Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century

I just got done reading Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff. It is an exposé on the Word of Faith movement, sometimes called the prosperity gospel.

The book starts out with a brief introduction to the movement along with those who are leading it, including Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyers and T.D. Jakes. The rest of the book is dedicated to addressing the errors of the movement–errors that should be self-evident to any student of the Bible. I was astonished when I read some of the things they teach that are so obviously blasphemous, not to mention physically dangerous.

Before reading this book I knew there were doctrinal problems with the prosperity gospel (including the teaching that being poor is a sin). I also knew that the leaders of the movement say some crazy things every now and then. Some of the funniest quotes in the book were from Benny Hinn, who said women originally gave birth out of their sides and that Adam “had dominion over the fowls of the air, the fish of the sea–which means he used to fly.” What I did not know was that these problems run deep and affect even the essentials of the Christian faith. The prosperity gospel is not simply a misinterpretation of a few verses here and there. It is a full-fledged heresy.

Hanegraaff begins by noting that many have simply been deceived and that it is important to “judge the theology of the Faith movement rather than those being seduced by it [page 8].” He also notes that there are “those who use the perversions of the Faith movement to drive a wedge between charismatic and noncharismatic Christians” and says that “this is both counterproductive and divisive, for the Faith movement is not charismatic; it is cultic [page 12].” He points out that the problem with the Faith movement is not about the nonessentials but about the essentials of the faith. The book is well-documented, with a 16-page bibliography and 54 pages of notes.

One of the fathers of the Faith movement was E.W. Kenyon who said, “The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth [quoted on page 17].” This is scary stuff. Hanegraaff explains the problems of the Faith movement using the acronym FLAWS, which stands for “Faith in faith,” “Little gods,” “Atonement atrocities,” “Wealth & want” and “Sickness & suffering [page 88].” The movement deifies man and satan while demoting God and Christ.

As an example, Kenneth Copeland, another leader of the movement, stated that “God cannot do anything for you apart or separate from faith” because “faith is God’s source of power [quoted on page 96].” Myles Munroe said, “I’m going to say it again! Prayer is man giving God authority, or God license, to interfere in the affairs of man. In fact, God–I’m giong to take a deep breath because some of you religious people aren’t going to understand me–Are you ready?–God cannot do anything in the earth without a human’s permission! [quoted on page 131]” However, contrary to the Faith movement’s teaching that faith is a substance or force, Hanegraff explains that “true biblical faith is faith in God as opposed to faith in substance (or ‘faith in faith,’ as Hagin put it). It is the object and the origin of faith that renders it effective [page 100].”

Copeland and Jerry Savelle teach that God is just like us…only a little bigger. Savelle said, “God is not 437 feet tall, weighing four thousand pounds, and got a fist big around as this room. He’s big, but He’s not a monster. He measured out heaven with a nine-inch span…The distance between my thumb and my finger is not quite nine inches. So, I know He’s bigger than me, thank God [quoted on page 144].”

In discussing the Faith movement’s misguided teachings on worldly riches, Hanegraaff quotes John Piper’s book Desiring God, which says, “God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (no matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized, uneducated, unmedicated, and unfed millions. The evidence that many Christians have been decieved by this doctrine is how little they give and how much they own…God has made us conduits of his grace. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn’t. Copper will do [quoted on page 243].” Indeed, even non-Christians can identify the hypocrisy of these Christians.

One part of the book that is useful outside the discussion of the Faith movement is Hanegraaff’s explanation of how the Scriptures should be read. He notes the principle of scriptural synergy and states, “…the whole of Scripture is greater than the sum of its individual passages. You cannot comprehend the Bible as a whole without comprehending its individual parts, and you cannot comprehend its individual parts without comprehending the Bible as a whole. As such, individual passages of Scripture are synergistic rather than deflective with respect to the whole of Scripture. Scriptural synergy demands that individual Bible passages may never be interpreted in such a way as to conflict with the whole of Scripture [page 239].”

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the heresies of the Faith movement, especially those with family members that have been deceived. It exposes the teachers using their own words. It is definitely a good reference and would be a valuable addition to a church library.

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2 Responses to “Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century”

  1. Kansas Bob says:

    I liked how Hank describes how the Scriptures should be read. I think that many in fundamentalist movements make similar errors majoring on parts of the scripture instead of the whole of it.

    Of course I think that Hank believes in the prosperity gospel for himself.. he is paid very well :)

  2. casey says:

    You and I have a different definition of “fundamentalist,” I guess, Bob. Random House defines fundamentalism as “a movement in American Protestantism that arose in the early part of the 20th century in reaction to modernism and that stresses the infallibility of the Bible not only in matters of faith and morals but also as a literal historical record, holding as essential to Christian faith belief in such doctrines as the creation of the world, the virgin birth, physical resurrection, atonement by the sacrificial death of Christ, and the Second Coming.” I agree with that wholeheartedly. If that makes me an evil fundamentalist, then so be it. But I have a feeling what you’re referring to is not “fundamentalism” but “extremism.” If so, I agree. Twisting of scripture is also widely found in cults.

    As for Hank’s pay, I don’t know. It depends on a lot of factors, including how he spends it (can we compare the percentages of charitable giving on his tax returns with the average Christian?). I see nothing wrong with making money off the fruits of your labor (such as writing books). Unless, of course, he was out there telling people that buying his books would ensure their own financial success and physical health.