Scriptural Examination ofthe Use of “if the Lord wills” in Prayer

I have heard – far more often than I’d care to admit – so many wolves in sheep’s clothing discourage their followers from using some form of “if it be your will” in their prayers to God.

I would submit to the reader the idea that it is NEVER permissible to discourage anyone from praying “if it is the LORD’s will.”

Now, the reason I put forth this idea is that I believe Scripture teaches the seeking of God’s will over and above our own in our prayers and day to day actions.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ~ James 4:13-17 (ESV) (I would encourage the reader to also investigate the context of this passage; chapters 4 & 5… better yet read the entire Epistle of James)

The passage above is located in the greater context of rebuking “worldliness” among the people of God, but James’ specific idea follows the thought of the Psalmist (Psalm 39:5 & 62:9) that men are about as substantial as smoke or a thin mist – in the grand scheme of things the individual means next to nothing. Therefore, how arrogant is it for someone to assume they know how their lives will go or even how to make their lives go that way? Especially when they cannot possibly know the minute specifics of the Will of God in their lives? Thus, as God fearing worshippers, we should acknowledge and submit to the overarching and/or specific Will of God in our obedient stewardship of our own lives.
Another interesting thing that James points out here (like Solomon: Proverbs 19:21) is the fact that – regardless of all a person’s plans or thoughts – only the Lord’s Will and plans will ultimately be established, and James explicitly states that we do not necessarily know the specifics of that Will or “plan.”

An account in the Old Testament has a similar idea buried in the worldview of it’s three Jewish characters. In Daniel 3 Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath is incited again Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (a.k.a. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respectively) for their refusal to worship the golden image he had made. When Nebuchadnezzar confronts them and threatens to throw them in a “burning fiery furnace” if they do not worship his image, this is what Scripture records as their response:

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” ~ Daniel 3:16-18 (ESV)

I’m sure the reader has noted where my previous assumption is shared by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but for the sake of filling out my argument I will point the reader’s particular attention to verse 18. Specifically the phrase “but if not.” These men would not have said the things they did if they did not have a properly balanced theology of God’s choices when it comes to how He works out His own sovereignty. They knew that God was ABLE to deliver them from the fiery furnace specifically, and they knew that God WOULD deliver them out of the king’s hands ultimately, but they DID NOT know whether God would deliver them in both or just one of those ways.

There is a big deference between trusting in God’s ultimate faithfulness and mercy on behalf of His people, and presuming upon God for the specific ways in which He “must” carry out those qualities. A very big difference, indeed.

Lest there should be any possibility of my making more of something than is warranted by two passages of Scripture (though I believe what I have offered is more than sufficient to prove my case), let us examine another individual who obviously understood how to speak and think about his life in light of God’s ultimate say in the course of events.

“But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power.” 1 Corinthians 4:19 (NASB)

“…but taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus.” ~ Acts 18:21 (NASB)

These examples (and more that can be found throughout his epistles) are spoken by the apostle Paul. It is clear by Paul’s references to God’s will and the theology he teaches in the epistles that he believes (and even seems to just assume it without needing to argue for the point) that disciples of Christ are never CERTAIN of the exact (i.e. specific and down to the minute details) will or plan of God in any given situation. What Paul often gives the Church as certainties are God’s mercy and grace in the salvation, justification, and sanctification of the saints; His ultimately meeting out justice at the Judgement; and other such general tenets of the Christian Religion or of the character and/or attributes of God. (See Romans, 1 Thessalonians, Ephesians, etc…)

There is another person who gives us this example, however, and I am sure you already know who he is.

