I am in the OPC. I am writing to inquire about the ministries of Kenneth Hagin and the Word of Faith movement. I have a friend who is involved in the movement to a small extent and I have had some opportunities to discuss it with him. From what I understand it is not Reformed, and quite unbiblical in its stress on material blessings. Has the OPC made a statement concerning the man or the ministry? Do you have any practical guidance for me about how to discuss it with my friend in a way that is loving and at the same time not in compromise of what I know to be the teaching of the Bible?
The Word of Faith movement has a number of rather troubling teachings, and so it has come in for a great deal of analysis and criticism. It seems to me most helpful to focus in on its core element and discern whether it is Biblical. Basically, the Word of Faith movement centers upon the teaching that if we ask something of God and have sufficient faith, God will certainly give it to us.
The OPC has not made a statement specific to Kenneth Hagin or the Word of Faith movement. However, we already have our Shorter Catechism, which in #98 teaches "Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies." The portion of that sentence I have italicized is based on 1 John 5:14, which says "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us" (King James Version).
In other words, God will bring to pass whatsoever he has determined is best to bring to pass, whether or not it conforms to what we have asked him to bring to pass. This in no way negates the fact that God does hear and answer our prayers (John 16:23). We must always remember that he is God and we are his creatures, and as a loving Father he will give us what is best. We need to learn to recognize his best and conform our expectations to it, not tell God to conform his will for our best to our expectations.
As I mentioned above, the Word of Faith movement could be criticized on many other fronts. An excellent resource is The Agony of Deceit (Moody Press), edited by Michael Horton. It is primarily a critique of errors taught by many television preachers (Kenneth Hagin among others). Since a great number of such preachers are somehow associated with the Word of Faith movement, it is also a useful expose of those errors.
Finally, you ask how you can discuss this in a loving way with your friend. I commend you for your desire to imitate Christ's gentleness and compassion in your relationships with the erring. In these discussions, I believe the best approach is to simply ask, "Can you show me that from the Bible?" In the end, the Scriptures are our source of knowledge about God and how he deals with us. Your friend will be more likely to give up on false doctrine once he sees it is not truly found in the Bible.
I pray the Lord will guide you and use you to bring your friend into a fuller understanding of God's good will for our lives. Please feel free to get back in touch with me; I'd be glad to be of any further help.
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