This is the next installment of my series to be published the first Monday of each month.
There are members of false sects, like Jehovah's Witnesses, that come knocking door-to-door hoping to convert you. Instead of ignoring them, it is we who should try and convert them. In 1 Peter 3:16, our first Pope writes, "But in thy hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks thee to give the reason for the hope that thou hast. But do this with gentleness and respect,..." Before the Great Apostasy, the Church would send missionaries to the ends of the Earth to make as many converts as possible.
Those in false religions don't always come (literally) knocking at your door. It may be a Hindu at work who wants you to try yoga. It could be a "Christian Scientist" who lives next door and invites you to come to their reading room. Each month, I will present a false sect. Unlike the Vatican II sect, I do not see them as a "means of salvation" or possessing "elements of truth" that lead to salvation. That is heresy. They lead to damnation, and the adherents of the various sects must be converted so they may be saved.
In each month's post, I will present one false sect and give an overview of:
- The sect's history
- Their theology
- Tips on how to share the True Faith with them
The Word-Faith Movement
You've probably seen him on TV, or read about him in the papers. His books (ten as of this writing), are all over the market, both in hard-copy and as e-books. Handsome, well-dressed, and charismatic, Joel Osteen (b. 1963) is part of the Word-Faith Movement (sometimes called the prosperity Gospel), and he has powerful incentives to make converts. The Word-Faith Movement is somewhat nebulous in the sense that it is not an explicit Protestant sect. There is no organizational hierarchy, there are no elected leaders, there is no formal confession or doctrinal statement to which their followers must subscribe. As a matter of fact, there is nothing that binds these preachers together except their core doctrines and desire for wealth.
Besides Osteen, Word-Faith preachers encompass such names as Kenneth Hagin (d. 2009), Benny Hinn (b. 1952), Kenneth Copeland (b. 1936), Paul and Jan Crouch ([founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network television]; Paul d. 2013, Jan d. 2016), Joyce Meyer (b. 1943), Joseph Prince (b. 1963), and T.D. Jakes (b. 1957). If any of these names are familiar to you, or you know someone who is a follower,the common thread that runs through all of their teachings, is that you will have health and wealth, which can be reached or attained through what is called "positive confession" or "acts of faith" such as donating money to them or throwing away medicines.
Osteen's book, The Power of I Am: Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today (2015) gives an excellent example of what the Movement is all about:
Lacy began to describe how she wasn’t fulfilled; she was lonely and she perceived her coworkers as more talented. She made statements such as, "I am unattractive. I am unlucky. I am a slow learner. I am always tired." After five minutes of listening to Lacy, I knew exactly what was holding her back. Her "I am"s. What follows those two simple words will determine what kind of life you live. "I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy." Or, "I am slow. I am unattractive. I am a lousy mother." The "I am"s coming out of your mouth will bring either success or failure. (p. 1).
The Word-Faith Movement believes that the human mind and tongue contain a supernatural "power." When a person is expressing his faith in (alleged) Divine Laws, his positive thoughts and verbal expression will produce a "divine force" that will heal, produce wealth, bring success, and even change the environment. Kenneth Copeland claimed to have healed his followers through their television screens. According to Newsweek magazine:
Conservative televangelist Kenneth Copeland told viewers of his ministry's program that they were "healed" of the coronavirus disease as he prayed while asking them to touch their televisions screens to receive the spiritual healing.
Copeland's bizarre message to his followers during a "special report" on his Victory channel, titled "Standing Against Coronavirus," was first reported by Right Wing Watch on Thursday. In a clip of his prayer, the Christian pastor reaches his outstretched hand toward the camera, asking viewers to draw close and touch their screens.
"Thank you, Lord Jesus. He received your healing," the religious leader said in the video, bowing his head. "Now say it: I take it. I have it. It's mine. I thank you and praise you for it."
He went on: "According to the word of God, I'm healed. And I consider not my own body. I consider not symptoms in my body. But only that which God has promised." (See https://www.newsweek.com/conservative-pastor-claims-he-healed-viewers-coronavirus-through-their-tv-screens-1492044).
