What does it mean to be a "Christian"? I didn't consider this at first. What was the difference, or was there a difference at all, among all the preachers and teachers on the various radio stations, on television, and so forth? Weren't they all teaching the same thing? I found out this wasn't true.
I had seen Kenneth Copeland and Oral Roberts on television as a child, before I seriously investigated Christianity. I don't remember much about what they preached, and was too young to understand fine points of doctrine, anyway. I do remember Oral Roberts having a dream of a research hospital which combined Christian prayer and hard science (more on science later, because I'm interested in it) to cure diseases like cancer. I thought that was fantastic. I lost track of his program as I got older, and never knew what happened to this vision of his. I always pictured a place where Godly people came to work to discover how to heal and cure. What could be better than that? I wanted to be involved in science (although not medicine) for that reason.
When I became a Christian, the Word of Faith teaching was everywhere. Every television program had someone teaching this belief. I guess I thought it was Christianity, at least to an extent. I got suckered in by two preachers: Casey Treat and Creflo Dollar. Treat isn't even Christian. He blends humanism and Word of Faith into a motivational package. I bit on the hook, too. I was at a time when I wanted to turn my life around, and this message appealed to me. Creflo Dollar was not as materialistic and worldly as he is now, and had a conventional Baptist message plus a little Word of Faith. Moreso than any other Word of Faith pastor, Dollar's teaching was along the lines of the truth. Dollar also had an engaging Southern style that was appealing. (Over the years, of course, Dollar has gotten deeper and deeper into the Word of Faith.) I began to learn more, and it took some time. Creflo Dollar was a disciple of Kenneth Copeland, and I remembered that name from my past and checked out some of Copeland's material. I learned that he got everything from Kenneth Hagin.
At the same time, the teachings weren't adding up. I had not been healed. I could find no evidence of proven healing. If God was healing people as part of the atonement, guaranteed and unfailing, why weren't there thousands of cases of medically verifiable healings?
Wanting to learn more about Word of Faith, I dug into the movement's past. Some of the people venerated in this movement are complete flakes, like religious huckster John G. Lake, legendary healer Smith Wigglesworth (whose anecdotal legendary healings are utterly unproven), and so forth. If they're not flakes, they are religious opportunists like A.A. Allen and Aimee Semple McPherson who lived worldly lifestyles financed by the gullible. I began to know them by their fruits.
Then I traced everything back to E.W. Kenyon, and the gig was up. Kenyon was a Christian preacher who went to the Boston area in the 1920s, and absorbed the theological liberalism that gave us positive thinking, theosophy, and those related beliefs. He liked them, but realized that they lacked a Biblical basis, so he searched the scriptures to find proof texts. These are the familiar texts that are quoted by today's television preachers ad nauseum. The truth is, Word of Faith is not Christian.
Kenneth Hagin was said to have plagarized Kenyon, which is true in a way. Hagin learned the material, and preached it all across America. But Hagin never wrote a word. His books are transcriptions of his sermons. (And there is much repetition of the same anecdotes. Hagin was a master of combining proof texts, anecdotes, and Kenyon's doctrines to create a sermon. But he either had few transcriptionists or little material, because the same material comes up over and over in his books.) I found a few of Hagin's sermons online on a file sharing service. His testimony of going to Hell is absolutely horrifying, since it shows he was not a Christian and instead listening to demons.
Ironically, Kenyon's doctrines came out of the Boston liberal theological world that gave us Paramahansa Yogananda. This was the most surprising thing. I knew Yogananda only through the Yes album "Tales from Topographic Oceans" until I started studying world religions. Yogananda's teachings are to Hinduism what Word of Faith is to Christianity. (His "Autobiography of a Yogi", a footnote in which suggested the four-movement structure of "Tales" to Yes, is not a good indicator of his teachings. It's mostly nonsense. To get a feel for the Word of Faith read one of his books of transcribed talks, where it shines through much more clearly.) I encourage people to avoid Yogananda's organization.
And the hospital Oral Roberts was going to build is a shell with weeds growing in it, a monument to a man who cashed in on other people's gullibility in an age when information on him wasn't as easy to come by as it is now on the Internet.
I finally repudiated Word of Faith in its totality after I heard a tape of clips taken from sermons and television appearances by popular, well-known Word of Faith teachers. In these clips, they talked about wanting to kill those who disagreed with them, even wanting to kill their children. This sickened me so much I threw out what little Word of Faith stuff I still had. I knew the truth, and it was sickening. This was a false religion designed to take people's money, and nothing else.
I found semonaudio.com searching for material on Word of Faith, and that was the death knell of the belief in my life. I don't remember if I heard Reginald Cranston or Ian Brown's sermon on Benny Hinn first, but I listened to both of them.
So with this, I repudiated Word of Faith completely, and that left the door open to learn about the truth. I'll talk about that after a brief look at my roots...