Hank Hanegraaff’s new book Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century is a great primer on the Word of Faith movement. It appears to be a rewrite of the book of the same title with some of the same cast of characters released ten years ago. Unfortunately, instead of the problem going away, it has only grown in popularity. This segment of the American church has, in effect, taken the worst of American cultural greed and self centeredness and attempted to give it a theological foundation.
The old standards Word of Faith characters are here: Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Charles Capps, Marklyn Hickee and Robert Tilton, but Hanegraaf also includes its more recently popularizers: Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, John Hagee, Morris Cerullo and Paul & Jan Crouch.
Hanegraaf is extremely thorough in outlining the doctrines that bind this group together, complete with amazing quotes as well as comparisons with what the Bible has to say about these doctrines.
The central theme of the Word of Faith movement is that our Words have an objective reality when we speak them that make a difference in and of themselves. There is a world force “Faith” that is greater than humanity, greater than natural forces, greater than even God himself. When we speak, something objective comes into existence that even God himself must obey.
While the Word of Faith movement is best known for its hurtful and bizarre claims of being able to manipulate God to bring wealth and health to those who will send enough money to their coffers, Hanegraaf points out the even more disturbing doctrinal aberrations of these false teachers.
The author lays out the acrostic F-L-A-W-S as a mnemonic device to help remember the bizarre teachings of these men & women:
Faith in Faith
Wealth & Want
Sickness & Suffering
These teachers not only shrink God down to a semi-god who is subservient to the force of “Faith” but also elevate humans to equality with God. The transformation Christ and his death and his resurrection into something that is completely foreign to the Bible is amazing: something I had never imagined was being taught.
Hanegraaf ends the book with another acrostic that includes a “back to the basics” description of how to combat false teachers:
B-Bible (feed on the Word of God)
C-Church (not to neglect participation in a local congregation)
D-Defense (equipping yourself for the defense of the faith)
E-Essentials (knowing the essential doctrines of our faith)
All in all this is an excellent resource. I have known of the Word of Faith movement for thirty plus years, but have never known many of the things exposed in this book. When my wife, seeing me write this review, asked if I had finished reading the book & if I benefited from it, I replied, “Absolutely, and it will be a reference book for me to come back to time and time again.” I recommend it highly.
Here is the product page for Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century.