In this article I wish to cover the attacks, often nasty, made in particular on such as Kenneth Hagin, but more generally as well.
If you go onto the internet and search for almost any well-known charismatic type Christian ministry, that is ministries which focus on gifts of the Holy Spirit, healing and even evangelism, there will be a rash of websites attacking them, saying they are evil heretics; and there have been books written.
These sites and books rarely go beyond unreasoned attack, offence; they claim to be written by Christians, but is hard to know quite why a Christian person would attack people who preach Christ come in the flesh, Christ crucified for our sins, Christ coming again… One can understand not liking another person’s emphasis, but to then spend one’s time viciously attacking someone who is preaching Christ leads one to wonder what the source of such activity is.
Valid criticism is fine; attempts to bring balance. I have personally seen and experienced the results of over zealous adherence to, in particular, Kenneth Hagin’s teaching; there is a need for balance and experienced teachers to help those who are growing, and this of course is not what is being objected to here. What is wrong is unqualified ignorant people being led astray and leading others. An example would be a rumour I heard about a prominent church group here in Australia which was said to be preparing to accommodate homosexuality; I therefore looked the matter up and found that the claims were absolutely untrue, and that this group in fact is merely struggling with exactly how to deal with the issue.
There are common factors to the abusing of ministries. The first and the main one is simply not finding out what other people actually say. With regard to Hagin, books and articles repeatedly misquote, quote out of context or rely on hearsay. It becomes very clear that the attackers have not actually read the books and certainly have not absorbed the message. Brethren, these things ought not to be! My pastor in England used to say that by the time Truth has put his boots on, the Lie has gone round the world seven times; we should be slow to speak. No doubt the ease of communication through the internet has a lot to do with it, but that there should have been best-selling books attacking others ……!! A problem here is that there are legitimate criticisms that can be brought and when foolish things are said they mask the things that should be looked at.
Secondly, the use of unsubstantiated innuendo. I am thinking specifically of the claim that Hagin was expelled from a church group for heresy. What the claim forgets to point out is what the heresy was; it was something that Paul said he did ‘more than you all’ and wished that all practised ie speaking in tongues. You might not agree with speaking in tongues, but if you are going to call someone a heretic, you might at least say in what the heresy consists.
Thirdly, a lack of scholarship. Hagin was accused of plagiarism, but I don’t think his accusers know what plagiarism is; it is the deliberate passing off of someone else’s material as your own, not incidental and accidental quotation. This matter, as the following, has been well dealt with by J McIntyre in EW Kenyon The True Story. Surely, in the Church we should have high standards, and if we are going to write books they should be properly researched.
We are talking here about popular level things; unfortunately things get much worse when it comes to attitudes towards serious thinking, with severe disregard for the work of others all too common; there is a place for proper intellectual training, and when this is not part of a person’s life, it would be good to have some respect for it. An interesting observation here would concern TL Osborn; his ministry changed the world, and a remarkable aspect of his life is the way he, a farm boy, educated himself; unfortunately, in a sense, he was not at all keen on ‘theology’, in part because his experience of ‘theologians’ was of people who did not believe in the healing ministry. He would frequently use words to the effect of ‘…as long as I get there first before the theologians…’; I think this reflects badly on the ‘theologians’, not him, but it is better not to load all theology into the same basket!
Fourth, guilt by association. EW Kenyon in his writings had considerable influence, particularly on TL Osborn; as a young man, before becoming firmly established in Bible faith, Kenyon investigated New Thought. Therefore, the reasoning goes, all his thinking, which apparently is not pleasing to some because of its emphasis on the miraculous, must be infected; and therefore, further, anyone connected with his writings, like Osborn, is similarly infected. By this reasoning, Paul must always have been unsatisfactory as a pharisaical persecutor and as for me, well, the less said the better…..
We can go on, but we need to measure things against the Bible. One listens to people with a proven track record. Jesus told us to ‘preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead’. If we wish to criticize people who are doing that and say they are doing it wrong, we should at least be able to show that we can do it right! ‘Love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself’; it’s good to correct someone who is wrong, maybe, but it needs to be done in love; maybe it is better just to stick to proclaiming the truth as it is in Jesus.