"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Timothy 4:16


"All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness" 2 Timothy 3:16


"Correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction." 2 Timothy  4:2b


"Test everything. Hold on to the good." 1 Thessalonians 5:21



Dee was diagnosed today with the H1N1 virus and is down for the count. We are taking a temporary break from our series.

Twenty years ago, Hank Hanegraaff, who is well known because of his radio broadcast the “Bible Answer Man”, published a book entitled Christianity in Crisis.  In that volume, Hanegraaff unmasked some of the doctrinal problems with an emerging movement called “Faith Theology”.   The movement was initiated by E.W. Kenyon in the 1930’s and was expanded and popularized by Kenneth Hagin in the 1950’s through the 1990’s.
Since the publication of Hanegraaff’s first book, the Faith movement has grown rapidly with the help of a large “cast of characters” including “luminaries” such as Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and Joel Osteen.  In Christianity in Crisis 21st Century (Thomas Nelson 2009), Hanegraaff bring us up to date on this popular movement including commentary on no less than 19 of its “Faith teachers”.
Hanegraaff defines the Faith movement as “cultic” or “cult-like” since it encompasses a broad range of doctrinal errors ranging from “silly” to outright “heretical”.  The indicators by which Hanegraaff judges truth are the Bible and the Creeds.  Hanegraaff encourages ALL of us, as members of the Body of Christ (also called the Priesthood of Believers), to discern the difference between Christian orthodoxy and heresy and to accept our responsibility to “rebuke” and “correct” when necessary according to 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Timothy 4:2b.  That includes parishioners correcting deceived church leaders who deny “essential doctrines of historical Christianity”.  
After describing the 19 “cast of characters”, Hanegraaff points out five major doctrinal errors of Faith theology.  The first heresy is to redefine the word “FAITH” so that it is no longer biblical.  Hanegraaff emphasizes that proper “biblical faith” includes elements of knowledge, agreement, and trust.  By contrast, in Faith theology “FAITH is a FORCE, and words are the containers of the force…through the power of WORDS, you CREATE your own reality.”
Recall Genesis 1:3 in which God speaks the WORDS “Let there be light” and, indeed, light is CREATED.  This is an example of God’s power to create by FIAT miracle…that is, creation by “speaking” something into being.
In Faith theology, God’s capacity to create by fiat is putatively extended to the average Christian!  These folks delude themselves into believing that because of their “faith” (using their own heretical definition of “faith”) their naked words have God-like creative powers.  Thus, Faith preachers and those who would follow them believe that they are “empowered” to “NAME IT” and “CLAIM IT”.
If one need only “speak” a word in order for it to occur, why not proclaim oneself a “LITTLE GOD”?   Indeed, this is a second heresy of Faith theology.  Followers are self-deified as little gods, while the deity of Christ is compromised and God is no longer viewed as sovereign.
A third heresy of Faith theology is the contortion of the doctrine of ATONEMENT such that Christ’s death on the cross is rendered insufficient.  Satan putatively conquers Christ on the cross!  Christ is then born again in hell in demonic form, only to be “reincarnated from demonic to divine”, emerging “from hell as an incarnation of God.”  Sounds like something from a Harry Potter book!
A fourth heresy of Faith theology is the transformation of Christianity “from a gospel of grace to a gospel of greed.”  Believe it or not, Christ is portrayed by Faith preachers as wealthy!  So it seems to make sense to these folks that becoming wealthy is part of following Christ.  This is the basis for the “PROSPERITY GOSPEL”.
Followers should expect not only personal “wealth”, but also personal “health.”  This is basis for the reference of “HEALTH AND WEALTH” to Faith theology.  With regard to the latter, the fifth heresy of Faith theology is that when one experiences sickness and suffering it is the “direct result” of that person’s sin.  By contrast, if one’s “body belongs to God”, it “cannot belong to sickness”.  So true believers are to expect health and healing when they pray. “Faith-destroying” words like “if it be Thy will” are forbidden when praying for the sick.  Why depend on God’s sovereignty?  Just skip over the part of the Lord’s Prayer where it says “THY will be done on earth…”
Hanegraaff points out that many of the Faith teachers are highly persuasive communicators to crowds of people.  Using their substantial psychological skills, they take particular advantage of those poor souls within the crowd who are most suggestible and most prone to respond to hypnotic methods of mass manipulation.
When faced with honest criticism, Faith preachers are quick to quote Psalm 105:15 “touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm”.  That, of course, implies that these preachers view themselves as “anointed” and “untouchable”.  Such self-ascribed unconditional authority is common to Faith preachers.  These protective measures are hauntingly similar to those used by certain hyper-authoritarian pastors and their protective elder boards.  To read more on this topic, check out this previous post:!%C2%A0_(PART_TWO)%C2%A0.html

Hanegraaff’s remedy for such doctrinal atrocities of Faith theology is to avoid compromise of “the essentials” of biblical faith.  With regard to doctrine, we are to “test everything” and to “hold on to the good” per 1 Thessalonians 5:21.  With regard to God’s representatives in church leadership, we will recognize them by “their purity of character and doctrine”.
To summarize, Christianity in Crisis 21st Century is a book about Faith theology, a cult-like movement which has become extremely large and influential among evangelicals over the last 20 years.  Hanegraaff presents clearly how several breaches of biblical doctrine drive Faith Theology beyond the confines of what he calls “the pale of orthodoxy” into outright heresy.  Importantly, Hanegraaff ends his book by bringing us “back to basics”.  He emphasizes that we evangelicals must understand the doctrinal roots of our faith so that we may “test everything” and “hold on to the good” per 1 Thessalonians 5:21.  See also Hanegraaff’s website for other helpful doctrinal tools.
After reading Hanegraaff’s book, most Christian pastors might sense at least transient reassurance that they preach a gospel which is doctrinally inside “the pale of orthodoxy”.  True, most evangelical pastors “check” all the right doctrinal boxes.  Unlike the heresies of the Faith preachers (as outlined above), most pastors define “faith” and “atonement” biblically, and they do NOT view themselves as “little gods” who use “name it – claim it” tactics with false promises for their followers of “health and wealth”.
So why should such pastors even bother reading Hanegraaff’s book?  It is of note that the Apostle Paul advised his young apprentice pastor Timothy to “watch closely” not only his “doctrine”, but also his “life” (1 Timothy 4:16).  Likewise, all of us Christians, both pastors and parishioners alike, are called not only to know and believe the DOCTRINE of our faith, but also to PRACTICE our faith in all righteousness (James 2:14).
I am grateful to Mr. Hanegraaff for his work in clarifying the substance and boundaries of the doctrinal “pale of orthodoxy.”  Armed with this knowledge, dare we now confront those church leaders who do NOT practice the doctrine they claim to believe?  As sure as there are the confines of the pale of doctrinal orthodoxy, are there not confines to “the pale of biblical PRACTICE”?  Among pastors as well as parishioners, isn’t that boundary overt and ongoing sin?
Pastors and elders are aware that as church leaders they will be required to “give an account” to God for their behavior according to Hebrews 13:17b.  But if there is ongoing sin in leadership, will these shepherds also humbly accept their biblical responsibility to be accountable for their sin to their congregation?  Or will they, when called to give an account by their parishioners, circle the wagons and declare "touch not the Lord's anointed"?  How will they behave differently than the heretical Faith preachers written about by Hanegraaff?  Their actions will show us the nature of their faith.  And thanks to Christian blogs like the Wartburg Watch, their behavior, be it good or bad, will be made evident to the larger Body of Christ.  We shall see who among them are truly “anointed.”  In matters of faith, actions speak much louder than words.
Dr. Jon

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