Posts Tagged ‘word of faith’

imageImage via KellyLawlessThrough a CC License

I am guilty of being a little intellectually lazy. I tend to have my best ruminations after reading either a book, or a blog, listening to a sermon by my pastor, or maybe after listening to a podcast. It could be an argument I haven’t heard before, or a term I’m not familiar with, or a thought I vehemently disagree with. I’m always more stimulated by other minds than I am my own. Perhaps it’s because I’m always in my own mind, and I know how boring or thin it can be.

Whatever the cause, I take seriously the Great commandment:

Mark 12:28-30 ESV

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

Loving The Lord with all our minds has been largely ignored by present and recent generations. It took the horrible consequences of belief in the aberrant Word of Faith Movement to spur my own entry into God-loving with my mind. We live in an anti-intellectual culture. You would think today’s humanity would be skeptically burnt out on false worldviews, especially the cynical Millenials; but, alas, skepticism seems to be a non-sequetor, except for the truth claims of Christianity. Then it’s Katie-bar-the-door.

I am by nature skeptical as of lately; although I haven’t always been. My foray into the “name-it-and-claim-it” club forced me to critically-examine my belief system.

Through God’s Grace, I turned to the Reformers for help. Their conflict with the Roman Catholic Magisterium and rediscovery of the 5 Solas [“Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone); “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone); “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone); “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone); and “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone Be Glory)] gave me a great foundation to be able to claw my way out of a false belief system. I am now chronically allergic to what I call “terminal goofiness” when it comes to theology.

What about you? Have you examined your own beliefs with a critical eye?

Don’t think for a minute that you can escape having your worldview challenged. It’s gonna happen. You can’t rigorously defend a minority Weltanschauung that you’ve garnered by familial osmosis, or pieced together in the mad laboratory of public opinion that you’ve grave-robbed from the cemetery of bad ideas.

God’s Word is the only foundation that will keep you from sinking sand. Biblical, historic Christianity is the only worldview that can adequately answer both the way things are in reality, and how their supposed to be.

simul justus et peccator,

Eric Adams

The logical outcome of preaching a Prosperity ...

In my previous posts in this series, I have been tracing the influences in the Word of Faith Movement, and in turn, its influence on myself. I have spent several posts delineating the streams of influence on Watchman Nee, for a couple of reasons.

One, because of his influence on my own theology, and two, because these influences on Nee also turn out to be singularly influential on the entire Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, and more specifically, the Word of Faith branch of those theological rivers.

Today, I intend to discuss Hannah Whitall Smith. It is not my intention to bash Mrs. Smith, or the Keswick Movement. There is much to be commended in both. It is the theological implications involved that I am discussing. I don’t particularly enjoy disagreeing with any of the persons mentioned in this series, but I have to put my personal feelings aside and address how these folks influenced later movements. 

There is a cumulative effect when it comes to American Christianity. The rise of Revivalism in the 19th century, the rise of the Holiness Movement, the arrival of Liberal Christianity, and the incorporation of American distinctives, (such as Pragmatism, and the American Dream), all coalesce to develop the present state of American Evangelicalism, and specifically, the Word of Faith Movement.

What this means, in my case, is that I inherited the previous theological perspectives by succumbing to aberrant Word of Faith philosophy and doctrine. Watchman Nee was not a heretic, but he absorbed questionable lines of thought from Roman Catholic mystics. Hannah Whitall Smith had many theologically sound things to say, but her Quaker background, coupled with the influence of revivalists culture and men such as Boardman, led to an ultimate turn to universalism in Mrs. Smith. It is that stream that I intend to explore here.

Hannah Whitall Smith

Hannah Whitall Smith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hannah Whitall Smith

Hannah Whitall Smith was born Feb. 7, 1832, into a strict Quaker home in Philadelphia. She spent her early childhood as a deeply religious, and introspective person.

From her diary, made in the year 1848:

“Sixteen years of my life have passed, and, as I look back at the bright and happy days of my childhood, and at the quieter but more earnest enjoyments of my youth, my heart feels almost bursting with gratitude to my kind and gracious Creator who has filled my cup of joy almost to overflowing. Truly my life has been one fairy scene of sunshine and of flowers.” [2]

Later, in the same chapter, Mrs. Smith writes:

“But the chiefest charm of my life was that I possessed the most delightful father and mother that ever lived. In the narrow Quaker circle into which I was born, very few of the opportunities for amusement of excitement that come to young people nowadays, were open to us, and all the fun we could extract from life was of the most simple and innocent kind…” [2]

Hannah’s predilection for introspection and internal religious fervor can be demonstrated from the following quotation she takes from her diary at age 16:

“Anna wrote me a little note in reply to my letter. Never had I received one which thrilled me more stirringly than that! She begged me to give up all to my Savior, to pray for strength, and to strive earnestly after holiness no matter what it may cost me. ‘Oh, dearest Hannah’,  she said, ‘ do let us try. Let us seek to journey together towards the glorious kingdom! Let us struggle for a portion of His spirit.’

