A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Similarities between the Word of Faith Movement and Christian Hedonism

Many of our readers will be aware that the Word of Faith movement has long been seen as a dangerous by many Bible-believing Christians. Word of Faith teachers urge people to exercise faith in arduous intense prayer, and by ‘having faith in’ (visualising) all their prayers for health, success and prosperity being granted by God.

The Word of Faith follower is taught to not speak about or focus on any of the negative things they may be experiencing: poverty, adversity, negative mental states or moods, disease, disability, oppression, etc. Instead, the person is urged to ‘stand on the promises of God’ and work the ‘spiritual laws’ —a complex system of do’s and don’ts in prayer, speech, thought, tithing, submission, obedience to leaders, etc. Any failure to have their prayers answered is then attributed to the fault of the follower, who is told he she did not have enough faith or failed to work all the spiritual laws fully.

There is another system of thought which has infiltrated its tentacles around the so-called evangelical world. It is ‘Christian Hedonism’ and it has been propagated by Revered Leader John Piper. [sarcasm]

Many of our readers may not have heard of Christian Hedonism but have nonetheless been affected by it. John Piper’s ideas of Christian Hedonism have spread into many so-called orthodox conservative churches: Reformed, Presbyterian (PCA), Southern Baptist, independent Baptist, etc.

Piper has been a publisher’s dream. He has written many books that your pastor may have read, and your pastor may be quoting Piper in his sermons. Piper is co-founder and *Honoured Elder-in-Chief* of CBMW (Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) — the organisation which has gained hegemony over so much of conservative Christendom that to question CBMW’s line on male headship is seen as equal to rejecting the Gospel.

In its technical details, the Word of Faith system is a lot more complicated and time consuming to adhere to than Piper’s Christian Hedonism system. But there are similarities between the two systems. Here are three I can think of:

1. Mind control:  Analytical/biblical thought which might shine a spotlight on oppression is discouraged or prohibited. Instead, blame is place on victims of adversity and oppression.

2. Self-focus: Whether it is the supposedly unselfish pursuit of joy in glorifying God, or the pursuit of joy in prayers being answered for health, wealth and personal success, self-focus is an inevitable outcome of both systems.

3. Mystical escapism:  Followers are encouraged to invest emotionally in future blessings from God. But the use of biblical common sense to address oppression in the here-and-now, is often frowned upon.

Perhaps you may be able to give examples or suggest more similarities between Piper’s Christian Hedonism and the Word of Faith Movement. Or maybe you would like to reflect on and share how either or both of these these sub-biblical movements have affected you.

* *

Related posts:

Literary flourishes and Christian Hedonism: the pretty ribbon round John Piper’s pietistic asceticism (part 2)

The compulsory pursuit of joy in Christian Hedonism = compounded mind control for victims of abuse

29 Comments

  1. Sarah

    I see so many people just do this in their faith as a daily practice, don’t think negatively, don’t say anything about what is really going on.. just be positive. Pray until God answers the prayers the way they want them. In this way, prayer is “working” so all other ways “prayer is not working?” this seems normal to them. I think this belief is very popular right now and is very close to what you are saying above

  2. Lea

    You know, I checked out of church for a number of years. I think I missed a lot of this, thankfully, but from the description above it sounds like ‘The Secret’.

  3. Mary

    I have never read too much about Piper’s hedonism spiel, as frankly the word hedonism has never seemed right to me to describe anything christian.

    But the ‘word of faith’ cult I can comment on. My husband was raised in it and has many family members who still follow it and I also have friends who follow it that I have had to distance myself from, after finally realizing we worship a different Jesus.

    I hate this movement and find it very destructive to people and relationships and worst of all blasphemous of who God really is.

    These are some of the destructive effects I’ve noticed in people who follow the word of faith movement and also its effects on relationships::

    1. They refuse to acknowledge reality, by only speaking and focusing on ‘positive’ things/words. When you refuse to acknowledge and then deal with the evil around you, it causes all kinds of tragic consequences.

    2. Their failure to expose and face evil allows evil to grow and flourish, often thereby harming many more people apart from the original victim or victims of the evil, and then as a result often passing this evil on down through generations.

    3. You are not allowed to have real problems and you certainly cannot show any evident suffering from them. If you do you are accused of having a ‘pity party’.

    4. word of faithers are actively encouraged to focus on self and as a result become quite selfish. They take care of ‘me’ first before considering helping anyone else. They don’t lose their life to gain it.

