Finger of God or More Word-Faith Deception?
Brothers and sisters in Christ:
This post is one that may rankle a few feathers. That is not my goal. I mention it first because I know that the subject of Word-Faith theology is hotly debated today. That Word-Faith theology is defended is in my view a sad commentary on the Church of Jesus Christ. Clearly a large segment of the Church has lost its ability to discern between the doctrines of God and the doctrines of demons.
That brief critique serves to alert the reader that precious little Word-Faith theology is biblical. This is to be expected however, when the foundation of a belief system is laid upon something other than Jesus Christ, Son of God, Sovereign Lord, the God-man. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of theologians and Bible teachers to take on the hard subjects and tread the paths where fearless people hesitate to go.
Hardly an introduction that inspires readers to continue, and yet, if you will engage what I have to say here I believe you will be the better off for it. The occasion of this writing is a response to a dear brother who asked me to watch and then critique ten YouTube videos all entitled “Finger of God.” At first I was hopeful that what I was about to watch would be encouraging and inspirational due to their Scriptural content and accurate reflection of our Wonderful God. That hope was short-lived. What I found instead was over one hundred minutes of video footage that purported among other things that God was miraculously giving people gold teeth, filling people’s Bibles with manna from heaven, sending angels to appear in group pictures of soldiers in Iraq, dropping gem stones out of thin air into people’s hands, and perhaps most interesting, miraculously healing people. Three prominent examples of such healings being: (1) a Mozambique man named Francis who was beaten to death by four men and then brought back to life because his church family, who had gathered together to pray, refused to press charges against the men who had earlier beaten Francis to death. Roland Baker states that Francis was raised from the dead because the church forgave the murderers; (2) a Bulgarian gypsy receiving a brand new kidney through the laying on of hands and prayer; (3) and a Muslim woman who was blind in one eye receiving sight through the laying on of hands and prayer.
At issue here brothers and sisters is not the sincerity of those believers involved in these activities, nor is it the power or ability of God to do any of the things claimed as His activities in the video footage. At issue here is whether or not the activities prominently displayed and credited as movements of God are in fact authentic, whether or not these claims can be verified, whether or not there is a solid biblical basis for defining these activities as from God, and lastly the complete body of teachings and doctrines espoused by those involved in promoting these activities as movements of God.
Let me dispel the most obvious objection to an article like this before I begin. There will be some who claim that Christians have no business “judging” other Christians. Those who object to the activities put forth as movements of God in the “Finger of God” videos are challenged with a rejoinder that typically follows some pattern of “God will judge those who teach falsehoods, so believers should never challenge other believers.” This is nothing more than a repackaged “Touch not God’s anointed” threat that the Word-Faith teachers have attempted to use for years to diffuse criticism of their teachings and activities. Thus the response to those who believe that “God will sort it all out” is to remind them that God has already told us to sort it out. For example, we read these words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:4-5 NAS).
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them” (Matthew 24:23-26 NAS).
Some additional Scriptural directives to discern the doctrines of God from the doctrines of demons:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1 NAS).
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 NAS).
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment (1 Corinthians 14:29 NAS).
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:1-4 NAS).
But perhaps the most applicable passage outside of the admonitions of our Lord Jesus Christ to the current crop of New Order of Latter Rain/New Apostolic Reformation/Third Wave apostles and prophets is:
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. “You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him (Deuteronomy 13:1-4 NAS).
I don’t want to get into a lot of commentary on the passages above (although I personally like doing it) as it does not serve the purpose at hand here. I believe these passages clearly teach that believers are to exercise discernment and not accept everything that comes along simply because it is purported to be of God. Remember that Jesus Christ said there would come a time when all sorts of false Christs would be raised. When Christ spoke of false Christs arising He was not limiting His prophecy to people who would claim to be a messiah but instead meant the whole spirit of the age when false teachers and self-proclaimed prophets would try and convince others that salvation could be found in all sorts of ways that they coincidentally promoted, and that God could be seen in the signs and wonders that they performed, thus verifying their claims to be His servants. I believe we’re living in those days now.
What struck me first and foremost about the “Finger of God” videos was not the miraculous healings that were claimed to have occurred, but instead was the major figures behind the activities. People like Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California, Roland and Heidi Baker, John and Carol Arnott of the Toronto Airport Vineyard, and Georgian Banov. What might not be apparent to those unfamiliar with these people is that every one of them is connected with the so-called Apostolic Reformation, Third Wave, New Order of Latter Rain, and other spurious and outright heretical groups of radical experientialists, mystics, and self-promoting apostles, and prophets.