Oh, that I could follow her advice! I sat here alone in my study and tried to feel as if I could give up all. I could not even feel repentance for the many, many sins I have committed; and, far worse than all, I could not feel as if I really loved God. It is dreadful. What shall I do? I must repent, I must love my Heavenly Father, or I shall be eternally ruined. But I cannot do it myself. God alone can help me, and I know not how to pray. Oh what shall I do? Where shall I go? It is said, ‘Ask, and ye shall receive’. But I cannot become really righteous until I repent, and I cannot repent.” [2]

There is nothing alarming in what she says. We all have those inner struggles of faith, but you are beginning to see the seeds of revivalism beginning to form in her thoughts. She will later refute these internal feelings in favor of trust in the written Word, but the  influence never really left her.

Quakerism 

I will let Miss Hannah describe the 19th century Quaker community she was raised in:

“There was, as I have said, very little direct religious teaching to the young Quakers in my time. We were sometimes preached to in our meetings, when a Friend in the gallery would exhort the ‘dear young people’ to be faithful to their Divine Guide; but no doctrines or dogmas were ever taught us; and, unless one was especially awakened in some way, none of the questions that exercise the minds of young people in the present day were even so much as dreamed of by the young people of my circle, at least so far as I knew; and a creature more utterly ignorant of all so-called religious truth than I was up to the age of sixteen, when my awakening came, could hardly be conceived of in these modern times.”

Isn’t this remarkably similar to the mindset of much of today’s younger Christianity, especially those from the postmodern, or Charismatic wing of Evangelicalism that knows little of historic Christian doctrine, but somehow wants to retain personal, internal spirituality? That is a very dangerous place to be, because modern-day Pentecostal/Charismatic/Emergent Christianity lacks the same safeguards of Quakerism built into their theology and practice, to keep the weirder elements of subjective-only religion from taking on the more radical form that we see today. Biblical ignorance leads to aberrant Christianity, inevitably. I am a perfect example.

One of the reasons I am spending so much time on Mrs. Whitall Smith, is that I find much in common with my own personal struggles, and in a wider sense, the struggles of 20th-21st century American Evangelical mainstream. 

 I am going to include some lengthy quotes from Mrs. Smith in her autobiography, and make some comments as I go. See if you can follow my train of thought and see the influence, or just outright similarity, (whether it be caused by Quakerism, or merely coincidental), between her exposure to Quakerism, and today’s American Evangelicalism, so thoroughly steeped in Word of Faith theology.

Quakers' Meeting

Quakers’ Meeting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“One of the truths they (Quakers) had got hold of far ahead of their time was in regard to the equality in the sight of God between men and women. They gave their “women Friends” an equal place with “men Friends” in the work of the ministry, and in the government of the Society. There were women Preachers, and women Elders, and women Overseers, who sat in equal state with the men Preachers, and Elders, and Overseers, on the raised benches in solemn rows, facing the body of the meeting, the men on one side of the middle aisle, and the women on the other. The preachers, (or Ministers, as we called them), sat at the head of these solemn rows, the oldest and weightiest nearest the top, and gradually tapering down to the younger neophytes, whose gifts had only lately been “acknowledged”. [3]

Not to be persnickety here, but many of the Complementarian crowd, (of which I am a member), would point out that yes, in Christ we are all equal, however, each gender has specific roles in the church, but Pastoring, and Eldership would be a function given to men alone. For we complementarians, this is no small matter, since it deals with Christian ministry, which should not be considered a secondary level discussion.

The confusion here leads to some interesting conclusions. I have yet to find, to my knowledge, any denomination, which has fudged on the gender-specific role of Pastor/Elder/Preacher, (whatever you want to call it), that has failed to fudge on other doctrinal grounds, and have leaned…or maybe jumped, into full-blown Christian Liberalism. Think about it honestly, and tell me I’m wrong. We will visit this”acknowledging” a little later.

They accepted, as the only true equipment for the work of the ministry, the declaration contained in Matthew 10:18-20, and they believed its promises would be literally fulfilled to every faithful soul, whether man or woman, young or old, learned or unlearned.

‘And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak, for it is not ye that speak but the Spirit of you Father which speaketh in you.’

This promise contained for them the Quaker “Call” and the Quaker “Ordination”; and to “study for the ministry” in colleges or out of books, or to be ordained by the laying on of human hands, seemed to them the rejection of the only Divine call and ordination, and to result in what they termed a “man-made ministry”. In their view Ministers could be made only by God, and the power to preach was a direct “gift” bestowed by Him alone. All that could be done was for the Elders and Overseers of the meeting to watch the development of this gift; and, when it seemed to them that the speaking bore unmistakable signs of a Divine “unction”, they would meet together and decide whether or no to record on their meeting-books that they “acknowledged” so and so to be a Minister. This act of “recording” or “acknowledging” did not make the speakers Ministers; it was only the recognition and acknowledgment of the fact that God had already made them such. When this had been done, they were called “acknowledged Ministers”, and were felt by us young people to have been admitted into the hierarchy of heaven itself.” [3]

There are several things to note here. First, and foremost, is the use of MT 10″8-10, to the exclusion of other Scriptures, such as:

2 Timothy 2:14-16

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

An Unashamed Workman

“14 Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,”

Or, how about…

Titus 1:8-9

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”

To isolate a single Scripture, and make it dogma in practice, while ignoring clearer passages, is a case of not remembering the 3 rules of interpretation: Context, Context, Context…!

