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The Irony of Faith

When I started reading Kenneth E. Hagin’s books on faith in 1997, I’ll admit that what attracted me to them was the ability to use faith to control my life.

Kenneth E. Hagin’s Faith Teaching

If you read a typical book by Hagin, you’ll notice that he uses a particular, regular style in order to convey his message: a proof text, followed by an anecdote, then an explanation of a principal that ties the proof text to the anecdote. The idea seems to be that as you read the book – you learn the principal, which teaches you the meaning of the Biblical text.

Hagin’s books are full of anecdotes, usually miraculous, life-changing events. Therefore, you often get the impression from reading these books that Hagin experienced miracles on a regular basis. This notion promotes the idea that Christians should be experiencing miracles on a regular basis as well, and they could, you reason, if they followed the principles set-out in Hagin’s books.

There is something exciting about knowing God so well and having such incredible faith that you experience miracles on a regular basis. But people often fail to realise that what you read in Hagin’s books are the highlights of 60 years of incredible ministry. Hagin admitted that he made a lot of mistakes and would sometimes go years without experiencing miracles. I do believe Hagin when he wrote about a certain time, when he was pastoring a certain church, when they would experience miracles regularly. But we still have to acknowledge the fact that miracles are, by definition, rare.

Miracles and Ministry

There is also the matter of Hagin being in full-time ministry: we should not fall into the trap of confusing full-time ministry with everyday life. Ministry is for the purpose of ministering to a group of people, typically from a church platform and pulpit, or perhaps through other media such as television, radio, books and the internet. All Christians have a ministry of reconciliation and are ambassadors for Christ. However, the way an individual ministers to others and the way a pastor ministers to others, are two different things?

People who are not in full-time ministry cannot expect to experience signs and wonders on a similar scale to those of pastors and evangelists. Signs and wonders are for the purpose of bringing people to Christ and edifying those who believe – it is not really meant for personal edification. God can still perform miracles in your life, but it’s usually on a different level than ministry.

The Fear Behind so-called “Faith”

When a believer is exposed to many different miraculous testimonies, it does give the impression that you should be experiencing those things yourself, on a regular basis. You can begin to wonder if you’re praying enough, if you have enough faith, perhaps there is sin in your life. There is something exciting and enticing about the miraculous; the ability claim what you want and control your life is alluring, to say the least.

What I have noticed from my own experience is that the more fearful a person is, the more inclined they are to want to control their life. It would seem that the Word of Faith teaching, as it has come to be known, of the likes of Kenneth E. Hagin, actually appeals more to neurotic Christians than to confident Christians. The more fearful a person is the more confused and gullible they are – the more likely they are to make mistakes, miss out on good opportunities and to be deceived. I know what it is like to be convinced that you need to buy more books on faith so that you can find the “key” that you are missing: there is often a frantic search for a faith “formula” that will give you the power and control that you’re looking for. There is often the thought that if you could just have “this” or “that” – everything would be fine.


The irony of faith is that the more faith you have, the less inclined you are to try to control things. The more faith you have, the more you trust in God and in life to make things work for you. The more faith you have the more you are able to relax, consciously, and allow things to happen without your need to consciously control them. When you have faith, you can relax in the confidence that when something needs doing, when a decision need to be made, it will happen. Faith welcomes the unexpected and does not panic when things happen that aren’t included in your original plan.

The Sin Red Line – Part 2

1507078_36ceae5caa How do we curtail wrongdoing? I've found that if a person has the desire to do something society considers bad or wrong - they're likely to do it anyway. But the fear of punishment does not take away such desires - it represses them, if they're not expressed.

The act of simply saying, "This is bad - don't do it", can result in the creation of a taboo. Whilst, saying, "This is good - everybody should do this", can result in the creation of an ideal. Taboos and ideals are no replacement for living from the heart, in fact, they usually make matters worse.

There is the threat of the legal justice system which keeps crime at bay; there is also our own conscience, our heart. I also believe that sin carries its own form of punishment through emotions and circumstances. Its tempting to believe that sin is fun, exciting and liberating, whilst in actual fact, it is limiting, addictive and destructive.