These groups all espouse some form of the Latter Rain heresies. This movement originated in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada, among Pentecostal charismatics in 1948. The name “Latter Rain” was adopted based on interpretations of several Old Testament passages that adherents believed described God’s outpouring of His Spirit in the last days that was meant to restore the power of the Church through official offices that transcended denominational lines. According to the Latter Rain/New Apostolic Reformation teachers, these offices had been lost to the Church.
From those alleged outpourings arose many traveling evangelists, faith healers, and Bible teachers. The work of these individuals collectively came to be referred to as the Latter Rain Revival that lasted from 1948 through 1952. Men associated with this movement/revival from its inception and very early days include William Branham, Oral Roberts, Franklin Hall, T.L. Osborn, and Paul Cain.
Reception of the Latter Rain Revivalists was limited and within two years the Assemblies of God officially denounced the movement/revival and its abhorrent teachings and doctrines. Nevertheless many of those teachings and doctrines rejected as heresy have resurfaced and been received in many modern churches. Among the most prevalent are: (1) The supposed restoration of the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4; (2) Positive Confession (name-it, claim-it); (3) The impartation of spiritual gifts through the laying on of hands; (4) The seed-faith doctrines; (5) Kingdom Now eschatology; and (6) The Manifest Sons of God teachings. These teachings and doctrines continue to be advanced today by such men as Bill Hamon, Kenneth Copeland, Fred Price, Creflo Dollar, Rod Parsley, Benny Hinn, C. Peter Wagner, Rick Joyner, Kim Clement, Todd Bentley, and the aforementioned John and Carol Arnott, Georgian Banov, Roland and Heidi Baker, and Bill Johnson.
Bill Johnson was featured prominently in the “Finger of God” videos. He pastors a church in Redding, California that operates a “school of ministry” that teaches its students to perform miracles of healing and then sends them out into the surrounding communities to practice their “gifts.” You would be hard-pressed to find anything wrong with the zeal his school of ministry students demonstrate for going out into the surrounding cities to heal people. One must wonder though at the basis for their zeal. Is it with or without knowledge? Are they proclaiming Jesus as Lord who calls us to suffer for His name sake or are they proclaiming a Jesus who says all Christians can enjoy health and wealth as a birth-right? Thus, at issue for this writer is the nature of what students are taught as the foundation for their ministry.
Some may misunderstand or miss the distinction here. That may be attributable to a misunderstanding of the entire Word-Faith theology. Throughout the Finger of God videos a subtle theme was presented. That theme was that God calls us to love and not judge. God calls us to heal and not declare the need for repentance and confession. God calls us to offer the Good News of His love for people apart from a call to these same people to transformed lives through faith in the Son of God. In other words, just love people and cast aside discernment; just love people and let God do whatever he will do; just love people and don’t concern yourself about making disciples. Obviously this directly contradicts the testimony of the Scriptures, especially the Great Commission of Matthew 28 where we are explicitly instructed to make disciples, teaching them all that Jesus said.
This is glaringly evident in the aforementioned scene where a Muslim woman allegedly received her sight when Heidi Baker laid hands on her and prayed. The local Christian pastor wanted to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with this Muslim in order for her to understand the basis of her healing and he was told “just love her.” Interestingly, as Baker left after praying for this woman, the video records the woman extolling her Muslim faith and the Koran.
Equally troubling in these ten video segments are the totally unsubstantiated claims of gold dust, manna, and gem stones appearing out of thin air. The Bible commends those who hold to the truth found in the Scriptures yet the Finger of God videos all commend those who promote and believe experiential signs and wonders. In their promotion of experiences over the Word, these Word-Faith teachers place themselves in direct contradiction to the Bible.
For instance, God ceased giving manna on the day after the Israelites ate of the fields in Canaan (Joshua 5:12). The instructions the Israelites received was to put some of the manna in a jar to keep as a reminder of God’s provision for them (Exodus 16:32-35). Jesus said manna would not be eaten again until His millennial reign commenced (Revelation 2:17). This passage is interesting in that Jesus describes the manna as hidden until that day.
