The Faith Movement: Worldly, Wealthy, But Spiritually Poor
It is important to note that the bulk of the theology of the Faith Movement can be traced directly to the cultic teachings of New Thought metaphysics. Thus, much of the theology of the Faith Movement can also be found in such clearly pseudo-Christian cults as Religious Science, Christian Science, and the Unity School of Christianity. Over a century before the Faith Movement became a powerful force within the Christian church, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866), the father of New Thought, was popularising the notion that sickness and suffering ultimately have their origin in incorrect thinking.
Quimby’s followers believe that man can 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 into tangible realities.
Some of the teachings and practices of the movement can be traced to certain post-World War II faith healers and revivalists operating within Pentecostal circles. Both Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin point to T. L. Osborn and William Branham as true men of God who greatly influenced their lives and ministries. Of course, Osborn himself has consistently followed E. W. Kenyon’s Scripture-twisting antics, and Branham has denounced the doctrine of the Trinity as coming directly from the devil. Twisted texts, make-believe miracles, and a counterfeit Christ are all common denominators of the Faith Movement’s leading teachers. And, as all who look into the matter will clearly see, it all began with the metaphysical teachings of Essek William Kenyon.
Essek William Kenyon
Essek William Kenyon, whose life and ministry were enormously impacted by such cults as Science of Mind, the Unity School of Christianity, Christian Science, and New Thought metaphysics, is the true father of the modern-day Faith Movement. Many of the phrases popularised by present-day prosperity preachers, such as, “What I confess, I possess,” were originally coined by Kenyon. Kenneth Hagin, to whom we next turn our attention, plagiarised much of Kenyon’s work, including the statement, “Every man who has been ‘born again’ is an Incarnation … The believer is as much an Incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.”
Kenneth E. Hagin
Kenneth Hagin takes Kenyon’s theology from bad to worse. Not only does he boast of alleged visits to heaven and hell, he recounts numerous out-of-body experiences (OBEs) on the earth as well. On one occasion, Hagin claims he was in the middle of a sermon when, suddenly, he was transported back in time. He ended up in the back seat of a car and watched as a young woman from his church committed adultery with the driver. The entire experience lasted about fifteen minutes, after which Hagin abruptly found himself back in church, summoning his parishioners to prayer. Despite his propensity for telling tall tales and describing false visions, virtually every major faith-movement teacher has been impacted by Hagin, including Frederick K. C. Price and Kenneth Copeland.
Kenneth Copeland started his ministry as a direct result of memorising Hagin’s messages. It wasn’t long before he had learned enough from Hagin to establish his own following. To say his teachings are heretical would be an understatement—blasphemous is more like it. Copeland brashly pronounces God to be the greatest failure of all time, boldly proclaims that “Satan conquered Jesus on the Cross” and describes Christ in hell as an “emaciated, poured out, little, wormy spirit.” Yet, despite such statements, Benny Hinn ominously warned that “those who attack Kenneth Copeland are attacking the very presence of God!”
Benny Hinn is one of the stars on the Faith movement circuit. While claiming to be “under the anointing,” Hinn has uttered some of the most unbelievable statements imaginable, including the claim that the Holy Spirit revealed to him that women were originally designed to give birth out of their sides. Hinn also admits to frequenting the graves of both Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimee Semple McPherson to get the “anointing” from their bones. For Hinn fantasy is often passed on as fact, as with the thousands of “documented” healings claimed by Hinn. One of the cases involved a man who was supposedly healed of colon cancer. A medically naïve person reading the pathology report may read “no evidence of malignancy” and be duped into thinking that a healing had indeed taken place. However, medical consultant, Dr. Preston Simpson’s investigation revealed that the tumour was surgically removed rather than miraculously healed.
Frederick K. C. Price
Fred Price is the most notable of a growing number of black prosperity preachers. His church in Los Angeles now claims some 16,000 members. He is seen nationally on television and has referred to himself as the “chief exponent of ‘Name It and Claim It.’” Price has added is own unique twists to Faith Theology by asserting that Jesus took on the nature of Satan prior to the crucifixion and by claiming that the Lord’s Prayer is not for Christians today. Despite telling his followers that he doesn’t allow sickness in his home, Price’s wife has been treated for cancer in her pelvic area. Referring to his wealth, Price says the reason he drives a Rolls Royce is that he is following in Jesus’ steps.
John Avanzini is billed by his Faith peers as a recognised authority on biblical economics. The truth, however, is that Avanzini is an authority on perverting Scripture as a means to picking the pockets of the poor. He has honed his craft into such an art form that when Faith teachers need money, they inevitably call on “Brother John.” Armed with a bag full of Bible-twisting tricks, he tells the unsuspecting that “a greater than a lottery has come. His name is Jesus!” According to Avanzini, if Jesus was rich, we should be rich as well. Thus, he recasts Christ into a mirror image of himself—complete with designer clothes, a big house, and a wealthy, well-financed advance team. Thinking otherwise, Avanzini claims, will prevent Christians from reaping the prosperity God has laid out for them.