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “my soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” ~ Matthew 26:36-39 (ESV) {for parallels see Mark 14:32-42 & Luke 22:39-46}

Now, the accounts of our Lord’s travails in Gethsemane are amazingly deep and rich portions of Scripture, and I pray the reader will excuse my shallow look at these Scriptures for the sake of my thesis – as it is far from the meat of the particular passage at which I am currently pointing. But I do not think I do the Lord any injustice when I look to His prayers for examples of how I should pray – after all, would He not prove to be the best exemplar of his own teaching? (Matthew 6:9-13)

The fact that I am not looking to the primary intent of the author in recording these words for us aside, notice Jesus’ words: “…nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Repeated in different forms twice more according to later verses)

My point? If the sinless, righteous, perfect Son of God; who knew/knows what was coming with greater clarity and detail than we could imagine; who had/has a more intimate relationship with and knowledge of the Father than we will EVER have; and would feel/felt with agony in the full force of the weakness of His humanity (and endured only because of the strength and perfection of His divinity) the Wrath of God against the sins of His people… if the blessed Christ included a caveat like ‘if it be your will’ in the very prayers that are recorded for us right before his being handed over for crucifixion – how dare any of us even think such a thing is inadvisable?

Again, I hope the reader can excuse my shallow examination of the example given us in a few words spoken by our Lord in one of His darkest hours, but I also hope and pray that you can see the validity of my observations.

Now, the anti-Biblical group I mentioned at the start (i.e. those who discourage people from praying “if it be your will, Lord”) generally only make their heretical statements when speaking in the context of praying for healing.

I spent the other night discussing this with my wife and wondered about this detail. As we talked I pinned down a few things that I think cause even those who seem to be more orthodox in “charismatic” circles to say such things.

The first and primary idea I concluded would cause this is a presupposition; namely “it is ALWAYS God’s will to heal.”
Now obviously if we take into consideration eschatology, any orthodox Christian could agree that the Lord does ultimately plan and desire our complete restoration and “healing.”
The difficulty is what most charismatics actually mean by the statement – and that is that “it is ALWAYS God’s will to heal supernaturally/miraculously in the exact moment a prayer is prayed and in the exact way the prayer is meant.”

Side NOTE: before going further, I want to acknowledge that this assumption is in fact quite huge and complicated, having many aspects; such as how one defines faith, how one is to “act in faith;” and many such other things. But to properly address the idea in its fullest would require far more words than I have to give at this time. So I shall merely be sharing the essence of the conversation my wife and I had the other evening.

As I’m sure the reader has already anticipated, I will say that it is a borderline arrogant, presumption upon God – without any Scriptural basis – to think you know exactly how God feels about or intends to act upon our prayers for the physically ill, handicapped, and/or infirm.

Side NOTE: notice I have said nothing to discourage prayer for the sick – I am assuming any disciple of Christ reading this will take it for granted that we are supposed to pray for them (just as we pray for all those we serve and care for), and even specifically request that God relieve them of whatever malady they might be suffering under.

The connection to this assumption about miraculous physical healing and discouraging believers from using the language of Jesus, Paul, James, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azaraiah in their prayers for healing, I think can be explained in part by a wrong understanding of (or possibly just emphasis upon) an idea most fully articulated by James in James 1:5-8 — but was also taught in many of the places where Jesus tells us we should not doubt God when we pray.

Side NOTE: my wife pointed out that James was specifically talking about requesting wisdom from God, and so that passage has a more narrow application and interpretation intended than Jesus’ statements.

Now as I came to this concept of doubt in the particular area of requesting miraculous physical healing from God, I concluded that perhaps some of the more orthodox people I have heard say we shouldn’t pray “if the Lord wills” because it displays doubt.

My answer to that misconception is twofold;
1) even if a Christian has some form of doubt when it comes to what he is praying for – and BECAUSE of that doubt he concludes with “nevertheless, not my will, but yours” – I do not think it wise to discourage this brother from his chosen phrasing simply because a: if he is requesting something God desires him to have, it will be given whether he is COMPLETELY doubt free or not (Mark 9:14-29… verse 24 I believe is specifically relevant), b: he could have experienced that doubt because he has requested something that is outside of God’s will and the Spirit has pricked his conscience on the matter, and c: if his doubt is going to affect the answer to his pray, leaving out such a sentiment will not change the consequences of his doubt…
2) If using this language necessarily implies some form of unbelieving doubt, then what are we to make of Jesus, the apostles, the men of God in the Old Testament, and the writers of Scripture themselves? There is nothing in Scripture that implies a follower of Jesus cannot be fully confident in the condescension, provision, mercy, and faithfulness of God in his prayer, and yet not know whether what he is praying for is within the particular, specific plan of God and thus he leaves God the room He is owed in the very prayer itself to answer in a way that is not anticipated by the nature of the specific request.

