Shall We Write Off Kenneth E Hagin? Dave Hunt? How About E W Kenyon?, Part 9
by Karl Kemp
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We continue with this study in Part 9 where we stopped in Part 8,
On pages 40-42 Hagin (or whoever he was quoting, or heavily borrowing from; Kenyon would fit well here), in his book "Zoe," speaks of the new birth being "a real incarnation." It's true that we "come into a vital union with God" in the new birth, but that is quite different than being an incarnation. I'll quote a paragraph (I'll split it into two paragraphs here) from page 4 of my paper "Did Jesus Die Spiritually?" "On page 151 [of "The Bible in the Light of Our Redemption"]...Kenyon demonstrates that he doesn't adequately understand the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Kenneth Hagin has followed Kenyon in this error in a few of his writings.) Kenyon says, 'Every man who has been born again is an Incarnation. The believer is as much an Incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.' This teaching is very wrong. The incarnation of Jesus Christ meant that the eternal Son of God, the One who was with the Father in the beginning (before creation began), through whom all things were created (John 1:1-3), took a body/flesh (John 1:14) and became the unique God-man. We are born again through union with Him, through His atoning death and resurrection, by the indwelling Spirit of God, but we don't become deity, as the Son of God always was and always will be - WE DON'T BECOME INCARNATIONS.
The fact that the Spirit of God dwells in us as temples doesn't at all make us incarnations. The Lord Jesus Christ always was God (God the Son) and always will be God, and He will be worshiped as God the Son forever. He, with God the Father, will be the temple and the light of new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22, 23; 22:5). We will be glorified and reign with Christ, but there will be a gigantic difference between Christ and us - He is God the Son! There was an even greater difference between Adam before the fall and the Lord Jesus Christ [God the Son]. After we are glorified, we will be in a much higher state than Adam was before the fall (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 15:44-50). For one thing, Adam had a natural, flesh and blood body before the fall."
11. A few pages back I briefly quoted from Kenyon's "The Bible in the Light of Our Redemption" to demonstrate that Kenyon's view of Adam before the fall was far too high and His view of the Lord Jesus was too low. (However, as I have mentioned, sometimes Kenyon presented an orthodox view of God the Son and the Trinity.) Here I'm going to include some excerpts from Kenyon's "What Happened from the Cross to the Throne" (1945) to demonstrate that Kenyon's view of born-again Christians is far too high in comparison with God. For one thing Kenyon probably was the source for Hagin's infrequent similar statements. As I mentioned, these two books by Kenyon are two of the primary places where he taught that Jesus died spiritually, took on the nature of the devil, etc.
"He [speaking of those who are united with Christ as new creations] is SO NEARLY LIKE CHRIST [my emphasis], so utterly one with Him, that Christ can say, 'I am the vine, and ye are the branches' " (page 64). The fact that we are totally dependent on the vine for our life doesn't mean that we are "so nearly like Christ."
"This new kind of life [the life of born-again Christians] gives to man the ability to stand in the presence of God without the sense of guilt, condemnation OR INFERIORITY [my emphasis]" (page 71; cf., e.g., pages 63, 99, 110, 112, 113, 152). In a quotation I will give below, Kenyon also says, "Righteousness gives him the SENSE OF EQUALITY [my emphasis] and of relationship with the Father." These statements show a likely source for Hagin's saying that man "was created on terms of equality with God, and he could stand in God's presence without any consciousness of inferiority" in his book "Zoe" (quoted above in this paper).
"He [Satan] saw men and women become New Creations.
These New Creations became Jesus men and women.
THEY COUNTED THE THINGS THAT WERE NOT AS THOUGH THEY WERE, AND THEY LEAPED INTO BEING.
AND THEY COUNTED THE THINGS THAT WERE, AS THOUGH THEY WERE NOT, AND THEY CEASED BEING [my emphasis]. ... [We have already discussed the fact that words like these, which are quite appropriate for God, are not appropriate for us.]
