Examining Word of Faith and Healing

Introduction

The Apostle Paul gave an ominous warning to the Church in Acts 2:28-30 where he wrote “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”   We see this distortion in various teachings of the Church today.  Christians have accepted occult ideas as biblical.  A number of Word of Faith teachers have propagated ideas that are closer to witchcraft then the teachings of Christ.  One such teaching is that all believers are guaranteed healing in this life.  Word of Faith teachers would have us believe that with the help of faith and positive confession, any believer can be healed.  In fact, they claim, you already have it, you must simply possess it.

Aspects of Word of Faith theology varies from teacher to teachers, however, there seems to be one constant.  That constant is this view on the nature of healing.  In this paper, I will look at  some of their most visible teachers to examine what they teach.  I will present their view in their own words.  I will then evaluate this view in light of what Scripture truly teaches.  I will also expose the occult source of this teaching and why it is not only unbiblical, but dangerous.

Overview

According to Word of Faith teachers, when Jesus died upon the Cross, he not only secured for us salvation and deliverance from sin, but deliverance from sickness as well.  The Atonement included physical healing.   Kenneth Copeland, who is one of the most outspoken Word of Faith teachers and Televangelist, writes “The basic principle of the Christian life is to know that God put our sin, sickness, disease, sorrow, grief, and poverty on Jesus at Calvary.  For Him to put any of this on us now would be a miscarriage of justice.  Jesus was made a curse for us so that we can receive the blessing of Abraham.”[1]  Because of this, no believer should ever be sick, they teach. We have been set free from both sin and sickness.

One of the New Testament signs of an Apostle was the gift of healing.  Word of Faith teaching would say that this is not something that was simply relegated to the New Testament or to the Apostles, or even to those with the gift of healing, but that it is for all believers today.   T.L. Osborn, Word of Faith teacher and author of How to Receive Miracle Healing, quotes Acts 5:12-16 and states “These words, ‘THEY WERE HEALDED EVERYONE’ reveal what God’s Will is today for ALL who are sick.”[2]

What is the evidence of this from Scripture?  Word of Faith teachers do attempt to appeal to the Bible to support there beliefs.

Proof Text

Isaiah 53:4-5 is the main proof text to support the belief that all believers are guaranteed health and healing in this life.  The text reads “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  Word of Faith teachers interpret this to mean that when Jesus was scourged and whipped, that was the payment for your sickness.  He bore your sickness so that you do not have to.  By his physical suffering we have been released from physical suffering in much the same was as he bore the punishment for our sins so that we would not have to bear them.   Faith healer and Word of Faith teacher Earnest Angley, author of “Faith in God Heals the Sick, writes

 

’With his stripes we are healed.’  Isaiah 53:5.  the cruel lash tore pieces of flesh from Jesus’ bare back, cutting across with deep furrows: but each time the lash came down it meant that all mankind could be delivered from cancer, tuberculosis, sugar diabetes, heart problems, kidney trouble, head disorders, or any sickness and disease that the devil might inflict upon them. ‘Surely He hath bore (carried away) our grief’s (sickeness and diseases), and carried our sorrows (pain), Isaiah 53:4.’[3]

 

Angley also writes “Walk by faith, not by sight and claim the promises of salvation and healing available to you through the twofold atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”[4]

In fact, they teach, if you meet the criteria, God is obligated to heal you.  God is no respecter of person (Acts 10:34).  He treats all men equal. And since this is the case, they teach, if He heals one, He must-by the very notion of Acts 10:34, do the same for everyone.  Angley writes “The Bible teaches us that God is not a respecter of persons.  If the Lord will heal one person and not another who meets the conditions, then God would be a respecter of persons.”[5]

So exactly what is this criterion?  It is faith and positive confession.

