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Word of Faith, Arminianism, and Calvinism

(Part One)

In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


Exchange One

>Dear Gary,

Praise the Lord! Been a while since our last correspondence. Pray this finds you in good health and spirits.<

Thank you; and same to you!

>I sent you an e-mail recently concerning the word of faith movement (Hagin, Copeland, etc). I think I sent it to the wrong e-mail address though. Anyway, here is what I sent you:

I want to get your insight concerning a particular verse, Mark 11:22, which simply states, "Have faith in God." Evidently, the Word of Faith "teachers" say this verse literally means "Have God-like faith" in the Greek. I was rather startled by that because of the obvious implications and consequences that results in.

That rendering turns not only that particular verse into a non-sense statement, but they (the Faith "teachers") take the next necessary leap for them into the next realm of creating their own reality. At least, this is my understanding of the whole mess.

When I researched the matter on my own, I did not come to the same conclusion at all as they do concerning the translation of Mark 11:22. From what I see, the only POSSIBLE rendering of echete pistin Theou is "Have faith in God."

I really trust your insight, and would like to know what your thoughts are regarding this.

Thanks!<

I don't remember getting any such e-mail from you. But such things happen. Thanks for re-sending it.

>Well, since this e-mail, I have discovered quite a bit concerning the issue, and wrote different things about it. The biggest "discovery" that I have made is that I have come down theologically firmly on the Reformed side to the point of finally being able to receive 5-point Calvinism as the best theological framework that explains the panoply of Scripture! It took outright heresy for me to FINALLY see where the LOGICAL conclusions of Arminianism eventually lead.

I am so excited about the truth that I have finally seen that I want to share it with you since I had told you that I was still considering the issue. Well, I have moved from consideration to acceptance. The following is an e-mail exchange I had with my Dad that you might find edifying in seeing how one "thinks" out or reasons out his faith and is DRIVEN to conclude that if God REALLY is Sovereign, then Reformed theology is the ONLY system that can be true. I pray you find this enjoyable: Here are some things I discovered, and some observations:


Dad,

... It is said that Mark 11:22, which states "Have faith in God..." actually states, "Have God-like faith..." in the Greek. The implications of this translation are vast. What the verse then asserts, and which they (Hagin, Copeland, and now the Pastor) is that God Himself has to exercise faith. When He created the universe, it was an act of faith, and He spoke it into existence (I bet big-time bells are going off in your head right now!!). So, all we have to do is SPEAK things, by our "God-like" faith, and we will be able to get whatever we "SPEAK INTO EXISTENCE."

Are you beginning to see the dangers here? Now, the kicker is that according to the Greek, there is absolutely NO BASIS for translating that verse "God-Like faith." I examined the text word for word in the Greek (thanks to my Hebrew-Greek Interlinear Bible that I just happened to have laying around!). Not only that, but in addressing this issue, the top Greek scholars say that not only is it incorrect to translate the verse "God-like faith" but it is PREPOSTEROUS!

[Here is the quote]:
Many of those in the Word-Faith movement, such as Charles Capps and Jerry Savelle, teach that God had faith in His faith. They use Scripture texts such as Mark 11:22 and Hebrews 11:3, translating them as "have the faith of God.

However, renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, in his books A Short Grammar of the Greek Testament (pp. 227-228) and A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (p. 500), very adequately shows that the phrase is not to be translated in the subjective genitive (meaning that the noun is the subject of the action - or that God is the subject of faith) such as "have the faith of God," but is to be translated in the objective genitive (meaning that the noun is the object of the action - that God is the object of faith). He goes on to insist that translating in the subjective genitive is preposterous. He says "it is not the faith that God has, but the faith of which God is the object."

In contrast to word-faith theology, sound biblical theology teaches that God does not have to do anything. God, the Creator of all things, is sovereign in all things, not the creature. God is not obligated to heal or prosper anyone, yet He graciously does, and neither is deserved. Someone has said: "healing is not a divine obligation, it is a divine gift". The receiver of the gift can make no demands. God can be trusted to do all things well (Watchman Expositor).

To sum all this up, and the seriousness of the issue, here is a statement that [they] [want people] to repeat everyday during the week...from Hagin's book, "I'm a believer; I'm not a doubter. I have a measure of God kind of faith. I have a measure of the kind of faith that created the worlds in the beginning. I have mountain moving faith!!!!"

Here is a list of consequences this faulty teaching produces:

1. The believer now has faith in his "God-like faith" and not faith in God.

2. The believer doesn't focus on what God's will is, but on whatever his fickle mind conceives of wanting to have (as a matter of fact, Frederick Price and the rest of the bunch say we should NEVER pray to God "Your will be done" because we have the RIGHT to speak things into existence!!!).

