In my former article "Dare to Test the Spirits" I evaluated the teaching of the faith-prosperity movement spiritually and rejected it as false based upon its deviation from orthodox doctrine and its contradictions of the Holy Scriptures. In this article we shall look closer into its spiritual source. The faith-prosperity teaching distinguishes between what is called revelation knowledge and what is called sense knowledge as a very important matter (D. R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, pp.103-13). At first it might appear as if revelation knowledge has to do with the revelation from the Holy Scriptures of the Bible. However, the apparent Biblical position will soon be shown to be a mere cover up. For in practice revelation knowledge is what Kenneth Hagin teaches, and which was explained in details in my former article mentioned above and already refuted as in gross contradiction to the Holy Scriptures. But this teaching is asserted as revelation in contrast to the usual rational interpretation of the Bible. For besides the reference to profane knowledge, sense knowledge is in general defined as the knowledge obtained through the senses. It is this kind of anti-intellectual attitude, which is suggested to correspond to the Charismatics and the work of the Holy Spirit. But it is of course only a very remote association. But since sense knowledge includes intelligent, scholarly interpretations of the Bible, both common Christians and Biblical scholars are treated as of inferior spirituality. Therefore, the faith-prosperity movement is not only not charismatic. It is even a mockery of the Protestant Reformation, which brought the Bible in the hand of the lay people and made intelligent Bible exposition the foundation of the Evangelical Church.
The spiritualized position on revelation also violates the source of inspiration of the New Testament, in which the glorified Jesus Christ obviously was revealed to the Apostles through their senses. The Apostle John witnessed about the true Word of Life: What they heard and what they saw with their own eyes and felt with their own hands (1 John 1:1). Peter exclaimed the same thing about him being an eyewitness to the divine majesty of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:16). The distinction of revelation knowledge and sense knowledge might to some sound like a spiritual teaching, but it is not only a false dichotomy. It in fact creates a dangerous, schismatic differentiation with the body of Christ by dividing people into spiritual classes. It makes the teacher of revelation knowledge of a different spiritual category than the simple Bible reader. It is not strange that many church divisions have been experienced in the trail of the advance of the faith-prosperity teaching within the body of Christ.
Since it is called revelation knowledge is it not only normal to ask if Kenneth Hagin received this revelation from God? The answer is definitely "no". In the faith-prosperity movement Kenneth Hagin might appear as the great prophet, but the truth is that Hagin received this knowledge from another theologian called E. W. Kenyon, who lived about half a century earlier. In his books Kenneth Hagin quotes extensively from the writings of E. W. Kenyon without reference. This is what is called plagiarism and usually it would cause the plagiarizing person to be immediately expelled from any theological seminary or secular university in the United States. In McConnell's documentation of this movement in his book A Different Gospel it is possible to find about 5 full pages of comparison between the writings of Hagin and Kenyon, which McConnell actually only presents as samples of Kenneth Hagin's plagiarizing activity (McConnell 1993, 8-12). The sameness is so obvious that it could impossibly be attributed to coincidence. Kenneth Hagin's practice of plagiarizing is so grave and so extensive that McConnell concludes that the teaching of Hagin is actually the teaching of Kenyon (McConnell 1993, 13).
The teaching of Kenyon, however, has not only become the teaching of Kenneth Hagin, but through him also the teaching of Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin Jr., Fred Price, John Osteen, T. L. Osborn, Norvel Hayes, Jerry Savelle, Charles Cowan etc (McConnell 1993, 85). It is the teaching of the Word of Life in Sweden coached by Ulf Ekman, another graduate of Kenneth Hagin's Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is most probably the teaching of all graduates of this training center, which was founded by Kenneth Hagin in 1974. In 1979 a faith denomination by the name of the International Convention of Faith Churches and Ministers (ICFCM) was inaugurated. It is comprised of about 100 churches and 700 ministers representing various parachurch ministries. Although the denominational label is denied, ICFCM is as clearly defined in its teaching as any other denomination and it already hosts quite a number of ministry support functions. "One of the primary purposes of the ICFCM is to organize faith conferences throughout the U.S. on the international, regional, and district levels." (McConnell 1993, 85-87). But despite the impressive size it is still not holding God's message through his chosen prophetic instrument. It is an occult tradition of knowledge passed on from minister to minister. In one occasion confronted with the charge of plagiarism concerning another author than Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin excused himself by admitting that a reference was omitted in error (McConnell 1993, 12). However, Kenneth Hagin has notoriously denied that he plagiarized the majority of his teaching from Kenyon and explains the similarity by stating that the truth of God somehow must remain the same. But since when has God started repeating himself word by word to different persons at different times without reference to the original author (McConnell 1993, 13 & 68).
