(Part 2 of my rebuttal of Michael Horton on the Word of Faith Movement)
In the third video Horton says that “little gods” is the central teaching of the WoF Movement. In fact, Kenneth Hagin was the leader of the WoF Movement and he never used the term “little gods”. It’s one of many things that was taught in the WoF Movement that he didn’t agree with. During my two years of attending Rhema I was never taught that we’re “little gods”. I do recall Brother Hagin teaching on the divine nature, and what all that entails, but nothing about little gods. Since the leader of the movement didn’t teach it I don’t see how it could be considered the central teaching of the movement.
After that they go into a lengthy discussion of the disgraced televangelist Robert Tilton. I actually met Tilton while briefly attending his church in the Dallas area back in 1981-1982. I moved to Tulsa to go to Rhema in July of 1982 and didn’t follow Tilton or his church for several years, but in 1988 I moved to Orlando, Florida and saw him on TV doing his $1,000 vow thing. I was horrified. I immediately knew that he had gone off track. As I discussed it with other WoF people I discovered that Tilton had pretty much been ostracized by the WoF community. I was sad about that, because at one time I considered him a gifted man. He was the first one I recall using the satellite seminar concept where a seminar would be conducted at his church and broadcast live to other connected churches around the country. His innovation and dynamic leadership created the fastest growing church in the country in the early 1980s. But there was no question that he had gotten away from what the WoF is all about and started focusing first and foremost on money.
WoF critics love to bring up the name Robert Tilton because his behavior was and still is indefensible, and there’s no question that he was a player in the WoF Movement during its heyday. But as a member of the movement I can tell you that for the past thirty years or so the movement has carried on without him.
In the fourth video Horton says that WoF people say that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. That is absolutely untrue. I think he bases that on Kenneth Copeland’s prophecy where Jesus supposedly said that He never claimed to be God. While I won’t defend that statement, I will defend the movement from this false allegation. To my knowledge every major WoF minister holds to the deity of Christ and His eternal Sonship.
He follows up that claim by saying that WoF people say that Jesus had the nature of Satan. The fact is, some (not all) WoF people have posited the theory that between the crucifixion and the resurrection Jesus went through separation from God the Father, and suffered in His Spirit during that time as the sins of mankind were placed upon Him. As a result He may have experienced a transformation (so the theory goes) that allowed him to be held captive in hell for three days until the claims of God’s justice were satisfied. (Calvin and others held to a similar view nearly 500 years ago.) Beyond that 72-hour time frame however nobody in the WoF camp would ever suggest anything other than a divine nature for Christ. Again, not all WoF adherents hold to this theory, including me. But it’s a nonessential issue and historically theologians have been allowed to present different theories on nonessentials without being branded heretics. Why make an exception in this case?
Later in the video Wessels plays a tape of Joseph Goode saying that we don’t see Jeshua as God when He walked here on Earth. I think the assumption here is that Goode is a WoF teacher because he appeared on TBN. Many non-WoF people have appeared on TBN over the years. Even Dr. Walter Martin appeared on TBN a couple of times, and he most definitely wasn’t WoF. Goode wasn’t and still isn’t WoF. He has a “Jewish Roots” ministry where he offers insights on the scriptures based on his understanding of Hebrew, but he doesn’t believe in the deity of Christ as WoF teachers do. Apparently at the time of the broadcast TBN wasn’t aware of that fact yet, but eventually they became aware of it and effectively banned him from their network.
Shortly after that Horton claims that the Gnostics taught that there’s no such thing as matter. Actually Gnosticism taught that matter exists, but it’s evil because it was created by an evil god, and is in a perpetual struggle against spirit because spirit is good.
Horton then says that Oral Roberts didn’t go to college. In fact, he attended two of them – Oklahoma Baptist University and Phillips University. As Pentecostal historian David Harrell points out in his biography “Oral Roberts: An American Life”, Roberts took classes while pastoring small churches in central Oklahoma in his 20s prior to launching the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association when he began conducting healing meetings.
Horton’s next gaffe is an unbelievable attempt to label James Robison a faith healer, asking why he doesn’t multiply loaves and fishes to feed people rather than raise money for that purpose. Folks, James Robison is not now and never was a faith healer. He was a Baptist preacher for many years, and I saw him preach at my Baptist church when I was about thirteen. Years later I saw him in Tulsa when he began associating with Charismatics, but he has never been a WoF minister or conducted healing meetings of any kind to my knowledge. (To read what Robison had to say about prosperity teaching click here.) Besides, even Jesus had people who supported His ministry financially, and He used money to feed people. Why shouldn’t Robison be able to raise money to feed people as long as the money is used for its designated purpose?
In the fifth and final video Wessels is replaced by the late Jackson Boyett, who was a reformed Baptist pastor in Austin. In this video the focus is more on the perceived erroneous theology of the WoF. While it’s a welcome change from all of the misrepresentation in the prior videos, I’ll address some of the issues that they discussed here.
Boyett reads Isaiah 53:4,5 which says:
Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
Horton says “You don’t find any physical healing here”. Boyett then reads from Matthew 8:16,17 which says:
When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.”
