Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sharper than a Two-Edged Sword - book review

(EDITED 5-7-2013 FOR CONTENT, Paul and I are not telling you to avoid this book or its author, we just want you to pray and use your discernment. I added some statements for clarity. I have learned more about why some people believe this doctrine in the past year. Paul and I have many real-life friends who believe that God wants to heal everyone. I have even been to an all day seminar-type class on it. But, I still agree with what I originally wrote in this post. I will add, too, that we have a commentary by Andrew Wommack on the bookshelf. Paul refers to it, and finds some useful information at times. But you must use discernment!)

Understand as I begin, that I want to do my best to write in love. We can disagree with brothers and sisters in Christ without being ugly. So, I am going to ask myself as I write and re-read this post: 

What would I say to this author in person? (Because, we can all be very bold on paper)

How would I want someone to criticize my understandings, that I have written about, when they strongly disagree with me? 

Could I say these same things to my "real life" friends who share the same beliefs as this author?

I have just finished reading a book by Andrew Wommack, called Sharper Than a Two-Edged Sword. I have not read Andrew Wommack before, and I have not even heard one of his sermons. I read this book because after hearing some of Wommack's sermons, Paul found the book through library loan. This particular book is a short summary of 16 other books that Wommack has written. Each chapter is based on a book by the same title. And, each chapter is very brief and choppy... that would be expected in such an abridged work. I am sure it would be a daunting task for any editor to compile so much information into such a short work, and keep it's literary integrity. So, I assume that his other books are very well-written and answer objections with more depth.

Before I go farther:  Let it be known, I believe that God CAN heal anything: cancer, leprosy, gluten intolerance, vitamin D deficiency, ANYTHING! I believe that God can raise the dead. But, He is not obligated to do so each and every time we pray. (Added 5-7-2013: I have seen God answer my prayers to heal cancer in a woman. I have seen God take away aches, pains, depression, back troubles, and more. So, do not think that I write this from a lack of experience with seeing God's healing power. I pray very often for a number of friends with great needs: infertility, disability, brain damage, etc. And, I pray with expectation and anticipation, because I know that God can and does heal. I have friends who heal people on the streets. I have friends who came to faith because he was healed on the street. I pray for strangers in public. Last week I prayed for a woman who fell at Sam's Club. We have prayed as a family to ask that a very young man - that Paul watched die in the hospital - would be raised from the dead. He was not raised back to life, but we do not regret asking. One of my dearest friends has prayed and seen people brought back to life from the morgue and funeral homes. I will keep praying in faith for miraculous healing!)

The first chapter of the book was not controversial. I was vastly encouraged by his talking about how a person comes to salvation - that it is all about God's Grace, and not about our earning a thing. I completely agree with that! And, I like how he talks about God's love for us, and that we need to see ourselves through God's eyes of Love. I agree with those things. Beginning in chapter two I had some concerns and disagreements with the author's theology.

I know that Andrew Wommack has a huge ministry and a huge following. I am not going to "throw the baby out with the bath water."

Long story made very short - Wommack believes that all Christians can (and should) live without sickness and without poverty. For those who say, "Where does he get that?," he bases his claims almost entirely on the verses in Isaiah, Matthew, and Peter that speak of Jesus, that "by His stripes we are healed." I believe that these references seem to be speaking of a spiritual condition. And, I do not see how "His Stripes" applies to poverty and all physical sickness, deformity, etc. (Added 5-7-2013: Make note that the reference in Matthew 8:16-17 is applied not only to spiritual health, but physical health. This is one of the verses that shows that Jesus' "stripes" do heal sickness and sin both. And, sometimes repenting of sins or being delivered from a demon can bring immediate healing.)

Also, Wommack says that God ALWAYS wants to heal a person. (Added 5-7-2013: This belief is based on the fact that Jesus says that to know the Father we have to watch Him, because Jesus obeys the will of the Father. Therefore, since Jesus healed everyone, that would indicate that the Father wants everyone healed. However, Paul and I believe that healing everyone was God's Will for Jesus and not necessarily every believer.) The book says that if you are not being healed it is because you are either 1) praying incorrectly, 2) lack faith, or 3) have a hardness of heart. By his very examples of incorrect prayer - I am guilty of number 1. By my seeming lack of results in past prayers I would be guilty of numbers 2 or 3 as well.

