New Wine Anyone?

A Look at the Leaders of the “Word-Faith” Movement

By Josh Hickok

    Barking, laughing, and shaking- all in a nights work for this faith healer.  After a solid hour or more of some very touching music, what a better way to end the night than with two dozen or so people healed.  Not only were migraines and chest pains fixed, but a pair of paralytic middle aged women and an elderly man with a brain tumor came on stage with a story of a divine encounter to spill.  How could anyone possibly doubt the results? 

    Thousands of stories have spread throughout the world of faith healings, miracles and tales of God’s moving in their lives through dreams and visions.  What are we to think of them?  It has become too hard to ignore- televangelists on a handful of stations spread this outpouring of the spirit to all who listen (and it would seem that there are a lot who listen!), and skeptics are all too ready to jump on apologists for being related to such silliness.  From a Christian standpoint, we are commanded to try and understand the movement before we pass judgment.  Though we understand that the views of the distinguished leaders do not reflect the opinions of all who associate with the movement, it seems quite fair to hold said leaders up to scrutiny.

    On a more personal note, I myself was associated with a Charismatic church for most of my early life.  I cannot overstress the fact that many, many good Christian people are related to this movement- some of them will be my friends for life.  This is one reason why I think it is very important to differentiate between the bulk of the adherents and those that, in my opinion, are leading them astray.  Does this mean that I hold all the people in positions of authority in contempt?  Absolutely not!  But I do think that there is a trickle down effect that starts with some incredulous (and in some cases, heretical!) teachings in the upper level.  I think that many people would be ashamed of their affiliations with the “Word-Faith” factions if they only knew what they were really saying.  But again, it would be unwise to label them all as consciously dishonest- the people that led our church thought they were actually carrying out God’s plan for the church body.

    With that being said, even I have been surprised at some of the statements that the most revered personalities in this “Charismatic” branch have said.  I will give a sample of them before we look at some of the main tenets, and some will not even require any explanation.  I do warn our readers beforehand, however, that I do not mean to come across as pessimistic or pedantic, but hopefully you will agree that what some of them have said are flat out heretical.  So without further warning or qualification, here they are:

Kenneth Hagin

Hagin, though not the originator of the prosperity gospel, was definitely the major heavyweight of his time.

    Jesus looked at me and said, “If you hadn’t done something about that, I couldn’t have”.  That came as a real shock to me- it astounded me.  I replied, “Lord, I know I didn’t hear you right!  You said You wouldn’t, didn’t You?”  He replied, “No, if you hadn’t done something about that, I couldn’t have.”  I went through this four times with Him.  He was emphatic about it, saying, “No, I didn’t say I would not, I said I could not.”[1]

    Now, I’m not claiming that people cannot have conversations with God.  It just seems a bit odd for Hagin to claim that he had a disagreement with God.  You’ll notice that the preachers of this movement act quite confidently about their personal meetings with God, as if it happens quite frequently.  But besides all that, you can see what one of the characteristics of this denomination is- Jesus, or rather the power of God, relies on man releasing His ability to work on earth.  This is plain false.  On numerous occasions God demonstrated His sovereignty over His creation.  More on this later.

    The Lord said to me, “If you give a message for an individual, a church, or a pastor, and they don’t accept it, you will not be responsible.  They will be responsible.  There will be ministers who don’t accept it and will fall dead in the pulpit.”

    I say this with reluctance, but this actually happened in one place where I preached.  Two weeks from the day that I closed that meeting, the pastor fell dead in the pulpit… Why?  Because he didn’t accept the message that God gave me to give him from the Holy Spirit.[2]

    Basically, Hagin threatens all those who would dare reject what he says, claiming that God will strike them down.  It’s too bad about this pastor, though I have serious doubts that what Hagin says actually happened (where’s the citation???).  In any case, here is another example of God’s preferred customers (he seems to talk to Hagin all the time!).

