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Belief and faith are two translations of the same Greek word in the New Testament, where the word can be used either as a noun or a verb. The problem is that in English, faith is only a noun, so when we use it as a verb, we have to translate it “believe.” Some have not understood this simple problem of grammar, so they have tried to make a distinction between faith and belief.
Certainly, there is a difference between soulish “faith” and spiritual faith. Soulish faith relies on the power of positive thinking, saying, “If I really believe something, then it will come to pass.” Such “faith” originates in the human mind (soul) and tries to create or manipulate conditions in the world to suit its own view of what is good. Positive thinking is not biblical faith, because these have two different origins. Positive thinking originates in the soul; faith originates in the spirit.
It is not that positive thinking—or any other soulish activity—is bad or harmful in itself. Most of the time it is only harmful when we are unable to distinguish it from biblical faith. Those who confuse the two often decide that they want something, or they want to achieve a particular goal, and then they start making positive affirmations, designed to manipulate events to give them what they want.
This type of thinking was introduced to the church through the writings of Charles Fillmore in the early 1900’s. He was the founder of the Unity Church, and he referred to his religious teachings as Metaphysical Christianity or Scientific Christianity. His Metaphysical Dictionary called The Revealing Word redefined biblical words to suit his own purposes. He was the original Prosperity teacher, even writing a book by that title. (It is posted online, along with his other writings, all of which I have read carefully.)
Whereas Karl Marx proposed the principle of “scientific materialism,” Fillmore proposed scientific, secular spiritualism. Faith is secularized and used as a soulish power to effect change and to shape the world in his own image by “the creative power of the mind.” His definition of faith is this:
“Faith is the perceiving power of the mind linked with a power to shape substance” (Prosperity, p. 43).
The deceptiveness of Fillmore was in the fact that his god was the soul, in which death resides. In fact, he wrote:
“The truth that divine man is manifest God is the great mystery of life hid for ages and generations and now revealed in Jesus Christ.” (Jesus Christ Heals, p. 6)
When he refers to Jesus Christ, he does not refer to the same Jesus that we know. In the Garden, Jesus did not pray, “My will be done.” Instead, Luke 22:42 tells us that He prayed, “Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.” If Jesus had been a genuine example of Metaphysical Christianity as Fillmore described it, Jesus would have taught us how to avoid the cross and live happily ever after.
Fillmore says that the cross means “crossing out our sins,” which he also describes as “erasing sin” by the power of positive thinking and by refusing to acknowledge sin’s existence. In other words, if we ignore it, it will go away and be erased from our minds. But that view more closely resembles a seared conscience (1 Tim. 4:2), a healed burn where we no longer feel anything, having killed the nerves.
Jesus went to the cross to pay the legal penalty for sin that was imposed upon mankind by the divine court. He did not “cross out” sin by refusing to acknowledge it in His mind. Instead, He recognized the problem of sin, embraced its penalty, and thus satisfied the law.
Fillmore worshiped the carnal mind and its human will.
“The mind is the seat of perfection.” (Jesus Christ Heals, p. 49)
The soul is the seat of the problem—not the solution to the problem. If every man on earth followed Fillmore’s teaching successfully, the world would not be unified, but would be at war with competing visions from countless soulish minds.
Fillmore held the Greek view that the soul was divine (or spiritual), whereas Paul held the Hebrew view that the soul is fleshly and only one’s spirit is spiritual. So Fillmore wrote:
“When a man releases the powers of his soul, he does marvels in the sight of the material-minded, but he has not departed from the law.” (Prosperity, p. 64)
Again, he writes,
“Man has never had a desire that could not somewhere, in the providence of God, be fulfilled. If this were not true, the universe would be weak at its most vital point. Desire is the onward impulse of the ever-evolving soul. It builds within outward and carries its fulfillment with it as a necessary corollary. All is mind. Then the things that appear must be expressions of mind. Thus mind is reality, and it also appears as phenomena.” (Prosperity, pp. 26, 27)
Because Fillmore worshipped the mind of man, as did the Greeks, he taught that every human (soulish) desire had the power to fulfill itself. This spawned the statement we often hear today, “You can do anything, if you set your mind to it.” Or, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.” Many books and movies now suggest that our minds have the ability to manipulate the universe in whatever direction we wish—if only we have faith in ourselves, that is, our souls.
