I (Dee) would like to take a moment to thank Deb who has carried this blog for the last month. I had a total knee replacement in late December and was not prepared for the degree of pain I experienced as well as the extended lack of mobility (even though I am a nurse). Prior to the surgery, I thought I might be out of commission for just a couple of weeks. That was naïve, and the two weeks morphed into a month. Deb graciously carried on without complaint, often cheerily saying that she was “having lots of fun”! So, I want to tell all who read this blog how wonderful it is to have such a great friend and co-writer. Friendships like this are hard to find, and I am certainly blessed by Deb. Thanks, “pardner!”
Many of our readers are probably relieved that we are FINALLY wrapping up our coverage of the Word of Faith / Health and Wealth / Name it and Claim It movement. We have been deeply concerned about the great deception being perpetrated by these prosperity preachers. When we began The Wartburg Watch, we resolved that once we opened up this can of worms we would conduct a thorough investigation, which we hope we have done…
As we wrap up this series, I (Dee) wanted to weigh in with some thoughts of my own. When I first became a Christian at 17 years of age, I was “invited” to attend a rally put on by some Pentecostals in my hometown near Boston. For those of you not familiar with the northeast region of our country, evangelicals were hard to find in the 1970s. Add the label of Pentecostal and the numbers are even fewer.
Off I went, unsuspectingly, to a small church that had about 20 people in attendance. The pastor had a prophecy that a new person in attendance needed to receive the Holy Spirit. I looked around and realized that I was the only “new” person in the gathering. Before I could find an exit, I was hauled to my feet by the pastor and was surrounded by the church members all muttering in strange words (no interpreter) and they laid hands on me, begging God, apparently, to give me this peculiar gift. I stood there, absolutely flabbergasted and silently prayed for God to get me out of Dodge! Looking back, I also believe that they wanted me to fall to the ground, especially with the preacher yelling something along the lines of “Slay her, Lord, slay her.”
Well, the prayers didn’t take and I never spoke in tongues or fell to the ground, overcome! At that point, I decided to get serious about studying the Bible and also resolved to stay away from “unusual” gatherings in which I was the only “new” girl in town.
The charismatic movement is now, with a few exceptions, in bed with the word of faith movement.
There used to be a distinction between these two movements. However, as the charismatic movement developed excesses such as the “laughter” idiocy and people quacking like ducks in the pulpit (The Vineyard Movement), charismatics became increasingly accepting of the unbiblical nature of the health and wealth Gospel.
There has been no objective data that accurately reports whether healings have actually occurred as claimed by faith healers of the likes of Benny Hinn. In fact, it is highly likely that they are all frauds.
It is evident that these supposed healers carefully screen those who come to their healing services. They rarely, if ever, will accept quadriplegics or those with other serious, outward appearing illnesses onto the stage for “healing.” Many of those who are supposedly healed of cancer, etc., are not followed up after the pronouncement of healing. Stories abound of “healed” cancer victims dying within days or weeks of their “healing.
At this point, I feel it necessary to make a strong statement. I believe that if sound scientific studies (which are randomized and double-blinded) are allowed to occur, the results will be devastating for the faith healers. I would wager that the healing rates would mimic the healing rates of those who do not attend such services. I also believe that Christians should be the first ones to demand proof of claims made by the healers. Jesus, after healing the lepers, sent them to the priests for verification. Should Christians stand for anything less?
Promising people that God wants them to drive Rolls Royces and telling folks that Jesus was wealthy is a perversion of the Gospel.
Can you imagine these “preachers” telling the people in the persecuted church that God wants them to drive Mercedes and live in mansions on this earth? This is sick nonsense and one day these purveyors of lies will stand before the living God without their Rolexes and mansions. Our question is this — Do they believe Jesus is preparing a mansion in heaven that they will occupy or have they gotten their heart’s desire here on earth?
Slaying people in the spirit is definitely NOT Biblical.
Why? There is nothing that supports such a phenomenon in Scripture.
It is unbiblical to promise riches or healing in exchange for contributions.