He saw selfishness curtailed.
He saw Righteousness become a reality.
The strangest phenomenon was to see men and women stand in the presence of God without the sense of guilt, INFERIORITY [my emphasis], or condemnation. ... He saw men reign as Kings in this New Realm of Life. ..." (page 90).
It is helpful that on page 128 Kenyon mentioned that "God is our ability" and "The Holy Spirit is your ability." Kenyon frequently said things like that, but they don't begin to take away the serious errors that remain.
"The spiritual man knows that he is the Righteousness of God.
He knows that Righteousness means the ability to stand in the Father's presence as though sin had never been.
Righteousness gives him the SENSE OF EQUALITY [my emphasis] and of relationship with the Father.
He is a son, and He has a son's place.
He takes a son's privileges and enjoys them.
He assumes a son's responsibilities and rises to the level of his opportunities" (page 129). On page 151 of "The Hidden man" (1996) Kenyon says, "Can you imagine what it would mean to have an open, fresh, sweet fellowship with [Father God] daily, so that you could meet Him ON TERMS OF EQUALITY, AS LOVERS MEET EACH OTHER [my emphasis]?" On page 101 of "Two Kinds of Faith" (1942), Kenyon says, "If He had sons and daughters with whom He could not fellowship ON TERMS OF EQUALITY [my emphasis], there would be no satisfaction in it; the work He wrought in Christ would be an utter failure [What!]."
"We reign in life with Him [Jesus].
We actually belong to royalty.
WE ARE AS MUCH A PART OF JESUS AS HE AND THE FATHER ARE PART OF EACH OTHER.
HIS VERY SUBSTANCE AND BEING IS IN US [my emphasis]." We are born of God, and His Spirit dwells in us, but Kenyon goes too far here, as when he said we are as much incarnations of God as Jesus is. On page 37 of "The Hidden Man" (1996) Kenyon also speaks of God's imparting "His very substance and being" to us. God's Spirit dwells in us, but the Spirit is a Person distinct from us.
I'll quote a few sentences from Kenyon's "Two Kinds of Life" (1971, page 25), "The New Creation of a God-man [This terminology, "God-man," which is quite appropriate for the Lord Jesus, is NOT appropriate for Christians.], born of heaven. [We are born of heaven, but quite unlike the Lord Jesus who always was, and always will be, deity. We never will become deity in any sense, or exist on terms of equality with God, etc.] He is like the sample, Jesus. [It is Biblical to say that we are like Jesus, but there are gigantic differences.] He [referring to born-again Christians] is God's superman. He is to walk in the realm of the supernatural. He is to be ruled by the Lord. [This sentence brings some balance, but it doesn't take away of the extreme overstatements regarding the status of born-again Christians.] He had been ruled by Satan. ...."
12. "Mind, Might, and Mastery: Human Potential in Metaphysical Religion and E. W. Kenyon," A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Liberty University Graduate School of Religion in Candidacy for the Master of Arts in Christian Thought (Apologetics), by Kevin Scott Smith, 1995. This thesis covers this topic in some depth; it covers 183 double-spaced pages, with extensive footnotes (not double spaced).
I'll quote part of what the author says in his Abstract: "Through original research, this thesis overviews Kenyon's teachings (chapter 1 [32 pages]), explains the basis concepts behind metaphysical religion (chapter 2 [45 pages]), documents new evidence for Kenyon's historical links to New Thought (chapter 3 [46 pages]), and directly compares the teaching of both religious systems (chapter 4 [46 pages]). ...."
And, I'll quote part of a footnote from page 2. "Mind-cure began in America as an outgrowth of Transcendentalism; its chief aim was the mastery of physical conditions through understanding and applying mental or spiritual laws. Adherents viewed mind as a causative force over the secondary realm of matter, and on that basis attempted to heal the body solely through changing states of consciousness."
