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Reconstructing Word of Faith Theology

In this definition, prosperity’s purpose is to meet personal needs, provide for the household of faith, help the poor and advance the gospel. Kenneth E. Hagin, Jr., pastor of Rhema Bible Church, understands the need to devalue material possessions. He writes, “Acquiring material possessions is not the focus of Christianity. We are promised material goods, but they are not to be our focus.”[90] This adjusted understanding of prosperity honors biblical authority and becomes an asset to the purpose of world evangelism.


Looking toward the Future

If the vitality of the word of faith movement is to remain, second and third generation word of faith leaders must enter the process of restructuring word of faith theology. Pastors and ministers who have been influenced by the word of faith perspective cannot sit by and allow poor hermeneutics and unreflective theology to undermine a movement with such potential. Reflective theology must begin in the pastor’s study. Solid theology must be preached for the pulpit. Pentecostal history has taught the lesson that charismatic movements begin in the furry of spiritual intensity that produce a raw and somewhat primitive theology. Only conscientious biblical reflection illuminated by the Holy Spirit can develop a “systematic” word of faith theology. The art of doing theology within Pentecostalism requires a commitment to time and energy incorporating cognitive skills and spiritual sensitivity. It is a practice that word of faith leaders must commit to in order to produce a solid word of faith theology. It requires humility to admit areas of excess and biblical weakness. It includes an intellectual fellowship with other theology streams within the Body of Christ. The anti-intellectual feelings that have plagued the development of Pentecostal theology must be shaken off in the building of word of faith theology. An attempt must be made to join the Pentecostal struggle to synthesize experience and scholarship in the pursuit to understand the truth of God’s Word and proclaim it to the world.




Presented at the 30th Annual Meeting (2001) of the Society for Pentecostal Studies with the title, “Reconstructing Word of Faith Theology: A Defense, Analysis and Refinement of the Theology of the Word of Faith Movement.” A modified version of this paper was published as “Reconstructing Word of Faith Theology” in Refleks 1-2 (2002) pp. 51-68. This paper was originally published on the legacy Pneuma Foundation website, part of the In Depth Resources index, on September 11, 2003.




[1]Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings. John Dillenberger, ed. (New York: Anchor Books, 1962), 24.

[2] The “word of faith movement” includes churches and teaching ministries which promote a doctrinal emphasis on physical healing, financial prosperity and positive confession. It is also referred to as “the health and wealth gospel,” “word-faith movement,” and “the faith movement.”

[3] Some of the harshest critics have been Hank Hannegraff, Christianity in Crisis (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1997); David Hunt and T.A. McMahon, The Seduction of Christianity (Eugene: Harvest House, 1985); D. R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988).

[4] I Timothy 6:4 and II Timothy 2:14

[5] See William De Arteaga, Quenching the Spirit, (Lake Mary, Florida: Creation House, 1996); James R. Spencer, Heresy Hunters: Character Assassination in the Church, (Lafayette, Louisiana: Huntington House Publishers, 1993); Kenneth E. Hagin, Jr., Another Look at Faith (Tulsa: Faith Library Publications, 1996).

[6] Galatians 1:6-9

[7] J.B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), 78. cf. LXX Deuteronomy 7:26; Joshua 7:1,12

[8] McConnell, A Different Gospel, 183.

[9] Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis, 48.

[10] Charles Farah Jr., “A Critical Analysis: The ‘Roots and Fruits’ of Faith-Formula Theology” Pneuma (Spring 1981), 21.

[11] H. Terris Neuman, “Cultic Origins of Word-Faith Theology Within the Charismatic Movement” Pneuma (Spring 1990), 54,55.

[12] II Timothy 4:2-5

[13] Hendrickson published an updated edition in 1995 which includes a response to William DeArtega. See McConnell, A Different Gospel, 199-213.

[14] Ibid., 29-54.

[15] Other critiques of word of faith theology rely on McConnell’s historical analysis. See Neuman, “Cultic Origins,” 53; John F. MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 351,352; Jerry Vines, Spirit Works: Charismatic Practices and the Bible, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 166; Tom Smail, Andrew Walker, Nigel Wright, The Love of Power or the Power of Love, (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1994), 79.

[16] McConnell, A Different Gospel, 34.

[17] Joe McIntyre, E. W. Kenyon and His Message of Faith, (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1997), 22.

[18] McConnell, A Different Gospel, 40.

[19] McIntyre, E. W. Kenyon, 18.

[20] McConnell, A Different Gospel, 41.

[21] McConnell himself admits that a “deeper analysis” is difficult due to the lack of primary source material on the early life of Kenyon. Ibid.,41.

[22] E.W. Kenyon, Identification, (Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1968), 23.

[23] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.16.10.

[24] McIntyre lists and responds to sixteen points of Kenyon’s theology that is attacked by McConnell. See Joe McIntyre, E.W. Kenyon, 299-306.

[25] McConnell, A Different Gospel, 44.

[26] E.W. Kenyon, Two Kinds of Righteousness, (Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1965), 33.

[27] Ladd commends Dodd’s “Realized Eschatology” in the interpretation of the kingdom of God. Ladd writes, “The Kingdom of God, which is described in apocalyptic language, is in reality the transcendent order beyond time and space that has broken into history in the mission of Jesus (emphasis mine).” George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), 56.

[28] McConnell, A Different Gospel, 108.

[29] Ibid., 108.

[30] See E.W. Kenyon, Two Kinds of Knowledge, (Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1942), 19ff.

[31] Kenyon writes, “The integrity of the Word is the basis of faith.” E. W. Kenyon, In His Presence, (Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1969), 67.

[32] Ibid., 197.

[33] Kenyon, In His Presence, 191.

[34] One theory to explain the “plagiarism” of Kenyon by Hagin is that it was an unintentional editorial oversight. Many of Hagin’s books are written by ghost writers who have transcribed the material from audio cassettes of Hagin’s sermons. During the early days of Rhema Bible Training Center, Hagin would read passages from Kenyon’s books. It is possible that those tapes entered the mix of tapes used by the ghost writers, who incorporated the Kenyon passages into Hagin’s books assuming that Hagin was preaching. There is not conclusive proof of this theory. This does not explain the plagiarism of Kenyon in Hagin’s articles in the Word of Faith as cited by McConnell. Furthermore, whether it is intentional or unintentional plagiarism it is still an error that Kenneth Hagin needs to correct.

[35] Dennis Hollinger, “Enjoying God Forever: A Historical/Sociological Profile of the Health and Wealth Gospel,” The Gospel and Contemporary Perspectives, Douglas Moo, ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), 19.

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Category: Fall 2016, In Depth

About the Author: Derek Vreeland, MDiv (Oral Roberts University), DMin (Asbury Theological Seminary), is the Discipleship Pastor at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. He is the author of Shape Shifters: How God Changes the Human Heart: A Trinitarian Vision of Spiritual Transformation (Word & Spirit Press, 2008), Primal Credo: Your Entrance into the Apostles' Creed (Doctrina Press, 2011), and Through the Eyes of N.T. Wright: A Reader's Guide to Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Doctrina Press, 2015). Twitter: @DerekVreeland

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