The Role of Faith

As the name “Word of Faith” implies, a main tenant of this teaching is the prominent role of faith.  But faith according to Word of Faith theology differs from orthodox teaching. According to Word of Faith teacher A.B. Simpson, for instance, faith is a force outside of God to which we can tap into just like God.  In fact, A.B. Simpson writes “Mark 11:22 which states ‘Have faith in God,’ to ‘Have the faith of God.’  The faith of God is as different from faith in God as Christ’s faith is from that of the disciples who were laboring with the demoniac boy”[6]  Word of Faith teachers say that God used this “faith” to bring the universe into existence.  But this faith is also accessible to us as believers since we have the nature of God living within us.  Word of Faith teacher E. W. Kenyon, who is the father of the Word of Faith movement, writes “we have God’s faith produced in us by His living Word, by His nature that is imparted to us”[7]  Word of Faith teacher Charles Capps illustrates this point “Man was created in the image of God and His likeness.  There was creative power that flowed out of the mouth of God and you were created in the image of God.  Then according to the Scriptures and what Jesus said, you have the same ability dwelling or residing on the inside of you”[8]

  1. B. Simpson is not the only Word of Faith teacher who believes that faith is a force. According to Ernest Angley, not only is “Faith” a “force,”[9] it is also a spiritual law that works for (or against) believers and unbelievers, and is a main requirement in order for you to be healed. [10] If you doubt, you cannot be healed since God only heals those who have faith. Angley writes “Before you can be healed, you must decide that it is God’s will to heal everybody who meets His conditions.  You cannot come with the faith-destroying words of the leper, ‘Lord, if it be thy will.’ And expect to receive anything from the Lord”[11]  We see here that Angley goes a step further by saying that we are not supposed to pray for God’s will because that is an act of faithlessness.  And because we are sons and daughters of The Most High, we can use this same faith to bring about our physical healing. Word of Faith teacher and healer Oral Roberts writes “Our faith has complete mastery over every disease in your body.”[12]  So we see that whether or not you are sick, is a direct reflection of your faith.  If you are sick, you lack faith.  It has nothing to do with your physical condition; it is simply a matter of your spiritual condition.

The Role of Positive Confession

Another important ingredient in receiving your healing is through the use of positive confession.  Words are extremely important in Word of Faith theology. You must reject sickness and only think positively about your health, regardless of how you feel.  Admitting that you are sick will prevent you from being healed.  Angley writes “So long as you pet and pamper your diseases you will keep them…Talk faith in God and good health!”[13]  Oral Roberts recounts how he was healed and what he must do to keep his healing “I firmly believe if I allowed myself to become negative in my thinking and believing, my afflictions would return to me.  It took positive believing to get my lungs and tongue healed; it takes the same to keep them.”[14]

According to Robert Bowman, author of The Word-Faith Controversy, “It is a basic maxim of the Word-Faith doctrine that whatever we believe and confess, we possess (Rom. 10:10).  This is a ‘formula’ or ‘law’ that may be used to get whatever we want.”[15]  This confession must be applied to the area of healing if the healing is to be manifest.  In fact, if you say it and believe it, it will come to pass.  Charles Capps writes “THE BODY WILL OBEY WORDS.  THE BODY HAS TO BE TRAINED TO ACT UPON THE WORD OF GOD.  YOUR BODY OBEYS THE COMMAND OF YOUR MIND”[16]  The believer must continue to confess the words of healing over the body regardless of how sick the body may actually be.  These are mere lying symptoms that can’t be trusted.  Kenyon writes “I make the confession that ‘by His stripes I am healed’; the disease and its symptoms may not leave my body at once, but I hold fast to my confession … I know that I am healed because He said I was healed, and it makes no difference what the symptoms may be in my body.”[17]

Evaluation

We have examined the Word of Faith view of healing based on the words of some of their most prominent teachers.  Lets now examine the origins of this teaching and how it compares to what the Bible teaches.

Overview

Although Word of Faith teachers would like for us to think that their teachings are biblical, the fact is that they are not.  In fact they are occultic at the root.  Simply because a group uses the Bible to support their teaching does not make their teaching biblical.  After all, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and various other cults and religious groups use the Bible to support their teaching through text manipulation and a lack of fundamental principles on how to interpret what a passage is actually communicating.

