In my previous article, I wrote a basic outline for the doctrine of the Positive Confession Movement evident within the Charismatic Pentecostal Community as well as the Metaphysical Cults. In the second part, I will attempt to ask sober questions concerning the six-point that I mentioned. The Word “faith” has taken a very different meaning from a context 50 years ago; therefore, it is crucial to start with a biblical understanding of what this word means. Paul Tillich noted that,
“There is hardly a word in the religious language, both theological and popular, which is subject to more misunderstandings, distortions and questionable definitions than the word “faith.” It belongs to those terms which need healing before they can be used for the healing of men. Today the term “faith” is more productive of disease than of health. It confuses, misleads, creates alternatively scepticism and fanaticism, intellectual resistance and emotional surrender, rejection of genuine religion and subjection to substitutes. Indeed, one is tempted to suggest that the word “faith” should be dropped completely; but desirable as that maybe it is hardly possible. A powerful tradition protects it. And there is as yet no substitute expressing the reality to which the term “faith” points. So, for the time being, the only way of dealing with the problem is to try to reinterpret the word and remove the confusing and distorting connotations, some of which are the heritage of centuries.”
In part 1 of this article we gave a short description of the following six points evident within this central teaching:
- Faith is a force that both God and man can use.
- Faith’s force is released by speaking words.
- Man is a “little god” in God’s class.
- Anyone can use the faith force.
- You get what you confess.
- Never make a negative confession.
In this article, I will look at all six of these points and reflect Biblically to all of them. I think it is cardinal to first start with a biblical understanding of faith. Let me first start with a Biblical description of faith.
What is true Biblical Faith?
True Biblical faith consists of four things:
John the Beloved Disciple describes true knowledge when he writes (8:31-32):
“So, He said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Faith starts with where God’s Word is known. Arthur Pink gives quite a good synopsis of faith when he wrote;
“faith” is far more than a bare assent to anything revealed and declared by God: it is a firm persuasion of that which is hoped for, because it assures its possessor not only that there are such things, but that through the power and faithfulness of God he shall yet possess them. Thus, it becomes the ground of expectation. The Word of God is the objective foundation on which my hopes rest, but faith provides a subjective foundation, for it convinces me of the certainty of them… Faith is “the evidence of things not seen”… “Faith,” then, is first the hand of the soul which “lays hold of” the contents of God’s promises; second, it is the eye of the soul which looks out toward and represents them clearly and convincingly to us.”
Biblical faith, when measured with the principle of positive confession, justifies its understanding in the character of God, not in the declaration of the individual’s admission. The very object of our faith in God, not “faith in our faith,” or the belief in my belief system. Truth renders itself substantial irrespective of the individual’s ability to comprehend or articulate it. Faith is not a magic formula where I need to recite the right set of words to form the desired results. I found it very helpful in Question 21 of the Heidelberg Catechism, stating what “true faith” is. It says;
“It is not only a certain knowledge by which I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word, but also a wholehearted trust which the Holy Spirit creates in me through the gospel, that, not only to others, but to me also God has given the forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, out of sheer grace solely for the sake of Christ’s saving work.”
An integral part of positive confession is an agreement with God’s word to attain one’s desired result. There seems to be an attempt to conform to what God has decreed, but the difficulty is that only what is desirable can be seen as the active will of God. Its adherents demand that God is made subservient to what they confess and what He has promised. God is, therefore, not free nor able to protest whatever is shown in scripture as confirming the desired articulation of the individual’s understanding of a promise in the bible. Knowledge is, therefore, not an understanding of context, but rather understanding one’s divine rights to get what you say. The second part of Biblical faith is agreement.
Agreement is essential when understanding the dynamics of biblical faith. The unfortunate understanding predicated by the positive confession movement is that the individual agrees with a limited spectrum of what they perceive to be God’s revealed will. Agreement for positive confession adherents is all about the tangible results where the object of Biblical faith is settled in the promise of things not necessarily presently realized.