The second thing to notice is the anti-intellectualism going on here. Just as today’s brand of anti-intellectualism leaves most Christians impotent to deal with the more virulent attacks upon Christianity, Scriptural ignorance in Mrs. Whitall Smith’s day was institutionalized.

Ephesians 4:9-16

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

The third thing to notice is, in spite of the Quaker’s anti-intellectual bent, they are ordaining Ministers, whether they call them”acknowledged Ministers” or “ordained Ministers”. The end result is the same. They were turning out men and women who were ignorant of church history, ignorant of Protestant doctrine, and ignorant of the very Scriptures so necessary for “sound doctrine”. We see the same anti-intellectual trend today, when, instead of a liberal arts degree, (either a Masters or Doctoral) in theological study, many ministers have a minimum of 1 year of Bible School, and buk000s of marketing and leadership reading, while all the time trusting in their own personal charisma, and supposed inner “leadings” of the Holy Spirit. Part of this is the fault of the laity for demanding fluff and consumerism; while part is due to he cost of a liberal arts degree, (especially  a Masters and above), and the general buying into the “moved by the Spirit” philosophy so common in our churches today.

i are a doofus.

i are a doofus. (Photo credit: LynstarFC)

Add to this the laziness of a general population that insists on ‘instant’ everything, including theology, and you have a generation, (or several generations), of dumbed-down, Scriptural ignorant, culturally dominated, “spiritual-but-not-religious” people who couldn’t reason their way theologically out of a corn maze.

I am ranting now, and this post is getting long, so I will continue this discussion in my next entry in this series.

Whoever said blogging was easy was seriously misleading. I don’t know how people do this more than once a week. It takes me a long time to come up with what I want to say, and a longer time to read, research, and back up what I say with confidence…plus the fact that I am in the single digit reader’s club, and I wonder what I’m doing this for. Still I cry “Excelsior!”, and laugh out loud.

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric “dazed and confused” Adams

Rossville, GA…Br549

1.  “Hannah Whitall Smith (American Evangelist and Reformer).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/549750/Hannah-Whitall-Smith&gt;.

2. Smith, Hannah Whitall. The Unselfishness of God and How I Discovered It. New York: Garland Pub., 1985. Print. Kindle file.

3. Smith, Hannah Whitall. “Quaker “Truth” and Quaker “Ministry”” The Unselfishness of God and How I Discovered It. New York: Garland Pub., 1985. N. pag. Print. Kindle file.

Stripped image of John Wesley

Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Please catch up on my previous posts in this series. I am in the middle of explaining my journey into the Word of Faith Movement, and my journey out of it. Both have been painful experiences.

There are many befouled tributaries which feed the polluted streams of the Word of Faith River. One of the subtler  influences on myself has been Watchman Nee. Don’t get me wrong, there is much of his writing that bears the stamp of Biblical Christianity. By the same token, there is much that bears the stamp of outright mysticism on the one hand, and a lack of clarity on the other.

One of the streams of influence on Nee was the Deeper Life movement, or the Keswick movement, as it is now known. I will spend some time discussing the foundations of this movement, and its influence on Rev. Nee, and thus on myself.

No theological movement happens in a vacuum, or a completely sterile condition. You have to look backwards, towards the earlier movements and revivals to appreciate the Keswick movement.

Wesleyan Perfectionism

Wesleyan perfectionism has influenced 2 centuries of revivalism and theology. It is not my point here to explain the subtleties of Wesleyan theology, but to point out its influence on later theological streams.

John Wesley (1703–91) introduced a theological perspective on Christian Sanctification he named “Christian Perfection”. By narrowly defining sin as “a voluntary transgression of a known law”, he was able to commit the fallacy of equivocation and redefine the doctrine of Original Sin. He limits sin to only intentional sinful acts. 

I need to be honest up front and declare my hostility towards Wesley’s view of sanctification. I believe John Wesley was probably one of the greatest Evangelists in the last 300 years, but his theology of Sanctification should be viewed with caution. I believe his brother Charles had a more thorough theology (which he amply demonstrates in his hymns), than his brother John. If that angers you, I apologize for making you angry, but not for the statement.

By his narrowly defined view of “sin”, Wesley could ignore the involuntary transgressions even saved men commit, and still use the term “sinless perfection”. I will deal with this noxious little ditty in another post, but suffice it to say that this redefinition of sin very much reminds me of the Roman Catholic definition of Mortal and Venial sins.  I am well aware of Wesley’s subtle use of the term “perfection”, but he still lowered the bar on calling sin what it is- sin. Pelagians, semi-Pelagians, and Arminians all elevate the freewill of man to near Divine status, and downplay man’s enslavement to sin. At least that’s this former Wesleyan’s view, for what it’s worth. Classical Wesleyans are more moderate about Christian perfection than later Wesleyans.

I’m sorry, but the very moment you bring Christians, and perfection into contact in this life, it’s likely to spontaneously combust.

Theology of Avoiding the Ditches

I have learned to steer my rickety little Clampett mobile down the theological road carefully. I am a theologian of “avoiding the ditches”. I have a steering wheel with way too much play in it, and I have been guilty of plowing a few ditches in my life. So , pardon my rabbit trails.

