyon.  It was Kenyon, not Hagin, who formulated every major doctrine of the modern Faith movement ... its five major doctrines of Revelation Knowledge, Identification, Faith, Healing, and Prosperity were taken from the writings of Kenyon" [2: pp.184-185].

 

The Tree and the Fruit

"Sensing the amazing growth and overt presence of the supernatural in the metaphysical cults, and the lack of the same in traditional churches, Kenyon attempted to forge a synthesis of metaphysical and evangelical thought in order to help the traditional church provide for its members the missing supernatural element that caused many to defect to the cults.  The resultant Faith theology is a strange mixture of biblical fundamentalism and New Through metaphysics" [2: p.186].

 

A Tough Question...

"Many charismatics would object that a movement that has produced so many healings and miracles could not possibly be heretical.  The gospel of the Faith movement does, indeed, produce results, but so does the gospel of metaphysics.  Results can never be the criterion by which the truth of an idea is proven.  If that were the case, charismatics would have to admit that Mary Baker Eddy is a prophetess and that Christian Science is [the] true gospel.  Likewise, the numerous healings and miracles occurring in the Faith movement are not necessarily signs from God that the Faith gospel is the gospel of the New Testament" [2: p.52].

"Charismatics who naively assume that healings vindicate truth are overlooking the fact that almost every major religion and cult the world has ever known has produced healings.  For every god there is a religion, and in every religion there are healings" [2: p.52].

"Granted, the Faith movement does claim to heal 'in the name of Jesus', but this proves nothing, for so does New Thought.  Both the Faith movement and metaphysical cults incessantly use the name of Jesus.  And because of the historical connection between the two, the question that must be raised, is whether the Jesus of the Faith movement is the Jesus of the New Testament..." [2: p.52].

 

 

"The Scriptures alone must rule the faith, doctrine, and practice of the church" [2, p.190].

"Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good friuit.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them"
(Matthew 7:15-20)

"Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt:
For the tree is known by his fruit"
(Matthew 12:33)

 

 

 

Roots, History, and Influences was compiled, quoted, and edited from the following sources: 

[1]   What is the Word of Faith Movement? at: http://www.gospeloutreach.net/whatwordfaith.html

[2]   Dan McConnell, The Promise of Health and Wealth: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement, (1990)

[3]   Dave Hunt, Beyond Seduction: A Return to Biblical Christianity, (1987) 

[4]   John MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos, (1992) 

[5]   Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis, (1993)

[6]   Great Thinkers of the Past: Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, at http://www.thinkingiscausative.com/great-thinkers/past-great-thinkers/103-phineas-parkhurst-quimby.html

[7]   Phineas Quimby, The Quimby Manuscripts, (1961) 

[8]   OED of the Christian Church, 2nd Edition, (1974)

 

 

 

 

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© Elizabeth McDonald     https://www.bayith.org     bayith@blueyonder.co.uk