Word of Faith Atonement Flaws: Kenoticism
“Atonement” is the theological term for rendering one’s sins forgiven. Atonement is the process whereby sins actually become forgiven and one is made right with God.
Most Word of Faith teachers have historically been accurate on atonement issues at some point, but have since jumped onto a bandwagon heading toward the continued demotion of God, in the person of Jesus Christ.
This section deals with the false atonement principles of the WOF, which render Christ imminently discredited in light of historical theology and biblical testimony. Please note that each heading in this section contains a flawed premise, as taught from the WOF perspective.
Assertion: Jesus was not born God
WOF teachers hold to a wild form of kenoticism, which is a doctrine teaching that Jesus emptied himself of his deity when he came to the earth. While kenoticism varies in its forms, the teaching in generality implies that Jesus “gave up” some elements of his deity in order to serve as a man during his earthly growth and ministry.
While kenoticism is a false theory in itself, the WOF version of it is excessive even to the already flawed theology. WOF teachers proclaim that Jesus in fact gave up his deity entirely! He was not God while on the earth, but a man who was God prior, and who would be God again.
“‘Don’t be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you are God … They crucified Me for claiming I was God. I didn’t claim that I was God; I just claimed that I walked with Him and that He was in Me. Hallelujah! That’s what you’re doing …'”
Ken Copeland – ‘Take Time to Pray,’ Believer’s Voice of Victory, February 1987, p. 9
Copeland quotes this kenotic theology from (you guessed it) “revelation knowledge,” in the form of one of his many conversations with God. It is in these hidden conversations where God supposedly tells Ken things he failed to tell Paul, Peter, John or even Jesus himself. Copeland maintains that Jesus never claimed to be God, but only that he “walked with Him” and that “He was in Me,” such as what you and I might claim.
As usual, the problem with his position is found in scripture itself.
John 10:24-30 (NIV)
24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
In John 10, Jesus answers a clear question, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus not only told them plainly that he was the Christ, but concluded with, “I and the Father are one,” a foundational statement of Trinitarian theology.
Additionally, it is clear that those present understood his claim to be indicating such, as in the very next verse they tried to stone him for claiming to be God!
John 10:31-33 (NIV)
31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Clearly the Bible, nor the Jews had any issue with Jesus’ claims to be God – only Copeland or, perhaps it should be stated, “only Copeland’s club,” as he certainly does not stand alone in his claims.
If Jesus came as God, then why did God have to anoint Him? If Jesus – see God’s already been anointed. If Jesus came as God, then why did God have to anoint Him? Jesus came as a man, that’s why it was legal to anoint him. God doesn’t need anointing, He is anointing. Jesus came as a man, and at age 30 God is now getting ready to demonstrate to us, and give us an example of what a man, with the anointing, can do.
— Creflo Dollar, Jesus’ Growth into Sonship, dated December 8, 15, 2002
Dollar, (aptly named, don’t you think?) spells out the idea even more thoroughly. Jesus was “a man with the anointing,” as each of the WOF teachers themselves claim to be. The idea of Jesus being no different from other “anointed” men is precisely what would draw Copeland to make this outlandish claim:
“The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, “Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don’t let your tradition trip you up.” He said, “Think this way — a twice-born man whipped Satan in his own domain.” And I threw my Bible down… like that. I said, “What?” He said, “A born-again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him.” He said, “You are the very image, the very copy of that one.” I said, “Goodness, gracious sakes alive!” And I began to see what had gone on in there, and I said, “Well now you don’t mean, you couldn’t dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?” He said, “Oh yeah, if you’d had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could have done the same thing, ’cause you’re a reborn man too.”
Kenneth Copeland (Substitution and Identification, tape #00-0202, side 2)
The very heart of WOF theology requires the affirmation of man being completely capable of God’s wonders. After all, as noted earlier, God used the same “force of faith” to create the world that you and I are supposed to use to fill our wallets, heal our bodies of every affliction (we’ll observe later) and “speak” our world into existence.
It should be noted that traditional kenoticism (though flawed itself) does at least draw its framework from a weak attempt at exegesis; chiefly, from Philippians 2.
Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
Kenoticism derives its name from the Greek term kenoo (ken-ah’-o), which is translated “made himself nothing” in the NIV above. Kenoo literally means “to make void” or figuratively “to make of no reputation (as the KJV does translate it),” such as a king dressing in civilian clothes and walking the streets at night. In the context, the text states essentially “Jesus was God” but himself kenoo, taking the nature of a servant.” Clearly kenoo, in the context, is the place between “God” and “a servant.” Jesus’ emptying of himself was figurative, as is clearly noted in verse 8, “And, being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself….”
Jesus did kenoo himself – he chose to live life as a man, while being God incarnate. He was the king walking among his subjects; dressed as one of them and living among them. Yet, he was king all the while. He had not given up his authority except in appearance. His making “himself nothing” is not literal, but figurative in his chosen earthly social position as a servant rather than the King which he is.
The same author, Paul, also notes in Colossians,
Colossians 2:9 (NIV)
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
The false ideas of kenosis, indicating a Christ who had released himself from deity, has failed muster in nearly all venues of traditional theology. It is widely considered an apostate concept. It apparently lives on in the WOF movement, not because of Philippians 2, however, but due to Copeland’s fireside chat with God about “things I never told the apostle Paul.”
At the end of the day, the Jesus of the WOF doctrine is pre-existent God, who “dumped” Godhood aside to come to earth as a completely normal human such as you and I, but without a sin nature. To be more precise, Christ came to earth as the second Adam.
Assertion: The Second Adam Restores God-Status to Man
The concept of a “second Adam” is a genuinely biblical concept – at least when one allows the Bible to teach the metaphor in its own light. 1 Corinthians 15 notes,
1 Corinthians 15:42-49 (NIV)
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
The biblical metaphor of a second Adam is clear enough from its context. The first Adam was “a living being” and the second “a life-giving spirit.” Note, this follows the introductory concept of the nature of the resurrection of the dead: our bodies are “sown a natural body” and “raised a spiritual body.” The metaphor, then, speaks to the first Adam as “natural body” and the second Adam, Christ, who will raise us in his likeness with a “spiritual body.”
This text specifically is dealing with the differences between a natural body and the coming spiritual body of all in Christ who will be resurrected from the dead. More on this biblical principle can be read at http://www.returningking.com/?p=16. But, suffice it to say, biblical teachings concerning a second Adam are nothing like what it has been made into by WOF teachers.
WOF teachers have a God-complex concerning Adam. Their belief is that he was created an equal with God (as noted earlier in this study) and had the same fullness of God in the bodily form as Christ himself has. He (Adam) was a duplicate of God himself.
When God made Adam all He did was make an exact imprint of Himself. He duplicated Himself
Creflo Dollar (Our equality with God Through Righteousness January 21,2001)
Adam was God manifested in the flesh.
Ken Copeland – (Following the Faith of Abraham, Tape #01-3001)
Their teachings concerning Adam as God-incarnate lend themselves to the understanding that we, too, being “in Christ” who was the second Adam, are re-created to a God-status.
“Adam was made in the image of God. He was as much female as he was male. He was exactly like God. Then God separated him and removed the female part. Woman means ‘man with the womb.’ Eve had as much authority as Adam did as long as they stayed together.”
Kenneth Copeland (Sensitivity of Heart, KCP Publications, 1984, p. 23)
Aside from the weirdness of Copeland’s seeming mother complex, the gist of the WOF atonement process is the reinvention of the Adamic being in Christ himself; a new man made without a sin nature who would redeem the nature of man.