    5. They are cruel to the suffering and real victims of evil and sin by accusing them of being ‘negative’ if they want to talk about their problems, and they deliberately avoid these people they class as ‘negative’ — the opposite of what Jesus said to do for the suffering and needy. They despise needy people and see them as to blame for all their problems. They literally believe they will catch a ‘spirit’ if they hang around these ‘negative’ people. They also expect very fast, almost ‘overnight’ recoveries from anything bad that happens to you.

    6. They unrighteously judge the poor. They believe the poor are slackers and have a ‘poverty spirit’ which is all their fault for ‘thinking and speaking poverty thoughts’, they believe this opens the door to a poverty spirit attaching to you, and so they actively avoid being around poor people in case the ‘poverty spirit jumps on them’. I have found them greedy of their money in most cases and not willing to even lift a little finger to help the poor, unless they get to do some grandiose good deed in front of others, like publicly boasting about the sponsor children they support or the latest short term mission trip they took their ‘missionvation’ on.

    7. They lie by presenting a continual false image to the world and others by always pretending they never have bad things happen to them and are never sad. Which only serves to further condemn those of us suffering for righteousness sake and not living in denial of the sin and evil around us.

    I could list many more things but that’s it for now.

    In essence the lower case false jesus they worship is always out to make their life happy, financially prosperous and attractive to the world, he is the ‘buddy’ jesus who is all about serving their desires (little g god does not even get a say, if they demand it of god they fully believe he must give it to them) and asks nothing of them except faithful observance and undying allegiance to the pseudo spiritual witchcraft they call word of faith and its false teachers, plus regular financial ‘seed’ money to said false teachers. (Even their giving has strings attached, they expect a ‘return’ on their giving – they plant ‘seed’ and expect a ‘harvest’ and the return they expect is really their motivation to give.)

    After years of trying to fellowship with word of faith people I realized it is not possible. We do not serve the same God. They worship a false god. I feel very sorry for the sincere christians stuck in that cult but strongly believe that if they truly love Jesus more than themselves and love the truth, that they will eventually see the heresy and get out. Those that do not come under a strong delusion as the bible says.

    The devil comes as an angel of light and the word of faith movement teaches a false love – a false love of God and others, it is a ‘hippy love’ that never rebukes sin and turns a blind eye to it and then jumps on the victim, condemning them for not forgiving an unrepentant sinner.

    No thank you.

    • surviving freedom

      Wow, this sounds like creating a religion out of narcissism.

    • Misti

      I could’ve written all those points about the PCA/OPC (reformed presbyterian) circles I come out of. Justifications given for the points might’ve differed, but not by that much. (Except for the poverty one—that would’ve been blamed on work ethic.)

      Chronic illness and such would be verbally supported, but if you missed church because of it, your faith would be called into question. A PCA minister actually got in trouble for his wife missing church too much due to chronic illness.

      …And now I’m considering some of my other experiences in the light of how much they resemble cult behavior and getting chills along my spine. :-/

      • Misti

        I should note: I do know of one PCA church that was not as I described above. Interestingly, most folks in the circles I was in didn’t even know it existed, though it was just a few miles from ones they were aware of.

  4. Charis

    1. Mind control: I never really thought of it in those terms before. I definitely felt the blame. I remember when my 4yr old was diagnosed with cancer – I felt tremendously guilty. The diagnosis came 9mos after discovering my h was leading a double life, lying, deceiving, with a 30yr history of addiction and compulsive sexual behavior with evidence of his abusive/manipulative behavior just beginning to make sense. Now this?! And the prospect of walking through not one but two traumas in tandem seemed…insurmountable. All this was after already enduring so much of the darker side of life: chronic health issues, near-drowning incident, sexual assault, a house fire, workplace sexual harassment, nearly losing my life (and my son’s) during child birth.

    I remember thinking…what did I do wrong to deserve such suffering, such trauma, such a horror to be brought into the life of my son? He’s only four! What lesson did I fail to learn the first time through? What sin is there in my life that God is taking me through such a fire of purification? And…what lesson might be next…what horrible life experience?

    This, is – I think – the influence of such subtle theology as you mention here. This idea that if you follow a set of rules, agenda, prescriptive living – that life bears out the testimony of your faith in goodness, health, wealth, and happiness. And although at some level I knew that to be false…I was the first to beat myself up when I looked at the facts of my own experience. It took months of me being still in the presence of God and His Word with the Spirit whispering Truth to my soul to fully realize the depth of His love…and goodness…and understand that these trials were not because of something I had done wrong, a failure on my part or for not passing the grade. It took a lot of undoing, that one.

