Banking on God: Theology, Part 2


The prosperity gospel. You know it. You probably despise it.

Just the thought of some loud, sweaty, Armani-wearing “preacher” telling you that sending him $100 as “seed faith” money guarantees an increase of three, ten, or even a hundredfold…No, not this guy...the OTHER prophet Joel...well, the veins start pounding in your forehead and you’re wishing you could reach into your TV and slap the guy a good one.

“God wants you rich!”

“If you can envision it, you can have it by faith!”

“If words of death come out of your mouth, you’re going to reap death. Speak words of life!”

“Why ask God for a Ford when you should be asking for a Lexus?”

“You don’t have to live with disease if you have faith in God.”

“The power of wealth creation is in your tongue, so speak out that wealth!”

“You’re a child of the King, and you’ll never see a prince or princess enjoying anything less than the best the world has to offer.”

Now I made all those up. I’ll bet, though, that at some time or other a prosperity gospel preacher said something pretty darned similar. In fact, we could almost make a game of it by coming up with outrageous claims by prosperity teachers who teach a gospel without a cross, without sin, without holiness, and without—unbelieveably enough—Jesus.

These “preachers” of prosperity sucker millions of dollars from millions of people. Naifs who fall under the spell of these slick-talking, Bible-waving, perfectly coiffed “evangelists” often come to a sad—and savings-less— conclusion. Those prosperity preachers like to call everyone “Brother ” or “Sister,” and they often go by titles like “Apostle” and “Bishop.” And sadly for the rest of us charismatics, they claim Pentecostal and Assemblies of God backgrounds.

I feel for the people taken by these manipulators. For the most part, many of the fleeced are poor to begin with. Or perhaps it’s better to think of them as the working poor, especially in America. They have jobs; they’re just not good jobs.

Consider a mom and dad who collectively bring home about $16 an hour with no decent benefits. They have a car, but it costs more to keep it running than it’s worth. Things break in their home and they can’t afford to repair them. Doctor? Who can afford one when there’s no insurance and a simple office visit costs a day’s wages (and there’s always more days at the end of the month than there are wages). Taxes keep going up. Energy keeps going up. Prices for everything are up, up, up. Yet for these folks, wages stay the same. They’re the ones getting destroyed in this recession.

And every day they see themselves sinking further and further down with no hope of recovery. Think they’re going to latch onto anyone who can give them hope of getting out of their predicament?

The two question I ask amid all this is Where are we and what hope do we give them?

And that’s a problem for us Evangelicals who gag every time we think about the prosperity gospel.

Here’s a clue for us suburban McMansion-dwellers in our newly-erected, mega-community-churches: Poor people don’t like being poor.

It stinks to be poor. When your kid needs glasses and you can’t secure a pair because you’re too “rich” for government aid yet you’re not rich enough to afford them outright…well, it stinks even more.

I live in a not-so-rich area. Many of the houses on my road aren’t houses; they’re trailers. The state of the economy is putting a terrible squeeze on these already-squeezed people. So when they start putting faith in the prosperity gospel, I’m not surprised. The real Church hasn’t given them much other hope. Billy Joe Jim Bob Preacher Boy with a Gilt-fendered Escalade was there when the real Church wasn’t.

Do we remember Acts 2 & 4?

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
—Acts 2:44-45

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
—Acts 4:34-35

I would contend that if we in the Church actually lived as those four verses describe, there wouldn’t be any need for anyone to rush to prosperity teachings for hope. But when we simply ignore those passages, especially in light of those parents who don’t know how they’re going to pay the hospital bill for their kid’s broken arm, then we’re assisting the prosperity message through our inability to live by the Bible so many of us call inerrant.

But you want to know the craziest part of all this? As bad as these prosperity preachers are, as little as they care about the cross and bearing it, they’re not wrong on everything.

Psalm 112 says this:

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor. The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish!
—Psalms 112:1-10

Well, is that true or not?

That passage embodies many of the teachings found in the prosperity gospel.

And what of this?

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
—James 5:13-18

Do we believe that or not? The scary thing is that the prosperity preachers do.

And that’s a problem for us. Because there’s little difference in the eyes of the Lord between someone who preaches the wrong kind of faith and someone who has no faith at all.

Recently, I visited a few sites where people who believed God for healing terminal diseases came under fire from commenters. That made me livid. While it may be true that the commenters were wise enough to see through the phony promises of prosperity preachers who took money from the sick in exchange for a promised healing, is that any worse than not believing for healing at all? When I read those commenters, this quote struck me:

“Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
—Mark 5:35b

Isn’t that the voice of resignation? Isn’t that the voice that says to give up? Isn’t that the voice that says to just make peace with the suffering?

Isn’t that the voice of the Enemy?

To which Jesus replies:

“Do not fear, only believe.”
—Mark 5:36b

I’m convinced that when we get right down to it, for many of us, our so-called faith is a sham. We may pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” but which of us actually lives from one day to the next dependent on God to provide that day’s food? Can’t we buy our way out of almost any trouble we encounter? Why do we need God for anything?

Sure, Christ died and with His blood secured eternity for us who believe. No, we couldn’t do that ourselves. But beyond having faith that He will take us to heaven at some future date, how well do we live in the dark moments before then?

What happens should we find ourselves on the tight loop of the downward spiral? That time when we can no longer afford medical care, even if we have insurance? What happens when we confront some expensive-to-deal-with disease. Will we have faith then that God will come to help when before we counted on our money to make it all better?

Or will it all be suffering?

Prosperity preachers don’t like suffering much. In fact they pretty much hate suffering in every form. Boo on them, because we should expect suffering in life, right?

Funny thing is, the Scriptures tell us that one of the reasons Christ came was to relieve suffering:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
—Luke 4:18-19

Isn’t our Gospel supposed to be Good News to suffering people? How then did we turn it back into being about suffering? Isn’t the Kingdom of God a Kingdom that drives out that wicked kingdom filled with suffering? I mean, if we should be content in our suffering, I guess all those sick folks and families of demon-possessed people had it all wrong when they cried out to Jesus to come and take away their suffering.

And while we’re at it, what is so wrong with speaking positive things by faith? The prosperity gospel people always talk about making a positive confession:

From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
—Proverbs 18:20-21

True or not true? Obviously, I believe it’s true. Why then do so many act as if it’s not? I’ve got to believe the world would be a better place if Christians, especially here in the States, showed their faith more effectively to the world by speaking words of life rather than so many deadly words that only drive the lost further from Christ. And even in our own lives, how many times do we condemn ourselves by the negative words we speak with regard to our own lives? If a man truly reaps what he sows, what is reaped by the negative things we say about ourselves or our neighbors?

