Kenneth Hagin, credited as the father of the Faith movement, gave the burgeoning revival an institutional home at Rhema Bible Institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma and molded a theology of abundance into a popular religious force. His theology, inspired by the work of late-nineteenth century thinker Essek William Kenyon (1867-1948), infused Pentecostalism with confidence in the power of positive speech to heal, finance, and enliven the Christian life.
Kenneth Copeland (1936 - )
Hagin's work centered on his reading of Mark 11:23:
"For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith."
According to Hagin, faith-filled words, spoken out loud, actualized spiritual realities and caused them to "come to pass." This emphasis on the spoken word and faith became hallmarks of the movement.
Faith teachers differed on their interpretations on the exact nature of the relationship between the spoken word and its coming-into-being. One end of the spectrum adopted an approach I call “hard prosperity,” contrasted with “soft prosperity.”
Hard prosperity drew a straight life between life’s circumstances to a believer’s Faith. Faith operated as a perfect law, and any irregularities could only be blamed on a believer not playing by the rules. Charles Capps, Robert Tilton, Jim Bakker, and Creflo Dollar serve as just a few examples of “hard prosperity.”
Teachers like Joel Osteen softened the hard causality between the spoken word and reality, representing one major figure of “soft prosperity.” He chose mainstream language over Christian jargon, changing the term “positive confession” to “positive declarations.” But the principle remained the same: change your words, change your life. He wrote: “Every day, we should make positive declarations over our lives. We should say things such as, ‘I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am healthy. I am talented. I am creative. I am wise.’” (Osteen, Become a Better You, 109) Good things will eventually happen to good people, he reasoned, for a chain of causality exists between thought, the spiritual self, and life’s circumstances.