Dostoyevsky said, “The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” The goal of the Christian life is not only about health, wealth and happiness, but also to see God in the fullness of His transcendent, awe-inspiring, captivating, and mysterious nature.
Our entire Christian living is a process towards this unique goal. We are therefore admonished always to apply our hearts to wisdom, and to reflect on the brevity of our time and give our earnest attention to eternal things: humbling ourselves as we look into the grave which will soon become our bed. Life, whether 41, 70, or 100 years, according to Seneca, is long enough, depending on how well we apply ourselves to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things, if the whole of it is well invested as Komla did. Many great men and women, who left indelible marks on society, did not live long: Jesus lived and walked on earth for only about 33 years.
The goal of this article is to question the worldly influence and heretical teachings that have dominated the Christian community in Ghana, as exemplified in the recent pronouncement by Archbishop Duncan William about Komla's death. My aim here is not to attack the archbishop or personalities involved in the Word of Faith movement, but to reveal their unbiblical teachings and the problems they pose to our society and to the Christian community. It is our task as Christian apologists to defend the faith with respect and gentleness when the truth of the gospel is at stake, especially when such distortions come from a man who wields great influence in both the Christian and secular communities.
The General Overseer of Christian Action Faith Ministries (CAFM), Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams, was reported to have said that the sudden passing of ACE BBC Broadcaster Komla Dumor is not of God. According to the preacher, “The 41-year old Komla was a very spiritual person with a good heart, which makes it difficult to explain why he should die at the prime of his life.” Duncan-Williams asked, “Did God do this? No. This is not God's dealing. This is not how God deals with His children, especially with his commitment and his spirituality and seriousness to the things of God.” What the Archbishop is saying is that there is a power somewhere that can operate outside the sovereignty of God. It is difficult to understand how one can read the Bible for all it's worth and arrive at this unbiblical conclusion. The danger of such a teaching is the failure to appreciate the sovereignty of God and its theological implications.
Archbishop Duncan-Williams' commentary on Komla's death is not based on the teaching of historical Biblical Christianity, but on the theology of the Word of Faith movement from which he received his theology. One does not have to go very far in the reading of Scripture to find the story of two brothers, Cain and Abel, in which the righteous of the two died early through the murderous action of the wicked one. Cain, the killer, was allowed to live to build the first city, but the righteous Abel was taken home early. Yet the Bible has nothing good to say about Cain—only good things about Abel. Abel's name appears in the Christian Hall of Fame in the book of Hebrews.
Also, in the book of Acts we see Stephen, a good man of God, stoned to death at an early age. There are numerous accounts of Christians who were murdered at the beginning of the church. Among them are James, the son of Zebedee, the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul, and St. Perpetua and her maidservant Felicity. Rev. Duncan-Williams has only to leaf through any book on the history of the early church to understand what taking up the cross of Christ meant to the early Christians.
Duncan Williams' comments on Komla's death are rooted in the Word of Faith theology in general and two premises in particular: first, a Christian should not die before age 70, and second, Satan has unlimited power over the universe. It is against the tenets of the Word of Faith movement for someone like Komla to die before age 70. The proof text for this teaching is Psalm 90:10 “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” What the Word of Faith teachers refuse to accept is that the Psalmist is not giving a didactic teaching here, but rather describing the maximum life span at which people died at the time of writing.
In other words, the Psalmist was not giving the minimum age at which every child of God should die. Many people in the ancient world did not live to nearly that age. The infant mortality rate, in particular, was quite high. Does Duncan want to claim that all the babies and the young children who died before the age 70 in the psalmist's era were somehow outside the grace of God, or were killed by Satan? Moses, who many Old Testament scholars believed to have written Psalm 90, was reflecting on the brevity of life, and many of his own people who died in the wilderness.
What Duncan does not tell his large following is that his teacher, Idahosa, who taught him this unbiblical theology, died at age 60 (Idahosa 1938-1998). Also, John Wimber of Vineyard Ministries in America, who taught the same theology, died at age 63 in 1997. These two teachers died before the age of 70, contrary to their own teachings. The hope of the Christian faith is not to live in this world forever, but to be with the Lord at the appointed time. The Apostle Paul looked forward to that day when he could be absent from this body and be present with the Lord.