So as much we say we despise these prosperity preachers for filling desperate people with naive hope while draining their wallets, I look at my own life and the lives of a lot of other Christians who oppose those charlatans and wonder if our faith is even visible at all.

Now which problem should concern me most?


Banking On God: Series Compendium

63 thoughts on “Banking on God: Theology, Part 2

  1. Heidi

    ‘We may pray, “Give us this day our daily bread, but which of us actually lives from one day to the next dependent on God to provide that day’s food? Can’t we buy our way out of almost any trouble we encounter? Why do we need God for anything?’

    This small phrase has come to mean so much to me that I’m troubled there’s a call to find one who lives it. I have severe sensitivities (allergies that fluctuate), and have several times reached the point where there is simply no more food I can eat. I consider it a fast, and I wait upon the Lord. Other times I have been unable to eat anything besides wild venison. Friends of friends would literally go hunting for me so that I could have something to eat the next day, and we’d pray that the Lord granted success, that I might have my “daily bread”. I’d be on my second-to last meal when a friend of a friend of a friend sends word that they have heard of my plight and have a freezer full of the food I can tolerate. These are things that we cannot buy, due to my extreme sensitivities to plastics and chemicals of every kind. It doesn’t stop with food, but spreads to the basic “necessities” of soap or something remotely soft to sleep on. Money, this world, and even friends and family cannot supply what is lacking at this point–only the Lord can. And praise Him for His wisdom in giving me only what is good in His sight!

    I’m just saying that in my life, depending on God for my daily bread is not optional, and it pains me to see that our world has given the illusion that it is so, even persuading the Christian of its charms. I cannot imagine a more beautiful portrait than that of a believer in great need, crying out to the Lord yet satisfied all the while in the goodness, providence, and sovereignty of our Savior.

    As much as my far-from-mature faith can understand, the Holy Spirit leads the believer in the prayers of faith. Sometimes I believe whole-heartedly that He will resolve the situation, not because I have chosen to do so or valiantly attempted to “have more faith”, but rather God places it firmly in my heart. And He brings it about. It was not my faith, then, or some forced effort of mine but the faith He gave to me in response to my broken plea that He would answer my specific request.

    Other times the Lord leads me only to trust Him. I have found those times to be the sweetest. I learn to be still and wait for Him, placing my hope solely in His character rather than whatever He sees fit to bring about in my circumstances. Would I not much rather trust my heavenly father to delight me with His providence at the exact hour that brings Himself the most honor? Might I rest in the comfort that He will be magnified?” The waiting only heightens my delight at being rescued.

    I enjoy mentioning that I have life more abundantly, because I do. I have experienced, in some of the darkest hours through pain so great that I could not fathom it, the grace of God transporting me to such wonder at the beauty of my Savior that all else dissolved, with the joyous thought of only Him. Yet, I have also experienced long days and sleepless nights when there is no physical relief, yet through all the dreadful agony there is the glorious knowledge that I am sharing in Christ’s sufferings. I tremble, lest I waste this opportunity to more intimately walk with my Savior.

    I still have a lot to learn, but the little He has taught me has filled me with such life! It is spiritual in nature, but God does not confine it merely to the unseen–it spills outwards into the natural world as well. What would this be, if it were not a manifestation of the gospel in my life? He must be my aim, and “all these things will be given to (me) as well”, as the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, sees fit. ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.

    • Heidi,

      You have a real trial you must face every day in an area of life that most people take for granted. It’s the taking for granted part of that equation that makes “Give us this day our daily bread” so NOT the norm for people. For you, though, it’s the difference between life and death.

      It seems to me that you must deal with the reality of faith so much more than the rest of us. Blessings.

    • Becca

      Bless you. I have a Christian friend in MO that faces a very similar health issue. She could also relate, I’m sure, to your spiritual battles. If you ever need someone to talk to, I could put you to in contact. Perhaps Dan would help us exchange email addresses.

  2. Thanks for this post. It’s refreshing to see a more or less balanced post on the Prosperity Gospel. I agree with what you said. There are lots of things wrong with the movement (and anyway, the movement is quite large and not homogeneous), but it’s wrong just to criticize the bad and not acknowledge the good. Cheers!

    • stillhaventfound,

      I don’t want this to be a balanced post on the prosperity gospel, at least on its biggest proponents. Those prosperity preachers are leading people astray and taking the money of the poor without even feeling the slightest bit guilty for it. Plus, they teach a perverted gospel without the key elements that make the Faith the Faith.

      However, as you note, we just can’t be smug about their error and toss out everything that undergirds their theology. I find that too often Evangelicals are all willing to hurl insults at prosperity teachings, yet at the same time those same people refuse to believe a lot of the in-your-face verses of Scripture that tell that God will bless and prosper—and not just spiritually.

      From just a logical, common sense perspective, isn’t the person to stays away from the vices of this world and who trusts God going to be just the slightest bit more prosperous that a peer who does not? Even the slightest? Well, of course he or she will be! If not, what does that say about the Kingdom? Would THAT be the message we want to send?

      This is no repudiation of dying to self or embracing a martyr’s death, just an acknowledgment that a person’s lot will be bettered by following God, and bettered on more than one level. Just ask the orphan in Jerusalem circa 40 AD if his life was bettered by falling in with the Christians. Just ask those people around him who once were starving and now had three squares a day because someone believed God enough to sell a house and use the proceeds to feed the indigent.

      That’s what I’m talking about!

      • Dan,

        I think there are at least two issues when it comes to Prosperity Gospel / Word of Faith teachings. One if the emphasis on health/wealth and the other is the emphasis on faith. And the former is received through the latter.

        One strong point about the movement is the desire to take Scripture as it is – especially as it relates to faith. It’s so clear that faith is important in Scriptures and has an important role to play in healing as Jesus mentioned so many times. Yet I’ve heard many non-charismatics who would argue that, or at least act as if, faith has no role whatsoever. To me, it’s an over-reaction to the excesses of the WoF/PG movement, even as the WoF/PG movement over-reacted to Christians who acted fatalistic in a sense.

