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The Word-Faith Controversy: Understanding the Health and Wealth Gospel Paperback – April, 2000
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About the Author
Robert M. Bowman Jr. works for Watchman Fellowship, an organization of countercult ministries with branch offices in several states. He is the author of several books, including Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses, and Orthodoxy and Heresy. Bowman lives in Snellville, Georgia.
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Top Customer Reviews
Of course the question at hand is whether or not the Word of Faith movement is based on some heresy. Bowman argues that the best of Word-Faith theology is grounded in the evangelical healing tradition, but that some of its specific (and signature) doctrines indeed cross the line of being unorthodox if not heretical. He argues that Word-Faith is not a cult, nor do its teachers intend it to be, but that its doctrines as formulated especially by Kenneth Copeland are leading massive numbers of Christians astray. He argues this point well through a number of chapters where he analyzes each doctrinal component as compared with Scripture, as does he weave in how his assessments differ from other commentators' (such as Hannegraff and DeArteaga).
I think his more debatable and less well-argued points come in where he questions some of the faith statements of the larger Pentecostal-Charismatic community. While he is right to leave "no stone unturned" or allow any "sacred cows" to sneak in the back door, I found his biblical assessment of themes such as Christ's nature in the believer, the question of dominion over sickness, and other aspects of the Holy Spirit's indwelling to be more suspect. In no way is he hostile or polemical to charismatic theology per se, but his powerful exegesis prevalent in his other analyses (i.e. the Trinity) is wanting. I was less convinced to be worried about these aspects of the Word-Faith or larger charismatic community.
Anyway, a great read on the subject. Very comprehensive and thoughtful. Takes some time to work through.
In this book, Dr. Bowman tackles the issues of the Word-Faith movement from their false teachings to many of their claims such as positive confession or hyper-prosperity. He does so in grace. I found Dr. Bowman's book not to be a negative attack on Word-Faith teachers but a biblical examination of the facts. I think we all should agree that no man is above the watchful eye of the inerrant Word of God (Hebrews 4:12-13). We should all submit fully our lives and doctrines to the test of Scripture (John 8:31-32; Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:1; 2 Peter 1:16-21).
Whether you are a pastor in the Word-Faith Movement, a Christian seeking to understand the Word-Faith Movement, or simply someone curious about this movement within Christianity, I would urge you to get this great book.
Bowman considers E. W. Kenyon to be the grandfather, not father, of the Word-Faith (W-F) movement because he considers it to be essentially a Pentecostal movement since the W-F movement's primary "father", Kenneth Hagin, was Pentecostal, unlike Kenyon (but he also considers William Branham and Oral Roberts to be contributing "fathers" to the W-F movement in various ways). He also thinks that Hagin contributed certain doctrines to the movement that Kenyon didn't teach. Bowman thinks the W-F movement is an extreme Pentecostalism, or a Pentecostalism "at it's worst". One must keep in mind, however, that there are various definitions of what constitutes "Pentecostal" and "Charismatic". Technically, the former is applied strictly to those who believe that speaking in other tongues is the sole "initial evidence" of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. In other words, if one doesn't speak in tongues, then one HASN'T been baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is the position of classical Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God (A/G), the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world. Those who reject this position but still believe that speaking in tongues is for today, along with the other charismatic gifts of the Spirit, are generally categorized as "Charismatic". Kenneth Hagin was once affiliated with the A/G, but left the denomination to become independent or non-denominational. Although Hagin is a classical Pentecostal, I personally don't think that the "initial evidence" position of Hagin is integral to the W-F movement & its theology. There are many in the W-F movement that are Charismatic, not Pentecostal. Bowman occasionally uses a broader definition of "Pentecostal" than the more technical definition related to the "initial evidence" position which he considers a "hard-line view" (pg. 62), rejected by such men as F. F. Bosworth, author of "Christ the Healer".
Bowman considers the W-F views on healing and prosperity to be the least problematic aspects of their theology (pg. 11), but I tend to think that their distinctive theology was formulated to reinforce the movement's views on healing and prosperity. The doctrines of healing and prosperity as available in this life through "faith" are the "positive" motivating force of the movement regardless of the distinctive aberrant theology just as they are the thrust of the New Thought movement with its "positive" message regardless of its pantheism and/or panentheism. It is not surprising that the New Thought authors noted above consider Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller as promoters of some of New Thought's ideas on positive/possibility thinking although neither Peale nor Schuller is a pantheist or even a Pentecostal or Charismatic.