The Occult Connection

There are two elements that define a group or belief system as occult.  The first is the belief that we are all divine.  The second is that there is a hidden force or energy which one can tap into to use for healing or harm.  It is this second element that goes hand in hand with the Word of Faith view of healing.  Belief that there is some law or energy that we can tap into to receive healing is more closely aligned with witchcraft than it is with the Bible.  In Word of Faith theology, this force is called “faith.”  Former Astrologer and New Age practitioner Marcia Montenegro defines a spell as “an attempt to access, channel, or manipulated a power or energy that is not natural or measurable in order to bring about a desired end.”[18]  This is exactly what we see happening in Word of Faith teaching.  We find these elements in the very words of these teachers.  Compare the words of Charles Capps “SPIRITUAL LAW IS FOR YOUR GOOD.  It is to produce the things you need and desire”[19] with the words of world renowned witches Janet and Stewart Farrar, authors of A Witches Bible Complete, as they explain the foundation of witchcraft “The Theory of Levels maintains that reality exists and operates on many planes (physical, etheric, astral, mental, spiritual, to give simplified but generally accepted list); that each of these levels has its own laws; and that these sets of laws, while special to their own levels, are compatible with each other, their mutual resonances governing the interactions between the levels.”[20]  The similarity is not by accident.  In fact we can trace the introduction of this teaching to the church directly back to the occult.

D.R. McConnell is his book A Different Gospel, firmly established that E. W. Kenyon is the father of the Word of Faith movement.  Kenyon derived his doctrine from such religious groups as Christian Science, New Thought, and the Unity School of Christianity.  Ern Baxter, an associated of Kenyon states that Kenyon “undoubtedly was influence by Mary Baker Eddy.”[21]  It was in the metaphysics of these cults that the doctrines of the Word of Faith were born.

Kenneth Hagin took the teachings of Kenyon and brought them to the mainstream church.  McConnell writes “Hagin unknowingly incorporated these cultic, metaphysical ideas into the contemporary Faith movement.”[22]  He also writes “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.  All of the major ministers of the Faith movement readily admit Hagin’s tutelage.  He is universally recognized in the movement as both a teacher and a prophet.”[23]

From Hagin we get Oral Roberts; from Oral Roberts we get Kenneth Copeland; and from Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, and Hagin, the followers and teachers of the Faith movement mushroomed into what we have today.

Let’s examine how Word of Faith’s view of both faith and positive confession are a reflection of occultic views.

The Role of Faith

As I mentioned earlier, faith is seen by Word of Faith teachers as some force that exists outside of God. It was used by God to create the universe.  The fact of the matter is that God does not have faith.  He does not need faith.  Robert Bowman puts it this way “God does not have faith…the Bible never says that God has faith.  Faith is putting one’s trust in someone or something: it is dependence, reliance, confidence in someone or something.” If God had to rely on anything else, he would not be God since He would not be in complete control.

Helen Schucman wrote a book titled A Course in Miracles.  She claims that the book was dictated to her by a spirit being.  In this book, every essential doctrine of Christianity is denied.  In regard to healing, this spirit being told her that “those who need healing are simply those who have not realized that right-mindedness is healing”[24] and “As long as you believe in what your physical sign tells you, your attempts at correction will be misdirected”[25]  Mary Eddy Baker, founder of the cult Christian Science writes “The sick are not healed merely by declaring there is no sickness, but by knowing that there is none.”[26] Do these statements sound familiar?  Remember the quote by Charles Capps: “YOUR BODY OBEYS THE COMMAND OF YOUR MIND.”  The reason that these statements sound familiar is because they have the same ultimate source, the occult.

When we look at the Bible, we see that the role of faith in healing is greatly exaggerated by Word of Faith teachers.  They commonly point to instances of Jesus ministry where faith was mentioned as an element of receiving healing.  Yet they fail to mention that faith is not mentioned in more cases than it is mentioned.  There are instances where the person who was healed had no faith.  For instance in John 5:1-15, we have the story of Jesus healing an invalid at the Pool of Bethesda.  The invalid was waiting to get into the pool when Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well. The invalid replied that he was unsuccessful in getting into the pool to receive his healing.  Jesus healed him. However, not only is there no mention of faith in this passage, we can see from verse thirteen that “The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there” (NIV)  the man didn’t even know who Jesus was.  He didn’t know it was Jesus until later when Jesus re-approached him.  In this case and all cases, the prerogative to heal belongs to God.  God can either respond in compassion to his children who call out to him in their anguish, or He can initiate it himself.  In either case, the decision to heal has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God.

