"Wells Without Water (4a)"
by Tricia Tillin
The Errors of the Word-of-Faith Movement (Part four of Four)
This four-part study is designed to demonstrate, using verbatim transcripts of the tapes of Kenneth Copeland, some of the errors in the "Positive Confession" movement.
You may find it hard to believe some of the things Copeland is reported as saying! But trust me, there has been NO tampering with the tapes. Not only did Copeland say these things in the 1980's when this study was first created (as a tape set called "Wells Without Water" on the Banner Ministries tape list) but he continues to reiterate them up to this very moment. So do many, many others in the Word of Faith leadership.
These teachers are totally unrepentant of their heresies, despite having been approached by countless brethren who tried to point out their unscriptural teachings. They continue to teach doctrines that are dishonest in their scriptural content, deceptive in their outcome, and destructive to the genuine faith of a Christian.
Part four(A): teaching OR travesty (1)?
The messages studied in this fourth part of the series "Wells Without Water", were originally compiled by the Christian Information Bureau, formerly the organisation handling Dave Hunt's material. (Dave Hunt's material is now available through "Berean Call", and his website is therefore at Berean Call.)
The first message on this compilation tape shows us the goal of the Copeland ministry:
EXTRACT ONE: THE PURPOSE AND GOAL OF THE MINISTRY IS PROSPERITY
This emphasis on teaching the body of Christ the laws of prosperity has governed the Word of Faith ministry for some years now. Indeed, it is seen as central to the work of saving the world.
The fact that prosperity teaching is the goal and purpose of his entire ministry must mean that Copeland and the others like him see a different vision of the future than we do. It is this vision that’s at fault, much more than the supposed laws of prosperity.
What the Bible teaches is that God will supply your needs if you are truly serving Him. It also teaches that God cares about us in minute detail and if we are poor, without proper housing or employment or anything like that, we can pray and believe that God will deliver us from poverty.
God has nothing against you owning a house and a nice car so long as your heart is right with Him and you are not living in greed and materialism. The word says it is the love of money that's the root of all evil, not money itself, so do not be afraid to ask God to supply your needs, even to the point of abundance.
That’s one side of the question. Another point is this: yes, God wants us to be generous and to give as He leads us. It is not wrong to give to your church or minister or to other Christian works, of course not! It's also true that the measure you give is the measure you receive, not only in giving, in giving money that is, but in all areas of the Christian walk. If we are open handed and generous, we needn`t fear poverty because God will supply our needs as they arise.
So much for the positive side of things. But prosperity teaching goes much further than this. This whole subject is so huge it would take an entire article just to begin exploring it. I will have to trust that readers are familiar with the Bible and its teaching on riches, generosity and so forth. I hope you will be aware of the emphasis in scripture on being content with what you have, and avoiding the love of worldly things.
So I’ll just go on to the central vision of the prosperity message, that is, we need, as Copeland says; "To get into line with the earth in order to reach people".
There is today an increasing demand on the church to dominate the nations and Christianise the world. We are being urged to become an army sent out to capture all men for Christ, despite the prophecies that speak of a world-wide apostasy and satanic worship in the end-times.
One of the ways in which we can change the world's system, so they say, is to gather into the church all the wealth of the nations, (the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the church they say, misquoting the OT prophecies) and with these riches we can influence governments and change society for God.
Furthermore, on a personal level, in order to impress men and women of the world with the gospel, we ought to be just as rich, just as successful, just as worldly in effect as they are. We have to "get in line with the world"; we have to get on to their level.
Well I don`t need to tell you, that this is not the way of God! It never has been and it never will be. The power of riches is a corrupt power. We have seen it bring men and women of God, even recently, to a complete shipwreck of their faith.
Once the motivation of wealth takes hold, preachers get hooked on receiving more and more money from their followers, and their spiritual lives go into decline. These men begin to lie and cheat and exploit Christians simply to keep their status. They compromise so as not to lose followers, who begin to represent an income rather than people in need of help and support. It's a ploy of the devil.
Prosperity teaching is not going to win the world. The preaching of the gospel doesn’t need million-dollar jets or glass cathedrals to be effective, anymore than it needs a Vatican City and treasure houses of paintings and works of art. God abhors this materialistic attitude because it exploits and endangers His beloved sheep. Let God supply your every need, but don`t be coerced into supporting the "Salvation of the world by the Laws of Prosperity".
You`ll notice too, that Copeland says the greatest amount of prayer requests is for financial help. Isn`t that sad? Have we become so deaf to God that our only concern in life is to be prosperous and successful? God forgive us, we are the Laodicean church! We are poor and naked but we don`t see it. We need God so much.
EXTRACT TWO: COPELAND'S SPIRIT COMES OUT OF HIS BODY AND HIS RESISTANCE OF IT BECOMES AN ENTRANCE FOR SIN.
