What would you say, I wonder, if you were told that there is a teaching sweeping through evangelical churches in our day that not only has made changes to, but has also taken out the very core of the Gospel and replaced it with a fake?
Such is the message being propagated by Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, Charles Capps, Fred Price, Robert Tilton, Doyle “Buddy” Harrison and Ray McCauley. (These people have international followings numbering thousands, several having their own TV broadcasts.) Many believers who see these ministries at a distance know that something is not right about them, but most see them as the Gospel plus healing and prosperity on demand.
Research carried out in 1994 among a number of Christians from many different backgrounds has confirmed this. Almost 100% held this idea that the `Faith’ message was only the Gospel plus. None had any idea of the extent of its error. In fact, a certain well-informed Baptist pastor expressed real surprise when he read what Kenneth Copeland teaches about the Creation, Fall, and Redemption of man. “I never knew it was this bad,” he said. “…This is sheer heresy.” You might think it a fair question to ask whether these `Faith’ teachers themselves are aware that they are teaching anything other than the historic, Biblical Gospel. After all, you could say, all of us make mistakes at times – maybe they’re just a little confused about what happened on the Cross. But the following comment from Copeland’s tape “What happened from the Cross to the Throne” indicates clearly his thinking that traditional Christianity has covered up his beliefs in `traditional church teaching’: “Tonight I want to show you some things from the Word of God . . . It’s very little talked about, almost non-existent in traditional church teaching . . . because it’s been covered up and hidden in tradition… The thing that’s necessary for the life of a Christian is knowledge of what happened from the cross to the throne, what took place in the three days and three nights.”
So, then, we see that far from being a misunderstanding of what happened at the Cross, Copeland has uncovered a previously `hidden’ teaching (what the `Faith’ movement terms `Revelation knowledge’) which you will see presents us with another `Jesus’ and `another gospel’. The quotes which follow are all from Kenneth Copeland:
“This man [Jesus] is a carbon copy of the one that walked through the garden of Eden.” (“What Happened from the Cross to the Throne”, tape.) “Every prophet that walked the face of the earth under the Abrahamic covenant could have paid the price if it were a physical death only” (“What Happened…”) “When he said `It is finished’ on that cross, he was not speaking of the plan of redemption. The plan of redemption had just begun, there were still three days and three nights to be gone through.” (“What Happened…”) “When His blood poured out it did not atone.” (Kenneth Copeland: From a personal letter to D.R.McConnell, dated 12/3/79. Cited in A Different Gospel, p.120) “Jesus went into hell itself and suffered the penalty for sin” (Believer’s Voice of Victory magazine, May 1994, page 5.) “[Jesus] accepted the sin nature of Satan in His own Spirit, and at the moment that He did so, He cried `My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’.” (“What Happened…”) “He [Jesus] was down in that pit and there he suffered the punishment for three horrible days and nights for Adam’s treason… There is a new birth takes place in the very depths of the earth, when the command of God says `That’s enough, loose him and let him go’.” (“What Happened…”)
A good summary quote of this teaching from a fellow `Faith’ teacher is this: “Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case the two thieves could have paid your price. No the punishment was to go into hell itself and serve time in hell separated from God… Satan and all the demons of hell thought they had Him bound and they threw a net over Jesus, and they dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence.” (Fred K.C. Price, Ever Increasing Faith Messenger, June 1980, p.7)
It has become obvious that Copeland’s belief about “what took place in the three days and three nights” has nothing to do with orthodox Bible teaching, and has not been “covered up and hidden in tradition”! Yet Copeland ends his tape “What Happened from the Cross to the Throne” with the following remark: “`Go into all the world and preach the gospel’ – what is the gospel? Just exactly what I have been telling you for the last hour.”
So Copeland believes that it is not what happened ON the Cross (when the real Jesus poured out His precious blood to pay for our sins), but what happened AFTERWARDS that really matters – when his imaginary `Jesus’ (who had died spiritually and become “one with Satan” on the cross) was being tortured by Satan (his “step-father”) in hell.