So, all of that to say, I would warn the reader to pause and be wary of someone who says anything negative about praying “if it is the Lord’s will” – because that person has not thought out their position, at best. Or they have an underdeveloped view of God and His interaction with His creation and a wrong view of man and prayer at worst.

“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” ~ Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)

May the LORD be praised, for He is worthy.

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Believer’s Authority vs. Scripture

I have compiled here a list of quotes from Kenneth Hagin’s book, “The Believer’s Authority,” that are unmistakably contradictory to the statements of Holy Writ. If the reader finds any fault with either my quotations of Scripture or of Hagin (e.g. the reader thinks I am quoting something out of context, etc.), I would encourage you to comment and point out such faults so that we may discuss them in detail…

(Side NOTEs: 1: I have paused my critique of the book by Hagin because I wish to work on a few other topics of study for a while – and I believe this list will prove more instructive to the reader than anything else I could write. 2: Hagin was not the only one that taught this heresy – today we have many false teachers/prophets who would agree with Hagin’s points and espouse deferring variations of them; e.g. Bill Johnson, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, etc… – thus why I think it is necessary to pursue this at all. 3: All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version)

“Salvation belongs to the sinner.” – Kenneth Hagin, “the Believer’s Authority” (page 13)

“Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah” ~ Psalm 3:8

“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” ~ Jonah 2:9

“After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…”” ~ Revelation 19:1 (see also Revelation 7:10, etc)

“… We’ve told them God’s mad at them and is counting up everything they’ve done wrong. Yet the Bible says God isn’t holding anything against the sinner!” – Hagin, “Believer’s Authority” (page 13)

“God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.” Psalm 7:11-13 (see also Psalm 90:7-11, Psalm 2, etc)

“But because of your impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.” ~ Romans 2:5

“That’s what’s so awful: The poor sinner, not knowing this, will have to go to hell even though all of his debts are cancelled!” – Hagin, “Believer’s Authority” (page 13)

Romans 1-3… (In fact, read the entirety of Romans. Nothing in Scripture implies that the unrepentant’s sins(a.k.a. “debts”) are canceled while he is outside of Christ. See also my consideration of this quote HERE)

“The trouble with us is that we’ve preached a “cross” religion, and we need to preach a “throne” religion. By that I mean that people have thought they were supposed to remain at the cross.” – Hagin (page 23)

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”” ~ Luke 9:23

“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jew and Greek, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 & 1:23-24

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” ~ Galatians 6:14

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” ~ Philippians 3:18-19

“When you preach the cross, you’re preaching death, and you leave people in death.” – Hagin (page 24)

“And he[Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” ~ Luke 9:23-26

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18

“For in Him[Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” ~ Colossians 1:19-20

“It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” ~ Galatians 6:12-15

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” ~ Philippians 3:18-21

“All that Jesus did He did for us.” – Hagin (page 28)

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”…” ~ John 17:1-4

“In fact, Christ can’t do His work on the earth without us! . . . No, He can’t get along without you any more than you can get along without Him.” – Hagin (page 33)

God speaks of the insignificant puniness of us next to Himself ~ Job 38-41

“Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” ~ Matthew 3:8-10

“He[Jesus] answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” ~ Luke 19:40

There are many more examples I can give (and will when I get back to this topic), but for now I believe the honest, Scripturally thinking reader can come to their own conclusions based upon this simple list.

Some Thoughts on Inter-religious Dialogue

Of late I have been following a controversy recently created and stirred up by professing Christians among the “right” in U.S. politics. This controversy primarily surrounds one event (taking place over the course of two evenings) started and participated in by Dr. James White – specifically a dialogue that Dr. White had with a Muslim imam named Yasir Qadhi – and unfortunately the critics focus most of their attention on lambasting and slandering the persons involved. I wish to avoid that end of the controversy, however, and address the views that are being promoted by the critics where it involves how a Christian should interact with unbelievers – particularly members of other religions.

