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

Food-for-Thought & Terribly Accurate Satire

http://www.piratechristian.com/messedupchurch/2017/6/when-did-the-church-turn-into-amway

http://babylonbee.com/news/bee-explains-prosperity-gospel/

More on Positive Confession

In hope of helping the reader study and guard themselves against “positive confession” I thought I’d share a couple helpful articles/videos that were helpful to me…

The Christian Research Institute has a lengthy and good article presenting the mistaken assumptions and ideas used to promote positive confession and refuting them with careful observations from Scripture – http://www.equip.org/article/positive-confession/

And last would be Justin Peters’ Clouds Without Water seminar (previously titled “A Call for Discernment”). This is a well done seminar critiquing the Word of Faith movement from a Biblical perspective… although he does not spend a lot of time on positive confession, Mr. Peters does a good job of addressing other heretical doctrines that lead to and spring from it.

A Brief Examination of Positive Confession…

What is “positive confession?” Positive confession is one of THE key doctrines in the Word of Faith movement – also known as the “health and wealth” or “prosperity” gospel – and can be summed up thusly: it is essentially the doctrine of man’s ability to speak things(primarily circumstantial, relational, emotional, and/or physical) into existence – stated differently, it is the doctrine of man’s god-like ability to create and/or modify reality merely by the power of his spoken words.

Like many doctrines of false religion, this one has many forms and extents – depending on who’s teaching it – and it also touches upon many different concepts in its full consideration; however, for the sake of keeping this post fairly short, I will be addressing the purely verbal/spoken end of the doctrine.

Though there are quite a few passages in the Bible used by those who teach the doctrine, Proverbs 18:21 – in my experience – is the most often quoted “go-to text” by those who assume the doctrine to be orthodox. I notice, however, that they rarely(if ever) quote the last half of the verse. Indeed, if my experience with those who quote it for this purpose were any gauge, one would assume there was no “other half.”

It is almost funny how often just going one or two verses back or ahead will undercut the misinterpretation of those who teach that this has anything to do with the supernatural “power” of a human being’s words. For instance, verses 19 & 20 seem to be in the same vein and are entirely ‘relational’ in nature. Nothing metaphysical or supernatural is implied. So why assume so in verse 21?

NOTE: the same principle is suggested in Proverbs 12:12-20 – and I would point the reader to the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:36-37… also, the reader of the Book of Proverbs should always keep in mind that it is not the same form of literature as is found in the Old Testament Prophets or the New Testament Epistles, etc…

James 3:6 is a close runner-up I’ve heard used to teach positive confession. The context, however, would again indicate a primarily ‘relational’ concept.The god-like ability to “speak things into reality” can be nowhere accurately drawn from these passages of Scripture – the idea must be forced upon them; or they must be ripped and twisted out of context to even get there.

The strongest argument (meaning non-Olympian level eisegesis) for the doctrine I have heard made from Mark 11:22-24. However, positive confessors seem to miss the fact that Jesus here is primarily speaking of prayer. The context itself also precludes inserting any form of constant, non-God-commanded, daily speech being full of “power,” idea.

NOTE: see also James 4 for a good idea of how the apostles took and practically applied Jesus’ teaching later on…

Obviously this doctrine is quite a bit more complex (as is it’s refutation) and pervasive in the worldview of it’s adherents than has been drawn out here, but, again, for the sake of brevity I’ll leave the reader to ponder and study further on their own.

I hope this was interesting and/or helpful.

“War Room” & Satan

PART TWO

Keeping along the lines of the Name of Jesus and the proper ways to address and relate to God, I’ll now address the many “prayers,” if you will, that were addressed to Satan in the War Room.

…Yes, I did just say that prayers were offered to Satan in War Room – in fact, I would argue that nearly 40% of the actual “prayers” in the film are addressed to the devil. (NOTE: “prayer” in the sense of “talking to an invisible spirit-being”)

After the Name of Jesus is finally introduced into the film as a way to get what you want, Clara begins to hammer into Elizabeth about how ‘the devil is the real enemy.’ (after a brief outlining of the Gospel – which is utterly ruined by Miss Clara then ‘preaching’ about the Power of Satan) … Side NOTE: Satan is NOT the “thief” who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10)- the context does not in anyway imply that Jesus would have us think of the devil when we quote that passage.

So, to summarize, we have a massively over emphasized – if not overdeveloped – demonology presented to us just after a brief, outline of the Gospel, which all follows on the heels of finally introducing Jesus as a magic-word formula.

But it gets weirder. After this the first prayer we actually hear from the lips of Elizabeth is in beseeching God to stop her husband from committing the physical act of adultery(her husband has clearly been shown to be an adulterer-at-heart already in the film). This is followed by her reading a few verses on her wall, ending with James 4:7 – repeating and emphasizing the line “resist the devil, and he will flee.” At which point she gets up and walks through her house talking/”praying” to the devil – a practice that is nowhere taught in Scripture. The passage from James is primarily about repentance and the devil is referenced as a “tempter” not some enemy that is out to “steal your joy, kill your faith, and destroy your family.” The moment you resist temptation and refuse to sin, you have “resisted” and are un-influenceable by demons.

