Word Faith Teachings and Mind Science Cults

Recently, while discussing with some friends on Facebook about the Word-Faith movement, I realised that the varying doctrines and nuanced terminologies found within the WOF can sway even sincere Christians to innocently embrace their heretical teachings and techniques.

Unravelling this aberrational hoodwink requires an exploration of the origin of such false teachings. Once their roots are exposed, you can easily discern when a teaching or practice has crossed the lines of Christian orthodoxy and is skating on the thin ice of cults and the occult.

First, let’s remind ourselves of what the Bible says about God and faith, because these are key areas through which WOF peddlers smuggle their load of errors through the back door.

  • God

The God of the Bible is “the Living God who made the heaven, and earth, and the sea and all things therein” (Acts 14:15). Not only that, He has a present interest and an active hand in the affairs of men:

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” (2 Chr. 16:9).

This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites” (Josh. 3:10)

…For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and saves; he performs wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (Dan. 6:26-27).

Since God is the Creator of the universe, He’s not the universe and He is not subject to the laws of the universe. This is called “the Infinity of God.”

“The infinity of God is that perfection of God by which He is free from all limitations. In ascribing it to God we deny that there are or can be any limitations to the divine Being. It implies that He is in no way limited by the universe, by this time-space, or confined to the universe” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1958, 59

The Bible also shows us that God is sovereign. He has absolute authority over all His creatures and upholds all things by His almighty power. God – not man – has absolute rule. He shapes the whole present history of the world and all things are dependent on Him and subservient to Him:

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes” (Deut. 10:17)

“With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please” (Jer. 27:5).

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns’” (Rev. 19:6).

  • Faith

Faith generally means having an unhesitating assurance of the truth of God’s testimony, even when it is unsupported by any other evidence. Hebrews 11:1 describes it as: “the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Amplified).

Faith rests on the unseen because it rests upon the foundation of God’s Word. Noah was “warned about things not yet seen” so by faith he responded in obedience. Abraham went forth in obedience to the land of inheritance without having seen it. Sarah was enabled to conceive Isaac without having seen him. Joseph didn’t see the exodus of the Israelites, but it happened as he believed (Heb. 11:7, 8, 22).

All these happened because they took God at His Word; they believed that God is willing and has “power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:21). Biblical faith acknowledges that God knows what is best for us. (Job. 42:1-6; Matt. 26:39; Rom. 8:26; 2Cor. 12:7-10).

True faith necessitates believing in God and His Word (e.g. 2 Chr. 20:20); therefore, God doesn’t need to have faith in Himself to do anything. To assert that God “used the force of faith by speaking faith-filled words to create the universe” presupposes that there is a ‘higher God’ he rested his faith on. Wrong. God created everything by and through His own omnipotence. He is infinite and there is no being higher than Him.

Having this understanding, when we pray in faith, we let God be God and trust in His wisdom and goodness. Even though God can do all things, we recognize that He reserves the right to determine the terms and timing by which we will receive what we ask (Rom. 11:33-36).

Faith is not an impersonal force that can be harnessed to create a new reality. The right faith is a willingness to believe what God had said (2 Cor. 12:7-10; Phil. 4: 10-13). True faith is not hinged on an idea; an institution; an image; a feeling or a ritual. It is based on God, His Word, Jesus Christ and His finished work.

The earliest preachers to introduce ideas of faith being a “force” were Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) and Essek Kenyon (1867-1948). Due to scant documented evidence of Wigglesworth’s power and exploits, it has been stated that much of the tales and claims attributed to him were mythical (see Gerard Fisher, The Quarterly Journal, January-March 1995, pp. 1, 11-14).

Essek Kenyon absorbed the teachings of the Higher Life movement as well as mind science concepts which birthed WOF teachings. This leads us to briefly explore mind science religions.

New Thought, Mind Science and the New Age

The 19th century wasn’t just an era of industrial revolution; it was also an era of religious revolution. In the middle of that century, Western society was entering a new and scientific era, where reason, experimentation, and observable results were becoming the standard means of measuring progress and assessing truth claims.

In a bid to sustain the social mechanics of that time, some people attempted to create a dubious mix of science and religion giving rise to metaphysics or mind science cults. After being influenced by Phineas Quimby, an occultist and founder of New Thought philosophy, Mary Eddy Baker founded the Christian Science cult.

She taught that Jesus was a scientist who applied dynamic laws of the mind which govern the universe to heal people. She also taught that sin, sickness or death were illusions of the mind which can be dispelled with scientific faith or positive thinking.

Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, who founded Unity School of Christianity in 1889, taught the same in Dynamics for Living: “God cannot create without law. God is the Mind force carrying forward creation under law… Whatever Mind commands to be brought forth will be brought forth by and through the law of evolution inherent in Being.

Ernest Holmes of the Church of Religious Science also taught that: “Science of Mind teaches that Man controls the course of his life…by mental processes which function according to a Universal Law.”

These were concepts that emerged later as New Age philosophies. John Randolph Price in his book The Superbeings says: “Like attracts likeWhat you think in your mind will produce in your experience … All the Power of the Universe is within you and this Power you can have anything on earth you desire.” (The Superbeings John R. Price Quartus foundation, 1981, xv).

Though some of these mind science cults deceitfully use Christian terminologies, they have given them different meanings to suit their own beliefs:

  1. They don’t believe in a personal God who directly, sovereignly governs the universe as Christians believe, but in an impersonal god (called “the Force,” “the Infinite Power” or “the Spirit of Infinite Life”) who rules the universe indirectly through immutable laws.
  2. They believe man is the one in control of all that happens to him. Since their god is like energy, he holds no one morally accountable: he only exists to give man what he wants. So, man needs to control his situations or the world with his mind. With positive thinking, he can activate the god energy for his own good.

This idea is seen in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, where he quoted a poem saying: “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my own fate, I am the captain of my soul” (p. 86). Napoleon Hill said he got his teachings from “9 invisible counselors” he met through intense visualization:

I can truthful say that I owe entirely to my ‘Invisible Counselors full credit for such ideas, facts or knowledge as I received through ‘inspiration’…” (Think and Grow Rich, p. 86).

Who were these “invisible counselors?” Your guess is as good as mine. These mind science occult beliefs came into the church in the 20th century through three key figures:

(a) Robert Schuller who had gleaned much of his “possibility thinking” ideas from Napoleon Hill (who admitted being inspired by demons). In one of his tapes, Schuller said: “You don’t know what power you have within you! …You can make the world into anything you choose” (Possibility Thinking – Goals)

(b) Norman Vincent Peale, a 33 degree Mason who taught that: “God is energy. As you breathe God in, as you visualize His energy, you will be reenergized! (PLUS: The Magazine of Positive Thinking 37:4, May 1986, 11).

In 1984, on the Phil Donahue program, Peale said, “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine … I’ve been to Shinto shrines, and God is everywhere:”

Shocked, Phil Donahue responded, “But you’re a Christian minister; you’re supposed to tell me that Christ is the way and the truth and the life, aren’t you?” Peale replied, “Christ is one of the ways. God is everywhere” (Christian News, May 12, 1997, 11).

(c) Agnes Sanford, an Episcopal mystic healer who taught visualization and Jungian psychology. She wrote: “The same principle is true of the creative energy of God. The whole universe is full of it, but only the amount of it that flows through our own beings will work for us” (The Healing Light, p. 1)

Strands of mind science concepts were adopted by Word Faith preachers and couched with different terms like “the laws of faith”, “the laws of the fourth dimension” or “the laws of miracles.” Though the terminologies differ, the concept is the same.

Yonggi Cho wrote: “You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth … He is bound by your lips and your mouth … through intense visualization and dreaming, you can incubate your faith and hatch results … Sokagakkai [a Buddhist sect] has applied the law of the fourth dimension and has performed miracles…” (The Fourth Dimension, pp 64, 83)

Frederick Price: “You are in control! … God cannot do anything on earth unless we…give Him permission through prayer” (The Word Study Bible, p. 1178)

Sam Adeyemi: “This world is governed by laws. God invested tremendous energy in this world; energy which He put within the bounds of certain laws. When you satisfy the conditions of those laws, you generate tremendous force in your life to get things done” (Success is Who You Are, 2008, pp. 25-26).

Kenneth Copeland: “Any image that you get down on the inside of you that is so vivid when you close your eyes you see it, it’ll come to pass. When God came at the Tower of Babel, He said, ‘Anything they can imagine, they can do.’“ (Copeland, Inner Image of the Covenant, side 2)

Myles Monroe: “Prayer is man giving God permission or license to interfere in earth’s affairs… God could do nothing on earth… nothing has God ever done on earth without a human giving him access. [So he is] always looking for a human to give Him power permission. In other words, God has the power, but you get the permission. God got the authority and the power, but you’ve got the license. So even though God can do anything, He can only do what you permit Him to do” (“This is Your Day” with Benny Hinn, July 2004).