        Let me quote Steve Brown:

        “For so long I had taught about the dangers of presumption in prosperity theology that when we started suggesting that God might not always say no, it took some convincing. In my overreaction to those who assume that God will jump to our command, I found I had created a stoic congregation of Christians who decided that there was no use in asking anyway”

        “They are wrong and sometimes presumptuous. But the truth is that our glass house should prevent us from throwing too many stones. My own Reformed and Presbyterian family does it wrong too. We are so sure that God has stopped speaking and has quit acting in supernatural ways, that our prayers are often limp. We become Christian stoics and don’t believe that God answers any prayers. The faith movement folks believe that he answers all of them. God probably blushes because of both of us.”

        I’ll also quote from Charles Spurgeon, one of the many which I quoted in an article I wrote here . I think many people would, at first reading, think it’s from a WoF/PG teacher:

        “The promise which our Lord made to those who seek favors in prayer runs thus : “…Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them (Mark 11:24). This sound strange but it is true. It is according to the philosophy of faith. Say, by a realizing faith, “this promise is mine, and straight away it is yours. It is by faith that we receive promises and not by sight and sense. ”

        I’d just like to say that while I acknowledge many lives have been destroyed by the movement, I think we also have to acknowledge that many lives have been really blessed by it too. I hear people quoting everywhere awful testimonies about how people have suffered through the movement and all. But I never read the critics also showing the other side of the story.

        Lastly, I think it’s wrong to say that all WoF/PG churches focus on taking money from Christians. Sure, I don’t like these people flying in planes and all and I will never give to them. But there are many within the movement who are not as extreme as some of the more prominent ones. I learnt recently that Kenneth Hagin wrote a book just before he died regarding the excesses of the movement and I don’t think it was received that well by the “younger” leaders. So as in any movement, there is diversity.

        I go to a Church that would consider itself part of the WoF/PG. I don’t agree with everything and if it was a bit like those WoF/PG churches we so often hear about, I wouldn’t attend it. The focus of the church is not on money or material prosperity, but in fact on Jesus and it preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ much more faithfully and clearly and beautifully than any other Church I have been to. But I know my church is unique in this respect. But I also know at least one other leader within the WoF/PG movement that is not focused on money. I’m sure there are many others that I don’t know that are not like the stereotypes most of us have in mind. My point is that there is great diversity within the movement.

        • stillhaventfound,

          I wish I could put a gold frame around that Steve Brown comment and preserve it for all eternity. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

          I know a couple who were part of a Bible study at their hardcore Calvinist church and it just killed them how resigned everyone in that group was to “fate.” They saw that in the entire church, and it was a prosperous, important congregation in that area. What Brown describes is exactly what they experienced. Sure, you prayed, but it’s not as if fate could be avoided. You got cancer? Well, you muddled through with some prayers and then you’d kick off. Oh well.

          God help us if that’s what the church has come down to. Especially in those churches that are heavily predeterministic, it’s almost a Christianized nihilism.

  3. ianmcn

    Superb post Dan. It is so refreshing to read something on the prosperity gospel that is balanced and biblical. It has annoyed me for a long time how polarised people become on the issue, it only hinders the progress of a true biblical teaching and practise on the issue.

    I heard Mark Driscoll preach on suffering recently, and he paraphrased the verse you cite from James, but instead of saying “…he will get well…”, he said “…he might get well…” with an emphasis on the “might”. It really wound me up, saying it like that may be more palatable and easier to accept, but the simple fact is – it doesn’t say that! As Westerners we have a lot to learn in the realm of faith, some of which we may even learn from the “faith heretics”!

    • ianmcn,

      I think that the prosperity preachers are leading a lot of people astray. On the other hand, not everything they say is 100 percent wrong.

      Like everything, we need to discern truth from error.

      The Driscoll thing bugs me because I like his aggressive stance on a lot of tough issues. That he backs down on this one is troubling, even worse that he dilutes Scripture to avoid dealing with the reality of that passage.

      (See also my response to stillhaventfound.)

  4. Diane Roberts

    Well, let’s see, where do I start without this being a blog post within itself. As someone who has been – I guess you can say -in the Word of Faith Movement for 28 years (8 years in 4 WOF churches)–sort of, I can pretty well tell people what these guys really believe and why.

    First of all, we really need to separate the real teachers from the fake. Joel Osteen is NOT a WOFT anymore. Neither is Paula White. IMO they have both sold out. Benny Hinn has his own theology..LOL.

    So, let’s deal with Hagin and his disciples, primarily Copeland and Price. According to Lee Grady’s recent editorial, Hagin was very upset about how his disciples were presenting his teaching. And having read his magnificent book, “The Midas Touch,” Hagin isn’t what you would have called a “prosperity teacher.”

    So, now on to Copeland an Price and some others. They base their teaching on the convenant we have with God through His meditorial work at the cross. So both healing and prosperity is based on this in their eyes. The problem with the prosperity part is some of the WOFT’s insistence on it’s being for individuals instead of what (I think) II Cor. 8 and 9 is really saying..and that is for a group (the church), that is suppsoed to then see to it that it’s members are taken care of. And that is where it has fallen down here in this country as Dan, you have pointed out many times.

    Part of the prosperity message is excellent. I really didn’t have a heart for the poor until I listend to Copeland and Savelle because of their strong insistence for us to believe for extra money to help those in need as well as giving to the church and missions.

    So, beofre this goes on ad infitem, I will stop….:)

  5. Travis Seitler

    “We may pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ but which of us actually lives from one day to the next dependent on God to provide that day’s food? Can’t we buy our way out of almost any trouble we encounter? Why do we need God for anything?”

    Dan, since reading that I’m almost completely convicted to close my credit card account ASAP. I can’t buy my way out of almost any trouble if I don’t have an instant line of credit to tap into…

      • Travis Seitler

        So far I haven’t needed to… it’s repairing the car I own that’s the primary reason for keeping the card. 😉

        One of the things that bugs me about comparing “us” with a 3rd-world “them” is that Standard of Living carries over into expectations on the job, too. My job requires a certain level of wardrobe (and the ability to keep that wardrobe clean) which I would happily set aside otherwise. My office’s location basically demands I have a car. My state government requires that car be insured, and inspected annually. My landlord requires I keep the thermostat set to his determined minimum and keep the refrigerator running. My state’s approach to schooling demands a large sum of Property Tax money from my landlord, which he passes along to me every month.

        Really, the majority of my expenses are required of me (in some way, shape or form) by some authority or another. So I’d miss central air conditioning, but other than that I can’t be so sure I’d do so poorly in central Africa.