NOTE: 1: Satan is not omnipresent, and thus is incapable of being in more than one place – and with the mess Elizabeth and her family got themselves into, I highly doubt they’d be worth his time. 2: Elizabeth makes a silly statement by telling the devil to ‘go back to hell’ after her rant against him – the Bible nowhere suggests hell is a realm from/over which Satan rules.

After this, one of the only four “prayers” we are actually “in on” is that of Miss Clara after she hears the news of Tony’s repentance. Her response is a brief statement of thanks and then she moves immediately into talking to the devil! Telling him he “got his butt whooped” as if he could hear her or had anything to do with the situation, or (heaven forbid) it wasn’t already a guaranty that he would be beaten in the first place… And then she shuffles off camera singing some sort of old gospel song.

My chief concern here – and I’ll wrap it up with this – is that Satan is nowhere in Scripture ascribed as the Christian’s primary enemy (if there is such a thing). To suggest that is the case (that he is in any way ultimately responsible for Tony’s sin), downplays the utter evil and rebelliousness of mankind’s own sinfulness – which is presented regularly and often as man’s primary problem in the Bible.

FINAL NOTE: Because I decided to only address the two subjects that I have, I thought I’d share a few articles that I thought had some good points on the film: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/august-web-only/who-does-screenwriter-say-that-i-am.html & http://www.thewrap.com/critics-destroy-war-room-7-worst-reviews-crushing-christian-drama/ <on these ones I’m just offering some food for thought as to the “negative” responses that people might not have heard unless they went looking for them… I don’t agree with every aspect of every article (but it should go without saying that I don’t necessarily agree 100% with everything I share 😉

”War Room” & the Name of Jesus

PART ONE

Let me start by saying that I have very much enjoyed many of the films the Kendrick brothers have produced in the past. I have appreciated their God glorifying emphasis and careful, balanced presentation of Biblical concepts and the Gospel (particularly in Fireproof).

However, I must admit that the things I am addressing about their most recent film have caused me to come to a rather strong opinion: I hope that either they get to work on a new movie to make up for the heresy/unbalanced half-truth spewing, disaster of a film that is War Room, or they stop making “Christian” themed movies altogether.

Why is that?

Well, let’s start with one of the primary problems with the movie, War Roomthe use of Jesus’ Name.

Ignoring the fact that “Miss Clara” basically establishes that “Elizabeth” is a “Christian” in name only upon their first encounter(and subsequently ignores that fact and starts to “teach her to pray” anyway), there is absolutely no specific mention of Jesus in their conversation; just vague references to “the Lord.” Now, this would be okay if they did not persist in every encounter to only refer to this nameless “Lord” & “God” for nearly half an hour into the film until we find them on the way to their car after having spent time at a park. It is at this point that one of the most offensive things in the film takes place.

Once they enter a parking garage a man jumps out from behind a car and brandishes a knife, demanding their money. Elizabeth tries to calm the man down as she reaches for her purse, but Miss Clara takes on this strange (somewhat hypnotic) stare and says: “no, you put that knife down… In the name of Jesus!” At which the man pauses, Miss Clara continues her disconcerting stare, and the man runs off – or that is at least what is implied in the sudden change of scene.

Why is this offensive? For the same reason any blasphemy or “taking of the LORD’s name in vain” (Exodus 20:7 & Deuteronomy 5:11) is offensive: it mocks the Name of our glorious Savior by misusing it.

Although we have a plethora of examples(primarily in Acts) of disciples(primarily the Apostles) “commanding” things in the name of Jesus, the only actual teaching we have on the disciple’s privilege of calling on the Name of the Son comes from Jesus himself(John 14-16). And – if not for the accounts in Acts – the passages given us from Jesus’ teaching on the subject would imply that only in making a request(I.e. Asking) of the Father in the Name of Jesus is what He is referring to. Never once does Jesus imply that His followers are to demand anything in His name, let alone use His name to bark orders at other people. (Mathew 21 {Matthew 20:255-28, Mark 10:42-45, Matthew  5:38-48}, James 4)

Now, the “Pentecostal” / “charismatic” / “Word of Faith” types will instantly be jumping on the topic of demons: “aren’t the disciples given authority over demons in the gospels and the apostles command demons in Acts?” This is true, disciples of Jesus have the privilege of commanding the flight of demons(that are possessing individuals) by calling on His Name. But where is it implied that this extends to other human beings? And where did one of the Apostles use Jesus’ Name to keep possession of their own material objects or to protect themselves from physical harm? I ask those questions and the phrase “turn the other cheek” comes to mind.

To keep from going too long on the topic: to hear someone irreverently use the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ as if it were some magic catch-phrase to keep you from getting hurt or lose some material possession should offend any God fearing disciple of Jesus.

Now, some may be offended by my statements up to this point. May I ask you to pause and consider why that may be? Do you not care about the Glory of Christ? Do you not care that the Father is worthy of praise and honor in His holiness? Because I do, and that is why this scene offended me…

Am I accusing anyone of not caring about those thing if they don’t agree with me? No. But I would ask that they think about this topic deeply, because the way you think about the privilege of prayer and calling upon the name of God will effect the way you think about God and yourself – and thus the way you live out your life…