Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup, Final Thoughts

Standard

Over the last few days, thousands of people have come to Cerulean Sanctum looking for answers concerning the meltdown in the charismatic movement in light of what happened at Lakeland. People are searching. They want answers and reassurance.

Here is the word that I have for them. It comes from a prophet who did no miracles but was called the greatest by the One who truly matters:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
—John 3:30

John the Baptist said this in context of knowing his ministry was not what mattered in the end. He said it because he knew he was being surpassed, because he understood his place was to shine the light on the Lord and not himself. His curtain had risen, but now it was falling. And John rejoiced in that.

Because John was, above all else, humble.

I do some of my best reflecting in the shower. Something about being alone and naked brings clarity. It’s quiet and peaceful. The whispered voice of God stirs among the waters. Or something like that. Whatever the case, my morning shower has been the birthplace for many a post here.

During Tuesday’s shower the word that God dropped into my heart was humility.

If we are to clean up the mess within the contemporary charismatic movement, above all else, we need to rediscover humility.

We need leaders who have been tested by the twin crucibles of time and tragedy. It’s those folks who speak softly who often possess the most wisdom, but among the noisy clamor of the modern charismatic scene we have drowned them out. We have ignored them because they are not flashy, hip, or “charismatic” in the other sense of the word.

I believe they are the ones who must rise up at this time in history.

We need people who understand the grace of God. People who, like Job, can stand before God and put their hands over their mouths because they understand that they are nothing in the presence of God. Yet that same God offers them mercy because they realize they are dust before Him.

We need people in the charismatic movement who, again like Job, are so concerned with the holiness of God and our tendency as fallen creatures toward sin that they make sacrifices on behalf of others who may have sinned so as to ensure that God has not been slighted. Fostering that kind of mentality will stifle excess before it has a chance to poison others.

I believe that charismatics need to stop promoting those people to leadership positions because of the force of their personalities or the novelty of their ministries. Our servant exampleInstead, we need to seek out those who would otherwise have been forgotten, those who are not shameless self-promoters, but promoters of Jesus Christ. In other words, humble servants.

Do we remember the word servant ? Is it still in our vocabulary? Find me a servant who is dedicated to pouring herself out and who finds her filling not before adoring crowds but before God alone in her prayer closet and I’ll show you someone ready to lead.

Do we understand humility? Have we seen any signs around us that it still exists? Give me a man who would rather be wrong before millions of people than besmirch the character and name of Jesus Christ and I’ll show you a man worthy of his calling.

But where are those people in the charismatic movement in the West?

I see their counterparts in the East every Sunday in my church.  We support a number of native missionaries in Asia through Gospel for Asia, a charismatic missionary organization. Their pictures line the wall outside the sanctuary. For the most part, these are poor people who have nothing but their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. They live for Jesus alone. They are nameless, faceless people who have counted the cost and know that He is worthy even as they are not. They are the reason that the Gospel goes forth in power in developing countries even as we in the West flock to the next dog and pony show looking for the next spiritual fix.

They are people who understand that He must increase while they must decrease.

I used to meet people like that here in the States. Not so much anymore, though. Most of us have our own agendas. We squeeze the Lord in when we can, but it’s still mostly about us, about our families, about getting ahead in life.

When I told my Dad that I was going to go into ministry full time, he said something I will never forget: “Then prepare to be poor because you won’t get anywhere in life.” Ouch, right?

Still, that kind of statement doesn’t make humble people flinch because they know their treasure is in heaven, not on earth.

Have we American charismatics counted the cost? A quick look around would answer that question, and not in the positive. We are a proud, selfish people who look down on the publican beating his breast and say, “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like that sinner.”

The problem is we are like that sinner. We’re just not humble enough to admit it.

***

In closing, I wish to offer a few links to other sites with good words concerning the charismatic movement and what can be done to prevent further damage and how we might repair the broken down walls before us:

I like so much of what Frank Viola writes. He has many good thoughts here.

John Piper wades into the mess with his usual sense and sensibility.

Dr. Harold Bussell contributes some excellent thoughts on the evangelical susceptibility to being lured into cults and cult-like activities. Good warnings and wisdom here. In addition, he takes a look at authority issues as well, something that most charismatics need to heed, especially as everyone goes nuts over “coverings.”

On this issue of humility, the best book I have read on the topic comes from Andrew Murray, the South African pastor who oversaw a great revival in that nation during the 19th century. Murray reads like a kinder, gentler Jonathan Edwards, sharing many experiences with Edward’s own during the Great Awakening. Murray, an amazingly prolific author, should be required reading for all charismatics as far as I am concerned. To our great fortune, Murray’s book on humility is online in its entirety.

I mentioned Watchman Nee’s book The Latent Power of the Soul in a previous post in this series. Fortunately, that book, too, is online in its entirety. We can learn much from Nee’s understand of soulish power versus genuine Holy Spirit power. I suspect that if we stripped soulish power out of the contemporary charismatic movement very little Holy Spirit power would be left. And that should alarm us.

Rob McAlpine discusses what it means to be “postcharismatic.” (I believe, though, that it might be better to think of reform as being “precharismatic”. Also, in a case of horrid timing, it seems McAlpine’s publisher in Canada is forgoing releasing his book here in the U.S. on postcharismatic thought.  I would think this would be the perfect opportunity to ride the wave of confusion concerning this blowup within the charismatic movement.)

(Hat tips go to many people, some of whom I owe an apology because I have misplaced their names as sources. Bill Kinnon, though, had several good links at his site.)

Posts in the “Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup” series:

83 thoughts on “Cleansing the Charismatic Crackup, Final Thoughts

  1. Brian

    Dan,

    As I was reading the first part of today’s post, talking about humility, I started thinking about how the real advances in spreading the gospel are happening in Latin America, India, China, and other economically underdeveloped areas, where the people don’t have much material wealth, so they put their trust completely in God instead of their bank account or government. Then further down, you hit on that same thought when you mentioned Gospel for Asia.

    One thing that worries me, though, is that these countries won’t lag far behind the U.S. in falling for the entitlement mentality of the prosperity gospel. With satellite TV and internet streaming video, it’s already taking hold. I know Latin America already has its own crop of dominionist prosperity preachers. I pray that they don’t drown out the preaching of the cross.

  2. Dan,
    You definitely right about (at least) two things today:
    1) There is a desperate need for humility in the church,
    2) The shower is an incredibly inspiring place– some of my best ideas dropped in my head in there !

  3. Dan

    I’ve been looking over your series on the “Charismatic Crackup” and I appreciate your restraint in dealing with the issues, and also the final points you make about humility are helpful.

    My journey into charismatic doctrine began a few years back. It was influenced by friends who had become charismatic, a close relative who was preaching it, my desire to experience more of God in a supernatural way and last but not least, dealing with a serious sickness in my family. All of these things made me receptive to charismatic teachings and especially attracted to the idea of healing. My blog Jordan’s View began as a “thinking, charismatic” view, then evolved to a “Reformed Charismatic” position. But now, I am definitely more open to listening to cessationist arguments.

    I have come to a point of rejecting most of the (Word-Faith) teaching I had been embracing, primarily because I have found it wanting scripturally. In addition to this I have seen that most of the people who practice it are way off– they emphasize prosperity and healing and it’s a Christian version of Oprah. Also I simply don’t see the evidence of miracles and amazing prophetic happenings so many are claiming.

    It seems that you are saying that you believe the excesses of the movement are primarily what needs to be curbed, together with a return to more biblical priorities. This is good, but I think something even more fundamental is perhaps necessary– at least that has happened for me. I am willing to consider that the entire movement is wrong at the very root and move on.

    If almost all the fruit is rotten, why cling to the belief that the root is somehow untainted? I fear that it is more than just a matter of aberrant practitioners, but that there are core teachings within the movement that are simply wrong according to Scripture.

    And really I feel liberated by the idea that God is big and gracious enough to move in me by something as simple as reading and studying my Bible, praying and trying to be obedient to the commands of God. Back to the basics.

    P.S. I would personally be very cautious about Watchman Nee’s teaching. He writes very authoritatively but I don’t think many of his concepts can be found strictly from exegesis of Scripture. You might consider this article on Nee.

    • Alexander,

      You wrote: “If almost all the fruit is rotten, why cling to the belief that the root is somehow untainted?

      I have a question: Is sex a good thing or a bad thing?

      When done within the God-ordained limits, sex is an awesome thing. Yet it would also be easily argued that nothing could be more tainted than the way most people approach sex.

      Not everything within the charismatic movement is tainted. When you’re drowning, the entire world is water—as far as you can tell. But that’s simply not the case. You are experiencing the water in a most deleterious way, but dry land also exists. And if you were on it, you would not be drowning.

      I look at this issue the same way. Solid ground exists. To claim that there is none only because we are not experiencing is just another lie of the Enemy. Of course the Devil wants to mess with the gifts. The gifts are good. No, they’re great! So the Enemy wants to keep people away from them so that the Church doesn’t advance at the pace it should. You’ve got entire groups of people who have written off the gifts for no other reason than they don’t want to run the risk of being misled. Well, that’s a terrible thing! If you’re dying of heart disease and need open heart surgery, you can worry that your surgeon may have been out partying the night before and might come into your surgery hungover, unable to operate, but then you’ll never risk the surgery because of that belief. The irony is you never get what you truly need in the end.

      And so it is with some people.

      Don’t be one of them. Find the dry ground. Many people have found it.

    • “I have come to a point of rejecting most of the (Word-Faith) teaching I had been embracing, primarily because I have found it wanting scripturally.”

      This statement is wanting as it fails to identify what Word-Faith teachings are supposedly unscriptural (being born again? healing in redemption? confession of Jesus’s accomplished work? the present-day workings of the manifestations of the Spirit? the five-fold ministry? Mark 11.23? Mark 16?)

      “In addition to this I have have that most of the people who practice it are way off – they emphasize prosperity and healing and it’s a Christian version of Oprah.”

      The statement gives rise to the question of how hard you have looked. Personally, I am aware of many Word of Faith ministers who have made huge material sacrifices in their lives for the sake of the Gospel and the ministry. They, however, are not on television.

      The association of the Lakeland revival with Word of Faith doctrine and teachings is misplaced. Many categorize all non-denominational charismatic preachers as “Word of Faith” preacher, but that is just not the case.

      • Every sect within Christianity has its legitimate practitioners and its heretics.

        While I don’t consider myself Word-Faith, many people in that movement have a strength of faith and confession that would put many of us to shame. What we call wisdom is often nothing more than excuses not to take God at His promises, something the Word-Faith people do better than most other Christians. We can rationalize just about anything away, but they don’t.

        It’s like I wrote here.

  4. sandy

    Dan,
    I stumbled upon your site about a year ago and have been blessed by everything you have written. You have really helped me understand the charasmatic movement. As I have tried to say for years, it isn’t what I can’t understand that bothers me; it’s what I hear you saying that gives me great pause.

    • Thanks, Sandy.

      I hope you don’t write off the charisma because so many people have abused these wonderful gifts. The Devil works overtime to taint the best gifts, and it is no different in this particular example.

      All that is needed is good discernment and some very basic policing strategies. Any church can do this. Will they lose some charismaniacs along the way? Yes. I hate to say good riddance, but that may be what some church leaders have to say. Sometimes you have to turn some people over to the Enemy for chastening before they will wise up and fly right.

  5. Dan:

    I agree with you that abuses of spiritual gifts don’t necessarily invalidate the possibility of genuine gifts existing that may be used in a biblical way today. Are there particular gifts you’re especially thinking of, that you think are a must for the church? (Forgive me if you’ve written on this–no long answer needed– you can just give me the link to an article, if you want.).

    For example, I think prophecy may be a valid gift today, depending on how it’s defined. Currently I lean towards Bob DeWaay’s definition of prophecy, as opposed to the definition of Wayne Grudem (although, he’s one of the most sound continuationist writer/thinkers in my opinion). I totally dismiss the kind of prophecy that the Apostolic/Prophetic movement that endorsed Todd Bentley practices.