Trying to determine the "Red line of sin" can be a slippery slope. The Bible says that all sins are as bad as each other when it comes to being rejected by God. This is why we needed a Saviour - Jesus Christ. The Gospel sets us free from condemnation and allows us to have a relationship with God, progressing at our own pace.

What people often do is that they'll compare themselves with other people and conclude that there sin is not as bad as theirs - like the Pharisee and Tax Collector in Luke 18:11. Jesus does away with this futile like-for-like comparison and shows us that no-one is good enough to meet God's perfect standards.

I'm a firm believer in once-saved-always-saved. But I do wonder about whether the life of God, zoe in the original Greek, is operating through someone who sins. I've found that the adulterer and the homosexual both seem very much seem to be alive - more so than the repressed Christian. I'd say that many homosexuals are genuinely nice people and have wonderful, lively personalities. But I suppose whether or not these people are really happy deep down on the inside, is anyone's guess - I suppose they aren't.

I have learned a way of simplifying my beliefs, a way that could be considered controversial for Christians - it is The Work of Byron Katie, also known as Inquiry. I’ve learned to ask four simple questions and allow my heart to give me the answers, as a way of finding peace. Katie asserts that contraction around a belief, to the point of stress, is the only evil in life and must be questioned. This is controversial because it can be taken to extremes, such as deeming a convicted criminal as innocent. But I've found in my own experience that this approach makes the most sense and is the only way.

Picture red line ~ vertical courtesy of striatic (Hobvias Sudoneighm).

The Sin Red Line – Part 1

1507056_26034216b9 Christians often debate the idea of taking grace too far. Are there some sins that are covered by grace, such as a little white lie. Whilst there may be some sins that do not merit the grace of God, such as rape and murder.

I think its human nature to seek the boundaries and workings of something, such as moral conduct, and create a set of guidelines and rules about it. If I was going to take up a hobby or new business venture such as cheese making, carpentering, gardening or whatever - I'd want to study the facts and methods of best practice about it. Even a set of actions, such as mountain climbing, warfare or policing, I’d want to know the methods of best practice as well as the legal constraints.

There have been a slew of self-help books on relationships and successful living over the last fifty years or so, such as The Rules of Life, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

But I think that's were we get it wrong when it comes to morality: we want to define a set of rules and guidelines for life. This approach doesn't work because it attempts to intellectualise something which must be spontaneous; it moves us from the heart to the head.

I like what Frank Viola wrote in Pagan Christianity: Christianity has become a combination of Greco/Roman culture (morality or rhetoric) and frontier revivalism (the drive towards salvation). This approach, again, moves us away from the original intention of the Gospel: relationship with God through faith in Christ.

God lives His life in us and through us - this is the mystery. But we still find ourselves like Paul in Romans 7: we often do what is considered wrong. In fact, the more we try to force ourselves to follow rules, often under the threat of punishment - the more we struggle with sin. What this shows us is that the Gospel is intended to set us free from the law: we are free to live our lives without fear of God's wrath. This allows us to live our lives freely so that we can progress and mature in our own way and timing. This is the only way it will work, because God does not seem to zap those wrong desires out of us.

What I've found is that everyone is born into a rather unique set of circumstances: parentage, birth-place, education and so on. Some of these factors are conducive to healthy development, whilst others are not. By the time someone reaches adulthood, they literally become the product of all of those conditioning factors. It will not work to simply place unrealistic expectations on certain people, according to their development. We humans seem to forget this important fact, but thankfully, God doesn't.

God meets us right were we are in life and beckons us into a relationship with Him. This is evidenced in the ministry of Jesus, like when He met the Samaritan woman at the well, or when the Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in the act of adultery. While the law and the Pharisees cry "Stone her!" Jesus says, "Neither do I condemn you." This shows us the contrast between the Old and New covenants.

Picture red line ~ horizontal courtesy of striatic (Hobvias Sudoneighm).

The Divine Nature | TNB