(Side NOTE: the dialogues in question can be found at these links: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=updtj99Fp80 & https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r2tPHLOej1w . . . For those interested in being better able to share the Gospel with Muslims, I would highly recommend them)

Now, one of the more reasonable arguments I’ve heard from the critics of the dialogues has been pulled from Scripture by referencing 2 John 7-11. Their argument is basically that a public meeting, for the purpose of merely discussing certain issues, should never be held among Christians and people of another faith – because that would violate the spirit of the passage referenced. (Their argument particularly centers around a very fearful view of Islam, however I believe my summary captures the essence of the argument.)

The first thing the reader should note about the passage mentioned – and many like it (e.g. Romans 16:17-18, 2 Thessalonians 3:6 & 14, etc.) – is that the author is primarily warning followers of Christ away from the poison of those who practice and believe things that go against the teachings of Christ. The context of many of Scripture’s warnings against false teaching is false teaching and practice that tries to claim to be Christian.

Put another way, Scripture’s concern is to keep disciples away from false doctrine that claims to be in the same vein as what Christ would teach. It does not necessarily address false religions that do not associate themselves with Christianity, possibly because it is easier to recognize that they are not of God.

However, the strong language against the apostate does not necessarily correlate to assuming the disciples of Christ should treat the unbeliever with the same severity (at least, not at all times). In fact, I would say the actions of Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles is reason enough to think that we should regularly be interacting with the lost. 2 Thessalonians 3:8 implies their having worked daily among unbelievers as well as believers; the whole book of Acts would give examples – but Acts 17:16-21 is a pointed example; and obviously Jesus spent much time with people who He knew would end up deserting Him – John 6:64-66.Now, I have heard one radio talk show host complain not so much about the conversation but the “official public format” of the dialogues participated in by Dr. White and Dr. Qadhi. My question, however, is how is a public format any different than the examples cited? Other than the fact that more people get to learn and participate in the format used by Dr. White?

Lastly, unfortunately it seems this whole thing has become a controversy because so many Republicans in America fear (and sometimes despise) Muslims, and that extends into American Christianity because of how it identifies itself with Republicanism. I would encourage the reader not to make that mistake – a Christian’s politics might primarily be conservative (because of being affected by Scripture), but that does not mean the views or position of the “conservative right” are by default Christian.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

No disciple of Christ should fear anyone of any ideology or religion that sets itself up against God. Take courage, Christian, and share the Gospel with your neighbor (Muslim or otherwise) and treat them with love and respect as you do so.

Believer’s authority – Part 2

A critical examination of the doctrine of “the believer’s authority” as taught by Kenneth Hagin in his book of the same title.

(NOTE: Kenneth Hagin recounts having changed and repetitiously “prayed” Paul’s prayers in The first half of Ephesians over himself many times… for fuller context; see “Part 1”)

“I spent about six months praying this way during the winter of 1947-48. Then the first thing I was praying for started to happen. I had been praying for “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Eph. 1:17), and the spirit of revelation began to function! I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before. It just began to open up to me.” ~ Kenneth Hagin, the Believer’s Authority – page 10

A question to the reader: does a “spirit” (when in reference to a human being) have to be “activated” or “accessed” in order to “function,” so to speak? And, if so, why isn’t there clear instruction in Scripture for this practice?

Another thing I will put out there for the reader to ponder; I personally always retranslate phrases like “I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before” and “it[the Bible] just began to open up to me” as actually meaning something along the lines of “now the text doesn’t actually say what I’m about to tell you, but…”

Think about it, especially when coming from someone who’d supposedly been teaching the Bible for many years (14 in Hagin’s case – pg 11), why should we trust them when they begin to teach something diametrically opposed to a normal understanding of the Scriptures?

For instance, the second actual bit of Scripture Hagin quotes in his book is Ephesians 6:12 (notice, he skips a massive portion of the Epistle before giving any exegesis… and supposedly his book is a “study based on Ephesians”) – he then goes on to blather and bluster about “our authority over such evil spirits”(pg 12) when there is nothing about “authority” even within the context of the text he quotes. Now, he tries to make it sound like it is by telling us that we must ‘think of this passage in light of what Paul wrote elsewhere,'(pg 12) but fails to give any form of direct quotation.