3. The believer, in essence, robs God of the Glory that is due Him, because the believer will attribute every positive thing in his life as being the result of HIS own "God-like" faith. In other words, THE BELIEVER gets the glory for removing the "mountain" and not God. [I'm sure] God is just VERY impressed with the believer who had sense enough to exercise his "God-like" faith!!

4. The Sovereignty and Providence of God are directly attacked, and effectively removed. In other words, God isn't in control of anything--believers are by their "positive confession." What we are left with is a God who is the eternal watch maker. He winds up creation, builds into it certain laws, and then goes off to read the newspaper, allowing the universe to govern itself by those laws.

But the Bible teaches that while God did create the universe orderly and with certain "laws" (such as reaping and sowing), it also teaches God is actively involved in every facet of His creation during every milli-second of time. Nothing happens outside of God's control. [However, in the Word of Faith movement] if the believer doesn't get something He spoke (notice, NOT ASKED FOR), then he just didn't have enough "God-like" faith.

5. If God has faith, then who does God have faith in? To say that He has faith in Himself is a non-sense statement. Faith, by definition, requires that a being places belief in something OUTSIDE of itself; and faith is only as good as the object that you place it in. So, if God has faith, what object outside of Himself is He placing His faith in? Is this object GOOD. If it is GOOD, then why isn't IT God? So, I think we could say that if God has faith, then He really isn't God. His Deity is undermined.

Well, those are just the tip of the ice-berg of the negative consequences of what I believe is an insidious teaching overall. It's no wonder that mainstream Evangelicals raise such a fuss over Hagin, Copeland, and Price!

My Dad’s Response:

Whew! Doesn't that teaching border on you becoming as God!!!! It boggles my mind how good strong God fearing men & women can be duped into such false teachings! We need to look at that and think Lord, please give me discernment to always see your truths and recognize false teachings.

Amen?!

My Response to My Dad:

Funny you should say, "Doesn't that border on you becoming God..." Here are some quotes straight from the horses mouth:

In his sermon tape, Following the Faith of Abraham, Kenneth Copeland teaches that God created Adam a god (having the same attributes as God Himself): "And Adam is as much like God as you can get, just the same as Jesus when He came into the earth. And I want you to know something, Adam in the garden of Eden was God manifested in the flesh."

In The Force of Love, another sermon tape, Kenneth Copeland states, "You don't have a god in you, you are one."

Kenneth Hagin in Word of Faith says, "You are as much the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was. Every man who has been born again is an incarnation and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth" (December 1980, p. 14).

Earl Paulk of the Harvester Church in Atlanta, Georgia, in his work, Satan Unmasked, explains it like this: "Adam and Eve were placed in the world as the seed and expression of God. Just as dogs have puppies and cats have kittens, so God has little gods; we have trouble comprehending this truth. Until we comprehend that we are little gods, we cannot manifest the kingdom of God" (p. 97).

Dave Hunt, in his book Seduction of Christianity, documents Casey Treat, pastor of Seattle's Christian Faith Center, as saying in his tape series Believing in Yourself that we're exact duplicates of God.

[Casey Treat declares:]
"I'm an exact duplicate of God! When God looks in the mirror He sees me! When I look in the mirror, I see God! Oh, hallelujah! You know, sometimes people say to me, when they're mad and want to put me down. You just think you're a little god. Thank you! Hallelujah! You got that right! Who'd you think you are, Jesus? Yep!... Are you listening to me? Are you kids running around here acting like gods? Why not? God told me to! Since I'm an exact duplicate of God, I'm going to act like God!"

Paul Crouch: "Christians are little gods." (Praise the Lord (TBN), recorded 7/7/86). "God draws no distinction between Himself and us."

How about that for some heresy! So, as you can see, the Word of Faith teachers are just taking the next logical leap in their thinking. If you have the faith of God, and you can speak things into existence, then, you must be also be a "little god." Of course, they twist other Scriptures to try and make the point that they are "little gods" as well. Visit this site for more startling info.

... What I have discovered is that at the root of the confusion is a general ignorance of the doctrine of the Providence of God, which is a doctrine that I myself am just now really beginning to examine myself!

This really is one of the pillars in Calvinism/ Reformed theology; but it is also a key to unlocking many of the so called "mysteries" of why things happen, and who is ultimately in control. The more I study, the more I am drawn to the "Faith of the Reformers."

The Reformers, Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc., all taught basically the same thing in regard to Election, Predestination, God's Providence and Sovereignty, man's depravity, etc. I am discovering that "Calvinism," for the most part, more accurately reflects the WHOLE counsel of Scripture. Of course, I am still searching the matters out, but I feel myself coming down on in the Calvinistic camp as opposed to the Arminian.

