When I was about fourteen I started listening to teachers such as Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Jerry Savelle, and Creflo Dollar. I had grown up going to church, albeit a very liberal church, but these guys were different than what I was used to. They had passion, zeal, and spoke with power and authority. They taught very differently than what I had heard before, but they used Scripture to back everything up (well, and some direct revelation from God, so they said). They taught that Jesus had secured our physical healing for this life, that we had power over sickness and the devil, that we could transform our finances through our faith, and that we could even use faith the way God does—the God kind of faith. I really enjoyed listening to these teachers, particularly Copeland and Duplantis. I even was able to meet Duplantis and his wife at a meeting in Charlotte, where I gave him a letter thanking him for teaching the truth. Little did I know at the time that I was being sucked into a heretical mess. Since I did not know much at the time about orthodox theology, much of what was said sounded biblical and right. After having spent over a decade of learning theology in college and seminary (long after I left the movement), I began to realize how dangerous their doctrines really are. Let’s look at some of the main teachings of the Word-Faith movement.
While the orthodox, traditional view of God among Christians is that God exists as an immaterial being, one in essence with three persons, Word-Faith teachers state that God is a physical being who lives on a planet called heaven. According to Copeland, God stands around 6’2″ around 200lbs. Not only that, God is the “greatest failure in the Bible” since he lost more than any other being at the fall. Further, God has to use faith to do things, like create. God used the “force of faith” that according to Copeland “is a physical force” that is “perceptible to the touch.” We can use this same faith with our positive confession in order to bring about realities. However, our confession also can bring about sickness, disease, and death.
According to Word-Faith teachers, Jesus is not divine. According to Dollar, if he were, he would not have needed any special anointing. Rather, he was adopted by God at his baptism. According to teachers like Copeland, Jesus died spiritually and was reborn in hell before his resurrection. He was the first to be born-again. Regarding this, Copeland makes the scariest, most heretical utterance I have ever heard:
“He [God] said, ‘A born-again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him.’ He said, ‘You are the very image and the very copy of that one.’ . . . And I said, ‘Well now you don’t mean, you couldn’t dare mean that I could have done the same thing?’ He said, ‘Oh, yeah, if you’d known that, had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did you could have done the same thing. ‘Cause you’re a reborn man too.’” — From a sermon titled, “From the Cross to the Throne.”
Jesus did not accomplish his work because of his divinity, according to Copeland, but because he was reborn and had certain knowledge.
Jesus not only secured our salvation, he also secured our physical healing, according to such passages as 1 Peter 2:24 and 3 John 2. He is also our example to live by. But not just for holiness. We need to emulate his faith (through positive confession), attain knowledge (like him), and live the way he lived.