This book flies in the face of so many godly men and women who are seeking healing, but not being healed. This book is also hurtful to people who are living below the poverty level (such as myself), though they work really hard AND pray for provision. (Let me also say that God HAS and IS providing our needs according to His riches in glory. We are fed, clothed, etc - the Bible tells me to be content with that - I Tim 6:8.) And, what about our sisters and brothers in other non-western nations? Explain what this means to the people who live in Africa? They see demons overcome. They see lives renewed. They see the Holy Spirit at work... AND they see people starve to death. They see children die of diseases (some we consider to be "preventable.") Explain this. 

People who are sick and praying for healing but not getting well will be hurt by this teaching (I know. I am one such person. I have lived with the reproach of real-life friends.) People who are praying for wealth and not receiving it will be hurt by this teaching. (Especially if they make decisions - like buying a car or house - based on an understanding of faith that says "God will bless this.") But, I trust that my feelings are not clouding my judgement. I did read the whole book - with a Bible in my hand. I did read the proof texts. I have prayed "Lord, am I the one who is way off base?" Because, frankly, I would LOVE to be able to heal everyone, every time I pray! I would LOVE to believe that there does not need to be sickness in the world, and see everyone I know cured of cancer. But, as much as I want to see this - I cannot use the same texts Wommack does as being proofs to the point.

(ADDED 5-7-2013: Many of the anecdotes from this book still stick with me... In one story Wommack speaks about an injury that he speaks to, in faith, and tells it to be healed in Jesus Name' (etc). He gets up and begins working. His reward is that he was healed. There was no further injury. Paul and I have had this happen to occasionally as well. BUT God does not always work the same way in every situation. When Paul's back was herniated this past year he worked and worked and worked through the pain. He probably did greater damage to the discs because of his faith that God would heal him if he just pressed on. Paul was out of work for three months and many people prayed for his immediate healing. Paul hoped and trusted that he would receive such healing. It did not come. Paul now feels like he cannot worship or gather with our charismatic friends because of fear that they think less of them.)

In short, I do not recommend this book. I think it has hurt me more than it has helped me. But, I have serious concerns about Wommack's teaching.

I will remind my readers that the Apostle Paul had a "thorn in the flesh" that God would not take away. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) And, I will point out that Paul ASKED God to remove it! He did NOT speak to the "thorn" and say - "in the name of Jesus Christ, by whose stripes I was healed - be gone." No, He asked God. And then he submitted God's decision.

Also - when Paul told Timothy to take wine for his stomach (1 Tim 5:23), he did not tell Timothy to speak to the ailment and command it to leave. Why treat something that can be made to go away?

I am not a "fatalist." I know that God does not tempt men to evil (James 1:13). He does not send destruction, sickness, or poverty to crush us. Whether you say God "ordains" these things or whether He "allows" such things - we can agree that He intends them for our GOOD and for His glory.
Wommack has an argument that if you believe that sickness is being used by God, then it follows that you ought not ask to have it taken away, or look for a cure. But, I say, we don't know to what end God would use any catastrophe; be it cancer, earthquake, death, or dismemberment. But, we can and should say in all circumstances that God is Good. And, we can and should pray for deliverance from all such problems. God might want to heal you. He might want to give you a brand new car. He might want to save your sister from cancer. BUT, we don't know. So, we pray for God to take away our problems, and we praise Him for what He has done and what He will do. And, if He chooses not to take away our physical problems in this life -  then we have even more pleasure in the next phase of our life - eternity.
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18 NASB)
If you have comments to share, I am open to reading them. But, please use charity with me and with the author of the book. I think that sarcasm and irony often reveal bitter roots, and maybe pride. So, try to talk with straight tones, as you would want someone to use with you. Sarcasm will not win anyone over... it will only hurt them.


Anonymous said...

Your criticism of this book is correct. The teaching position that God wants all people healed, is a teaching that has done much harm to the church, and has laden many people with guilt and discouragement. It is not a Scriptural position. God has written much in His word on how to live IN the midst of afflictions, pain and suffering, not on all the techniques and methods to RID ourselves of them. I have listened to the audio reading of 'A Place for Healing', written and read by paraplegic Joni Tada Ericksen on this very subject, and you would do well to listen to, or read her book. She does not discount that in some case God does heal, but she also speaks much of the fact that God does not always do so, the reasons why, and how to live in that state and be victorious while doing so. I would caution anyone from listening to an author or preacher who promotes the kind of thinking that God wants us all to be healed, and I commend you for your discernment in noticing the error contained here....Ginny

Bethany in mid-MO said...

