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

”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…