I don't agree with everything that Kenneth Smith says in this thesis, but it is packed with a lot of detailed information. Originally I planned to quote quite a bit from this thesis, but in the course of doing the research for my paper, I finally decided that it is beyond the scope of this paper to get into the details regarding where Kenyon picked up his new ideas that are discussed in this paper. The details get complicated and controversial.
The important thing is to see that some of Kenyon's new ideas are wrong, some of them seriously wrong, regardless of where they came from. I am confident that Kenyon was influenced to some extent by some of the things taught by the metaphysical religions, but I am also confident that Kenyon believed that he was staying faithful to Bible-centered Christianity. Smith would agree with this. Kenyon made it clear that he believed those metaphysical religions were false, but that didn't mean that he couldn't learn anything helpful from them. He knew that they seemed to be meeting some of the needs of people better than most of Christianity was, and that they were gaining many converts from Christianity.
After reading the books by Joe McIntyre, Dale Simmons, and by Robert Bowman that are discussed in this paper and spending some more time reading some of Kenyon's books, I believe Kevin Smith probably overstates the extent to which Kenyon was influenced by metaphysical religion, but I agree with him that the errors in Kenyon's teachings are serious (wherever they came from). Smith was aware that the three authors I just mentioned (though they all agree that Kenyon was influenced by the metaphysical religions), didn't agree that Kenyon was influenced to the extent that he (Smith) thought they were. He also understood that he and D. R. McConnell had much in common.
13. "E. W. Kenyon and the Postbellum [which means after the Civil War] Pursuit of Peace, Power, and Plenty" by Dale H. Simmons (The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997, 351 pages).
"...a thorough investigation of Kenyon's writings makes it clear that both the teaching of the Higher Christian Life movement [with an emphasis on holiness, which I appreciate] and New Thought played a central role in the development of his own thought" (page xii). Dale Simmons spends a lot of space in this book documenting the great influence that the Higher Christian Life movement had on Kenyon; he was part of that movement. He went on to point out that Kenyon often mentioned that he disagreed with New Thought and Christian Science: "In fact, in the last two decades of his life Kenyon became even more convinced than ever that [they] represented the greatest threat to authentic Christianity." But "Like other soldiers in this battle, Kenyon no doubt reasoned that since the cults had 'stolen' their grains of truth in the first place, he was justified in fortifying his messages with similar cereals while spewing forth the husks in which these truths were encased" (page xii). As I have mentioned, it doesn't really make much difference where Kenyon picked up his wrong ideas; but it is necessary for us to see that they are wrong. One of his biggest errors, if not the biggest, was that Jesus died spiritually, took on the nature of Satan, was tormented in hell for three days, and then needed to be justified and born again, like we do. The metaphysical religions were not teaching any of that (that I know of), but some of the things they did teach may have contributed to Kenyon's coming up with that teaching.
"In thrashing out his own teachings, Kenyon displayed an independent streak and an overwhelming need to come up with teachings that no one else had ever discovered. [This fit Kenyon's idea that the very special teaching that he came up with (by what he would call revelation knowledge) was different enough and powerful enough to greatly bless the Christian church if his teachings were followed.] ... As this study will show Kenyon was also very eclectic, borrowing bits and pieces of doctrine from a wide variety of sources. [Simmons had a footnote: "Overwhelmingly, these sources were still within the broader evangelical tradition."] Unfortunately, Kenyon was not possessed of a keen intellect, leaving him unable to synthesize these disparate teachings into a coherent and logically consistent system" (xii, xiii). It might be more accurate to say that Kenyon didn't put a priority on tying the different things he taught together, but that he lectured and wrote with the assumption that what he was saying at that time was important truth (truth that came by revelation knowledge), and that he wanted to say it with rhetorical skill. He studied and taught effective speaking. I have already pointed out several serious inconsistencies in Kenyon's teaching. I'll comment further on his inconsistencies as we continue.