    Peter:
    Thanks for your comments. In researching Bentley I noticed that he is very much influenced by the same Word-Faith books others read and I think his teachings (on Freshfire.ca) reflect this.

    For example his Myspace page lists these books: T.L. Osborne (Healing the Sick), Benny Hinn (Goodmorning Holy Spirit), Kenneth Hagin, EW Kenyon, Charles Price (The Real Faith). Definitely Word-Faith influences here, if you ask me.

    I have known Word-Faith people who I respect deeply and seem to truly want to honor God in their lifestyle and in their ministry. I think that they are better than what they believe.

    As to Word-Faith teachings I don’t think are biblical (for starters):

    Healing in the atonement that guarantees physical healing in this life for any believer. Don’t confess symptoms, simply confess and believe “By His stripes I am healed”– and you’ll be healed. (Maybe not).

    Baptism in the Holy Spirit as an essential, secondary experience (I believe that one may have special experiences of filling with the Holy Spirit, but wouldn’t call that a 2nd “Baptism”).

    Prosperity for the Christian (“Jesus was rich, and so were His apostles”). This one needs no comment.

    We are little “gods” (Hinn, Copeland and others teach).

    God can do nothing on Earth except as believers grant Him access by way of prayer (Myles Munroe says this, and Copeland seems to say similar things).

    You create/command reality by the power of your words. (“Write your own ticket with God” says Hagin).

    Undoubtedly there are some anonymous Word-Faith teachers/believers walking closely with the Lord, by His grace, in spite of these teachings. But the people who seem to be leading the movement (Hinn, Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Hagin, Paul and Jan Crouch of TBN, Myles Munroe, Capps. Fred Price, Creflo Dollar), the ones who influence millions through TV and books, are teaching, to be blunt, a whole lot of dangerous nonsense.

    Respectfully,

    Alex

    • Alex,

      While Bentley may list several books on his website, that doesn’t necessarily correlate to being skillful in the Word on those subjects. We should judge a preacher by his own exposition of the Word, not by the books he puts on his site.

      With regard to your Word of Faith preacher list – I’ve written on my own site how the catch-all categorization of Word of Faith preachers is a fallacy. For instance, many of Benny Hinn’s, Kenneth Copeland’s and Creflo Dollar’s teachings are not consistent with those of Kenneth Hagin (or E.W. Kenyon or John Lake).

      With regard to your Word of Faith doctrine list – As with anything, solid teachings can be reduced down to bite-sized slogans that may not be accurate. For instance, the “little gods” teaching that you refer to was first preached (to my knowledge) by John G. Lake who preceded the Word of Faith movement (he confessed himself to be Pentecostal). Indeed, Christ for the Nations first published his little book of sermons as “The God-Men” before the little gods teaching was mishandled by subsequent preachers. It was later re-titled as “Spiritual Hunger” after another included sermon.

      As Dan pointed out, each camp in the Body of Christ has its skillful practitioners and its ne’er-do-wells. A particular teaching or doctrine shouldn’t be judged on the basis of those who mishandle it.

  6. Jill

    Have you read Frank Viola’s book “Pagan Christianity?” It explores the roots of our church practices and the harm they have done to the Body of Christ. Also, the sequel to “Pagan Christianity? is out now. It’s called “Reimagining Church. It picks up where “Pagan Christianity left off and continues the conversation. (“Pagan Christianity was never meant to be a stand alone book; it’s part one of the conversation.) “Reimagining Church is endorsed by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, and many others. You can read a sample chapter at
    http://www.ReimaginingChurch.org
    It’s also available on Amazon.com. Frank is also blogging now at http://www.frankviola.wordpress.com. Also, have you seen the spoof video for “Pagan”? Very funny. Check it out at http://youtube.com/watch?v=hslswIal9u4.

  7. Peter,

    Thanks for the comments. You wrote,

    While Bentley may list several books on his website, that doesn’t necessarily correlate to being skillful in the Word on those subjects. We should judge a preacher by his own exposition of the Word, not by the books he puts on his site.”

    Fair enough. But I think it’s clear that skillful or not, Bentley is certainly inspired by Word-Faith teaching.

    “With regard to your Word of Faith doctrine list – As with anything, solid teachings can be reduced down to bite-sized slogans that may not be accurate.

    True, but you asked me to be specific about which WF doctrines I object to scripturally. Within the short space of a comment, I was trying to provide a few brief examples, but of course, not presenting a full argument about any of these. The “healing in the atonement” issue is one though that I’m in the process of developing an article about on my blog Jordan’s View. Perhaps when I’ve posted the article you may be interested in critiquing it.

    With regard to your Word of Faith preacher list – I’ve written on my own site how the catch-all categorization of Word of Faith preachers is a fallacy. For instance, many of Benny Hinn’s, Kenneth Copeland’s and Creflo Dollar’s teachings are not consistent with those of Kenneth Hagin (or E.W. Kenyon or John Lake).

    This is a fair point. Surely each of these teachers would have their own distinctions and needs to be judged on their own merits.

    On the other hand, don’t these WF teachers share many beliefs in common? Don’t they often share the same platforms together? Wasn’t Mr. Copeland a disciple of Kenneth Hagin? When evaluating the movement as a whole, shouldn’t one try to understand how its most prominent teachers are related to one another?

    It seems like a lot of people are now embarrassed about Bentley and perhaps distancing themselves from him. Personally I see a relationship between what he was doing at Lakeland and the Word-Faith and Signs and Wonders/Vineyard/Apostolic-Prophetic movements. I’ve written about this on my blog recently.

    It seems that Bentley separating from his wife has become the issue that for many finally made them begin to see him (or Lakeland?) in a different light (as witnessed in articles around the blogosphere). Yet I get the impression that people were already entertaining doubts about both Bentley and Lakeland and that this unfortunate event became the catalyst for some to question the “Bentley phenomenon”.

    Anyway I have observed some very learned, intelligent people (Gary Grieg) for example, presenting whole scholarly essays in defense of the theology of Lakeland/Bentley. Interesting reading, but I remain extremely skeptical, judging by the fruit.

    You sound familiar with the “little gods” teaching. So you’re saying there’s a goodversion of it? Well, I guess I’ll have to look into that when I get the chance.

    As Dan pointed out, each camp in the Body of Christ has its skillful practitioners and its ne’er-do-wells. A particular teaching or doctrine shouldn’t be judged on the basis of those who mishandle it.

    Yes, but when one observes an overall pattern of mishandling, as in the teachers I mentioned before, especially on healing and prosperity, then one may begin to question the validity of the doctrines.

    • Alex,

      I don’t mean to take over Dan’s article (he’s pretty gracious), so just a couple of things.

      Whether Bentley was “inspired” by some particular books really isn’t relevant. I’ve been inspired by some of Tom Wright’s books, but that doesn’t make me a Wright disciple. On the other hand, I graduated from Rhema and that doesn’t make me a Hagin disciple.

      “Don’t these WF teachers share many beliefs in common?”

      That begs the question – how have they been classified as Word of Faith? For instance, you combine Word of Faith with Signs and Wonders/Vineyard/Apostolic-Prophetic movements as of the same stream. Much of the Apostolic-Prophetic movement and Vineyard have nothing to do with basic Word of Faith teachings.

      “Wasn’t Mr. Copeland a disciple of Kenneth Hagin?”

      There is one infamous WoF critic website that says that Copeland attended Rhema. That is not true. While Mr. Copeland has said that he learned much from Kenneth Hagin’s tapes and books, that cannot stand for the proposition that Hagin is responsible for Copeland’s teachings. That would be like saying that Harvard is responsible for all of its wild-eyed graduates.

      The “little gods” – Lake’s treatment of Jesus’s words is on the mark, but it does not resemble some of the later teachings (or even the criticisms) on the subject.

      “when one observes an overall pattern of mishandling . . . then one may begin to question the validity of the doctrines”

      Frankly, I don’t go along with that. The truths of the Word are real and they are static (Jesus has been resurrected and the canon is closed). A generation’s (or even a handful of TV preachers’) mishandling of the truth doesn’t change the truth.

  8. Peter,

    I don’t mean to take over Dan’s article (he’s pretty gracious), so just a couple of things.

    Well, hopefully the comments we’ve been making here are relevant to this series– I think so.

    That begs the question – how have they been classified as Word of Faith? For instance, you combine Word of Faith with Signs and Wonders/Vineyard/Apostolic-Prophetic movements as of the same stream. Much of the Apostolic-Prophetic movement and Vineyard have nothing to do with basic Word of Faith teachings.

    I suppose in order to answer this to your satisfaction I’d have to post an entire article here. But let me ask you this, are the names I’ve mentioned thus far Word-Faith or not, by your definition?

    I said a see a relationship between the WOF and Signs and Wonder movements, I didn’t say they were the “same stream”– but I would say the streams overlap. I am also saying they have this in common: both movements declare that miracles are happening in abundance today based upon the idea that Christians have the mandate, authority and power to perform such miracles. Bentley and his activities at Lakeland I believe are an example of this belief in action.

    And this is a gigantic declaration to make– it is either true or it isn’t. For example, if one measures the validity of the claim by the track record of real miracles/healings that today’s faith-healers including Bentley have actually performed, then the claim is invalid. Bentley for example promised to provide proof of healing claims to ABC news and failed to do so. This is similar to Benny Hinn who has been challenged to do likewise in the past and failed.

    So this is where I see a problem, the discrepancy between much charismatic/Word Faith teaching (yes I know charismatic and Word Faith is not exactly the same thing) and the results. Hagin for example said, “It is not God’s will for any to be sick (Healing, The Fathers Provision, p.9 ) I believe that it is the plan of our father that no believer should be sick that every believer should live his life to full time and actually wear out if Jesus tarries then fall asleep in Jesus. I state boldly that it is not the will of God my father that we should suffer with cancer and other dread disease and reap pain and anguish. No its God’s will that we should be healed. But he himself suffered with various sicknesses throughout his life, did he not?

    I want the reality of the supernatural as much as anyone else. I want to see people getting healed and jumping out of their wheelchairs. But I can’t stomach the denial of reality that is urged by some of these teachings– don’t believe the symptoms, just confess your healing and you’ll get it. Don’t stop confessing it or you’ll lose it…etc. I hate that. I hate seeing people hurt by it. People who are desperate for healing and hungry for God and they are being misled by bad teaching. People being told they are healed when they are not.

    Anyway I know I’m making provocative statements without being able to back them up fully in this comments section. If you’re interested you’ll be able to read more thoughts on these issues from me if you visit my blog Jordan’s View in the near future.

  9. Pam

    I wonder if those people who believe in healing by claiming it ever really think about the person who needs the healing. I was diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer a year ago and probably have 2 years left at most. I have had people praying for me tell me that all I need to do is “claim my healing; it’s there for me”. Should I think there is something lacking in my belief if I’m not healed? How does anyone know what action will most glorify God? Will it be an outright immediate healing? Or will it glorify Him more for doctors and family members seeing the Christian dying while still praising the Lord and loving Him?
    I know that my cancer has certainly brought me closer to the Lord and He is teaching me many things. One is to keep knocking. From Psalm 130: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    And in His word I do hope.

    • Pam,
      I am sorry to hear of your condition. I will join you in prayer and waiting. That there is healing in the atonement is beyond doubt (Isa 53:5), where the argument arises is in determining when we get that portion of our inheritance– now or the hereafter. Whereas it is true that we only get the earnest of our inheritance now (Eph1:14; I Corinth 13:9-10), there is no reason to short-change the possibilities entailed. All things are possible to him who has faith.

      I commend you on your “regardless faith” (Job13:15), and pray many readers will join you in knocking, I know I will.

    • Pam, like slw, I am sorry to hear of your condition.

      With regard to your questions, may I recommend Charles Price’s book, The Meaning of Faith & The Sick are Healed. Price was an Oxford-trained lawyer who became one of the foremost faith/healing preachers at the turn of the century. In his book, he deals with the kinds of questions that you’ve raised.

