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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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Condemnation or Correction?

The integrity of the gospel is a primary concern in the Pauline letters.  However, Paul’s injunctions do not fall into rigid categories, but differ depending upon the context.  To the Galatians, he writes,

 

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned![6][6] 

 

Paul emphatically states that the response to those who preach a different gospel is anathema esto.  The verb esto is a third person singular, present active imperative form of eimi implying a command. This command becomes weightier as Paul repeats his instructions in verse 9. Anathema refers to a person or thing that is consecrated and devoted to God for destruction in that it is alienated from God spiritually by sin.[7] If word of faith theology breaks the boundaries of orthodoxy and is indeed preaching a different gospel, then we should apply the Pauline injunction to declare it anathema.  This has been the direction taken by some word of faith critics.  In his summary remarks, McConnell concludes,

 

This analysis of the Faith movement has characterized the Faith theology as “a different gospel.”…Is the charge justified that the Faith theology constitutes a different gospel? I think that it is, for three reasons: (1) its historical origins; (2) its heretical doctrines; and (3) its cultic practices.[8]

 

Christian Research Institute President Hank Hanegraaff writes, “The Faith movement has systematically subverted the very essence of Christianity so as to present us with a counterfeit Christ and a counterfeit Christianity.  Therefore standing against the theology of the Faith movement does not divide; rather, it unites believers.”[9] In 1980, Charles Farah brought the debate to the Society for Pentecostal Studies where he concludes, “The (Faith) movement uses Gnostic hermeneutical principles and displaces contextual scientific exegesis.  It shares many of the goals of present day humanism, particularly in regards to the creaturely comforts.  It is in fact, a burgeoning heresy.”[10] Nearly ten years later, H. Terris Neuman adds to the debate upon the SPS platform.  He writes, “…this paper is a call to the wider evangelical community also to engage in an apologetic that will distinguish the gospel of Jesus Christ from those who indeed propagate a “different gospel”[11] (i.e. the proponents of word of faith theology).  However, anathema is not the only option.

            In his zeal to protect the purity of the gospel, Paul gave another command in order to deal with those who are not teaching sound doctrine.  Paul writes to Timothy,

 

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.[12]

 

There is room within word of faith theology to “correct, rebuke and encourage,” but it requires “great patience and careful instruction.”  Word of faith teaching is not a heresy to be obliterated, but a theologically premature movement that needs significant reconstruction.  Word of faith theology is within the bounds of orthodoxy because of its historical roots in Holiness/Pentecostalism and its exaltation of the biblical authority.  These elements provide a sufficient theological foundation to seek correction and not condemnation.  

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