This post begins a series on the Word of Faith movement (also known as word-faith, faith, or by its critics the prosperity gospel or health and wealth gospel). The purpose of this series is to clarify the biblical teachings of this movement. Because many of its expositors lack formal theological education, it is not uncommon for their words to raise theological red flags. But many reject the Word of Faith teachings with little understanding of them, or by taking passages out of context.
While there certainly have been excesses, this series of posts will provide reasons why core Word of Faith teachings are within the broad range of orthodox Christianity. That said, this series of posts does not justify lavish lifestyles, deceptive practices, or false claims. The focus is on the core teachings of the Word of Faith and their biblical justification.
It is important to know from the outset that there are three independent 19th century movements that have some similarities but are radically different: (1) the nature cure, (2) the mind cure, and (3) the faith cure. All sought healing apart from the allopathic medicine that was considered mainstream.
(1) “Nature cure, or natural care refer to methods of self-healing, often using fasting, dieting, rest, or hydrotherapy.” Also included are orthopathy and naturopathy. (Wikipedia)
(2) Mind cure is a “healing system according to which feelings or thoughts are the most important factor in human health. Negative thinking is believed to cause disease, whereas good health results from positive thoughts.” (Free Dictionary) “William James used the term ‘New Thought’ as synonymous with the ‘Mind cure movement.'” (Wikipedia)
(3) Faith cure is “a method or practice of treating diseases by prayer and exercise of faith in God.” (Merriam-Webster)
The teachings of the Word of Faith movement grew out of the faith cure (3) movement, not the others.
Primary Authors Consulted:
Bosworth, F. F.
Kenyon, E. W.
Yeomans, Lilian B.
Secondary Sources Consulted:
Barron, Bruce. The Health and Wealth Gospel. InterVarsity Press, 1987
Bowler, Kate. Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. Oxford University Press, 2013.
Harrell, David Edwin Jr. All Things Are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals of Modern America. Indiana University Press, 1975.
Huestis, Gregg N. Another Side of the Coin: The Other Side of the Controversy Surrounding the Faith Message. Self-published, 2011.
King, Paul. Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies. Word & Spirit Press, 2009.
McConnell, D. R., A Different Gospel. Hendrickson Publishers, 1988.
McIntyre, Joe. E.W. Kenyon and His Message of Faith: The True Story. Empowering Grace Ministries, 1997, 2010.
McIntyre, Joe. Healing by Faith: Evangelical Christendom’s Lost Heritage. Empowering Grace Ministries, 2013.
The next post in this series is here.