What’s wrong with the Word-Faith movement?

This is the third in a five-part series on the Prosperity Gospel.

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FEX_018The Word-Faith movement, also known as the Prosperity Gospel, is leading millions of people to embrace false teachings.

Consider the movement’s following errors:

The Word-Faith movement abuses the Bible.

While prosperity preachers proclaim the Bible as the source of their teaching, they consistently fail to correctly teach the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

Specifically, they commit three common errors of biblical interpretation:

  1. They ignore the context. A single verse, such as 3 John 2, must be read as part of the full narrative, and the full narrative must be considered in light of the intended audience and in comparison with the rest of Scripture.
  1. They rely on extra-biblical experiences to establish their interpretations of Scripture. It is not uncommon to hear leaders like Kenneth Copeland say that God spoke to them in an audible voice or appeared to them in a vision. This is not to deny that the Lord may use dreams and visions to speak to people today. However, we must lay all experiences against the yardstick of Scripture. The canon is closed, and we must take pains not to add to or take away from God’s word.
  1. They begin with beliefs rather than with the Bible. Based on “dreams,” “visions,” “prophecies,” and other subjective experiences, they formulate new teachings that tickle the ear rather than lead to godliness (2 Tim. 4:3).

The Word-Faith movement is man-centered rather than God-centered.

Some leaders go so far as to describe God as having a body similar to that of man, and conversely describe humans as “little gods.”

The Word-Faith movement promotes a false theology of giving.

God’s gifts to us are unmerited; they cannot be bought or earned. The Word-Faith movement, however, seeks to pursue a quid pro quo approach to giving; in other words, if Christians say and do certain things, God is honor-bound to make them happen.

The Word-Faith movement oppresses the poor and the sick.

Since prosperity preachers insist that our words of faith create wealth and healing, a lack of these blessings is due to an absence of faith. People in poverty, for example, should blame their own deficient faith. Similarly, people who are disabled, ill, or riddled with cancer are failing to appropriate the faith that would make them well.

The Word-Faith movement denies the cost of discipleship.

The claim of some prosperity preachers that Jesus and the apostles were wealthy requires them to ignore the plain teaching of Scripture. Jesus, in fact, was an itinerant teacher who placed little value on an earthly home, warning those who sought to follow Him that “the Son of Man has no place to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20b).

If the Prosperity Gospel is true, the apostles were miserable failures. According to biblical accounts, tradition, and church history, all of the apostles suffered martyrs’ deaths with the exception of John, who was boiled in oil and, after surviving the ordeal, exiled to Patmos.

Finally, the Bible tells us that all true followers of Jesus are to expect hardship – not wealth, health, and leisure – as a result of their faith. Writing about his “persecutions and sufferings” at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, Paul warns, “In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Many other passages of Scripture could be cited – for example Acts 14:22; Phil. 3:10; and 1 Peter 4:12-16 – but the point is this: Even a casual reader of the New Testament finds that suffering, persecution, and poverty are far more prevalent among believers than riches and comfort.

This is not to say wealth is evil. However, the desire for riches is a snare that leads many believers down a path of destruction, as Paul notes: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim. 6:10).

Next: What Scriptures do Word-Faith leaders use?

Read Part 1: What is the Word-Faith movement?

Read Part 2: What does the Word-Faith movement teach?