I have very little interest in attacking various modern movements and sub-movements within evangelicalism. At one time I thought this was important. I reasoned that I should constantly warn people about all the "bad" movements that existed in our church cultures so the sheep would not be led astray. I found, quite candidly, that this kind of ministry fed my ego since it put me "in the know." You can really build a reputation on "knowing all that is wrong" with this and that group, person, or movement. It sells books and it generates donors for sure. But does it do what it promises? I seriously doubt it.

I was reminded of all this again when my good friend Andrew Sandlin was recently asked by an email correspondent to comment on the dangers of the Word of Faith movement. Andrew’s response, short and to the point, sums up the way I now answer such questions the older I get. The writer noted to Andrew that various well-known Reformed voices had spoken strongly on the issue of WOF and this was why he wrote to Andrew to ask him for guidance. Here is Andrew’s brief and complete response:

Good to hear from you. I think the WOF Movement is imbalanced at best and not very theologically astute. It is mostly centered on what God can do for us rather than on what God has done for us in Jesus and on what we are required to do for Him. God’s will is not always to give us what we want! That said, I don’t think all these folks are the pernicious enemies some folks make them out to be. I can’t support them, but they’re not my enemies.

My guess is that some people would be deeply troubled by Andrew’s failure to give explicit instruction about the errors of WOF and then to tell this man to run as fast as possible toward the nearest conservative Reformed church.

In some ways, this harkens back to my blogs in May (2005) on Joel Osteen. I have been told that Osteen was on the Larry King Show not too long ago and that he failed to give a clear and explicit answer to questions about the gospel and the narrowness of Christ’s command to trust him alone for salvation. If this is so, and I think it is, then shame on Joel Osteen. He blew it. But what I rarely hear these same critics say is that Osteen later apologized for failing to give such a clear answer. I hear almost none of these critics ever apologize in like manner. In this case I have to say that I’ll take Osteen’s failure, and subsequent humble apologies, over their attacks. My guess is that God is using Osteen more than the critics.

I have watched these "watchdogs" and "watchdog groups" come and go for fifty years. When I have been dead for two minutes my efforts to expose such groups will mean nothing. What I did to honor Christ, to faithfuly point people to his person and to believe his gospel, will remain. I simply have no interest in being a member of a self-appointed "watchdog" team. I am genuinely sorry that I ever bought into this approach. I see nothing in it that corresponds to what Scripture actually requires of me as a minister when it comes to the Pauline exhortations to expose error and warn people about heresy. In the case of these texts context really is everything.

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  1. Andrew C. Bain October 19, 2005 at 11:10 pm

    G’day John,
    Why not let God answer your question, “what about the word of faith movement”? (I notice you used NO Scripture at all in your assessment!).
    “if anyone adds to these things, God will add upon him the plagues having been written in this Book.”(Rev22:18)
    The Word of Faith Movement believes in new revelations, right? Therefore, they are accursed.
    “God works all things according to the counsel of His own will.” (Eph 1:11)
    The WOFM preach that man can control God’s will. They deny the absolute control of God over everything.
    “The Good Shepherd lays down His life on behalf of the sheep … and no one is able to pluck out of My Father’s hand”(Jn6:11,29)
    Here the WOFM repudiates two essential doctrines. They believe that Christ died for everyone without exception, and affirm that believers can perish. God says that ALL who Christ died for WILL be saved from the wrath to come.
    Clearly, the WOFM is accursed.
    Andrew C. Bain
    Sydney, Australia

  2. Nick Mackison October 20, 2005 at 11:38 am

    Here, here! Great article.
    Just wanted to say what a breath of fresh air your blog is and how the Lord has used it to wean me from a reactionary mindset, to a more thoughtful and reflective attitude. I’ve got your blog sight on my bookmark bar and I check it out every day.
    You’ve encouraged me to read widely; to challenge long held, cherished convictions; and to let Scripture expand my theology rather than force the text to say what I want it to say.
    Your writing on imputation set me on a journey of discovery and forced me to look again at what it means to be counted righteous in Christ.
    Again you’ve forced me to think through how I respond to questions about a movement that is popular to demonize. Please keep up the good work!
    God bless,

  3. Nathanael October 20, 2005 at 10:03 pm

    Your gracious treatment of this issue is convicting, John, and hearkens to the words of Jesus: “He who is not against you is for you” (or is that out of context?).

  4. Gene Redlin October 21, 2005 at 10:17 am

    As a person who identifies himself with the Word of Faith movement (I’ve always wondered of critics, as opposed to what , Word of Doubt and Unbeief??), I appreciate your words. While I am pretty purist (Bible only) in my concern about those who add to the word of God (different however from Mr Bain above), one thing you said really hit home. After I’m dead two minutes, only what I did on this side of the veil according to his leading and my obedience to his word will matter. May we all be so led. Thanks John.

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