The four fundamental points of the Word-Faith Movement can be summarized thus:
- God speaks things into existence
- People are God’s offspring and created in God’s image
- Before the Fall, humanity had the same ability to speak things into existence
- After "becoming Christian" (or "born again"), humans regain the ability to speak things, situations and circumstances into existence
The "God" Who Needs Faith in Himself?
In Osteen's book cited above, it tells you that the "magic words" of faith ("I am"--which only God can ascribe to Himself), can bring negative things or positive things depending on your use of the magic words:
Here’s the principle. Whatever follows the “I am” will eventually find you. When you say, "I am so clumsy," clumsiness comes looking for you. "I am so old." Wrinkles come looking for you. "I am so overweight." Calories come looking for you. It’s as though you’re inviting them. Whatever you follow the "I am" with, you’re handing it an invitation, opening the door, and giving it permission to be in your life...Get up in the morning and invite good things into your life. "I am blessed. I am strong. I am talented. I am wise. I am disciplined. I am focused. I am prosperous." When you talk like that, talent gets summoned by Almighty God: "Go find that person." Health, strength, abundance, and discipline start heading your way. (pg.2)
Osteen's "God" is nothing more than a genie in a bottle. If a good (positive) person releases the genie, you wish for (and get) good wishes. If a bad (negative) person releases the genie, you wish for (and get) bad things. Here are the key terms of Christianity as reinterpreted by Word-Faith preachers:
God: A supernatural Being Who must obey spiritual laws. He must have Faith in His own power for miracles. The spiritual laws to which God is somehow subordinate, can be manipulated by people to get God to do their bidding.
Jesus Christ: God's Son, Who came to Earth in order to save us from sin, sickness, poverty, and failure. After the Crucifixion, He went to Hell where He was tortured by demons (!), and then was "born again" to personally communicate the "Faith way" to Word-Faith preachers.
Faith: A spiritual force that can manipulate "God."
The Bible: God's "Book of Success" which needs to be reinterpreted by Word-Faith preachers.
Humans: Potential "gods."
The unscrupulousness of these preachers is astounding. "God" tells them things people want to hear. One such preacher, Robert Tilton (b. 1946), was sued in 1992 for 40 million dollars, when he told the wife of a wealthy man God was going to heal him. There was just one problem. The wife was actually the widow; the man had died, and was beyond healing (nor did Tilton raise him from the dead).
The Word-Faith-Occult Connection
There are many similarities to the occult in the Word-Faith Movement. It's obvious the Movement's conception of God, Christ, Faith, the Bible, etc. are all heretical. These heretical doctrines are very close to many occult/pagan doctrines, such as:
1. The use of magic words to perform "miracles." Both the occult and Word-Faith use special words to effectuate changes over nature. There are those who will object that the same charge was made against Catholics about the form of the Sacraments (necessary words for validity) by Protestants. The form was derided as being "magic words." In particular, the Words of Consecration were attacked as "magic that changes bread into God." The phrase "hocus pocus" was derived from the Protestant blasphemers who said the words spoken by the priest over the bread at Mass (HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM) were "papal hoc-est, poc-est"--corrupted into "hocus pocus," and now spoken at sleight of hand magic shows.
How is Catholic theology different? According to theologian Tanqueray, "A miracle is a deed that is sensible, extraordinary, and of divine origin. Hence, since transubstantiation is not sensible, it cannot be considered a miracle in the strict sense. Miracles can only be used to support that which is true and good. It is impossible for God to deceive. Moreover, God would equivalently be producing falsehood if He were performing some miracles in order to demonstrate that some false doctrines or a doctrine that is altogether human has been revealed by Himself. We should recognize that God allows extraordinary things to be performed by the devil." (See A Manual of Dogmatic Theology, Desclee Company, , 1:40-45; Emphasis mine). Hence, since the Sacraments are each a visible sign of an invisible grace, instituted by the historical Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of the human race, the effects are not visible but seen by the eyes of Faith. It is substantially different from voodoo "doctors" claiming a miraculous cure, or Word-Faith claiming miraculous health and wealth comes to you in a visible way.