    We cannot know god through our human knowledge, through our mind.  God is only revealed to man through his spirit.  It is the spirit of man that contacts God, for God is a spirit…we don’t understand the Bible with our mind, it is spiritually understood.  We understand it with our spirit, or our heart…as we meditate in this Word, our assurance becomes deeper.  This assurance in our spirit is independent of our human reasoning or of human knowledge.  It may even contradict human reasoning or physical evidence.[3]

    I commend Hagin on some of this- yes, the Holy Spirit reveals Gods truth through scripture that the unsaved will not receive, barring the same revelation.  However, we cannot let Hagin slip with this silly claim that reality can contradict itself.  Hagin is no philosopher, but the Bible’s revelation will never contradict actual physical states and true human reasoning.  Properly restated it should read ‘The Word may have apparent conflicts with our interpretations of the Bible’.

    And once again, Hagin creates a safe out for himself- anytime he goofs he can justify this action with this statement.  How do you know your interpreting the Word right?  The Bible warns against such mystical interpretations, and even the apostle Paul left out his divine encounters, instead opting to “reason with them from the scriptures”, and apparently, he did this often- “according to Paul’s custom.”[4]  So unless someone wants to claim equality with Paul, or even say they’ve eclipsed Paul, I suggest they revisit the “Word” they so often twist to their own ends.

    The God kind of faith…is the kind of faith that spoke the world into existence…God created the universe with words.  Words filled with faith are the most powerful things in all the world.[5]

    Does God have faith?  No.  Did God release his words laced with God-faith?  No.  Faith is meant for those who do not have the knowledge of power to do what God did.

Hebrews 11:1- “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”[6]

I'm afraid Hagin goofed here, but his sentiments are repeated by other famous faith pastors (Capps, Price).

    Every man who has been again is an incarnation and Christianity is a miracle.  The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus Christ.[7]

If this doesn’t chill you to the bone, you must be familiar with this very orthodox position (in this movement, anyway).  Indeed, Hagin has said “We are one with Christ.  We are Christ”.  This is straight heresy, no question about it.  The Bible never calls us god (though Satan did!), and we are often put under the position of God (sons or children of God).  We do have some things in common with God, even being alike to His image.  But this is a far cry from the equative statement that Hagin and the others would need to justify such an odd and dangerous affirmation.

Charles Capps

    Charles Capps, a retired farmer turned pastor/book writer (just shows how little background you need to write a book!) is one of the leaders of the “positive confession” group.  His book The Tongue, A Creative Force is one of the benchmarks of the positive confession movement, and in it sets forth a doctrine that has thoroughly infused itself into the “word-faith” doctrine.  Here are samples of some of his teachings (all quotes taken from his book):

    Words are the most powerful thing in the universe.

    Other than God, right?  He can’t believe that even the Creator of the universe is bound by the sentence!  Take a look at what else he says before defending him:

    Whatever God says, He will perform.  If you will notice anything about the Bible, God never did anything that he didn’t say first He said it, then He did it.  The power to do it was in the WORD.

Jesus said, the GOD KIND OF FAITH WORKS by the word of your mouth.

Fear activates the devil.  Faith brings God on the scene.

God is a faith God.  God released His faith in words.

    Do you see a pattern here?  God is not the sovereign Creator the Bible teaches He is.  Instead, he is as vulnerable to the “laws” of spirituality that we are.  As we saw above God does not have faith, nor is he subject to the same linguistic barriers as we.  Instead we are given a self-centered promise that actually runs contrary to the true message of the Bible (see Romans 8:23).  Interestingly enough, the power of suggestion has been noted by many psychologists and medical practitioners.  This, however, has little to do with “faith” and much more to do with the amazingly designed body that God has given us.  Capps even admits that the body heals itself from cuts and the like all the time.  It is a far stretch to say we have the power over any bodily illness by just speaking positively.