This one is simple. Give one example of Jesus promising healing for a simple contribution. Nuff said.
It is unbiblical to promise to pray for people in exchange for contributions.
Once again, did Jesus ever do this? Who doesn’t remember the demise of the Word of Faith leader, Robert Tilton? People would send in money and the “ministry” would dump the requests for prayers into the dumpster.
Claiming that words, in and of themselves, hold power and can force God to act is unbiblical.
In fact, I am going out on a limb and warning that this is not Christianity. It is a false faith. The only word that has power is The Living Word, Jesus Christ.
Christian leaders and followers must reject urban legends and not be guilty of spreading lies.
Years ago, I was attending a Bible study in which a member made the claim that Procter and Gamble executives had appeared on television and said that they were Satan worshippers. She called for a boycott of P&G. I asked her if she had actually seen the program. When she said yes, I told her she was lying because such a show never occurred and that she could get sued for spreading false information. I went on to say that, as followers of the Truth, we must speak truth and not lies. Unfortunately, this rumor has persisted and
I have even seen pastors who spread such nonsense around. Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, and Pat Robertson (Haitians made a deal with the devil) are guilty of this and, as such, should not be trusted in anything else that they say.
Christian pastors must take a proactive stance on the issues surrounding the Word of Faith movement and clearly condemn such excesses.
I have explained to former pastors that there were a significant number of church members who follow the likes of Osteen and Hinn. I asked them to speak out against these charlatans from the pulpit. They refused, claiming that they didn’t need to since their teaching was clear on this matter. Sorry, boys, it’s not and you have some seriously misguided members who need far better teaching than you are now offering.
Pastors and Word of Faith types who live extravagant lifestyles are to be suspect.
Jesus lived a simple lifestyle. As such, people realized that He was not out for personal gain and that caused them to trust Him. Today, far too many church leaders live lifestyles far in excess of those they serve and yet they beg for the tithe of those who are struggling to make ends meet. How dare they ask for those living hand to mouth to tithe so their pastor/preacher can live in fancy houses and drive fancy cars. In fact, we wonder if these people are even Christian. They talk the talk but they walk in Sesto Menuccis.
Average Christians MUST become educated so that they can spot unbiblical movements.
Jesus warned that in the latter days there would be many false prophets (which can also be spelled “profits”). In the end, every Christian is responsible for discerning right from wrong.
One day, I (Dee) talked with a lady in my prayer group. This lady was selling a new “Biblical” product that involved therapeutic scents “right out of the Bible.” I asked her for the verses for such things. Well, she couldn’t remember them. Then I asked her if the products did what she claimed. She said she heard many stories of their effectiveness. I asked her for any randomized, double blind studies that prove her claims. She became concerned and said, “It’s in the Bible.” Well no it isn’t and she didn’t care enough to prove it to herself.
Anytime anyone adds to stories in the Bible or adds to what needs to happen in order to follow the faith, said person should not be followed.
Many in the Word of faith movement have visions of Jesus battling Satan in hell to obtain the keys to heaven. Others claim that Christians must believe that Jesus went to hell after His crucifixion in order to be saved. Well, none of this is in the Bible. The Bible, in Revelation, clearly states that anyone who adds to the Scriptures will be condemned. Unfortunately, we don’t do much of this in our society. In fact, we embrace those who add to the Bible.
Revelation 22:18-19 (New International Version) warns everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
What’s the bottom line? Quite simply, there is very little in the Word of Faith or the Health Wealth Gospel that appears to be based on sound Biblical doctrine. As such, concerned Christians should avoid this movement like the plague and condemn its excesses. Compassion must be shown to those who have been deceived by prosperity pimps. Eventually, most people who buy this nonsense will get hurt. They will become neither rich nor healthy. They will also note that the only ones getting rich are the guys up front. When the blinders come off, it will be up to us as Christians to lead these folks to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What bothers me is that evangelical Christians spend a lot of energy condemning homosexuals who are in committed relationships based on a few verses in the Bible, and do not bother to speak against these false prophets and their greed. There are hundreds of passages in both the Old and New Testaments that speak against false preaching and against greed.