        • Travis,

          When a whole chicken here costs $8 and a whole chicken there costs $0.10, guess what? I can’t compete cost-of-living-wise. That explains the whole outsourcing thing and why our country is in trouble.

          • When a call center operator here is paid about $19,000 a year, and a call center operator in India is paid about $3,000 a year, I cannot imagine how hiring an American for $16,000 more per year could add enough value to the bottom line of the average multinational corporation to justify the expense. The only benefit an American operator has over an Indian operator is that Americans often can tell when they are speaking to Americans, even if the Indians undergo accent training.

        • Travis Seitler


          Exactly. And why does that chicken cost us $8? Some of the factors include:

          – FDA Regulations, which cost farmers (and the huge corporations they sell their stock to) much moolah to adhere to;
          – Federal “alternative energy” initiatives promoting ethanol use, which makes feed corn scarce, which makes it more expensive, which makes the animals raised on it more expensive;
          – Federal, state, and local (property) taxes levied against farmers.

          When you’re paying everybody else’s taxes, it gets expensive real quick.

  6. Dan,
    First, let me congratulate you on your skill as a writer. I loved the movement in this post from one perspective to another, and the comparison and contrast that comes into focus as a result. Well done!

    Let me also say amen to the theological analysis threaded through. Faith has always been and will always be THE factor that God has been trying to distill in the human race. Yes, love is the quality above all others, but everything depends on our willingness to trust God and follow his lead. That depends on faith. What I have always appreciated most about WOF and prosperity folk is that at least they were willing to put faith on the line and believe, for miracles, for intervention, for God to show up and be real! Who cares about jots and tittles of orthodoxy if the end result is perfect theology and an impotent God locked behind the veil until the world ends?

    It seems to me, anything biblical yanked from it’s anchor in God, mixed with human weakness and desire, and stirred into an elixir of religious practice can produce the chrism that baptizes the abominable, and give us the likes of Copeland, Rev. Ike, or even Jim Jones. The devil will have had his way if the likes of them causes the rest of us to stop believing that God is alive, active, attentive, ready to intervene and trustworthy.

    Enjoyed the post!

    • slw,

      Thanks for the comment on the writing. In truth, this was a highly cobbled-together post. I kept on finding things to say and no place to fit them without ruining the flow. So your comment is almost ironic considering that background of the post!

      God’s great question is “Do you have faith in me?” That’s the dividing line.

    • Dan, I appreciate your post because it confronts the issue of what the scriptural text actually says. Throughout my writing, I read over and over again criticisms of “prosperity preachers” that do not contain any scriptural analysis whatsoever.

      The error, as I see it generally in present prosperity preaching (and I’m considered a Word guy) is the connection between giving and faith. The present generation of prosperity preachers preach that you give in order to receive. Consequently, well-meaning believers are going to send in money (and a lot of it) after hearing that.

      The NT, however, demonstrates to us that Jesus accomplished everything pertaining to redemption and that we, as saints, have already been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. Consequently, our giving to support the Body and spread the Gospel is an outward expression of faith rather than a spiritual transaction (e.g. Noah built the ark because of what he believed, not in order to bring on the rain).

      As Diane writes in an earlier comment, there is a canyon of difference between the original Word of Faith preachers and today’s generation. Frankly, the old guys were much more about scripture than what we see today.

      • Peter,

        People on all sides of this wring their hands without ever getting to the core of this issue:

        Does God bless faithful people more than He does unfaithful? Does He answer the prayers of those who do not give up more than the prayers of those who do? Does He still heal and prosper? Does God bless people richly this side of heaven?

        I believe the answer to all those questions is YES.

        As for the difference between the old and new WoF preachers, I still have trepidations about the origins of some older teachings, especially those that can be traced back to Wm. Branham. I have no reason to believe anything that comes from an anti-Trinitarian position.

        • Just a note on Branham – I don’t know that he’s ever been identified as a Word of Faith preacher. He was a Pentecostal who did operate in several spiritual gifts – word of knowledge, gifts of healings, etc.

          Personally, I am not aware of any Word preacher that uses Branham’s teaching materials.

  7. Holly

    “I mean, if we should be content in our suffering, I guess all those sick folks and families of demon-possessed people had it all wrong when they cried out to Jesus to come and take away their suffering.”

    Dan — I never thought about it like that. I have a sweet friend in her late 30’s whose battle with cancer is nearing the end; she will leave behind 2 children and a doting husband. At the prime of her life she must now be swallowed up in death. My dear grandmother just passed away from cancer after a valiant struggle — she still had many, many viable years left. She left behind my two children who dearly miss their great-grandma every day of their lives. My mother has been suffering from severe autoimmune disease for ten years and the cost to her health has been absolutely tremendous.

    All of these have been earnestly prayed for, consistently and faithfully — none of them received healing. They have all been “taken to Jesus” through steadfast intercession. They have been prayed for out of the deepest utterances of the heart. None of us who prayed have doubted His power — “all things are possible to him who believes” — well, we believed. We knew He could bring about healing, if He were willing. In the Gospel accounts, those who were taken to Jesus received healing. But more often than not, that doesn’t happen today.

    In our church (of the Reformed tradition), it is taught that suffering is part of this fallen world, it serves to make us long more for heaven, and we accept with joy God’s decision to heal or not to heal. I know He is sovereign, He does as He pleases — His decisions are always right and just. He can never be accused of wrongdoing; He is perfect in all His judgments. I agree with our church’s position on this — it seems a very faithful representation of His character.

    But still, I wonder: why is it today so different than it was when Jesus walked this dusty earth? He was always so willing to heal — even when people told blind Bartimaus to be quiet, Jesus sought him out and willingly healed him. Why not today? Why is cancer still killing people even after so much earnest and believing prayer? God could receive so much glory from healing these desperate cases — like my friend who is dying and suffering so much. But He is silent. Why?

    I know suffering is what we are called to — there is no glory without the cross first. ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.’ In this life we suffer much, but in heaven, all the old pains and evils will be forever gone.

    And yet — why is the picture so vastly different in these last days than when Jesus was actively and physically here? Why does it seem dramatic healings are so rare? You asked Dan why so many in the church have such an air of resignation when dealing with serious illness. Is it because healings are so few and far between, that when someone is diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer — the assumption is that healing most likely won’t occur. Therefore, we ought to just pray for the person to suffer well and to bring God glory by how they bear up under their trial. For all of us, it is paramount that we learn how to both suffer well and to die well. At least, that’s my understanding… But I still wonder; Why?

