Friday, February 22, 2008

On Charismatism: Word-faith - Health and wealth non-gospel part 1

UPDATED!

[continued from here, here and here]

Having established the foundation, let us look first into the Word-faith movement. More specifically, let us look into the propsperity teaching, the healing teaching and their teaching on faith. There are of course even more heretical teachings taught by the Word-faith cult, like the teaching that Jesus assumed Satan's nature during the 3 days He was in hell after the Resurrection. We shall not be looking into these heresies per se, but interested readers may want to take a look at a comprehensive study on the Word-faith blasphemous theories on the Atonement at here, here, here and here. However, those three heresies (heath, wealth and faith as a force) are the ones which have primarily been absorbed by some within the Charismatic movement, and which have through them been injected into a part of mainstream Evangelicalism, while the more heretical ones are still kept mainly within the walls of the Word-faith cult itself, and therefore we will only concentrate on these three heresies here.

The first of this heresy focuses on material and physical blessing; thus it has been called the "health and wealth gospel". Word-faithers typically teach that believers are meant to be healthy and wealthy, and that God has promised us these two things. For example, on God wanting us to be prosperous, Robert Tilton said:

Being poor is a sin, when God promises prosperity. [1]

My God's rich! And He's trying to show you how to draw out of your heavenly account that Jesus bought and paid for an purchased for you at Calvary. ... New house? New car? That's chicken feed. That's nothing compared to what God wants to do for you. [2]

And with regards to healing, Benny Hinn says:

"The Bible declares that the work was done 2,000 years ago. God is not going to heal you now -- he healed you 2,000 years ago. All you have to do today is receive your healing by faith" [3]

As it can be seen, Word-faith teachers believe that the basis of the promise of health and wealth for belivers is based on Christ's work of atonement on the Cross. Whether this is so we would now analyze according to the Scriptures.

ON HEALING

[Note: Only the belief in the promise of healing based on the Atonement will be discussed here, the gift of healing, which is a different subject altogether though related, will be discussed much later]

The main passage which seemingly teaches that God promises blessings, especially healing, in Christ's atonement is the passage in Is. 53: 5, which states

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Is. 53:5)

The Word-faith and even the Vineyard third wave movement[4] seems to believe that healing for believers are bought by Christ through His Atonement. As we look into this text which the Word-faithers use frequently as a proof-text for their teachings, is that really what it is saying? To answer this, we must look at the entire text in the context of Is. 53, which is a prophecy of our suffering Messiah Jesus. As we can see from the words used, the entire passage seems to talk about the idea of 'griefs', 'sorrows', and more importantly in verse 5 itself the concepts of 'transgressions' and 'iniquities'. As it can also be seen in verse 11,

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. (Is. 53:11)

The context therefore is all about paying the penalty of sins on the behalf of God's people, which is what Is. 53 is all about. If that is the case, then what does the phrase 'with his stripes we are healed' mean, but that such a healing is from the disease of spiritual blindness, with the stripes alluding to the severe lashing he gone through before his crucification proper.

The question is then asked, "But shouldn't we interpret it plainly, as in 'healing' = 'healing', especially since the Hebrew word is the word for healing, rapha?" But this is precisely the problem. Words cannot be isolated from their contexts just like that. The fact of the matter is that the subject matter of Is. 53 forces only one interpretation of that contentious phrase in verse 5, when consistent hermentics are used, and that is its true 'plain' interpretation. Just because the same word or even phrase is used in two different contexts does not mean that they are referring to the same thing! For example, the word 'drank' or the phrase 'drank in' can be used both literally and figuratively (Literally as in 'drank [in] water'; Figuratively as in 'drank in the sights'), and therefore the mere usage of the same word, whether Hebrew, Greek, English or any other language, does not the same meaning necessarily mean. And so therefore, this mean that EVEN if healing was really purchased by Christ on the Cross, Is. 53:5 cannot be used as a proof-text to show it.

This text being shown to be of no help to their focus on healing, what other texts could be mustered to prop up their position? Perhaps they would like to use the Markan version of the Grea Commission in Mk. 16: 15-18? This suffers from a certain problem though, which is the issue of (lower) textual criticism as earlier manuscripts do not have this portion, and certain other manuscripts have differing endings. While this portion is part of the Scriptures, it is unwise to place such a high burden on such a text.