(Side NOTE: I would like to know who on earth the people are that “think that authority over the devil belongs to only a few chosen people to whom God has given special power”(pg 12) according to Hagin… notice again, no references or sources)

What he does do is try to reference “being born again” and tie that to this assumed “authority in Christ” without giving any Scriptural basis for the presupposition.

The same page(12) of Hagin’s book leads me to caution the reader about trusting the teaching of anyone who thinks they know so much about Satan and his wants and desires. Where is it told us in Scripture what “the devil” does and does not want us to know or do? Again, I plead with the reader not to allow wolves like Hagin the ground for their presuppositions that have no basis in Scripture.

Although we are told in Ephesians 6 that as disciples of Christ we now primarily wrestle/struggle (notice there is no concept of “overwhelming victory” in the passage – it simply mentions the act of “striving against”) against “spiritual forces,” there is no reason to assume that the evil thoughts and schemes of men are not also in view here – do we not face such “spiritual darkness” when we preach the Gospel to a hostile crowd and call upon the Holy Spirit to make dead men alive?

In any case, the next passage of Scripture that Hagin quotes is Ephesians 1:3.

“Ephesians 1:3 reads, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us [the whole Church] with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.The American Standard Version renders “all spiritual blessings” as “every spiritual blessing.” This means every spiritual blessing there is. In Christ, all spiritual blessings belong to us. Authority belongs to us whether we realize it or not. But just knowing this isn’t enough. It’s knowledge acted upon that brings results! It’s a tragedy for Christians to go through life and never find out what belongs to them.” ~ Last paragraph of page 12, “The Believer’s Authority”

First, I’m sure the reader has already noted the lack of context given by Hagin when he quotes the text. And he has forced an assumption upon the phrase “spiritual blessing” merely based upon the presence of a word that can be translated into English as either “every” or “all.” Where in the text does it say that “authority” falls under the category of a “spiritual blessing?”

Also, with all of the clear teaching given on justification and salvation in and through Jesus Christ in Paul’s other Epistles, why is there not more clear teaching on how this gives the believer supposedly supernatural powers of control over supernatural beings? Are we really expected to just assume the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit given the Christian to fight temptation, flee from sin, and do what is pleasing in the sight of God should include some vague notion of “bossing around demons,” as it were?

Obviously Hagin’s primary problem here, as usual, is in interpretation.

The purpose, extent, and descriptions of these “spiritual blessings” the Christian is given is explained in Paul’s following words starting in verse 4!

Just read the first 2 chapters of Ephesians with the goal of understanding what Paul’s primary point was and you will easily see that the wonder and glory of God (and His worthiness to be praised) in the salvation of wicked men and women through Jesus Christ is the highest idea within Paul’s words! Anyone who would try to make this about the “awesome power(ahem, given by God, of course) of the Believer” over ANYTHING is deceived and/or attempting to deceive others.

Thus far Hagin gives very little support for the presumptive statements he makes about his chosen topic. In future posts I will do my best to more thoroughly address the Scripture that Hagin tries to use – but for now I wish to press upon the reader, once again, the need to acknowledge (if not outright challenge) the assumptions presented with no Biblical bases by Hagin and those of the Word of Faith movement for their false doctrine of “the believer’s authority.”

Believer’s authority – Part 1

A critical examination of the doctrine of “the believer’s authority” as taught by Kenneth Hagin in his book of the same title.

Kenneth E Hagin is often referred to as the father of the “Word of Faith” movement – a particular brand of the ‘health and wealth’ or ‘prosperity’ “gospel” – and I would submit to the reader that his definitive manifesto, if you will, was “The Believer’s Authority.”

If not in all cases, it is certainly within my personal experience with “Faith” people that the doctrines espoused within Hagin’s book are key and essential to these people’s very religion.

