Its historical origins

Presently, I think it would be right to say that the Word of Faith (WOF) movement is the fastest growing segment of professing Christianity today. It is a very prominent part of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. This movement is also referred to by several other names, such as “name it and claim it”, “positive confession”, “the prosperity gospel”, the “wealth and health gospel”, the “gospel of success” or simply the “Faith” movement. The movement is not a denomination and it has no formal organisation, structure or hierarchy. It is highly influenced by well known televangelists such as Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paul and Jan Crouch (founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network, TBN), Fred Price, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Reverend Ike, Paul Yonggi Cho, John Avanzini, Morris Cerullo, and many others.

The movement is represented by TBN, the largest Christian-based television network in the world, which to a large extent has contributed to make this movement into a worldwide movement. These preachers are given a worldwide exposure by TBN. This worldwide exposure has led to its numerical growth.  The growth of this movement is also due to the massive cash the ministries (run by these individuals) receive from their faithful adherents. This in turn has led to massive buildings being put up by their ministries.

The origins of this movement are not very clear. E. W. Kenyon (1867–1948) is usually said to be the originator of the Word of Faith teaching, after he adopted the teachings of the “New Thought” movement (see Justin Peters video entitled, A Call for Discernment). This movement grew out of the Pentecostal movement in the late 20th century. Its founder, E. W. Kenyon, who studied the New Thought teachings of Phineas Quimby, on Mind Science (where “name it and claim it” originated) combined his newfound teaching with Pentecostalism, resulting in a peculiar mixture of orthodox Christianity and mysticism.

Kenyon taught that “the spiritual causes all physical effects and that positive confession has power to create its own reality. He believed that healings and other ongoing miracles are necessary to the reality of Christianity”. Sadly, Kenyon died in a coma with a malignant tumor.

Kenyon’s main disciple was Kenneth Hagin Sr., who today is the recognised “father” of the Word of Faith movement. Hagin (1917–2003) believed that it is God’s will that believers should always be in good health, financially successful, and happy.

Hagin’s disciple was Kenneth Copeland who, with his wife Gloria (his third wife, he had divorced twice), is now the unofficial leader of the Word of Faith movement. However, in the recent past, there have been several Word of Faith preachers who have now surpassed Copeland in popularity, preachers such as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Joseph Prince, Joyce Meyer and others.

What are the main beliefs of the WOF movement

The movement has many negative elements that must be carefully addressed. At the heart of its teaching is the doctrine that whatever a believer claims by faith, he will get it. Kenneth Hagin Sr. said, “Your confession of faith in God’s Word will bring healing or whatever it is you need from God into the present tense and make it a reality in your life!” He further said, “As children of God, we need to realize that healing belongs to us” (Cloud, The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement: The History and Error, 2006) Sadly, he died of heart disease, after suffering several cardiovascular crises.

In this doctrine, the movement emphasises that the believer must speak the promises and provisions that they want, which agree with the Bible, as an act of faith. This, they believe is according to Mark 11:22–23, where Jesus said believers shall have whatsoever they say and pray with faith. Clearly, the word faith is very important in their teaching.  The preachers in this movement strongly believe that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for his people, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth.

Given below is the basic theology most WOF teachers would align themselves with.

  1. Faith is a force: The WOF preachers teach that faith works like a mighty power or force. Through faith, a believer can obtain anything they want—health, wealth, success, a good job, whatever. But this force is only released through the spoken word. As the believer speaks the words of faith, power is discharged to accomplish their desires. The formula is very simple: say it, do it, receive it and tell it.
  2. Healing: The WOF, using Isaiah 53:5 and Matthew 8:17, teaches that Christ’s atonement brought about complete healing (of spirit, soul, and body), and therefore healing is available to all who believe. A person who accepts this teaching will confess verses like these two, declaring that they are healed. They will be thinking that in doing so they are declaring the “word of faith”, believing these promises without any doubt. According to this teaching, healing is a divine right. Sickness is an attempt by the devil to rob believers of their right.
  3. Prosperity: This movement teaches that God wants his people to live prosperous lives in all areas—finances, good health, good marriages, etc. The Word of Faith movement teaches that God blesses his people to achieve the promises that are in the Bible. Therefore, suffering does not come from God, but rather from Satan. Kenneth Copeland’s ministry says that the idea that God uses suffering for our benefit is “a deception of Satan” and “absolutely against the Word of God.” Furthermore, they teach that if someone is not experiencing prosperity, it is because they have given Satan authority over their lives. God will not do anything at all unless the person invites him to.