This second message given in July 1983 shows us that something is seriously wrong with Copeland’s understanding of the scriptures on the subject of the body and the spirit.
He says that God showed him that compromise and sin began to get a hold on his life because he resisted God's efforts to bring his spirit out of his body. God supposedly wanted to have Copeland preach to the audience as a disembodied spirit.
Now right away we can see some links here with occult teachings, because the basis of the metaphysical religions and cults, like Christian Science, is that the spirit, your spirit, and the spiritual realm is the true reality not the material world.
For instance, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science says this: "Spirit is real and eternal; matter is unreal and temporal. Spirit is god; man is his image and likeness. Therefore man is not material, he is spiritual".
Thus, it would be a higher experience to quit the material body, and move into the "spirit realm". Of course New Agers teach this too, and they tell us we must train our imagination to 'see in the spiritual realm', and to meditate until we contact the beings that inhabit that so-called higher realm.
The Korean Pastor, Yonggi Cho, calls this realm the Fourth Dimension and says it contains both gods and demonic spirits. He teaches that this present material world has three dimensions, but the Fourth is the realm beyond which contains spiritual things, gods, demons and the Lord God Himself. Of course God's Heaven is far above the demonic realm and He doesn’t exist in any fourth dimension at all but in the City of God - but we can’t go into that now.
However, satan has been telling people for centuries that the spirit realm is the important thing, not this world. He wants men and women to contact his demons, to hear their voices, to be guided and deceived by them, and to believe that all the while they are entering a higher realm of consciousness.
Now Copeland also believes that the spirit realm is the important one, the only true reality, and consequently when he senses his spirit leaving his body, (that’s what new agers call an OBE or out-of-the-body-experience), he believes it will lead him to a more powerful Christian experience. Consequently, to resist it is to disobey God.
(Copeland does say that he was totally exhausted at the time. That, and the stress of the build-up to the meeting may have caused him to begin to faint. But I will add that, personally, I don't discount - whether through occult spiritual exercises or because of extreme circumstances like a near-death trauma - that it is actually possible for the spirit to be parted from the physical body momentarily. But this is an experience neither to be desired nor sought-for.)
We mustn’t forget that the Positive Confession Movement has roots that go deep into occult teachings, though most of the leaders of the movement are unaware of this. They have picked up the doctrines without really knowing where they come from. But we have to remember the goal of the New Age Movement is to deliver man from his so-called lower or carnal nature, and for him to become a spiritual being. This is also part of Gnostic teaching.
However, the Bible teaches that we are an integrated being of body, soul and spirit. God created us to be human and not a spirit-being imprisoned in a material body, ever seeking a way to overcome the limitations of the body.
Adam was created as a body of flesh, and a personality, and a spirit. I Thess 5: 23, says this: "May the God of peace himself, sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit, and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
You are not just a spirit being in a body. You are a whole person - body, soul and spirit - and your body will also be resurrected and glorified at death or at the rapture. God recognises the necessity of the body. Jesus himself of course has a glorified body. He is just not a spirit being. If God were so very ashamed of and opposed to the material realm and our bodies, He would deliver us out of them entirely at death, yet he chooses to "clothe us" with a glorified BODY after death!
Out of the body experiences are highly sought-after in New Age circles today. You can even buy books to tell you how to achieve them. One occult book says this:
Copeland quotes some scriptures in the second book of Corinthians to back up his experience, but he misunderstands the whole context of what Paul is saying. If you read chapters, one, two, three and four of 2 Corinthians you can see Paul is speaking of the humbling of his flesh to allow the life and glory of Jesus to shine through his humanity. It was his submission to the life of Jesus within his mortality that empowered Paul as an Apostle of God. In no way was he speaking of a spiritual experience that took him out of or beyond the body!
Interestingly, Paul DID have an "out of the body" experience, [that is, he was not really sure whether he was in his body or out of it at the time] but he was very reluctant to speak of it, and he does not attach ANY doctrinal significance to it whatsoever. That is, he nowhere suggests this is, or should ever be, the normal experience for a minister, or something to be aimed at.
More worryingly, there is a teaching embedded within Copeland's statements that can only be teased out by knowing the entire breadth of his doctrine, and how it is rooted in the Latter Rain understanding of the scriptures. I am referring to the teaching on "the glory" - something that has now been introduced as part of the Toronto Blessing and associated experiences. Notice that he hints at this by saying God told him "I`m going to teach and train you about the glory."
Now if you read the passages that Copeland suggests you will find teaching on "the glory" all right. Copeland is rather shy of going into this area on the tape, perhaps concerned that his listeners would misunderstand, or reject such heresy (quite rightly) but underneath what he says, and his treatment of his out-of-body experience, is the belief that certain super-Christians (the "overcomers") will ultimately transcend their mortal bodies and walk in glorious spiritual bodies on the earth!
