Naming it what it is: Evangelist claims Word of Faith movement is heresy, wrecks lives
Proponents of the Word of Faith movement teach heresy that not only distorts the truth but also wrecks the lives of many suffering Christians, evangelist Justin Peters said during a series of lectures at Southwestern Seminary, Sept. 30–31.
“The burden that is being placed on people is almost unbearable, and it breaks my heart,” Peters said in a chapel message. “I get e-mails from people from all over the world almost on a daily basis now, telling me how they or one of their loved ones have been devastated by this movement.”
The Word of Faith movement is known throughout the world for its message of “health and wealth,” often called the “prosperity gospel.” Its teachers include such notable personalities as Benny Hinn, Ken and Gloria Copeland, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and Joel Osteen. According to Peters, these teachers claim that no true Christian should be sick or poor. If they become sick or poor by happenstance, they are guaranteed a quick recovery.
“This movement does a great deal of harm to people,” Peters said. “If you begin with the premise that it is always God’s will to be physically healed, and a person prays for that healing for days, weeks, months, years, sometimes for decades, but the healing does not come, then the question must be asked, ‘Whose fault is it?’”
According to Peters, the prosperity gospel always lays blame on the sick individual, who is thus accused either of hidden sin, of a lack of faith, or of not being saved. This attitude, Peters said, is exemplary of the Word of Faith proponents’ doctrine of “positive confession”: True Christians can “literally speak things into existence” or make their own “realities” through their words. With words, they can manipulate faith—viewed as a force or object—to heal the sick, bring prosperity, or even control the weather.
This doctrine, Peters said, resembles the secular movement called “The Secret,” which boasts the support of Oprah Winfrey. Behind it, however, are even greater heresies. According to Word of Faith teachers, Adam was created in the beginning as “an exact duplicate of God.” Christians also are “little gods,” and Jesus is not the only begotten Son of God. Also, by praying, Christians give God permission to intervene in their lives and in the world. Otherwise, God has no access to the world.
“One of the most fundamental problems of the Faith preachers,” Peters said, “is that they blur that line between God the Creator and us, His created. They demote God to make Him look more human than He is, and in turn they deify man to make us look more like God than we really are.”
While the Word of Faith movement dresses its doctrine in Christian apparel, it does not find its roots in orthodox Christianity: “The origins of the Word of Faith movement,” Peters said, “can be traced back directly to the metaphysical cults, such as Christian Science, new age, new thought, Gnosticism, even some Kabbalah. So much of what you see on Christian television today is not Christian.”
Since the age of 16, Peters has had a deep interest in the Word of Faith movement. At that time, a family friend, influenced by the Word of Faith movement, promised Peters that he would be healed of his cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that doctors diagnosed when Peters was 1.
Unable to do many of the things most teenagers can do—like driving and playing sports—Peters latched himself onto the Word of Faith movement, but he never found healing. Only by the grace of God and through the support of his family and church did he recover from a bout of disappointment and doubt.
“Next to my salvation, and next now to my precious wife,” Peters said, “my cerebral palsy is one of the greatest gifts that God has given me. I have come to know the Lord’s ways through my handicap that otherwise, I would never have known. And if I have to live the rest of my life with cerebral palsy, that is fine. I have got all of eternity to live without it.”
After graduating from Mississippi State University, Peters enrolled at Southwestern Seminary, where he earned his Master of Divinity (2000) and Master of Theology (2002) degrees. For his latter degree, he completed a thesis on the Word of Faith theology, especially that of Benny Hinn. Shortly afterward, he became a staff evangelist at First Baptist Church of Vicksburg, Miss., and he began Justin Peters Ministries. Today, Peters travels to churches to teach them about the Word of Faith movement through a three-part seminar, titled “A Call to Discernment.”
“I do what I do because I love the Lord, I love His Word, and I love His people,” Peters said. “And I’m growing weary of seeing wolves in sheep’s clothing preying upon sick and hurting people.”