However, let us grant the wisdom of such a move. Does this however, prove the promise of healing to all believers, nevermind linking it to the atonement (which is tenuous at best even)? Mk. 16: 17-18 states:

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mk. 16:17-18)

The truly literal charismatics (small 'c' generic) here should not only be advocating casting out demons, speaking in new tongues and healing the sick through the laying on of hands, but they should also be advocating snake handling sessions and the drinking of poisons. Although probably some may like to try handling snakes, I have yet to see or hear any charismatic who would drink poison trusting God to protect him/her based upon the promise in Scripture cf Mk. 16:18. Since such is not the case, that God's promises here does not seem to apply to us today, how shold we interpret this text? To insist that drinking of poisons is not ok but the rest is still contained within the promise is to arbitrarily sit in judgment of Scripture, in determining which parts are valid and which parts are not, and that is not what we are to do! After all, who gets to determine which part are valid and which are not? Furthermore, the text itself does not lend itself to any partitioning of the promise, as it is actually one promise, not many. So either we accept all, or reject all.

The key to interpreting this text is to look at how the Scriptures show the early Church functions in fulfiment of this text. It can be seen that the Apostle Paul was stated as being bitten by a snake and yet suffering no effects from its deadly poison (Acts 28:3-6), thus showing forth God's promise as stated in Mk. 16:18 regarding the handling of snakes. Similarly, the miracles exercised by the apostles and their associates (ie Paul's handkerchief — Acts 19:12) shows forth the reality of God's promise regarding the healing of the sick. Not to mention the speaking in tongues at Pentecost and elsewhere in the churches, and the casting out of demons. Therefore, it can be seen that this promise is primarily made to the Apostles and their associates, and this would then be made for a reason linked to the proclamation of the Gospel. And thus this promise is limited to the beginning of the NT Church where sign-gifts are still fully operational in establshing her. This verse cannot apply to anyone else in anytime since such a promise is guaranteed and therefore not allowed to be treated as a 'percentage promise', as if this verse was promising that God would help you heal someone 40% of the time!

Perhaps then Mal. 4:2 could be enrolled to aid their cause, but such is not the case, since Mal. 4 is talking about the second coming of Christ. Similar to all the anticipated utopian visions of Israel (ie as written in the Prophets etc), this healing is promised only when Christ comes again, and not now.

From all of these passages, we have seen from the Scriptures that physical healing was never stated as being part of the Atonement, and that the promise of healing was either made to the Apostles and the early church at that time for a certain evangelistic purpose (Mk. 16:17-18), or for Christ's Second Advent (Mal. 4:2). The Word-faith theory on healing being bought through the Atonement is thus unbiblical.

Practically speaking therefore, what does this tell us about the relationship between healing and suffering, and God's say on this matter? God does not promise healing nor has He bought healing through Christ's Atonement. And we do know that God is sovereign and in full control, and therefore has sovereignty over sicknesses too. God furthermore uses situations, even sickness for our sanctification (Jas. 1:2-4; Heb. 12:7-11) and for His purposes which we may not know or understand now (Job; Rom. 8:28). As an aside, how do the faith teachers propose to understand Paul's situation in 2 Cor. 12:7-9? How can it be said that God refuses to take away Paul's thorn, and more than that, it is God Himself who had given to him this thorn in the flesh? According to these Word-faith heretics, the Aspotle Paul was not healed because he did not have enough faith to "claim his healing". And so they make themselves more spiritual than Paul, or so it seems.

It is with this that we see the serious error of so-called "bible teacher" Sidharth, who in this blog entry makes a mockery of God and violate the Third Commandment — using the name of God in vain in claiming divine revelation which is clearly not divine in origin since it violates the express teachings of Scripture. The fact of the matter is that God must be the one who controls sickness, for if not then God is not sovereign, which contradicts Scripture. And if God controls sickness, but we do know that sickness occur, then either God has the power to do something about sickness which He deals with at His own discretion, or God doesn't have full power to deal with the sickness although He intends healing for everyone, and thus something is blocking God from following through His intention.

Now, it can be seen that the Word-faith (and Sidharth) teach that healing is available to all and have been purchased by God through the Atonement. So, why isn't everyone healed then? The Word-faith movement would blame the sufferer for a lack of faith, which means that ultimately, God is not sovereign since Man can choose whether he/she wants to exercise the faith to do so, and thus Man is more powerful than God in this aspect. Sidharth falsely accuses those who refuse to believe the Word-faith heresy on healing people who "see the greatness of Sickness", but not God's greatness, yet he is the one who is more aptly named to have commited the crime as his 'god' is so powerless compared to Man and/or Sickness that his 'god' is not sovereign to follow through on his intention to heal all. His 'god' tries to heal all but cannot, whereas the God of the Bible heals some and let sickness in others serve His plans and purposes, always controlling everything sovereignly for His own good pleasure, and for the good of His people.

