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Paul King: Only Believe

Theology with SpiritPaul King, Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies (Word & Spirit Press, 2009), 408 pages, ISBN 9780981952604.

Paul King is a scholar at Oral Roberts University and an ordained minister of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. In this volume of some 400 pages, beautifully published by Word & Spirit Press of Tulsa, Oklahoma he examines the thought of the Word of Faith movement. He does this in a novel and innovative way. Instead of the “overkill” approach that we saw among the heresy hunters of the 1980s and 90s, King first takes a good look at the history of Christianity. Among the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Mystics, Protestant Reformers, Puritans and Pietists he finds precursors of many Faith teachings. He gives special attention to the classic Evangelical authors of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This is an area where King is an acknowledged expert. He is well acquainted with the Holiness, Healing and Pentecostal movements. He even makes a distinction between the Keswick and Higher Life movements that I have always seen as one movement.

Throughout this very readable book, you will find numerous citations from classic faith leaders such as George Mueller, A.J. Gordon, R. A. Torrey, A. B. Simpson, Charles Spurgeon and Andrew Murray. King has made a detailed study of John A. MacMillan who wrote the seminal volume, The Authority of the Believer.

From this solid historical basis King develops his major thesis, namely that the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to practice a healthy faith that is both strong and solid. What this looks like is worth pursuing, and King is a thoughtful and helpful guide.

By ferreting out the faith doctrines among the classic authors of the previous two centuries, King is illustrating to us what should have been obvious – that Word of Faith teaching did not just suddenly fall out of the sky. It grew organically out of a nineteenth century context. It may be that the unfortunate and jarring overreaction of much of established Christianity to the amazing work of God in the Azusa Street revival of 1906 – 1909, with some writers describing the first steps of Classical Pentecostalism with extreme pejoratives such as “the last vomit of Satan” led to the total disjunction and separation of these branches of Christianity. King’s book is a bridge to restore dialogue and mutually beneficial conversations.

The major part of this study probes the theological and practical issues that one usually sees as distinctive of the Word of Faith movement. King prefers the term “contemporary faith.” These issues include the nature of faith, the authority of the believer, spiritual laws, logos and rhema, revelation knowledge and Healing in the atonement. He also looks at positive confession, discernment and prosperity. Where necessary he expresses his reservations clearly.

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Category: Church History, Fall 2009, Pneuma Review

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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