The fastest growing segment of professing Christianity in recent years has been among churches connected with the Positive Confession movement or Word-Faith movement (all part of the modern Charismatic movement). It has involved two distinct but closely related factions: the Norman Vincent Peale/Robert Schuller Positive-Possibility thinkers/Positive Mental Attitude, with their roots in New Thought; and the Kenneth Hagin/Kenneth Copeland Positive Confession and Word-Faith groups, which have their roots in E.W. Kenyon, William Branham, and the Manifest Sons of God/Latter Rain movement. Well-known names among its leaders are E.W. Kenyon, Charles Capps, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Frederick K.C. Price, Robert Tilton, and David [Paul] Yonggi Cho. It does not yet constitute a new denomination, but it certainly represents innovative teachings outside of mainstream Christianity. The situation is so serious now because of the dominance over the so-called Christian media achieved by the teachers of Positive/Possibility Thinking and Positive Confession.
D.R. McConnell points out that “any new religious movement [within Protestantism] must bear the scrutiny of two criteria: biblical fidelity and historical orthodoxy.” Regrettably, the Positive Confession movement fails on both counts. The historical roots of this movement (which Charles Farah has called “Faith Formula Theology”) lie in the occult, and most recently, in New Thought and its off-shoot, the Mind Science cults. Its Biblical basis is found only in the peculiar interpretations of its own leaders, not in generally accepted Christian theology.
As the name “Positive Confession”/”Word-Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts. The term “positive confession” refers to the teaching that words have creative power. What you say, Word-Faith teachers claim, determines everything that happens to you. Your “confessions,” that is, the things you say — especially the favors you demand of God — must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer. Word-Faith believers view their positive confessions as an incantation by which they can conjure up anything they desire: “Believe it in your heart; say it with your mouth. That is the principle of faith. You can have what you say” (Charismatic Chaos, pp. 281, 285).
This is at the heart of the Positive Confession movement today, also known as the “name-it-and-claim-it” gospel. The Positive Confession movement is nothing but a charismatic form of Christian Science. This can be substantiated by simply comparing the similarities in their common beliefs. Positive Confession is basically warmed-over New Thought dressed in evangelical/charismatic language. Positive Confession’s basic beliefs can be summarized as follows:
1. Faith is a force that both God and man can use: “Faith is a force just like electricity or gravity” (Copeland), and it is the substance out of which God creates whatever is (Capps). God uses faith, and so may we in exactly the same way in order to produce the same results through obedience to the same “laws of faith” (Capps) that God applied in creation. “You have the same ability [as God has] dwelling or residing on the inside of you” (Capps). “We have all the capabilities of God. We have His faith” (Copeland).
2. Faith’s force is released by speaking words: “Words are the most powerful thing in the universe” because they “are containers” that “carry faith or fear and they produce after their kind” (Capps). God operates by these very same laws. “God had faith in His own words … God had faith in His faith, because He spoke words of faith and they came to pass. That faith force was transported by words … the God-kind-of-faith … is released by the words of your mouth” (Hagin). “Creative power was in God’s mouth. It is in your mouth also” (Capps).
3. Man is a “little god” in God’s class: “Man was designed or created by God to be the god of this world” (Tilton, Hagin, Capps). “Adam was the god of this world … [but he] sold out to Satan, and Satan became the god of this world” (Hagin). “We were created to be gods over the earth, but remember to spell it with a little ‘g'” (Tilton, Hagin, Capps). “Adam was created in God’s class … to rule as a god … by speaking words” (Copeland). “Man was created in the God class … We are a class of gods … God himself spawned us from His innermost being … We are in God; so that makes us part of God (2 Cor 5:17)” (Copeland).
4. Anyone — occultist or Christian — can use the faith force: Because man is a little god “in God’s class: very capable of operating on the same level of faith as God” (Capps), and “because all men are spirit beings” (Hagin), therefore anyone, whether Christian or pagan, can release this “faith force” by speaking words if he only believes in his words as God believes in His (Hagin). “God is a faith God. God releases His faith in Words, [and we must do the same:] … Everything you say [positive or negative] will come to pass” (Capps). “Spiritual things are created by WORDS. Even natural, physical things are created by WORDS” (Hagin).
5. You get what you confess: The vital key is confessing, or speaking aloud, and thereby, releasing the force of faith. “You get what you say” (Hagin, Hunter). “Only by mouth confession can faith power be released, allowing tremendous things to happen” (Cho). “Remember, the key to receiving the desires of your heart is to make the words of your mouth agree with what you want” (Copeland). “Whatever comes out of your mouth shall be produced in your life” (Tilton). “They’re [his two children] 30-some years of age today, and I don’t believe I prayed more than half a dozen times for both of them in all these years. Why? Because you can have what you say — and I had already said it!” (Hagin).