    • Holly,

      I mentioned in a previous comment that some friends of mine in a Reformed church were struck by the resignation they saw in the lives of people in their church. I pray that’s not the case in yours.

      I was part of a Reformed church that was charismatic (before that was popular in the Sovereign Grace churches). That church was filled with hope all the time, and not just for the distant future, but for the present. People did get healed and desperate situations were reversed miraculously.

      I’m part of a Pentecostal church today and we’ve seen a lot of miraculous healings and reversals of fortune that are clearly supernatural.

      It all comes down to whether we are willing to believe God for them.

      No doubt, every human being suffers to some extent. But I don’t believe that heap of suffering is always meant to be permanent or a full-sized heap.

      The great people of faith never gave up. Hannah was barren, yet she never stopped praying for a child. I fear that too many Christian counselors today would have counseled Hannah to make peace with her barrenness. Truth was, she did the opposite and she was rewarded for her faith. Not only that, but her son grew up to lead Israel.

      To everything there is a season. And suffering may very well be for a little while and not forever. But if we believe it will be for as long as we draw breath, where’s the faith in that?

      • Don Fields


        You said, “It all comes down to whether we are willing to believe God for them.”

        I want to clearly understand what you are saying here. So I will ask a few questions.

        Is faith the ONLY qualifier? Those who lack faith won’t be healed, but those who have faith will be healed? If faith isn’t the only qualifier, what other qualifier’s are there?

        Truly seeking to understand your position on this. Thanks!

        • Don,

          The question of qualifiers is a good one. I don’t have a perfect answer except to say that anyone who wants a miracle better be right with God as much as is possible. This is not to say that God withholds favor from people who are screwing up, but my own experience in life is that the screw-ups may get blessed initially, but they can’t handle that blessing over time. It winds up backfiring on them.

          What’s your take on this?

      • The apostle of my home fellowship has cast demons out of many, laid hands on the sick, and they have recovered (Mark 16:17-18 KJV). He has seen people healed. Now he suffers from cancer, and if not healed, he will die soon. If anyone I know should have faith for healing, then this man should. But he has not been healed.

  8. LMR

    Dan, great post.

    Here’s the thing:
    I don’t think the majority of prosperity preachers really believe God at all. If they did, they wouldn’t be MANIPULATING people.
    That isn’t faith.
    Faith would be saying, “God, I’m going to preach the truth and believe You to provide for me.”
    But they don’t really live that way. They preach pie in the sky and/or brow-beat their congregants into giving.
    They don’t care about people at all.
    They care about heaping money onto themselves and living the high life. Don’t be fooled. It isn’t about Jesus at all.

    • LMR,

      I think that a lot of these prosperity preachers started off right, but then got off the path, especially as God blessed them with good fortune. They didn’t handle that blessing correctly, didn’t see it as they should have. Now that blessing may very well destroy them.

      The scary truth is that none of us is immune to their mistake. We can all be seduced if we’re not wary and if fail to stay closer to the Lord than to the blessing.

  9. A Pastor


    Signs and wonders, including healing were part of the public testimony to the deity of Christ and an affirmation of the apostles ministry.
    Remember too, that even though Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethsaida, He stepped over dozens more people to get to Him.
    I believe in the power of prayer, but I know that His will is good and unchangeable.
    Most of these questions will remain unanswered till we get home, but we trust in His sovereignty and love.

  10. Dan,

    Enjoyed the post, as always I like your perspective on things, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

    As I read through the post and most of the comments I couldn’t help but think of 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul’s thorn. He prayed to God three times to remove the thorn, but it was not taken from his side. I have no doubts that God still performs miracles, and I have faith that he will continue to do so in my life. We are told that if we have faith like the mustard seed, we can say to the mountain . . . that doesn’t mean I follow these people. I know my theology, the church fathers, and know when something just isn’t right.

    And, though I won’t mention any of them by name, these WoF/PG people generally focus on one thing for a while, run it dry; find something else, run it dry; the cycle continues. The money thing isn’t bringing the people in like it was last year, let’s throw em’ the health thing for a while. And, when that well runs out they dig another one. Though, with your points, they do at times have a dynamic message and people flock to them. Knowing what I know about the Christian faith I have keeps me from listening too much to any one of them.

    I find that I have to do more damage control with friends and family members that attend these “conferences” with the P/Gs. Many of them have no idea of the bad theology or complete misrepresentation of the Bible some have. There are those that are non-Trinitarians and can pack thousands of “evangelical” Christians into an arena; a thought that scares me half to death.

    At any rate, found the article a good read, keep up the good work “brother”.

    • Aaron,

      I was just thinking about you and Tina the other day! Glad to hear from you.

      You’re right, American Christianity is faddish enough, but the prosperity people take it one step further. And you’re also right on the damage control thing. It’s tough on family who find another member in the grips of a prosperity preacher. And yeah, the Oneness/anti-Trinity folks are especially scary. It’s amazing to me how many “orthodox” Christians are willing to overlook that issue when they praise a Oneness prosperity preacher.

  11. Leta


    I have no answers for you, only many of the same questions. I am truly sorry for your losses. I expect that these words will be of little comfort to you, but I could not just offer nothing at all, as your comment really resonated with me.

  12. David Riggins

    I’ve wondered about the whole healing thing. Having been in places where people didn’t know any better, I’ve seen some pretty amazing things. But I’ve also seen angels suffering, and wondered about the contrast.

    God heals and provides for us for 2 reasons: To glorify His name, and because He loves us.

    Paul said we do not receive because we do not ask, and when we ask, we ask for the wrong reasons.

    In most churches, I think the former problem is the major one: We simply do not ask with a convinced heart. That “resignation” with which we profess to “believe” it could happen, but probably won’t, is our downfall. We have become too resigned, I think, and then when miracles do happen, it’s often too easy to slip a “yes but” in, because there were doctors, after all, who God gave “wisdom” to, and our medical system, which is still the best in the world, and then of course thank God for all those people who gave out of their pockets, so it’s not like it was God who sent a check…

    We doubt in our belief, not because miracles don’t happen, but because miracles are so easily explained away into the commonplace.