Antinomianism is the belief that man has no need of the Law of God after regeneration. “We have Grace…Woo hoo, let’s live it up”! Another ditch is legalism. “Let’s build an electrified fence with flame-throwers and machine guns, no smoking and no drinking signs, and absolutely no dancing”. Neither of these approaches work. I have found that only the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, knowing the solas of the Reformation, and the understanding the three uses of the Law, will keep us out of these ditches.

I will not solve the argument between Wesleyans and the Reformers. It’s been going on since Augustine and Pelagius, and I don’t

Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on...

Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on the concept of just war (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

have the time. I once was a Wesleyan, but now I’m found a Reformed believer. You’ll have to accept that and love me and read on, or not.

My point is that Wesley’s views on sanctification, and in turn, justification, bears significantly on the rise of the Holiness Movement, and consequently, the Keswick movement. Distinctions can be made between Sanctification and Justification, but not separation. 

This redefinition by Wesley led to a huge chasm between Justification and Sanctification. It led to a second work of grace, that he called Christian Perfection, Salvation from all willful sin, entire sanctification, perfect love, holiness, purity of intention, full salvation, second blessing, second rest, etc. You will see these terms used throughout the Holiness Movement, the Keswick Movement, the Pentecostal Movement, and on and on, ad nauseam.

I don’t deny the need for personal holiness. Good works are a necessary result of Justification. For goodness’ sake, the Puritans were deeply concerned with personal piety. Nor do I necessarily deny secondary Christian experiences. Every Christian has had one or several of those “egad!” moments, some more than one. I am not denying personal crisis experiences. It’s just when folks start making certain experiences normative for everyone that I get snarky. I have seen firsthand what happens when one group of Christians look down on others because they didn’t speak in tongues, or lift their hands when they worship, or sit quietly in their pew. I have also the other side, which deny even that such a thing as healing is possible, or that being affected emotionally in a service is wrong, or even that to pray expectantly for anything is presumptuous. Same road, different ditches.

All that the separation of Justification and Sanctification does is create two groups of Christians – those who are “in the know”, and have this second blessing, and those who are not “in the know”, and are a second class Christian. You see this attitude everywhere in Holiness, Keswick, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, and Charismatic writings. My brush may be broad, but I dare you to tell me I’m messing up the paint job. 

Wesley and the Crisis Event

I believe that John Wesley held a subdued form of this theological elitism. His disciples, however, took it and ran…”Katie bar the door”. It was Asa Mahan and Phoebe Palmer who took Wesley’s money and ran…and run they did. Mahan’s connection to

English: Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875) ...

English: Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875) Português: O teólogo estadunidense Charles Finney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wesley and Adrian College made him influential. Add to that Palmer’s “Tuesday Meetings”, and Charles Finney with his “New Measures”, and you have a perfect storm. It was Mahan who introduced the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, by a book of that very name.

The emphasis on a crisis event, further promulgated by John William Felcher, became the focal point of later Wesleyan theology, unlike Wesley’s own process-crisis-process theology. The blending of Wesleyan perfectionism, through Adam Clarke (Ever heard of the Adam Clarke’s Commentary?), and American revivalism promoted by Finney, led to the Holiness movement.

In my next post in this series, I will introduce the other major influence on Watchman Nee, and in turn, myself: Hannah Whitall Smith, and the Holiness movement.

I hope these posts are being helpful. If nothing else, they will give my kids an explanation for their dad’s strange love/hate relationship with “Spirit-filled” churches.

If you would like deeper reading on what we’ve covered here, I’d suggest the following:

The Keswick Movement In Precept And Practice, by A.T. Pierson

KESWICK THEOLOGY: A SURVEY AND ANALYSIS OF THE DOCTRINE OF SANCTIFICATION IN THE EARLY KESWICK MOVEMENT, by Andrew David Naselli

Asa Mahan and the Development of American Holiness Theology, by Donald W. Dayton

The Heresy of Perfectionism, by R.C. Sproul

Systematic Theology, By Charles G. Finney

Various Christian Traditions Views on Perfection, Perfectionism by R. L. Shelton

Until next time, simul iustus et peccator.

May the Shwartz be with you,

Eric “Yogurt” Adams

20131109-094255.jpg

I am in the middle of a continuing series of posts detailing my exposure to the Faith movement. My previous posts can be found here, here, here, and here.

I will take some time here to discuss some of the positive aspects of the Charismatic Movement, from my personal point of view. Exuberant worship is a positive thing.

I understand that everything should be done decently and in order, but that doesn’t mean we should not be emotionally involved in the act of worship. There is a lot of goofiness in the broader Charismatic/Pentecostal tribe, but I’ve never seen Methodist Charismatics swinging from the light fixtures. They would be considered quite tame, compared to some of the raucous events I have attended. Their sincerity would never be questioned by me.

In my own struggles with chronic pain, I tend to be highly emotional when singing certain songs, because of the depth of meaning to me, subjectively speaking. If your worship is cold, your love for Christ may be cold, as well…or you might just be in one of those dry spells every Christian goes through. That’s the problem with emotions. They make great servants, but despicable leaders.