Kenneth Copeland

    By far and away the words if this man have worried me the most.  I would go so far as to say that some of the things he is teaching are based on an ignorance (I hope it is based in ignorance and not something worse!) so profound that it seems unlikely to have come from a Christians mouth.  Judge for yourself:

You need to fight the temptation to be sick just as you would fight the temptation to lie or to steal.[8]

    It may seem easy to laugh something like this, but it is no laughing matter- he is dead serious. What scripture is there that could possibly back this up? Hint: It isn’t in the Bible.

    You are an heir to the blessing which God gave to Abraham. This blessing, found in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, covers every area of your existence: spirit, soul, body, financially, and socially.[9]

    This is a very deficient area of the charismatic movement- their exegetical skills.  As far as I know there is complete agreement within the scholarly body that this section of the law describes the terms and conditions of a suzerain-vassal treaty.  In other words, it is not meant for us but for the Israelites about to enter the Promised Land.  In effect, Copeland claims that we are the rightful heirs to the land of Israel! Though you don’t expect to gain top-notch understanding of the Bible when listening to an emotive preacher such as Copeland, some things are just inexcusable.

    So you see, the faith didn’t come billowing out of some giant monster somewhere.  It came out of the heart of a being that is very uncanny the way he’s very much like you and me.  Can you conceive that?  Not hardly, in the mind, but your heart can; your heart can.  A being- a being that stands somewhere around 6-2, 6-3, that weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple hundred pounds, little better.[10]

    We saw this tactic with Hagin- pretend that you and God have daily conversations where sometimes reveals His body to you.  Most assuredly he does this to strengthen your confidence in the rest of his teachings.  Who would argue with someone who has seen God?  It’s too bad for Copeland that the God created in our image is not the God of the Bible.  The Israelites were commanded to avoid making any physical representation of their Creator.  It’s a little strange that Copeland missed that one, since he is so fond of ripping verses out of their context from Deuteronomy and stealing their meaning.  Perhaps God told him which ones applied to us and which ones didn’t.

    Man was created from the God class.  He was not created in the animal class.  He is in the God class.  He has a uniqueness about him that even the angels do not have- and that is the God-given right to choose his own words, and to speak them, thereby setting his own divine destiny, his own destination…We are a class of gods![11]

Think this is outrageous?  It gets worse!

    Now here’s literally what happened.  God made this body- I saw it one afternoon in a vision while I was praying.  God showed it to me…I saw God standing there holding it by the shoulders…And it looked like God was looking in the mirror.  It looked like He had made that thing for himself…Now, when God held that body up there in from of Him…it was in His image…I mean, man, they looked just exactly alike.  You couldn’t tell one of them from the other.[12]

    God’s reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce Himself.  I mean a reproduction of Himself.  And in the Garden of Eden, he did that.  He [Adam] was not a little like God.  He was not almost like God.  He was not subordinate to God, even.  Now this is hard on the human mind, but I'm telling you what the Bible said.  The Bible said, “Let us make man in our image and give him dominion.”…And Adam is as much like God as you could get- just the same as Jesus when He came to earth.  He said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”  He wasn’t a lot like God; He’s God manifested in the flesh!  And I want you to know something- Adam in the Garden of Eden was God manifested in the flesh!  He was God’s very image, the very likeness.  Everything he did, everything he said, every move he made was the very image of Almighty God…You see, Adam was walking as a god.  Adam walked in the gods class.  Adam did things in the class of gods.  Hallelujah. [13]

    This chills me to the core.  Not only does he place man in the “class of gods” (something Satan did!), he equates man with Christ!  This is intolerable, not to mention as heretical as can be.  We are just the same as Christ on earth.  If this doesn’t shock you, perhaps the next one will!

    I was shocked when I found out who the biggest failure in the Bible actually was…The biggest one in the whole Bible is God…He lost His top-ranking, most anointed angel, the first man He ever created, the first woman He ever created, the whole earth and all the fullness therein, a third of the angels at least…Now the reason you don’t think of God as a failure is He never said He’s a failure.  And you're not a failure till you say you’re one.[14]

    To pass judgment off on God is a bold move.  But notice his twisted sense of logic here: God is the biggest failure in the Bible, but we don’t call Him a failure because he has never admitted it, and if you don’t admit it you're not a failure.  So by his definition God isn’t a failure and yet he calls Him one.  Though this seems like a silly point for someone to make, I think it shows sloppiness on the part of Copeland and reveals a flippant attitude towards making “astounding” theological proclamations.  Simply, he isn’t thinking it through.

