Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. ( Jude 3-4)
The Church has always come under intense attack since her inception. Those attacks come, both from without, in the form of persecution and repression, and from within, in the form of serious attempts to corrupt it through false doctrines, and practices.
By far the greatest danger comes from within. What happens when false Apostles and Prophets arise and bring to unsuspecting congregations a ‘pseudo Word’ from God, thus supplanting the true Word?
I believe we are living in an age where we are beginning to find out , because the true Church is awash in a virtual sea of false Apostles, Prophets and teachers, and even false Churches which have arisen and grown, to misguide, demoralize and discourage those many who are sensing the need for God and for salvation in these distressing times.
I will begin this study with my own personal experience with spurious Christianity, and then move on to clearly delineating the undergirding doctrines which have infected the modern evangelical church to this day, serving to undermine and disrupt countless fellowships, confuse believers and to seriously misrepresent the church and the gospel of Christ to our cynical world.
I was raised Catholic, and came of age in the late 1970s, when I acquired a hunger for God, and for some kind of assurance of salvation. I had read the New Testament, (It was a paraphrase called “The Way”) and realized through the sermon on the mount that I was a sinner and in danger of judgment. The conviction gripped me powerfully and took me through the summer of 1977, and went with me to Iowa State University, troubling me, causing me to cry out to God, but I had no faith.
I even went to a small Assembly of God Church, (I had never visited a non Catholic church before), and could sense the sincerity and power of the worship, as people raised their hands, wept and even prostrated themselves before the LORD. I answered about 30 altar calls as well, rushing to the front of the church to be saved, but having no real faith, only conviction of my sin. I wept and prayed, wanting to shake the guilt, but always came up the same as before, not really knowing the gospel.
One day I was in deep sorrow and despair, because I knew I was still quite a deep sinner, and not saved, but not knowing what to do about it. I thought ‘This was not for me, I am too lost…” and had resolved to quit going to church. Ironically I had been reading the Bible while I was thinking this, But I was so distracted, I had no idea what I was reading.
A very clear thought came to me at that low point, which I am sure was the Holy Spirit. The thought was’ look at what you are reading and understand it…”. I had been reading and rereading 2 Corinthians 5, especially vs 21,
“For He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the Righteousness of God in Him….“
In a flash, I saw the truth, that Jesus was my substitute on the cross, dying in my place as an offering to God. I received faith to be saved…It became so clear for me, how a Holy God could receive an unholy sinner such as I. I entered fully into the life of that wonderful church, and have not looked back since.
A few weeks into my life there in the church, someone handed me a “12 pack” of Kenneth Copeland cassette teaching tapes. I immediately received them and plunged myself fully into a teaching and even a worldview, that I didn’t realize at the time was heretical and injurious to my soul.
Copeland and his many teaching friends introduced me to “Word of Faith”theology. The premise of which is that Faith is a force, a Spiritual Law that even God uses to create things. We must learn how to “use that force” for good, (for the glory of God of course), and to shape our own world. Using faith rightly will cause us to overcome sickness and poverty, so that we can help others. We can do all of the Works of Jesus, because Jesus himself knew the “laws of Faith” and employed them to do miracles while He was on the earth.
These people were powerful communicators at the time, they had confidence, obviously, and they seemed to be all about the Word of God. They seemed to place the Word on a high, exalted level, and seemed to know a ton of scripture.
Copeland and Hagin, the two main preachers of the movement, were folksy, they came from Texas and Oklahoma, and spoke with those Southwestern drawls. Copeland seemed masculine and not as the caricature of a meek preacher, (in fact they were very adept at mocking traditional preachers), they were “unreligious” and seemed real.These were part of what drew me into this teaching.
The Word of Faith was a comprehensive system of theology. They had their own version of the fall of man, and of Faith and righteousness (both of which were impersonal forces in that system).
In retrospect they had what I have come to know as an “over realized Eschatology” which means that they taught that now is the time of glory, that we do not have to suffer or wait for the age of the “Glories that shall be revealed”, rather through ‘revelation knowledge’ we enter now into the glory. There should be no sickness or poverty now, for the true believer.
The fall of man, according to Word Faith preachers, was a loss of Dominion. Adam had all Dominion over the earth but lost it in the fall. Salvation is full Dominion restored, to the true believers who take God at His Word. This is why the Word Faith Churches want to influence the highest levels of all society, they are carrying out their ‘Dominion mandate”.
I also came to realize that the Word Faith movement was gnostic. I wouldn’t have recognized the term, on that day in my beginning when someone gave me the tapes of Copeland. Gnosticism is ancient, and it refers to ‘special knowledge’, which is revealed only to the initiated, but not to the rank and file. Word Faith called it ‘Revelation Knowledge’, and those who operated in it were functioning on a higher level than ‘most Christians’.
Most ominously Copeland and Hagin have taught a heresy about the cross, that Jesus’ death on the cross didn’t atone for our sin, He had to go to hell and suffer there in order to do that. Copeland also taught that any prophet who would have received the ‘revelation knowledge’ that Jesus did, could have died for our sins!
“The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, “Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don’t let your tradition trip you up.” He said, “Think this way — a twice-born man whipped Satan in his own domain.” And I threw my Bible down… like that. I said, “What?” He said, “A born-again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him.” He said, “You are the very image, the very copy of that one.” I said, “Goodness, gracious sakes alive!” And I began to see what had gone on in there, and I said, “Well now you don’t mean, you couldn’t dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?” He said, “Oh yeah, if you’d had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could have done the same thing, ’cause you’re a reborn man too.”
Kenneth Copeland (What Happened from the Cross to the Throne, 1990, audiotape #02-0017, side 2)
How far can a person be moved away from the gospel which they once rejoiced in? Can a person be saved if they deny the cross? How about if they deny the Deity of Christ, or the true plan of salvation?
I really didn’t know all of that when I launched into Word Faith, the full truth of it just keeps coming out over the years.
After being in it for a few years, and also after having pioneered the church which I now pastor, my wife and I had a real crisis experience. We went to a Word Faith Pastor’s conference, and a car drove into the parking lot, with a ‘vanity license plate’, which read ,IAMAgOD.
My wife and I were shocked, and wondering what we were involved in. The rest of the conference attendees seemed blessed at the ‘bold witness’ of the license plate. I had another clear thought (which I am sure was the Holy Spirit), for the thought was,”All He is doing is taking your teachers out to their logical conclusion!”.
As a result, my wife and I embarked on a ruthless, painful, long term re-evaluatiuon of everything we had ever believed, to see of any of it lined up with the Scriptures. It took a long time to de-program ourselves, but Truth is the highest priority, We Must Love the Truth.The Truth Will Set Us Free.