I think it’s great when I receive an emotional moment in a worship service, and I think it’s great when I just think through the song theologically, and quietly contemplate what my Savior has done for me. Emotional release is not our reason for worship. We can’t even really offer anything to The Lord, other than the fruit of our lips giving thanks. So worship is not even really about our own presentation of something God needs. He is self-sufficient.

One of the things I have learned from the Confessional Lutherans is that church is not about what we do for God. The worship service is about Christ stooping to serve us through His Word and Sacrament. Our singing should be primarily didactic, not therapeutic; humbly grateful, not boastful of how blessed God is with what we bring to Him. It’s not that emotional release, or strengthening of our self-image shouldn’t happen; it’s just that it becomes a by-product, a secondary benefit.

I am slowly beginning to realize what Luther meant about the theologian of glory, and the theologian of the cross. I have spent much of my life listening to theologians of glory…you know, the one who spends 30 minutes telling you how great you are. The one who tries to convince you can have what you say, if only you believe enough, and confess enough. The one who transposes Law for Gospel, and Gospel for Law.

I am now listening to theologians of the Cross…you know, the ones who preach Christ crucified, who presents the Gospel as The Lord coming to us through weakness, in human flesh, and suffering. The ones who lay the Law on you hard, fast, and continuously; and lay the Gospel on you like aloe on a sunburn.

Many of the Charismatics/Pentecostals I know truly love the Word of God. They may not actually hear it preached fully, but they love it, and that is commendable. I love their sincerity.

I also love the fact that many of them are very Evangelistic. At one Church of a God congregation I was a member of, I led a monthly outreach where we made sack lunches that we took to the homeless here in Chattanooga. I trained our folk to share their faith in Christ as we distributed the food. I had a dedicated core of people who showed love and shared the Gospel. I am grateful for those friends.

The reason I wanted to take some time to explore the more positive aspects I see in the Charismatic/Pentecostal community, is because the next few posts are not going to be as supportive.

Simul iustus et peccator,

Eric

20131105-120941.jpg

I am continuing to write about my involvement in the Word of Faith branch of the general Charismatic/Pentecostal side of Evangelicalism. You can read my other posts in this series here, here, and here.

Streams

I need to explain why I am taking the time to discuss at length the influences that the Word of Faith had on my Christian walk. I believe there are several polluted streams flowing into Evangelicalism today. The worst streams flow from the Word of Faith movement. Within this stream are several unsavory springs that flow outward to WOF adherents, Charismatics/Pentecostals, Seeker/Purpose Driven churches, and onward to the great Evangelical Ocean that many of us swim in.

Finis Dake

One of the main influences in the WOF movement is Rev. Finis Dake, through his Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible and book God’s Plan For Man. I am presently discussing some of the problems in his theology.

E.W. Kenyon

Another influence on the WOF movement is E.W. Kenyon. I will discuss his influence on the WOF in general, and myself, specifically. I intend to delve into the influences on Kenyon from the mind science cults through Phineas Quimby and Emerson College; as well as the influences from the Faith Cure movement through A.J. Gordon.

I am one of those crazy people who spends more time perusing the Bibliography and footnotes of a book than actually reading it. That becomes difficult in the Faith Movement, since many of them plagiarize others, and even each other, without giving credit where credit is due. However, since I have listened to so much of their teaching, I have constructed my own bibliography.

The third spring from whence so much chaos has spread in the Faith movement are the 1st generation Faith teachers themselves. These are the founts from which the craziness has made its way into main stream Evangelicalism.

Now, to return to Finis Dake.

20131105-121259.jpg

One of the other problems with Dake is his Christology. For instance:

“Gr. Christos, ‘Anointed.’ – Used in N.T. 577 times. Like the name “Jesus” it has no reference to deity, but to the humanity of the Son of God, who became the Christ or the “Anointed One” 30 years after He was born of Mary. God “made” Him both Lord and Christ. The Heb. Is ‘Messiah’.” 1.

Adoptionism

I am not sure if Rev. Dake was aware of it or not, but this heretical view of Christ is called Adoptionism, with its adherents being called Ebionites.

“The Adoptionist controversy is a revival of the Nestorian controversy in a modified form, and turns on the question whether Christ, as to his human nature, was the Son of God in essence, or only by adoption. Those who took the latter view were called Adoptionists. They taught that Christ as to his divinity is the true Son of God, the Only-Begotten of the Father; but as man he is his adopted Son, the First-Born of Mary. They accepted the Chalcedonian Christology of one person and two natures, but by distinguishing a natural Son of God and an adopted Son of God, they seemed to teach two persons or a double Christ, and thus to run into the Nestorian heresy.” 2

Kenotic Heresy

Another problem with Rev. Dake is his apparent belief in the Kenotic Heresy. This aberrant view revolves around Phil. 2:6-7.

“Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Phil. 2:6-7 NASB

Here is another Dake quote:

Christ emptied Himself of His authority in heaven and in earth, which was given back to Him after the resurrection.” “Christ emptied Himself of His divine attributes and outward powers that He had with the Father from eternity. He had no power to do miracles until He received the Holy Spirit in all fullness. He could do nothing of Himself in all His earthly life. He attributed all His works, doctrines, powers, etc. to the Father through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.” “Isaiah speaks of the Messiah being born without knowledge enough to know to refuse the evil and choose the good.” “Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would be born without the tongue of the learned, without knowing how to speak a word in season to help any soul, and that He would be wakened day by day to increase in knowledge and wisdom.” “He did not claim the attributes of God, but only the anointing of the Spirit to do His works.” 3

This is similar to his Adoptionism view. There are several problems with over-emphasizing the emptying of Christ.

“The question regarding the kenosis comes to this — What does it mean when Scripture says Christ “emptied” Himself? Did Jesus cease to be God during His earthly ministry? Certainly not, for deity cannot stop being deity or He would never have been true deity to begin with. Rather, the “emptying” is satisfactorily explained in the subsequent words of the verse, taking note of the two participles which grammatically modify and explain the verb: He emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. This emptying, in fact, was done as the man Christ Jesus, and neither of these ideas necessitates or implies the giving up of divine attributes.

Christianity maintains that Jesus did not “empty” himself of any of his divinity in the incarnation, although it is true that his divine attributes were veiled. When the Kenosis theory concludes that Jesus is or was less than God (as has been the case in the past), it is regarded as heresy.” 4

These are not insignificant deviations from Biblical orthodoxy. These are heretical views of “Biblical” proportions.

I have a couple more issues to cover before I close this post.

Little Gods

One of the biggest blunders of the Faith Movement is their belief that we are “little gods”. We will be revisiting this recurring nightmare in the discussion of other Faith teachers, but one source would have to be Rev. Dake. Here he states:

“Truly He is not only all that man, angels, and other beings are in this respect, but infinitely greater in everything; and man, in reality, is simply a miniature of God in attributes and powers.” 5

This false belief in man’s deification flows directly from his false understanding of anthropomorphic language, which I have discussed in another post. I cannot emphasize how cultic idea of man being a little god is. When you have a low view of Christ, you automatically have a high view of man.

 Anthropomorphic Language

Here is Dake’s understanding of anthropomorphic language about God:

“Anthropomorphism is the ascription of human bodily parts, attributes, and passions to God, and taking the substantiating statements of Scripture to be literal, and not figurative. In support of such teaching an appropriate question is: If God did not mean all He said about Himself in over 20,000 scriptures then why did He say such things? They certainly do not add to a true understanding of Him if the passages do not mean what they say. Furthermore, why would God, in hundreds of places, refer to Himself as having bodily parts, soul passions, and spirit faculties if He does not have them? Would it be necessary for Him to tell us He has such in order to reveal that He does not have them? Would He not be more likely to say in plain language that He does not have eyes, hands, mouth, ears, and other bodily members?” 6

One final thought. There is another belief of Dake we need to discuss.

Christology

A pervasive problem with WOF teachers is their confusion over the nature of Christ. Properly trained theologians understand church history, and the Ecumenical Creeds of the early church, and can keep from repeating the heresies that brought these Councils and Creeds together in the first place. This is not true of any of the teachers I am naming in this series. They espouse some of the same false doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Christian Science. rev. Dake is no different. I state again, if we can’t get the nature of Christ right, how can we avoid any manner of aberrations in our theology.

Another issue Dake has is understanding the Eternal Sonship of Christ. He wrote a note in his reference Bible that says:

Gr. prototokos, Trans. firstborn (v15), It is used of Jesus the firstborn of Mary and of the firstborn of Egyptians. It means the first one born in the family. It must also be understood in this literal sense in connection with Jesus being the firstborn in God’s family. However, Sonship in this case refers to humanity and not to deity.” 7

Thus endeth my rant on Rev. Dake. Stay tuned. Same bat time…same bat channel.

1. Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, Finis Jennings Dake, published by Dake Bible Sales, Inc, Lawrenceville, Georgia, New Testament, p. 1.
2. http://m.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/history/4_ch11.htm
3. Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, Finis Jennings Dake, published by Dake Bible Sales, Inc, Lawrenceville, Georgia, New Testament, p. 218.
4. http://www.theopedia.com/Kenosis
5. Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, Finis Jennings Dake, published by Dake Bible Sales, Inc, Lawrenceville, Georgia, Old Testament, p. 587.
6. Ibid, pg. 547.
7. Ibid, N.T., pg. 222, column 1.

simul iustus et peccator,

Eeyore

20131105-091316.jpg

In my previous posts here, and here , I have tried to explain my involvement in the Word Of Faith Movement.

My senior year at Chattanooga Valley High School was eventful to say the least. I suppose I appeared to many as a religious nut. Perhaps in some ways I was. I carried my Bible to school, and read it, and was careful about my language. I talked about my faith as often as I could, and refused to participate in the coarse jokes common to high school. I lost some friends that year, and gained some new ones, some that would remain with me to this day. One was my companion in crime, who would eventually be my Best Man in my wedding. Jeff Lambert experienced the same Filling I had, at the same moment, in the same car, in the same Baptist church parking lot. I suppose the Lord did it that way so neither of us could deny it later. That goes especially for me, because I have been so tempted to throw the Continuationist baby out with the WOF bathwater.