    • Pam,

      Thank you for sharing your condition with us. I consider that a privilege that you have done so.

      I know people who have been radically healed of end-stage cancer. There IS hope. I think what slw and Peter wrote encapsulated how I would respond. So I will defer to them.

      However, I will add this. There are times I wonder what I would do if I were in the same situation. I often wonder if I would hop a plane to some remote place in the Third World where Jesus is all that people have. Those people pray big prayers of the kind that we rarely see here because we are so worldly. If the prayer of a righteous man availeth much, I can only imagine what the prayer lives of these people must be like.

      Maybe that’s crazy thinking on my part, but then, maybe it’s not.

      Be blessed and keep clinging.

    • hans

      Pam

      I also have a friend who was miraculously healed in end stage cancer, and though giving full credit to Jesus and prayer, fails to understand how much his ‘confession’ played an important part. I spent many an hour listening as he felt moved to confess even every little unkind thought! he may have about someone. At the time I thought ” what a fine toothed comb, isn’t this a bit overboard” But I sure can’t argue the result

      Another friend has also gone through a course of many healings for many ailments, and most required acknowledgment of and repentance of a specific sin

      I could go on with many more examples, however it really saddens me how little understanding there is in the church regarding this and how unwilling it is to confront it

    • Ironically, BD, I was tipped off to Sheets’s statement by another reader, so yesterday morning I went to Sheets’s site and copied the statement off there. I sent it to my pastor and to another friend at my church who has discussed these things with me.

      Sheets can’t be a proxy, no matter how much he wants to be one, though it’s a positive thing that he said what he did. He may come out of this like Andrew Strom, who bolted the prophetic movement under similar circumstances. My pastor taught a series on the tripartite nature of man that was based on some of Sheets’s writings and it was extraordinarily good, one of the best sermon series I have ever heard—ever. So maybe Sheets will be a leader out of this mess. Who knows?

      The fact is, though, that the principal players in this scenario have to own up, fess up, and get out of the picture for a while. Their theology is built on hallucinations in far too many cases and not the Word. They are the religious equivalent of rampant consumerism and “let the good times roll” thinking that acts as if the pigeons are never going to come home to roost. Well, they’ve come home—in spades. We need those people to go dormant—maybe even forever.

      I am just sickened over all this. Good for Sheets, but I have to ask how it is going to better his own ministry going forward. Each of us is supposed to look after his own house first. Are we doing that in the charismatic movement? Obviously not in far too many cases.

  10. Dear Pam:

    Thank you very much for sharing about your illness. I am so sorry to hear that you are suffering with this condition. At the same time your expression of hope in the midst of your situation is encouraging to me, and I am sure, to others.

    While I have no doubt that those who believe in faith-healing are well-meaning, I believe that they have built a hope for healing that is not proven by Scripture. The problem is the exception.

    What about the person who doesn’t get healed? I’m sure that you have probably heard of people who were praying for a sick person– a whole church united in prayer– and often that church is one where faith healing doctrines are preached and believed– and the person does not get well, or even, dies.

    I have personally witnessed these cases, I’m sure you have too. OK, so why? Why if healing is the “birthright” of the Christian as so many claim, do we see these kinds of results in answer to earnest prayer?

    Well, I don’t know why exactly; probably no one does. But there are some answers we find in Scripture.

    God is with us– whether we live or die– and He gives us grace sufficient to deal with our situations. He is sovereign– and though He sometimes (perhaps often) does things we don’t understand, yet we also have evidence in our lives of His mercy and love and power and care for us. In this we find comfort and even deep joy, despite our pains.

    Praise God that you have grown closer to Him during your trial.

    Also, I submit for your consideration this sermon by John McArthur: Does God Still Heal? Of course McArthur is no charismatic (and for some reason he misspells a lot of people’s names here) but I believe that this message has excellent points about the chief difference between those who preach faith healing today (and in the recent past) and Jesus’ healing ministry– real results. It may provide some answers to questions you’ve raised, or at least give you food for thought.

    Blessings and grace in Him,

    Alex

    • MacArthur’s treatment of healing is based upon a flawed exegesis of Old Testament verses. His theology is also derived from failed experience rather than what the Scriptures declare.

      If healing is not founded upon redemption, i.e., Matthew 8.17, then the Christian has no scriptural authority to pray for it and James’s prayer of faith should be eviscerated from our canon. (It seems to me that people who pray for healing who don’t believe that it is part of redemption are the ones who are “writing their own ticket from God” with emphasis on “own”).

      As a teenager, I presented such a case of snow blindness that the attending physician said that my rods and cones were completely burned away and that I would become blind (another one of his patients had a more mild case and lost all of her sight in the afflicted eye). Thankfully, the pastor in my church believed in the prayer of faith and today I have 20/20 or better.

      As Oral Roberts says, “as for healing, I’ve seen too much to ever think that it is not part of our inheritance.”

  11. Peter,

    As I mentioned above the problem in the healing theory is with the exceptions, and you have not answered this objection.

    The fact that you were healed through prayer and others also have been healed is truly wonderful, but doesn’t prove the theory of healing taught by faith healers. It shows that God may mercifully answer the prayers of His children, according to His sovereign will.

    It seems to me that healing is only included in the atonement in an ultimate sense– that is, we will all be completely healed when Christ redeems us completely– but both Scripture and experience show that healing is not guaranteed in this life because of Christ’s death. Even in New Testament days people were not always being healed.

    Why did the Paul tell Timothy to take wine for his ongoing stomach troubles? According to your thought shouldn’t he have advised him instead to believe in God for complete healing, based on Christ’s provision? Why did Paul, through whom God had worked such amazing miracles of healing, leave Trophimus behind, apparently too sick to travel with Paul? Couldn’t he have done a miraculous healing for one of his partners in ministry or at least prayed for healing to be accomplished based on Christ’s provision? Why did Paul not receive healing for his own apparent physical ailment (thorn in the flesh) ? Why is there there seem to be no teaching in Paul’s epistles that speaks of health benefits for believers in this life that derive from the Cross?

    Rather in speaking of the redemption of the body, Paul says, in Romans 8: 23-25,

    And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

    ;

    and also,

    So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor 4: 16-18)

    Matthew 8:17 tells us that in the earthly ministry of Jesus, a prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, proving that Christ is the promised Messiah. Matthew 8:17 is only indirectly related to the atonement.

    I think the pattern described in James 5 is what the church is being taught to do in response to sickness, and that the prayer of faith will heal the sick when God gives clear assurance by the Spirit that that is what is going to happen. James 5 does not guarantee healing; I think it provides us with a model to follow.

    I think that according to Paul’s teaching above, sickness and physical weakness are part of this life. But believers do have the opportunity and privilege to pray that amazing healing miracles be done because we know that God can do anything and He often does answer such prayers. It is just that such prayers are ultimately God’s to answer– I don’t believe we have the same authority over disease that the faith healers claim. We are not little gods.

    • Leaving things up to “God’s sovereign will” is fatalism disguised as Christianity. That kind of fatalism is not reflected anywhere in the Word.

      In not one instance did Jesus turn anyone away who was seeking healing. He never said, “Sorry, but God’s chosen this damnable sickness for you so I’m not going to meddle with it. Go and be blessed.” On the other hand, the Word says that he couldn’t do any mighty miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief.

      I imagine that many Nazarenes sat around Starbucks after Jesus left town waxing philosophically about God’s “sovereign” will and so-and-so’s illness.

      My faith is not based on some kind of “healing theory.” It is based upon what the Word demonstrates to be our inheritance as believers. And if some charismatic preachers aren’t skilled in preaching that part of the Word, that is not going to cause me to throw away my faith.

  12. Peter,

    If holding to the truth of God’s word regarding God’s sovereignty over all things, including healing, makes me a “fatalist”, then so be it. I’ve been called that name before though it is a false charge. Does believing in God’s sovereignty make believers fatalists?

    I simply don’t know that God is always call to heal in every case– and neither do you. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16”

    Unless you’ve been given a gift of faith– a particular assurance by the Spirit that He is going to heal in a particular instance (what I think the prayer of faith in James 5 may be referring to) then you and I have no business pronouncing healing on anyone based on something the bible doesn’t teach.

    Regarding application to this life, we know that the atonement “heals” souls of their sin-sickness. The provision for complete physical healing is one that will be fulfilled when Jesus returns, although He may also give us foretastes of that healing in our earthly lives. It certainly doesn’t guarantee physical healing, as the countless people who don’t get healed following the teaching you believe demonstrates.

    I imagine that many Nazarenes sat around Starbucks after Jesus left town waxing philosophically about God’s “sovereign will and so-and-so’s illness.

    First call me a fatalist, then add sarcasm. OK, be as sarcastic as you like, it doesn’t change the fact that even Jesus, being in one place at one time during His earthly ministry, did not in fact heal every sick person in Israel. Sometimes it was because of the people’s lack of faith. But what of the peoples not healed because He did not visit or go to them?

    The man healed at the pool of Bethesda seemed to have been just one of many that were there for healing the day Jesus came and healed Him. Jesus healed only that man. And it’s difficult to tell whether the man had much faith for healing– his answer to Jesus’ question, “Do you want to be healed” doesn’t seem to be full of faith (John 5:7). There were others that Jesus healed as well, whose faith was lacking.

    The fact that He healed some then and not others? I would attribute to God’s sovereignty.

    Your concept of healing says that since God is always willing to heal and has provided healing for all, if a person doesn’t get healed the cause is their unbelief, or so you imply. It’s easy to label someone a fatalist and imply that they have unbelief, but it’s not so easy it seems, for you to answer the question about the numerous exceptions to your healing teaching.

    • Alex,

      You’re right, Jesus didn’t even everybody in Israel. In speaking to his home folks in Nazareth, he pointed out that Elijah was sent to a widow in Zarephath and not to those in Israel. The question is: why? You say that it is all God’s responsibility ( because he is sovereign). I’d rather go with how Jesus put in Luke 4.18-30.

      To ask “but what of the peoples not healed because He did not visit or go to them” is not a well-framed question (again, it puts all the responsibility of healing upon God). Most (if not all) of the Gospel accounts of healing exhibit the fact that the people came to Jesus for healing (much of his healing ministry was reactive) – Jairus, Bartimaeus, the lepers, Syrophenician woman, and the list goes on.

      The woman with the issue of blood did not wallow in her bedridden state saying to herself, “Well, if Jesus really wants to heal me then God will tell him to swing by here. I’ll just wait because when Jesus knocks on the door I’ll know it’s God’s sovereign will to heal me.” Instead of that, the woman went through extreme measures to get to him. We very rarely see anything like that nowadays.

      If you want to believe that God’s “sovereign” will is at play with sickness, you are certainly free to do that. You certainly can’t count me in.

      With regard to “the numerous exceptions to [my] healing teaching,” I assume that you haven’t read my stuff (there’s a lot of it) so I won’t comment on that.

      • Peter,

        You said,

        The woman with the issue of blood did not wallow in her bedridden state saying to herself, “Well, if Jesus really wants to heal me then God will tell him to swing by here. I’ll just wait because when Jesus knocks on the door I’ll know it’s God’s sovereign will to heal me.

        Just because I believe that it is God’s sovereign will that decides who gets healed (if He is sovereign, then all events are included under His sovereignty, aren’t they?) doesn’t mean I advocate passivity and “fatalism”. True I haven’t read all you’ve written on your website. But it appears you haven’t read my comments carefully here, since I have not advocated a passive, faithless approach but said above that James 5 provides a model for believers to follow when one is sick. I also said that I certainly do believe God can work great miracles even today.

        Yes, Jesus healed everyone who came to Him during His earthly ministry, to prove He was the Messiah, to show forth His compassion, and to demonstrate His authority to both forgive sins and heal the body. This in itself does not prove that Jesus is doing the same today through faith healers. The evidence in fact, shows otherwise, since the faith healers can’t do what Jesus did, nor do they teach accurately the Word of God.