    Then there is asking for the wrong motives. God loves us, and desires the best for us. But how many of us believe that the best thing for us is to remain in the job we hate, in the house that’s too small, in the poor neighborhood, with the 17 year old car with the torn seats and oxidized paint? It’s not so much a question of God saying no, as much as why we are praying for some things in the first place. How many of us put our desires in front of God’s glory, and then have the gall to pray for it?

    How many prophets believed that being sawn in two was the best thing for them? Did Elijah think that getting a death sentence from Jezebel was the best thing for him? Apparently not, because he ran for it. This on the same day God sent fire from heaven at his prayer. It seems to me that Elijah had a slight shift in priorities, and not for the better.

    The bible is a textbook of human failure and divine success. We are surrounded by clouds of witnesses, and we have so much to learn, not from their successes, but how God turned their failures into His glory.

    • David,

      The old hymns says to “take it to the Lord in prayer,” yet so often we just resign ourselves to the suffering. We should never give up.

      I think ingratitude explains much of why we do not see more miracles. We take the ones we’ve seen for granted. I posted that R. A. Torrey piece a couple weeks ago on thankfulness and its link to major answers to prayer, and I think Torrey is right.

  13. Holly

    Your comment about Hannah is such a great one! Yes, I do think nowadays she would have been counseled to make peace with her predicament. Yet, she didn’t give up, and God rewarded her persistence. “Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking” — and He says the door *will* be opened. It reminds me of the James 5 passage where James explicitly says that if anyone is sick, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. Like another commenter said, the passage says “will.” Perhaps the key is persistence in pleading with God for healing, and never giving up imploring Him until the day the person dies. Perhaps that is a prayer more in keeping with true faith. Most of my prayers for those who are sick around me have consisted of praying the person would give God glory as they endure this suffering, and that the person would endure to the end and not miss heaven. I do ask for the Lord to heal them, but especially as the person becomes sicker and sicker – not so much anymore.

    Our church is a good one, it is Reformed, and I know you said many of those churches have a fatalistic view towards this kind of thing, and I can’t say I really can speak to that or not, because I don’t know exactly what they think. But everything I’ve seen from our church has been one of deep compassion and love for those who are hurting. They’ve been praying for my friend dying of cancer for months, though none of them even know her personally. I am sure they likely pray for her healing — I think they just recognize He is the Lord and He will do what is right and we are to accept His will, whatever that may be. And, whatever befalls us, we must accept it with joy. And if we don’t have joy, we must *fight* for joy, as John Piper continually exhorts.

    Thanks so much for your kind words. It was so heartening to know you resonated with my family’s recent experiences. Sometimes it’s just so helpful to know others can relate — even if the questions still remain unanswered. Thank you.

    “In most churches, I think the former problem is the major one: We simply do not ask with a convinced heart. That “resignation with which we profess to “believe it could happen, but probably won’t, is our downfall.”

    Sadly, I think this might be true of me and so many others. “Lord, I believe — help my unbelief” — yet, Jesus still healed in that situation, too, even though the man admitted not having perfect faith – even an “unbelieving faith.” Which brings one back to the age-old question: How *much* faith is needed for God to act? If He demands perfect faith without any unbelief mixed in — I don’t know if I or anyone I know (without maybe the exception of a WOF friend) will ever have acceptable faith in His eyes.

    You also said sometimes our problem is that we don’t recognize a hard situation as actually being from His hand. I do agree. My mother, suffering 10 years with a severe illness, has often remarked openly that before she became sick, she was a worldly, materialistic Christian. But since she was afflicted, she has *totally* lost her desire for the empty things of this world and instead, now lives each day with a deep and fervent desire for God and a longing to see Him face-to-face. Would she have become that way apart from becoming so ill? I don’t know — but her devotion to the Lord did come about from her illness. What seemed to be a curse really was, in some regards, an unexpected blessing to her walk with God.

    • Holly,

      The Reformed churches that struggle with that issue have a concrete position on God’s sovereignty that seems to make it impossible to “move” Him. It’s as if the conversation between Abraham and God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah isn’t in the Bible. The question comes down to this: Do our prayers move God to act in a “different” direction? That’s the sticking issue, I think. That’s where the fatalism comes in, when we believe that nothing can be done to change what appears to be inevitable.

      Piper’s right. We must fight for joy and not give in to thinking that nothing can change or that the course is set and God will not intervene to cause a different outcome because of our prayers.

  14. ianmcn

    Regarding the almost fatalistic take on God’s sovereignty that many reformed churches hold to – what gets me about that if diagnosed with a potentially terminal condition, the vast majority of them will seek medical attention without a second thought! How hypocritical is that?! Surely if there was no possible way we could alter our “fate”, there would be no point seeing a doctor or taking medication?

    • ianmcn,

      It will be very strange for those folks who find themselves unable to afford healthcare any longer, instead having to “resort” to God for healing.

      The future will be different, won’t it?

      • My former pastor ministered to a church in the country without family health insurance for some time. He was very concerned about this. During that same time when they were not covered, they never had an emergency. The very day coverage began, his youngest son fell out of a tree and broke his arm.

        • Michael, et al.,

          The healthcare issue is scary. Really scary.

          In reality, the Church should be right there in the middle of this issue, but instead it sits on the sidelines. Historians have said that one of the major practical reasons the Church grew like mad in ancient Rome was that the Christians cared for the sick that the Romans otherwise left to die. When those people recovered, they gave their lives to Christ!

          We carry a private healthcare policy. It’s a major drain on our finances. The problem is that a family that lets its health insurance lapse is virtually assured of not being able to get it in the future. you;ve got to show an unbroken string of coverage. My doctor told me that he’s seeing patients who cannot get health insurance even if they want it, not because of major issues like diabetes and cancer, but even reasonable and common illnesses that are not costly to treat. Have you had repeat episodes with eczema? The insurance companies might deny you altogether for something as simple as that. One too many sinus infections? Allergy shots?

          We have a very good company, but we did not even attempt to cover our allergy issues simply because trying to put off other insurance companies we tried. I was stunned.

          With conventional wisdom, though, what do you do when a trip to the doctor for something simple costs $800 for a 15 minute appointment? That’s insanity, right there. We’re not prepared for a meltdown in this area, but the Baby Boomers are facing it even as we speak. Something’s got to change and the Church needs to be spearheading that change. Sadly, too many Evangelical churches look at getting involved as “social gospel” and they’ll have no part of it.

          For shame!

          • Dan wrote:
            Sadly, too many Evangelical churches look at getting involved as “social gospel and they’ll have no part of it.