By this time, my family, (which consisted of my mom, dad, brother, and myself), had been asked to leave Lookout Baptist Church. My dad was a Deacon and Sunday School teacher, my mom was a Sunday School teacher, and my brother was a Sunday School teacher. Because of the influence of WOF theology concerning tongues and healing, and our own personal experiences, my entire family reacted negatively towards one week’s Sunday School lesson that firmly denied any second blessing or baptism in the Holy Spirit. My parents contradicted the literature, and we were asked to leave the church.

I have two thoughts here (hindsight is 20/20):
1. I believe the Baptists severely over-reacted, although I can understand why now.
2. I believe my family acted imprudently, and should not have been so reactionary. Cryogenic storage would have done us all a world of good.

One trait I see so commonly among Charismatics is a smug superiority and condescension towards the uninitiated. If New Calvinists have a “caged stage”, Charismatics have a need for a “stasis pod stage”, where they need suspended animation for a couple of years.

We ended up at Fort Oglethorpe United Methodist Church, which was pastored by Joe Green. He was the standard for what I measure all pastors by. He and his wife Beth were what I now consider stable Continuationists. He taught and preached expositionally, and prayed for the sick. It didn’t hurt that Joe was mentored by the preacher that had prayed for Dad. We loved them dearly. It was at this church that I met and married the love of my life, Lisa.

It was during this time that I discovered the famous (or infamous) Dake’s Bible. For those unfamiliar, Finis Dake’s Study Bible became the standard reference for the more radical Pentecostal/Charismatic cadre.

I will list a few of the problems I have dealt with in this study Bible, after I give a brief bio. of Rev. Dake.

He was born in 1902, and died in 1987. He was evidently gifted with a photographic memory , for he could quote extensive portions of the Bible from memory. He claimed to be able to recite the whole New Testament. He also claimed his reference Bible was the result of over 10,000 hours of study. I don ‘t doubt it. The reference notes are prolific, and many are original thoughts, as far as I can tell. It has the best concordance I have ever seen in a Bible.

Dake was a bit of a strange bird. He originally was liscensed with the Assemblies of God, in IL, I believe. He got into trouble with the law there, and spent some time in jail for violating the Mann Act by willfully transporting 16-year-old Emma Barelli across the Wisconsin state line “for the purpose of debauchery and other immoral practices.” 1 His license was revoked by the AOG, and he subsequently joined, then later resigned, from the Church of God, Cleveland.

Here is a quote from his testimony:

“After three months of wholehearted surrender, I received a great anointing of the Spirit. A cool and rushing wind came over me. From the depths of my being came the “rivers of rushing water” that Jesus promised in John 7:37-39. Torrents of praise began to flow from my lips as I received in measure what the disciples had on the day of Pentecost. It was May, 1920, and I was seventeen years old.

I was immediately able to quote hundreds of Scriptures without memorizing them. I also noticed a quickening of my mind to know what chapters and books various verses were found in. Before conversion, I had not read one full chapter of the Bible. This new knowledge of Scripture was a gift to me, for which I give God the praise.

From the time of this special anointing until now, I have never had to memorize the thousands of scriptures I use in teaching. I just quote a verse when I need it, by the anointing of the Spirit.

I then began to study the Bible without ceasing, and have now spent around a hundred thousand hours digging into the wealth of its teachings.” 2

I’m a troublemaker, so I have to ask why he needed to study if he could recall Scripture at will without the need for memorization, but that is a question for another time.

There were several tools that my friend Jeff and I used in those early days: a Bible, the Strong’s Concordance, Vine ‘s Dictionary of the New Testament, and the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible. I suppose the problems with the latter were offset by the fact that while my peers were busy partying and hooking up, (as they call it today), Jeff and I were beginning to form a systematic theology.

Here is a sampling of a multitude of issues I have grown to abhor in the subsequent years.

A. Dake was a proponent of an old earth genesis that was a little peculiar. He promoted a unique “gap theory”, which to me seems to be a little bizarre. The earth was originally created perfect in GE 1:1, during which time Lucifer fell, taking the perverted creatures he evidently genetically altered, (i.e. Dinosaurs and “pre-Adamites”), with him. Then God recreated the earth in GE1:2. Demons are the spirits of said pre-Adamites. Dake wrote extensive notes, and even authored a book espousing his views on creation. I have some sympathy for old earth creationism, but Dake’s is out there, my friends. Many men I respect hold to a ruin/reconstruction view of creation, and I respect their views. They are attempting to reconcile the book of Natural Revelation with the book of divine Revelation. So, while Dake’s views may not be heretical, they have some seriously imaginative “gaps” of their own.

B. The Trinity. Dake subscribed to what can only be called the heresy of Tritheism. He believed that each person of the Triune God has their own personal Spirit, Soul, and physical Body. One of the foundational understandings of the Trinity is that God is one in Substance, three in Persons. To contradict the essential unity of God, and read into the anthropomorphic language of the Bible leads to Tritheism, which is a form of polytheism, similar to the Mormon belief system, albeit limiting the gods to only three.