The Role of Positive Confession

In the occult world the entire nature of reality is different.  You can alter your reality through the use of words, or spells.  Moreover, meditation and mantras are used to bring about a desired change.  Oral Roberts writes “When I have financial needs, 3 John 2 always helps me.  ‘Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper….’ I often read this verse a dozen times without stopping.” This use of the Word of God comes close to using the Scripture as a spell.  Witches often repeat a passage to invoke magic.  We are not to use the Bible in the same way.  It is not a book of spells but the Word of God.  It is not to be used as a mantra such as those doing Transcendental Meditation and using a phrase over and over again to put themselves into an altered state of consciousness.  We are to meditate on the Word of God but we do so while thinking about God.  The words are not to be ripped from its context and used as a an incantation.

The fact of the matter is that positive confession cannot bring about healing.  It cannot change reality.  It cannot bring things into existence.  Neither can denying the symptoms make them go away.  This is an occult belief.  It is not biblical.   There is simply nothing in Scripture, when taken in context, that can bring someone to this conclusion.  The Bible contains a number of examples of righteous people who were not healed.  Paul admits that “Trophimus I left sick at Miletus” (2 Tim. 4:20 NIV).  Paul had to rely on God’s mercy that his friend Epaphroditus’ deathly illness had run its course sparing his life (Phil. 3:25-26).  It appears that Paul was unable to help Epaproditus himself.  Moreover, Paul was unable to heal himself.  In Gal. 4:13-14, he writes “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.”  Paul also suffered from a “thorn in the flesh” which he unsuccessfully petitioned to have the Lord remove (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

Neither the example of Paul nor anyone else indicate that they were under the impression that healing here and now was guaranteed to all. They simply accepted their situations and trusted in God’s grace for sustenance.[27]

Proof Text

The Scripture used by Word of Faith teachers are often taken out of context.  In fact, the context is often ignored completely. The passage Isaiah 53:3-5 is a perfect example.  Let us take a closer look at this passage “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

To truly understand the meaning of any text of Scripture we must not ignore the context, yet this is exactly what happens with proponents of this belief.  Let’s first remind ourselves that Scripture was written for us but not to us.  This is important to remember when interpreting Scripture.  If we examine the context, we discover that Isaiah was writing to the nation of Judah sometime around 700 years before the birth of Christ.  He was writing to a nation that was on the verge of spiritual collapse.  He was urging them to trust in God alone, not Egypt or any other nation.  God alone is their deliverer and salvation.  In fact, the very name Isaiah means “Yahweh is salvation.”[28]

For Word of Faith teachers to be correct, this passage would have meant to the reader, 700 years before that birth of Christ, that they received physical healing since Isaiah uses the words “by his wounds we are healed” (emphasis added).  If taken the way Word of Faith teachers say, everyone since the time of Isaiah has physical healing.  It would mean that because of what Christ would do 700 years in the future that they would have physical healing then.  We surely know that this is not the case.  First, they did not interpret this passage to mean that and second, if that were true, Jesus’ healing ministry would be completely irrelevant since they would have already received their healing.

Then what did this passage mean to the intended audience?  This passage spoke to them of spiritual healing, not physical healing.  The term “healing” to refer to spiritual healing is not uncommon in Old Testament Hebrew.  If we do a word study on the Hebrew word used for “healing” here we find it is “rapa.”  If we look for other uses of this word using Strong’s Concordance we find a number of spiritual uses for this word.   King David writes “As for me, I said, ‘O Lord, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You’” (Ps. 41:4 NASB, emphasis added).  God speaks to the Nation of Israel through the prophet Hosea and says “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them” (Hos. 14:4, emphasis added).  God also speaks of spiritual healing of the people of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah “Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness” (Jer. 3:22, emphasis added).  It should be clear from how the word is used here and elsewhere in Scripture that, given the context, the proper interpretation in this passage would be to understand the words of Isaiah to refer spiritual healing.