        God’s sovereignty is expressed in that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and had His ministry in this one region of the world, choosing to travel to certain parts and not others during His ministry. True, many came to Jesus to be healed, but also He healed as He went along from place to place- so some of the healings seemed to be divine encounters where the opportunity to get healed presented itself for certain people–not necessarily people going through extreme measures.

        God didn’t choose Israel because they were so great or so faithful, but that He might display His glory through a specific people, for His own reason and purpose (Deuteronomy 7:7-9).
        In the same way, I don’t think that healing is all about how many hoops we jump through to show God that we have enough faith to grant healing– it is more a matter of Him acting according to His mercy and wisdom.

        We very rarely see anything like that nowadays.

        What of people traveling from distant countries all over the world flying to Lakeland at great expense, in hope that they might find miraculous healing there? Then they encounter a man speaking about his visitations with angels and how he punches people in the stomach to heal them. So many leave such events disappointed and unhealed.

        But if you favor the great healing campaigns of yesteryear, and claim that they were more authentic, how do you account for the fact that their foundational theology is the same as Bentley’s, with only differences in style? Shouldn’t you throw your support behind Bentley and Lakeland, since he preaches what it seems you espouse? Instead you’re saying that “certain charismatic preachers aren’t skilled in preaching that part of the Word”. But they are preaching/teaching the essentially same healing message as that of the past, with very minor differences.

        • Alexander,
          I don’t think Peter did, and I know I don’t vouch for any of these traveling “healing evangelists.” I think it’s beyond argument that most of them are at best inefficient (that’s kind for a batting of average of at most .030 or .040) and at worst out and out frauds. The manifestation of gifts healings is what they supposedly exhibit, but that is entirely different than James’ prayer for the sick or the doctrine of healing in the atonement. The manifestation would be properly seen under the sovereignty of God (the Spirit wills the manifestations), whereas the appropriation by faith of the healing accomplished in the atonement is already established by the finished work of Christ.

          If a Christian sins and asks forgiveness, do you see a possibility that God may make a sovereign choice not to forgive it?

          • slw,

            When a Christian asks for forgiveness they will be forgiven because God has chosen them and they are His and he will not lose them. Forgiveness of sin is explicitly promised to the believer (1 John 1:9) whereas the prayer of faith in James 5 I don’t believe is an absolute guarantee of healing every time. As I said above, I believe the prayer of faith is a supernatural gift of faith given by God that assures the elders praying that it is the Lord’s will to heal in a particular instance.

            Todd Bentley, as do all the other faith healers, bases his healing ministry on the foundation of the teaching of healing in the atonement. If you need proof, go to his article, SOZO – Salvation, Deliverance, and Healing, which contains typical Word-Faith doctrine. Sure, Bentley speaks of other things that bring about healing miracles, such as healing angels being released, and that new revelations he personally gets from God tell him that now an “apostolic” anointing is being released that will bring back signs and wonders like the apostles did back into the church.

            But the foundational teaching– that we need to exercise faith in the healing provided by the atonement– is exactly what Bentley and others teach. If Bentley then is at best “inefficient” or even a fraud, is it not because this foundational teaching is false? What will it take to see the connection between this false doctrine and its bad results?

            If healing is for today because of the atonement; if the same never-failing provision for sin applies also to bodily healing, then healing is guaranteed for all! But does this line up with the reality of healing? No it does not. When you pray for someone to be healed, can you guarantee absolutely their healing?

          • Alex,
            I don’t know how you find so much wiggle room in James 5:14-6, frankly I don’t see exceptions or provisos there. I think Isaiah 53:4-5 is just as unambiguous as is Matthew’s citation of the same (Matthew 8:16-17). That there is a partial quality to our reception of all that has been provided for is without question (1 Corinthians 13:9; 15:50; Ephesian 1:13-14), but it does not follow that we resign ourselves to fatalistic approach you seem to suggest. Everything that comes our way from God comes by way of faith, that’s not my invention but God’s. Those that exercise faith can be righteous, forgiven, inspired by the Spirit, have prayers answered, and be healed.

            I am not WOF, and I don’t care for the healing evangelists any more than you seem too, but their folly won’t make me throw the baby out with the bath water.

          • slw,

            I don’t know how you find so much wiggle room in James 5:14-6, frankly I don’t see exceptions or provisos there

            So I guess you’re telling me that in every instance that you have ever seen or heard of elders gathering together to pray for someone for healing, that person was always healed, right? Perhaps you have been part of a group of elders praying for someone’s healing. Has the person prayed for always been healed?

            If elders pray in accordance with James 5, and the person is not healed, explain why, if your reading of James 5: 14-16 is correct?

            Regarding Isaiah 53:4-5, and Matthew’s quote of it in verse 17: we see that the healings Jesus was doing in His earthly ministry are said to fulfill Isaiah 53:4. Matthew 8:17 does not say that Jesus’ healings were a result of the atonement. Mathhew’s gospel is consistent in showing how Jesus fulfilled many OT prophecies, in order toprove that he indeed was the foretold Messiah. Now I admit that perhaps it could be said that the healings of Jesus here anticipated the atonement, which at that point was still future. But in Matthew 8:17 we find only an indirect connection with His later atonement.

            Again with the “fatalistic”– give me a break already! I advocate earnestly seeking God for prayer if one is sick and following the model in James 5, as I have mentioned several times here. I believe that God can and often does miraculously heal, as I have said several times above. The fact that I don’t hold to your view of certain Scriptures that supposedly guarantee that healing will happen does not make me fatalistic, but it means I do not hold out false hope to others or to myself about healing, nor guarantee things Scripture does not guarantee.

            I am not WOF, and I don’t care for the healing evangelists any more than you seem too, but their folly won’t make me throw the baby out with the bath water.

            You’re not consistent in saying that you don’t care for the healing evangelists if you hold to the same WOF doctrines they declare are the basis for their ministries (i.e., healing in the atonement).

            And what “baby” am I throwing out? I believe that God miraculously heals, just when He decides and not when I command or claim it.

          • Alex,

            Matthew explicitly says that the healings were due to Isaiah 53. In fact, Matthew 8.17 is a God-breathed translation of Isaiah 53.4 – it deviates from the Septuagint which had emasculated the Hebrew.

            If, as you say, Matthew 8.17 stands for the proposition that Jesus was the foretold Messiah then we’re all in big trouble. He went to Nazareth and couldn’t heal more than a few minor ailments.

            “Messiah? Yeah right. He couldn’t heal beans in our town. We want a Messiah who can heal the hard stuff.”

            Your premise of guaranteed healing is misplaced. The Jews had a covenant of healing in the OT that was manifested in different ways. If healing was guaranteed or automatic, as you put it, then Jesus wouldn’t have needed to heal that “daughter of Abraham” in Luke 13 or virtually anyone else under his ministry.

            Last point, there is a qualitative difference between the healing ministers of old and the Lakeland revival. If you study, for example, Charles Price’s sermons and campaigns, you’ll not find a single instance of the fantastic visions spoken of in Lakeland. What you will find, though, is simple exposition of the Word on healing and testimonies backing up that Word.

          • Peter,

            Matthew explicitly says that the healings were due to Isaiah 53.

            What do you mean when you say the healings were due to Isaiah 53?

            If, as you say, Matthew 8.17 stands for the proposition that Jesus was the foretold Messiah then we’re all in big trouble. He went to Nazareth and couldn’t heal more than a few minor ailments.

            “Messiah? Yeah right. He couldn’t heal beans in our town. We want a Messiah who can heal the hard stuff.

            You yourself said above that Jesus did not do miracles in certain places, such as his hometown, because of unbelief. The miracles authenticated Jesus as Messiah but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone believed on Him because of his miracles, as you know.

            Your premise of guaranteed healing is misplaced.

            I don’t have a premise of guaranteed healing– it’s the faith healing message that says that healing is guaranteed by the atonement; it is part of God’s covenant with us. They are the ones that dogmatically claim believers must get healed in this life and walk in divine health because of this supposed right to health found in the atonement.

            If healing was guaranteed or automatic, as you put it, then Jesus wouldn’t have needed to heal that “daughter of Abraham in Luke 13 or virtually anyone else under his ministry.

            Exactly. Healing is not automatic or guaranteed. We seek healing and God may give it.

            Last point, there is a qualitative difference between the healing ministers of old and the Lakeland revival. If you study, for example, Charles Price’s sermons and campaigns, you’ll not find a single instance of the fantastic visions spoken of in Lakeland. What you will find, though, is simple exposition of the Word on healing and testimonies backing up that Word

            Who said this?

            “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

            But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

            Surely! If you have ever wanted to know anything about healing, it is a sure thing that He carried away sickness. It is a sure thing that He suffered and died and shed His blood just as much for sickness and disease as He did sin. Surely He has carried away our pain. This passage of Scripture talks about healing more than it does forgiveness of sin.

            He suffered for our peace, our prosperity in wholeness of body, soul and spirit. Three times it mentions in Isaiah 53:3-5, about divine healing, only once it says He was bruised for our iniquity. “Surely He has carried away our grief, and by His stripes we are healed.

            Do you know what Isaiah is saying? Isaiah was saying, “He was beaten, wounded, suffered, shed His blood, was rejected, in pain, torment. He carried away sickness, He carried away disease, but we saw Him as afflicted. We saw Him as the suffering, wounded Messiah. Yes, He was smitten and stricken. Yes, we see the realities of the suffering of the Cross of Jesus in Isaiah 53. He carried away sickness and disease. He was wounded for transgressions and sin. He was rejected. He was mocked. He was spit on. He suffered. He was tormented. Yet, we cannot esteem Him as stricken. We must see Him as the one who has conquered sin, sickness, disease, death and the grave. We must see Him as the victorious Christ who rose up on the third day with resurrection power, sin, sickness, disease, and death. He took the curse of the law and redeemed us so we could once again come under the blessing of Abraham and be whole in our body, soul, and spirit.

            We do not understand all of the mysteries of healing. But I do know one thing; God wants to heal you. And when you do not get healed and die with your sickness, I do not understand it any more than I understand why people died in sin and did not get saved. But He is an all-powerful God. And my job is to preach the gospel, win souls, and put my hands on sick bodies and let God do the rest; let God be God. Regardless of what I feel and see, I must believe the gospel. I must believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

            Answer: Todd Bentley.

            Todd Bentley also teaches other things in addition to the above, but as you can see his foundational teaching on healing (that it is in the atonement) is the same as that of the other teachers you mention.

  13. boogie

    Much of the attention recently brought to the Word of Faith denomination has to do with the Grassley “investigation.” Copeland has recognized the bigger picture here and realizes how this decision could affect all of our future, not just the churches. Grassley has overstepped his limits. I am not a follower of any of these ministries, but people have the right to believe and donate as they choose. It’s time for Grassley to give it up and close this thing.

  14. Michele

    boogie – some good comments. I have to agree with you. It’s been interesting to watch this “investigation” go down. Grassley has made mistakes since day one, and he could have already had the information he wanted if he had used the IRS audit like Copeland himself requested. This would have required him to keep the information confidential though. It just seems like there is nothing for Grassley to move forward on. How about getting back to some more pressing issues?

  15. Faith Jordan

    Hello,

    I have been reading these interchanges with much interest, so I finally decided to put in my two cents on this issue of healing and whether the Word Faith approach is valid or not. I am one of those “exceptions” who did not get healed at Word Faith churches even though Alex (yes, infamous Alex posting many comments) and I persisted in faith believing that I was already healed through Christ and just awaiting the manifestation of that healing we had come to believe was available for every believer in this lifetime. We did not come to our current disbelief in the Word Faith approach easily or without much thought and study.

    The question of what about the exceptions is not one I think many “Word of Faith-ers” like to think about very much. For me, the question of “What if I don’t get healed?” was just not something I let enter my mind, as I was too busy trying to believe my way into my healing that always just seemed one step away. Any such questions, would surely be doubt, and would prevent my healing, or so I thought.