Christians need to clean up our own house for the overt sins of false preaching and greed — pastors netting several hundred thousands of dollars a year from “ministry”, and justifying it by misapplication of scripture — before going after sin among those who do not claim to be Christians.
BTW, when I was in law school, a group of friends who were committed and active Christians chose to be open to and friendly with all of the other law students, including those of other faiths, no faiths, and the LGBT crowd. As a result, one very smart and hardworking young woman stopped living as a lesbian and came to faith in Christ. Love and acceptance work where condemnation and hyprocrisy do not! But we have to be living a Christian life-style to have that effect.
You have made an excellent point, and I wholeheartedly agree.
Great to hear from you. Stay tuned… We’re “reforming” our direction next week.
Thanks for this summary. It’s amazing that the church was able to survive for 1900 years without all this nonsense, until the “revival” in San Francisco in about 1900. Since then, it’s all been on the downgrade, if you want my opinion.
The basic problem, which you have hit upon, is that these guys and churches (whatever their stripe) claim to have some special word or prophecy from God that others do not have. This is essentially the same as Mormon doctrine.
They also claim to have some “power” that others don’t have. Special languages, discerning spirits, extraordinary faith, whatever. These guys basically claim to be apostles. I saw Jesse Duplantis claim one time that he had been taken to heaven, that he had seen Jesus, and that he had seen the souls of babies flying around, waiting for bodies to inhabit (that last thought is not Christian at all, but is Greek – the preexistence of the soul etc.)
These guys’ greatest sin is failing to disciple Christians in the faith. They get Christians fixated on a bunch of things that are not true. Then you add to it – fake healings, unbalanced approach to scripture, abuses with money etc., and it turns out to be a very unhealthy thing.
We have some of these folks (or their fellow travelers) in SBC circles. They may be junior members of this circle, but they are connected all the same. They are the gateway for a lot of Baptists into the Charismatic “fold” (prison).
I do appreciate the fact that Charismatics base what they say on the Bible. They don’t deconstruct the Bible, and they have a high view of inspiration (unlike Baptist liberals). But the problems they bring are horrible.
We do need to speak the truth about these folks, but we need to be careful or we will not be persuasive. Good communication and persuasion do not simply involve making charges and counter charges. I am not sure that I have a recipe. But I don’t think it’s just tearing into people, even though they may deserve it. That often has the effect of building them up.
Thanks for this series.
Good luck on the continued recovery from surgery.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I understand your intention in the statement that tearing into people can only increase loyalty to the prosperity movement. While we may have done some of that, we have also let the prosperity preachers speak for themselves by including numerous YouTube videos in this series. Our criticism is directed at the leaders much more than the followers. I’m praying that those caught up in the health and wealth gospel will have godly discernment.
I was not commenting on your series. I was talking about where churches and people reading your blog go from here.
I am glad you guys have written this stuff.
We did not take it as a criticism. We are both firm believers that expanding views on these subjects actually help us to grow and refine our thinking. I think you make an important point. We often compromise our beliefs in order to “GET ALONG.” This, in and of itself, may be the main reason why pastors and others clam up about doctrinal and unbiblical excesses. Thank you for caring enough to write. Your comment was thoughtful and on target.
We often compromise our beliefs in order to “GET ALONG.”
This is part of what our friend Lydia calls “totalitarian niceness”. True Christian love allows us to speak frankly and challenge each other (iron sharpening iron), but too often what we see in churches today is a false “unity” in the interest of avoiding conflict or criticism. But the result is a lack of growth, as we are not using our gifts to build one another up; we’re just “playing nice” to “get along”. This blog serves a valuable function for the body of Christ.
I loved your comment. About ten years ago, there was a great article in Christianity Today entitled, “Furthermore, Nice Is Not the Point.” Here is the link
I can just hear the whining before the Father, “But, I didn’t want to hurt their feelings.”
Tell me what you think about the article. It might be worthy of a post!