Furthermore, this has not been the interpretation of this passage throughout history.  John A. Martin, who submitted the commentary on the Book of Isaiah for The Bible Knowledge Commentary writes “His wounds, inflicted by the soldiers’ scourging and which were followed by His death, are the means of healing believers’ spiritual wounds in salvation.”[29]  The Wycliffe Bible Commentary puts it this way “the punishment that brings about our peace, or state of well-being (not a mere unfortunate consequence of man’s sin).”[30] The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible puts it this way “He suffered in order that he might bring restoration (“peace” and “healing”) between God and man”[31] (emphasis added).  Notice that “peace” and “healing” here refers to the relationship between God and man.

As we continue examining the context of this passage, we should be aware that Hebrew writing, including that of Isaiah, includes various types of literature.  In this case we see a type of poetic literature known as parallelism.  Parallelism involves similar language repeated over two or more lines.  The purpose of parallelism is to clarify ideas and provide emphasis to the reader.  This passage clearly invokes this literary style.  Let’s examine this passage in that light.

The first sentence reads “But he was pierced for our transgressions” clearly refers to our sin.  Christ was pierced in the side by the Roman guard for our “sin.”  The next phrase “he was crushed for our iniquities” is in parallel with the first line and emphasizing its meaning by simply restating the idea that his physical suffering was done because of our “sin.”  We see this theme continued in the next phrase “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.”  Isaiah is continuing to talk about the physical punishment of Christ and how that physical punishment brought us peace.  This peace is the reconciliation between God and man.  So far everything this passage has mentioned involves Christ bearing the punishment for our sin.  It would only stand to reason that the last phrase would further emphasize the points that have already been made.  Let’s also keep in mind that this is all one thought.  So when we take the next phrase “and by his wounds we are healed,” the parallelism with the previous lines should be obvious.  It would be a complete change of topic in the middle of a thought to switch from spiritual healing to physical healing.

To further this point, the best interpretation of Scripture is Scripture.  Fortunately for us, this passage is interpreted in the New Testament by the Apostle Peter who says He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” Peter is clearly talking here about sin.  Physical healing is a foreign concept in this passage.  If Peter, under the power of the Holy Spirit, interprets this to refer to sin and spiritual healing, then surely it refers to sin and spiritual healing.  To contend that this passage refers to physical healing is to show a reckless abandonment of the context of this passage and the principles of biblical interpretation.

Dangers

Word of Faith teaching on healing is not just biblically wrong.  It can have negative consequences for the body of Christ that are both spiritual and physical.

Diminishes the Resurrection

It is the Resurrection where we will receive our ultimate healing, not before.  If we received all of our healing now, then the Resurrection does not provide our ultimate deliverance. It is robbed of some of its significance.

The fact of the matter is that once we become believers, we do not instantly get a glorified body.  Our cells do not magically change to make them less receptacle to disease.  Our immune system does not undergo some magical transformation.  None of that happens and that is precisely why we are not delivered from every sickness of mankind.  Christ died for our ultimate deliverance from sin and sickness.  Yet just as we still sin, we still get sick.  It is in heaven that we will be removed from the effects of sin and the effects of sickness.

Diminishes the Sovereignty of God

Scripture clearly teaches that God is sovereign which means that God exercises complete control over everything.  The Psalmist writes “the LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths” (Ps. 135:6 NIV).  However, this is not the God of Word of Faith theology.  As I mentioned earlier, Word of Faith teaches that God must have faith; in fact God needed faith to create the universe.  Faith is only necessary when you are dependent on something or someone else.  It implies that you are not in complete control.  Yet God is in complete control, therefore he does not need faith.

This occult view of God implies that there are these laws that we can manipulate to get what we desire.  It’s much like the concept of a vending machine.  Put the correct amount of money in and out comes your desire.  This view robs God and us of intimacy.  In Scripture, you do not follow some magical formula.  You fall on your knees before a powerful Holy God, who in His mercy and love reciprocates by giving us His best.  By doing what is not just in our best interest, but His.  The Word of Faith God ties His own hands.  Follow the formula and here is the result, no relationship or intimacy is needed or necessary.  This lessens the purpose of salvation which restores our relationship with God.  The Word of Faith God is not sovereign but He Himself is bound by laws.