Here are two examples from the Dake Bible:

“He is a person with a personal spirit body, a personal soul, and a personal spirit, like that of angels and like that of man except His body is of spirit substance instead of flesh and bones.” 3

“He has a personal spirit body… shape… image and likeness of a man… He has bodily parts such as, back parts… heart… hands and fingers… mouth… lips and tongue… feet… eyes… ears… hair… head… face… arms… loins… and other bodily parts.” 4

If a person can’t get the nature of God correctly from the Scriptures, orthodox Creeds, and church history, what other problems can we find with this man’s theology? My probing of this man’s beliefs, after I blindly accepted them without taking a more “Berean” hermeneutical approach, revealed a seriously flawed understanding of classical Evangelical teaching.

I will be the first to state that penetrating the depths of the doctrine of the Trinity is difficult at best, but much confusion could be avoided with even a cursory reading of the church Fathers, Reformation theologians, and the Creeds. What we can know can be truly known. That’s the problem with being too literal with the metaphoric language in the Scriptures. By taking the attribution of a physically human form, such as hands, eyes, mouth, etc., to the nature of God, you can get the idea that God is like us, with all of our physical features, much like the Greek and Roman Pantheon of gods. Of course, by the same logic, we can deduce that God has wings, hangs on hinges as a door, is a tower , a fortress, and broods like a chicken. Take the Bible literally in the sense it was intended. Use the same common sense you use with any literature you read.

1. Chicago Daily Tribune, May 28, 1936, pg. 17.
2. http://www.dake.com/dake/truestory.html
3. Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, N.T. pg. 97, note R
4. Ibid

This post is getting long, so I will continue with more problems with Finis Dake in another post.

L8r g8rs.

Simul iustus et peccator,

John Adams
(no relation to Prez #2. My line came from lesser aristocratic stock…mainly Appalachian Hillbillies-lol)

In my previous post, I discussed my dilemma in finding the proper theological stance when dealing with the Cessationist/Continuationist brouhaha. I made a distinction between the Word of Faith, Pentecostal/Charismatic, and Continuationist theologies. By Continuationist, I am distinguishing a narrow band of the more orthodox (and saner, might I add) group who hold closer to the Reformers, yet still holding a soft non-Cessationist theology.

Today, I want to explain my own experience in the WOF movement.

I was raised in a solid Christian home. We attended both United Methodist and Southern Baptist churches. My father was exposed to the Charismatic Movement through a Methodist minister who pastored Flinstone UMC, in Chattanooga Valley. He was a very nice man who simply prayed for my dad’s bad back. Dad recovered miraculously, and it made an impression on him.

On a side note, I need to chastise my Cessationist brethren lovingly here. It is very easy to form a bifurcated view of Christianity, where on the one hand you vigorously defend God’s immanent and active role in the universe in time past, but take what appears to be a deistic view of God’s action in present history. It’s almost as if one becomes anti-supernatural in the belief that The Lord will not move supernaturally at all today. That is as presumptive as believing you can force God to act just because you command it.

Later, when I was in High school, my parents became very interested in Kenneth Copeland. It was 1981. President Reagen had made us all feel better about America, and Copeland was preaching from the Lincoln Memorial. (I believe I am correct here, it was 32 years ago). He was positive, upbeat, charismatic (in the original sense of the word), and persuasive. We were all very open to what he had to say. Although Copeland preached the prosperity Gospel back then, he didn’t seem quite as fixated on it. That began our foray into the WOF.

I had my own Pentecostal type experience myself, along with a friend. We both experienced the same thing, at the same time, in a Baptist church parking lot. Both of us had had a previous conversion when we were younger, so it wasn’t regeneraton. We did not speak with tongues that night, but we both became completely captivated with Christ and His Word, which would lead us both out of spiritual chaos later on.

Eventually, my family ended up in a Word Of Faith church in Chattanooga. The Church of Today was pastored by Don Clowers. He continues to preach the prosperity Gospel to this day: http://www.donclowers.com/page.asp?nvc=952&page=3500&topic=About

We were exposed to the “big Whigs” of the Faith movement through the Chattanooga for Jesus campmeetings of the mid-80’s. Names like Marilyn Hickey, Bob Tilton, Charles Capps, Jerry Savelle, Kenneth Copeland, and Kenneth Hagin were the staples of our diet.

Even as a young man, I noticed the polarities of the Faith movement. There was an economic disparity there; the very rich came (I am conjecturing for the reason of justifying, legitimizing, and protecting their wealth), and the very poor (for the possibility of gaining wealth through positive confession). This is only my observation and I am no diviner of hearts.

I became a devoted follower of Copeland and Hagin. I loved their “down-to-earth” style of preaching, their emotional fervor (compared to their denominational counterparts), and their doctrine of Divine healing and positive confession. To a healthy teenager, this all fit right in with my idea of the American Dream and pop Christianity. I listened to every cassette sermon series I could get hold of. I read every Hagin book I could obtain. I even carried a red Kenneth Copeland Study Bible (which was basically a standard KJV with his sermon outlines crammed in the front).

I was always uneasy with the flippant way they used God’s Word and God’s Name, but not enough to question deeper. I had also never been around suffering, so the health and wealth gospel made sense to me.

I will continue this story in another post.

simul iustus et peccator,

Enrico the rednecked tractor boy