Recently, after my wife commented that our little church really didn’t have money yet to build our church building she was puzzled when the man responded to her that the church actually did have the money. He argued very simply that any potential we have is also a reality that we possess.
When I piped up that this use of language turns subjects into predicates, I was told, “That is the language of faith.”
Really? Having faith, firmly believing, Sola Fide—these terms refer to positively speaking about what we hope might happen?
As the conversation progressed (or digressed depending on your point of view), I asked for some substantiation that allows us to blur the line between reality and mere possibility. This brother replied, “Abraham. He believed God, and started acting like a father before he was a father.”
“Wait a minute,” I shot back, “Abraham believed God’s revelation. He was clearly told that he would have a son. That was the object of his faith.”
The conversation ended amiably, but not logically, because these fellow Christians were wrapped up in at least one of the tentacles of the Word Faith, prosperity gospel foolishness. That brief interaction had all the marks of positive confession—make sure that whatever you say is always upbeat and positive because your words create reality.
Hank Hanegraaff has documented the links between Christianized positive confession and its New Age sire, and the connection is not hard to find. New Age teaching emphasizes invisible, extra-logical life forces that can be accessed by words—positive statements bring goodness, health, and joy whereas negative statements bring ugliness, pain, and sorrow.
Of course, as with most false teachings, this one tries to limp along with a superficial appeal to a verse or two. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Pro. 18:21) Solomon is simply teaching that words can help aid spiritual beings to glorify God or they can tempt spiritual beings to sin. He is not saying that verbal units by themselves somehow release their bottled-up creative life force whenever they are spoken. In short, Solomon was not saying that words are magical. He was (and still is) saying that words have the potential of really affecting fellow Christians or sinners by putting ideas into their minds on which they can act.
Positive confession is an entirely false doctrine. The Bible never ascribes creative power to man or anything in man. Rather, God is the only being with creative power. His words have power because of His being, not because of some inherent power in the words outside of the Speaker. (Heb. 1:3; 11:3; 1 Pet. 1:23; 2 Pet. 3:5)
More than that, the Bible repeatedly tells us to trust God and His Word, but never to trust our own words or ways. Men who trust themselves (or their own words) are called fools. (Pro. 3:5-7; 28:26; Isa. 26:3) The power of words is wholly derived from the ideas they communicate. Ideas are powerful, but even they only have power as they move men to act and think in certain ways.
If Christians are going to obey the Bible, follow Jesus’ example, or think clearly then there will be times when they need to say negative things. At times when truth is at stake, to refuse to speak negatively is cowardice and sin. See Jesus’ “negative confession” in Matt. 23.
Positive confession effectively destroys church discipline because discipline requires critical discernment, negative rebuke, and sorrow over the consequences of sin. It weakens Sola Scriptura because the actual verses of Scripture are not as important as the spoken positive confessions. And it discourages critical, scientific, evidence-based thinking which is not only necessary to interpret the Bible but is essential to defeat the poverty that so many who believe the prosperity gospel live with everyday.
“The language of faith” is one more term to add to the list of cues that the prosperity gospel is in your midst.