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Valid insights within Word-Faith theologies?

Is Word-Faith theology only rotten apples?

In the midst of our last phase placing articles and reviews from all of our print issues online at PneumaReview.com, I came across a response we received and published almost ten years ago. If I remember how this went, the editorial committee felt we had to turn away a submission this writer made to us because of how he was responding in anger instead of trying to win over those that disagreed with him. Although we cannot usually explain our reasons for turning something away, and believe me when I say I never enjoy writing those rejection letters, we saw potential in this writer and pointed out some things he could improve. When we received his thoughtful response, we knew he had taken to heart what we had tried to communicate. Here is his response:

Thank you for looking at the article I submitted. I am now inclined to think that a more ‘humble’ piece of writing, coming from a little amateur theologian like me, would perhaps be more palatable for your website readers. At the time of writing, I had felt the need to produce something approaching a polemic in order to defend my continued theological studies from… well, from various people. And I believe my article is still useful for that purpose. But Pentecostal/charismatics, in general, need to be more gently wooed out of their errors. I have spent some time discussing various issues (in a friendly fashion) with some of the older WordFaithers and traditional Pentecostals (and trying to learn from them too) over the past year, and I think they’re just plain tired of having their heads smacked by aggressive apologists and supercilious theologians! Usually at the heart of the various errors and excesses we are all too familiar with, there is some valid insight or understanding—it may even be distinctive. When we fail to discern it, affirm it and extricate it from the general mess it has got itself into in our critiques, I think we probably end up doing more harm than good. I suspect that, more often than not, people tenaciously cling to various errors (regardless of how much we criticize) because there is something true that they have seen somewhere at the bottom—though they have perhaps made erroneous inferences from it.

I mention all this because you aren’t running an apologetics website per se, but a resource site for Pentecostals and Charismatics, in the hope of nurturing doctrinal maturity and curbing excesses. It has occurred to me that perhaps something gentler might be called for than my original article. I will try my hand on a revised article and submit it again. Thanks for the consideration.

– GTA

Although this comment was originally published in the print edition of the Spring 2005 issue of Pneuma Review, I think it is still a good reminder for me.

I do remember spending many long hours in numerous libraries researching the destructive errors I found in Word of Faith teachings. At the time, it had not been that long since God had freed me from a sectarian mindset. I was arming myself to argue against the ugliness I saw. Yet there were several individuals, mentoring voices including Ron Messelink, Paul King, William De Arteaga, Geir Lie and Jon Ruthven, who challenged me to look deeper than the charges laid against the Word-Faith movement by heresy hunters. No one claimed that the movement was not full of poor theology or even serious error on the fringes, though there was disagreement about how deep those fringes were. Ultimately, my layman’s research led me to conclude that despite serious problems, there were emphases and insights that could be gleaned from the movement. The new challenge I saw was what writer GTA pointed out, that while it is difficult to draw those caught up with error towards the truth, it is impossible to do so if they think you are angry with them and when they know they have seen something true despite the mess. I continue to learn how this is a good way to look at many controversial subjects, particularly when it is all too easy to exclude others because they believe differently.

If you agree that learning how to share the truth in love is a life long calling, join me in asking for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit to carry it out.

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Category: Living the Faith, Winter 2015

About the Author: Raul L. Mock is one of the founders and directors of the Pneuma Foundation and editor of The Pneuma Review. Raul has been part of an Evangelical publishing ministry since 1996 and their Information Technology team since 1998. He and his wife, Erin, have a daughter and twin boys and live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. Google+ LinkedIn

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