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Book Review

Faith, Health And ProsperityHagin, Copeland etc.

Kenneth Hagin, the father of the 'Word of Faith' movement, died on 19 September 2003 aged 87. His death left Kenneth Copeland as the main proponent of his type of teaching. Their brand of fringe-Christianity dominates the lives of many and influences the thinking and practice of many more outside the movement proper—including many in the charismatic and 'new church' sector.

The Evangelical Alliance sponsored an assessment of the movement, its history, its theology and its practice, published as Faith, Health and Prosperity by A. Perriman, ed., (Paternoster, 2003, ISBN 1-84227-188-1). This is a fine book: balanced, honest, scholarly, thoroughly researched and well-written. It comes with full indices and bibliography. All Christian leaders should read it.

Word of Faith teaching…operates with a naïve hermeneutic which largely disregards historical and literary distinctions within the text and refuses to engage in dialogue with the scholarly community. (p82)

In highlighting the shortcomings of Word of Faith thinking, we should acknowledge the fact that similar hermeneutical and exegetical errors appear in mainstream evangelical teaching. (p103)

Too often the intense motivational rhetoric of Word of Faith preaching stops short of spelling out what the believer is to do with the abundance of life that she has received in Christ, other than defend her prosperity against Satan's incursions and fund Word of Faith ministries. (p123)

We hear little from the Word of Faith teachers about how Paul wore himself out working as a tentmaker in order not to be a financial burden. (p192)

The relationship of love and servanthood which the believer has with the Father cannot be adequately worked out through the restrictive methodology of Word of Faith teaching. A utilitarian spirituality of this nature makes the indwelling of the Spirit superfluous: we have recovered the authority over the material world that Adam ceded to Satan and no longer need the working of the Spirit in us. (p198)

[The US Assemblies of God have produced an article on the 'positive confession' aspects of Hagin-type teaching, identifying both the helpful and dangerous aspects. Read it here.]

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