    I went through much prayer, much having my forehead pressed on, much being told to just grab on to my healing, many pastors of supposed great faith praying for me, and one week at a faith seminar that we had to fly to and for which I brought along my running shoes, expecting to be able to do my favorite thing again by the end of the week, but was instead very sick by the end of the week because I’d forced myself to sit though the meetings and “only” got eight hours of sleep a night (I really need twelve in my condition). Back at home we worked on getting over our discouragement b/c we had really believed something would happen there and so we continued on for another couple years in the same vein of striving for healing.

    After a total of about five years, we started to allow those questions we hadn’t considered to enter our minds. Also, we began to realize how bound up in guilt we had become. Since this healing is taught as something readily available for every faith-confessing and believing Christian, why had we not yet experienced it? Should we continue on in the same way? Further study and some lessons in common sense and observation, led us to believe that God still heals sometimes, and we should continue to pray to God about these things, but that we were not ultimately responsible for whether or not I was healed. What a burden this lifted!!! I tell you, during all that time it wasn’t just the healing that I was after, but validation that the healing would give me that I was a faithful, mature Christian.

    Now, I firmly believe that when you teach Kenneth Hagin’s type of view on healing, that you are putting people at great risk. For me, I came to a point where I thought I had great faith and that I was truly already healed. This delusion was followed by greater and greater ones, until I was a danger to myself. I had to be hospitalized and put on strong anti-psychotics for a few weeks. I am not blaming this entirely on Word Faith teaching. Certainly there were other great stresses in my life, but this teaching exacerbated them and took me over the edge.

    We initially entered into Word Faith belief because it seemed to be offering real hope. When we moved on five years later, we were relieved and thankful God had shown us the way to more sane, encouraging and helpful teaching.

    I certainly haven’t given up on God or believing in his goodness, but I know longer believe in the precarious God that WoF doctrine teaches- a God who makes you jump through hoops.

    When someone is seriously sick, they need those around them to offer a listening ear, to allow them to voice their pain and fears, without any suggestions that that could be hindering their healing. I think we are allowed to be human. The sick need their brothers and sisters in Christ to help shoulder their burdens- I know that is what many good and kind WoF-ers mean to do- and we have been helped by such men and women. They reached out to us with prayers and kindness. But unfortunately the doctrine seems to pollute the love that is trying to be expressed and places unnecessary burdens on people.

    I have had progress in my condition since leaving WoF churches, largely in part because I have become more accepting of myself- less hard on myself, not “fighting” and “striving” as much. It has led me to respect more that I really have been sick- to not push past my symptoms as much- and I am now in a phase of my illness where I am getting better and am very hopeful. Yes, God’s hand has been through it all and He has taught me much. I am 35 but my closest friend at church is an 83 year old wonderful lady. Because of my suffering, I can really relate to health problems she has, and b/c I can’t work, I am one of the only people that visits her (when I can). If we all had perfect lives, we would never be able to relate to the sufferings and trials of others. It does not make any sense to me that many other trials from God are used to refine people, but that He wouldn’t use sickness in the same way.

  16. Tuesday Morning

    Yes, I find it entertaining that the Grassley camp has brought all this attention to the denomination that he was so obviously attacking. In his venture to try and sabotage these ministries, he has in fact brought them to the forefront of even more discussions – in all facets of the media. Copeland definitely is fighting the good fight here. Give it up Grassley.

  17. Regarding the Grassley investigation:

    While I don’t think it’s necessarily the government’s place to police religious organizations, it is not entirely hard to understand why ministries such as Copeland’s and the others might be under suspicion for how they are using their funds.

    These ministers are known to live high lifestyles and they justify it based on their teachings on prosperity. Perhaps if these ministries were not blatantly living it up from ministry contributions they would not raise any investigations?

  18. Wow, I leave to take care of some biz and this thread turned into a mandate on healing!

    Alexander and Peter, keep going if you want to. I’d like to see what common ground comes out of your discussion.

  19. Dan:

    Thanks for letting the discussion continue. I’m sure I have in common with Peter and slw a view of God as good, compassionate and powerful. He is indeed our Healer. Though I personally have not been physically healed from an ailment in any dramatic way, I have enjoyed, for the most part, the blessings of good health.

    And aside from my wife with chronic illness, my family has overall been healthy, though with the usual pains, colds and little physical problems most are subject to in this world.

    But dealing with chronic illness, as my wife relates above, is made even more burdensome than it ought to be when people keep telling you that healing is is yours for the taking by faith, and when you try to take it by faith you don’t necessarily get it.

    The doctrines that healing is the atonement (“by His stripes we are healed”); that God is the same yesterday, today and forever (and therefore He is healing everyone now in the same way He did while on earth); that our birthright is to live in divine health and die at a ripe old age; that Christians may obtain healing through positive declarations which God is covenantally bound to answer; etc., all these add huge burdens to the one who is suffering with illness, and who has prayed according to these teachings but not been healed.

    The people with more serious conditions are especially vulnerable, They are often desperate for healing and turn to these faith healers and their teachings, only to be disappointed. Historically WOF healing teachers have been known to counsel such to get up out of their wheelchairs, throw away their crutches, or stop taking their medicines, as a display of faith that they are healed. Many have died in following such advice.

    Linking salvation from sin and redemption for the body so tightly, and saying that both are ours to be had in this life places the believer in this very tight place theologically: for if healing is in the atonement and I am a believer (i.e., I have had enough faith to believe in Jesus and have my sins forgiven), then surely my faith is sufficient enough for healing. But if I am not physically healed, then either I am not saved, or healing is not in the atonement in the sense of being always available in this life.

    And this all ties in with the “charismatic crackup” that you have been writing about. How could anyone give Todd Bentley and the Lakeland happenings any credibility? I think part of the problem is the unsound theology that characterizes the mainstream, popular charismatic movement. There is a hunger for experiences with God– it’s all over GOD TV, TBN and all the so-called Christian programming– that is driving many to abandon doctrine and common sense. So I agree with your suggestion that we ought to know and grasp the Bible’s entire narrative that we might better understand the purpose of God. Certainly I have much room to grow in this. Moreover, maybe charismatics– especially those who embrace reformed truths– should carefully re-examine everything they believe. Anyway, that has been my process and journey.

  20. “But if I am not physically healed, then either I am not saved, or healing is not in the atonement in the sense of always being available in this life.”

    In Matthew 10, Jesus gave his disciples “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness” (notice the word “every”).

    In Matthew 17, which chronologically follows chapter 10, Jesus encounters a man beseeching him to cast a demon out of his son. As the man says, the disciples tried and they couldn’t. Quite the dilemma since they had been given authority over that unclean spirit.

    After Jesus cast the spirit out, the disciples asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast him out?” He said, “because of your unbelief dodo” (my paraphrase).

    While the disciples had authority over that demon, they couldn’t cast it out because of their unbelief (obviously they had tried to cast it out – the man told Jesus that they couldn’t do it so he must have seen and heard something).

    The same thing goes for healing or any other promise of God. The kingdom of God is all about faith. Becoming born-again does not exempt one from walking in faith on the promises contained in the Word.

    It doesn’t take any faith at all to put all of the responsibility of salvation (used in its broadest sense) upon God.

  21. The same thing goes for healing or any other promise of God. The kingdom of God is all about faith. Becoming born-again does not exempt one from walking in faith on the promises contained in the Word.

    It doesn’t take any faith at all to put all of the responsibility of salvation (used in its broadest sense) upon God.

    A person who has faith enough to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God come to earth who died on a cross for their sins and rose again three days later is a believer, right? And if this believer gets sick and believes that healing is in the atonement and prays to God for healing on that basis, they should always be healed should they not? But if the person is not healed?

    Oh I see, it’s their lack of faith that is the problem. So the faith required to get healed is greater than that required to receive forgiveness through Christ and be regenerated?

    And will you tell someone like Pam who commented earlier that if she isn’t healed the problem is her “lack of walking in faith in the promises contained in the Word?” I don’t think you will explicitly but you don’t have to since your theological position already implies this.

  22. Faith Jordan

    It is interesting to me that no one here who believes in the healing-in-the atonement-for-this-life doctrine, has told Pam (the commenter with cancer) to keep believing in the Healer and confessing that she is already healed- that that will bring about the manifestation of her total healing from her deadly disease. Isn’t this what you believe and are debating?

    If I may suggest, I think it is because people here have a heart, and don’t want to be presumptuous or cruel. Yet if your doctrine is really true, shouldn’t you be saying it to Pam (and to me)?

    I knew of a church that believed and prayed ardently for a young child who was very sick. He died, but they continued in faith at the memorial service. Afterwards, they stayed on, believing he was going to be raised from the dead. I don’t know how long they lingered. I can only imagine the sorrow the parents must have felt when they finally let the casket be taken away. I wonder, did they think they were giving up?

    What a burden this doctrine places on people! It is easy for those who have not experienced years of agonizing illness to bluntly tell people to keep believing. When is a person allowed to just rest in the Lord and stop trying to be the stage manager of their life?

    When I was a teenager, my grandfather was not healed of a stroke even though my grandmother ardently believed and followed what Hinn, Copeland, and others taught. My grandfather did not get the support he needed from his friends and children because my grandmother did not tell them how serious it was until after a second stroke left him really out of it and died a little while later. She was always confessing that he was well. At a Hinn healing service she took him to, her and I had a lot of faith.

    I really wish someone would take up Alex’s question, about what about people who are not healed. If we are talking about the subject of healing in the church, I do think this is one of the central things to discuss since we see so many people not getting healed. It is a paradox- the message says everyone can be healed if they apply faith, yet so many seemingly genuine and believing people are not getting healed. Surely, if this doctrine is solid, we can talk about it. Peter, could you at least provide a link to where you said you have written about it?

    • Faith,
      As opposed to the burden of thinking it was God’s inscrutible will to have a child die in illness, and that somehow that demonstrates his love??? What a burden it is, instead, having a theoretical God, who only exists in the mind of the believer but never deigns to do any heavy lifting in real life. No thanks, my God says ask what ever you will and it will be done for you. If my faith only ever embraces a hairs breath of what that actually makes possible, I’ll repeatedly fail a hundred times over for the possibility of seeing those words of Christ come true once.

      As for Alex’s question, what do you want, an encouragement to be hedging our bets on a “what if,” that if embraced has already ripped the rug out from under faith? Some folks don’t break through to healing: it could be sin, it could be a lack of faith, it could be that it’s their time to go (everyone goes sometime), it could be that God’s strength in them is made perfect in weakness, who knows? If one is double minded, he gets nothing. It sounds to me like that is the condition you’d like people to be in.

    • Faith,

      You should follow slw’s link where’s he’s written about sickness (I’ve written and podcasted about healing and sickness on my site also).

      I referred to Matthew 10 and 17 for the question that you bring up. The disciples had been given authority over all unclean spirits and apparently looked like they were in faith when they tried to cast the devil out of the boy, but they weren’t. When they asked Jesus about their failure, he cut to the chase and told them it was unbelief. Not unbelief in their salvation, but apparently unbelief in his order to them about devils and healing. (In my mind, they probably had early success on casting out demons, but then fell over into unbelief). I believe that the disciples actions/unbelief is characteristic of a lot of WOF ministers and believers today (Jesus didn’t put the onus on the dad, but on the disciples).

      Since I can’t write a sermon here on a comment form, the best thing I can do is refer you to Charles Price’s materials. He dealt with the same issue in his day – people who looked like they were in faith, but were not with regard to healing. No one that I’ve seen has addressed that issue as clearly and as succinctly as he has done. (Contrary to Alex’s thinking, there are those who are skillful in the word of righteousness – those who give us much light into God’s incredible rescue of mankind, including healing. Unfortunately in WOF circles, those kinds of guys are rare these days. I’ve written about that too.)