These mind science beliefs relegate God and exalt man. The idea that there is a universal law or “faith force” which Christians and non-Christians can tap into and use to experience miracles or achieve success is not a Bible teaching. True miracles are not governed by laws – they override all laws. We receive from God by faith, not by applying man-made laws.

A study of the Bible shows that there is no fixed technique, ritual, formula nor “laws” that can be used to force the true God to work miracles or answer our prayers. We must all be very careful of what we glean from some preachers or books.

The devil knows Christians would never listen to the ravings of a shaman reciting his cult corpus and waving his rattle. We won’t even allow him get past our church doors. But if a shaman shows up in a three-piece suit, has some degrees under his belt, carries a big bible and mouths off the same cultic ideas, this time, laced with familiar Christian clichés, many Christians will fall for his deceptive teachings.

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The Saints are not Watching Us

The unbiblical nature of Catholic sainthood has been discussed in a previous post. Popular Catholic apologists, however, are (predictably) trying to support this error with selected Bible verses. One of them wrote:

If it is objected that the dead saints cannot hear us, we reply that God is fully able to give them that power – with plenty of supporting biblical evidence: 1) the “cloud of witnesses” that Hebrews 12:1 describes; 2) in Revelation 6:9-10, prayers are given for us in heaven from “saints”; 3) elsewhere in Revelation an angel possesses “prayers of the saints” and in turn presents them to God … The saints in heaven are clearly aware of earthly happenings. If they have such awareness, it isn’t that much of a leap to deduce that they can hear our requests for prayer, especially since the Bible itself shows that they are indeed praying” (The One Minute Apologist p. 121).

The theological aberration here is glaring. To assert “that God is fully able to give them (dead saints) that power” to answer our prayers presupposes that God has somehow delegated some of His attributes to spirits of the dead. This is theologically objectionable.

For instance, if I’m praying to St. Raphael or St. Joseph to help find me a wife, he would first have to know who I am. We didn’t live in the same century and he obviously can’t understand my language. There would also be thousands of men from around the world praying to the same saint at the same time for the same request, all in different languages.

Since this “saint” has a specific role in helping single men find a bride, he would need to be able to process all these requests or sort out those praying with a wrong motive. There’s no human, whether living or dead that can listen to 100 people let alone help them at once. It’s beyond any human ability.

Not to mention that St. Joseph – not God – is the one doing the work (just like when St. Anthony searches out lost items). For these saints to know about anything we might need or want to ask from God, hearing our thoughts or our words spoken in private, they would have to be gods.

Only God can possess all knowledge of human affairs, problems, thoughts, and words. So, technically, these “saints” would need to be at the least, quasi-omniscient and quasi-omnipotent demigods to be able to know, hear and do what have been ascribed to them.

Second, this apologist has thrown in a red herring. The dispute isn’t about what God is able to do or not do. If He wanted, He could have made saints intercede on our behalf in a Christianized pantheon of gods in heaven. So the real issue is: has God given the saints power to hear prayers? The answer is no.

Prayer is an act of worship, and it’s to be offered to God. Praying to any other being, whether in heaven or on earth, is a violation of the first commandment – acknowledging another God. It’s the height of disservice to argue that praying to some spirits on the other side for supernatural, individual and personal help is “just asking them to pray for us.”

Before I examine the “proof texts” this apologist presented, I need to bring up a statement he made elsewhere:

Protestants try to explain this away, because they seem to fear the notion that saints in heaven and earth have an organic connection. They want simply to “go straight to God” and bypass all the mediating functions of the saints… The saints are alive and they love us!” (The Catholic Verses pp. 136, 137).

It is actually Roman Catholicism that attempts to explain away what God has made very clear in His Word that there is only “one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ” (1Tim. 2:5). The idea of “mediating functions” of saints is totally unbiblical.

God has “reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ” (2Cor. 5:18) and “through him [Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18). We don’t gain access to God through a myriad of spirits. It’s an affront to God to replace the closeness to and relationship we should have with Him with greater closeness to other invisible personages treated as intermediaries.

An analogy commonly given is: God is like an earthly boss and if we need a raise from him we need to go through levels of bosses as intermediates. This conflicts with the revelation of the Fatherhood of God. Jesus said “the Father Himself loves you” (John 16:27). Christ removed the dividing wall of hostility sin created between God and man. Through His blood, we who were once far from God have been brought close (Eph. 2:13-14).

