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 uswho 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

Religion vs Relationship

“It’s a relationship, not a religion.”

This line of reasoning seems to be fairly pervasive in what calls itself Christianity in our day (be it nominal, heretical, or authentic). I say pervasive because it seems to me that the mindset that wants to use this phrase of their “faith” – another word used to avoid and/or mask “religion” – is generally also somewhat or VERY reluctant to touch such terms as “doctrine” or “theology” . . . Perhaps this is just within the range of my experience, but there seems to be a connection to me.

Allow me to first debunk the juvenile “it is a relationship” phrase.

1) I saw a quote on Instagram by Jeff Durbin on this very phrase that has a pungent point to it – it goes something like this: ‘…here’s the problem, according to Romans, everybody is already IN a relationship with God! ¬†And that relationship is either in hostility with God or at peace with God…’ I’ll leave that thought alone for now to let you chew on it and just move on to my main problem – which is the etymology/semantic of the phrase.

2) has several points to it – a: Christianity, by definition, is a religion. Just because there are many nominals and legalists that try to claim the religion as their own does not mean true followers of Jesus need to remove the word as if it were inherently bad. If you must, make the distinction between “false religion” and the “One True Religion of God.” b: “relationship” at least in our day and country, could mean anything, and thus has no meaningful usefulness in trying to describe Christianity as a whole (although ONE aspect of it IS a relationship of peace with God instead of the original hostility). Also, a relationship – at least what is viewed as a good one in our day – generally does not demand things of you(on the level of personal being). Religions, in many ways, demand your very life(on the level of very thought patterns and attitudes/beliefs).

There’s plenty more merely within those two areas that could be discussed as to the appropriateness and/or accuracy of the phrase, but I would like to move into the other consideration I mentioned above; the thinking that produces this phrase, in my experience, is pervasive and dangerous because it reinforces and flows from(often times, not always) those individuals and groups or movements that view doctrine and theology as nothing but dry, dead portions of “religion”(the terms always being negative and incapable of carrying a positive connotation).

Obviously it’ll be hard here for me to write anything novel, because many great theologians have addressed these ideas – so I gladly acknowledge those men of God that I will mostly be parroting here.

THEOLOGY: a simple quip which I believe I first heard from R C Sproul, will be an easy way to get across the point that those who reject the word(let alone it’s meaning) “theology,” are not only being silly, but inconsistent: “Everyone is a theologian.”

The idea of the quip is to point out that no one can make a statement about God without making a “theological” statement, for the very reason that the meaning of the word “theology” is “the study of God.” Thus, especially when speaking of those who profess to be Christian, their is no sense to be had in those people trying to reject “the theology of religion.”

DOCTRINE: the same can be said of doctrine – though the subject is not quite as simple as theology – so I’ll go ahead and place the Webster’s 1828 definition here for consideration:

1. In a general sense, whatever is taught. Hence, a principle or position in any science; whatever is laid down as true by an instructor or master. The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and his apostles. The doctrines of Plato are the principles which he taught. Hence a doctrine may be true or false; it may be a mere tenet or opinion.

2. The act of teaching. “He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in his doctrine Mark 4:2.”

3. Learning; knowledge. “Whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Isaiah 28:9.”

4. The truths of the gospel in general. “That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. Titus 2:1.”

5. Instruction and confirmation in the truths of the gospel. 2 Timothy 3:10.

Note: I appreciate the 1828 dictionary by Webster because he often uses Scripture as a help to the definitions.

As we can see from the definition above, there is not much reason for serious Christians to continue the the degradation of the word into a constant negative.

Now, I am aware that this degradation primarily STARTED as a pushback against false or “dead” religion. But I do not believe that where it has come is a very tenable place for Christians to be in their thinking.

James 1:27 (HCSB)

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

I put out this quote to point out that even the writers of Scripture understood that, as followers of Jesus, we are participants in the one True religion of God. (To those of you who read Greek – I do not, just yet – I would love to hear any thoughts on this passage that you may have.)

What am I getting at? I’ve heard too many people (including those in positions of leadership) who say things like “I don’t want any of your doctrine, I just want Jesus” who then go on to talk about a “Jesus” that is nowhere to be found in Scripture and preach about a god of their own making… And I believe part of that problem is fed by the ignorance and false assumptions that come with the mindset that I have tried to address above.

Thank you for your time. I hope this post has been interesting if not thought-provoking for you.

May the LORD bless you.