      With regard to the Hinn service, I’ve had friends do the same thing. The thing about healing, however, is that God has set out differences in operations. Faith for healing in redemption is the privilege of every individual believer (doesn’t work by proxy). God has also set in the Body gifts of healings which operate according to as “He wills” – no faith is involved in that. A Gospel example of the gifts of healings is the man at the pool of Bethesda.

      He has also set with certain ministries a healing anointing such as what we see with Peter and with Paul. People lined up in the streets for Peter because he was known for the healing anointing that occurred in his ministry. With Paul, they took aprons and handkerchiefs from his body that were impregnated with the anointing and they were used to effectuate healing.

      (You can see the irony in the “whatever God wills” idea:

      Peter: “You be healed. And you be healed. You . . . uh . . . nope, not you. Hey, who put this guy in the line? Take him out. He’s not supposed to be here.”

      Paul: “You what?!? Why did you take that apron to him? Geez, Louise!! There are people who are predestined to get these cloths and you better get it right the first time because I only have so many. No, I don’t care that you don’t know who is who.”

      Sometimes humor is better at getting the point across.)

  23. Some folks don’t break through to healing: it could be sin, it could be a lack of faith, it could be that it’s their time to go (everyone goes sometime), it could be that God’s strength in them is made perfect in weakness, who knows? If one is double minded, he gets nothing. It sounds to me like that is the condition you’d like people to be in.

    Wow. Some don’t “don’t break through to healing” –again the “faith-less” ones are being blamed for not receiving healing. But the stroy above described an entire church who believed that healing is the atonement and that God can and should heal and was united in prayer. But the child still died.

    We (my wife and I) don’t want anyone to be double-minded– but faith doesn’t require believing promises that aren’t biblical– like physical healing for today that is guaranteed by the atonement.

    But it sounds like you’re saying that if someone is not healed there could be many reasons for it, including even God’s purpose (“God’s strength in them is made perfect in weakness). If that’s the case then why is it “double-minded” to pray for God’s healing but not be absolutely sure of the outcome?

    How long are people like Joni Eareckson Tada (or thousands in positions like hers) required to keep confessing their healing while they remain unhealed? If they stop praying for something it seems God doesn’t grant does it show they lack faith?

    Also can you show me all the people who have organic diseases like hers that are being healed today because they espouse the healing doctrines? And I don’t mean claims of healing, or speculation about “miracles happening all the time in developing nations but not here because we don’t have their kind of simple faith”. I mean real evidence of New Testament style healing miracles.

    Let’s assume that there was no “sin in the camp”– why then did the child die– because the devil overrides and thwarts the prayers of believers? Because an entire church that believes in healing doctrines and was united in prayer somehow lacked faith? Does the child’s death say anything about God? My God certainly isn’t theoretical but He is sovereign and yes, He does preside over things I don’t understand. It’s great for all of us that He is sovereign too, otherwise none would be saved.

    As for Alex’s question, what do you want, an encouragement to be hedging our bets on a “what if, that if embraced has already ripped the rug out from under faith?

    Not exactly sure what you mean here— it sounds like the typical Word-Faith idea that we shouldn’t pray “if it be God’s will” because that supposedly demonstrates lack of faith. Hogwash!

    No one knows for sure that God is going to heal in every case, even if claiming that God will heal, based on their understanding of Scripture. So I’ll repeat my previous questions:

    … in every instance that you have ever seen or heard of (or participating in) elders gathering together to pray for someone for healing, was that person always healed?

    If elders pray in accordance with James 5, and the person is not healed, explain why, if your reading of James 5: 14-16 (as an absolute guarantee of healing) is correct.

    • Alex,

      At first, I was thinking that you were actually interested in the differences between some Word of Faith preachers and others (or at least those who go by the WOF moniker), but now I’m of the opinion that you don’t care to see a difference.

      I was also thinking that you were interested in the Word of Faith doctrines concerning healing, but now I don’t believe so.

      In Luke 4.23 Jesus said, “You will say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal yourself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in your hometown.” The story goes that Jesus couldn’t do much of anything with them and they even tried to murder him.

      Similarly, it’s time that I go on my way.

  24. Alex,
    I’ve said nothing about confessing healing, I don’t teach that nor believe in it. As I’ve told you before, I am not WOF (I am in fact A/G). I believe in prayer and faith, not faith and confession. I do believe healing is in the atonement, one would have to do violence to the word to avoid that conclusion.

    Joni is not sick, she is injured. Her condition is not organic but structural, the result of a swimming accident, not disease.

    Paul didn’t have any trouble believing for healing and praying for it when he had his thorn. He brook no what if, and pressed in three times expecting, it seems to me, something to be done. It took a revelation from God to get him to accept his condition as God’s will. If you haven’t heard from God, you should be following his example.

    Christianity is not socialism, we don’t all receive or experience equal blessings. Jesus said let it be done for you according to your faith. We can move in the Spirit according to the measure of our faith. Just because one believes in Christ as his or her Savior does not mean he or she will automatically get all the blessings that could be his or hers on the basis of the atonement. We could whine about that, but it wouldn’t build up the most holy faith.

  25. Faith Jordan

    Peter,
    Thank-you for you response which was kind-spirited. I’m going to have to check out some things you’ve and slw have suggested.

    slw,

    Some of what you are saying here I do not disagree with at all. Yes, sometimes someone could die because it is their time to go. I also agree that everyone goes sometimes (contrary to WoF teaching that says that if we faithfully apply WoF doctrine, we will live to old age and die peacefully without disease). I also agree with you that illness or death could be b/c “God’s strength in them is made perfect in weakness.” In these comments you don’t seem to be into the WoF healing doctrine at all. Perhaps you and I don’t disagree as much as it might have seemed?

    Surely if I had things my way, I’d have this wonderful, perfect life in every way. But in this life, the Word says we will suffer and have trials. Yes, we should cling to God and bring all our troubles to Him, but in the end, we have to accept the answer- sometimes it will be the answer we would have, other times- like in the death of that child- it won’t be at all- and it will seem like something we can’t even imagine why our God would allow. And those parents need to be able to move on with their lives, and not have this idea that it was a lack of faith that killed their precious son.

    As far as “a theroritical God who only exists in the mind”, I think that in church we do make that mistake an awful lot, in all camps of this issue. I think we need more love and that we need to have belief systems that are not so dogmatic as to squeeze out the love of God. You are right that faith is really important. However, I think the WoF approach becomes a faith in your own ability to have faith rather than a faith in the Lord- no matter what his hand deals us.

    God has done much “heavy lifting” in my life and in the lives of others- both WoF people and non- WoF people who I have known. The substantial progress that I have had in my illness, I totally attribute to God’s grace- in large part because he took me out of that faulty doctrine that was causing me not to take care of my condition as I should. I think God does still heal all the time and in all kinds of ways, sometimes miraculous, as I have known people healed through miracles- I didn’t see them, but I believe their testimony.

  26. Faith Jordan

    slw,

    I didn’t read your previous comment before posting my comment just now. I may have made a mistake in thinking you were WoF. I guess you are not WoF and not Reformed, but somewhere in the middle.

    I agree with some of what you said in that we do have a responsibility to be faithful and pursue righteousness.

  27. Dan,

    Thanks again for presiding over this discussion. I’m sure slw and Peter are more regular commentators here than I am and it seems they have your respect. I have meant no offense to them. I feel there are significant contradictions however within some of the arguments they have presented here.

    Peter,

    At first, I was thinking that you were actually interested in the differences between some Word of Faith preachers and others (or at least those who go by the WOF moniker), but now I’m of the opinion that you don’t care to see a difference.

    I was also thinking that you were interested in the Word of Faith doctrines concerning healing, but now I don’t believe so.

    Well Peter I think your assessment of me is unfair. I don’t think I have been misleading in my comments to you or others here. Remember that you chose to focus on pointing out differences between certain Word of Faith preachers and others (something I didn’t request) and to make distinctions between WOF and other charismatics.

    But I have never said there’s no difference between some of the charismatic teachers/teachings. In fact I’m quite sure I agreed with you that there are differences between WOF and others but my point all along was about the teachings common to the various charismatic schools– such as the healing in the atonement–which I strongly object to.

    So the focus in my comments has been to describe how I differ with doctrines such as this that are common to many in the charismatic movement, and to argue that many who are not necessarily WOF believe in and use the “healing in the atonement” teaching as a foundation for healing ministry. [And to clarify again I beleive that there’s healing in the atonement in an ultimate sense but that the atonement doesn’t guarantee absolutely a life of divine health or freedom from sickness for believers in their earthly lives]. And I mentioned this doctrine specifically because Todd Bentley (who it seems was a catalyst for this series by Dan) is one who also uses this teaching as a foundation for his ministry.

    I have asked you and slw to account for the “exceptions” to healing– because it would seem to me that if healing is really in the atonement there ought to be no qualifications and no exceptions. But I don’t think either of you has provided a satisfactory answer to this inquiry.

    I admit some of my comments here have been provocative. I am in fact very passionate and even angry about how the popular healing teaching affects people in a negative way. And I have personally experienced that hurt because many Christians–well-meaning and good intentioned as they may be– because of their doctrine, will essentially put the blame on you if you don’t get healed. I think that is wrong and it has hurt my wife and me. However as Dan tried to encourage, I do think that we probably have some common ground and I talked about that in an earlier comment today. If you have chosen to go your way that’s fine but please don’t portray me as unwilling to see your points– I have seen them and simply have disagreed with many of them.

    slw,
    My last response to you was angry. I was provoked by your statement to my wife that “It sounds to me like that (double-mindedness) is the condition you’d like people to be in.” I thought this was entirely uncalled for and completely unjustified by anything she’s written here. Additionally I did not like the fact that you implied that people who differ with your reading of Scripture believe in a “theoretical” God. Insulting words, in my opinion. However, I ought not to have gotten angry in return and I apologize for that.

    I don’t remember saying in my last comment that you were talking about “confessing” healing. I did challenge your statement that James 5 allow no “wiggle room”– so does that mean the “prayer of faith” guarantees healing or not?

    You told me that you’re not WOF and I accept it but I don’t know why you’re telling me again– my argument has had nothing to do with you being or not being WOF.

    Regarding Joni–point taken that she is injured– my point is that her physical problems (or those of people with organic diseases) are the kind that if God were to heal would truly be NT variety miracles that I haven’t seen evidence is happening today, despite the grand claims of the healing ministries.

    Paul didn’t have any trouble believing for healing and praying for it when he had his thorn. He brook no what if, and pressed in three times expecting, it seems to me, something to be done. It took a revelation from God to get him to accept his condition as God’s will. If you haven’t heard from God, you should be following his example.

    I think, the phrase “thorn in the flesh”, from the way the expression is used in the OT, that probably Paul’s thorn was not a physical ailment. Paul was still sick anyway at some point during his ministry (Gal 4:13). I agree with you we ought to keep praying for healing but how exactly do get this revelation from God that it’s not His will to heal you? (This is a sincere question).

    Christianity is not socialism, we don’t all receive or experience equal blessings. Jesus said let it be done for you according to your faith. We can move in the Spirit according to the measure of our faith. Just because one believes in Christ as his or her Savior does not mean he or she will automatically get all the blessings that could be his or hers on the basis of the atonement. We could whine about that, but it wouldn’t build up the most holy faith.

    I think there’s truth in what you’re saying about faith but I have asked how much faith it takes to get healed (does it take more faith than it requires to be saved, as I asked Peter above)? They are plenty of folks who believe the teaching that healing is in the atonement and provides physical healing for them today but still they don’t get healed. So what’s up with that?

    To all,
    Perhaps I have not been irenic enough in this overall discussion. Forgive me if my passion on this topic sometimes has caused me to be harsher in tone than I ought to have been.

    Blessings,

    Alex

  28. Faith and Alex,
    Tracy Weiss from Lancaster, Pennsylvania
    Healed of two rare forms of terminal cancer through faith in Christ’s provision of healing.

  29. slw,

    OK thanks, this certainly is good news. We do believe in God’s healing in answer to prayer and powerful healings such as this testify to His goodness and mercy as a Healer.