    2. Self-focus: I can see this. It is probably my neurosis that kept me in check here (see paragraphs above). Not that I am not selfish; I am. We all are. And it is worse in our microwave mentality: zap and it’s ready; done! I can see how this influence would develop easily from a focus on God, His love, our worship of Him leading to His glory…into a base and evil form of justification for anything that brings pleasure.

    One thing that has helped me in trying to balance the “you have not because you ask not” with the idea that sometimes God says no or wait is having a young child. His prayers are often self-focused. And that is natural. He’s six. He’s learning to pray. He’s learning about God and the character of God. He is also still manipulated by my exh…who is not spiritually mature (likely not a christian). So, bedtime prayers become an opportunity to gain insight into how my son thinks as well as a parenting moment. When he prays that God “would change mama’s mind about the divorce” (a manipulation tactic by the exh) then I have an opportunity to discuss with him about what respecting God’s no (and God’s yes) look like and how we accept both answers equally from God. We trust that God knows what is best for us. We may not always get what we ask for or like what God has planned for us. It’s okay to be angry about that and tell God how we feel. In the end, if God says no, we still love Him even if we don’t understand His no.

    3. Mystical Escapism: This was an “ah-ha” moment for me when I attended a women’s grieving workshop in MN 2wks after the discovery of my h’s double life. One of the concepts the facilitators reinforced was embracing the Truth of your Reality. They spent a session helping us identify ways we “cope.” In their definition – coping was unhealthy because it removes us from the pain. Not addressing our emotions, we refuse to face the reality of our situation. For a room of 24 women who had just learned of their h’s infidelity, affairs, addictions, pedophilia, acting out – this became a powerful lesson.

    There are the obvious coping mechanisms: sleeping, cleaning, baking, organizing, shopping, exercising, reading, watching TV, creating art, eating, socializing, alcohol. Then the facilitators began to dig deeper. Could prayer be escape? Reading the Bible? Listening to music? They got a lot of push-back at first. How could something so good be so wrong? Shouldn’t we go to our Bible in this dark time of need? Shouldn’t we pray? How is THAT coping?!

    The facilitators remained steadfast: if you refuse to face the crisis, ignoring your emotional need in the moment and instead choose to circumvent the healing process by “getting lost” in the Bible – then it has just become a coping mechanism. You are short-circuiting what your situational reality is demanding: healing. Now the Bible isn’t helping you in that instance because you are using it as a distraction – which is what all coping mechanisms are in their truest forms: distractions and soothers. It would be ultimately healthier to put the Bible down, face and embrace the Truth of your Reality and choose to actively grieve in that moment. This is a choice that will pay dividends emotionally, spiritually and physically.

    The facilitators highly encouraged us to identify our top coping mechanisms so we would be able to grieve with awareness – rather than living in autopilot, ignoring our losses and grief. Unmitigated grief, when it accumulates, either seeps in or leaks out. Both cause damage. That workshop gave us tips on how to grieve effectively – moving toward emotional and spiritual health; living in the now.

    • Ng

      Charis: Just curious, what did these councelors consider as valid healing? Just sitting on your bed and crying? Trying to make sense of this concept..

      Sometimes these things what they condemned as ‘soothing’, are the very factors that help in the healing process – the ability to go on and bring new life amidst of crisis.
      When I was going througha grieving process some years ago, what proved irreplaceable for me was gardening – to be able to see new things spring forth, to be a part of the process, and to see the beautiful nature was what kept me not just going, but gave me joy. (No, those things do not replace other, meaningul things that I am still praying for..but they had their own value.)
      This was something I believe God gave me, because He knows how healing nature can be.
      Later, I read somewhere that what I was doing – being a fanatical gardener – was exactly what many mental health professionals recommend as trauma and grief therapy ; there obviously is a book written by some Dr. about 25 years ago on the subject, and he strongly recommends having living things around you when you’ve encountered death (in any shape or form) and loss.
      God sure knew what He was saying when He prompted me to up the ante with my gardening passion.. 🙂
      Very grateful I was able to put that unspent energy in planting and watering, not to mention reaping the rewards – tasty heirloom vegetables.

      For others, it might be music and writing.. every person is individual and has their own way of healing.