Commenting on this teaching the late Dr Walter Martin, a world expert on cults, said the following: “It is the height of theological folly to reduce God the Son, the second person of the holy Trinity, to a lost sinner with the nature of Satan and then send Him to hell with the requirement of regeneration before He can complete the work of redemption.” (p.104, Agony of Deceit, Moody Press: Chicago, 1990)
Before looking into more of the specific teachings of the `Faith’ movement (also called the prosperity movement and the `Word-Faith’ movement) it will be helpful to see where it comes from. Many Christians have been taken unawares by it because they think it comes from the Pentecostal/charismatic movement. Such is not the case at all. In the latter half of this century, the acknowledged father-figure of the movement has been Kenneth Hagin. It is from him that Copeland and others have directly borrowed their message. However, the real father of the `Faith’ message is E.W.Kenyon, who was teaching the same things before Kenneth Hagin was even born (Kenyon died in 1948). To the casual observer, the `Faith’ movement has certain similarities in experience, etc., to the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. However, the core of the message, and its origins, are widely divergent. Kenyon, its founder, inadvertently `borrowed’ from the ideas taught by Christian Science, New Thought and Unity School of Christianity. In the book A Different Gospel, D.R. McConnell documents clearly the progress of Kenyon’s ideas while studying at Emerson’s New Thought college in Boston. Though Hagin has tried to deny his obvious plagiarism of Kenyon’s “The Wonderful Name of Jesus”, saying that he only saw the book in 1978, as McConnell points out, “The problem is that two years prior to 1978, the first date that Hagin admits to having read Kenyon’s The Wonderful Name of Jesus, he had already copied extensively from this book for an article published in his magazine in 1976. That article never mentions the name of E.W.Kenyon.”…”He has plagiarised Kenyon both repeatedly and extensively. Actually, it would not be overstated to say that the very doctrines that have made Kenneth Hagin and the Faith movement such a distinctive and powerful force within the independent charismatic movement are all plagiarised from E.W.Kenyon.” (p.7, A Different Gospel).
He also points out the very obvious similarities between statements of Kenyon and those of New Thought writer R.W.Trine. Trine wrote concerning the `law’ of prosperity: “To hold yourself in this [positive] attitude of mind is to set in operation subtle, silent irresistible forces that sooner or later actualize in material form that which is today merely an idea. But ideas have occult power and ideas rightly planted and rightly tended are the seeds that actualize material conditions” (R.W.Trine, In Tune with the Infinite, p.138 [emphasis mine]). Those familiar with any of the modern writings on prosperity and positive confession will see, in the light of this quotation, that they have more in common with the writings of Trine (via Kenyon and Hagin) than with the Scriptures.
To give a wider picture of the teachings of the `Faith’ movement there now follows a list of some of the key teachings: [Under each heading the position of the `Faith' teachers is outlined, with any relevant quotes, and then follows the Biblical view on each topic.]
They teach that he had the nature of God and great inner creative power as God had. E.W. Kenyon taught that man “must partake either of God’s nature or of Satan’s nature”, and therefore he has no distinct nature of his own. Charles Capps puts it like this: “God said, Let us make man in our image after our likeness. The word likeness in the original Hebrew means “an exact duplication in kind.”… Adam was an exact duplication of God’s kind!” (Authority in Three Worlds, p.15-16. [Emphasis in original]. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Harrison House, 1982.)
What Capps is putting to us here is made crystal clear for us by his fellow Faith-teacher Kenneth Copeland when he states quite emphatically that “God’s reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce Himself. I mean a reproduction of Himself, and in the Garden of Eden He did that. He was not a little like God. He was not almost like God. He was not subordinate to God even…. Adam is as much like God as you could get, just the same as Jesus – When He came into the earth He said `If you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father’. He wasn’t a lot like God – He’s God manifested in the flesh. And I want you to know something: Adam, in the Garden of Eden, was God manifested in the flesh!” (“Following the Faith of Abraham”, part I, side 1). [Cassette obtained from Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Bath, UK, Summer 1994]
What the Bible says:
In Genesis chapters 1 and 2 the Hebrew word Elohim is used only of God, not of man (who was only a creature). Adam was created with a sinless human nature. He had a nature that was made `in the image of God’ but was distinct from it. (Genesis 1:26 and 2:7)