Subscribe via RSS Feed

Robert Bowman: The Word-Faith Controversy

Bowman then evaluates some specific Word-Faith teachings on the basis of Scripture and hermeneutics. In many cases, he concludes that much Word-Faith teaching is vague, inconsistent, contradictory, or unclear, sometimes suborthodox or aberrant, but not often as blatantly heretical as critics charge. Bowman acknowledges the movement has had some good fruit, but also much bad fruit.

Over all, Bowman has presented an irenic critique of the Word-Faith movement, with a more subdued, reasoned, and even-handed approach using scientific methodology and logic, unlike some of the harsh polemic rhetoric and diatribes of earlier critics. Bowman more accurately and fairly describes the Word-Faith positions in their contexts, without exaggeration and caricature. Significantly, Bowman at one time worked with Christian Research Institute (CRI) under Hanegraaff, yet disagrees with many of his conclusions.

Bowman makes a noteworthy point, mentioning that he had read a statement to a fellow-researcher at CRI, who then responded that the statement was heresy (p. 53). It was, in actuality, a statement made by Walter Martin, Hanegraaff’s deceased predecessor at CRI that was almost identical to a Word-Faith teaching condemned by Hanegraaff as heretical. My own research has turned up many such quotes from Spurgeon, Chambers, Simpson, Murray, Bounds, Tozer, etc., that sound virtually identical to statements made by Word-Faith teachers that have been condemned by their critics. Ironically, although Bowman has attempted to be even-handed with the Word-Faith teachers, some of what even Bowman calls “unbiblical” comes from these earlier classic evangelical writers.

In some areas Bowman continues to propagate mistaken conclusions of faith critics. For instance, Bowman perpetuates the error of McConnell and Hanegraaff that all translators and commentators deny the “faith of God” interpretation of Mark 11:22. While that may be the majority interpretation today, it is not the unanimous interpretation of scholars today, nor of evangelicals in the past. No less a theologian than McConnell’s faith critic mentor (and mine), the late Oral Roberts University professor Charles Farah, (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh), had accepted the “faith of God” view as valid.

Further, Bowman paints Simpson as a radical faith-curist opposed to all use of medicine and then shows strong similarity to Kenyon. What Bowman does not show (and perhaps does not know) is that even others outside of the faith-cure movement propagated similar teachings regarding healing, such as Spurgeon, Chambers, Taylor, and Bounds. A comparison of Murray and Simpson shows them almost identical in their beliefs of on healing, even though developed independently and almost simultaneously of each other. Simpson himself eschewed the term “faith cure.”

Being an ordained minister of the Christian and Missionary Alliance founded by Simpson, I have examined most of Simpson’s extant and non-extant writings regarding healing. While it may be true that Simpson was more radical in his views on healing in his earlier days, he and the C&MA modified their views as they matured. Contrary to the claim that he was totally against medicine, he and the C&MA viewed faith without doctors and medicine as an ideal, not as a rule. Bowman cites a seemingly radical statement of Simpson in his book The Gospel of Healing regarding doctors and medicine, but fails to recognize that later in the same book Simpson modifies his earlier statement, advising against presumptuous abandonment of medical treatment. Other writings of Simpson show that he was not opposed to doctors and medicine, assuring believers that there is an appropriate place and time for their use.

Pin It
Page 2 of 3123

Tags: , , ,

Category: Ministry, Spring 2004

About the Author: Paul L. King holds a D.Min from Oral Roberts University and a D.Th. from the University of South Africa. He served for 16 years on the faculty of Oral Roberts University as Coordinator of Bible Institute programs and Adjunct Professor in the College of Theology and Ministry. Author of 12 books and more than 60 articles, he was ORU 2006 Scholar of the Year. He has also served as Scholar-at-Large for the D.Min. program at Alliance Theological Seminary, Doctor of Ministry Mentor for the Randy Clark Scholars program at United Theological Seminary and Global Awakening Theological Seminary, Leadership and Church Ministry Consultant and Trainer, an ordained pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Interim Consulting Pastor for the Plano (Texas) Chinese Alliance Church, and Faculty Director of Purdue Ratio Christi/Christian Faculty and Staff Network. His books include God's Healing Arsenal: A Divine Battle Plan for Overcoming Distress and Disease (2011), Anointed Women: The Rich Heritage of Women in Ministry in the Christian & Missionary Alliance (2009), Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies (2008), Genuine Gold: The Cautiously Charismatic Story of the Early Christian and Missionary Alliance (2006), Binding & Loosing: Exercising Authority over the Dark Powers (1999), and A Believer with Authority: The Life and Message of John A. MacMillan. Twitter: @PaulLKing.

  • Connect with

    Subscribe via Twitter Followers   Subscribe via Facebook Fans
  • Recent Comments

  • Featured Authors

    Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degree...

    Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

    Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), is the president-dean of Jakes Divinity School and associate pasto...

    Invitation: Stories about transformation

    Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books<...

    Studies in Acts

    Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but h...

    Will I Still Be Me After Death?