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Derek Vreeland

This paper was written by Derek Vreeland.

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Derek Vreeland holds an M.Div degree from Oral Roberts University. He is the assistant pastor of Cornerstone Church in Americus, Georgia.

Original paper. Included with the author's permission. This paper has since been modified and published in article form in Refleks 1-2 (2002).

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Articles > Charismatic Theology > Reconstructing Word of Faith Theology

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Reconstructing Healing

            The context in which observers most readily see the nature of faith from a word of faith perspective in operation is in the ministry of divine healing. The active practice of healing in the word of faith movement has also been a touchstone for some of the critiques of the movement.  The emphasis on healing affirms the Holiness/Pentecostal roots of the faith movement not only in praxis, but theology. Pentecostal theology roots healing in the atonement of Christ.  The word of faith theology of healing consistently uses this soteriological approach in that redemption purchased a “double cure,” both the forgiveness of sins and healing of the body. The most distinguishable characteristic of healing in word of faith theology is the accentuation of faith as the primary variable in the reception of divine healing. Faith was certainly a part of the theological forerunners of Hagin, but faith did not receive the same emphasis by the Pentecostal and pre-Pentecostal healers.  For example, Dowie writes, 


I do not like the term, Faith Healing…. While faith is a very precious grace, yet it is only the medium of the communication of God’s infinite love and power, and we must never put it in the place of God Himself.  There I am glad the subject is expressed in the words Divine healing, or ‘Healing through Faith in Jesus;’ not healing by faith, but THROUGH faith; through faith in Jesus, by the power of God (emphasis his). [75]


Dowie was aware that faith had the potential to replace the power of God as the source of healing. Thus he notes in his initial remarks concerning healing that he does not prefer the term “faith healing.” For Hagin and the leaders of the word of faith movement, “faith healing” is an appropriate title, because faith is central in the appropriation of healing even above the power of the Holy Spirit. For example, in his 30-page book Healing Belongs to Us, Hagin emphasizes the role of “faith” or “believing” in the process of divine healing approximately 58 times in brief commentaries and anecdotes.[76]  In one reference Hagin writes,


Why doesn’t the manifestation (of healing) always come instantly? There are several reasons.  One is that healing is by degree, based on two conditions: (1) the degree of healing virtue ministered; (2) the degree of the individual’s faith that gives action to that healing virtue.  If there is no faith to give action to it, it will not be manifested at all, even though the healing virtue is actually ministered.


Hagin’s exaltation of faith over spiritual power is a deviation from classical Pentecostal theology with its soteriological and pneumatological roots of healing. Faith has always been an integral part of Pentecostal healing, but it has been subordinate to “the power of the Lord present to heal.”


            Faith as a positive component in the healing process is a biblical concept. Jesus often draws attention to the faith of the ones receiving healing by using the phrase “your faith has healed you.”[77]  In the explanation of the healing of the man at the Gate Beautiful, Peter emphatically testifies, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.”[78] Paul healed a man in Lystra upon detecting faith in the man.[79] James includes the prayer of faith as prescriptive in the sacrament of healing to be ministered by church elders.[80] Yet word of faith theology takes this biblical truth to an unbiblical extreme by creating a system that draws a “strict causality between faith and healing” as noted by Ken Blue.[81] By this, word of faith theology absolutizes the relative by assuming that faith is the absolute prerequisite to divine healing.


            A reconstruction of the word of faith doctrine of healing includes a decentralizing (without eliminating) the role of faith in healing. The direct cause and effect relationship between faith and healing in the word of faith movement is a pitfall of pastoral problems. If faith is the only variable to receiving healing and a sick person does not experience healing, the person can only look to their own lack of sufficient faith. The inevitable conclusion is for the sick person to question the quality of their faith.  This centralized role of faith causes the attention to be on faith itself and not God, the intended object of faith. Thus the degree of expectation (faith) is in the sick person’s faith and not God.  Francis MacNutt testifies, “My faith is not in my faith.  My faith opens up doubts once I begin to look at its quality…. Once we look at our faith, however, rather than at God, we concentrate on our own inadequacy.”[82]  Determining the quality of faith in healing is counterproductive from a pastoral perspective and biblically unsubstantiated. In the healing process, faith is necessary, but relative.  God is the absolute and faith for healing is relative to God’s purposes and God’s timing.  This reconstructed theology of healing celebrates aggressive faith, but only to the degree that faith maintains an external focus on the agent of healing – Christ the healer.

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