This then represents an interesting dilemma.  If there are laws that are outside of God to which He must subject Himself, then there is something higher than God.  If there is something higher than God then that thing must be God.  Yet if we truly serve the God of the Bible, there is nothing above or beyond Him.  He is all in all.

To accept a Word of Faith view of healing is to see a diminished non-sovereign God who acts on behalf of those who know how to manipulate the spiritual laws.  Actually, He dose not act at all, it is the law of faith that does the healing.

Inoculates Against the True Gospel

There is a real revival going on around the world.  God is moving in countries such as Africa like never before.  Literally millions are coming to a saving relationship with Christ.  I often see Word of Faith teachers on TV ministering in these countries.  I imagine I should be happy since they are hearing the Word of God and are coming to know Him and I am.  However, I am concerned.  My concern lies in the fact that the God they are learning about from Word of Faith teachers in not the God of the Bible.  They are being sold a God who prospers and heals all who follow the formula of faith and confession.  As I have made clear, that God simply does not exist.  He is nowhere in the Bible.  So then what happens to these converts who realize that the God they have been sold does not do what they have been promised?  It is my fear that they will reject the faith.  In fact, I think it will actually be worse than that. They will be inoculated against the True Gospel.

What do I mean when I use the term “inoculate” in this context?  When someone is inoculated against something, they are actually given a small dose of the thing that they want to be immune to.  When given in small doses, the body builds up a resistance to it and allows the body to reject it when into comes into contact with the thing itself.   The ironic thing here is that they will actually be inoculated against the cure for sin and separation from God.  Because they have been exposed to a false view of God, they will ultimately reject Christianity as a false religion.  When someone brings the true Gospel to them the response may likely be “I have already tried Christianity and it didn’t work.”  I suspect this may be the plan of our enemy.  I pray to God that I am wrong.

Makes God a Liar

So what happens to the countless numbers of people who have heard the word that the God of the Bible promises to heal all believers, yet they are not healed?  At some point they are going to have to come to a crossroad.  They are going to have to accept the fact that God does not always heal, that they lack faith, or that God is a liar.  Many people, especially those who have been immersed in this teaching would reason that if God’s Word promises to heal me and has not, either He or His Word must be lying.  If either God or His Word cannot be trusted, Christianity is no longer true.  If the God of Christianity does not exist, then maybe there is no God at all.  This will not only have a negative effect on the believer, but serve as a negative testimony against the believer and Christianity to the family and friends of those who have turned their back on a lying God.  After all, if He lied about healing, there is no reason I should trust Him in other matters such as salvation.  If I cannot trust His word with regard to healing, I cannot trust His word with regard to anything.

The truly sad thing is that they will be turning their back on God because He has not kept a promise that He never made.  This is why we need to be particularly careful about the Words that we put in God’s mouth.  As a former Pastor I know all too well that often people confuse the word of man with the Word of God and the consequences can be devastating.

Robs the Body of their Compassion

Ultimately the view of Oral Roberts that “The reason they are not healed is that they do not understand how to believe right” ultimately places the blame of sickness of the sick.  It is saying that it is your fault that you are sick since you will not do what it takes to get well.  People get sick and die in Word of Faith churches just as often as in non-Word of Faith churches yet Word of Faith churches are presented with a particular dilemma when someone is sick.  How do they explain why that person was not healed?  Often the explanation is that they simply did not have enough faith.  I once heard a radio program where Joni Eareckson Tada was being interviewed.  Joni Eareckson Tada became a quadriplegic in a diving accident in 1967 and is the founder of Joni and Fiends International Disability Center. [32]   In this interview, I heard her recount an incident where a Christian woman approached her and told her that she could be healed if she only had enough faith.  This statement went well beyond being insensitive, it was cruel. I simply cannot see how someone who says that a person is not healed because of their lack faith is not blaming that person for being sick.  After all, you are putting the responsibility of their healing upon them.  They could be healed if simply they had more faith.  Not only does this attitude fly in the face of Christian compassion, it also causes psychological turmoil for the sick person who cannot help but blame themselves.  “Oh, if only I had more faith, I would be healed” would be a normal response.