“Because faith is tied to future realities, it is tied to things not directly accessible to the five senses (Heb. 11:1, 3). It is “the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is not exercised in what we can see, hear, feel, touch, or taste but in what our senses do not presently experience. But let us be clear that this does not make faith a blind leap into the dark or something we exercise without any consideration of evidences.”
Biblically, any agreement with God should not be mediated by the fact that the individual can piously refrain from any form of pain or suffering at trust’s expense. Faith is a wholistic acceptance and confidence in all that God allows, even if it is perceived as uncomfortable and seemingly disastrous. In the positive confession reality, anything that could bring discomfort and inflict an undesired result is ‘evil.’ The existence of any form of pain can be avoided, as long as the mind refrains from actualizing negative thoughts. One should never agree with any negative inclination of whatever kind. Speaking negative words is merely affirming the negative side of the faith force (fear) that would seal one’s fate. Now, we do have biblical warrant to show that we should guard our minds (Rom.12:1-2) and hearts (Prov.4:20-21), and even test any inclination coming our way (1 John 4:1). The error, though, is thinking that we are simply a summation of what we believe. Agreement is not just identifying with desired results, but it is an absolute assurance in God’s character. Job 22:21-22 states:
“Agree with God and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart.”
Another element of Biblical faith is trust. Now trust in positive confessional circles is simply a belief in what you have said. Hold onto your confession of faith, in other words, keep saying what you are saying, even if the circumstances do not dictate it. Eventually, reality will shift and become the validity of what you have spoken. Biblically, trust is only afforded to the merit of the testator that we believe in. Our minds are steadfast because the object of our belief is personally banking on the essence of who He is, and therefore our trust is in Him (Isaiah 26:3)
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
Psalm 9:10 ESV states:
“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
In the positive confession movement, trust is mental ascent. Now, some of its adherents might say, “Lord, we trust you.” But really at the core of this professed trust is the reliance on what I have said. The object of faith in no way should distance us from God, and we should not rely on our faculties to render our confessions assured when we trust in God. Arthur Pink writes,
“Faith gives the object hoped for at a future period, a present reality and power in the soul, as if already possessed; for the believer is satisfied with the security afforded, and acts under the full persuasion that God will not fail of His engagement.”
What the positive confession movement warrant is independence, not dependence. Promises are solicited from God, and the individual can “have what they say”. Faith becomes nebulous statements whereby a ranked theology can confess a set of words by which the individual is liberated. The ”raison d ‘ ‘être” of the individual caught up in this movement is escapism and control. Charles Ringma writes;
“Whenever there have been major changes in society either through social upheaval, tragedy, cultural or economic change and the church has felt overwhelmed, there has emerged the impulse to escape. One form of escape has been to put life on hold for the second coming of Christ. Another, has been to batten down the hatches and to hide from the so-called “big, bad world.” While we can’t recapture the past, we can’t pull the future into the present either. We are people who are called to live the “in-between.” We live between the first and second coming of Christ. We live in the present but not yet fully present Reign of God. We are as one missiologist states, “too late for this world and too early for heaven.” We, therefore, are called to embrace the sojourner or pilgrim status of our existence as Christians. We have come home to the heart of God through Christ in the power of the Spirit. We have been invited into the communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But we are still on the road. That road is the call for on-going conversion, to grow into the stature of Christ, to live the imitatio Christi, to live the faith in our churches but also in our neighborhoods and places of work and especially in the neglected, broken and wounded places of our society.”
The most significant anticipation of faith is to unknowingly anticipate the world of the unknown, being assured that God knows best. Hope is not the ability to let go from the dependence on God and His word. This is what this theology does, it puts you in control, and it makes you religiously autonomous. Psalm 121:1-2 says:
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Philip Yancey wrote a striking story describing the undertones of a reality denouncing the obvious dependence of God. He wrote;
“I remember my first visit to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National park. Rings of Japanese and German tourists surrounded the geyser, their video cameras trained like weapons on the famous hole in the ground. A large digital clock stood beside the spot, predicting twenty-four minutes before the eruption. My wife and I passed the countdown in the dining room of Old Faithful Inn overlooking the geyser. When the digital clock reached one minute, we, along with every other diner, left our seats and rushed to the windows to see the big, wet event. I noticed immediately, as if on signal, a crew of busboys and waiters descended on the tables to refill water glasses and clear away dirty dishes. When the geyser went off, we tourists oohed and aahed and clicked our cameras; a few spontaneously applauded. But, glancing back over my shoulder, I saw that not a single waiter or busboy – not even those who had finished their chores – looked out the huge windows. Old Faithful, grown entirely too familiar, had lost its power to impress them.”
