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Henry I. Lederle: The Third Wave: New Independent Charismatic Churches, Part 2

The major contribution of Kenyon to the Faith movement was distinguishing knowledge into two radically different categories: “sense knowledge,” based on the physical world, and “revelation knowledge,” which is vastly superior and is based on supernatural revelation from God through the Scriptures or through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, communicating with the human spirit. When these two kinds of knowledge conflict, the believer needs to transcend empirical understanding and act in faith upon God’s Word. This action may even necessitate the denial of physical symptoms of illness. At this point, the danger of a radical Gnostic dualism between the natural and the supernatural as two mutually exclusive realms becomes apparent. The issue becomes even more troubling when the biblical tension between the flesh and the spirit is superimposed on this polarity. Kenyon found support in Hebrews 11:1—“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (niv). William DeArteaga points out that this faith-idealism is in line with the Christian Science healing practice which teaches “corresponding action.” This practice entails acting upon the revelation knowledge even before the change has taken place. Scriptural support and illustrations of this are not hard to find—the ten lepers of Luke 17 were healed as they headed off in faith to go and show themselves to the priests. Kenyon considered the taking of medication after a prayer of faith for healing to be inappropriate.

Kenyon taught that through identification with Christ, the believer can approach God without guilt (DeArteaga, Quenching the Spirit, p. 219). Through this Pauline concept of identification (being in Christ, Christ lives in me), which is found abundantly in Paul’s letters and is well expressed in Galatians 2:20, believers have the same power that Jesus did on earth. By exercising faith, believers can become “Christian Supermen” with power over diseases and demons. The only limitation that Kenyon recognized in his faith idealism was that one can ask in faith only for things that are promised in Scripture. They could be claimed and confessed without any qualification. In his teaching, Kenyon provided all the theological building blocks on which Kenneth Hagin would later construct his teachings.

Kenneth E. Hagin was born in Texas in 1917. He suffered from a congenital heart defect and was bedridden by the age of sixteen. He then had an experience that stamped his whole ministry. He had a revelation or vision from God (the first of several) and gained a new understanding of Mark 11:24: “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” Meditating on this verse, he realized that “the having comes after the believing.” Previously he had been reversing it. One needs to believe you have it before you actually receive it. This led to his getting out of bed and being healed after some days of struggling with his paralysis. Total recovery took sixteen months.

Hagin did not receive formal theological training, but a number of amazing visions and personal encounters with Jesus form the foundation of his ministry. He considers his calling to be that of a prophet and a teacher. Because of its origins, there has long remained a critique of Word of Faith or Faith Confession teaching that it is implicitly anti-intellectual and somewhat anti-medical. (The genius of the ministry of Oral Roberts was to bring perspective into this realm of thinking by his building both a university and a hospital.) Today the objection of Faith teachers is not against scholarship as such, but only against a certain type of scholarship that exalts itself above God’s revelation and denies the realm of the miraculous!

Hagin became well known through his radio program and the Rhema Bible Training Center, founded in 1974, where hundreds of thousands of students received Bible training—many coming from overseas. It seems that when the Shepherding/ Discipleship movement ran into difficulties in the late 1970s, the momentum and growth among Independent Charismatics was passed on to the Word of Faith movement. This shift of momentum led to a substantial growth in the ministries of Faith leaders, such as the Hagins, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Jerry Savelle, Fred Price, Robert Tilton, and, further afield, Ray McCauley in Randburg, South Africa, Ulf Eckman in Uppsala, Sweden, David Yonggi Cho of Seoul, Korea, Benson Idahosa of Nigeria, and Hector Giminez of Argentina.

The pivotal doctrinal issue is how faith is understood. Nico Horn of Namibia describes the Word of Faith movement’s concept of faith thus:

It may be described as “a special emphasis on faith as a mechanism at the disposal of the believer to make him or her victorious; the belief that positive confession creates faith, and, linked with faith, changes circumstances; the belief that everyone who has faith can receive either healing from sickness or eternal health; and the belief that financial prosperity is, like healing, provided for in the atonement.”

Here is a brief outline of three of the major teachings of the Faith movement (from Barron, Health and Wealth, p. 9).

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Category: Church History, Pneuma Review, Spring 2012

About the Author: Henry I. Lederle, D.Th. (University of South Africa) and M.A. (University of Orange Free State), is Professor of Theology and Ministry at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. He is the author of Treasures Old and New: Interpretations of Spirit-Baptism in the Charismatic Renewal Movement (Hendrickson, 1988), Theology with Spirit: The Future of the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements in the 21st Century (Word & Spirit Press, 2010), and several collections of essays, articles and reviews.

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