I was thinking about Joni this afternoon when talking with my husband. And, I was wandering out loud what the author of the book I mentioned would say to her. She is a beautiful testimony to the grace of God during great physical challenge!

Thanks for your comment!

Bean said...

In my life experience I have been inspired by those that are terminally ill and are able to have a joyful heart and be full of grace, they are truly amazing! As my mother-in-law died of leukemia she always had a smile on her face, trusted the Lord, and comforted all us in our distress. I will never forget the lessons learned as my MIL was first diagnosed, then went through treatment, went into remission, came out of remission, failed a second attempt to go into remission, then accepted the fact that she had a few months to live. Through it all she encouraged her husband, all six of her kids, her kids-in-law, her grandchildren and her sisters. If I am ever terminally ill, as Sharon was, I pray that the Lord will give me the grace and strength to face the trial as she did. Sharon had amazing faith and put her trust in the Lord. We all prayed for healing, it was not to be, as the end neared we prayed that she be blessed with a peaceful death, and she was, when the end came it was swift.
No matter what life hands us if we trust in the Lord we will be given the strength and grace to cope and just maybe we will in turn be a blessing to others as my MIL was to all of her family.



MamaHen said...

Bethany, I have not read or heard (that I know of) any of Wommack's teachings so I am only basing my thoughts on what you have written here in this post.

I think you are completely correct based up Scripture. I think we should pray for healing. Our church elders still annoint with oil and pray over any one who asks for healing. I believe we have every reason to believe we will be healed. But, we know many are not. We cannot understand it. I watched my friend Bridget die from a terrible cancer. She was prayed for and annointed repeatedly. Our church had times of joint prayer just for her healing. We will probably never understand why she did die so young until we reach heaven ourselves.

I think you are so right to search the Scriptures. They are the only thing we can base any Truth on. It is the Truth-there is no other.

NYLass said...

I am also unfamiliar with Wommack - but (unfortunately) not with this discussion... I actually had it with a close friend and had to end our discussion very sadly saying to the person "I pray that no one you love ever gets ill".

It is true that God wants us to be healed... sometimes He allows us to enjoy such healing here on earth, but He promises it to all who join Him IN HEAVEN!

For the record, I believe that we are to look at healing the way that Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah viewed their rescue:
"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace [or, for this discussion - illness], the God we serve is able to save [again - for this discussion - heal] us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O King. BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up [or - again for this discussion - we will serve and honor our lord! :)]" Daniel3:16b-18 (emphasis mine). We were not put on this earth to enjoy healing, but to worship and glorify a great and mighty Lord, for whom NOTHING is impossible. That said, we are to persevere and endure the 'race' we have been given and realize that our ways ARE NOT His ways and His thoughts are much higher than ours (Isa. 55:8&9).

I really believe we are exposed to these kinds of things because we need to be praying - for this author ( if God so leads you) and all who believe as he does: God help Him if someone he loves or reveres gets ill and doesn't get "better". The bitterness and confusion I have seen it cause in those 'watching' a loved one suffer is most cruel, above and beyond what it does to those who endure illness...

I also believe we need to be praying about issues that divide the church and this one does just that! Personally, I would go so far as to say that I believe that is the reason why people still are deceived into promoting it.

Bethany in mid-MO said...

Mama Hen,
I am all for anointing with oil and praying for healing - as you are. This is a Scriptural idea... and likely NOT practiced enough. I am so sorry that you had to watch your friend die of her cancer. I'm sure that was very hard on your whole church body! I thank God that there were many of you rallying around her and praying for her in her time of need!

I like your comparison to the boys before Nebuchadnezzar.
I am sure that you are right about pain and bitterness (and flat out loss of belief) from people who believe this teaching, but have experienced a situation where it does not come to pass.
We know one young man who takes this teaching to the extreme of not going to see the doctor - ever. He cannot possibly go to a doc, as that would be akin to double-mindedness. Not only is it frustrating to hear about his broken bones going un-set... but it is also frustrating to have him accuse our family of being faithless, because we think that having health insurance is wise stewardship. And, if we mention taking a child to the doctor we are reprimanded.
These are just a few of the problems that come from this God-will-heal-all-if-we-only-believe teaching.

You are right that we should pray about this issue and other divisive issues. One thing I pray for is charity - that I would remember to use it with others, and that others would be charitable with me. Because, as you well know, we will never all agree in this Earthly lifetime.

Longing for heaven, and an end to all pain, suffering, sickness, and controversy -