Matthew was quoting the very passage in Isaiah that Horton claimed says nothing about physical healing, and yet physical healing was the context of Matthew’s text which prompted the quote from Isaiah. Why would Matthew bring up Isaiah’s prophecy if its context wasn’t physical healing? It would be irrelevant. You see, sin and sickness are intertwined. That’s why Jesus would tell people after healing them, “go and sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14). That’s why James said “the prayer of faith shall save (or heal) the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up. And if he has committed sin it shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:15) If man had never sinned, sickness would never have gained a foothold in humanity. There would be no need for healing of any kind. When Jesus came to deliver us from our sins, He brought with Him healing for our bodies. That’s why in Acts 14 a lame man had faith to be healed as he heard Paul preaching the gospel. You see, the gospel of the Bible not only includes forgiveness of sin but healing for the sickness resulting from sin. That’s why the Psalmist said in Psalm 103:2,3:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases …”
If WoF critics don’t want to believe as we do on this matter that’s their prerogative, but they can hardly call it heresy without condemning tens of millions of non-WoF Pentecostals around the world because they hold to similar theology and even include it in their statements of faith.
Horton then equates sickness with the sufferings the Apostle Paul mentioned in Romans 5:3. But the suffering that the believer is called to is persecution.
“Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life …” (Mark 10:29,30)
Jesus didn’t say we would receive sickness, but persecution if we sacrifice for the sake of the gospel.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Tim. 3:12)
Paul didn’t say anything about all the godly suffering from sickness. Again, our suffering is in persecution. There’s nothing in the atonement to cover that.
If suffering from sickness would make us all better Christians then I would recommend that every believer avoid flu shots and vaccinations. I would recommend that they avoid doctors and medicine too. Suffer all you can, because you’re developing character brothers and sister! Hallelujah!
See how ridiculous that is? We all know instinctively that sickness is bad, and we do everything we can in the natural to avoid it. Why people get bent out of shape when you try to approach it from the supernatural is beyond me.
Horton then claims that WoF teachers only use about four passages of scripture to support their views on healing. Not even close!
Exodus 15:26 “… I am the Lord Who heals you.”
Exodus 23:25 “You shall serve the Lord your God; He shall bless your bread and water, and I will take sickness from your midst.”
Deuteronomy 7:15 “And the Lord will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt which you knew will He put upon you, but will lay them upon all who hate you.”
Psalm 91:16 “With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation.”
Psalm 103:3 “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases”
Psalm 118:17 ” I shall not die, but live, And declare the works of the Lord.”
Proverbs 4:20-23 Amplified Bible (AMP) My son, attend to my words; consent and submit to my sayings. Let them not depart from your sight; keep them in the center of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, healing and health to all their flesh. Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.
Isaiah 53:4-5 Amplified Bible (AMP) Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy]. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.
Jeremiah 30:17 Amplified Bible (AMP) For I will restore health to you, and I will heal your wounds, says the Lord, because they have called you an outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no one seeks after and for whom no one cares!
Matthew 8:2-3 Amplified Bible (AMP) And behold, a leper came up to Him and, prostrating himself, worshiped Him, saying, Lord, if You are willing, You are able to cleanse me by curing me. And He reached out His hand and touched him, saying, I am willing; be cleansed by being cured. And instantly his leprosy was cured and cleansed.
Matthew 8:17 Amplified Bible (AMP) And thus He fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, He Himself took [in order to carry away] our weaknesses and infirmities and bore away our diseases.
Mark 11:23-24 Amplified Bible (AMP) Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him. For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it].
Mark 16:18 Amplified Bible (AMP) They will pick up serpents; and [even] if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will get well.
John 9:31 Amplified Bible (AMP) We know that God does not listen to sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and a worshiper of Him and does His will, He listens to him.
Hebrews 10:35 Amplified Bible (AMP) Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward.
Hebrews 13:8 Amplified Bible (AMP) Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is [always] the same, yesterday, today, [yes] and forever (to the ages).
James 4:7-8 Amplified Bible (AMP) So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you. Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery].
James 5:14-15 Amplified Bible (AMP) Is anyone among you sick? He should call in the church elders (the spiritual guides). And they should pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Lord’s name. And the prayer [that is] of faith will save him who is sick, and the Lord will restore him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
1 Peter 2:24 Amplified Bible (AMP) He personally bore our sins in His [own] body on the tree [as on an altar and offered Himself on it], that we might die (cease to exist) to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.
1 Peter 5:7-9 Amplified Bible (AMP) Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring in fierce hunger, seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset–rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world.
1 John 3:21-22 Amplified Bible (AMP) And, beloved, if our consciences (our hearts) do not accuse us [if they do not make us feel guilty and condemn us], we have confidence (complete assurance and boldness) before God, And we receive from Him whatever we ask, because we [watchfully] obey His orders [observe His suggestions and injunctions, follow His plan for us] and [habitually] practice what is pleasing to Him.
1 John 5:14-15 Amplified Bible (AMP) And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him: [we are sure] that if we ask anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us. And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him.
3 John 1:2 Amplified Bible (AMP) Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and [that your body] may keep well, even as [I know] your soul keeps well and prospers.
Revelation 12:11 Amplified Bible (AMP) And they have overcome (conquered) him by means of the blood of the Lamb and by the utterance of their testimony, for they did not love and cling to life even when faced with death [holding their lives cheap till they had to die for their witnessing].
Boyett and Horton discuss this topic for the rest of the video, but I’m not going to do a point-by-point rebuttal on the subject of divine healing. I covered this at length in my book “Defending the Faith: Word of Faith Apologetics” if you want to know my responses.
I realize these videos were taped before Google came along and made research easier, but when you’re calling people heretics and making claims about their backgrounds and beliefs you have an obligation to get things right. The Bible says that teachers are held to a high standard (James 3:1), and that includes apologists. It also says that it’s a dangerous thing to misrepresent what people teach (Rom. 3:8; II Pet. 3:15,16) For the sake of all of these theological watchdog guys I hope they get their acts together while they still can.