Hey, but wait a minute.
I just read on another blog a day or two ago where someone was pining away for the good ol’ days in Baptist Church life were we just pushed all the theological differences under the rug and just got along with one another and did “missions” (whatever that meant to each person or church).
We can get obsessive about anything, so too much of anything can be bad.
But I appreciate the fact that this site takes on theological issues.
The idea is to stand firm on the essentials. The Calvinistas stand firm on the nonessentials. Mahaney stands firm that he is an Apostle and knows what is best for “his” flock including which small group, what to study, permission needed to leave, etc. Some of us stood firm on a church’s poor response to a children hurt by a molester, etc. One church that I used to attend had a rabid group of young earthers and the church refused to let any other point of view be taught to the children. Egads. Such certainty on nonessentials is nonsense. Thanks for your insight.
Dee, yes, I am talking about doctrinal essentials. The people in this discussion were advocating for diversity on doctrinal essentials.
Many theological issues are not essentials. Many practical, ministry oriented practices and decisions are not essentials either.
I have never heard or read Mahney. I believe that I will attend Together for the Gospel this year for the first time. Many of my friends have gone several times, and have really enjoyed it. They know that Mahaney’s background is different from the other speakers -Mohler, Dever, Sproul etc. None of them have ever said that Mahaney claimed to be an apostle at that meeting. If he did, I suspect that Mohler and the others would laugh him out of the room. I know that I would.
Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Sovereign Grace Ministries:
“Sovereign Grace’s apostolic team is currently led by C. J. Mahaney”.
That makes Mahaney the “Head Apostle”.
We will be focusing on C.J. in our current series, so stay tuned!
Get your giggle on. Sovereign Grace Ministries considers itself an apostolic based leadership. Mahaney has called himself Head Apostle since long before they morphed from People of Destiny (PDI) to Sovereign Grace Ministries.We have written extensively about this abusive ministry and hope to bring our archives over to the new site within the month.
In the meantime, please go to their site:
to read about their viewpoints on this.
The main problem with this ministry is the many reported abuses which have dogged them over the years. There are several survivor’s sites which discuss in detail these abuses. Here are two: sgmsurvivors.com and sgmrefuge.com. The abuse is rooted in poorly trained, hyperauthoritarian leadership. Abuse allegations have dogged Mahaney since his involvement with the screwball shepherding movement of the 1970s where he first made his appearance.
What is disconcerting to us at TWW is that the SBC is jumping on the Mahaney bandwagon. This is something that we believe portends badly for the direction of the SBC leadership that seems to be tacking onto this crowd.
Have fun at the T4G conference. Keep your eyes open. Legalism is on the rise and this crowd quietly endorses some pretty rigid views. I just left a church in which the pastor is affiliated with this self assured gang and let me tell you, if you don’t follow their view on “b” issues which they have elevated to “A” issue, you are the new anathema. I am not talking about the issues found in most of the creeds.
I forgot this important point. Mahaney has no education beyond high school. His writings and his “sermons” exhibit a weak grasp of Biblical hermeneutics as my cohort will discuss this week. Ye, he has the audacity to put himself as the founder and leader of the Pastors College which “trains” similarly uneducated men to become pastors in 9 months. Then these “leaders” go into churches which have had the misfortune to affiliate with SGM and will remove the lead pastors stating that they are not “gifted” to be leaders. Think I’m exaggerating. Go to the survivors sites and read for a week or two.
Great article! Thanks for sharing. I have passed it along to asome of my friends (especially the ones who are pastors).
“Dee, yes, I am talking about doctrinal essentials. The people in this discussion were advocating for diversity on doctrinal essentials.”
They were advocating that there is another way to salvation except by Jesus Christ?
It might help to define the essentials. I have found that we must do this as some think women’s roles are essential to salvation.
Junk, thanks for reminding me about totalitarian niceness. I have seen lots of evil covered over in the church with totalitarian niceness.
That is a great idea. We should do some things on B versus A Issues. I am back in a church that has its head on straight on these issues and am relieved to finally be free.