Joe McIntyre points out ("The True Story" [see the next section of this paper, section 14], page 1) that Kenyon, "the fourth son in a family of ten" "left school at the age of ten" because of poverty. "At twelve he went to work at one of the local carpet mills, where he typically worked from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M. six days a week." Kenyon didn't receive much formal education, but he was highly motivated to study on his own and to become an educator.
Sometimes Kenyon speaks of the recreated human spirit in such exalted terms and the power of its creative faith, etc. that you would think that we hardly need God. In other places he seems to put a proper emphasis on the grace of God and the powerful enablement of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Simmons points out that Kenyon is quite inconsistent in the things he says about the Holy Spirit. ((See Simmon's pages 169, 170 with the footnotes. [[I had a footnote: I'll include one of the quotations from Kenyon that Simmons included on page 169 (taken from "Notes from Sermon on the Name," "Reality 1" [July 1903], page 59.). "The Holy Spirit illuminates our minds to understand the power in the Name of Jesus. There is no power in the Holy Spirit Himself, except as He is the Unveiler of the Father, of the Son, and of the Name which Christ left." The Bible often speaks of the power of the Holy Spirit. I'll quote another sentence from Simmons on page 170, "Thus the Holy Spirit's primary role is to provide us with Revelation Knowledge of what Christ has done for us...and who we are now though our relationship to him...." In endnote 139 Simmons says, "Once again, Kenyon is inconsistent...he writes: '... He [the Holy Spirit] is Omnipotence. You have Omnipotence abiding in you' (Kenyon, 'Advanced Bible Course' . page 188)." Also see, for example, "When we link up that spirit [our spirit] with God's Spirit, and you have a spirit dominated by God, you can conquer all the forces opposed to you" (Kenyon, "The Hidden Man" , page 146).]])) Kenyon was inconsistent, and confusing, in what he said on quite a few topics. ((I had a four paragraph footnote: Sometimes Kenyon seemed to accurately teach about the Trinity. However, on page 250 of "The Bible in the Light of Our Redemption" (1969), he presented a oneness (modalistic) view of God, where there are three modes of being, not three Persons: "God is Three in One. Each One of the Three is God, and EACH ONE IS THE WHOLE OF GOD. The three are represented as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; THREE MODES OF BEINGS WHICH GOD IS. It is not primarily three ways in which God acts, BUT THREE MODES OF BEING [my capitalizations for emphasis]." In the modalistic view of God, the one Person of God appears in the modes of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and there is no Trinity. On the Trinity see my papers: "Who Do We Worship?"; "Who Do We Pray To?"; "More on the Trinity"; and "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son."
I'll give an example of a few confusing (and wrong) things Kenyon said about faith on pages 99 of "In His Presence" (1944). Faith is one of the most important words that we need to understand. "... I'll need wisdom. I'll need His ability to face every contingency. This is something I possess. I need no faith to obtain it. Prayer is not necessary, for it is mine. ...faith is not needed, for 'He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.' " In one sense we can say that wisdom is ours, but we must continually appropriate these things BY FAITH, even as we must walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis BY FAITH. These things are not automatic. And it is clear that it is appropriate to pray for wisdom, IN FAITH; see James 1:5-8.
Kenyon says something similar on pages 105, 106: "It isn't a problem then of faith with the believer, for all things belong to him. Eph. 1:3: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.' ...it is not a problem of faith with us as sons and daughters of God. It is merely a problem of our taking our place, enjoying our rights." We take our place BY FAITH. These things, though available to us, are far from being automatically ours: The old man still wants to live, and it is supported by the world and the devil and his innumerable hosts.