      It’s always good to remember that all councelors and therapists are just infallible humans, and they do not have the final say on emotional wisdom 😉

      • Charis

        What I understood their point to be was – like you mentioned – each person is unique and various hobbies (gardening, singing, walking, painting, etc) can be good, can be used for healing. Or they can be used to avoid the pain. Their session was about taking a very close and individual look to ask ourself: “When I garden, am I doing so because I am avoiding the pain? Because I cannot face the deep emotion stirring in me right now and so I MUST do this to escape my reality. After all, it is a “healthy” distraction that I know will soothe the pain I’m feeling and I prefer to do this rather than embrace the pain fully in this moment for however long the moment lasts or time allows, digging deeper into the uncomfortable questions that seethe within?”

        It was a tough session. It demanded a lot of honesty and authenticity. It is hard to look at gardening, praise music, prayer, Bible reading, walking, organizing, painting – and acknowledge that, perhaps, I use it to escape and soothe my pain and (for a few hours) escape my ugly reality rather than face it.

        They were not decrying any of these hobbies on their own merit. If we enjoy them, do them. Just try not to do them to avoid the pain of the situation. And that…is hard. It takes a lot of individual awareness and mindfulness and a purposefulness to choose to sit with the pain in another fashion. And…it is individual. Where one person uses painting to escape the pain and become lost in the art…another does not, she uses it as an expression of her pain creating a very visual image to reflect her pain. Where one person uses music to dull her senses and avoid facing her reality…another does not, she uses music to give voice to her pain. And so on. It is very uniquely individual.

        Perhaps, in some cases – they would rather you take 10min to cry in your room. Releasing emotion is healthy. Scream if you must. Get it out. Keeping emotions pent up is not healthy. Ignoring them is not. Avoiding them is not.

        Because life is fluid and busy and unpredictable – and trauma is so BIG and complicated – they were advocates of planning a little grieving every day. For instance, one idea they suggested was to take 15min every day and sit with a journal to write about and physically express what issue/emotion/event/ is foremost. The idea was that grieving can be managed in bite sized pieces when such pain is monumental and life is so busy. Purposefully grieve a little bit every day, deeply. Make time for it. And then address the daily duties of life. Over time (a lot of time) one will notice that the emotional dam has been drained and healthy processing has occurred. This was just one cog in their giant wheel of healing.

        For me, I was raised to ignore pain, avoid emotion, push it away – put on a happy face and take my “white picket fence” to church. Hearing these women advocate facing the Truth of my Reality was a new way of approaching life. It has brought much healing and health to me. You are right, they are humans. Their way is not the only way. It is not the silver bullet of healing. For me, I found their wisdom in the area of grieving helpful. Others may not. Thank you for contacting me and sharing your thoughts. Personally, I love to garden, too. 🙂 Much wisdom, love and grace to you.

      • Ng

        What I meant, of course, was that councelors and therapists are just fallible 🙂

      • Anonymous

        Thank you Charis and Ng for sharing these things. Like you Ng, I’m curious what a “healthy” healing episode looks like to those who tout this way of healing.

        In my many years of being alive God has shown me lots-o-stuff and at the top of the list is that it will all be done in HIS TIME. Ecclesiastes says that no matter what we do, those who belong to the Lord will do it all while learning wisdom. I can’t force myself to hurry up this process and quite frankly, the more I deliberately try to focus on myself, the longer it takes me. It’s one reason I no longer attend these seminars. If I had my way, I would spend the rest of my life studying God’s word, learning Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic and staying away from evil people in the hopes of having a more intimate and knowledgeable relationship with the Lord. But what the Lord has shown me is that he uses ALL THINGS to teach us what he wants us to know and that our interactions with other humans–even those who belong to their father the devil–furthers our knowledge and wisdom. All these human interactions are what “stir the pot” so to speak, and hyper-focusing on my own feelings and trying to force myself through the trauma, actually harms me. I’m highly sensitive and so tender-hearted that this is actually a form of rape when I do it. While we’re swimming, doodling, twirling our hair, taking a deep breath on a clean smelling day or sitting on the toilet–at any one of these moments God can give us a stark awareness of His truth.

        As you said Charis, we are all unique and different and this is from the Lord. A one-size-fits-all approach to healing ourselves has never worked and is just another way for us to try to squeeze ourselves into a box. God didn’t want us to be boxed in; he wanted us to have freedom in Him. I so appreciate everyone here sharing their experiences in this cult–I didn’t even know about it until I read this post. Is it any wonder you will get a mansion in heaven after all this evil dumped on your head?

  5. H

    Slightly spinning at this article… I’ve been very blessed by this blog and those who write for it, but I’ve also be extremely blessed by John Piper’s ministry. In many ways. Including in his works on “complementarianism” with the Council or Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which you are sarcastic about.