And so, in providing this examination and criticism of the book, I hope to prevent others from falling into the “Word of Faith” trap, and perhaps offer a light to help those who are already adherents a way out of that cloud and mire.

First, before addressing specific passages of Scripture quoted and statements made in the book, the reader must understand that, like all authors, there are a very many assumptions and presuppositions within what Hagin wrote. In reading anything – even my own words here – I urge the reader to think critically about the content of words and utilize what ever learning they have and resources at their disposal to test what they read. Just because someone makes a statement using a quote from something before it and then using similar language, does not mean their argument stems from or is consistent with what they quoted.

Secondly, if a teacher encourages verbal repetition and memorization or adjustment of a portion of Scripture with no emphasis toward critical thinking and study, be very wary of that teacher. For instance, in the first chapter (page 11) of the “Believer’s Authority” Hagin tells about how he “personalized” the prayers of Paul in Ephesians 1:16-20 & 3:14-19 to “pray” them for himself over and over again – and encourages the reader to do so, without giving any Scriptural basis or reason for doing so… I might point out that the words of our Lord in Matthew 6:7 came to mind as I read this account and suggestion.

Finally the reader should always have this question as a base to examine an idea that is presented to them: is the focus and goal of this idea to glorify God, or to puff up mankind?

And with that we shall begin the Foreword of “the Believer’s Authority” (I am using a PDF of the book that I found online – according to the file it is the “Second Edition – Twenty-Second Printing 1996. ISBN 0-89276-406-6”

The Assumptions of the Foreword

Right from the outset, Hagin gives us the unorthodox and man-centered assumption that he presumably will prove throughout the course of the book; that is that “believers” have some form of undefined, supernatural “authority” given them to use on earth, a power of which they have been failing to take advantage.

He gives us this assumption clearly not only in the foreword of the book, but in the very first sentence; “Back in the 1940s, I asked myself the question, “Do we have authority that we don’t know about – that we haven’t discovered – that we’re not using?””

May I suggest to the reader that this is never how you should approach the Religion of God? Starting with a question that didn’t even come from Holy Writ is dangerous territory to dabble in – the Scriptures should never be approached with a presupposing request for information on a topic it may very well never address.

Now the concept of “authority” is addressed in the Bible, but again, that doesn’t mean we approach the text with a question that presupposes something, because that opens the door to a plethora of misinterpretations.

Which leads to my next thought on the Foreword. Hagin then mentions that he did “word studies” on “power” and “authority,” another questionable and ill-advised tactic that often ends in the “studier” just finding the answers their question assumes – especially when they have no grounding in or understanding of the cultures or languages the original manuscripts of the Scriptures were written in.

In short, the assumptions of Hagin’s book are clear and manifest in the Foreword. The reader’s first questions should be, “why ask this question?” and, “is there even Biblical warrant for it?”

Chapter 1: the Prayers of Paul

In his introduction to chapter 1 Hagin tells us that his book is based on Ephesians, but he only encourages us to read (repetitively) the first three chapters of the Biblical text (pg 9). (I would encourage the reader to read the entirety of the Epistle, if they would like to follow in depth.)

Then he goes on to point out Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians in the first three chapters of the Epistle, at which point he writes “the turning point in my life came when I prayed these prayers for myself more than a thousand times.“(pg 10, italics original)

His subsequent explanation of that I have already addressed where it comes to the vain repetition, however, the reader’s other concern should be that Hagin seems to have a very twisted understanding of what Paul actually meant by what he prayed. But Hagin doesn’t even bother to explain to the reader what he believes Paul means or why he believes it.

We are given a pretty good indication of the vague, superpowerish view Hagin has of some of the things Paul prayed for by his statement in the last paragraph of page 10 when he writes “the spirit of revelation began to function!”

His following proclamation of “I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before”(pg 10) and his declaration that he “grew spiritually” more in six months than he had “14 years as a minister”(pg 11) does not help me trust that he suddenly gained a “better” understanding of Scripture. Especially not when almost immediately after quotes himself as saying to his wife, “I was so ignorant of the Bible…”(of 11); his ignorance is plain from his view and use of the text of Scripture.