On page 110 of "The Hidden Man" (1996) Kenyon says something similar, " 'Claiming the promises' is not faith. Faith already has it. 'Claiming' proves that one does not have it yet. It is unbelief attempting to act like faith." On page 148 of that book he confuses the issue substantially by saying that "Faith is the product of acting intelligently upon [the Bible]." (We act intelligently upon the Bible by faith.) Then he says, "Jesus has been made Wisdom unto us, and we claim it and enjoy it by Faith." Earlier in this footnote Kenyon informed us that we don't need faith to obtain wisdom and that we don't need to claim it by faith. Kenyon has many such inconsistencies.)) It is beyond the scope of this study to try to determine if those editing Kenyon's books (especially after he died) caused any of these inconsistencies.
As I have emphasized in this paper, we must understand that we are totally dependent on a continuous supply of the grace of God in Christ and by the indwelling Holy Spirit (we must walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis through faith, a faith based on the Word of God), and that God is the One who moves mountains, etc. (not our faith), and that He must receive all of the glory. We must be humble before God, recognizing (for one thing) our total, continual dependence on Him and His saving grace. We were not created, or born-again, to be independent of God, or to exist on terms of equality with Him. These things are at the heart of what Christianity is all about, and keep in mind that pride is at the root of sin.
(I'm quoting Simmons) "...New Thought (also known as Mind Cure, Mental Healing, Harmonialism) is committed to the position that the Spirit (Mind) is primary and that the material...is merely secondary and resultant. Thus the remedy for all ills, both physical and social, is to be found in the realm of causes, which are mental and spiritual. Furthermore, New Thought teaches that human beings, in their essential or 'higher' selves, are divine. Consequently, if individuals live in conscious awareness of their essential oneness with the Infinite, they can think God's thoughts after Him and thus reorder their lives according to the divine pattern" (xiv).
On page 28, under the heading "Fundamental Doctrine," Simmons deals with "the center of Kenyon's teaching" that deals with the "Finished Work of Christ." The problem is that for Kenyon this teaching centered in his very wrong ideas about Jesus dying spiritually, taking on the nature of the devil, being tormented in hell for three days, and being justified and born again like we are. Then He could be resurrected. Simmons speaks of Kenyon's "RADICAL THEORY [my emphasis] of the substitutionary atonement of Christ." Simmons says, "Curiously...Kenyon maintains that it was necessary for Jesus to become exactly as we are by Himself dying spiritually."
Jesus did have to become a man (the God-man) and to die in our place as the all-important Lamb of God, but it was impossible for Him "to become exactly as we are." For one super-important difference, when Jesus was separated from God the Father on the cross in some ways (for the first and only time), through taking all of our sins with the guilt and the penalties on Himself, He wasn't spiritually dead. (Jesus wasn't just a man who had a special relationship with God the Father and who had received the Holy Spirit.) He still was God the Son (deity) who had condescended to become the God-man to save us (e.g., Phil. 2:5-7), and in no way did He sin, or become a sinner, or did He take on the sinful nature of the devil. This is very important foundational Christian teaching!
Kenyon said that Jesus died spiritually at the time He cried out "My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me [Matt. 27:46]?" Simmons commented that in Kenyon's mind Jesus suffering in hell was absolutely necessary, because "Christ had to endure the same penalty that we would or else He would not truly 'pay the penalty' owed to divine justice.' " One gigantic problem with Kenyon's view is that he didn't see that Jesus had fully accomplished His all-important atoning work on the cross. His atoning work was finished then, like He said it was (John 19:30).
Everything that Jesus said from the cross confirms that his nature did not change. I'll quote Luke 23:46, "And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commit My spirit.' Having said this, He breathed His last." Who can say that Jesus didn't suffer enough on the cross to pay the penalty? We are talking about an infinite price that was paid in His atoning death (not to mention the infinite price that was paid when He condescended to become a man, the God-man), which included those awesome revealing words that He cried from the cross about being forsaken by God the Father! Furthermore, if you want to (wrongly) insist that Jesus had to go to hell to take our place to satisfy justice, why limit it to three days?