    While I’ve become very concerned about the reigning “evangelical” leaders’ stances on abuse, particularly after entering my own horrific hell of abuse and now trying to fight my way out of it, I can’t fathom how you connect “Word of Faith” with “Christian Hedonism.” (To the reader who didn’t like the word hedonism, the shock value is part of the reason for the name. People think that Christianity is about asceticism and self-denial (the opposite of hedonism), rather than pleasure. But why should people be shocked that God is actually FOR our joy in his glory, wanting us to experience peace and pleasure? He actually does care about us, yes.)

    I’m certainly not an expert in the concept or in Piper, but I can say very confidently that Christian Hedonism does not teach that if you pray and focus on good things, you will be happy(because you will get those things) as Word of Faith does. This is all backwards. You state that “self focus” is the connection between these two teachings, but then you don’t make any statements about how the “supposed” unselfish pursuit of joy in God is connected to self focus, except in that you use the word “supposed” to give your readers doubt on the “unselfish pursuit” part. To be frank, I don’t believe anything that comes out of John Piper’s mouth unless I see it for myself in the Bible, and I don’t believe anything that comes from you either just because you tell me it is merely “supposed” unselfishness without demonstrating that.

    I have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to Christian Hedonism and John Piper and “mind control.” In fact, this is the part I feel is most hurtful to me. So here I am, an abuse survivor seeking aid and comfort, who is thankful for many of John Piper’s teachings(and I believe them too), but clearly that is because my mind is being controlled? Clearly I’ve been discouraged from thinking critically (which is in fact the exact opposite of what Piper’s ministry has encouraged me to do). Im sorry, but your words are assuming things about my reason and feelings and I am hurt by them. I’m here reading your blog and I have my mind about me, thank you very much.

    I’m really shocked, Barbara, as I’ve been extremely amazed with many of your writings and how much you clearly love the Bible and put it first, and how nuanced your understanding of the gospel is, and how you are able to draw out so much mercy and wisdom for abuse survivors from the Bible. I don’t doubt your intentions at all. Perhaps you haven’t personally consumed much of Piper’s writing/teaching and are mostly reacting to those who use his teaching to support abusers and put unbiblical burdens on victims? I really don’t know. I am just genuinely confused as to how you could come to such conclusions reading his works and listening to his sermons.

    Even if Piper’s views on the permanence of marriage may be completely wrong, which is something I am grappling with right now, I truly don’t believe that gives him the label as a false teacher. Correct me if I’m wrong, because perhaps I don’t understand the word “false teacher.” I also don’t think that every single thing on this blog has to be 100% perfect and true, or else these are false teachers. No Christian minister (or plain ol’ Christian) has ever had everything right. Great historic Christian leaders have disagreed on a lot of theological points. But they don’t disagree on one important thing.

    I think that false teachers are working for Satan, and they don’t understand or teach the gospel or the cross which causes people to be born again. Therefore if both “Cry for Justice” and Piper are teaching the gospel of the cross and helping people love, know, and trust God more, then their imperfect teachings are instruments of God not Satan.

    I hope you can hear the sentiment behind these typed words, that I’m not intending to start a fight or anything.. I am truly very thankful for this blog and I think you, Barbara, are a completely awesome theological force to be reckoned with! I have a lot of respect for you. As I said, I am just spinning from what I interpret as apparently unfounded claims in this article about Piper and Christian Hedonism.

    • Hi H
      thank you for expressing your thoughts and feelings clearly and respectfully. 🙂

      Maybe my use of the word ‘supposed’ was a little unwise. But I am very busy with a writing task for a friend right now and so I don’t (unfortunately, at this point in time) have time to re-examine it in depth. I would ask that you please read the other posts we have on this blog about John Piper. We did a number of post about him a while ago; I wrote some of them, Jeff wrote others. If you look at our Tag for John Piper you will be able to find them.

      • Also, H, there are currently 30 posts under our Piper tag and I wouldn’t expect a person to want to read them all unless they had strong motivation and LOTs of time! So I suggest you start by at least reading the two posts I’ve linked to at the bottom of this post (under the heading ‘Further Reading’). Those two posts were not links when this post was first published, but I’ve fixed that now.

    • Misti

      I think that false teachers are working for Satan, and they don’t understand or teach the gospel or the cross which causes people to be born again.

      How then do you explain Christ’s parable of the sheep and the goats, particularly Matthew 7:22?

      (I ask this seriously, because it looks to me as an obvious case of the Gospel having been used to miraculous effect by persons who didn’t understand the Gospel sufficiently to be saved, themselves. Since that’s incompatible with your thought, you must read it differently.)