The verse he works these claims, quotes/paraphrasing, and conclusions from, in context is this (I have emphasized the phrase Hagin pulled from the text)

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:15-21 (ESV)

From reading the passage in its entirety it becomes obvious that the “spirit of revelation” mentioned in verse 17 is one in the same with the “spirit of wisdom” – and, regardless of what you think this “spirit” actually is, it is obviously that it’s primary purpose is to grant knowledge and confidence or hope in who God is. The entire idea that Paul lays out in verse 18 and following is the awesome greatness of God the Father in His glory, who has granted us salvation and relationship/peace with Him through Jesus Christ.

The fact that Hagin just rips “the spirit of revelation” out of that context to claim some kind of “new” ability to “see things” in the text for himself just indicates to me that Hagin never had or gained a proper understanding of Scripture…

I will return to this subject later, for now I will leave the reader to consider the thoughts and questions posed this far.

~ J D White

“If/Then” Statements in Relation to the Nature of God

My theological knowledge that was more orthodox than heretical began to develop in leaps and bounds around the age of 20 (I have no specific “conversion” memory, so I have no specific year to point at – let alone day) when I began to seriously study and read through whole books of the Bible in one sitting. That said, the idea that I am about to argue for was only a seed in my mind that wasn’t articulated until discussing origins theories with (at the time) my soon to be wife – so I will mostly be framing this concept within that realm.

This may come as a shock (or mild surprise) to some readers, but in my experience there are three groups of thought on origins theories within the Church (I.e. True believers disagree on which theory is the most Biblical). Those groups are “Young-Earth Creationists,” “Old-Earth Creationists,” and “Theistic Evolutionists” (I’ve heard Hugh Ross recently tossing around “young universe” etc. but as far as I know these terms are still widely used, so I’ll stick with them). Neither my wife or I find evolution to be a valid theory on any basis, so I will mostly be speaking in terms of the other two – also, both the former views tend to shy away from evolution as a validly scientific theory.

The names pretty much speak for themselves so I will not here go into more detail than this; Young-Earthers believe in a literal, 24-hour interpretation of Genesis 1 and a global flood, while Old-Earthers take a slightly less “literal” approach to Genesis 1 (thus allowing for about fourteen-billion years as opposed to ten-thousand for the age of the universe), and they believe in a “local” (but HUGE) flood…

That said, some groups in the Church are incredibly passionate about this topic and there has unfortunately developed a quite aggressive mindset among some in debating it. Though my wife and I have quite a few thoughts on what many Christians do wrong (and right) in this debate among brethren, one thing has always stood out to both of us as an essential that both sides SHOULD agree on; and that is this matter of “if/then” statements about God.

It has seemed to us that Young-Earth advocates seem to make this mistake more often than others in that many of them will make negative statements about God having been “wasteful” or “evil/sadistic” if He allowed or caused death and/or sickness to exist before the Fall of Man. However, I have also encountered Old-Earth advocates making negative statements about God being “deceptive” if the earth is young(thousands of years) because it looks old(millions of years)…

As the wise, unbiased, God-fearing reader will already know, even a hypothetical statement claiming that God is “bad” in any of those ways indicated above is an utter blasphemy that should never even cross a Christian’s mind, let alone his lips!

It shocks me how many professing to know and follow Christ do not seem to grasp this basic concept: God is the very DEFINITION of “Good.” (Revelation 4:8, Job 38-40, Isaiah 45:5-10, Psalm 24, Psalm 50, Colossians 1:16-17, etc.) As the Maker and Sustainer of all things He is the only being that can dictate “right and wrong,” define “good or bad.” And anything or anyone who rejects His Rules and/or Definitions is the very epitome of Evil.

The very expression “God is Holy, Holy, Holy,” is an acknowledgment of the fact that He is completely OTHER from His creation; He is SEPARATE in every meaning of the word as far as existence and/or being are concerned. Thus it is an absolute and obscene absurdity for any mere creature to pretend to be able to say something God does is “wrong” on any level!