Pastorally, this heretical Word-faith teaching on healing has caused devastation in the lives of many. Because of their belief in healing, members distrust doctors and in extreme cases even deny their sick conditions and continue to claim healing. In the Parker family's case, this has caused the demise of their mother due to the embrace of the Word faith cultic teachings through Kenneth Copeland Ministries. How many more lives and families have been destroyed by the heresy of these Word-faith teachers? Furthermore, what untold damage have been done to the naive sheeple out there when they are told that they are to blame for not being healed of their sickness? This therefore is not just a theoretical issue, but clearly a practical and pastoral issue also. And it is hoped therefore that many more people would repent from the serious heresy of the "God wants you healthy" heresy, and renounce the Word-faith heretics in so doing.

[to be continued]


REFERENCES

[1] "Success in Life" broadcast on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (2nd Dec 1990), as quoted in John F. MacArthur (1992), Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 347

[2] "Success in Life" broadcast on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, (5th Dec 1990), as quoted in John F. MacArthur (1992), Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 347

[3] Benny Hinn (1991), Rise and be Healed, Celebration Publishers, Inc., as quoted in Gary E. Gilley, The Word-faith Movement at http://www.forgottenword.org/wof.html

[4] John Wimber (1991), Power Healing, HarperOne.

8 comments:

Q said...

Great post, Daniel. Yes, these folks leave a trail of destruction in their wake.

This is a good video from the Trinity foundation which I'd show someone who believes in the health-and-wealth mumbojumbo. Thought you might be interested in checking it out:

http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=%22many+faces+of+benny+hinn%22&sitesearch=

If it doesn't work, visit video.google.com and type "the many faces of benny hinn"


John

Ron ~the song & joy~ said...

but Isaiah 53:4 is used in Matthew 8:17 for physical disease. If the rest of Isaiah 53 is talking only about spiritual healing, then Isaiah 53:4 might meant:
"surely Jesus healed and cared for the people physicaly before he went to the cross (He is good and righteous man) yet we think that he was punished by the just judgment of God at the cross."
What do you think regarding Matthew 8:17?

PuritanReformed said...

John,

The video is on google now? Last I heard, a couple of videos were pulled from Youtube due to Benny Hinn trying to suppress evidence. But thanks anyway. (Btw, is your name REALLY John Bunyan?)

Rirong:

Good point. However, first of all, we can notice that the verse supposedly quoted from Is. 53:4 does not quite fit the actual verse of Is. 53:4, as it can be seen when you do the comparison yourself. Matthew thus is applying the verse of Is. 53:4 and not saying that this is what the verse is actually teaching in context. How the verse is applied must then be seen as to in what manner Jesus did these miracles of healing etc. If Jesus did these miracles to prove that He is a prophet sent by God and as a sign of Him being the Messiah, which I am sure we agree on, then the application of Is. 53:4 in Mt. 8:17b is meant to show that these acts of physical healings are a sign pointing to the ultimate healing of the disease of sin itself. As with many of the things Jesus did, ie speak in parables, these are not things to be copied but to act as signs for the world to see and not perceive, and only for discerning believers to discern their true intent.

Q said...

Hey Daniel,

These videos have been working since 2005. Trinity has compiled investigative documentaries from many networks (CNN, NBC, HBO, 60 Minutes, etc.). Only 7 out of 8 parts work though. You might want to download them with Firefox before Benny Hill finds out about it.

No, my real name is not John Bunyan, although he is one of my heroes. I'm very new to blogging and will probably need more time before I feel comfortable using my real name. For now, I'll just stick with John.

Sicarii said...

Thank you for continuing the series, Daniel. This is a real good read. And I'll be checking out the video Q posted.

I'm back to calling Q Q now coz it'd be scary if he were indeed John Bunyan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bunyan), lol!

;)

PuritanReformed said...

John:

yeap, though I have seen quite a few before they were pulled.

Isaiah:

well, it is conceivable that there still exists people with the surname Bunyan around, and perhaps one of these people might have the name John, so who knows.... :D

Sicarii said...

Daniel:

It could well be. Maybe Q prefers to be anonymous as much as the Net allows us to, and I'm fine with that. It took me some time before appearing in front of the 'sicarii' nick as well. :)

PuritanReformed said...

Isaiah:

of course.

John:

Problem with not revealing your real name and having such a pseudonymn is that I cannot add you to my blogroll. After all, I cannot say that this is John Bunyan's blog, right, otherwise people might be mistaken. At the very least, having a nick like "Sicarii" would be better for identification purposes.