    • Hi again, H. 🙂
      I hope you don’t feel I’m pestering you with comments.

      You noted that “People think that Christianity is about asceticism and self-denial (the opposite of hedonism), rather than pleasure. But why should people be shocked that God is actually FOR our joy in his glory, wanting us to experience peace and pleasure? He actually does care about us, yes.”

      The teaching that God is FOR our joy in His glory and He wants us to experience peace and pleasure was a correction of incorrect idea that Christianity is about only asceticism and self-denial. Because it offered that correction, many people found it helpful. I imagine that many people who had been raised in rather arid, guilt-heavy, dour, forms of Christianity, found it particularly helpful. I imagine it gave them liberty to actually enjoy God and not feel guilty for experiencing such joy. So it was not all wrong, through and through.

      But as Peter Masters wrote in his excellent article on Piper:

      All single-dominant-issue schemes tend to be blind to individual matters of deep concern. Their major preoccupation creates a kind of tunnel vision, and perception fails.
      — Dr Peter Masters, Christian Hedonism — Is it Right?

      I know you’ve been hurt and sent spinning by this post, so may take quite some time to process the ideas. So I don’t want to sound like I’m pressuring you. But when and if you have time, may I suggest this as an idea that you could find helpful? —

      Even if someone teaches only ideas that are found in the Bible, that person might still be presenting a kind of false teaching if the ideas that are teaching do not present a balance of the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:27) It’s a good idea, when assessing a teacher, to look at what a person leaves out, as well as what they include.

  6. Misti

    Hmm… Not sure if this was tied to Christian hedonism, but I’ve experienced Philippians 4:8 being used to condemn anyone who openly acknowledges a sin an/or something negative or potentially upsetting, even if it’s a personal observation or confrontation. Even commenting on some sin in the culture could result in accusations of violating the directions to think on what was pure, lovely, good, etc.

    “I don’t see how thinking about that is pure or good or lovely” = something I was told more than once, by multiple people. They never could explain how their interpretation of those words worked with, for example, Genesis, Judges, and Song of Solomon, other than by calling it inapplicable because it was Scripture.

    Everything Biblical illustration that counters to your perspective is necessarily an exception, don’tchya know. /wry tone

    • caroline

      Misti
      I have also had this verse used to silence me very recently. Or rather try to silence me…

      Luckily, I remember that vs 4:8 comes right after vs 4:6&7 (one of my favorites) and all three are followed by an accounting of a whole list of hardships! The whole danged book of Philippians is an admittance of really hard things like poverty, disillusionment, persecution and imprisonment.

      “DON’T SPEAK IT…DON’T SPEAK IT…”

      “Christian” fanaticism of many varying flavors come from removing a singe verse or passage from their setting and flinging at others completely out of context.

      My father passed away on Saturday from cancer and many were never able to say a true goodbye because of crap teachings like the above. Even now one brother is blaming me because he wasn’t healed…I didn’t have enough faith. Freaks.

      • Misti

        Oh, that’s horrible, Caroline! [HUG]

  7. M&M

    I used to look at “word of faith” people and feel guilty about not having enough faith, but at the same time wasn’t sure if they were right. Now I think my feelings of uncertainty were right all along!! Their doctrine kills common sense as “doubt” but I have met people in that movement who use common sense in their daily lives and fail to notice the difference between their lives and their church.

    For example, once I explained to someone that if you criticize a person’s faith when they are sick it adds more suffering than they had to begin with. Since the guy was physically healthy, I think he was being honest when he said, “oh……I never thought of that”. He had only had the positive feelings about health and not considered the other side. Never thinking of that is why some people are attracted to the movement, but I thought of it as soon as I heard the teaching -before getting sick.

    Another time I heard a preacher talk about “believing God for your million dollars”. When I told a girl that I don’t expect a million dollars at once she said something like “I’m sure he meant over the course of a lifetime and he meant the amount before you pay your bills”. She had common sense outside of church, but I doubt that’s what the pastor meant…… Thus I believe there can be genuinely saved people in that movement but also genuinely misguided.

    At best they are wrong about the timing. We will be healthy and wealthy in the New Heavens and New Earth. Here and now one of the saddest parts is that it’s super common for the “word of faith” to catch on in poor countries and make evil pastors rich off the poorest of the world. People who make a few dollars a day will give it to a rich pastor in hopes of “reaping a harvest”. Technically it’s up to the individual how much to give, but practically their desperation is being exploited and manipulated.