At the surface there seems to be no cultic literary influences in Kenneth Hagin's life. For most of his references concerns various Pentecostal and charismatic healing ministries (McConnell 1993, 67-71). But since the references to Kenyon are hidden, let us now proceed to examine the life and ministry of this person in some details (McConnell 1993, 30-34). Kenyon was born April 24, 1867 in New York. He started as a Methodist and was an active minister, who founded ministries and even started some churches with Baptist names. He was not particular successful, but persistent in his work. So he had some obvious Christian roots. However, he was also greatly involved with the movements, which later got known by the name of the metaphysical cults: Transcendentalism, New Thought and the power of the mind. He knew the ideas of the writings of Dr. Phineas P. Quimsby and Mary Baker Eddy, who later formed Christian Science. (Mary Baker Eddy is also accused of extensive plagiarizing activity). Kenyon felt that the Church failed in the area of healing ministry and was challenged by the apparent results of the metaphysical cults. Although Kenyon did not express direct approval of these (rather rivalry), he still adopted their ideas and methods in increasing amount throughout his life and ministry (McConnell 1993, 43-52). To prove this point is in fact one of the most important objectives of McConnell's book A Different Gospel. But since Kenyon failed to seek the power of the Holy Spirit, his concept of a healing ministry like the metaphysical cults got founded on the denial of the reality of sin and sickness rather than upon the grace and power of God.
It would be good to shortly examine the connection of Kenyon to these movements and their thoughts (McConnell 1993, 37-43). The case is that Kenyon was enrolled in the Emerson College of Oratory in Boston in 1892. Like the city of Boston at that time this institution was a hot pot of the development of new religious thoughts, including the spread of Unitarianism, which denied the person and power of God. The Emerson College was not an institution of oratory only, but strong in the reinforcement of religious mission. Christian vocabulary was used, but the content was quite different. It slowly developed into a propaganda center for what later became known as the metaphysical cults. "In his 40 years of ministry, Emerson's theology slowly evolved from Congregationalism, to Universalism, to Unitarianism, to Transcendentalism, to New Thought, and ended, at last (in 1903), in the most rigid and dogmatic of all metaphysical cults, Christians Science" (McConnell 1993, 37). One of Kenyon's classmates and teachers was Ralph Waldo Trine (1866-1958), who has been characterized as one of the most reputable of the New Thought writers. It is therefore by well-chosen words that McConnell speaks about the metaphysical cults as the Kenyon connection.
In his book I Believe in Visions Kenneth Hagin claims to have had several visitations by Christ. The title suggests that it is a book in the famous "I Believe Series" of systematic doctrine written by prominent Bible Scholars. By the association suggested by the title of his book Hagin cleverly presents himself to be one among scholars. However, Kenneth Hagin is not qualified to be a part of this group. Anyway, from reading his book it will soon be obvious that he certainly is great in his own eyes. If the claims in his book were true, it would only be right to conclude that Kenneth Hagin was close to be the greatest prophet of God ever. He appears almost equal to Moses and certainly greater than Isaiah, Jeremiah and all the Apostles in his many personal face to face encounters with the Lord Jesus Christ. The problem is that after the ascension to Heaven there is no New Testament record of Jesus appearing in person to anybody except in case of the apostle Paul (Acts 9) and apostle John (Revelation 1). We could not know for sure what Kenneth Hagin supposedly should have seen. For we have only his word for it. But it is not uncommon to meet spiritists, who declare to have seen this or that spirit around them. These spirits can claim to be whomever they want. A spiritist lady in the Philippines told me that God the Father always came to the foot of her bed to say good night and chat with her. But the spiritual content of the Father's talk was of course totally twisted.