The second premise of the Word of Faith theology from which Duncan derived his teachings is that Satan gained dominion over the universe when Adam obeyed Satan and disobeyed God. Many of the Word of Faith teachers believe that Satan is now in charge of this world; therefore Satan could kill Komla against the will of God. Duncan-Williams' theology is inconsistent with Judaic Christian Faith and undermines the sovereignty of God. The historical orthodox Christian faith teaches that any force or any power exerted in this world depends on the power of God for its efficacy. This is because God alone has the power of being within Himself. Our causal power and the power of Satan are derived from His power and always contingent upon it. The great Apostle Paul, in the book of Acts 22, when discussing his new faith with the philosophers at Mars Hill in Athens, has this to say:
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'we are his offspring.'”
The apostle says that God Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else, and in Him (God) we live and move and have our being. In orthodox Christian theology, all primary causes are ascribed to God, because He is responsible for all creation and sovereignly controls the universe. The Bible says that even the hairs on our heads are counted by God.
One can only understand some of the unbiblical teaching of Archbishop Duncan-Williams against the backdrop of the Word of Faith theology which he espouses. Let me state at the outset that I believe in the power of God to heal and to destroy the work of the devil, but I am against any heretical teaching that undermines the sovereignty of God.
The Word of Faith movement's teaching is based on the declaration of Good Health and Long Life, Wealth, and Happiness: God wants his children to be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous. The question is: where did Rev. Duncan-Williams get this teaching from? The simple answer is: from the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa of Nigeria, who also got his theology from the Word of Faith movement in America.
We need to trace the streams of thought that have saturated the minds and part of the culture of the Christian community. The prosperity message that has replaced the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ in some circles of the Ghanaian Christian community has its origin in America with the teaching of a man called E.W. Kenyon. He is considered by many Bible scholars and theologians to be the real father of the modern-day Word of Faith movement. According to McConnell (1988), who wrote his graduate dissertation on faith teachers, Kenyon's theology parallels New Thought metaphysics. Many of the faith teachers who influenced Rev. Idahosa's ministries copied their writings and preaching from Kenyon. Kenneth E. Hagin Sr., a man described by Charisma magazine as the father of the modern-day Word of Faith movement, has been accused of plagiarizing from Kenyon. One just has to put Kenyon's book, The Wonderful Name of Jesus, and Hagin's book, The Name of Jesus, side-by-side to verify this claim.
Archbishop Idahosa of Nigeria, who received a diploma from Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas in 1971, had much contact with faith teachers like T.L. Osborn, Kenneth Hagin Sr., Copeland, and other Word of Faith teachers. After preaching in Nigeria with an emphasis on financial success, he established a one-year training institute to train pastors from the West African region. The disciples he trained and ordained include Rev. Nicholas Duncan-Williams of Christian Action Faith Ministry, Rev. Charles Agyin Asare of the World of Miracle Bible Church, and many more. Some of his protégés in Nigeria include Ayo Oritsejafor, David Oyedepo, Felix Omobude, Chris Oyakhilome and others. Benson Idahosa lived from 1938 to 1998.
Some of the popular clichés from Idahosa's preaching and teachings are, “My God is not a poor God”; “Your attitude determines your altitude”; “It is more risky not to take risks”; “I am a possibilitarian” and “If your faith says yes, God cannot say no.” In another words, Christians can have whatever they want if they can exercise faith. The thrust of the gospel according to these preachers is that the atonement or salvation of Christ is complete. Contrary to the Word of Faith teaching about salvation, the Judaic Christian faith teaches that our salvation is not complete until the second coming of Christ, after which time there will be no sin, no sicknesses, no diseases and no death. Theologians describe this stage as glorification; we are not there yet, but the Word of Faith teachers want to force that stage of Christians' salvation into the present, resulting in many heretical teachings of the Bible.
The International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (IDPCM) maintains that the view espoused by E.W. Kenyon can be traced back to his exposure to metaphysical ideas derived from attendance at Emerson College of Oratory in Boston, a breeding ground for New Thought philosophical ideas. Lovett (1979) writes in the IDPCM, “New thought philosophy can be traced to Phineas P. Quimby (1802-1866), whose ideas became popular at close of the last century. Quimby studied spiritism, occultism, hypnosis, and other aspect of parapsychology. Quimby, who was a New England healer, and mesmerist was said to be the mentor of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. Mary Baker Eddy shared Quimby's view that disease is rooted in mental cause.”
I think ministers intending to preach the orthodox Christian gospel need to know the root of this movement to prevent their members from abuse. Many people have lost their lives because of these teachings. Some faith teachers mock cripples and the poor in their churches, scorning them for their lack of faith. In some cases, some teachers of the Word of Faith have told bereaved families that their loved ones died because of lack of faith. It is important for Word of Faith teachers like Duncan to realize that the death rate is one per person.