Robert Tilton hit the big time as a fisher of funds by developing a religious info-mercial called Success-N-Life. It all began when he travelled to Hawaii to hear from the Lord. Says Tilton, “If I’m going to go to the cross, I’m going to go in a pretty place. Not some dusty place like Jerusalem. That’s gravel is all that place is.” While languishing in his exotic wilderness, Tilton “realised his mission was to persuade the poor to give what they could to him—as God’s surrogate—so they too could be blessed.” Then, one day, Tilton tuned in to television and turned on to Dave Del Dotto’s real estate info-mercials. The rest is history. Tilton used what he saw as a prototype for building an empire that takes in as much as $65 million per year. It now appears that Tilton’s wealth may dwindle rapidly amid reports of scandal and a variety of lawsuits.
Marilyn Hickey, much like Tilton, employs a broad range of tactics to manipulate followers into sending her money. Among her many ploys are anointed prayer cloths, ceremonial breastplates, and ropes that can be used as points of contact. In one of her appeal letters, Hickey promises she will slip into a ceremonial breastplate, “press your prayer request to my heart,” and “place your requests on my shoulders”—all for a suggested donation. Her message is peppered with such Faith jargon as “the God-kind of faith,” “confession brings possession,” and “receiving follows giving.”
Paul Yonggi Cho (David Cho)
Paul Yonggi Cho—pastor of the world’s largest church, located in Seoul, South Korea—claims to have received his call to preach from Jesus Christ Himself, who supposedly appeared to him dressed like a fireman. Cho has packaged his faith formulas under the label of “fourth dimensional power.” He is well aware of his link to occultism, arguing that if Buddhists and Yoga practitioners can accomplish their objectives through fourth dimensional powers, then Christians should be able to accomplish much more by using the same means. He recently made the news by changing his name from Paul to David. As Cho tells the story, God showed him that Paul Cho had to die and David Cho was to be resurrected in his place. According to Cho, God Himself came up with his new name.”
Charles Capps was ordained as a minister in the International Convention of Faith Churches and Ministers by Kenneth Copeland and derived his teachings directly from Kenneth Hagin. This combination has led Capps to make some blasphemous statements. Capps has gone so far as to teach that Jesus was the product of God’s positive confession: “This is the key to understanding the virgin birth. God’s Word is full of faith and spirit power. God spoke it. God transmitted that image to Mary. She received the image inside of her … the embryo that was in Mary’s womb was nothing more than the Word of God … She conceived the Word of God.” Capps not only preaches the blasphemous, he also preaches the ridiculous. For example, he claims that if someone says, “I’m just dying to do that” or “That just tickled me to death,” their statements may literally come true (i.e., they may die). According to Capps, this is precisely why the human race now lives only about 70 years instead of 900 years, as was the case with Adam.
Jerry Savelle has made his fortune by mimicking virtually all of the Faith teachers. His greatest claim to fame, however, may well be his ability to mimic Kenneth Copeland. In fact, Savelle appears to be an exact duplicate of Copeland. Savelle demonstrates a total lack of biblical acumen, as he blindly regurgitates virtually every heresy in the Faith Movement. With regard to health, Savelle boasts that sickness and disease cannot enter his world. As for wealth, he says that words can speak your world into existence.
Morris Cerullo claims that he gave up a driving ambition to be the governor of New Jersey in order to become a minister of the gospel. He purports to have first met God at the tender age of eight. Since then his life has been one mind-blowing experience after another. He claims he was transported to heaven for a face-to-face meeting with God and told he would be capable of revealing the future. On one occasion, Cerullo informed his audience, “You’re not looking at Morris Cerullo; you’re looking at God; you’re looking at Jesus.” Not only is Cerullo a master of make-believe, he is also a master of manipulation. On one occasion he claimed that God was directly speaking through him, to tell people to surrender their wallets and purses to God through him.
Paul Crouch and his wife, Jan, are the founders of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which today has an estimated net worth of half a billion dollars. As Crouch himself puts it, “God has, indeed, given us the MOST POWERFUL VOICE in the history of the WORLD.” To those who would speak out against the false teachings on his network, Crouch has this to say: “I think they’re damned and on their way to hell; and I don’t think there’s any redemption for them.” When one leader met with him to prove that the Faith Movement compromises essential Christian doctrine, Crouch declared, “If you want to criticise Ken Copeland for his preaching on faith, or Dad Hagin, get out of my life! I don’t even want to talk to you or hear you. I don’t want to see your ugly face. Get out of my face, in Jesus’ name.” Sadly, Crouch refers to the Faith message as a “revival of truth … restored by a few precious men.”