The movement teaches that Jesus and the apostles were financially wealthy, owning homes, and businesses. The following reasons are given for this:

  1. Jesus’ ability to travel without apparently working to earn a living for three years.
  2. References by Jesus and the apostles to owning homes (Lk. 18:28–30).
  3. Jesus had a treasurer, Judas Iscariot (John 12:6).

All these arguments are contrary to the traditional view of Jesus as you see, for instance, in Matthew 8:20. However, they go on to argue that the promises for financial prosperity throughout the Old and New Testaments teach that modern believers also have access to these “blessing”. Therefore, they can also become financially wealthy.  Kenneth Copeland teaches total prosperity, wrongly quoting 3 John 2, saying, “As the seeds of prosperity are planted in your heart, in your will and in your emotions…they eventually produce a great financial harvest.”

  1. Faith and confession: The Word of Faith movement teaches that receiving from God involves “confession”. Its practitioners refer to this as “positive confession” or “faith confession”. Word of Faith teachers, such as Kenneth E. Hagin and Charles Capps, have argued that God created the universe simply by speaking it into existence (Gen. 1), and that humans have been endowed with the ability (power) to speak things into existence. Therefore, making a “positive confession” (by reciting a promise of scripture, for example), and believing that which God says, brings the power that was released when Christ was raised from the dead (Eph. 1:19–20; 3:20), which causes those things to come into fruition. This teaching is interpreted from Mark 11:22–23. In this movement, positive confession is the same as to decree or to declare, because to them faith is a force.

Similarly, “negative confession” will produce negative results. Therefore, believers should be conscious of their words. This is their interpretation of Proverbs 18:21, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and they that love them will eat the fruit thereof,” and of Numbers 14:28, “…declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing, I will do to you,” among other Scriptures.

  1. “Little gods” (the deification of man): Many WOF teachers say that the status of a Christian (through Christ) is that of “little gods”. Kenneth Hagin wrote that God “made us in the same class of being that he is himself,” (Cloud. 2006) and that the believer is “called Christ” because “that’s who we are; we’re Christ!” According to Hagin, by being “born again”, the believer becomes “as much an incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth.” Kenneth Copeland has told believers, “You don’t have a God in you. You are one.” They say this by erroneously referring to Psalms 82:6, and John 10:34. Note that these verses were addressed to the Judges of Israel who are called gods, not because they were divine but because they represented God when they judged the people. The Hebrew and Greek words used in both Scriptures for “gods” can also be applied to magistrates, High Court judges, etc., and can also be used to describe someone as “mighty”.

The Word of Faith teachers tell us that God created man as “an exact duplication of God’s kind.” A documentary, Suffer the Children, shows a video clip of Creflo Dollar, teaching the “little gods” doctrine to his congregation, saying, “Everything reproduces after its own kind.”

Dollar: “If horses get together, they produce what?”

Congregation: “Horses!”

Dollar: “If dogs get together, they produce what?”

Congregation: “Dogs!”

Dollar: “If cats get together, they produce what?”

Congregation: “Cats!”

Dollar: “So if the Godhead says, ‘Let us make man in our image,’ and everything produces after its own kind, then they produce what?”

Congregation: “Gods!”

Dollar: “Gods. Little “g” gods. You’re not human. The only human part of you is this flesh you’re wearing.”

Therefore, in their teaching Adam was an exact duplicate of God.