            My friend’s sons were vaccinated at a Catholic hospital’s free mobile clinic parked at two evangelical churches. No preaching, no Gospel tracts, no invitation to come to church on Sunday accompanied free health care.

            We visited both churches at other times. Both preach the Gospel on Sunday. One was brainstorming ways to reach out of the community. The other has many outreaches. I was glad my friend’s sons receive free vaccinations, but the Gospel? There was no Gospel at the free clinic.

            That is the “social gospel,” an easy trap to fall in, to think time and money spent giving away services serves God. One can, therefore, dispense with the “foolishness” of “the preaching of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18 KJV).

            Something’s got to change and the Church needs to be spearheading that change.

            The average American wants gold-plated, Rolls Royce coverage, not triage care and prayers the early Church and Mother Teresa provided. My friend’s oldest son is a talented musician with hearing loss in one ear. She had a hard time applying for “coverage” from yet another free clinic. The ear specialist comes once a month. He said surgery might help her son, but the clinic does not have the resources to cover surgery.

            Do we want doctors and nurses to be on-call slaves with no nights or weekends off and no vacation days? Should pharmacies be quarter-slot candy machines? Should anyone in the health care industry earn higher than a middle class living?

            Preaching the virtues of free market economics is cold comfort when faced with an $800 bill for a 15-minute appointment, especially when you, Dan, attempt to live a frugal lifestyle. You may think it is insanity, but receptionists, nurses, labs, landlords, and government do not want pay cuts so the doctor can cut you a break, even if at his own personal expense.

            Most churches would be bankrupted paying for health care of some of their neediest. We can ask health care providers for some slack, but without divine intervention, such as faith healing and the multiplication of loaves and fish, someone somewhere will be left holding the bag, and no amount of thank yous will alleviate the fact that those people are holding the bag.

  15. Troy

    Excellent post, Dan, and excellent comments from all. I am a long time reader, but couldn’t let this one by without a “well done”! You wonderfully expressed what I have been struggling with. Just knowing that there are others, mature in their faith, that are also working out this topic is a big help.

  16. I suppose the ends to which the Church should be working on this matter are as follows: While we should have all things in common as the book of Acts sets forth, those with medical problems will need to be (a) taken into our midst to be given basic, but not extraordinary, medical care; and (b) anything above basic medical care will need to be addressed by faith alone, not with money. James taught to give to him who is naked and destitute of daily food (James 2:15), but that the sick should call on the elders of the church to be healed (James 5:14). I do not think the two issues can coincide otherwise.

    Why? Because there is not enough money in the world to provide the earthly health care all people require. If we provide all medical care at market rates, our church coffers soon will be depleted. If we push for more and more health care at lower-than-market rates (whether by social or governmental pressure), fewer people will enter and remain in the health care industry, fewer new drugs and treatments will be invented, etc.

    I do not see any other way to provide health care for large numbers of people in the Church. Even if it were a matter of money, the money we would need would have to be provided miraculously, because most of us, if we are insured, have trouble paying our own family’s medical bills, much less the medical bills of other families.

  17. Cheryl


    Your comment to Don about “qualifers” is one I agree with. I come from deep pentecostalism, pastor influenced by Branham and David Wilkerson. While I no longer attend because of shepherding excesses I have seen genuine demonic deliverance…. once by a powerful liberian evangelist. There is another powerful evangelist named Kent Christmas
    who has strong prophetic gifting who I heard say once “don’t expect God to do alot of great things in your life if your watching alot of television.” That’s all it took for me. My clothing changed,no more womens magazines most are soft porn,romance novels, speaking the truth …” swears to his own hurt and does not change.” etc. I love Psalm 15.
    While I like my reformed church my life is quite different I think than many. I have been a christian for 30 years though so I hope I am growing in sanctification.
    I guess I wonder sometimes though,am I a legalist or a moralist and I think no,I obey out of love and obdience not because of what He will do for me. He does what He wants. Besides I could never obey without His Holy Spirit residing in me anyway. It’s impossible. Borrowing pain from the future as a result of sin is also a motivator.

  18. Cheryl

    PS I presently have stirred up a hornets nest at work involving sexism,amazing how most of my co-workers lie and deny that certain things and acts were done. I don’t know what to say,how they look at themselves in the mirror I don’t know. It’s hard.

  19. Dave Block

    I believe that God still heals physical problems through the faith and prayers of others. But I read a very convincing commentary on the James 5 passage, and looking at the Greek, at context, and at other uses of the key words, it’s clear that the sickness being healed is the emotional/spiritual side of suffering, not a physical illness.

    • Dave,

      I’d like to know the source of that commentary!

      Don’t succumb to the “spiritualizing” of James 5. Do a word search on astheneo, the root Greek word there in v14. It occurs 35 times in the NT and ALWAYS in the Gospels in the context of bodily sickness and disease. Elsewhere, it is sometimes used to portray general enfeeblement or weakness, but to claim that it’s “clear” that James is only about emotional healing or spiritual healing is an ENORMOUS stretch that ignores the majority use of that word in context.

      In fact, one can push the case that the word astheneo encompasses all the ways in which we humans are reduced to being less than whole. That would absolutely include physical illness unless the commenter wishes to insist that the child with a 104 degree fever is still whole.

      Worse, the word egeiro used as “to raise up” means to physically get up and go, as if from a sickbed. If anything, that argues against the emotional/spiritual idea. We don’t think of people with emotional or spiritual weakness as being confined to bed, do we?

      Lastly, when you look at the sole combined use of astheneo and egeiro when their occur in a single verse (Matt 10:8), the context is physical sickness and the dead being raised up.

      The variety of commentaries I looked at all contrasted the idea of suffering/affliction in the paragraph before the one in dispute in James with real physical illness noted in the verses in question. I think that even more makes the case that James is talking about a genuine illness of the body and not the mind/soul/spirit.

      Like I said, I like to know what commentary that is!

  20. Dave Block


    It’s Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, edited by Walter A. Elwell, Baker Book House. I’ll try to take another look at it tonight and see how it matches up with the points you’ve raised.

    Our elders are going to visit and pray over a friend of my wife who suddenly has been diagnosed with cancer that has spread to many places in her body. Given your view of this passage, if she isn’t healed, we should conclude it’s because the elders lacked faith, right?

    Given your view of this passage, you must disagree with the idea that in some cases it’s God’s will to allow physical affliction to continue, and that the prayers of elders would not change that, right?