    Yet my contention has been that physical healing in this life is not guaranteed, as many teach, and that the healing miracles Jesus and the apostles did in abundance have not been shown to be what is happening during the campaigns of today’s faith healers, although they claim that such miracles are taking place all the time.

    Blessings,

    Alex

  30. Ron

    Alex, Pete, and SLW,

    I’ve appreciated listening to you guys work through these issues. I have not done a lot of heavy lifting on this topic, but it has come up recently between a couple of my friends at Church, and I’ve stayed out of it and mostly listened. I’m not an expert, but I would like to offer some thoughts. It seems to me that in discussions like this there is a tendency toward “either/or” thinking, a sort of bifurcation of ideas, when in fact there may be a third option or view that if considered could help us find common ground AND maintain the integrity of our belief. As I see it there are three views to consider.

    The first view: Healing is not in the atonement. God does heal, but it is not guaranteed. It is an act of His soveriegn will and mercy. Though to me it seems mostly true, this view still leaves some with the question, “Why did God heal someone else and not me?” God is not obligated to heal, but sometimes chooses to do so. This view has also caused many people a great deal of pain and confusion about God’s love, as much as the second view. This view gives little hope or consolation to people who suffer when God chooses not to heal them.

    The second view: Healing is in the atonement and we can claim it now! It is God’s will and what we need is faith. Though this shows a wonderful willingness to put faith in “God’s promises” at face value, the truth is it doesn’t always work. The Apostle Paul certainly had faith and yet, many passages show that Paul was not healed or failed to heal others (see 1 Tim 5:23, 2 Tim 4:20, Phil 3:25-27, Gal 4:13-15, et cetera). Was this due to a lack of faith? This view adds shame to the pain that those who are suffering are already experiencing if they are not healed.

    A third option seems to mediate these seemingly opposing views: An Eschatological view. Healing is in the atonement, but it is not guaranteed in this life. We get a foretaste of the Kingdom to come in this life as we await the final fulfilment at our resurrection. This view is consistent with a biblical view of redemption. Sometimes the kingdom of God breaks through sovereignly into the here and now because the atonement makes it possible. However, we do not experience the fullness of our inheritance until we all together recieve out total redemption from everything that plagues us in this fallen world. So those who do not experience total healing now can still see signs of God’s faithfulness in the healing of others as signs of the Kingdom break through into our present lives. We are right to pray in faith for that healing, but even if they are not healed now, provision has been made for them in the atonement to be healed at the end of the age (and that does offer consolation as we wait in anticipation for Christ’s return). The eschatological view of the atonement mediates the other two views and seems to answer the opposing questions. I could say more but it would take up too much time. Maybe it’s worth investigating from other sources (alongside the scriptures of course).

    As I said, I am not an expert, but I do pray that common ground will be found by those who are wrestling with these issues.

    Peace

  31. Ron,
    Thanks for chipping in. The more the merrier as long as we don’t abuse poor Dan’s patience. Your third view is closer to my view than either of the first two. I believe healing is in the atonement, that is the plain reading of the texts, but much of what was accomplished in the atonement cannot be had in this life. The perishable cannot inherent the imperishable. We live in only the earnest of our inheritance, but what an earnest it is. Within this space, faith is what counts– the very currency of heaven, as I’m wont to say. So is it better to reach high and trust God, to see what the blessing at God’s level is, or to assume and presume that it’s God’s will to live scratching and panting and wondering as we’re resigning ourselves to it. If I’m to scratch and pant, in view of the promises of God, I’ll follow Paul’s example and press in for the blessing until God says relax and live with it.

  32. Hi Ron

    Thanks for these comments.

    The third “mediating” view you very articulately present here is the view I’ve mentioned that I do hold. You may not have noticed that, because in so many of my comments above I’ve been strongly criticizing the view that says that because healing is in the atonement we expect healing in this life as an absolute guarantee. In that sense, healing is not in the atonement, if you follow what I mean. But in an ultimate sense, healing is in the atonement– Jesus took away the sin that causes sickness and ultimately death–and believers are looking forward to their full redemption in body and soul.

    As we pray for ourselves or others we understand that physical healing is not guaranteed, but trust that God is good and that as He is the great Physician, and has many times healed, we have good reason to hope that He will heal again in specific instances. Such a stance doesn’t negate faith but acts upon a knowledgeable faith. It is not passively resigned, as has been suggested, but seeks to praise God and trust Him and bring Him glory to Him no matter what the outcome of the prayers for healing.

    In His grace,

    Alex

  33. Ron, I also commpletely agree with your third position. Thank you for stating it so well. Slw, I also agree with what you said, “The perishable cannot inherent the imperishable. We live in only the earnest of our inheritance, but what an earnest it is. Within this space, faith is what counts†“ the very currency of heaven, as I’m wont to say. So is it better to reach high and trust God, to see what the blessing at God’s level is, or to assume and presume that it’s God’s will to live scratching and panting and wondering as we’re resigning ourselves to it.” And, Alex, I agree with what you just said. All three of these things seem to be in agreement.

  34. slw,

    I agreed very much with the first part of your last comment, especially when you said “much of what was accomplished in the atonement cannot be had in this life,” and “We live in only the earnest of our inheritance, but what an earnest it is.”

    Then you asked, “so is it better to reach high and trust God, to see what the blessing at God’s level is, or to assume and presume that it’s God’s will to live scratching and panting and wondering as we’re resigning ourselves to it.

    Yes, we ought to pray for great responses from our great God, when it comes to healing and other areas. But specifically in regard to healing, what do you mean when you say ” to live scratching and panting and wondering as we’re resigning ourselves to it?

    Resigning ourselves to what? What is “it” referring to?

    What you’re saying here seems a response to my thoughts expressed above that while we certainly have biblical warrant to pray and ask God for healing and to be hopeful, we cannot say with complete assurance that He will always heal. You have yet to prove this statement incorrect. There is nothing about this holding this attitude that suggests “scratching and panting and resigning ourselves”.

    It seems to me that if someone qualifies their hope for receiving healing with the reasonable thought that perhaps may God not heal — what you label a “what if” attitude– you have implied their faith is less than genuine or is “double-minded” or “resigned” or “fatalistic”. Well the same writer, James, who speaks of not being double-minded when we pray to ask God for wisdom, also tells us a few chapters later that we do not know what tomorrow will bring, and that therefore we ought to say, “if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”. We can’t even definitively say we’re going to live tomorrow, says James, since we don’t know (James 4:13-16). How then do we pronounce we’re going to be healed, unless perhaps, we’ve receiving a very special revelation from God (James 5:15)? James rebukes those who boast about what they’ll do in the future, saying such boasting is arrogant and evil.

    I’d like to discover more common ground (if it’s there) but object to the mischaracterization of my position.

    Thanks,

    Alex

  35. Faith Jordan

    “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…”
    –Isaiah 53:4
    Words of Joni Eareckson Tada:

    “Nobody likes to be sad. No Christian welcomes grief. So aren’t you glad that Jesus carried our sorrows when he went to the cross?! But sorrow did not cease with the death and resurrection of Christ. Think of the apostle Paul who confessed to “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” over the spiritual lostness of his race. He also described Christ’s apostles as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Jesus’ death did not hinder him from saying, “Blessed are you who weep now.” It did not hinder James from advising us to “grieve, mourn and wail” when we sin. Sorrow and tears, disappointment and grief are written into God’s plan for you and me. To be sure, he lightens and brightens our days with glimpses of Paradise; he ladles out foretastes of bliss through a thousand blessings large and small. But they are all just that – glimpses and foretastes. We are not in heaven yet. We are destined to experience earth’s sorrow.”

    My words:

    Jesus “carried our sorrows”, yet it is evident that we all still experience sorrows in this life, so isn’t it reasonable that to interpret “he took up our infirmities” as a promise of God for healing in this lifetime as illogical, at least from this verse?

    • Nate

      Jesus asked us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” above everything else. He didn’t ask us to pray that for fun. If people are satisfied with the things of earth, then that’s what they’ll experience. But if one cannot live without heaven, then heaven will come to the earth. Is it ever God’s will for the Kingdom of God not to invade the earth??

  36. Onesimus

    Since the issue of God’s sovereignty has been mentioned in this discussion, I’d like to share some personal observations.
    Too often when His sovereignty is raised a totally false understanding of God and His ways are portrayed. There is an extreme picture of God’s sovereignty in which he gives mankind no free will at all; that EVERYTHING that happens has been predetermined by God and happens because of His sovereign will – in effect this also means that man’s sinfulness and all of the evil in the world have been personally ordained by God.
    This extreme view does not take into account that God has SOVEREIGNLY CHOSEN to give man free will, so that we can have the autonomy to choose His way or our own. Of course, God has also sovereignly chosen consequences for the choices that we make.

  37. In the Bible the sovereignty of God over ALL things does not negate man’s responsibility for his choices. Where I see God’s sovereignty coming into play in the discussion of healing and miracles etc is that I think that God is always sovereign over when a healing or a miracle occurs. Now the charismatic view claims to hold to God’s sovereignty yet also seems to suggest that it is up to the individual, by their exercise of faith, whether or not they get “their miracle” from God. God has already provided it, so now if you act you will get it and if not you will not receive it. This kind of teaching I believe is damaging to the body of Christ because it gives false hopes to those suffering from illness. Teachers such as Todd Bentley and Benny Hinn are guilty of promoting this false hope (as well many others).

    The “faith healing” message implies that if one says the right words, and exercises faith by believing certain things– such as the idea that physical healing is “in the atonement” and therefore already belongs to the believer–then we must just declare and believe this truth and then we’ll experience the manifestation of healing in reality.

    This idea is biblically unfounded, though it is a foundational teaching among those who preach a “faith healing” message. I have written an article on this:Sickness, Healing and the Christian, Pt 2 (Biblical Analysis) that is part of a continuing series on sickness and healing I am working on. I hope that some who have been misled and disappointed by the false faith healing message may be helped by my article.

  38. Onesimus

    Alexander,
    Do you believe that prayer is effective?
    Do you believe that prayer has a purpose?

    When God answers prayer would His answer have occurred anyway †“ without the believer’s prayer?

    Or could it be that prayer †“ for healing or any other desired outcome †“ is all part of man’s God-given responsibility. That God has given His children a role to play in His purposes. That He delights to move favourably on behalf of His children when they pray in faith? That God has chosen to act on our behalf ONLY when we obey Him and place out trust entirely in Him.

    Yes, the Bentleys and the Hinns present a false hope †“ but that is because they present a false Christ and a false God to the world.

    The issue of healing being in the atonement †“ do you believe it is God’s will for His children to live in health? If not, then what justification does any believer have to visit a doctor?
    If you pray for healing and do not receive healing †“ do you assume that you are not healed because it’s not God’s will for you health to be restored? Again †“ if that is the case, what justification is there to visit a doctor? Surely seeking medical help in such a situation would be contrary to God’s will.

    The issue of divine healing AND God’s will regarding our health has been muddied by some very dodgy teachings †“ from more than one side of the theological spectrum.

    One side puts the onus entirely God †“ that He will sovereignly heal when He chooses to and there is no responsibility on man’s part. The other makes healing a result of a mechanical process †“ if we follow the correct procedures, we will be guaranteed to receive healing from God.
    However, the foundation of faith is relationship. Faith in God comes through an intimate relationship with Him; knowing His character and His will. Faith plays a vital role in prayer †“ and is a strong condition to seeing prayers answered. Jesus makes this very clear throughout His teaching. However, we have to be sure that we don’t define and practice “faith incorrectly.
    To pray in faith we need to be confident of both His ability and his willingness to provide what we pray for. A prayer without this assurance is not a prayer of faith; it is more like a hopeful wish.

    • Onesimus,

      You ask me if prayer is effective, as if believing in the absolute sovereignty of God that Scripture teaches somehow removes the need for prayer. It does not, since God commands us to pray.