2. Dialogue with the supernatural. Occultists claim "spirit-guides" talk with them, and Word-Faith preachers have personal audiences with "angels" or "God."
3. The end purpose is human self-interest. The occult is all about what people want; the Word-Faith is also about the same, except they claim it is God's Will for your own selfish interests to materialize so you can be happy.
4. Making people "gods." In both the occult and Word-Faith, you can control Nature or God, thereby making you a "god."
Proselytizing Word-Faith Adherents
The Word-Faith Movement attracts people because humans have a wounded nature and are inclined to sin and be selfish. Word-Faith encourages this idea, and tells you that God is some "divine butler" at your beck and call. The Word-Faith Movement also professes the heretical Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (the Bible alone) as the Rule of Faith. You can use this as a starting point to get them rethinking not only Word-Faith, but the heresy of sola scriptura; but do it one step at a time.
Here are some tips:
1. In this case, it is not ad hominem to present the stark contradictions between Word-Faith preachers and the teachings of the Bible. One preacher, Frederick K.C. Price (b. 1932), is quoted as saying, "The whole point is I’m trying to get you to see – to get you out of this malaise of thinking that Jesus and the disciples were poor and then relating that to you—thinking that you, as a child of God, have to follow Jesus. The Bible says that He has left us an example that we should follow His steps. That’s the reason why I drive a Rolls Royce. I’m following Jesus’ steps." (See transcript of "Ever Increasing Faith" program on TBN [ December 9,1990]). Yet did not Jesus tell the rich young ruler:
"You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." (St. Mark 10:21-25).
While there is nothing wrong with wealth in itself, it becomes an obstacle to Heaven. "For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."(1 Timothy 6:10; Emphasis mine). Are you listening, Word-Faith preachers? We must be poor in spirit. Why didn't Jesus advise the rich young ruler to keep his wealth, if He wants these preachers to have a Rolls Royce?
2. Have them look at Scripture in context. In 3 John 2, it is written, "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." The Word-Faith preachers look on this verse as a promise of prosperity. Again, however, there is nothing in the context to suggest this interpretation. John’s words here are simply a formal greeting akin to the more contemporary, "I hope you are doing well." This text cannot be invoked as expressing God’s unqualified Will that all believers be healthy and prosperous.
3. Word-Faith is contradicted at every turn by the Bible. The preachers reinterpret Scripture to suit their needs and get rich themselves from large donations. Christ Himself said, "For the poor you have always with you: but Me you have not always." (St. Matthew 26:11). The things of God are more important than the things of Earth. Virtually every book of the Bible tells us we will suffer in this life. Nevertheless, St. Peter says we are to "rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ." (1 Peter 4:13).
4. St. Peter tells us that suffering is connected to God's Will, "So then those that suffer according to God's Will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." (1 Peter 4:19). It is usually God's permissive Will whereby we suffer, but sometimes God will positively inflict punishments as He did to the Egyptians when the refused to release the Jews from captivity. (Book of Exodus).
5. Finally, the idea that saying negative things will, ipso facto, bring negative things is contradicted by Christ Himself who said, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (St. Matthew 6:34; Emphasis mine). God did not tell us we could "wish away" the troubles of life with "magic words."
The Word-Faith Movement is the apex of selfish gain for those who invoke God to justify their avarice. It turns the Bible's message about God and mammon on its head. It is occultic in its teachings. The idea of Christ suffering in Hell with demons tormenting Him so He could be "born again" is so blasphemous there are no words strong enough to condemn it. Finally, we have the magic "I am" words. God is the only "I AM"! Here's what Kenneth Copeland had to say July 9, 1987 on his "Believers Voice of Victory," Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN):
"When I read in the Bible where He (Christ) says, I AM, I just smile and say, "I AM TOO."
Copeland (literally) declared himself "God." Think well on this: "And Jesus answering, said to them: Take heed that no man seduce you: For many will come in my name saying, I am Christ: and they will seduce many." (St. Matthew 24:4-5; Emphasis mine).