Concerning the alleged gold dust and gold teeth, this is a hoax of the grandest proportions. Beyond this, it can be proven that the sudden and unexplained appearance of gold dust is a demonic manifestation prevalent within pagan religions and is a prominent feature of Satanism. JMS explains:
Within Wicca and Shamanism sects are many splinter groups that embrace something called “fairy magic” . There is Fae Wicca, Fae Shamanism, The Third Road, Celtic Shamanism, etc. each of these sects practice something called “fae magic”, “faery magic” “faerie traditions” etc. This “magic” is often thought of as “white witchcraft” which is allegedly “good” witchcraft. Faeries (also known as sidhe, pixies, elves, sheoques, brownies, pookas, goblins, etc) are actually demonic spirits and I don’t care how “cute” some of them are reported to be, this type of ideology only serves to enhance the satanic deception of being involved with them. (note there are even churches that worship faeries, though not many in number)
The idea of gold apparitions (gold teeth?) or gold dust also known as faerie dust, pixie dust, stardust, and the gift of fae within the occult, is allegedly representative of the highest “spiritual” attainment and is associated with the presence of faery spirits.
This direct connection between Word-Faith practices and the occult/demonic is documented exhaustively in scholarly works too many to list. Yet, thousands of otherwise seemingly intelligent believers continue to regurgitate ungodly and demonstrably false teachings mouthed by people who should have been judged as false teachers and excommunicated from the confessing Church of Jesus Christ. Again, that they have not is not a testament to the truthfulness of their error but is instead an indictment against the Church at large.
Consider these false teachings that Johnson, the Arnott’s, and others in the Finger of God videos subscribe to:
“Poverty is from the devil and that God wants all Christians prosperous” (Benny Hinn, TBN 11/6/90).
The similarities between the Word-Faith heretics and the New Age teachings concerning money are not a coincidence. They both drink from the same stream of paganism:
“Above all, as you rid yourself of old, stale feelings of guilt and obligation, you will understand that indeed, YOU DESERVE WEALTH, and you will feel greatly empowered to change your life so that you are now able to let this wealth into your life” (www.rebirthing.co.nz/money.html).
“The whole point is I’m trying to get you to see- to get out of this malaise of thinking that Jesus and the disciples were poor and then relating that to you- thinking that you, as a child of God, have to follow Jesus. The Bible says that He has left us an example that we should follow His steps. That’s why I drive a Rolls Royce. I’m following Jesus steps” (Fredrick K.C. Price, “Ever Increasing Faith” program on TBN, December 9,1990).
“If you keep talking death, that is what your going to have. If you keep talking sickness and disease that is what your going to have, because you are going to create the reality of them with your own mouth. That’s a divine law” (Fred Price, Realm 29).
“What you are saying is exactly what your getting now. If you are living in poverty and lack and want, change what you are saying….The powerful force of the spiritual world that creates the circumstances around us is controlled by the words of the mouth” (Kenneth Copeland: The Laws of Prosperity, Kenneth Copeland Publications).
The Word-Faith teaching of positive confession or as it is commonly known, “name it, claim it,” demonstrates roots in the mind science cults and Christian Science particularly as well as Satanism:
“A Word, as defined by this Initiate, is a conceptualization of those trends, actions, and forces set in motion which have taken Magicians to a certain point in time ……..” (The Power of a Word by James Lewis; Magus of the Temple of Set [a satanic coven]).
“Here is something to ponder; adepts who practice the right way to live also practice the right way to think. They have learned to work hand in hand with the force. They have learned to adjust their thinking accordingly. Being chips off the old block, they realize they are creators, some to more extent than others. Of course this all comes with practice” (Satan’s Bible by Daemon Egan; The Book of Leved; The Seven Scrolls; [the ‘force’ mentioned is Satan]).
“Why settle for what someone else has created, when instead you can create your own realms to absolute perfection? Afterall, you are the God, the creator and master of all you survey in your very own heaven”(Satan’s Bible by Daemon Egan; The Sermons of Lucifer).
“Positive thoughts concerning yourself and others will produce positive results, and negative thoughts will result in just the opposite.”(Satan’s Bible by Daemon Egan; The Book of Leved; The Seven Scrolls; Scroll 3)
The Word-Faith doctrine of “name it, claim it,” is the same thing as the New Age method of “name it and claim it.” Both are methods of “manifesting.” This demonic doctrine is promoted as a way for believers to get what they have become convinced they need and/or have a right to but is nothing more than satanic imagining and visualization. Consider the historical trail of the development of the name it, claim it heresy:
This teaching was given by a “spirit” [devil] named ‘Omni” through (channeling) a man named John Payne. Payne is quoted as saying “manifesting is the art of creating what you want at the time you want it” [author’s parenthesis].