      So yes, I agree with you that God uses believers’ prayer to effect things in this world. He has given us this wonderful privilege, to pray in the name of Jesus Christ and have such prayers answered.

      So I agree with many of your statements. But when you say “That God has chosen to act on our behalf ONLY when we obey Him and place out trust entirely in Him,” or that “Faith plays a vital role in prayer †“ and is a strong condition to seeing prayers answered,” Scripture proves you incorrect.

      Let me ask you a question:

      Was Paul (when he was known as Saul) obeying God and putting trust entirely in Him? Was Paul’s obedience the reason God acted to rescue Paul from his sinful life of persecuting Christians?

      Although there cetainly is some sort of relationship between faith and healing in the ministry of Jesus, it does not seem to be an absolute one, for one can find many occasions where Jesus healed unbelievers (for example, those oppressed by demons) and/or those whom Scripture does not describe as having faith to be healed. Certainly Jairus’ daughter or Lazarus were not displaying faith prior to their being raised from the dead.

      As for physical healing being in the atonement– as I have written in the article I linked to in my last comment, I don’t believe that physical healing is guaranteed to the believer today on the basis of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. Therefore, we as believers have need of doctors just as does every other creature living in a fallen world.

      You mention that “praying in faith” is praying with assurance that God is able and willing to heal. Unless one knows the future, which the Bible says we do not (James 4:14), I don’t know that anyone can pray with absolute assurance in a particular instance that healing will happen (unless perhaps there is a supernatural gift of faith being described in James 5:15-18) . Of course, God is able. And surely He is compassionate about human suffering. And yet it seems there are times He chooses not to heal, even when the prayers offered are confident about His willingness and ability to heal. I think we all know of examples of this. Additionally there are people who have an excellent relationship with God who deal with ongoing physical sickness or disabilities in their lives.

      I believe our responsibility is to make sure we walk in obedience to God (for sometimes sickness is a result of sin) and pray that if we are sick we’ll be healed, perhaps calling for the elders when warranted. We can be confident that God is good and able to heal and that He will physically heal if it is for our best.

  39. Onesimus

    Alexander said:
    “Was Paul (when he was known as Saul) obeying God and putting trust entirely in Him? Was Paul’s obedience the reason God acted to rescue Paul from his sinful life of persecuting Christians? ”

    I am not denying God’s prerogative to move strictly according to His will with no human intercession when he has a specific purpose to achieve †“ such as intervening in Saul/Paul’s life.
    But these events are far outweighed in the New Testament by accounts of Him responding to the prayer and faith of His followers. On reflection I agree that my statement: “God has chosen to act on our behalf ONLY when we obey Him and place out trust entirely in Him does not take into account the possibility that God may sometimes choose to act on our behalf DESPITE our disobedience and lack of faith. But in the life of a believer this would not be the general rule.

    In recognising that God intervened in Saul’s life (before he was a believer) we can not dismiss the fact that of Jesus’ own teachings on prayer and faith. We can not dismiss the teachings of the NT writers that SPECIFICALLY STATE that faith and prayer play a SIGNIFICANT role in seeing God moving in our lives and the lives of those around us. It is clear that without faith/prayer participation from the believer we can miss out on things that God desires/wills for our lives.

    Regarding healing, you point out cases such as Lazarus where the recipient was in no position to be expressing any kind of faith. This is an area where the WOF teachers show their own shortcomings when they blame the “lack of faith of others when they don’t receive the healing they desire. The WOF teachers NEVER blame their own lack of faith when their prayer for others is ineffective. Yet Jesus rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith when they were unable to cast out the demon during the time He was up the mountain meeting with Moses and Elijah. He didn’t rebuke the demon possessed son or the father who had brought him to the disciples.

    When WOF teachers point to those cases where Jesus could not heal some because of their unbelief, I think they are misrepresenting the situation. The gospels tell us of occasions when Jesus healed ALL that came to Him. The first step in expressing faith is to GO TO Jesus for healing believing that he is ABLE to heal. If we keep our distance and deny Him that opportunity to heal us then we are displaying unbelief. I suspect this is possibly the case with those cases of unbelief mentioned in the gospels. Their unbelief was expressed in opposition to Him †“ not through the inability to whip up a required “faith fervour through positive confession or any other technique.

    As for healing being in the atonement, I think it’s easy to make blanket judgments either way; (yes it is †“ no it isn’t) and perhaps the practical understanding of both viewpoints would be wrong.
    I’ve been part of the WOF camp and I find that their approach promotes a cause and effect situation; as long as we do and say the right things then we will receive what we have already been given in the atonement.
    On the other hand, many hold a view that God’s got everything entirely under His sovereign control and therefore whatever He desires will happen no matter what. At the extreme of this some believe that God has every tiny detail of everyone’s lives pre-planned and preordained, including our health (or lack of). That we must learn to submit to every situation we experience as being God’s will for our lives (which significantly is also the Islamic position with regard to Allah’s will).
    Is healing in the atonement? I believe it is. Does that mean we should all be experiencing perfect health in THIS life? Probably not †“ but THIS life is not the be all and end all of God’s purposes.
    Is freedom from sin and its penalty part of the atonement? Does that mean believers now live totally sin free lives and that believers will not experience death (the wages of sin)? Likewise, does our failure to live a totally sin-free life mean that our continued sin is God’s will for us?
    Yet the atonement’s ultimate result for the believer WILL be a freedom from sin and death †“ and also ill health.

    The WOF people love to quote parts of Hebrews 11 regarding faith †“ yet I have not yet come across one of their teachers mentioning the following verses:

    “39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

    There can be situations where God has a greater outcome in mind that may seem to be contrary to specific promises. However this should not be used as an excuse for not recognising those things that He HAS promised.

    I don’t have a particular strong stance on the issue of healing †“ that is I can’t confidently claim to present THE answer. However, while the WOF stance takes one extreme where so much responsibility is placed in man’s hands, it is no less an error to take the opposite extreme and to put everything entirely into God’s hands.
    While many are discouraged and disappointed when the WOF stance fails them †“ I suspect there are also many who miss out on healing because they have been taught to resign themselves to accept their situation as being God’s will and don’t even consider the likelihood of one day receiving healing.
    So much of Jesus’ teaching on faith and prayer relates to persistence. Ask and keep on asking…knock and keep on knocking… seek and keep on seeking… It’s not a matter of trying something once and then making assumptions regarding God’s will from the perceived immediate results.

    One thing that has become more and more evident to me is how much we base our beliefs on human tradition and human logic. Far too much of our doctrine comes from what we have learned through our churches and church leaders; and unfortunately so many of those doctrines are often NOT consistent with scripture.

    We really need to get away from the practice of building our beliefs on proof texts. When I was involved with WOF doctrines I could strongly batter opponents into submission with a barrage of out of context verses to prove my doctrinal soundness. Unfortunately all of those verses were learned by rote from recordings of sermons †“ they were not learned through a diligent, personal involvement with the scriptures.
    WOF adherents are not the only ones to formulate doctrine in this 2nd hand manner. Most regular church goers also base their beliefs on what others have taught them instead of relying on the Holy Spirit to be their primary teacher of scriptural truth.

  40. Onesimus

    In addition to my previous comments, here are a few things I learned about faith after I was freed from WOF teaching. I hope I’ve done a reasonably job putting these thoughts into words.

    1) The following verse is perhaps the most concise definition of faith that we can get.

    [quote] Amplified Bible (AMP)

    NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].[/quote]

    Common understanding makes faith into something more like wishful thinking than a confident expectation. We need to recognise that the biblical definition of “hope relates to something in the future that is certain. Unfortunately the common understanding today also equates hope with wishful thinking (i.e. I hope the weather is good tomorrow).

    [b]Faith relates to our here and now confidence in something that is certain to happen.[/b]

    2) We can only exercise faith for something when we are absolutely convinced of its certainty. For that to be possible in the case of prayer, we need to be totally convinced that God is able to provide whatever we are asking Him for. But equally important we need to be totally convinced that what we are asking is consistent with His will. On that latter point our conviction needs to have a sound foundation. If our conviction is based on assumption rather than reality, then we will not be exercising faith.

    The most secure foundation to base our faith upon is God’s word. This is perhaps the one valuable lesson that I learned form WOF teachers. God’s word needs to be trusted above our natural senses and above our “common sense. What God says about a situation is the truth. Problems arise with this when we mistake our own interpretation of God’s word for what God has REALLY said. Too many try to base their faith on PARTS of the word (often out of context).

    3) A wrong understanding of faith can be illustrated in the following approach to healing. It is an approach that can result from WOF teaching. That is: the mistake of thinking faith for healing is being exercised merely because someone stubbornly decides not to visit a doctor or take medication. These decisions are often foolish attempts to force “faith, accompanied by periods of panic which are suppressed by “confession of the word, ( the rapid repeating of things like “By His stripes I am healed…by His stripes I am healed)

    4) Faith grows out of our relationship with God. It does not come from a parrot-like familiarity with an arsenal of bible quotes.

    God’s word is not equivalent to a Christian “spell book. The mere incantation (known as “confession in WOF circles) of bible quotes is not enough. There is no inherent power in the written words of scripture that can be released by confession. However, recitation and memorisation can help us become more familiar with scripture and can be an aid in the renewal of our minds †“ helping us to think correctly, in line with God’s way of thinking. It is through knowing God and His ways that our faith in Him develops.

    5) Faith is not an impersonal force that will work if we just “believe strongly enough. I have heard people talking about alternative medicines, saying that they only work if you have faith in them. That is a very distorted view of faith †“ thinking that the effectiveness of an impersonal chemical substance depends on whether we believe it will work or not.

    The faith we place in a person or a thing can only be as effective as the ability (and willingness) of that person or thing to produce the desired outcome. Christian faith is focused on the ability and willingness of God to act on behalf of His children.

    Faith is based on TRUTH and REASON and REALITY as it relates to God’s will for His creation. It is not an abstract wishful expectation that has power within itself.

  41. Vicki T

    Dan,
    You are speaking so much to my husband, a few friends and myself. My husband and I just left our church and a prayer house group that we were heavily involved with. We had our daughters come to us saying your never home and we are planning on adopting a baby from Nepal, so we needed to re-examine our lifes.

    We took some needed time off from our duties and realized we couldn’t adopt a baby, and be home with our teens and still be in leadership. Well needless to say it didn’t go well.. We are no longer a part of the prayer house at all and many of the friendships are gone.

    Since taking a step away from it we have seen so much wrong stuff. Stuff that we didn’t look at the bible and measure it. We took it hook line and sinker. So much that you speak on has reinforced why we had to leave the prayer house and our church.

    We were taught so much that was wrong. No humility, new moves of God, anointing, prophets, joel and the end time army, being on fire, set apart, authority and the sheparding movement, this movement that movement.

    So much I could write 20 pages of it. I know the Holy Spirit is in me, so where ever I am, he is. We have freedom in this life.

    Vicki

  42. Sulan

    I was raised Baptist, and left the church to go out and do my own thing. Came back to God in 1975, and have been fervently following Him since. When I came back I was involved in the Charismatic movement.

    Things bothered me — the one that bothered me the most was them praying a nhedge around their children, who were out sinning like crazy, so that nothing bad would happen to them.

    I was a volunteer in the Church office, and one day someone hung this on the bathroom wall. That was too much for my state of mind that day, so I tore it down and went to find who hung it there. I did.

    My question to her was, ‘If every morning you get up and pray a hedge around your child, what day will you say God, just deal with my child? What day are you going to just give God free reign in your child’s life?’ I explained the scripture they used for such, was satan telling God that He had put a hedge around Job, not a human doing it.”

    Needless to say, I endeared myself to no body. Truth or not, they had preachers to back up the craziness they wanted to believe; and I was no preacher.

    Sometimes it is only when they get out of these churches teaching error, that they see the truth. The decption of the message, that should be truth, is like arsenic being fed to you, and causes you to be unable to see Jesus and the Godhead as they really are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *