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Word of Faith?

Word of Faith is what you get when you scratch the surface of the prosperity teachers, with their impeccable dress sense, lavish lifestyles and perfect teeth. The secular world is appalled and amused by these people, but many Christians follow their exploits on TV, and a lot of them commit their finances to these ministries too, so it is a significant movement.

This is not an expose or an attempt to ridicule these people; you only need to view the usual suspects on Youtube and they condemn themselves, if they are to be judged by Biblical standards. Instead it is worth examining the roots of what they uniquely believe.

When dealing with a big subject like this, it is best to zero in on core concepts, then keep digging and analysing and pray that God will shine some light on it, so that what is true and what is false are exposed. The best place to start here is the very title of the movement, the Word of Faith movement.

In a nutshell these teachers look at the two Greek words translated as "word" in the New Testament, that is logos and rhema. The simplest distinction between them is that logos refers to the "written" word and rhema the "spoken" word. These teachers have the understanding that, whereas logos should be used in the sense of reading the "word of God" as Holy Scripture, a rhema word is when a "word" of revelation is given to an individual believer, either through direct reading of the Bible, or from another person, such as a preacher from the platform/pulpit.

Although it is not for me to condemn or belittle this practice, what should concern us is the potential for its use in the manipulation of vulnerable people. When someone gives a rhema word out from the platform, a thus says the Lord, or the Lord is doing a new thing or here's what you must do to get blessed, one must ask the question, why should God use these people in such a way, can't He communicate with believers directly? This is especially the case when this rhema word is either given as a "new revelation" or is just plain suspicious or wacky!

The other aspect to this teaching, also harking back to the title, is the invoking of "faith" as a key ingredient. If someone has sufficient "faith" for something, whether it is for a new car or a healing from illness, then the confessing of this need, they say, should be sufficient to receive it. This is also known as name it and claim it!

There are two warning beacons for this whole circus. Firstly, sensible historians and analysts have traced the Word of Faith movement to such 19th Century heresies as Christian Science, itself an aberration birthed in the teachings of Plato. So there's a definite Greek aroma about the whole thing. Secondly, and probably most relevantly, we have the recurring scenario of clergy vs laity, or in this case, the special spiritual ones on the platform with supposed special knowledge and those in the audience (sorry, congregation), who, although referred to as angels or partners, are usually just seen as convenient sources of cash to prop up the ministry. This is that old early Christian heresy, Gnosticism, pure and simple, best illustrated, as already described, by the story of Simon Magus, eager to exercise spiritual powers for spiritual.

It's ironic that, particularly in the current recession that the faith and prosperity teachers seem to have little of either and watching them flounder on Christian TV is quite a spectator sport - finding new ways to prophetically fleece the flock!

Steve Maltz
January 2014

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Truth: And How it Can Find it Again)

You may also find the following interesting

Watch the above video by Steve Maltz - "Hebrew Roots - Bondage or freedom?". 

Watch the above video by Steve Maltz - "Jesus from a Hebraic Perspective".

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