However this view does not line up with Scripture either.  We see on more than one occasion that healing occurred because of the faith or prayer of someone else.  For example, the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8 came to seek healing for his servant.  Because he had faith that Jesus could heal his servant, Jesus responded with “’I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.… ‘Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour’” (Matt. 8:10,13).  We see it again in case of the Paralytic in Luke 5 where his friends lowered their paralytic friend through an opening in a roof to get to Jesus.  Scripture records “’When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’ ….He said to the paralyzed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home. Immediately he stood up in front of them’” (Luke 5:20,24-25) .  If Word of Faith and the doctrine of faith healing were true, no one in their congregation would get sick or die of disease if for no other reason than their faith should heal them.

Encourages People to Reject Medical Treatment

If the Word of Faith teaching on healing were true, the logical conclusion is that no one should take any medication.  I know of very few Word of Faith teachers that would advocate that however.  But, according to their teaching using medicine shows a lack of faith and you cannot be healed if you lack faith.  There have been some who have advocated this view. Dr. Hobart Freeman happens to be one such advocate with tragic consequences.  “Dr. Hobart Freeman taught that using doctors was a sin, as a result over 50 people died in his church, and later he himself died of a treatable ailment.”[33]

I personally see no inconsistency whatsoever with the view that God does heal through medicine.  Countless numbers of saints have been healed through medical technology.  I believe that advancements in medical technology is God’s common grace upon all of mankind, which includes believers.  In my opinion, to reject this is rejecting God’s healing.  To reject medical treatment for something that could be easily treated because we want a miracle from God is the same as praying to God to save me from starvation even though I have a refrigerator full of food, simply because I would rather wait on a miracle then take advantage of that which He has already provided.

Interesting enough, Word of Faith teachers themselves see no reason not to use medical treatment when it is one of their loved ones.  Word of Faith teachers Charles Capps and Frederick K. Price both have wives who suffered from cancer and received medical treatment for their condition.  Word of Faith teacher R. W. Schambach received heart by-pass surgery.[34] Their actions are inconsistent with their teachings and the reason is that their teachings do not work.

Conclusion

So what is my motivation for writing this paper? I imagine some would say that it is because I am a heretic hunter, or that I am doing the devil’s bidding by causing infighting and dissent.  That is not my motivation at all.  My motivation is two fold.  First, is the love of Scripture and the God of Scripture.  I believe that this teaching causes an already skeptical world to be even more resistant to the Gospel.  They can see that it simply does not work.  Yet they also see Christians blindly follow that which is obviously false. Second, I think that Christians should police themselves.  Paul was a stickler for admonishing the church to stick to sound doctrine.  He tells Titus that an elder “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9, emphasis added).  As an ordained minister, this refers directly to me. I would be neglecting my responsibility to the body and to my Lord by not address these issues.  My views do not make me popular among many of my Christian brethren, but I must give an account to God, and not man.

As Christians, we want to have a biblical view of God since that is the only God that exists.  To misunderstand what Scripture teaches is to have a misunderstanding of who God is.  We must not come up with our own view of who God is outside of Scripture, because we have just replaced the true God for one of the many false gods.  Many people bring their own God to Scripture.  For instance, there are those who believe that a loving God will never send people to hell.  Not because of what Scripture says about God, but because of their idea of who God should be.  The same applies in the area of healing.  When Scripture says that God is no respecter of person (Acts 10:34), we must look at the context and realize that this was in reference to the Gospel message which was for all of mankind, not just the Jews.  This text has nothing to do with healing.  That aside, God does deal with us differently just as an earthly parent deals differently with each of their children. We see this throughout Scripture.  Abraham was blessed with financial blessings and a long life while the Apostle Paul was blessed with neither of these.  In fact, he was executed for the cause of Christ.  In the New Testament, we see that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to us based on His will, not ours (1 Cor. 12:11). Ananias and his wife Sapphira were put to death by God for lying. Fortunately for us, God does not treat us today the same as he treated this couple.  We know that God hears and answers our prayers based on His will, not ours as we see demonstrated by the unsuccessful three fold prayer of the Apostle Paul to be delivered from his thorn in the flesh.  This applies to healing as well.

