It has been around for awhile. I am not taking the time here to note the earliest traces of the “word of faith” and prosperity movement in America. But certainly in the beginning of the 20th century, the early seeds of the “word of faith”, prosperity doctrine movement were being planted in America. Perhaps the earliest modern figure was the pentecostal healing evangelist, John G. Lake (1870-1935). Lake, who first served as a missionary in Africa from 1908-1913, became a healing evangelist who set up “healing rooms” in his evangelistic crusades, especially along the west coast of the U.S. Lake had been influenced by the earlier ministries of such pentecostal preachers as John Alexander Dowe and Charles Parham.
It was Lake that began early in the 20th century to popularize the modern doctrine of health, wealth, and prosperity. In one sense, he was the grandfather of the entire movement, which then produced such teachers as Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagin, Sr. and Kenneth Hagin, Jr., Frederick K. C. Price, Kenneth Copeland, Charles Capps, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Paul and Jan Crouch, T. D. Jakes, Paul White, and Joyce Myers, to mention just a few.
Right in line with such thinking is the massive influence of Joel Osteen, who in one way, is even less biblical that all the others. Less biblically, in the sense, that Osteen doesn’t even use the Bible or preach from the Bible like the others do. Osteen is only a motivational speaker and positive-thinking teacher, right in line with the famous Norman Vincent Peale (1898–1993), Reformed Church of America pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City for 52 years.
It struck me again within the past week of the serious damage that a twisted doctrine of “faith” does in so many situations. I have seen recent situations where families are convinced that they are going to see cancer healed and major injuries healed because they are “confessing it or believing it.” They won’t even entertain or talk at all about the possibility of any other alternative. God is not sovereign in the situation–their faith and confession is controlling it.
When people swallow this erroneous teaching, real spiritual damage is always done, no matter what happens with the sick person. If they improve or are healed, it affirms to people that their “confession and faith” worked, and the error is believed more than ever. But If the person doesn’t get better, the only conclusion is that God did not keep His promise, or they did not have enough faith. The health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine has caused many to reject Christianity altogether, or to believe that faith does not work at all. Either way, God is not honored, and faith is perverted.
As Conrad Murrell said–
“Faith, by which a man is justified, has become a word in the mouth of ignorant religionists and unethical charlatans that bears no resemblance to the Bible doctrine of faith. One’s ears have become accustomed to hearing such terms as “seed faith”, by which you give the preacher some money and God, in turn, makes you rich. You are to “turn your faith loose” by an act of faith. Faith, in this modern age, is a commodity which you use to ‘work miracles,’ get things for yourself, heal the sick, and raise money. It has become an accessory to Christianity that is greatly to be coveted because if one can find the secret to getting faith and turning it loose to work for them, there is no limit to how great he can become or what he can do
All of that is wicked enough, but it is not the chief mischief. The worst thing about this is that such false teaching has fouled the waters of the very fountain of life. It has clouded the most important subject of the Bible–faith. It may be well argued that love is greater than faith and that Christ is the most important person of the Bible, but the sinner has access to neither the love of God or to the person of Christ except through faith. Faith is not an accessory to Christianity, but is the very essence of true Christianity. The Christian life begins, continues, and consummates in faith. Nothing less pleases God.”
— Mack Tomlinson