What is then the message of these visions? The visions simply propagate the revelation knowledge teaching of the faith-prosperity movement and in the visions Jesus urges Kenneth Hagin to teach it to the Church (McConnell 1993, 64). The spiritual problem, however, is that his so-called revelation knowledge did not origin from these visions. For it is already quite clear that the teaching was plagiarized from E. W. Kenyon's earlier books, and it rather seems like these visions have been added later to authenticate the faith-prosperity teaching. The scope of this article does not allow a deeper study of these visions and their message. But let me just give a few concrete examples of Jesus' supposed prompting of Hagin's teaching. In one case after a long discussion of a deep spiritual matter, Jesus suddenly changes the topic and declares that he is not against his people getting rich (McConnell 1993, 64). There is no witness in the Bible, which presents Jesus talking in such vague language. On the contrary Jesus warned with sharp words against all kinds of greed (Luke 12:16) and the Apostle Paul confirmed that "if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (1 Timothy 6:7). In another case Jesus Christ declares himself to be powerless towards a mocking demon. Kenneth Hagin must himself be the one to take full authority and overpower the Devil. Could this be the all-powerful Christ, who in his Great Commission declared that he would be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:18 & 20)? With Hagin we are left in this world on our own to fight all the powers of evil, while an inactive Jesus declares himself to be powerless. It appears to me as if these visions rather were constructed to bring down Christ and elevate Kenneth Hagin!
The final point is that the faith-prosperity teaching is not only false, but it is vicious by nature. But since it has extensively been penetrating the whole body of Christ, the spiritual battle with this foreign teaching is not just like against any other spiritual sickness. One might think about it as a spiritual cancer, which is not easily rejected by the body's protective system. It is a wild growth of the body's own cells. For the faith-prosperity movement somehow uses the common confession of the body of Christ. And the movement also subscribes heavily to missions. But describing it as spiritual AIDS might be even more appropriate. AIDS is the nastiest disease this world has ever experienced. It functions somehow like this: The virus attacks and destroys the white blood cells, which function as the protective system of the body against the entry of foreign elements. When the protective system is being disabled the body is left totally defenseless against all different kind of viruses and bacteria. The AIDS patient becomes the helpless victim of one nasty disease after the other.
Now what is the protective system of the body of Christ? It is in general the will to check out any spiritual teaching by the standard of the Holy Scriptures (1 John 4:1-6) and in particular the Charismatic gift of discernment of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10). Let us now try to demonstrate how the faith-prosperity teaching and the concept of revelation knowledge in particular is focused upon disabling the protective system of the body of Christ against foreign elements (heretical positions). The first rule of this movement is not to criticize any faith teacher or his teaching. The underlying threat is that you are opposing the Holy Spirit. Kenneth Hagin has actually from time to time spoken out dangerous threats against people opposing him. He once prophesied that a certain pastor would die, because he did not receive his teaching. At one occasion he mentions that a pastor actually died for the same reason (McConnell 1993, 67). The theology of God's anointed teacher has spread throughout the body of Christ, but it overlooks the fact that in the New Covenant the whole body of Christ is God's anointed (Acts 2:17).
Another way to disable critical persons is to expose all with the danger of negative confession. The power of positive confessions is a double-edged sword. Followers slowly get almost scared to death to profess any negative positions. Anybody who does not believe will face the terrible consequences of his own critical, unbelieving position. If somebody professes to be sick, he will get sick etc. In the case of sickness the faith-prosperity teachers in fact goes as far as asserting that the Devil has the right to afflict men according to their bad mental attitudes (McConnell 1993, 151). It is continually asserted that the normal experience of reality is sense knowledge, which must be denied. But the result of this attitude against negative confessions is that it slowly produces a kind of total unwillingness to give ear to any critical remark. Though many on the outward still appears to be healthy, spiritual HIV has in fact already infected them, and they have learned to keep hold of the spiritual HIV by their own will. The terrifying truth is that in this condition they might for a long time infect others without even knowing that they themselves already are deadly sick in their soul.
Finally, Kenneth Hagin has introduced a twisted version of the gift of discernment. He teaches that the gift of discernment has to do with being able to see evil spirits. He claims that he sometimes sees ugly demons on the back of people. But the gift of discernment is not particular knowledge about evil. Discernment is the ability to distinguish between the true and the false. Of course we all know that a critical spirit can be extremely destructive. But what happens when it no longer is allowed to reject falseness? And how can falseness be rejected without the use of critical notions? Therefore the very spiritual protective system of the body of Christ is threatened by this revelation knowledge teaching. Essential elements of the faith-prosperity teaching functions exactly like AIDS attacking the body's protective system. But the Apostle Paul said: "Test everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21)!" This is an apostolic command. No prophesy, no teaching, no teacher is above spiritual testing. Choose for yourself! Who represents the right authority of God: The apostle Paul or the man Kenneth Hagin?