I do believe that God can and does heal today.  I just do not think that He guarantees healing for every believer in this lifetime.  I believe that He heals on a case by case based on His compassion and purpose.  I also believe that He heals today, just as in the past to demonstrate His power to an unbelieving society.  But these are miracles and the nature of a miracle is its rarity.   If it happened based upon us accessing some formula, where is the glory for God?  How does this serve the purpose of miracles, which is to point to the Almighty?  If Word of Faith theology is right, you can actually bypass God and go directly to the source, which are these formulas and laws.  He would get no glory from that.

Additionally, there is a sense in which every believer will be healed and this is at the Resurrection in our glorified bodies.  Scripture is clear that we will no longer know sickness.  Until then we can pray for God’s healing upon our lives.  But He has given us something even greater than healing.  He has given us His grace to sustain us as He told the Apostle Paul, who cried out in his anguish, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Notes

[1]Kenneth Copeland, The Troublemaker (Fort Worth: Kenneth Copeland Publications, n.d. [ca. 1970]),6;  quoted in Hank Hanegraff, Christianity In Crisis (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1997), 241.

[2] T.L. Osborn, How to Receive Miracle Healing (Tulsa: 1977). 69.

[3] Ernest W. Angley, Faith in God Heals the Sick, (Akron: Ohio:,1974).14-15.

[4] Ibid., 78.

[5] Ibid., 18.

[6] Robert M. Bowman Jr., The Word-Faith Controversy (Grand Rapids: 2001), 70; quoting A. B. Simpson, Himself (Harrisburg: Pa.: Christian Publications, n.d.), 708.

[7] Bowman., 70 citing E. W. Kenyon, Two Kinds of Faith  (reprint, Lynnwood, Wash.: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1971), 103; cited in D. R. McConnell, A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1988), 141.

[8] Charles Capps, The Tongue-A Creative Force (Tulsa:  Harrison House, 1976), 17.

[9] Bowman, 194.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Angley, 18.

[12]Oral Roberts, Deliverance From Fear & From Sickness (Tulsa: Oral Roberts, 1954), revised 1967, 65.

[13]Angley, 62.

[14]Roberts, 90.

[15]Bowman, 195.

[16]Capps, 49.

[17]Bowman, 76.

[18]Marcia Montenegro, Spellbound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids (Colorado Springs: Life Journey, 2006), 23.

[19]Capps, 10.

[20]Janet and Stewart Farrar, A Witches Bible Complete (New York: Magical Childe Publishing, Inc, n.d..), 107.

[21]D.R McConnell, A Different Gospel, updated ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), 25.

[22]Ibid., 24.

[23]Ibid., 55.

[24]Helen Schucman, A Course in Miracle, 3d ed. (Mill Valley, Calif.: Foundation for Inner Peace, 2007), 25.

[25]Ibid.

[26]Mary Baker G. Eddy, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: Trustees under the Will of Mary Baker G. Eddy, 1934), 447; quoted by Walter Martin, TheKingdom of the Cults (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1965), 260.

[27]Norman L. Geisler and Ron Rhodes, When Cultists Ask : A Popular Handbook on Cultic Misinterpretations  (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1997), 81.

[28]John A. Martin, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary [electronic ed.] (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983-c1985).

[29]Ibid.

[30]Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Wycliffe Bible Commentar : Old Testament [Electronic ed]. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962.

[31]Willem A. VanGemeren, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell, [Electronic ed], Baker reference library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1996, c1989).

[32]Joni Eareckson Tada, Frequently Asked Questions, Joni and Fiends International Disability Center, http://www.joniandfriends.org/faq.php [accessed 20 November, 2008].

[33]Robert S. Liichow, The Word of Faith Movement, Discernment Ministries International,  http://www.discernment.org/Word of Faith.htm [accessed 20 November, 2008].

[34]Ibid.