Actually, I would classify what we find with Hagin, Copeland, etc., as HYPER-Arminianism. While Arminians claim (and wrongly so) that Calvinism necessarily results in a fatalistic view of life, I believe that Arminianism, if carried to its logical conclusion, completely undermines many of the core doctrines of the Bible, to include justification by faith alone, and God's Sovereignty and Providence, and, in essence, results in the heresy that Hagin and Copeland teach. Anyway, as I stated, the confusion, I believe, is directly linked to the misunderstanding and even outright ignorance of the Providence of God.

When we realize that it is God who is COMPLETELY Sovereign and in control, and that nothing happens OUTSIDE of His will, we begin to have a more beautiful and clear picture of just WHO our God is, and how He really operates. We will understand that though I may pray the prayer of faith, and do all I know to do, I still might not receive what I am asking for!

Paul's prayer to remove the thorn is a classic example of this, as well as Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed, I'm sure the prayer of faith, not to have to bear the cup, but then concluded with "YOUR will be done!" And Paul concluded that "God's grace was SUFFICIENT!" So, even though we may be praying and believing for something that SEEMS good to us and SEEMS to be the best avenue to follow, we REALLY don't know what is the BEST way. Only God knows. And really, at the heart of that issue is the question of what will bring God the MOST glory and benefit the Kingdom the most.

Though it may SEEM to me (actually, the faith teachers) that the best thing is for EVERYBODY to experience PERFECT health, God may be saying, "No. I am going to use even sickness to bring glory to myself. My strength is made PERFECT in weakness."

Now, I do believe that God does heal, etc., but the Scripture seems manifestly clear that we WILL suffer, and it is through that suffering that God will be glorified, and we can take solace in the fact that He is in ABSOLUTE control, and that the suffering we DO endure now is NOTHING to be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us when He calls us home! Amen?!!

I believe THAT is the message of the Bible, and it takes a REALISTIC, RATIONAL, and LOGICAL view of what the Scriptures PLAINLY teach. Many people think that in order to walk in faith, logic and rationality must be sacrificed on the altar of "spirituality." But God is the God of reason, logic, and intellect! I believe logic and rationality work WITH true faith, not contrary to it. Believing God for the impossible is not "illogical" or irrational, because logically and rationally speaking, if I REALLY believe that God IS who He says He is, I will be driven to conclude that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD!

I can have MORE faith and confidence that God hears my prayer when I approach God in this manner. And like we always say in Apologetics, we don't have "blind faith" in God! Rather, we are driven, rationally and logically by the sheer volume of the evidence that God IS! The most rational, logical, and intelligent thing a person can do is to exercise faith in GOD!

Well, guess I better quit! I'll have written a book by the time I finish!


Gary, since this writing above, I have been reading Pink's book on the Sovereignty of God, and also my Systematic Theology book written from a Reformed position on the Providence of God. What struck me was that what I wrote above was written PRIOR to me having read Pink's book on the Sovereignty of God! I have been talking and teaching like a Calvinist all this time!!

Anyway, I want to thank you for your ministry, as it was one of the pieces in the puzzle that helped me see the overall truth of the Reformed position.

God Bless,
John
5/17/1999<

All of which you have to say sounds very good! In fact, with your permission I would like to post on my site everything you sent me.

To answer your original question about Mark 11:22, basically what your research showed is correct. A.T. Robertson did explain it well; but let me clarify a couple of points.

First off, the noun "God" (Gr., theos) in the verse is a genitive (Gr., theou). And a genitive is more often than not translated using the preposition "of." So that is where the faith teachers get the idea it is "literally" translated as "of God." However, in saying this the faith teachers are actually betraying their lack of knowledge of Greek.

In fact, there are many different uses of the genitive in Greek. Which one is being used in a verse is determined by context. The most common use (the possessive sense) does use "of" for the translation. But various other prepositions, or no prepositions at all, are used for the other types.

Robertson is correct in saying two of these possible uses are the subjective and objective genitives. And in this context, the objective genitive makes the most sense. As you correctly state, the subjective genitive makes no sense.

To say God is the subject of the verse, and translate it as "have faith of God" is nonsense. This would imply God has faith. But faith requires an object. And there is nothing or no one that God would need to have faith in! Since He is all-powerful and all-sovereign He can do as He pleases (Ps 115:3). So He simply doesn't need to have faith in anyone to do anything for Him.

But we do need to have faith in others. We cannot do everything we want. We are not sovereign. We need the help of others. And the most important One for us to have faith in is God because He is the only One we can totally trust!

So to take Mark 11:22 as an objective genitive, with God being the object of our faith, fits the context best and makes the most sense. So "have faith in God" is as "literal" of a translation as "have faith of God" and the former makes more sense.

For more on the translation of genitives, and Greek nouns in general, see Part Five of the eight-part "Grammatical Renderings" section in the Companion Volume to the ALT.

This discussion is continued at:
Word of Faith, Arminianism, and Calvinism - Part Two.

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Note: All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

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