    • M&M

      I still wondered what Jesus really meant when he told some people that their faith healed them so it was really cool when my current pastor pointed out that the guy who was healed in John 5 didn’t have a lot of faith. Verse 14 suggests that his heart still wasn’t right with God after he was healed thus healing and faith aren’t always connected. I know some verses show a connection between healing and faith, but the big picture includes the fact that even Paul wasn’t always healed supernaturally fast. Galatians 4:13 suggests that he had to pause his travels for the time it takes to recover naturally from an illness (to be fair it doesn’t say that he took a long time to recover, but it also doesn’t mention a miracle). John 5:14 could also suggest that sin causes sickness, but that needs to be balanced with John 9:2-3 “And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him……'”

  8. Contextandperception

    Mary…I can completely relate and affirm as everything you listed and more is someone I know in that movement and incredibly self focused.
    Barbara…spot on for both. One other significant point is that Piper constantly uses Circular Reasoning for everything which means he doesn’t have to give real reasons only appear to and he sounds good that way too.

  9. I’m not very familiar with John Piper’s teaching, but I do have experience with Word of Faith, and it was bad experience. I was attending a church which had Word of Faith beliefs when I first got involved with my ex, and for the first few years of marriage. I’ve often wondered if I might have avoided being trapped if I hadn’t gone to that church. They certainly didn’t help the situation.

    They tended to see everything in terms of blessings and curses, God’s favor or demonic attack. So if you were to complain about being mistreated by your husband, they would tell you to speak out that your marriage is good, and tell you to pray against the demonic attack on your marriage. Abusers who attended the church would never be held to account, because it was considered that since they were obviously Christians, it must be the evil spirits who were responsible for the bad behavior.

    There is so much irrational thinking in Word of Faith beliefs, and it just adds to the confusion that’s been caused by an abuser.
    These churches also tend to be quite authoritarian and controlling. In my experience this was the worst thing, that there were two layers of control, two layers of chains to get free from.

    • KayE

      I thought I should add that the Word of Faith people were never intentionally unkind to me, even though their beliefs weren’t helpful. It was the people who consider themselves to be bible-believing conservative evangelicals who were and still are extremely cruel, judgmental and derisive towards me. These same people have always supported and cheered on my ex, and they are mainly Baptists and conservative Presbyterians.

  10. Dana

    While I agree with your thoughts on word of faith, it was this bullet point that made me respond. I truly hope that I am misunderstanding you…

    “2. Self-focus: Whether it is the supposedly unselfish pursuit of joy in glorifying God, or the pursuit of joy in prayers being answered for health, wealth and personal success, self-focus is an inevitable outcome of both systems.”

    Are you honestly discouraging and even attacking those who are sick (or poor) whom look forward to the day they might have some quality of life? I as a woman who has been chronically ill since the age of 16, will never apologize for praying and asking God for healing. I will never apologize for being unhappy with where I am right now and am looking to God with joy for the day I am made well. If that is being self-focused then so be it!

    Is leaving an abuser in hopes to have a peaceful house also being self-focused? Is leaving a marriage that is in shambles due to a non-repentant abuser also selfish? Again unless I am completely misunderstanding this post (which is quite possible), you are playing right into the hands of those whom you are disagreeing with in this very article!

    I personally have found those who downplay health and prosperity, typically have their health and have a steady income of some sort. They surely aren’t worrying how they are going to eat next week. They aren’t facing homelessness nor are they bedbound or housebound. Your own views on this literally lead to the same circular logic that began this article. The sick and poor are blamed now for wanting to be well. You are saying the same thing, but the way to get there is longer and more manipulative.

    I know absolutely nothing about the author of this piece nor do I know much of anything about this website, but you are actually piling on guilt towards the sick and the poor. I really hope that I have misunderstood or misread your points.

    • Hi Dana,

      Welcome to the blog!

      You raise some good questions. I don’t want to speak for Barbara Roberts, the author of this post, except to say that, yes, I believe you have misunderstood her points. Barbara is away from the blog for a few days, but I am sure she will address your concerns when she returns.

      In the mean time I welcome you to explore the blog and become more familiar with our purpose. Also at the bottom of this post are links to two related posts. I encourage you to read these as they will give more insight to the unbiblical pursuit of joy found in John Piper’s book, Desiring God, which is the type of pursuit of joy that we disagree with.

    • Dear Dana
      My deepest apologies for not having put more of a caveat into point 2 of this post, and thus having been instrumental in making you feel I was laying guilt on you for praying to be healed from chronic illness.