    Don’t be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you are God…They crucified Me for claiming I was God.  But I didn’t claim I was God, I just claimed I walked with Him and that He was in Me.  Hallelujah.  That’s what you’re doing. [15]

    Here Copeland commends those who make the same claims as Christ did regarding His deity.  It seems as though he waffles on the nature of Christ in order to justify his previous comments on the deity of believers.  If you are not yet convinced that Copeland should be placed outside of orthodox Christianity, then perhaps our final quotes will convince you.

    Peter said it just as plain, he said we are “partakers of the divine nature.”  That nature is life eternal in absolute perfection.  And that was imparted, injected into your spirit man, and you have that imparted into you by God, just as same as you imparted into your child the nature of humanity.  That child wasn’t born a whale- born a human.  Isn't that true?  Well now, you don’t have a human, do you?  No, you are one.  You don’t have a God in you- you are one.[16]

    And I say this with respect, so that it don’t upset you too bad, but I say it anyway.  When I read in the Bible where He says ‘I AM,’ I just smile and say, ‘Yes, I AM too.’”[17]

    Copeland takes the Holy name of God and applies it to himself:  “I am that I am” focuses upon His transcendence. He is the Self-existent One. “I become what I become” focuses upon His immanence. He is the Sovereign One. How significant that our Lord should claim this title—”I am” (John. 8:58). Here is His sure claim to deity.”[18] This is perhaps the worst quote I have seen from a charismatic.  But for some reason people have either glossed over this quote, are ignorant of it or are accepting (!) of it.  I would rather not consider the last option, but there needs to be something said of a man who has such a large following, and of the followers themselves.

Some Common Features of Word-Faith Pastors

Personal claims to revelation

    Nearly all of the pastors mentioned, along with a surplus of aspiring individuals, will try and make you believe that they have an umbilical cord of sorts directly into the throne room of God.  They usually pass on this special knowledge via specific announcements: Speaking in tongues, a prophetic word, a stirring of the spirit and/or plain preaching.  The last method, however, is usually red-flagged with a sort of ominous tone- “Follow me on this now”, or “get ready for this”.  Whatever the warning is, we need to remember one thing- test those who make these very forceful theological statements.  If it contradicts scripture then they are misleading people (like Copeland).  It follows that since Canon is closed, no new infallible revelation is necessary.  All church leaders should be willing to at least admit they can make mistakes, and just as many probably have from the pulpit.  The real worry is the sort of “new” revelation that takes advantage of the church body and makes a fool of our faith.  Take the “death-threat” that God sent to Oral Roberts because he needed to raise eight million dollars to pay of his debt.  Such a ridiculous claim that was probably intended to cover personal irresponsibility is a true detriment to the family of Christ.  One is reminded of what Peter was guided to write in his second book (which almost perfectly describes many of these very teachers!)-

But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves. 2 And many will follow their debauched lifestyles. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation pronounced long ago is not sitting idly by; their destruction is not asleep.[19]

One should be very, very careful about entertaining “new” revelation from any teacher (in the least one that claims to be the I AM!).

Monetary Priority

Anyone with access to TBN[20] or the variety of other religious programming on the television can easily attest to this fact.  But they do seem to be trying to be consistent with the “health and wealth” doctrines.  However, is this burden to be wealthy a Biblical notion?  It certainly would not seem so...

Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens, and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”[21]

“Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.[22]

    We are not to strive to live lives of worldly excess, and in some cases it would be better that we avoided it.  Indeed, money is a means to an end and like any means treated like an end, it will leave one feeling empty and incomplete.  Moreover, the many scandals the leaders have been involved in have made the rest of orthodoxy try to explain their actions to the unbelieving critical group.  There is nothing wrong with being supported in your ministry; but fiscal responsibility and monetary truthfulness are two moral principles that have gone long overlooked (see Oral Robert’s hospital!).  For example, it simply isn’t feasible that everyone who gives money to a ministry should expect a “hundred-fold blessing” in return.  The verse usually used to support such a notion is found in Mark-

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much—homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.[23]

    Given the literal interpretation that the Word-faith teachers would employ, should we also expect to gain one hundred houses when we lose one for the sake of Christ?  Or perhaps we will gain one hundred mothers?  Who wouldn’t want that?  This is yet another example of pulling a verse out of context in an awkward fashion to try and support a notion that could conceivably net them a lot of money.  After all, if I knew I was getting 100 dollars for every Washington I sent in, who wouldn’t want to give?  This verse is talking about the Christian community and a description of the family of Christ.

The Health of the Believer

    In our last point we look at the claim that “by believing the truth of God’s Word you can say, “I am healed.  By His stripes I have healing.”[24]  The usual verses that are prodded out to support this notion have a unifying concept- they all speak of healing!  This much is not in question.  However, we need to contextually place these verses to understand their proper meaning.  For instance-

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed.[25]

    What does this verse mean by “healing” it seems quite simple that the verse is talking about spiritual sickness.  This is not to say that God can’t or won’t heal those people who are burdened with a specific detrimental health condition.  But when we begin to not only expect God to take away infirmities but begin to command Him to do it, we are just asking for trouble.  Something to keep in mind is the experience Paul describes about his bought with a struggle.

Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. 8 I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”[26]

    If Paul’s request to take this “thorn” away was apparently futile, how can we just expect God to take away all troubles that come to us (some, in fact, that are necessary growing pains that enrich our relationship with the Creator).


    We have seen some very negative contributions that these Charismatic teachers have wrought.  However, I feel, along with many other conservative Evangelicals, that the fewer the people following Capps and Copeland (and most of the other Word Faith leaders) the better.  It is true that in many orthodox circles Christianity has become ritualistic and dead.  The excitement the followers of this movement typically display is encouraging.  However, this does not excuse them (or anyone) for a lack of discernment.  I do hope and pray that those who are truly seeking will find the truth that is the Christian faith.


[1] Hagin, The Believers Authority, 30

[2] Hagin, I Believe in Visions, 115

[3] Hagin, New Thresholds of Faith, 31-32

[4] Acts 17:2-3

[5] Hagin, NTF, 74-76

[6]The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[7] Hagin, Believers Authority, 14-16.

[8]Copeland, Our Covenant with God, 28.

[9] Copeland, Welcome to the Family, 22.

[10] Copeland, “Spirit, Soul, and Body”

[11] Copeland, “Praise the Lord”, TBN. February 6 1986.

[12] Quoted from “The Word-Faith Controversy” by Robert Bowman, 126.

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid, 140

[15] Copeland, “Take Time to Pray”, Believers Voice of Victory (February 1987):9.

[16] Copeland, “The Force of Love”.

[17] Copeland, TBN, August 9, 1987.

[18]William J. McRae, “The Reluctant Servant, Emmaus Journal Volume 3.

[19]The NET Bible (Noteless); Biblical Studies Press, 2003; 2 Pe 2:1-3.

[20] Not all programming on TBN or any other channel is necessarily to be described this way- there is some quality, Biblical insight to be gained out of the television medium- but the majority of these shows are very money oriented.

[21]The NET Bible (Noteless)NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2003; Mt 8:20.

[22] The NET Bible (Noteless) NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2003; Mt 6:19-21.

[23]The NET Bible (Noteless) NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2003; Mk 10:29-30.

[24] Hagin, “Real Faith”, 20.

[25] The NET Bible (Noteless) NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2003; 1 Pe 2:24.

[26] The NET Bible (Noteless) NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2003; 2 Co 12:7-9.




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