The God Of Faith Teaching: The Eternal God Or A"Faith God" Among Little Gods?
by Rev. Rafael D Martinez, Spiritwatch Ministries
Except for the rebellion indulged in by atheists and the perplexity expressed by agnostics, the tacit recognition of the existence of a Creator is universal throughout humanity and history itself. How humanity has tried to recognize, approach and relate to this divine presence is where the vast diversity of spirituality has taken the turns and twists through history that it has, resulting in the existence of world religions and cults of every stripe. Christianity, of course, is hardly the only perspective on the divine in the spiritual marketplaces of the world.
For the Christian, the pages of the Bible have revealed an eternal and exalted revelation that there is One God who exists in a Triune Godhead, one eternally existent in three distinct personalities whose spiritual essence is that of almighty Deity. They are the Father, Son and Spirit of the Holy Trinity, implicitly identified in Scripture and eternal in their co-existence as the One True God.
The distinguished Church of God (Cleveland) professor and exegete Dr. French Arrington concisely summarizes this in his book Pentecostal Doctrine:
The Bible repeatedly tells that there is only one God. But as the Scripture unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that God exists in three persons. The divine attributes and the fact of the Trinity point to an immensely rich diversity of existence in the unity of God. God is one, but the New Testament expresses a specific distinction in the Godhead by identifying three persons. They are identified as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (45).
The distinctions between these three divine Beings as revealed in Scripture show that they are three separate personages who interact with one another on a level of exalted fellowship as Father, Son and Spirit. And yet, in a manner beyond human ability to understand, they have revealed that their individual personages co-exist and share a common spiritual essence of absolute divinity. They literally are God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. It is indeed a compelling paradox of divine reality that transcends human rationale, but this exalted and glorious state is what the Bible teaches about who God is and His Triune nature.
This is no cunning fable or ancient dogma foisted upon the world - it is the foundation of true Christian spirituality. The Bible reveals this truth without any further explanation and Christianity from its earliest emergence has accepted this implicit doctrine from the time it understood the divinity of Jesus Himself. The earliest church creeds should be appreciated as summarizations of what these Scripturally revealed truths set forth, with the word "Trinity" pressed into usage by the Christian church leader Tertullian to describe the unity of divine Persons in the second century after Christ ascended into heaven. Again, Dr. Arrington helpfully adds this in his book on pages 135-136 about the nature of the Triune Godhead:
God is a unified being. There is not just one but three persons in the Godhead. There is the Father who is the Creator and source of all things. There is the Son who redeems us. There is the Holy Spirit who regenerates, sanctifies, and fills us with His power. Each has his own identity. The distinct identity of each was evident at the baptism of Jesus. The son of God was standing in the Jordan. He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, who came upon Him in the form of a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven (Luke 3:21-22).
.. In this life we are not able to fathom fully the relations of the triune God. But Scriptures affirm that God knows nothing of being alone. The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit have always been in perfect communion and fellowship with one another. Mutual love has characterized the fellowship of the eternal Father, the eternal Son, and the eternal Spirit. ... Each person in the Godhead has all divine perfections. The Son and the Holy Spirit have the same attributes as the Father. The Father is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, all-knowing and all-powerful. The same can be said of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each person is equal with the other .. in power, equal in glory and equal in might. .. They are not three masters but only one - one God in three persons.
Therefore, the Christian can be confident that whatever God reveals of His nature in the Bible can be equally said of the Son and the Spirit. Although they stand apart as three completely separate beings with their own individual faculties of self-consciousness, will, dialogue and personal identity, they are in complete essence, as the Apostles Creed says, "true God from true God." They are Deity without being deities. They are One God revealed to us as a Holy Trinity. It is not our perfect understanding of this divinely revealed truth that God expects - it is, however, our trust in His Triune nature that we are to accept.
Consider then, these foundational revelations concerning His being as revealed to us by the prophet Isaiah:
I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Isaiah 42:8
I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. Isaiah 43:11
One shall say, I am the LORD’S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. ... Ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any. Isaiah 44:5-6, 8
I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; Isaiah 44:24
I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: Isaiah 45:5
Consider also what other prophets themselves have written of both God's self-revelation and the divine insight His Spirit gave them as they worshipped and declared His greatness:
There is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Jeremiah 10:6
For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Malachi 3:6
We could go on through the pages of Scripture where Yahweh's divine nature has been declared, but these few verses make so wonderfully clear the revelation of the Almighty God as the eternal, self-sufficient, Creator whose power, majesty and authority over all things are beyond question. No one can make any claim to His divine glory. No other deity can claim that which He alone is, as the first, the last, the only True God. He alone has the power to save and deliver, and his eternal nature will never change.
In the gracious Person and ministry of Jesus Christ and the sending forth of His Spirit at Pentecost God, His exalted presence has become fully manifest to all mankind. Orthodox Christian faith for over two millenia have boldly affirmed these truths as the Biblically revealed and historic understanding of who God is and by the testimony of Biblical prophets and His power over creation itself, He is, as the old hymn has declared, majestically revealed as "God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity."
The Faith Movement's Dumbing Down Of The Trinity
For the vast majority of those involved in the Word of Faith movement, the Trinitarian understanding of the nature of God is an article of faith, as in many other Christian church circles. But it's acknowledgment is largely a nominal one. When Trinitarian statements of faith fill Faith church bulletins, the Word of Faith-oriented Trinity Broadcast Network identifies itself by the doctrine, and Faith clergy affirm the deity of Christ, most "Faith people" will generally accept that there is one God who exists as Three Persons. But they do so laboring under the belief that the revelation of the Triune Godhead is some confusingly abstract doctrinal formulation that they'd readily admit they don't pay much attention to. For them, church tradition and not personal conviction governs how they view the nature of God, and again, like many other Christians, they choose to distance themselves from reflective thought concerning theological issues.
Wishing to avoid confusion, like too many other believers, Faith Christians take the path of least resistance and accept without much critical thinking what they're told about God by their movement's teachers. More often than not, they are more earnestly exhorted to pay closer attention to the high points of the Faith movement's prosperity teachings. Their chief spiritual reflection is usually more preoccupied with building up their own personal confessions that would bring possession of blessings, promotion, and divine health and divine wealth. That's not to say that all Faith Christians have no interest in sound doctrine or theology but it is a plain fact that many of them, including most of its leadership, have little to no interest in any doctrinal content not directly involved with their materialistically focused prosperity gospel. Anything else is too often quickly dismissed as an exercise in "religious tradition" unworthy of their attention.
The Biblical foundations for the doctrine on the Triune nature of God, while blindly believed upon, are usually left unspoken and therefore unexplained among Faith believers. Therefore, despite an apparent and faithful belief in the traditional Christian understanding of the Trinity, most Faith Christians are virtually devoid of understanding of what can be grasped about it from the pages of Scripture. "Bible studies" concerning emotional healing, personal prophecy, and the "authority of the believer" get more interest - and usually involve DVD's or studies of books written by Faith luminaries, not structured, verse-by-verse study of the Bible itself. Gatherings centered around large screen TV's usually dominate modern Charismatic "Bible studies," and that is a mind-numbing point we cannot tarry to discuss now. Suffice it to say that in a day and age in the Christian church when sound doctrine is viewed by too many of its' membership as a product of personal opinion, church politics and groupthink that this kind of development is inevitable. In the end, it is the trust that Faith believers put in their movement's sayings about the nature of God that ultimately becomes the basis for their belief in God, and unfortunately, not always the Scriptures themselves.
With this kind of opinion-driven foundation, it has sadly become apparent over the years that the “present truth” produced by the Faith teaching culture paints an unbiblical view of the nature of God. It's an outrageous claim to make that would alarm and infuriate many Faith believers but not one made out of some spiteful desire to cast the Faith movement in a bad light - it's a frank admission to what has been public knowledge for decades. Despite all of its passionate rhetoric about the Fatherhood of God and the Incarnate nature of Christ as fully man and fully God, the Faith movement's teaching on who God is, when carefully considered, actually denies the Bible's revelation of His glory.
In short, the "God" of Faith teaching cannot be who the Bible says He actually is, even while most in the Faith movement claim to know Him in truth. It is an unthinkably blasphemous paradox that none dare to mention, much less explore. But to be faithful to the testimony of God's Word we must now proceed to explain why this is so, refusing to remain in the murky and never discussed global shadows that Word of Faith dogma casts over Christianity itself.
Faith Teaching That Denies The Trinity
While Faith teaching is nominally Trinitarian and the vast majority of Faith believers would affirm belief in the Triune nature of the Godhead, the doctrinal fluidity and Biblical illiteracy among the Faith movement as we've briefly outlined has resulted in erroneous and even heretical views of the Godhead which deny the Lordship of the Trinity. These views have resulted in some of the most twisted teachings that can be found in Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity which are directly impacting many other Christian circles today. Let's see how these cancerous influences have leeched into the Body of Christ by men and women claiming to teach under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. More detailed articles and compilations created by other researchers can be found linked below:
While Christians have accepted the Biblically founded view that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate (1 Timothy 3:16), God the Son who was both divine and human in His unique personage as the son of David, the second Adam (Mark 12:35-37, 1 Corinthians 15:45-48), there are those in the Faith movement who think otherwise. There are Faith movement leaders who have gone on record as denying this foundational Christian truth in the past and have never recanted for their blasphemous dogmatism and it is their sordidly deconstructing influence upon millions of Christians that has tempted many of them deny this foundational Christian truth.
For example, the impact of the teaching of Paul Billheimer, a Wesleyan holiness minister and author, still resonates within evangelical circles which include the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. His emphasis on "the authority of the believer" has been a captivating subject for so many Christians since the rapprochement of this individualizing devotional theme by the 19th and early 20th century holiness movements out of which much of the Pentecostal movement sprang forth (46). But while there is much of Billheimer's teaching that provides solid, edifying thought, he tragically and sharply breaks with Christian doctrine about the nature of God in his popular book Destined For The Throne which is still widely read. This departure from orthodox Christian thought is abrupt, unexpected and yet agonizingly unmistakable. Sounding more like a Mormon apostle or Herbert W Armstrong piously waxing eloquent in the technical language of biological genetics, Billheimer writes of the Christian that:
.. we read in 1 Cor. 6:17, "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." The union goes beyond a mere formal functional or idealistic harmony or rapport. It is an organic unity, an organic relationship of personalities (Sauer). Through the new birth we become bona fide members of the original cosmic family (Eph. 3:15), actual generated sons of God (1 John 3:2), "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4), begotten by Him, impregnated with his "genes," called the seed or "sperma" of God (1 John 5:1, 18 and 1 Pet. 1:3, 23), and bearing his heredity. .. Thus, through the new birth - and I speak reverently - we become the "next of kin" to the Trinity, a kind of "extension" of the Godhead. ... a completely new, unique, and exclusive order of beings which may be called a "new species." ..
God purposed to have a family circle of his very own, not only created but also generated by His own life, incorporating His own seed, "sperma," "genes," or heredity. .. But for this plan, God's family relationship would have been forever confined to the Trinity. .. according to 1 John 3:2, that is just what they are, true genetic sons of God, and therefore, blood brothers of the Son. Christ is the divine Prototype after which this new species is made. They are to be exact copies of him, true genotypes, as utterly like Him as it is possible for the finite to be like the infinite. As sons of God begotten by Him, incorporating into their fundamental being and nature the very "genes" of God, they rank above all other created beings and are elevated to the most sublime height possible short of becoming members of the Trinity itself (47).
His florid writings popularized through many Pentecostal publications, Billheimer was one of the chief vanguards heralding the neo-gnostic belief that Christians are "extensions of the Godhead" but this didn't them from becoming a mainstay in the innumerable devotional magazines circulated in the mid 20th century. He taught here that Christians are actual genetic "copies" of God Himself without pausing to realize that such a claim effectively removes any real distinction between Christians and Christ Himself. They are therefore a higher species than even other human beings, above all other creation due to its organically essential unity with the Godhead itself. This teaching - by default - denies the unique nature, deity and Lordship of Christ altogether. In what is surely an ironic twist, until his death in 1984, Billheimer and his wife worked closely with the Paul Crouch's Trinity Broadcast Network, where his teaching so inspired Crouch that he authorized republication of Billheimer's books in special "TBN Partner Editions" (48).
With this kind of confusing excess of rhetorical fancy and unbiblical fantasy produced from a prolific pen, it wasn't long before the logical implication of this portion of Billheimer's work would find fertile ground in Pentecostalism. The doctrinal and practical positions of Billheimer and others were readily adopted by Pentecostal ministers who culled from the same sources of literary and radio inspiration evangelicals frequented. One of these was the so-called "grandfather of the Faith movement" and former Assemblies of God minister Kenneth Hagin who was quite familiar with this body of work. He would go on to take a position that taught that the divine and human nature of Christ wasn't really that unique: in fact, Hagin took Billheimer's position even further when he stated in 1980 that:
You are as much the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was. Every man who has been born again is an incarnation and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth (49).
Hagin's breathtakingly shocking claim - repeated continually over the years in his innumerable teaching tapes and magazines - cannot be misunderstood here, asserting that Christians and Christ co-exist on the same level of incarnate divinity. He teaches that the same physical embodiment of God's glory that Jesus Christ exists with is shared by all Christians. This is indistinguishable from what Billheimer or E.W. Kenyon advances. Their teaching would have us believe that Jesus Christ, at best, is just the "first" in a long line of divine beings who inhabit this world under an apparently misleading identification. Born again believers aren't just these humble disciples calling themselves Christians to identify with Christ: they are almighty beings who are more accurately Christs, clones identical to Him down to the physical DNA and the most exalted spiritual essence that comprise the person of Jesus Himself.
The implication that every born again believer is a Christ as exalted and divine as Jesus Himself is beyond belief, but in the rush to crown the believer with "his Kingdom rights", this is what the Faith movement has hatched up as the decree heralding our "position in Christ." The spiritual essence of Christians, therefore, is the same as Christ's, and if He was truly divine as well as truly human, then Christ's Incarnation is hardly unique at all. These are explicit denials of the unique Deity of Jesus Christ that cannot be dismissed, spun or avoided. And yet neither Hagin or Billheimer, to their dying days, were ever chastised or held accountable for their profoundly unbiblical and idolatrous teaching by any of their peers, let alone their deluded disciples, who have gone on to rehash their own versions of this heretical blasphemy (50).
And these denials of the deity of Christ, as we've said, are hardly alone. The denials of the deity of Christ by Faith teacher and Hagin disciple Kenneth Copeland are legion and well documented. During the 1980's, as his star arose in the Charismatic east and "faith in his own faith" became his lifestyle choice, Copeland began to freely serve as an oracle during teaching conventions he appeared at. Transcripts of his prophecies were published in his ministry magazine and in February, 1987, one of these supposedly contained a prophetic utterance by Jesus "Himself" who offered a new perspective on just who Christians and Jesus really are in actuality:
Don't be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you're God. The more you get to be like Me, the more they're going to think that way of you. They crucified Me for claiming that I was God. But I didn't claim I was God. (51)
According to a CRI research report, on a July, 1987 telecast on TBN, as if to underscore that "Jesus" meant what "He" had supposedly said in February of that year, Copeland gushed the following: "I say this and repeat it so it don't upset you too bad .... When I read the Bible where He [Jesus] says 'I am,' Yes, I am too!" (52). Copeland's deliberate citation of Christ's words in John 8:58 is particularly fraught with import. This verse has been almost universally understood to bear one of Christ's self-revelations as God Almighty when He declared "Before Abraham was, I am," a reference to his divine pre-existence before the creation of the Biblical patriarch Abraham. Copeland's arrogant challenge was to his audiences to get a grip on a higher reality: he was as divine as Christ asserted in the verse, with the implication that all who gave themselves over to his "revelation knowledge" would also enjoy this same exalted level of deification.
Once again, like Hagin, Copeland's claim here cannot be misunderstood. He cites not only Biblical evidence but divinely inspired utterances to not only dispel any diffentiation between Christ and Christians but to give Jesus a voice in the world in which he corrects our misunderstanding that He ever claimed to be God! Attempts were made by the late Walter Martin, founder of CRI, to arrange for a meeting with Copeland through intermediaries like TBN's Paul Crouch and well known Foursquare pastor Jack Hayford to confront him, but were cancelled when Copeland decided that Martin had an agenda driven by personal hatred (53). To this day, Copeland stands by his words, claiming he had never said Jesus was not God, which - of course - weren't "his" since it was "Jesus" who'd spoke them. This specious dodge by Copeland has been strangely unmentioned by him ever since. (Click here to view a PDF file of the original "prophecy" from Copeland's magazine to see if he'd been "misunderstood")
With this kind of blasphemous teaching freely and enthusiastically imbibed by three generations of Faith Christians around the world, the foundations of true understanding of who God is have effectively been shattered and the Word of Faith ship, as we've alluded to it in our last article, is adrift in the foaming winds and high seas of doctrinal instability (Ephesians 4:14). Although heart-warming passion, energy and creativity has been expended by the Faith movement in its public character as a people set upon worshipping God in spirit and in truth, the painful paradox still remains in that so many of them do so in complete ignorance of what manner of "deity" many of their leaders truly venerate.
Faith Teaching That Deifies Man
Left therefore to its own self-exalting human devices, a grossly idolatrous deception has been nurtured in the hearts and minds of millions of Faith movement believers as the result of their ignorance of Biblical doctrine on God's nature. It is the shameless conviction instilled in them by their leaders that they too actually are divine, "little gods" with equal power and authority to the "true God." Quite apart from a healthy appreciation that they are human beings subject to the passions and weaknesses of mortal life, their lack of understanding what Scripture reveals about this obvious reality has contributed to their inexplicable belief that Christians are gods with the same authority, glory and power as their Creator. In an effort to describe the blessings of being a New Testament believer in Jesus Christ, many Faith believers have made a grim and terrible mistake. By trying to creatively describe the graces bestowed upon all who exercise faith in Christ's atoning death at Calvary, they have become unwitting participants in a blasphemy beyond measure.
This heretical view involving overblown proportion is not new in Christendom, but it has enjoyed a revival among too many within the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements. Once again it was the late E. W. Kenyon's devotional speculation that was used to induce this kind of error into the evangelical world, in what is surely one of the worst choices of words and concepts to make a point, with earlier generations of Pentecostals were among his most eager disciples. In his relentless pursuit of clarifying how God's grace changes the believer from judged sinner of a "lower class" to justified saint of a "new class", Kenyon emphasized this again and again in his writings:
Now we are moving up into the big things...I said softly as I walked into the prayer meeting, We are coming into the spiritual redwoods. We are going to see spiritual giants, supermen. They have God dwelling in them...They no longer walk as natural men. They belong to the love class, the miracle class. They are in the Jesus class. They have graduated from the lower class (54).
In his attempt to emphasize the need for what he called "revelation knowledge" that would clarify the "sense knowledge" received from the written pages of Scripture (55), a necessary step for the "lower class" to understand God's purposes for their lives, Kenyon proceeded to teach that man was in the same "class" as God Himself, since God also is a Spirit:
You understand that man is in God's class of being. When he was created in the Garden he was made in the image and likeness of God. He had to be a spirit being because God is a spirit. He had to be a spirit being, an eternal being who would live as long as God lives. Man had to be in God's class. .. (Adam) was a spirit in God's class. When he committed High Treason he became a partaker of Satan's nature. He was actually born again, and he became a new Satanic creation. .. When he sinned, and his spirit received the nature of the Adversary, it became subordinated to his senses. I believe that before Adam fell his five senses played only a small part; the instant he fell his spirit lost dominion and his five senses took over. .. His spirit was being made the prisoner of his five senses (56).
God is a spirit. Man is a spirit. They belong in the same class of being. Man's spirit is the real man. His senses are but the servants of man. .. We know that (God) is a faith spirit. ..We know that man is spirit, that he belongs to God's class of being, that he is eternal, that he can live in a body. He is capable of partaking of the nature of God. .. The spiritual scientist does not deal in theories. He deals in facts .. (and) has found that man is a spirit being with God, he is Eternal, he originally had an eternal body. .. He has found that man is in God's class of being (57).
We forget that the New Creation is the end of failure because God has imparted Himself to us. .. He is in us. His ability is ours. His grace is ours. His love is ours. We have become one with Him (58).
In his sincere but ultimately skewed treatises, Kenyon thoroughly confuses the distinction between God and man by making this same claim of man being in a "God class" over and over. In each of these passages in the four books I've quoted, Kenyon does not quote a single verse of the Bible to support the claims that man is eternal and has the same ability and power that God has. He cheerily presses this home that this is established and concrete, objective fact while ignoring both the unbiblical nature of his precepts and of the fundamentally contradictory nature of his teaching. If man was created and fallen how can he be seen as a spirit with the same essential being as God, who was uncreated and ever holy? His attempts to clarify what he called in another book "New Creation Realities" only bog down in spiritually confusing philosophical mire.
Instead of being recognized for the vaguely blasphemous rhetoric it is, Kenyon's teaching has become a mystical riddle that delights and intrigues his readers to find a "deeper" understanding of the saving work of Christ as wrought by the Holy Spirit that his word pictures seem to convey. His continual appeal to what he believed and what he insists is generally "known" by Christians are to purely religious tradition and popular opinion: when describing his "God class" concept, he doesn't cite a single Scripture whatsoever. Presupposing that Biblical Christianity both understands and accepts that finite beings created by God can be somehow exalted to His level of deity, Kenyon's towering presumption strikes a new low of inconceivably self-contradiction. However, this is amazingly lost upon his readership who naively and readily accepted this teaching as a masterpiece of "deeper" Christian living instead of the muddled piety it actually is.
Kenyon's writings, always enormously popular among the first and second generational Pentecostal masses hungry for more devotional inspiration, helped instill this concept among them. As we've noted in our past articles, Kenneth Hagin freely plagiarized them with barely any reference to his own spiritual mentor. They were among the formative influences that helped to shape the thought of those who became involved with the Latter Rain "revival" in Pentecostal churches across the nation during the early 1950's. Already taking their doctrinal cues from William Branham's "angel"-influenced revivalism and flush with the popular belief that they were an elite vanguard charged with a unique mission of end-time restoration, there were many who readily accepted Kenyon's "God class" concept and would go on to further embellish Kenyon's thought with even deeper levels, if it was possible, of more outright blasphemy. While Kenyon did not explicitly state men were actual gods, his teaching still led his audience to make that conclusion in practical terms and there were many Pentecostals and future Charismatics who would do so in the years to come even after the Latter Rain movement itself was repudiated by the mid 1950's.
The Faith movement itself became further infected by the "God class" concept through the influence of a small group of Faith movement teachers, and a short list of those making such claims is public knowledge. The concept of men becoming sons of God in some figurative or literal sense has long been a part of spirituality since the dawn of mankind, but in Pentecostal and Charismatic church circles, it took Word of Faith teachers to take the next step with Kenyon's teaching and adapt it to supplement their "prosperity gospel" foundations. In their audacity, these teachers go so far as to claim that man is to be classified as a “god” in his world since it was "the same authority Adam had" that Christ restored, following the warped logic Kenyon's teaching is governed by. A classic example of this was penned by the infamous Robert Tilton:
God told me .. to let His Spirit flow and to begin to prophesy and call "things which be not as though they were." (Romans 4:17). .. Before any of these teachings will work for you, you need to learn who you are in Jesus Christ. When you were saved, through faith, God restored you into fellowship and harmony as an offspring of God, a child of the King. 'For if by one man's offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life (like a king) by one, Jesus Christ.' (Romans 5:17). God also restored your authority through Jesus Christ. You now have the same authority Adam had before he sinned. You have dominion in the earth to guard it, cultivate it, and cause it to bring forth fruit. You can now rule your life as a king. When a man is king, he has authority over his realm; that means he has it under his control and can do whatever he chooses (59).
Tilton's position builds upon Kenyon's exalted view of man's authority and this quote illustrates the leaps of presumption that Faith teachers take in trying to convince their followers that the health and wealth credo is Bible truth. Earlier in his book, he twists Romans 4:17 (60) to prove "Word people" are endued with the creative power of God, able to speak into existence "those things that are not" and "call those things that are not as though they be." He then adds this is because the "earthly authority" of Adam, lost in the fall of man, has been restored to mankind through their saving faith in Christ. With relish, he defines this authority as absolute dominion over one's personal life ruling "as a king", a gratifying nod to modern man's carnal self-interest who would find doing "whatever he chooses .. over his realm" a dream come true.
From this dizzying height, the launch of the aspiring Faith Christian into the limitless skies of self-deification is just one step off the mountain of towering self-delusion. And as has been pointed out, there's been no shortage of takers, Tilton himself included:
You are a God kind of creature. Originally, you were designed to be as a god in this world. Man was designed or created by God to be the god of this world. Of course, man forfeited his dominion to Satan who became god of this world. (61)
Tilton is far from alone. Messianic Jewish evangelist Morris Cerullo, on one of his older audiotapes has preached:
Did you know that from the beginning of time the whole purpose of God was to reproduce himself? .. Who are you? Come on, who are you? Come on, say it: "Sons of God!" Come on, say it! And what does work inside us, brother, is that manifestation of the expression of all that God is and all that God has. And when we stand up here, brother, you're not looking at Morris Cerullo, you're looking at God. You're looking at Jesus! (62)
Hear Faith pastor Casey Treat in one of his own teaching tape series perpetuate this lie:
The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost had a conference and they said, 'Let us make man an exact duplicate of us.' .. An exact duplicate of God! Say it out loud - "I'm an exact duplicate of God!" Come on, say it! "I'm an exact duplicate of God!" .. say it like you mean it! "I'm an exact duplicate of God!" Yell it out loud! Shout it! "I"m an exact duplicate of God!" (repeated several times while leading his congregation in peals of shouting) .. When God looks in the mirror, He sees me! When I look in the mirror, I see God! Oh, hallelujah! .. You know, sometimes people say to me, when they're mad and and want to put me down .. "You just think you're a little god!' Thank you! Hallelujah! You got that right! "Who do you think you are, Jesus?" Yep! Are you listening to me? Are you kids running around here acting like gods? Why not? God told me to! .. Since I'm an exact duplicate of God, I'm going to act like God! (63)
Another well known Faith teacher, "Pastor" Benny Hinn, in the past added his own voice of affirmation to this delusion:
His Spirit and our spirit man are one, united, there's no separation. .. the new creation is created after God in righteousness and true holiness. The new man is after God, like God, Godlike, complete in Christ Jesus. .. May I say it like this. You are a little god on earth running around. ... Say after me: "Within me is a God-Man." Say it again. "Within me is a God-Man." Now, let's say even better than that. Let's say "I am a God-Man." .. "This spirit man within me is a God-Man." .. Say "I'm born-of-heaven-God-Man. I'm a God-Man. I'm a sample of Jesus. I'm a super being." .. God came to earth and touched a piece of dust and turned it into a God. .. Are you are a child of God? Then you're divine! Are you a child of God? Then you're not human! (64)
Not to be outdone on this point is Kenneth Copeland's own contribution to this "revealed knowledge": we've already read his infamous 1987 prophesy, but the ever loquacious Texan Charismatic had more to say:
You don't have a god in you. You are one! .. God's reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce Himself .. He was not a little like God. He was not almost like God. He was not even subordinate to God even. .. Now Peter said by exceeding great and precious promises you become partakers of the divine nature. All right, are we gods? We are a class of gods! .. (prophesying as Jesus Christ) Pray to yourself, because I'm in your self and you're in My self. We are one Spirit, saith the Lord. (65)
One of Copeland's associates, the ex-farmer Charles Capps, adds his own two cents worth of insight:
God duplicated himself in kind. .. Adam was an exact duplicate of God's kind. (66)
And we must not forget the creative way in which "Archbishop" Earl Paulk summarized the logical conclusion of Kenyon's teaching:
Adam and Eve were placed in the world as the seed and expression of God. Just as dogs have puppies and cats have kittens, so God has little gods. Until we comprehend that we are little gods and we begin to act like little gods, we cannot manifest the Kingdom of God. .. When I say 'Act like a god,' I can hear people saying, 'There he goes with the theory of the manifest sons of God.' Forget about theories! Forget about doctrine! .. We are little gods whether we admit it or not (67).
I think we've heard enough of this.
What should be remembered here is that the vocabulary, thrust and concepts presented by all of these men are virtually the same as those of Kenyon's with only a touch of personal embellishment. Emboldened by their off-camera misinterpretations of Psalms 82:6 and the quotation of this verse Jesus makes in John 10:34, the irresistible result of this has been for these and other Faith teachers to baldfacedly agree and assert that they are “little gods”, barely subject to the Godhead as children are subject to fathers who only live to bless them. We also must not forget that Faith teachers view God as a “faith God” whose Lordship relies upon his mastery of “spiritual laws” - laws which the "God class" can and should be able to exercise quite independently of any reference point to God whatsoever. These are the laws which govern man's dominion in the earth and which conclusively show that man truly is a "little god running around" exercising authority in whatever capacity that pleases him.
Reckoning themselves bestowed with the same potential of creative power, spiritual authority and earthly authority as God Himself and convinced this is proof co-existence with Him in a "God class", these Faith teachers clearly have gone beyond Scripture and into the worst kind of blasphemous heresy one can sink into: the same lie Satan himself taught at the Fall of man. Such an outrageous blasphemy should immediately arouse even the most nominally attached Christian, yet to those Pentecostals and Charismatics in whom the fulness of the Holy Spirit's revelatory power is said to indwell, this horrific heresy is embraced as divine revelation. It is a claim no different then the blasphemy voiced by polytheistic false religions such as the Mormon Church, ancient Hinduism and a galaxy of New Age "visionaries" whose promotion of self-deification in recent years has helped stretch this abomination to the deepest depths of idolatry.
That Was Then, This Is Now .. Right?
Now twenty years is a long time and many of the Faith teaching materials above are about or almost that age. This begs the question for many an observant Faith minister and Christian who will therefore object vigorously to the citing of these older references. Out of indignation said to be bordering on spiritual offense, these folks have criticized the preservation of this information on the grounds that times have changed. It's a new day and this stuff, why, it's old news! After all, it was just their opinion and anyway, they've changed their minds and bygones should be bygones. Judging someone by their opinions from X number of years ago is completely unfair and judgmental.
While that's a fair enough point to consider, what is lost in the objection is that except for one notable exception, none of these men, like Hagin, Crouch and Billheimer, ever published or announced a single acknowledgment or retraction of their blasphemy (68). None of them have made any public attempt to engage in dialogue those who pointed out their grievous errors that we are aware of. And none of them demonstrate any remorse, much less, responsibility for what they've taught and how they've misled so many millions of people. Since those days, most of the Faith movement has closed ranks as well as ears and has pretended to not notice what has happened. Indeed, in some instances, some of their books and materials can still be found sold through their ministries. And the "little gods" and "God class" teachings still continue to circulate since the Faith movement continues to devour Kenyon's books as well as those who are influenced by him, namely those of Hagin, Copeland, Billheimer and others.
When it comes to being "accountable to the Body of Christ" as Paul Crouch fancied himself to be in an interview a few years back, it effectively means very little - especially when he is one of the greatest proponents for doctrinal error in the history of the Church (Listen to Crouch's wholehearted embracing of the "little gods" doctrine by Real Audio HERE) (69). It sounds like a swell idea, but the tough talk and candor are little more than ad print that changes nothing.
We can say confidently that nothing actually has changed since the "little gods" concept is still being taught today in the Faith movement and is still being circulated world wide. An entire floodtide of literature, teaching and oral tradition among Faith Christians who view the concept as spiritual meat still exists and circulates today, from pulpits to Bible studies. Two dishearteningly high profile examples of how the leaven of Kenyon, Copeland, Hagin and others still impacts the Christian world today have been seen in the preaching and teaching of well known Faith teachers Creflo Dollar and Paula White. If such prominent figures are bold enough to preach these false doctrines, then it is certain that those unknown to us are heartily pushing the doctrine.
These irrepressible and impeccably dressed ministers are two of the latest generation of Faith teachers whose stars burn brightly in the movement's heavenly firmament. Millions view their programming weekly and thousands attend their churches and both have been instrumental in reintroducing and reinforcing this seductive lie to the church in recent years. Time simply fails us to go into any greater discussion of this other than to say that upon listening to their discussion on the concept, both clearly use it to exhort and instruct their audiences that the concept is a Biblical one derived from a "right understanding" of "who they are" as Christian believers, exactly as their Faith mentors who preceded also insisted. Both use the "little gods" concept to illuminate who Christians are "in Christ," and Dollar even goes so far as to identify and applaud unnamed teachers from the 1970's who publicized this heretical view.
Click here to view Real Video clips from Dollar and White's ministry telecasts that show this.
Contrary to the counsel of these "anointed" folk, both I and too many other Christian ministers have seen too many sincere Christians looking for God’s best become lifted up with pride and preoccupied with self-serving and materialistic carnality as they diligently sought to apply this self-serving and presumptuous doctrine into their practical Christian lifestyle. The contemplation by fallen men that they are gods who have a divine right to fully control their lives without any reference point to their own very human weaknesses is one of the most spiritually dangerous pitfalls they can be confronted with. And many are the horror stories that can be told about preachers, let alone an innumerable host of church members who have been drunk with this worst-of-all delusions.
It is a corrupting influence that has tempted far too many people to actually live as if their entire personal universes rotated about them, leading them into lifestyle choices that have brought untold amounts of disorder, confusion and chaotically self-centered carnality into their lives. Only the heavenly judgment seat of Christ will ever fully reveal just how this seductive lie has influenced the personal judgment of those chose to act upon their belief that they could speak their chosen realities into the lives as "King's Kids" whose desires are above question. The deafening echo of the “little gods” heresy is a numbing song too many Christians take at face value and assume is Biblical Christian teaching, to their spiritual ruination.
Faith Teaching That Denies The Atonement
The foundation of Christian salvation, the Atonement of Christ at the cross of Calvary, is seen by the Faith movement as the gateway to the promised lands of the New Covenant and is the cornerstone upon which Faith teaching rears its lofty claims of divine health and wealth. And like many other false teachers and sects within Christendom, there are several Faith movement teachers who have misrepresented and perverted the Biblical revelation of the nature of God as they seek to bring God's Word to conform to their man-made doctrines instead of the reverse, in which all doctrine is made to line up with Scripture truth. How they have done this has resulted in grotesque and unbiblical precepts that, like the teachings that deify men and pull God off His throne, also plumb the depths of pure blasphemy.
The orthodox Biblical teaching about the Atonement of Christ teaches that it was a literal, historical event in which Jesus Christ, God the Son, became incarnate in space and time 2000 years ago as a sinless, perfect and yet very human Jewish man while never relinquishing his divinity. He did this, Scripture reveals, to fulfill the prophetically foretold promises made by His Father through the Old Testament Hebrew prophets. They foretold, by God's Spirit, the coming of a holy and righteous Savior whose death on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem, scorned by both Jew and Gentile who beheld it, would became a literal offering for the sins and sinfulness of humanity.
This sacrifice would establish the only means to receive forgiveness from sin and liberation from the curse upon creation that sinfulness brought at the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Only the almighty, righteous nature of God Himself, embodied in his essential unity with His Son, could accomplish such a redemptive act of universal impact. Only God Himself could work, as the old hymn writers once sang, "so great a salvation." The sovereign deliverance coming from God's grace revealed in His own nature seen in Christ is the foundation of the Atonement itself.
The Bible also shows that Jesus' death on that cross also appeased, once and for all, God's wrath against the unrighteousness that sin brings. His death was the final act of his personal fulfillment of the Law of Moses, through which humanity could hope to be pure but could never keep perfectly, until Christ Himself did so as a member of humanity himself. Through His death, Jesus Christ opened the bridges of reconciliation between a holy God and unholy man. And as this Lamb of God, the innocent and pure sacrifice whose life was given up out of His love for all humanity, Jesus' death completely and literally atoned for our sins, providing a sanctifying, covering grace ready to make saints out of any sinner who would trust in Him in repentance and faith. Done out of God's unfathomable love for humanity lost in the grip of its wickedness and rebellion against God, the teaching of the Atonement is at the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus that He preached.
It is about the Atonement, however, that far too many other Faith movement adherents have been led to believe unbiblical fables about this divine act of God's saving power. They have created a bizarre melange of claims about the timing, events and significance of the death of Christ on the Cross. What the Bible teaches about it and what these certain ministers preach and teach about it are at absolute polar spiritual ends. We will briefly review how certain Faith teachers have distorted the work of the Atonement and in so doing, have further blasphemed and denied the message of the very Lord they believe they are glorifying. Not only do they deny the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ but they deny His eternal divinity, His holy nature and His essential unity with the Father and the Spirit.
Once again, the influence of E. W. Kenyon was instrumental in introducing these erroneous claims and other Evangelical and Pentecostal leaders reinforced and recirculated them. Kenyon's enormously popular devotional book What Happened From The Cross To The Throne has been continually rephrased in the teachings and writings of many Faith teachers since his day. They also have replicated his contradictory and confusing work, in which he taught three concepts about the atoning work of Christ that sharply contradicted the Biblical understanding of it with the following excerpts' emphases in bold as mine:
You understand that there can be no substitution unless Christ actually paid the spiritual penalty of man's transgressions. Adam's sin gave Satan dominion over him. Satan breathed into Adam his own nature. Adam was actually born again in the Garden. He did not have God's nature. He had perfect human nature. He had perfect human life. Into his spirit, Satan now poured his own nature .. that nature has been reproduced in the human race down through the ages. .. (whose) very nature is antagonistic toward God. That explains why, in that great substitution that God wrought in His son, He had to make provision on legal grounds for man to become a partaker of His own nature, eternal life. Isaiah 53 is a picture of the substitute suffering in our stead. It is neither mental nor physical suffering. It is suffering in the spirit .. this scripture in Isaiah gives us a picture of His spirit, as the body of the Son of God hung upon the cross. It is an unhappy thing that we are so slow in coming to appreciate what He actually did on our behalf. .. His spirit became absolutely impregnated with the sin nature of the world.(70)
Jesus was conceived without sin. His body was not mortal. His body did not become mortal until the Father laid our sin nature upon Him when He hung upon the cross. The moment that He became sin, His body became mortal, only then could He die. When this happened, spiritual death, the nature of Satan, took possession of His Spirit....He was to partake of Spiritual Death, the nature of the Adversary....Jesus knew that the moment had come, and He was to be made Sin. He must partake of that dread nature of the Adversary. His body would become mortal. Satan would become His master.... He [Jesus] had been lifted up as a serpent. Serpent is Satan. Jesus knew He was going to be lifted up, united with the Adversary.” (71)
(God) had seen the Son recreated, brought back into fellowship with Himself .. He died as a Lamb. He suffered as as Substitute. He had been made righteous in that dark region and conquered the adversary. .. He is the first born out of spiritual death, the first person who was ever born again. .. Satan triumphantly bore His Spirit to the Dark Regions of Hades. All the sufferings and torments that Hell could produce were heaped upon Jesus. When He had suffered Hell's agonies for three days and three nights, the Supreme Court of the Universe cried, "Enough." He had paid the penalty and met the claims of Justice. Satan saw Him Justified. God made Him alive in Spirit right there in the presence of the cohorts of Hades. Jesus was made a New Creation. .. For three days and three nights He had gone through the agonies of the Eternities to redeem man and justify God. He had satisfied the claims of Justice; thus the Father God had the right on that wonderful Day to give man His own nature. (72)
Apart from these unbiblical claims, the character of Kenyon's sincerely devotional approach in the book - as all of his others - is singularly uplifting and inspirational. Citing numerous passages drawn from various Bible translations and paraphrases in rapid fire, he writes with heartfelt passion and conviction about his desire that Christians come to know God in both truth and intimacy, urging all to forsake the deadening conventions of religiosity that renders faith as frozen orthodoxy empty of relationship with a loving Father. This is evident in all of his earnest work. And yet his exposition of the "overcoming life" is founded upon one of the most skewed and twisted distortions of Christian faith that has ever been seen and makes his compelling appeal all the more surreal.
In the midst of his rhapsodic rhetoric and intellectual inflection that he says reveals "long hidden truths" (73), Kenyon boldly and unapologetically declares his work "will blaze a new path in constructive interpretation of the Pauline revelation" (74) to help a church that "has never understood the spiritual significance of what happened when Christ died on the cross, was buried and rose again on the third day" (75) What must be remembered is that throughout the book, again, as in all of his others, Kenyon takes great pains to emphasize his message was received by "revelation knowledge" directly from God as opposed to "sense knowledge interpretation of the Word" (76) - that he had received an authoritative spiritual perspective on the writings of Paul (the same one revealed to Paul, he adds) that provided vital and yet long lost truths to the Body of Christ (78). And yet, Kenyon's work is based upon three utterly unbiblical assumptions that he presented in the citations above as foundational Christian truth about the atonement:
the Place where the atoning work of Christ occurred was actually in hell and not at Calvary,
the Passion of Christ (his redemptive suffering) involved torment by Satan and demons in hell to accomplish it, and:
the Process of the Atonement climaxed with a literal spiritual assumption of the nature of sin and Satan by Christ, resulting in his spiritual death and rebirth (or recreation)
Remembering that Kenyon claimed that these grotesque fancies were at the heart of the epistles written by Paul, it is singularly troubling that Christians have been persuaded into believing them to be founded upon Scripture. But this disquieting find is only a shadow of the reality: millions of people in the Church - including the Faith movement - have been led to accept these claims as Gospel truth. And among them, once again, is none other than Paul Billheimer himself, who defines the Passion of Christ in the same manner Kenyon has:
The Father turned Him over, not only to the agony and death of Calvary, but to the satanic torturers of His pure spirit as part of the just dessert of the sin of all the race. As long as Christ was 'the essence of sin' he was at Satan's mercy in that place of torment where all finally impenitent sinners are imprisoned upon leaving this life (Luke 16:19-31), which seems to be the headquarters from which Satan operates (Rev. 9:1, 2, 11). While Christ identified with sin, Satan and the hosts of hell ruled over Him as over any lost sinner. During that seemingly endless age in the nether abyss of death, Satan did with Him as he would, and all hell was 'in carnival.' (79)
When the claims of eternal justice were fully discharged Christ was "justified in the spirit" (1 Tim 3:16 ASV). He then was "made alive in the spirit" (1 Peter 3:18 ASV). His spirit was not annihilated. It only died spiritually like any sinful human spirit. It was completely cut off and separated from God. Thus, in order to be made alive unto God and restored to fellowship with His Father, He had to be reborn - for He had become the very essence of sin. Since sin has totally alienated Him from the Father, the only way He could be restored to fellowship with the Father was through a new birth to a new life. This is the meaning of Revelation 1:5: "Jesus Christ who is the first begotten from among the dead" (margin). He had to be reborn - for He had become the very essence of sin. (80)
Like Kenyon, Billheimer liberally quotes Scriptures in devout enumeration of what he believes to be divine insight in his own writings in the same way they both have advanced the blasphemy that men were little gods. And at one point, he even cites the work of George Gillanders Findlay, a 19th century British Bible scholar to once again deny the full deity of Jesus by describing him as simply an exalted human being - not God the Son incarnate in human flesh - who just happens to be wielding authority not innately his own:
(Quoting Findlay) "The Christ who died on the cross, who rose from the grave in human form, is exalted as a human being to share the Father's glory and dominion, is filled with God's own fulness, and made without limitation or exception Head over all things." Yes, today an authentic human being sits on the throne of the universe, wielding all the authority of the Godhead. (81) (emphasis author's)
And once again, it is none other than Kenneth Hagin who virtually echoes Kenyon's twisted doctrine in his own teaching:
Why did He need to be begotten, or born? Because He became like we were, separated from God. Because he tasted spiritual death for every man. His spirit, His inner man, went to hell in our place. .. Physical death would not remove our sins. He tasted death for every
man - spiritual death. Jesus is the first person ever to be born again.
Why did His spirit need to be born again? Because it was estranged
(Listen to Hagin by Real Audio by clicking HERE)
.. Spiritual death means separation from God. .. (it also)
means something more than separation from God. Spiritual death also
means having Satan's nature. .. He became what we were, that we might become what He is .. Down in the prison house of suffering
- down in hell itself - Jesus satisfied the claims of Justice on the
behalf of each one of us, because He died as our substitute."
And in the footsteps of his spiritual father, Kenneth Copeland can only follow: citing conversations he supposedly has in frequent private audiences with God, he walks in perfect lockstep:
When Jesus cried, "It is finished!" He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and three nights to go through before He went to the throne .. Jesus' death on the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption (83).
He accepted the sin nature of Satan in his spirit! You don't know what happened at the cross! Why do you think Moses, upon instruction of God, raised the serpent upon that pole instead of a lamb? That used to bug me! I said "Why in the world would you want to put a snake up there - the sign of Satan? Why didn't you put a lamb on that pole?" And the Lord said, "Because it was a sign of Satan that was hanging on the cross." He said, "I accepted, in My own spirit, spiritual death, and the light was turned off." (84)
(Listen to Copeland by Real Audio by clicking HERE)
Between the powerful influences of Billheimer, Kenyon, Hagin and Copeland, it wasn't long before this loathesome and twisted doctrine became thoroughly injected into the Word of Faith movement. In keeping with Faith teacher tendencies to readily rehearse the latest teaching emphasis their peers become infatuated with and before his well publicized "reversal" of position on this, Benny Hinn enthusiastically promoted this grotesquerie in the late 1990's on his own telecast:
Ladies and gentlemen, the serpent is a symbol of Satan. Jesus Christ knew the only way He would stop Satan is by becoming one in nature with him. You say "What did you say? What blasphemy is this?" No, you hear this! He did not take my sin; He became my sin. Sin is the nature of hell. Sin is what made Satan. .. It was sin that made Satan. Jesus said, "I'll be sin! I'll go to the lowest place! I'll go to the origin of it. I won't just take part in it, I'll be the totality of it!" When Jesus became sin, sir, He took it from A to Z and said, "No more!" Think about this: He became flesh, that flesh might become like Him. He became death, so dying man can live. He became sin, so sinners can be righteous in Him. He became one with the nature of Satan, so all those who had the nature of Satan can partake of the nature of God. (85)
(Listen to Hinn by Real Audio by clicking HERE)
Hinn teaches, as all Faith teachers caught up in this grievous error, an overemphasis on the saving work of Christ at Calvary that completely goes beyond what Scripture itself says about it. By using a flawed analogy about His Incarnation, (saying Christ "became" flesh) they claim that Jesus Christ at the Cross and in hell itself became personally transformed into moral depravity itself, that he turned into a personal embodiment of death to actually accomplish the redemptive work to save mankind. Before the onslaught of demonic torment and the weight of sin and death itself personally borne by Him, they go on to claim, Christ perished not only physically but spiritually himself, cut off from all fellowship with His Father.
So therefore, after these three days of inconceivable drama, he was "born again" by way of recreation. And what is surely one of the most twisted leaps of heretical logic one can ever hear coming from a false teacher, Kenneth Copeland's personal epiphany about how he, a "born again" man, could possibly have saved the world the same way as Jesus did is in perfect character with someone believing themselves to be a "little god":
The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, "Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don't let your tradition trip you up." He said, "Think this way - a twice born man whipped Satan in his own domain." And I threw my Bible down .. like that. I said, "What?" He said, "A born again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him." He said, "You are the very image, the very copy of that one." I said, "Goodness gracious sakes alive!" And I began to see what had gone on in there, and I said, "Well now you don't mean, you couldn't dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?" He said, "Oh yeah, if you'd had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could've done the same thing, 'cause you're a reborn man too." (86).
(Listen to Copeland again by Real Audio by clicking HERE)
Once again, the cup of apostasy is overflowing. We could go on and document much, much more but again, time fails us.
We conclude this survey of doctrinal infamy by observing that two other Faith teachers, the well known "apostle" Frederick K.C. Price and Joyce Meyer have embraced the doctrine. Meyer's teaching of the doctrine and subsequent clumsy denial of ever having done so is on record for posterity as is Price's own steadfast adherence to it (87). These are just two more examples showing that these blasphemous doctrines are alive and well in the Charismatic and Pentecostal worlds today, primarily among Word of Faith circles.
We simply haven't had the time to research and document which of the newest generations of Faith movement ministers have embraced the doctrine but are certain that ministry media trails could be traced across the world - we've shown two of them in the "ministry" of Paula White and Creflo Dollar and are certain that where their smoke has billowed, there are strange fires burning, ignited by the embers of their eccentric and heretical teaching. As research permits, we will post further discoveries of this new generation of Word of Faith false teaching as we can find them. They're circulating quietly and anonymously in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches as well as those segments of evangelicalism that embrace the Word of Faith movement's teachers and influences. Time and personal experience will bring them out.
Benny Hinn's Trinity Of Trinities - The Nine God Flap
We'll conclude our review of the Faith movement's warping of the doctrine of God by bringing to remembrance the bizarre nine-membered Godhead that Benny Hinn posited, claiming divine revelation knowledge when he first expounded it. Around 1990, Benny Hinn jolted his audiences on at least two occasions with a peculiarly twisted view of the Godhead: a transcript of Hinn's declaration, aired over his Orlando Christian Center worship service telecast on October 3, 1990, makes crystal clear where Hinn claimed he was getting this bizarre insight:
Man, I feel revelation knowledge already coming on me here. Lift your hands. Something new is going to happen here today. I felt it just as I walked down here. Holy Spirit, take over in the name of Jesus .. God the Father, ladies and gentlemen, is a person; and He is a triune being by Himself separate from the Son and the Holy Ghost. Say, what did you say? Hear it, hear it, hear it. See, God the Son is a person, God the Holy Ghost is a person. But each one of them is a triune being by Himself. If I can shock you - and maybe I should - there's nine of them. Huh, what did you say?
Let me explain: God the Father, ladies and gentlemen, is a person with his own personal spirit, with his own personal soul, and his own personal spirit-body. You say, Huh, I never heard that. Well you think you're in this church to hear things you've heard for the last fifty years? You can't argue with the Word, can you? It's all in the Word.
(Listen to Hinn by Real Audio by clicking HERE)
In the sharpest contradiction to Hinn's pulpit bravado, not a single shred of Biblical truth substantuates Hinn's unbelievable claim. Three years later, after a firestorm of controversy raged around Hinn when his false teaching was called to task by the Christian Research Institute's president Hank Hanegraaf in his polemic Christianity In Crisis and on his live Southern California radio show, he was asked about this very statement. In an August 1993 Charisma interview on page 25 (click HERE to view a PDF file of this), Benny Hinn sheepishly tried to disarm a direct question as to whether or not he ever taught that the Triune Godhead had nine members. Hinn's specious evasion was obscured by his spin on the controversy in his response. He not only admitted to having taught it more than twice but tried to dismiss it as something he'd read and advanced without proper study, in the way many preachers say things from the pulpit they'd later regret.
Admitting that it "was a dumb thing to say" (as well as admitting on the same page that he did indeed teach the "little gods" doctrine) and that it had shocked his congregation to whom he first taught it, Hinn glibly sidestepped any further controversy by framing his admission in the context of having read and carelessly repeated from a book written by the late Finis Jennings Dake and by stating he'd apologized to his congregation the following week. He downplays his bizarre declaration that each member of Trinity was a triune being as having been just a joke he'd simply cracked with his Orlando congregation - and then claims he was completely misunderstood and even misrepresented as having been teaching the Trinity was actually "nine gods".
It's not surprising, then, when Hinn conveniently forgets to mention that he'd claimed in his October, 1990 sermon that the notion that each member of the Trinity has His own body, soul and spirit was a divinely inspired insight. There's no recollection of his prompting of the church congregation to physically demonstrate submission to the presence of the Holy Spirit's inspiration coming upon him by the uplifting of their hands and no remembrance of his prayer that He would, in the name of Jesus, "take over." In full damage control spin, Hinn then completely ignores the clear implication of his lunatic statement he'd been asked about, which, contrary to his wounded pride, at least suggests that if there aren't nine separate divine beings then there at least three completely separate ones. If either claim is inspired truth, as Hinn claimed it was the morning he uttered it before his shocked church, then the Biblical revelation of the Trinity therefore cannot itself be true - Hinn's Godhead doesn't share an essential unity with each other if they have individual triune beings and are entities unto themselves as he has asserted. Each member of the Trinity would then literally then be a "God" and the entire fabric of Christian faith, based upon the nature of God revealed in the Gospel and in the Atonement of Christ is a monstrously unthinkable falsehood.
In an instant Hinn's less than forthcoming candor admitted that the concept originated from a far less inspired position: that of the weird rumination of a deceased Pentecostal minister's Bible commentary. The only thing surprising about this is that Hinn so freely admitted to it - and that his startling example is typical of just how "inspired" the self-anointed expositors of lost truth are who comprise many of the leading voices of the Faith movement.
With such a severity of error, Hinn therefore rightly deserved the censure he has received since then. He's apparently not learned from either this gaffe or his others. In 1998, during a telecast of "This Is Your Day," a ministry colleague of ours watched as Hinn prayed during a service murmuring " .. Father, Father, Father .. Son, Son, Son .. Holy Ghost, Holy Ghost, Holy Ghost." The litany jolted him upright and he felt Hinn's prayer was based upon his 9-membered Godhead belief, and he stared at the TV screen and cried out "heresy!" It is certainly nothing we wanted to hear about but it seems that indeed, as has been observed by critics of Hinn's ministerial shortcomings, the same old "Benny" always ends up returning back to his roots. His famous renunciation of the "prosperity gospel" in the early 1990's now is a memory of little more than window dressing since he is as enamored with it as always - and Benny's once again pronouncing God's judgment upon his critics, as ferally as other Faith ministry leaders have in the past (Click here to view this venom by Real Video).
What Faith Teaching Really Is Based Upon - The Denial Of The Cross Of Christ
In weariness, we leave this gallery of spiritual infamy having heard enough blasphemy and heretical presumption that might make one wonder if a bullseye of divine judgment hasn't targetted some of these Faith preachers. Their writing and preaching provides enough insight into what really underlies the thinking and belief systems of various leaders of the Faith movement who to this day hold fast to these doctrines - and what really is contained in their presentations of "the uncompromised Word of God," as they are so fond of reminding us.
Remember that these false teachings on the nature of God Himself have been exalted as divine revelation of lost truths long obscured by tradition and lost to the Body of Christ but now, thankfully, restored to us for "deeper understanding" of the Christian life. This is a crucial point that mustn't be overlooked. All of the self-recommendation and peer-promotional ad print these teachers produce about their ministries and their prosperity preacher tribes unblushingly represents its teaching as "the uncompromised truth" free of human tradition. It is called "restored" revelation that the Church has lost but which is now "ours once again." It may be spelled out to those outside the Faith movement in the kindest, most gentle and sincere spirit as humanly possible, but it is still firmly upheld as revelation knowledge meant to equip a church that's lost its way and its edge in a dying world at the brink of the day of judgment.
In their efforts to present spiritual truth, these teachers have instead become a spiritually toxic influence whose insistence on presenting these deceptive false teachings has perverted the storehouses of sound Biblical Christianity they might otherwise have preserved. What they advance are unbiblical positions that Christ's sacrifice was not completed at Calvary, but in hell, that He spiritually died and had to be spiritually "born again" and created to fulfill this atonement completely after enduring Satanic baiting and torment and that he actually ceased being God by becoming "sin." By teaching that Christ became Satanic and "sin itself", that He was a "born again" creation of God and that there was ever a broken fellowship because of this amongst the Trinity, the Word of Faith movement shamelessly engages itself in the worst kind of denial of the Christian faith even as it sings like angels and speaks in their tongues.
In the end, the curt pen of E.W. Kenyon summarizes the true attitude of these false teachings about the heart of the Christian faith, a sentiment shared by cultists of every stripe we've ever spoken with:
We have sung `Nearer the cross' and we have prayed that we might be`Nearer the cross' but the cross has no salvation in it. It is a place of failure and defeat. (88).
The Cross of Christ is a hated thing among false teachers. From the earliest days of apostasy in the days following Christ's resurrection to today, from the Unification Church to the Watchtower Society, scorn upon the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary is a sign of rebellion and rejection of the foundation of the Gospel He died to bring alive to us at such great cost. What an arrogant rejection of Christ's chosen instrument for our salvation! How far the Faith movement has fallen, from the days in which old time Pentecostals could joyously identify with Paul the apostle's adoration of it:
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. .. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Galatians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 1:18
And the Lord Jesus Christ Himself had his own opinion on the power of the cross in the life of the Christian:
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. .. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
1 Corinthians 1:18, Luke 14:27
Such a focus is lost to the Word of Faith movement when Faith people reckon themselves gods who can speak into existence whatever prosperity they choose by the spiritual power of their words. And the present dearth of authentically holy and healthy Christian fellowships in the Faith movement is proof of this. Again, this is to be expected when true faith has been perverted into a metaphysical exercise of "new creation reality" operable by mastery of spiritual laws.
There's no easy way to say this, so it just must be said: the Faith movement exists to defend the fables of carnal religious tradition, not the truths of divine inspiration. Those in the Faith movement who continue to entertain these concepts run the danger of being found by God engage in blasphemy and falsehood as corrupt as the worse examples of false doctrine created by cultists such as the Unification and Mormon churches, the Watchtower Society and even occult mysticism itself. When coupled with their fanatical devotion to the more materialistic side of the "prosperity gospel" as well as their own well established and intentional disconnection with historically established Christian tradition, Word of Faith teachers and members instead only raise grimly on-target Biblical warnings that seemed to have been penned with them in mind:
1 Timothy 6:3-5
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
2 Peter 2:17-22
These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
The heretical positions of the Faith movement preach another Jesus, another gospel and are empowered by another spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4). That is one Pentecostal's perspective.
In our next and final article, we will be coming to grips with a Biblical examination of Faith teaching and putting it in the true perspective it should be .. as being a spiritual anarchy that puts God in a box and makes Him a cosmic bellhop at the beck and call of his creation. We will review what Scripture says about its fundamental claims as well as frankly admit to the good that does indeed come out of the Faith movement's culture itself.
(45) Arrington, French. Pentecostal Doctrine (Pathway, 1992), p. 130.
(46) King, Paul L. "John A. MacMillan's Teaching Regarding the Authority of the Believer and its Impact on the Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic Movements." This paper is a distillation of a doctoral dissertation on the subject that King wrote and can be found online at http://www.pneumafoundation.org/article.jsp?article=/article_0027.xml
(47) Billheimer, Paul E. Destined For The Throne (Bethany House, 1975), pp. 35, 36, 37.
(48) In the closing pages of an undated TBN reprint of Billheimer's book The Technique Of Spiritual Warfare (internal evidence suggests it was republished around 1981), he described how completely overwhelmed Paul and Jan Crouch were by reading one of the first editions of the Destined For The Throne book in 1975. Within a matter of a couple of years, Crouch had compelled the Billheimers, who were then in semi-retirement, to move to his Santa Ana headquarters and produce weekly television programs for them centered around the themes of the book.(pp. 87-91) God alone knows how much of Billheimer's "Godhead extension" teaching was advanced, along with his other views about Christ becoming a sinful, accursed thing at the cross of Calvary (a view we will shortly examine in the rest of this article). What is important to realize is that this questionable book was loudly exalted by the Crouches who gushed that "only the Bible has had a greater impact on our lives."
(49) Hagin, Kenneth. "The Incarnation" The Word Of Faith, December 1980, p. 14
(50) See Horton, Michael, ed. The Agony of Deceit (Moody, 1990) pp. 90-92.
(51) Copeland, Kenneth. "From Us To You." Believer's Voice Of Victory, February, 1987, p. 9.
(54 ) Kenyon, Essek W. Identification (Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society, 1968) pp. 60-61
(55 ) Kenyon's book The Two Kinds Of Knowledge (Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society, 1966) is devoted to his avowed faith in the supremacy of what he calls "revelation knowledge", a process of receiving direct spiritual illumination from God that brings deeper insights to hidden truths in Scripture and can supersede orthodox interpretation of Scripture,calling it into question if the "hidden truth" contradicts it. Kenyon contrasts his discussion on this peculiar kind of divine revelation with what he defines as "sense knowledge," knowledge received and understood by the five senses that is limited to reason and empirical observation, is subject to revision. Because it is limited to mental rationale, Kenyon observes, by its very nature "sense knowledge" limits humanity from coming into the higher "revelation knowledge" that a spiritual perception of God in Scripture can bring. While Kenyon rightly observes that room for a spiritual dimension in acquiring knowledge must be made to broaden a person's spiritual life, the direction he proposes all should take involves accepting as divine truth certain kinds of his "revelation knowledge" that directly contradict foundational and essential Christian truth that go well beyond simple disagreement with another's "opinion."
(56) ibid, The Hidden Man (Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society, 1981) p. 7, 8
(57 ) ibid, The Two Kinds Of Knowledge (Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society, 1966) p. 22, 31, 34-35.
(58 ) ibid, The New Kind Of Love (Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society, 1969), p. 43-44
(59) Tilton, Robert. Decide, Decree, Declare (Robert Tilton Ministries, 1989) p. 31-32.
(60) ibid, p. 26
(61) God's Laws Of Success, pp 170-71
(62) Cerullo, Morris. "The Endtime Manifestations Of The Sons of God," audiotape, n.d. cited from Hanegraaf, Hank. Christianity In Crisis (Harvest House, 1993), p. 108
(63) Treat, Casey. "Believing In Yourself," audiotape, n.d. cited from Horton, Michael, ibid, p. 91.
(64) Hinn, Benny. "Praise The Lord", 6 Dec 1990, Trinity Broadcast Network and Orlando Christian Center broadcast, 1 December, 1990 cited from Fisher, G. Richard, Goedelman, Kurt, Nunnally, W.E., Cannon, Stephen F. and Blizard, Paul R. The Confusing World Of Benny Hinn, (PFO, 1999), p. 12-13.
(65) Copeland, Kenneth. "The Force Of Love," audiotape, n.d. with Hanegraaf, ibid, p. 108, 116.
(66) Capps, Charles. Authority In Three Worlds. (Harrison House, 1982) p. 16.
(67) Paulk, Earl. Satan Unmasked (K Dimension, 1984), p. 97 and Held In The Heavens Until (K Dimension, 1985), p. 171. Of all the ministers who've preached the view that they have a mandate to reign as gods in worlds of their own creation, perhaps it is Paulk and his brother Don who have most abominably taken this to heart in their public ministries and private lives. Their well-crafted public image of being two upright men of God on the cutting edge of progressive Pentecostal ministry has long ago been blown to bits by their inability to conceal their actual moral and spiritual degeneracy. Besides their autocratic relationship they established with others in their church staff in which they directed programs, liturgy and expenditure almost at whim, they also both sexually preyed upon women in their Atlanta area church as well. They sanctioned this by using a seduction approach in which they cited the need to manifest "God's love" through "Kingdom relationships" with them in twisted relationships as deviant as those of the cultic communal sexuality of the Children of God. For more information on their warped careers in spiritual demagoguery, click here.
(68) Crouch's sanctimonious utterance, voiced at the height of the early 1990's controversy raised over Benny Hinn's unorthodox teaching, is little more than self-righteous bombast. He is on record as being as taken with the doctrine as Paulk, Copeland or Kenyon have been with defiant declarations affirming it on his Praise The Lord broadcasts. The late Dr. Walter Martin details in "Agony Of Deceit" how he had the eye-opening privilege of sitting in Crouch's Santa Ana ministry offices "and once spent almost two hours attempting to convince me and three other ministers that we were 'little gods.'" Horton, ibid, p. 93.
(69) Faith teachers have stubbornly refused any public discussion of their errors or heresies, preferring to seek closed door interaction when they can no longer afford to put it off, or preferring to turn their talk shows into televised whipping posts in which they assail their critics with threats of divine punishment, or more commonly, purely human and carnal expressions of their undisguised disgust and contempt with them. Video and audio clips from TBN broadcasts well document these kind of grotesque displays of pseudo-pious outrage.
Of the two known figures who have made attempts to engage in dialogue over their errors, these being Faith "pastor" Benny Hinn and Faith teacher Kenneth Copeland, both have since resorted back to the same kind of denunciation. In an August, 1993 Charisma magazine interview, Hinn pensively observed "things had been changing in him" for two years since his Christianity Today interview in which he said "the Faith message doesn't add up" but that, by his own confession, "I went on teaching some things because I didn't have the whole picture yet. When you're into something for 10 years, you don't change quickly." (p. 24)
Copeland, when contacted by Walter Martin in an effort to confront him with his, cancelled a scheduled meeting with him in Paul Crouch's own offices (see footnote 52) and never rescheduled it.
(70) Kenyon, E. W. What Happened from the Cross to the Throne (Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society, 1969),
(71) ibid, p. 60, 61, 63,
(72) ibid, p. 20, 33, 44-45
(73) ibid, p. 79, 63, 89, 93
(74) ibid, back of cover on 1969 edition.
(75) ibid, p. 9
(76) ibid, back of cover on 1969 edition.
(77) ibid, p. 9
(78) ibid, back of cover on 1969 edition.
(79) Billheimer, ibid, p. 84.
(80) ibid, p. 86
(81) ibid, p. 88
(82) Hagin, Kenneth. The Name of Jesus (Faith, 1979), pp. 29-30, 31, 33
(83) Copeland, Kenneth. "What Happened From The Cross To The Throne" audiotape. Copeland makes no effort to obscure just from which spiritual well he has drawn from in using the exact same title as Kenyon's infamous book to title his talk and the teaching tape that recorded it. If this isn't the proverbial "handwriting on the wall" about just where Copeland's "revelation knowledge" came from, then I don't know what the term can possibly mean.
(84) Copeland, Kenneth. "Jesus - Our Lord Of Glory." Believer's Voice Of Victory, p. 10, 4
(85) Hinn, Benny telecast on TBN, December 15, 1990.
(86) ibid, "Substitution And Identification" audiotape. Once again, Copeland's wholesale coopting of Kenyon's blasphemously false doctrine can be seen even in his choice of message titles that are the same as Kenyon's books.
(87) Joyce Meyer's denial that she ever taught the Faith movement's heretical teaching that Christ was "reborn" in hell is reproduced here as taken from a scan of the November, 1998 copy of Charisma magazine, page 55: our copy of Meyer's booklet has been temporarily misplaced here but when we find it, we will place alongside this image a scan from it which will substantuate our observation that Meyer is not above "stretching" the truth when it is convenient for her.
We have two videotapes of Fred Price's "Ever Increasing Faith" church service broadcast over TBN as we recorded them in the mid 1990's (the exact dates were misrecorded but were from 1994 - 1996) in which he reiterated these same dreadful errors that Meyer, Copeland, Hagin and Kenyon have presented. To further demonstrate how deeply the taproot of error is dug into the soil of the Faith movement, a promotional spot aired during the telecast that stunned us. A long shot was aired on the spot of a storeroom containing teaching materials that were used by Price's ministerial training programs -- shelves filled with E.W. Kenyon's books. When we can find this image on the videotape, we hope to get a screenshot to post here.
(88) Kenyon, E. W. Advanced Bible Course (Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society, 1968) p.279
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