In recent years the Charismatic movement has spawned its own variety of cargo cult. It is called the word faith movement; known otherwise as the faith Movement, known as the faith formula, known as the word of faith, hyperfaith, positive confession, name it and claim it, health, wealth, and prosperity teaching, all of those titles.

This subdivision of the Charismatic movement, listen, is easily as superstitious and materialistic as the cargo cults of the South Pacific. The Leaders of this word faith movement, including Kenneth Hagan, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Robert Tilton, Fred Price, and Charles Capps promise each believer financial prosperity and perfect health; anything less, they argue, is not God’s will. There are many people who chime in with this, in fact, as I understand, last week there was a great, great convocation at the church of Fred Price, which espouses this, attended by many, not only Charismatics and Pentecostals but even a leading Presbyterian pastor in our area, they were all there. The tentacles of this kind of theology has reached out far and wide. They have sought mainstream acceptance and they have managed to build relationships with people, who because of those relationships will not speak the truth against them, and so the thing flourishes like a wildfire. Of course it appeals to people because it demands nothing but faith; it doesn’t demand holiness, it doesn’t demand devotion or dedication, it only demands faith and it promises that if you have enough you’ll get rich and healthy, that’s a popular message.

I suppose we could say that virtually every false religion ever spawned by man worships a god whose function it is to deliver some kind of cargo, that is, human religion invariably invents gods for utilitarian reasons. They invent gods that give them what they want. They invent deities to serve them rather than the other way around. The word faith theology has turned Christianity into a system that is no different from the lowest human religions. It is a form of voodoo where God can be coerced, cajoled, manipulated, controlled, and exploited for the Christian’s own ends.

I received a mailing sent out by one rather extreme word faith teacher named David Eppley. A brochure was included with a bar of prayer blessed soap, “We are going to wash away all bad luck, sickness, misfortunes, and evil. Yes, even that evil person you want out of your life. Jesus helped a man wash blindness from his eyes; I want to help you concerning hexes, vexes, home problems, love, happiness, and joy,” the brochure said.

Inside the brochure were testimonies from people who had been blessed by that ministry. “Door opens to new job,” said one. “An $80,000 dream comes true,” said another. “Couldn’t use my hand for 12 years,” said another. Also inside was a personal letter from the pastor closing with a full page of instruction on how to use the soap. If you used it right it would bring you healing and money. “Now after you wash the poverty from your hands take out the largest bill or check you have. That $100, $50, or $20 bill, hold it in your clean hands and say, ‘In Jesus’ name I dedicate this gift to God’s work and expect a miracle return of money,'” and of course, your largest bill or check must be sent to David Eppley.

The last paragraph said, “Through this gift of discernment, I see someone sending a $25 offering and God is showing me a large check coming to them in the next short while I mean large; it looks like over $1,000. I know this sounds strange but you know me well enough to know that I have to obey God when He speaks.” I’ll be here waiting for your answer.

Frankly, that sounds more like Black Magic. Certainly a more outrageous example than most, but still it reflects a style that is typical of nearly all word faith ministries. If it was just plain hucksterism that would be bad enough. I guess I could tell you honestly, I can take Reverend Ike, I can take Reverend Ike because – I don’t know if you know who he is, but if you don’t, don’t worry about it, but I can take Reverend Ike because he uses the same gimmick, but he doesn’t make it Christian. What corrupts so devastatingly is to tie this kind of con game into Christ.

Word faith teachers have corrupted the heart of New Testament Christianity. They have moved the believers’ focus off sound doctrine, worship, service, sacrifice, and ministry; and they’ve shifted it instead to promised physical, financial, and material blessings. Those blessings are the cargo that God is supposed to deliver to those who know and follow the word faith formula.

Word faith writings, there are myriad of these, you can’t even keep up with them. I got a new one this week that somebody sent me to try to help me to see the truth. It’s a thick book and it’s all about all of these word faith teachers. It has all their pictures on the front. There’s almost no end to the proliferation of literature, but there – many trees are dying in this operation to be used for pulp and paper. Word faith articles carry titles like, “How to Write Your Own Ticket with God,” “Godliness is Profitable,” “The Laws of Prosperity,” “God’s Creative Power Will Work for You,” “Releasing the Ability of God Through Prayer,” “God’s Formula for Success and Prosperity,” “God’s Master Key to Prosperity,” and “Living in Divine Prosperity,” and so it goes.

In word faith religion the believer uses God, whereas, the truth of Biblical Christianity is God uses the believer. Word faith theology sees the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the believer wants. The Bible teaches, however, that the Holy Spirit is a person who enables the believer to do whatever God wants. It is absolutely the opposite of Scripture. Many word faith teachers claim that Jesus was Born Again so that we might become little gods. Scripture, however, teaches that Jesus is God and it is we who must be born again.

Frankly, I have little or no tolerance for these deceptions, these corruptions of Scriptures and false claims of the word faith movement. I have absolutely no constraints on me to speak to this issue because I believe I am literally bound by my obligation as one called to minister the truth of God to so speak, because this defies everything I understand to be true about Scripture.

The movement closely resembles some of the destructive greed sects that ravaged the early church. Paul and other Apostles were not accommodating too or conciliatory with the false teachers who propagated ideas like that in their day. They identified them as dangerous false teachers and urged Christians to avoid them. Paul warned Timothy, for example, about “Men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” This isn’t anything new; Paul was dealing with those who thought godliness was a ticket for money.

Paul further said to Timothy, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang but flee from these things.”