The fatal flaw of this movement is that we can have autonomy at the expense of our relationship with God. Reflecting on the six points we looked at in part 1, we can ask?
Must we speak before God can do?
The late Dr Myles Monroe in his book on prayer says outrightly;
“Prayer is therefore not an option for mankind but a necessity. If we don’t pray, heaven cannot interfere in earth’s affairs. It is imperative that we take responsibility for the earth and determine what happens here by our prayer lives… “What Is Prayer? Prayer is man giving God the legal right and permission to interfere in earth’s affairs… “Prayer is earthly license for heavenly interference.”
Let that sink in. God is NOT in control, we are. Dr. D.R. McConnell rightly observes that:
“in practice the faith god differs little from the god of the metaphysical cults. Both must do the bidding of the spiritual laws that govern the universe. Neither is free to disregard these laws.”
Christian Prayer is the invocation of God so He can actualise His will and His ways in our life and not we our own. Proverbs 19:21 (ESV) says:
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”
The object of our faith is not our faith efforts or confessions; the object of our Faith is God and His Word. Prayer is surrender, and the petition of the positive confession movements is a negation of the word and trust in our own words and not Gods. We are not called to have faith in our faith; we are called to have faith in God. Positive confession proponents will lament that even Jesus Himself said;
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
The point is sorely missed, though; the point is “abiding,” not actualizing. Abiding is the precondition for prayer, irrespective of its outcome, knowing that God will do what is best (1 John 3:33; 5:14-15, James 4:3).
Does God need faith?
Dr. D.R. McConnell rightly observes that:
“God did not need faith to create the world, and he does not need faith to hold the world together. God’s Word has no power apart from God Himself: His will, His sovereignty, His Holiness, and His love…. Man, can appropriate God’s power by believing His Word, but the power is from God, not from positive confession.”
A God that relies on faith cannot be a God by his very definition. God is not dependent on any notion outside of Himself. He is the object not the subject of trust. Hank Hanegraaff writes,
“The whole idea that God has faith is completely foreign to the Bible. Biblical faith is: human beings trusting in a God they cannot see, to do things that He has promised. God sees all and knows all from all eternity. So, God doesn’t need to have faith. And since God doesn’t need to have faith, the idea that we have to imitate God’s “faith” is clearly unbiblical. Remember, faith is always object oriented: Faith in God not faith of God. And if we mix that up, we have a faulty understanding of what true biblical faith really is.”
Are we little gods?
First, the little God’s doctrine leaves individuals with a mandate for their self-importance. The same temptation that befell Adam and Eve is neatly packaged and made into a supposed virtues doctrine. If we are genuinely dependant on our efforts or confessions, why do we need God? Just go, pass Him by and do it yourself! Dr. D.R. McConnell rightly observes that:
“Through “creative faith,” man becomes not only a god. He becomes a creator.”