This teaching is BASED UPON
(but does not conform to) the passages mentioned, from 2 Corinthians. You need
to read them for yourselves, but I will just quote a couple of relevant passages,
to show the misinterpretation of them:
This passage is key to certain beliefs throughout the charismatic world. It is believed that Christians can become so enlightened that they will become "transformed" (some call this "raptured!") into the glorious new body of the resurrection, and thus be like Jesus not only in spirit but in body! (On the earth.)
You can perhaps now see that Copeland, in his own OBE experience, believed he was about to be "transformed" by God at his meeting, and because he resisted the "glory of God" he was pulled back into the world and compromised. Only THIS explanation makes any sense of what Copeland says! (No wonder he skips over the doctrine and does not explain it to his listeners.)
It should not need to be said that the glorious resurrection body is given to us AFTER DEATH (or in the Rapture, if that comes sooner.) Even within the same passage of scripture, Paul states clearly that we have the Spirit "in an earthen vessel" - the physical body - so that the glory should not be OURS, but always GOD'S.
What could be more plain? And this:
This is another key verse used to "prove" that Christians can be clothed with the glorious spiritual body on earth if they reach the heights of spiritual enlightenment.
However, it is quite obvious to me that Paul meant the post-death body, like the body of Jesus after his resurrection. This is a heavenly body. Of course, if you are going to argue that "heaven is on earth" as Paul Cain does for example, then I suppose you would have no problem also arguing that the spiritual, resurrection body comes upon living Christians on the earth!
Part and parcel of the belief that we can be transformed, is that we have a god-like nature. This is explored in the next extract:
EXTRACT THREE: YOU ARE A GOD.
We have come now to a notorious teaching common among word of faith ministers, that "ye are gods". This is based on a misinterpretation of scripture. We partake of the divine nature of God ONLY through our spiritual unity with Jesus Christ, NOT by having it "injected" or "imparted" into us like a 'flu jab!
Though these ministers may not know it, they have been led astray by one of the subtlest lies of the devil. This lie is a core doctrine of the New Age movement, and many other cults who believe man is godlike in nature and needs to rediscover this great fact about himself.
The bible teaches that man is a created being - yet more, a FALLEN being out of touch with the Godhead - who must be redeemed. That redemption takes the form of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God. The (eternal) life is IN THE SON. We partake of it when we willingly enter into communion (com-union, ie, with-unity) with Jesus.
Satan’s religion opposes this teaching of the Bible. He says that man can make it alone. Satan wants to show us that we have supernatural powers, divine powers as he would call them, and that using these powers we can overcome our problems, put the world to rights, and assure ourselves of a glorious future. If only we will open ourselves to his supernatural wisdom, and learn the laws of the universe, we can change the world, he says.
This scheme is attractive to man for several reasons. It plays on our feelings of pride and it avoids the question of sin. Also, it does away with the vital necessity of God's salvation.
So much for the New Age doctrine. However, without realising it many Christians are following the same satanic path. Copeland has changed the Love of God into an omnipotent force, which we possess.
Now, is God's love an impersonal force or is it part of the nature of God? Does it belong to God, or to you?
The Bible says that God is Love but it never says that Love is God. God is a Person not a power source. His attributes, like love, flow from His personal will and under His own direction. We can experience them through our unity in the Spirit with God, but we can never own the attributes of God for ourselves.
When we are born again, our human spirits are made alive to God. God's Holy Spirit unites with us, and thus we become one spirit with God. As in marriage (which is a picture of our union with Christ) the two become "one" yet neither person is dissolved in the other, and both remain individuals. It is a partnership, or a sharing. That’s what Peter meant in 2 Peter 1:4, when he said, "we become partakers of the divine nature".
We become partners with God Himself, but we do not "become gods". That word "partakes", in Greek is koinonos, and it the word that is translated in other scriptures as fellowship or partnership or communion.
This merely implies having something by virtue of being associated with someone else. We understand this principle in daily life, where we have business partners and marriage partners. We also understand this concept in Holy Communion where we "partake" of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, not in reality - for the bread and wine do not actually become flesh and blood - but even so in a real way, for the mystical union between us is remembered and strengthened as we symbolically feed on the Living Bread. What we do outwardly, we are doing in our hearts, feeding on Jesus and receiving the benefits of his death.
The scriptures tell us that, by coming into oneness with Jesus Christ the Saviour, we can share (as if it were our own!) HIS righteousness, HIS victory over sin, HIS wisdom and HIS obedience, etc. But does that mean we BECOME a messiah, that we ARE divine, that we are, as Hagin says below, an INCARNATION? No!
. To understand why Copeland believes we possess a divine nature when we are born-again, we have to see how he interprets the creation of man.
The common teaching of Kenyon, Hagin, Capps and all the fathers of positive confession, is that man was made in the god-class as they say, that is, man was created to be on the level of the god-head. That is how they interpret the scripture that man is "made in the likeness of God".