These cults are generated; know this, out of a love for money. They develop a religion to accommodate their lust. Jude wrote of the greed mongers of his day, “Woe to them, for they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves, clouds without water carried along by wind, autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted, wild waves of the sea casting up their own shame like foam, wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. They are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts, they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.”

There is nothing I could say that would be as strong as that, and that’s out of God’s Word. Peter wrote, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves and many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned and in their greed they will exploit you with false words.”

Peter went on to say, “Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by sensuality, that is, they entice you by the things you lust for, and they entice those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption, for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”

You show me a person who preaches the money gospel, the money Message, the wealth message; I’ll show you a person who has been corrupted by the love of money, that’s what Peter’s saying. Paul said covetousness is idolatry and Paul forbade the Ephesians to be partakers with anyone who brought either a message of immorality or a message of covetousness, Ephesians 5:5-7.

Now the question is how closely do modern word faith teachers resemble the greedy false teachers that the Apostles described? Is it fair to write the movement off as heretical? As sub-Christian? Well, I want us to look at that, and let’s find out. In some ways I hesitate to label the word faith movement as a cult only because its boundaries are as yet, somewhat hazy. Many sincere Christians hover around the periphery of the word faith teaching. It isn’t a sort of bordered, identifiable cult, it’s somewhat amorphous and it floats in an almost undefined way and bumps in and out of all kinds of groups of Christians, and so while on the one hand we can’t say that everybody that it touches is cultic, all of the elements within it are cultic.

It has a distorted Christology that is a warped view of Christ. It has a distorted view of man, an exalted view of man. It has a theology built on human works. It has a process of sanctification that justifies greed. It has a belief that new revelation from within the group is unlocking secrets that have been hidden from the church for years. It believes that extra biblical human writings are inspired and authoritative, and it has an exclusivity that compels its adherents to shun any and every criticism of the movement. In fact, as you know, Benny Hinn said if anybody criticizes him he wants to get a Holy Ghost machine gun and blow their head off.

Without some exacting corrections in the movement’s doctrinal foundations it will become a clearly identifiable cult, if it is not already so. It certainly is the closest thing on earth to the greed cults of the New Testament era which the apostles bluntly labeled heresy. Now I know that is a serious verdict, but I think there’s ample evidence to bear it out. At almost every turn the word faith movement has tainted, twisted, garbled, misunderstood, corrupted, or obliterated the crucial doctrines of Christian faith. Let me help you with that by looking at some of them.

First of all, the word faith movement has the wrong god, it has the wrong god. I believe that it is fair to say that the god of the word faith movement is not the God of the Bible. Word faith teaching, in effect, listen to this, sets the individual believer, are you ready for this, above God, and turns God into Santa Claus, or a genie, or a valet who is there to do whatever the Christian tells Him. See, these word faith teachers are their own supreme authority.

Kenneth Hagan, who is patriarchal in this movement, wrote this booklet called, “How To Write Your Own Ticket With God.” He tells about seeing a vision of Jesus and he says to Him, “Dear Lord, I have two sermons I preach concerning the woman who touched Your clothes and was healed when You were on earth. I received both of these sermons by inspiration.” I am quoting him. Later on he quotes what Jesus told him in reply, Jesus said, “You’re correct, My Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is endeavored to get another sermon into your spirit but you failed to pick it up. While I’m here I will do what you ask, I will give you that sermon outline, now get your pencil and paper and write it down.

That’s what Jesus said to him, he says. Hagan claims to have received numerous visions as well as eight personal visitations from Jesus. Hagan has written, “The Lord Himself taught me about prosperity. I never read about it in a book, I got it directly from heaven.” That claim is a lie, outright; I’ll show you why a little later. You see they believe or they want every body else to believe that God is giving this information to them. Do you understand beloved that if you do not have a closed cannon, and if Scripture did not end with the Book of Revelation, if you believe that God is still giving revelation there is no way to stop the flood.

Everybody is claiming God speaks to them. Fortunately, for the word faith people, God is telling them exactly what they want Him to say. They’ve created God in the image that they want Him to be. For example, they have no concept of God as sovereign. Scripture says in Psalm 103:19, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all.” What that simply means is, God’s in charge of everybody and everything. God is the blessed and only sovereign, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, 1 Timothy 6:15, yet in the volumes of word faith material that I have read, I have not found one reference to the sovereignty of God, not one. The reason is clear; they don’t believe He’s sovereign.

Jesus, according to word faith teaching, has no authority on earth; it is all delegated to the church. Kenneth Hagan says this in his book entitled, “The Authority of the Believer,” which by the way, has long sections which were taken verbatim from other books written by other people and he says he got them from God; it’s just not true, but he says Jesus has no authority, He delegated it all to the church; we’re in charge of God and we’re in charge of Jesus.

Furthermore, word faith theology teaches that God is bound by spiritual laws that govern health and prosperity. God is bound by some laws, some principles. If we say the right words, or if we have the right faith, God is forced to respond however we determine. Robert Tilton claims that God has already committed to take His part in a covenant relationship with us. We can make whatever commitment or promise to Him we want, says Tilton, “Then we can tell God, on the authority of His Word, what we would like Him to do. That’s right; you can actually tell God what you would like His part in the covenant to be.”

In the word faith system God is not Lord of all, He can’t work unless we release Him to work, He is dependent on human instruments, He is dependent on human faith, and above all, He has to act in response to human words to get His work done. (source)

John MacArthur

Further reading