  1. Salvation is the removal of the nature of Satan: The faith teachers claim that when Adam fell in the garden he lost the nature of God and took on the nature of Satan. Therefore, salvation for the faith teachers is not the removal of sin through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation for them is not the forgiveness of sins and the restoring of a right relationship between God and man. Salvation for the WOF teachers is the removal of the nature of Satan from man and the restoring of the nature of God in man.

How is the restoring of the nature of God in man brought about? They claim that Jesus took on the nature of Satan on the cross. In order to take away our Satanic nature and restore our God nature, Jesus Christ had to die spiritually (but see 1 Pet. 3:18) as well as physically. He then descended to hell and while in hell he was born again. Through his act of being born again he conquered the devil.

So, the holy, undefiled, unchangeable Son of God became evil, taking upon himself the nature of Satan? Blasphemy! Our holy God, Jesus Christ, does not in any way become unholy. What a diminished view of Jesus.

A brief biblical response to the WOF beliefs

Clearly, the WOF movement tells the believer to use God but the Bible states the opposite—God uses the believer. The WOF movement sees the Holy Spirit as a power to put to use for whatever the believer wills. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person who enables the believer to do God’s will.

Paul warned Timothy about such men in 1 Tim. 6:5, 9–11. They are men of “corrupt mind,” supposing that godliness was a means of gain, and their desire for riches was a trap that brought them “into ruin and destruction” (v.9). The pursuit of wealth is a dangerous path for Christians and one that God warns about (v.10). If riches were a reasonable goal for the godly, Jesus would have pursued it. But de did not (Matt. 8:20), and he taught his disciples to do the same. It should also be remembered that the only disciple who was concerned with wealth was Judas Iscariot.

Covetousness is idolatry (Eph. 5:5). Anyone who brings such a message must be avoided (Eph. 5:6–7). Prosperity teaching prohibits God from working on his own, meaning that God is not Lord of all because he cannot work until we release him to do so. Faith, according to the Word of Faith doctrine, is not submissive trust in God. Faith is a formula by which we manipulate God. This movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and believe in our hearts.

In “positive confession” what you say or claim determines everything that happens to you. What you say, as long as it is stated positively and without doubting, God is required to answer. Therefore, God’s ability to bless us supposedly hangs on our faith. But James 4:13–17 contradicts all this.

Instead of stressing the importance of wealth, the Bible warns against pursuing it (1 Tim. 3:3). Christians are to be free from the love of money (Heb. 13:5). The love of money leads to all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). See also Luke 12:15, Matt. 6:19, and Matt. 6:24. For example, John Piper points out that Christ warned the apostles that they would suffer great persecution for the sake of his name (except John, all eleven apostles, after Judas Iscariot, suffered martyrs’ deaths). In a January 2006 sermon entitled, “How our Suffering Advances the Gospel,” Piper stated bluntly that “the prosperity gospel will not make anybody praise Jesus; it will make people praise prosperity.”


Clearly, the WOF movement exalts man to god-status and reduces God to man-status—a false representation of Christianity. The WOF teaching does not take into account what is found in Scripture. Personal revelation, not Scripture, is highly relied upon, resulting in such absurd beliefs from them.

We must always remember that God alone is the Sovereign Creator of the Universe. He does not need faith—he is the object of faith (Heb. 11:13). God is spirit and does not have a physical body (John 4:24). Man was created in the image of God, but this does not make him a little god or divine. Only God has a divine nature (Isa. 43:10, 44:6). Christ is eternal, the only begotten Son, and the only incarnation of God (John 1:1, 2, 14, 15, 18). In him dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9).

The Word of Faith movement is deceiving countless people, causing them to grasp after a way of life and faith that is not biblical. At its core is the same lie Satan has been telling since the Garden: “You shall be as God” (Gen. 3:5). We should not listen to him. Our hope is in the Lord, not in our own words, not even in our own faith (Psa. 33:20–23). Our faith comes from God (Heb. 12:2) and is not something we create for ourselves. So, be wary of the Word of Faith movement and any church that aligns itself with their teachings.


Cloud, David W. 2006. The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement: The History

And Error. London. Bethel Baptist, Print Ministry