      No, I am not discouraging and even attacking those who are sick (or poor) who look forward to the day they might have some quality of life. But I can see that because I had not included a careful caveat, my post could have been read that way.

      Your comment in itself expresses much of the caveat I should have written. I fully agree with you that there is nothing wrong with praying to be healed from illness, or praying for one’s poverty to be relieved, or praying for escape from unjust imprisonments and entrapments like domestic abuse. The Bible instructs us to pray for those things. Suffering from chronic illness must be an awful experience, and it is healthy and right to pray for healing and to pray for it to come in this life, not just in the new heavens and new earth.

      And if you read more of this blog, you will see that we encourage any victim of abuse who wants to leave their abuser, to do so. In fact, that is quite a large part of this blog’s work.

      I personally have found those who downplay health and prosperity, typically have their health and have a steady income of some sort.

      Yes, I think you are right there, and you probably have a lot more personal and painful experiences of that kind of thing than I do.

      One of the reasons I have an aversion for the health, prosperity and success gospel is that so many of those who get into it already have reasonable health and are not poor or socially outcast, but are instead greedy egotist abuser-types who covet wealth and power regardless of the legitimate needs and rights of others, and are often unwilling to labour honestly and diligently but instead want God to be a genie in a bottle. And some of them seem to have the attitude that even the least little problem with their physical health is an infringement of their entitlement as a Christian. These egotists give a bad name to the truth of how God can and sometimes does miraculously heal the sick.

      Please accept my apologies. I am grateful for your pointing out how my post could have been interpreted in a way I did not mean.

  11. Anon

    My father was not a Christian. I think he had anger issues with some Christians because he was told that Christians could sin but at the end of the day they could ask for forgiveness and be forgiven by Jesus. My father was repelled by this kind of teaching. He did not understand that no one could keep sinning and that there had to be genuine repentance. Some of the people he knew claimed to be believers but did not behave Christlike at all.

    My father contracted cancer towards the end of his life. I was taught by church that if you prayed hard enough all sicknesses would be healed, if you only believed. So I kept praying and fasting, believing that my father would be healed. Instead of sharing the gospel with him I continued to pray in faith for his healing. I also asked many others to pray for his healing. I sincerely believed that God would heal him in time. Only he got worse and then passed on from his cancer.

    I have lived with this guilt for many years thinking that I did not have enough faith to get him healed. Even worse is that my father may have had a chance to believe in Jesus if I had shared with my father about Jesus instead of praying for healing in vain. I wasted so much precious time. I did manage to tell him a little about the gospel later on but i am not even sure if he could even hear my voice and respond.

    Anon

    • Dear Anon
      how heartbreaking! The Word of Faith teaching is a serious distortion of scripture. It cherry-picks certain verses and ignores others. And if the follower of W-o-F has a sensitive conscience (as it sounds like you do) the follower usually ends up feeling a load of false guilt when her prayers don’t come to pass. W-o-F leaders can alway blame you when your prayers aren’t answered, by saying, “You mustn’t have had enough faith. Or you must have had some hidden unconfessed sin….” This pushes the believer into a labyrinth of self examination and self blame. . . which can send people even into such turmoil that they go over the cliff into confusion and mental illness, if they are at risk of that.

      The followers of W-o-F who do not have sensitive consciences, who have hardened hearts and disordered characters – the types of people who are selfish, callous, abusers — they are not thrown into self-blame by the teaching. They just thrive on it, because it gives them a systematized, ready made way of criticising fellow believers. They learn the put-downs by heart and parrot them off to confused or or despondent believers: “You mustn’t have enough faith. Do you have unconfessed sin? Did you stand on the Word enough? Did your utter words of unbelief? … ”

      I encourage you to read more about the dangers of Word of Faith teaching. And let the fog clear!

      Your father’s salvation was always and only in the sovereign hand of God. I’m pretty sure he knew, in some way or other, that you were a Christian. If he didn’t come to Christ before he died, that is not your fault. Let yourself off the hook. 🙂 🙂

      You might like to read what orthodox reformed christianity believes about salvation. Here is a link to the Baptist Confession of Faith (1689). The section on how a person receives salvation is section 10. I’m pasting that section here; it talks about how a person is saved only when God effectually calls them and quickens their spirit from death to life. The main point is, the initiative and power comes from God, not from you or me or any other believer.

      SECTION 10, Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)
      [At the link, you will see all the scripture proofs the writers of the Confession included.]

      1.Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

      2. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.

      3.Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when,and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

      4. Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ,and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men that receive not the Christian religion be saved; be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess.

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