What is Word of Faith? Whilst it has a number of distinctive doctrines, the principal belief is that of being able to access the power of faith through our speech. It is the prosperity gospel at its worst; teaching that through the power of your own words you can literally speak things into existence. (italics are from the Protestant Standard Blog) It makes MAN a god. Word of Faith theology teaches that through positive confession you can have good health and financial prosperity, simply by ascribing power to the words that you speak. Conversely negative confession, or using negative words, will have a detrimental effect on your life.
In studying the validity of movements in Christendom, it is helpful to look at the beliefs and practices of the founders or early "movers and shakers" in those movements. There one can see what has affected what their followers teach & believe.
Essek W. Kenyon 1867-1948 was deemed to be the father of the modern WOF movement (with followers of varied WOF emanation such as Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Hagin, Paul Crouch, William Branham, Andrew Womack, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Fred Price, TD Jakes, et al..). Kenyon taught that God created by speaking "faith filled words" and we can do the same thing.
The method we will take is to compare the Bible and orthodox Christianity to the WOF community's teachings, with much of what is listed below coming from Kenyon.
1. Doctrine of Creation:
Bible - Teaches Creatio Ex Nihlo (out of nothing) Heb. 11:3
Kenyon - Creation was by God speaking "faith filled words" Faith is a tangible substance and His words are containers of a substance called faith. And we as believers use our own "words of faith" we "create" or speak into existence our own desired reality.
2. The Fall & Dominion
Bible - The Bible teaches that Man and subsequently the creation fell, people by birth are born in Adam's image, corrupt sinners, alienated from the life of God, needing a Redeemer. God is over all and nothing happens lest He wills it, or allows it.
WOF teaching - Humans started as gods but lost that standing & took the nature of Satan in the fall and forfeited their dominion and made him the legal god of earth. Dominion is the prominent theme. With Satan ruling, God can only use man to "speak" and move through "saved" people to reclaim dominion. In some form or another, all WOF teachers hold to these ideas.
3. The Death of Christ
Bible - Teaches a Penal Substitution and Satisfaction against sin. God is satisfied, justice met, and believing sinners are brought very near in grace. For Christ also hath suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust. Christ was able to complete the work, because He was the perfect lamb of God, and sufficient as the eternal Son to pay the price- on the cross. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin (sin offering) for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
Kenyon & WOF - Jesus died physically and spiritually, suffered and was tormented in hell, and his suffering for our sins was done in there in hell (and not on the cross), and that shockingly, .....he too had to be reborn. Kenyon reasoned (there's the problem) that a physical death could not pay for a spiritual problem. And his solution led him to seek something beyond the cross (ie...Christ in hell) as part of redemption. They insist Jesus died spiritually and had to be reborn, it is their errant doctrine of identification. These teachers take verses like 2 Cor. 5:21 "He made him to be sin" as if Jesus was made into sin, into the pit of hell (says Copeland). The WOF teachers do not realize the use of "sin" as a term for "sin offering". Reread 2 Cor 5:21 and all becomes clear "He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin offering for us....." Hamartia is the Greek word and can be translated "sin" or "sin offering". The Septuagint, uses this very term in Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin...
4. Health & Wealth
Bible - Teaches Trust in a Person and His Word, learning contentment in prosperity or in poverty, working in order to be able to give to others who are in need (Eph 4:28)
Kenyon & WOF preachers - Believers use their words to create a reality, the positive confession. The believer "speaks things into existence".
5. Divine Revelation & Discernment
Bible - Teaches that All scripture is God breathed ....(2 Tim 3:16)
WOF preachers - (Kenneth Hagin for example claims 8 visitations from Christ) They claim direct revelations from God. Like Catholicism (with its tradition and "church teachings") WOF preachers have elevated something besides scripture to the level of divine revelation.
6. Positive Confession
Bible - Thy will be done, God welcomes prayer for needs and wants and for the fellowship of dependence upon Him. God spoke things into existence, we beseech and request from Him, and accept His sovereign answers including "no".
WOF preachers - "There is power in me to speak life and death" "You say what you want" "I'm speaking something into existence" "See yourself prosperous before you get prosperous" Visualization is a New Age Technique (like Oprah Winfrey's the Secret). Contemplative prayer is similar in mischief. This spoken word eerily lifts the WOF preacher to the "I wills" of Lucifer in Isaiah 14.
Example - "Law of Incubation." WOF'ers first make a clear-cut goal, then draw a mental picture, vivid and graphic, to visualize success. Then incubate it into reality, and finally speak it into existence through the creative power of the spoken word
7. The Bible and "words of faith"
Bible - Teaches that only God gives life, whether physical life, or eternal life in Christ.
WOF preachers - "your words can bring life" - "words are how God procreates" - "you have to be careful what you speak because there is in your words the power of life and death"
Example - Proverbs 18:21 is often quoted by WOF'ers as validating the power that is in words when it says: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue".
Example answered - Proverbs 18:22 "And those who love it (power & use of the tongue) shall eat its fruit. One commentator insightfully says of this proverb, that those who enjoy indulging intalking must bear its fruit, whether good or bad. Thus the warning is for those who love to talk, and how there is help and harm to self and others, that comes from the tongue. This is hardly the twisted meaning that the WOF preachers pull from such a text - ignoring its context and plain meaning.
Bible - Christ formed in you (Gal 4:19). Fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. God can and does use suffering to mold his children.
WOF teachers - Spirituality is in healings, confessions, testimonies, miracles, signs & wonders, tongues, and "manifestations" in general, ⇔ these are deemed to be manifestations of spirituality. Negative things like correction, discernment, and discipline, are avoided. For example, ► what person speaking a positive confession...would ever "confess" (and thereby bring to pass) suffering? And similarly why would such a person seek the hard work of discerning truth, or partake of the labor of study and learning sound doctrine, when you can merely speak things into existence, and be a minor deity?
Bible - Acts 20:35 And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.
WOF teachers - Here the WOF preacher, on top of the pyramid scheme, speaks in a seeming scriptural manner. Give ! Ultimately the goal is materially prosperity, whether it is the WOF preacher or the WOF adherent desiring to have more, more, more, like the fellow seen on TV.
Bible - Man is a lost sinner, needing Jesus Christ. The wrath of God abides on man, and each person must repent and trust the crucified and risen Savior.
WOF - Come to Jesus because he'll make you prosperous and heal your body and/or relationships.
Inroads to WOF:
popular music of christendom and the vulnerability of youth
biblical illiteracy of the masses, doctrinal ignorance
the desire to be where the crowds are (after all, God is moving there right? [sic] )
television and radio
popularity of the message of prosperity (as opposed to suffering & difficulty)
dissatisfaction with a seeming dry and uneventful christian life.
hypnotic effects of the music of mass gatherings of the healing/tongues/WOF meetings.
If you run into the following statements in whatever form, dear reader, separate from it, you are amongst promoters of a gross and dangerous error. Though the movement may deflect and turn you away from such a "negative" way of thinking, we beg you to discern and flee these ideas and its teachers:
"There is power in you, to speak life and death...."
"You speak what you have, you say what you want...."
"Don't see yourself struggling, see and speak yourself as prosperous...."
"Close your eyes and picture yourself...where you want to be...."
"With your words you can bring life...."
"Speak to a situation....what you want to happen...."
In short, the WOF movement makes men into little gods. It lowers God and elevates man. It is mindful of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:14 "I will ascend...I will be like the most high..."
Many of the points and logic above come via Justin Peters, per this very helpful and recommended video