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba Father’” (Rom. 8:15). Through Christ, every Believer can have an intimate fellowship with God. This blows the heresy of an “organic connection” between dead “saints” and the living into ashes. Let’s take a brief look at the proof texts given:

Hebrews 12:1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and sin which so easily entangles us…”

It’s assumed that the “cloud of witnesses” here refers to saints in heaven observing events on earth. This passage comes after Hebrews 11 where faithful men and women of old were referred to. The term ‘witness’ doesn’t imply one who is observing events, but one who testifies or witnesses by one’s life.

This passage is simply saying that the faithful people were witnesses to God’s faithfulness by their own lives, and since we have their testimony, we are to run the race with patience and joy. There is no justification to make this teach that saints in heaven are watching and hearing us.

In fairness though, some Pentecostal preachers also misuse this text to teach that “all the other believers who have ever died are watching us from the grandstands in Heaven as we run our spiritual race.”

No one who takes Heb. 12:1 in its context, without reading into it a preconceived idea of the dead observing the earth will arrive at such a conclusion. You can’t juxtapose the words “witnesses” with “spectators”. Marcus Dods has this to say:

“Martu,rwn [meaning] ‘witnesses,’ persons who by their actions have testified to the worth of faith. The cloud of witnesses are those named and suggested in chap. xi; persons whose lives witnessed to the work and triumph of faith, and whose faith was witnessed to by Scripture, cf. xi. 2, 4, 5… It is impossible to take ma,rturej as equivalent to qeatai [spectator]. If the idea of ‘spectator’ is present at all, which is doubtful, it is only introduced by the words tre,cwmen … The idea is not that they are running in presence of spectators and must therefore run well; but that their people’s history being filled with examples of much-enduring but triumphant faith, they also must approve their lineage by showing a like persistence of faith” (The Expositor’s Greek New Testament (IV: 365).

Revelation 6:9-10. When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?

From this passage, did you come across anything like “prayers [that] are given for us in heaven from saints” like Rome’s defenders want us to believe? Here we see martyrs asking for God’s vengeance and judgement on the wicked for murdering them. In response they were given a white robe and told to wait a little longer for the rest of the tribulation saints that will be martyred (v. 11).

Where is the evidence that they have knowledge of what is happening here on earth? What they know is that God is just and will punish sin, which we too also know here on earth, since God’s Word says it (Gen. 18:22, Ps. 9:8). The fact that they were informed that more martyrs will join them shows us that they didn’t have this information naturally. They would have known this if they were observing events on earth.

This verse doesn’t picture anything even remotely like the saints in heaven praying for us and our problems much less hearing us or helping us to find a wife, husband or missing pair of shoes.

Another proof text used is: “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand” (Rev. 8:4)

Biblically, everyone who is saved is a saint. The Greek word for saint is hagion and it means holy ones. There are holy ones both in heaven and on earth, so it’s Catholic anachronism to assume that “prayers of the saints” refer only to holy ones in heaven.

It was actually an angel that was presenting the prayers of God’s people before Him. Nothing here supports praying to saints, or that saints in heaven have knowledge of earthly events much less answer our requests.

These modern Catholic apologists are digging a pit for themselves whether they realize it or not. On the one hand, they attack private interpretation of the Bible, telling us only Rome can interpret the Bible for us. And on the other, they trot out verses (which by the way are out of their contexts) from their own private interpretation; verses which their church have never infallibly interpreted.

So when a Catholic trots out these “proof texts,” a good question to ask is: Has your church “infallibly” defined these Bible verses for you? Finally, he wrote:

Asking a saint in heaven to pray for us no more interferes with the unique mediation of Christ than does asking a person on earth to pray for us. We always pray in Christ, through his power, and to him, whether it is directly to him, or by means of another person or angel, in heaven or on earth (The Catholic Verses, p.143).

Asking a friend to pray for you is not and will never be relevant to Jesus’ role as a sole mediator. Jesus’ role as mediator is essential and necessarily different because He has a ground to stand on as mediator that no one – including Mary – can ever possess.

Interestingly, Santerios and Voodoo adherents also pray to the same “saints” Catholics do, and we all know they are not connecting to the God of the Bible through them. If you are accessing the same “friends on the other side” as occultists, what does that say about your belief system?

To say that you believe Jesus as a unique mediator, that you always pray through him but then say in the same breath that you need other “mediating functions” of spirits of the dead and angels is serpentine forked tongue rhetoric. The Biblical prohibition of contacting those who have passed from this world is unmistakably clear.

Have you observed that all these Catholic arguments are not compelling to any serious Bible student? They are not meant to be. They are just meant to have enough appeal to keep an average Catholic who wants to believe the lies of Rome in a state of faith.