“Manifesting is an eclectic hodgepodge of creating your own reality, visualization techniques, positive thinking, goal setting, self-analysis, selective thinking and post hoc reasoning, supported by tons of anecdotes. The purpose of manifesting is to get what you want by actively making your dreams come true, rather than passively waiting for someone to fulfill your dreams. Anne Marie Evers recommends “affirmation” [positive confession – author’s emphasis] as the best way to manifest one’s desires.” (Info taken from the ‘Skeptics Dictionary’ by Todd Carroll, on Manifesting).
Actually all “manifesting really is, is an acceptable and perhaps palatable version of spell crafting, and invocations; in other words, it is a nice acceptable rendering of practicing nothing more than witchcraft. The devil is simply making his evil look pretty by covering it up, disguising it and giving it a nice respectable name.
The point of citing the above (and there is much more on this subject) is to simply show the reader, if you are using little formulas, gimmicks, or tricks to obtain what you desire, if you are using doctrines outside of God’s will and His Word, if you have some little “ritual” or pattern or technique you are using…then you are engaging in witchcraft, even if it is unknowingly. The doctrine of “YOU can have what YOU say” is a doctrine void of the biblical principals of seeking God for His will on an individual basis.You may note from the above, YOUR will is the only one that matters in getting what you want, God is not sought nor considered. It is my opinion (within some christian circles) the Bible has been used as a type of “magick book” to get what one may want.. Even more, this seriously depletes the sovereignty of Almighty God, reducing Him to that of a spirit that has to do our bidding, very much like the occult. You can have what YOU say; according to witchcraft you can, for example within New Age and Wiccan philosophy:”saying mantra’s (a form of witchcraft and magic) is a wonderful way to raise your light levels. Mantra’s are holy words or expressions which when thought, spoken aloud or chanted (recited) draw great light to us and build a spiritual force.”(Taken from Mantra’s and Meditations; elevated therapy; author unknown) This doctrine may be likened to word of faith philosophy on “faith being a force”.
Yes, YOU can have what YOU say according to witchcraft and its components.
The most troubling aspect of the latest signs and wonders movement represented in the Finger of God videos is the underlying doctrinal beliefs of Bill Johnson and others concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Johnson has declared in his book “Heaven Invades Earth” that, “Jesus laid aside his divinity . . . the anointing Jesus received at his baptism was the equipment necessary to make it possible for Jesus to live beyond human limitations” (page 79).
Johnson’s doctrine of the “kenosis” is a heresy shared by all Word-Faith teachers who teach that Jesus laid aside His divinity at the incarnation, received the Holy Spirit at His baptism, lost this anointing when he died on the cross and was subsequently “born again” in hell. Aside from the obvious blasphemy this teaching represents, Bible believing Christians must understand that anyone who denies the essential attributes of Jesus Christ – His divinity in this instance – and then has the audacity to teach that Jesus was a man that needed to be born again just like the created man, is not a Christian. It doesn’t matter how many spectacular signs and wonders appear to accompany a ministry, the man or woman who espouses this teaching is not a Christian and is not being used of God to lead others to Christ through saving faith.
On the basis of the doctrines Johnson and his ilk believe and teach the entire Finger of God video series that purports to demonstrate the works of God through miraculous signs and wonders must be rejected as manifestations of demons through the teachings of deceived men and women.
Orrel Steinkamp was right when he stated that the current version of Christian Evangelicalism is terminally ill due to the immune system of discernment being switched off. It’s time to awaken the Church of Jesus Christ from its slumbers so that it can once again become the watchmen on the wall it is called to be.
See http://intotruth.org/tb/gold.html Additionally, both WV Grant and Peter Popoff were exposed as frauds. This hasn’t prevented the modern Word-Faith charlatans from promoting the same heresies. See http://www.apologeticsindex.org/487-peter-popoff and http://www.bible.ca/tongues-encyclopedia-pentecostal-preachers.htm#grant All three websites accessed February 15, 2010.
Orrel Steinkamp, The Plumbline, Vol. 14, No. 6, November/December 2009.