It is necessary to understand that Jesus did not, and could not, become everything that we are in that He was deity (God the Son; a worthy, totally Righteous Sacrifice, Who was the only One who could save us), and that we cannot become everything that He is. We will be glorified with Him at the end of this age, and we will reign with Him, and we are called sons of God, and He is called the "firstborn among many brethren" in Rom. 8:29, but there will always be a gigantic difference between The Son of God and us. During this present age we have the great privilege of being able to live in the center of God's will, being what He wants us to be and doing the things He wants us to do, through His imputed and imparted Righteousness, and through the indwelling Holy Spirit. All of this is in accordance with God's will and Word, by His sufficient grace provided to us through the Lord Jesus and His atoning death and resurrection, and for His glory! We are united with the Lord Jesus in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
Kenyon's first wife Evva died in 1914, and shortly thereafter he met and married Alice Whitney of Nova Scotia. He had some marriage problems with Evva (I had a footnote: Based on what I have read most of the problems probably stemmed from Kenyon's zeal to be a faithful Christian, without adequately considering his wife.), but he ended up having some gigantic marriage problems with Alice. In 1930 in Los Angeles she filed for divorce, and there was a "barrage of negative press." Her charges against him that were mentioned by Simmons were mostly sexual in nature (pages 43, 44). After that Kenyon left Los Angeles for the state of Washington, "eventually settling in the Seattle area."
Joe McIntyre (his book is discussed after Simmon's book) says (on page 154) that it difficult to say how much truth there was in the accusations against Kenyon. (For one thing, accusations aren't always true, even if the accuser thinks they are.) He points out (on page 155) that Alice "soon followed him to Washington." And "he spent the last three months of his life at the home of his ex-wife and daughter Ruth" (Ruth took over his ministry after his death at his request). The three of them dined together regularly until the day he went home to be with the Lord."
On page 81 Simmons points out that according to New Thought "the universal spirit in each human being" is the real self. A primary problem with the lower self is that "it is too dependent on the five physical senses for its information." On page 83 Simmons points out that, even though New Thought did not respect the Bible as God's Word (for one thing, they believed that they had available to them a continual contact with their idea of the immanent "God," not the God of the Bible), they would typically cite passages from the Bible to back up their teachings; however, they would typically interpret those passages with their own special "spiritual" meaning.
On page 146 Simmons deals with a key feature of New Thought; I'll briefly summarize: Our thoughts will manifest themselves in the material world. The thoughts cause the effect. People can "exercise the same creative power as God...." On page 149 Simmons shows that, not surprisingly, New Thought also put a strong emphasis on saying the right things along with thinking the right things. New Thought thought in terms of the things they needed (like health) having already been given, and that these things would be made manifest through their confessions, etc., not through prayer.
As I have been trying to emphasize throughout this paper, God, through salvation in Christ Jesus, is the One who (one way, or another) gives us everything we need, and He must receive all the glory. We don't create (or cause to manifest) the things that we need by our thoughts, by our words/confessions, by our faith, etc. Faith (in New Thought) is a "confident assurance...that everything is already provided through the operation of certain immutable laws" (page 150).
14. "E. W. Kenyon and His Message on Faith: the True Story" by Joe McIntyre (Charisma House, 1997, 362 pages). Joe McIntyre, a pastor and teacher, read some of Kenyon's books in the early 1970s and was strongly influenced by them. When several books that attacked Kenyon were published in the 1980s (especially the book by D. R. McConnell), McIntire began to write a response. McIntyre was helped in his endeavor when the Kenyon Gospel Publishing Society shared "five boxes full of old materials" with him.
I don't always agree with McIntyre, but I found this book to be informative. I believe he effectively demonstrates that some of the accusations that have been made against Kenyon are wrong. For one thing, he demonstrates that Kenyon learned about faith, confession, and healing from solid evangelical Christians (including A. J. Gordon, R. A. Torrey, Charles Cullis, and A. B. Simpson), not from metaphysical religions.
We will continue this study in Part 10.
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