6. Never make a negative confession: The tongue “can kill you, or it can release the life of God within you … whether you believe right or wrong, it is still the law” (Capps). There is power in “the evil fourth dimension” (Cho). If you confess sickness you get it, if you confess health you get it; whatever you say you get” (Hagin). “Faith is as a seed … you plant it by speaking it” (Capps). “The spoken word … releases power — power for good or power for evil” (Bashan). Therefore, it is very important never to speak anything negative but only to make a positive confession — hence the name of the Positive Confession movement.
Positive Confession leaders have a wrong view of faith: Instead of trust in God as its object, it is a metaphysical force they trust. They have a wrong view of God: He is not sufficient in Himself, but can only do what He does by using this universal faith-force in obedience to certain cosmic laws. They have a wrong view of man: He is a little god in God’s class who has the same powers as God and can use the same force of faith by obedience to the same laws that God also must obey. They also have a wrong view of redemption and the cross of Christ.
Word-Faith teachers owe their ancestry to groups like Christian Science, Swedenborgianism, Theosophy, Science of Mind, and New Thought — not to classical Pentecostalism. It reveals that at their very core, Word-Faith teachings are corrupt. Their undeniable derivation is cultish, not Christian. The sad truth is that the gospel proclaimed by the Word-Faith movement is not the gospel of the New Testament. Word-Faith doctrine is a mongrel system, a blend of mysticism, dualism, and gnosticism that borrows generously from the teachings of the metaphysical cults. The Word-Faith movement may be the most dangerous false system that has grown out of the charismatic movement so far, because so many charismatics are unsure of the finality of Scripture (Charismatic Chaos, p. 290).
Linked to the Positive Confession movement is the concept of Positive Mental Attitude (PMA). PMA has become the major link between sorcery and Christianity. It is the human potential movement that incorporates the age old Eastern mystique that all men can acquire godhood, that “we can achieve anything we conceive.” But the Bible says: “With God all things are possible.” PMA, however, declares: “With man all things are possible,” which means either that we do not need God or that we are God. Paul said, “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me.” The New Age/PMA “Christ” is a state of consciousness rather than a historic Person. The Christian has a positive attitude not because he believes in the power of positive thinking, but because he is trusting in God. The PMA that is promoted in today’s New Age, however, is based upon humanistic psychology’s first article of faith: “Human potential is infinite!” The real Christian is happy and positive in all circumstances because he believes that God, who alone is infinite, loves and cares for him. These two concepts — Christian and PMA — are mutually contradictory, in spite of the sincere people who believe they are the same thing expressed in different language.
Those directly responsible for bringing PMA into the professing church are Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone, the originators or the PMA concept, talk about “God” in their books, but their “God” is a metaphysical “Divine Power” that can be tapped into through mind-power techniques (from visualization to positive self-talk and other forms of self-hypnosis and self-image psychology). Hill and Stone don’t substitute PMA for faith, but promote an even more dangerous idea: that PMA and faith are one and the same, that believing in the power of the mind is somehow the same as believing in God; that the human mind is some kind of magic talisman that wields a metaphysical force with infinite potential because, somehow, it is part of what they call Infinite Intelligence. This is the “God” of the mind-science cults and of the New Age.
Note: There are many faithful believers who live modestly and will never have more than the basic necessities of life. Yet they are content to have what they have. The prosperity teachers ridicule such and say that they only have that little because they don’t trust God for more; the fact of their contentment (which is highly regarded by God) is looked upon as a lack of faith. And they are chastised because they haven’t got the faith to get more so they can give more. Ultimately, the giving is expected to go into the coffers of the prosperity teacher; they may give to others, but not apart from also giving to the prosperity teacher.
All the prosperity teachers use a particular fear tactic to establish their rule for giving — if you don’t give, God will curse you. Many also teach that if one wishes to use the prosperity gospel for selfish ends — to acquire personal wealth without giving — it isn’t going to work. If, however, one uses the prosperity gospel with the intention of acquiring wealth for unselfish purposes (i.e., giving to the prosperity teacher, no doubt), God’s promise is that He will shower abundant financial blessings upon him.
There is not a single prosperity teacher who can rightly divide the Word of Truth sufficiently to be qualified as a teacher in the Church. They are renegades who present their own theories as absolute, Biblical authority. They allegorize, theorize, and spiritualize the Word of God; the only time they approach it from a literal standpoint is if it fits in with something they just happen to be saying that’s true. Bottom line, the fact is that to deny the reality and to attempt to alter reality with one’s positive words and/or thoughts is witchcraft; it is not Biblical. (Source: Media Spotlight — v.13, #1, 12/92.)