A friend of mine asked me what I thought of this article by Eric Hyde, about why Word of Faith Christians become jaded, since I came from the Word of Faith movement, myself:
His article, in summary says the following:
Hyde has had a lot of experience with Word of Faith Christians, and has
recently noticed a large number of them abandoning Christianity,
becoming jaded, or switching to a different denomination. He defines the
Word of Faith movement in a way that I think is slightly unfair, but
overall gets the gist of it. He posits a few reasons why he thinks so
many Word of Faith Christians end up leaving the movement.
1) "Words words words" There is too much an emphasis on the right confessions, and not on the right actions.
2) "Faith + Grace – Works = Victory!" [I
didn't actually understand what he was trying to say in this point.] I
think he's trying to say that the movement teaches that the relationship
between God and the believer is presented as entirely passive, with the
believer only receiving God's blessings and not required to do anything
to express love back to God.
3) "Abundance, Good; Lack, Bad" This point was actually two points. First, the Word of Faith people do not have a satisfactory answer to the theodicy conundrum. And second, the WoF's emphasis on a very shallow definition of "good", meaning what *I* the believer think is good, resembles and encourages the selfish consumerism so prevalent in our society.
response is probably a bit disappointing, because while I no longer
identify as a Word of Faith-ist (let's just say WOFist for short), I do
disagree with Mr. Hyde on several of his points.
Before I articulate my disagreements (and some agreements) with this article, I think it's an important reminder that the official
small-o orthodoxy of any religious sect is often dissonant with that
sect's overall praxis. What is taught from the pulpits is often quite different from what is
lived and accepted on the streets. (For an obvious example, take Catholics and birth control...)
Myself, I've always been somewhat
more inclined towards logos than populos; with figuring
the "right" beliefs more than conforming to social norms. I have
always found it easy to step into the role of Pharisee, being very
concerned about the correct interpretation of Scripture, and wanting
myself and others to conform to [my understanding of] that. So when I
was in WoF, I was trying to get to the bottom of what the "true"
teachings were, while it seems
that Mr. Hyde is much more in-touch than I ever have been with the
outworkings of the Word of Faith movement. Perhaps any disagreements between us arise from that difference in approach.
That said, another introductory point is
that even though the Word of Faith movement is a pretty small slice of
Christianity, it is not really a homogenous movement with a single
identifiable creed. It is not a denomination. Like most other
Christian fundamentalists, any WOFist worth his/her salt will insist
that his/her only source of authority is The Word of God (which means a
combination of the Bible --oh, and that his/her understanding of it is
the correct one--and the internal voice of the Holy Spirit), and s/he won't be bossed around by formal denominations and the "traditions of men." Each Word of Faith church creates its own "statement of faith" and
repertoire of rhetoric with varying emphases and understandings of
theological points. That is what it means to be a non-denominational
church. You get to decide what you (officially) believe and don't
believe. Because of this heterogeneity in the Word of Faith movement, I wouldn't
be surprised to find out that there are a lot of really strange things
being (whether officially or unconsciously) taught at some WoF churches out
Therefore, it is hard to say when someone's
behavior is in conformity with the movement's official creed or not,
because there is no official creed. But some issues Mr. Hyde described seem
(to me) to be based on incomplete or inaccurate understandings of the teachings of those I would consider generally accepted
leaders in the WoF movement.
The story he told of the man who wouldn't change his diet or exercise, yet
wanted to claim victory over his health and weight problems, is
certainly disturbing. But the churches I personally went to growing up
did not teach such a dramatic dichotomy between spiritual and physical
efforts, and I don't think Joyce Meyers or Kenneth Hagan, (to name a
couple examples), would condone such irresponsibility. On the contrary,
I was often told the Scripture, "faith without works is dead" is very
important. If you want to see your victory, you have to go out and act
on your faith.
I was taught that God established physical
laws in the universe, and as humans we don't have authority to go
breaking those laws willy-nilly. If we needed a miracle for an extreme
situation, we could "claim" it. But we couldn't go jumping off cliffs
for fun and expect to command the law of gravity to change on our
behalf. The authority I was told I had was authority over the
devil and over my flesh. In the obese man example, I think that
the people at the churches I grew up in would have prescribed taking
authority over any demons that were keeping him in bondage to his
appetite, and only then moving on to taking authority over the
sicknesses that plagued him due to obesity.
That said, I
HAVE seen several obese preachers in churches that could be described as
being in the WoF camp. So again, there's that heterogeneity in the WoF
As far as the point about the
God-to-Believer relationship being entirely one-sided, with God doing
all the loving, and the Believer doing all the receiving, I don't think
that is a fair representation of the WoF's "orthodoxy" either. Many WoF teachers do teach a lot about love, both
for other humans and for God. Their understanding of the term might be
different from how I would understand it, but I don't think the image
of the Believer as a merely passive receiver of God's love is accurate.
If people are getting jaded in the WoF because they feel bored and
passionless, well, it's not from a lack of information out there about
how WoF-ists understand the relationship between grace, salvation, love,
The third point, though, is indeed a good
one. Of all the flavors of Christianity, the Word of Faith may be the
least equipped to grapple with the complex problem of evil. Their
worldview is a sharp dualism. God is only good, all bad comes from the
devil and humans. Free will is the ONLY explanatory factor as to why
evil exists, and if tragedy strikes someone, the only reason is the
victim's lack of faith in taking authority over the demons that caused
it to happen. I can certainly see such victim-blaming as being
desperately harmful to people and causing cynicism or anger to set in,
and compelling people to leave the movement.
fair, there is no philosophical approach that can answer the problem of
evil without some logical flaws, or having to insert a glaring "I don't
know" somewhere into the argument. It is a complex problem, one that
humanity has been attempting to solve for millenia. (I've probably
recommended this before, but I'll do it again, it's such a good book. Evil: The Shadow Side of Reality, by John A. Sanford, is a great overview of the problem of evil and the various approaches in trying to solve it throughout history.)
But the WoF, with its insistent positivism, is particularly weak in
this area. When they do get results, it's great. I've seen real
miracles. But for those for whom the mind-over-matter techniques don't
work, the "why's" and the inherent shame in making it all the victim's
fault can be psychologically devastating.
point, too, is compelling. For those of us who are alarmed at the
selfish, pampered, unsustainable, callous, and myopic lifestyles of materialism that
define so much of current American society, the WoF movement's emphasis
on prosperity does not seem to be the right prescription. Again,
different churches will take the prosperity message to different
lengths. But I've heard a preacher talk about how he will know he has
achieved a breakthrough in his faith when he finally is able to manifest
a private jet. And he wasn't joking. And this wasn't a small church.
His message was being broadcast and published to people all over the
country. The message that you are not walking in faith if you are not
financially wealthy is dangerous in so many ways. I think this
extremism is a valid reason for getting disgusted and fed up with the
Contrary to what Mr. Hyde says, this author said (in 1999)
that the Word of Faith movement is the fastest-growing religious
movement in America. I do not know how to validate who is right, or if
perhaps that was was the case in 1999, but now there is a decline. I do
know that I left it for emotional, theological, and intellectual
reasons, and I won't go back.