Elsewhere, Copeland says:
And worst of all, Copeland boldly states: "You are Jesus in the flesh"...
How does he come to these beliefs? Well, if God made man as a fellow-god, then what Adam lost in the Fall was his god-nature. So, according to Word-of-Faith thinking, when Jesus came as the Second Adam, it was a mission to recover and restore the god-nature to mankind (whosoever would take up the offer of exercising it, that is.).
However, as most Bible students already know, God did not create Adam "in the god-class" or as a reproduction of Himself. Firstly, there is only ONE Godhead, and nobody and nothing will ever be in that "class". Only God is divine. To teach anything else is to fly in the face of the entire word of God!
There is but One God in three Persons, and only they posses the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Only God can create matter from nothing. Only God knows all things, and upholds all things.
Secondly, Adam was created with a body of the earth, and an eternal spirit. This did not make him divine! As I have already pointed out, Copeland believes that there are only two natures, divine and satanic. He misses the point here, for human beings possess a human spirit which is neither divine nor satanic.
To teach that every man and woman possesses, at least potentially, a piece of divinity from the Godhead is very near to the Gnostic doctrine which is that we all have "a divine spark" within us that has been quenched by the Fall, but which can be reactivated by learning how to co-operate with the laws of the universe and the powers of God.
God created Adam not as a spirit-being or a god, but as a human being - as "man-kind". Animals were created in their kinds (or, families) and Adam and Eve were created as man-kind, the family of man. Certainly, Adam enjoyed a close relationship with God in his perfection, but that is very far from divinity.
We have a relationship to God that is higher than the animals, higher even than the angels, but we are not gods!
What does it really mean, that we are made "in the likeness of God, in God's image ". Is Copeland correct to say that when God created Adam, he was an exact duplicate of God, a replica of God in every detail?
Many scholars have debated this text from Gen 1:25:
A "likeness" (DEMUTH in Hebrew) is a resemblance, or model, of something, but this passage shows that it does not necessarily mean an EXACT copy:
What then does it mean that God made man "in his image". Gen 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
The word "image" (TSELEM) is also used of "a statue or idol". But this is not just an inanimate object, but has the idea of a "spirit" or "ghost" within it. But by implication this means the resemblance of something or somebody, as a ghost resembles a man. Yet the two objects are not the SAME. A ghost lacks the substance and reality of a real person.
No, God was not "reproducing
Himself" as Copeland claims. God made man in His own "likeness," reflecting
some of His own perfections: perfect in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness,
and with dominion over the creatures
There is NOTHING that can adequately carry God's likeness, for He is unique - as this scripture testifies:
In a quote from the Jamieson,
Fausset, and Brown Commentary, we find: "And in what did this "image of
God" consist? Not in the erect form or features of man; not in his intellect,
because the Devil and his angels are in this respect far superior; not in his
immortality, because he does not have, like God, a past as well as a future
eternity of being; but in the moral dispositions of his soul, commonly called
The verses referred to in this quote are Eph 4:24 "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." and Col 3:10 "And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" .
From this we can clearly see that the "new man" in christ, the image restored by redemption, is to do with righteousness and a right relationship to God, and consists in perceiving and walking in truth. It is not about being "gods", having divine attributes, taking dominion or using the powers of the Godhead for ourselves.
If you do believe that man is divine, and that he lost his divinity at the Fall, then it is but a short step to reclaiming that divinity at salvation. If Jesus Christ was re-born as a man anointed with the Spirit, then we all as Spirit-filled, re-born men and women share the very same divine power, authority and attributes as Jesus Christ. Copeland does indeed go down this road. He believes that we are literally re-born as a god, on an equal footing with Jesus.
Kenneth Hagin also says, "in the new birth God imparts his very nature, substance and being to our human spirits" and he says that, "every born-again man is an incarnation, as much an incarnation of God as Jesus." He goes further to say that, "the church is Christ. It is the incarnation of Christ, and we need to realise that in order to save the world."
If the incarnate Christ is now present on this world, saving the world, defeating the powers of evil and ruling on behalf of God, I ask you, what is the point of Jesus Christ returning in the flesh? None! The work of restoring the glories of Eden is in our hands, and Jesus is a mere figure-head in this task. God has become an "icon" of belief, a beloved "father-figure" in OUR fight to overthrow satan and take the nations for Christ. Jesus Christ has become a Type, a Pattern, the one who went on ahead to show us how to achieve godhood!
If human beings are receiving the divine nature, equal with Jesus, and learning to be gods of this world, then our world's fate lies in re-education, not salvation. We need to teach men and women to act like gods, and to take dominion back from the devil! And is that not what is taught by every triumphalist, restorationist group in the churches? But where exactly does God fit into all this?
© 2003 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.