I did mention that some positive confession teachers said that we are little gods, which by implication means there is more than one God (rank polytheism), and some would even say that we are created in the same ‘class’ as god. As I have mentioned, this little god’s doctrine has devastated implications. Scripture affirms only “one God” (Mark12:29, Deut.4:35) and no other God or little gods beside Him (Isaiah 43:10;44:6). If you preach this doctrine by implication, the serpent was right when he told Eve, “You will be like God” (Gen.3:5). These teachers mention that even in Psalms 82 men where called “gods,” but I think the context shows quite emphatically Yahweh speaks to the judges of Israel who should have been representatives of Him (Ex.4:15-16; 6:28-7:2) judging them as ‘mere men’ (v/6-7) mocking them showing they are not little gods. Some preachers also mentioned that John mentions in his first letter that “as He [Christ] is, so are we” (1 John 4:17). Let me just quote the full passage for you:
“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” 1 John 4:7, 17 ESV
The context reveals the fact that Jesus was the perfect example for us as the ideal man in this world, but it nowhere stipulated that we are of the same substance as God. Some positive confession preachers also mentioned that we partake in the divine nature according to 2 Peter 1:4. A man might reflect the moral attributes of God, but that in no way qualifies a man to be a duplicate of the unique one God. The following verses (5-11) does not show Peter teaching mere men to become little gods, but he speaks about undergoing a moral transformation shedding the corruption of this world (v/4).
I want to end with some comments on Genesis 1:26, in fact when positive confession adherents maintain we are created in God’s ‘likeness’ (Hebrew ‘demuth’/ ‘tselem’) the Hebrew word in actual fact means similarity or resemblance but in no way identity! As I have explained to you, if likeness means exact identity it would imply God is by category a man. But Scripture clearly shows that God is not a man (Num.23:19;1Sam.15:29, Hosea11:9). God clearly also shows he is not comparable (Ex.9:14) when He says “there is no one like me in all the earth”. We do not in any way possess God’s non-transferable or incommunicable attributes such as – immutability, eternality, omnipotence, omniscience etc. When we say we are created in the “imago dei”, we share in his communicable attributes like personality, rationality, morality, etc. Millard Erickson describes this well when he states:
“the image of God in humanity comprises those qualities of God which, reflected in man, make worship, personal interaction, and work possible.”
Is everyone merely a victim of their words?
In part 1 I did show that popular TV Evangelists like Dr. Theo Wolmarans should look at the context of the Scripture he quoted. He quotes boldly; Proverbs 6:2 say:
“you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth.”
But “Dr.” Theo should rather look at the full context of this Scripture. Verse 1 says:
“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth.”
The Pulpit Commentary says of verse 2.
“Thou art snared with the words of thy month, etc.; i.e. the inevitable consequence of an inconsiderate undertaking of suretyship is that you become entangled and involved by your own premises and hampered by self-imposed obligations.”
The context is evident, don’t make a promise, loan, or even oath that you cannot keep. You will be held liable if you do so. Just miss a payment on your car, house, or any other possession. You will be responsible for the commitment that you made!
Should we watch our negative words?
Yes, we should watch our words, and should we be weary of what we say? Yes! Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matt.12:36).
Matthew Poole’s Commentary says:
“The tongue; that love and use much talking, which is oft censured as a sin, and a cause of mischief.”
The Book of Proverbs throughout warns us against negative words and the power of the tongue.
- Gossip (Prov.26:20)
“Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.”
- Slander (Prov.10:18)
“Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.”
- Lies (Prov.12:22)
“The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”
- Deceit (Prov.14:5)
“An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.”
- Angry words (Prov.15:1)
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
- Demeaning words (Prov.15:4)
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”
Should we anathematize the positive confession movement that has infiltrated some Churches? Yes, but we should also consider our brothers and sisters that have been caught up in these teachings and biblically help them to understand the underlining dangers of this teaching. I see far too many individuals that will instead point a finger but not give a hand. We should be Biblical in our approach when we look at this teaching, but equally patient when we speak to people that have been led astray. I dearly hope this article will encourage you and bless you. I have made a YouTube video about this topic that you can view here.
Pastor Rudolph Boshoff.
 The Dynamics of Faith, Pg.21-22.
 The heroes of the faith, part 1.
 “What Surprised Jesus,” Christianity Today, 12 September 1994, p. 88.
 Understanding the Purpose and Power of Prayer: How to Call Heaven to Earth, Introduction.
 Understanding The Purpose And Power Of Prayer.
 A Different Gospel, Pg.135.
 A Different Gospel, Pg.143.
 A Different Gospel, Pg.138.