So how should this effect our thoughts? Like so – if God deems it good/necessary to afflict the righteous or the wicked with a disease, then He is Good. If God decides to send a hurricane upon a continent, killing thousands of people and upsetting the lives of many more, He is Good. If God preserves the life of a child but gives it an intense disability, He is Good. So on and so forth, no need to explain His motives or reasons.

However, He HAS explained His reasons and motives to us in Scripture; He seeks to glorify Himself in Judging the wicked and unrepentant, and in showing Grace to a people for Himself. (Isaiah 45:5-10, Job 38-40, Psalm 50, Ezekiel 36:22-32, Exodus 4:11, Colossians 1:13-20, Romans, etc.)

Many will not like my implications that God is the source of calamity, disease, or any other thing that is not necessarily “good” for a person as people perceive it – but if they do not, that is merely because they have a sub-biblical view of God.

So, coming to a simple summary of my topic to close; God, as He IS and as He ACTS, is the VERY ESSENCE of what is Good, Right, and Perfect, and He dictates what is considered as such in His interactions with His creation, and in His creatures’ interactions with Him.

Brief Thoughts on Luke 10

The Context: chapter 9 of Luke obviously contains quite a bit of content, but the information given us immediately before the break into “chapter 10” is of several different “followers” and their interactions with Jesus (‘foxes have holes but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’ –Luke 9:57-62) but the driving story before this is Jesus foretelling His death and “setting His face” toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:21-22, 44, and 51).

The Seventy-Two: “After this” is how chapter 10 begins, and thus a proper understanding of what Jesus does and instructs in the beginning of the chapter seems to hinge on keeping in mind what came before it.

Where did Jesus send these disciples out to in pairs? “Every town and place where he himself was about to go.” (Verse 1)… why did he send them out? Presumably – based on verses 5 through 12, and 16 (and 9:1-6) – to preach what He had taught them; but specifically we are told He commanded them to ‘heal the sick and say to them “the kingdom of God has come near to you.”‘As I read through chapter 10 of Luke this evening it occurred to me that the connection of this event to Jesus’ going to Jerusalem to be crucified is of no small significance. In all of the synoptic gospels Jesus’ instruction and teaching of His disciples (particularly the apostles) seems to grow more earnest and “to the point,” if you will, as He approaches the cross compared to earlier in His ministry. Could it be that Jesus sent out the seventy-two to heal the sick and prepare the way for Him not just so that people would know He was coming, but perhaps so that he would not encounter quite as large a mob looking for miracles as He would have otherwise?

Many things to consider and ponder over in why Jesus sent out these men, but let us move on to when they returned to Him for the sake of this particular discussion…

Verse 17 is translated thus in my ESV Bible: “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” … now, what were the Lord’s specific instructions to these disciples? To ‘heal the sick and proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom of God.’ But these people do not come rejoicing that those who have heard their message are repentant and receptive to Christ, but that they could command demons!

Granted, some or many of the sicknesses they were commanded to heal could have been caused by demonic possession or oppression, but Jesus’ response in verses 18 and 20 seem to be more a corrective or warning rebuke than an encouraging affirmation of their joy.

The interpretation above is far different than that given by those who want to hone in on verse 19, I know, but I cannot read that verse separate from everything else going on. Also, those who want to emphasize verse 19 – almost to the exclusion of verse 20 – usually miss several markers that serve to indicate that much of the authority given was specific to that time and group of people in many ways. The phrase “nothing shall hurt you,” for one, is incredibly restrictive to where we can apply to whom and when the “authority” Jesus mentions is given.

Moving on again, since it is in the same chapter, I have heard some try to correlate verses 23 and 24 to verses 17 and/or 19… but it seems more reasonable to me – considering the use of present-tense verbs, the content of Jesus’ rejoicing in verses 21 and 22, and His previous admonition to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” – to understand that what Jesus is referring to is, in fact, a combination of Himself being God in flesh standing before men and, in that, the further revelation of God’s very nature…

Here my thoughts begin to trail in too many directions to type now… and I’ve already gone longer and in different directions than I intended (hopefully because the text forced me to and/or the Spirit was gracious in restricting me to it 😉

Hope this was an interesting and/or thought-provoking read.