    You’ve mentioned healings that have taken place at your church. I don’t doubt that they’ve taken place and that they’re miraculous rather than the power of suggestion or positive thinking. Given your view of this passage, healing happens every single time your elders pray in faith, right?

    If this were a Proverb, I could more easily accept your understanding of the passage because — correct me if I’m wrong — Proverbs are generally true, but not necessarily 100% of the time, not when other spiritual principles supersede them.

    Again, I believe that God uses prayers spoken in faith to heal others. I just don’t think it’s an “on demand” power, but rather something God does when it’s according to His will.

    • Dave,

      Here are the factors, as I see them, that color the outcome of whether someone is healed or not:

      1. Carl Sagan once wrote a book called The Demon-Haunted World wherein he debunked supernaturalistic answers to life’s problems. That highly rational approach to life PLAGUES the Western world. We’ve made it nigh unto impossible to move beyond our dependence on science to explain everything that happens. For that reason Westerners suffer from a scientific version of what we saw of the faithless denizens of Jesus’ hometown who said, “Isn’t that Jesus, the carpenter’s son?” And if that’s how we think, the number of miracles we’re going to see will, by nature of our unbelief, be diminished. I think that explains most of those cases where no healing comes. That is our fault. It is also the fault of the age. It’s something all of us have been marinated in since day one, so it’s remarkably hard to purge. It’s also why the West is not seeing revival anymore, but the more “demon-haunted” East is.

      2. James says, “The prayer of Faith.” What is faith? How is it practically expressed. As I’ve noted in the series I’m in, how many of us truly live by Give us this day our daily bread? If we’re not used to living there, we won’t see as many products of faith. We’ll manufacturer most of our solutions out of the flesh.

      3. “On demand power” is a tricky issue. I believe that God is coherent in Himself and in His word. If He says that He imbues His people with His power so that they can accomplish His will, then there is no reason to believe that the power is NOT “on demand.” As the Bible says, the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets. When we see healings in the Bible, the one used for healing is surprised by the healing that operates through them. When Peter confronted the cripple at the gate and told the man he had no gold, but could instead give him something better, I don’t think that Peter walked away from that healing saying, “Wow! I can’t believe that actually worked!” Again, that’s our problem. We don’t understand what God has given us through His indwelling, so subsequently, we put no faith in its working. Jesus said that the one who speaks to the mountain and does not doubt will see it cast into the sea. That sounds like on-demand power to me.

      4. Ours is not a culture that thinks faith first and everything else second. We always place faith second. “Well, we’ve tried everything else. I guess all we can do is pray!” That’s our thinking. That’s not faith, though. The truly faithful place faith first and everything else second. Only that is real faith. That is why real faith in America is largely a vapor rather than a solid reality.

      5. Does God use illness as a corrective or to show His glory? Yes, He does. But He also very clearly shows that sickness and disease are NOT part of His Kingdom. They are aberrant states of being. In nearly every case in the Bible, sickness is used to show how God overcomes it. Christ came to initiate a Kingdom that reduced (now) and eliminated (later) suffering, NOT to make peace with it. Just as God used pagan nations to correct a wayward Israel, he can use suffering to get us to wake up to our real condition. But again, as I read the Bible, suffering is to be overcome, not tolerated.

      I’ll leave with this highly informative passage:

      And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
      —Mark 9:17-24

      Jesus was amazed that the father of the boy tossed back the “If you can” comment. That was nothing but unbelief. Yet isn’t that how so many of us live? Well, we can’t live like that too much longer, especially if all of our man-made props start falling apart.

    • Dave Block

      My apologies, I got my commentaries mixed up. The one I read was The Bible Knowledge Commentary, edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary.

  21. Mike

    Thanks for posting this. I can’t say that I am totally in the Wof camp although I was raised in a WoF background. In my 20’s I began to seriously inquire into what I really believed and what I found to be true from the Bible. I went on the quest for the “correct” way and to some extent I am still on it in my 30’s. I didn’t care what denomination someone came from or what theology they had as long as I could see that it lined up with the Bible. I don’t have any agenda to prove a certain theology.
    At first I was shocked to find that people claimed that WoF folks were “heretics”. I was raised in the “old school” WoF teachings, primarily Hagin. I don’t pretend to know what the “new school” preaches. The criticisms that I would read on something Hagin supposedly said or wrote were nearly always twisted so far out of context I would have to laugh. As someone else said, I never saw much in the way of backing criticisms with scriptural references. I never saw critics give an alternate interpretation of some of the “in-your-face” scriptures like James 5:13-18 or Psalm 91 besides the “spiritual healing” explanation as you mentioned. Critics would say that you can’t build a theology on a handful of verses but yet they seemed to build plenty from Paul’s thorn. When I read the Gospels I see Jesus constantly mentioning the amount or quantity of someone’s faith. I can’t believe this is not important. Then there are the 7 verses of “your faith has….” which is a rather large thing to go unnoticed.
    A little off subject but, I have seen the gifts in operation in WoF folks. Once I was at a terrible spot in my life. A long relationship had come to an end and I was considering quitting my job. I don’t think anyone knew these things besides possibly my mother. I spent nearly a whole day in prayer one day begging God to just show me that He was there. That evening I got a phone call. This pastor asked me to breakfast. I accepted and the next day he told me the Lord had spoken to him and told him I was thinking about quitting my job and to tell me not too. My mouth dropped. I said, “Wow! That is exactly right! I’ve been praying about that” He didn’t seem to think that this was unusual and went on talking about other things. The Lord answered two prayers in one there. Is this not a gift in operation?
    I have known a few older non-famous WoF preachers very well. They live some of the most fruitful, holy, Christian lives that I have seen. There are no mansions or Mercedes in their backyards and they don’t seem to be seeking those things. One of these folks told me they were at a conference with Hagin and some of the “new school”. Hagin overheard a conversation about cars, jets, mansions or something like that. This person said that Hagin hung his head down and said something like, “They have totally missed it”. It has been a long time since I have read Hagin or listened to him. As I understood it, the main emphasis of his prosperity teaching was as a side effect of seeking first the kingdom. Prosperity means having enough to take care of your family and help others, not jets and mansions. I think many of Hagin’s critics never took the time to honestly investigate what he taught.
    It is good to see a more balanced perspective as you have written here. It seems you are a truly honest judge and I will be reading more of your work. As I mentioned above, so many prosperity criticisms are so uninformed or disingenuous I can rarely manage to read through them.

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