So Fillmore writes,
“A genius is one who lets the full Holy Spirit within him speak out… and has faith in his God-given ability” (Jesus Christ Heals, p. 113).
The greatest deception of Fillmore was his ability to use biblical terms on one page, while redefining them on another. Hence, many of his statements would be true, if his words were defined in a true biblical sense. But his very definitions make those statements false.
His method of writing was designed to be an ingenious deception.
Fillmore believed in an impersonal god, a creative principle.
“God is the intangible essence of that which man has formed into and named matter” (Prosperity, p. 13).
In essence, he secularized God, or rather, he replaced God with man.
“God is power; man is powerful. God is that indescribable reservoir of stored-up energy that manifests no potency whatever until set in motion through the consciousness of man” (Jesus Christ Heals, p. 25).
In other words, the “potency” of God depends upon man. Man is sovereign. God is just a tool by which man may achieve his own goals. God is dead, or at least a personal God is dead.
“Jesus said, ‘God is Spirit’… Spirit is not matter, and Spirit is not person. In order to perceive the essence of Being, we must drop from the mind the idea that God is circumscribed in any way or has any of the limitations usually ascribed to persons, things or anything having form or shape.” (Jesus Christ Heals, pp. 28, 29)
Again he says,
“God is the name of the all-encompassing Mind. Christ is the name of the all-loving Mind. Holy Spirit is the all-active manifestation. These three are one fundamental Mind in its three creative aspects. (Jesus Christ Heals, p. 63)
Filmore handles the problem of sin in a classroom setting by overcoming ignorance, whereas the Bible calls sin an offense and deals with it in a court room. Through ignorance man died, Filmore says; therefore, through knowledge will man regain immortality. He sought to achieve immortality through Jesus the Teacher, rather than through Jesus the Lamb of God.
“Immortality in the body is possible to man only when he has overcome the weaknesses of sensation, and conserves his life substance.” (The Twelve Powers of Man, p. 23)
In other words, man achieves immortality, not by the blood of Jesus, but by self-discipline. He taught that…
“if we lack anything, it is because we have not used our mind in making the right contact with the supermind and the cosmic ray that automatically flows from it” (Prosperity, p. 6).
Again, he says,
“If you know how to take hold of the universal substance and mold it to your uses, you will be prosperous” (Prosperity, p. 57).
His teachings have now taken root in much of mainstream Christianity, especially in the Charismatic movement through teachers who have attempted to make his methods spiritual.
Unfortunately, without a clear understanding of the difference between soul and spirit, many Christians end up engaging in soulish positive thinking, at least in part.
I believe in making positive affirmations, as long as we affirm what God has said and not merely what we wish He had said. To do this correctly, one needs to know the mind of God, because no affirmation is pleasing to God unless it is aligned with His will and originates from Him. The will of man is not supreme.
If we understand the second chapter of First Corinthians, where Paul speaks of the distinction between the fleshly soul and the spirit that knows all things through the Holy Spirit, then we will not be deceived by Fillmore nor by any of his successors.
One of the most important biblical principles to know is that the soul has a carnal mind and the spirit has a spiritual mind that is distinct from the soul. This was first revealed to me in 1982, when I perceived that I believed two contradictory things at the same time. In praying about it, I learned that my soul did not believe everything that my spirit knew, and that I had to choose which “I” to follow.
I struggled with this, but eventually, I affirmed that my spiritual “I” was the real “me.” That was the start of a whole new understanding about the two “I’s”, which I have taught many times. (See Paul’s Epistle to the Saints in Rome, Book 1, chapter 10.)
This is the answer to Fillmore’s Metaphysical Christianity. He followed the leading of the soul, which he thought was spiritual. But the law says the soul is fleshly, for Lev. 17:11 says (literally), “the soul of the flesh is in the blood,” or better, “the fleshly soul is in the blood.” This was the basis of Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 2:14, 15 about the soulish man (or mind) that competes with the spiritual man within each of us.
Therefore, if we make positive affirmations to fulfill the will of the fleshly soul, we may indeed get many things that we desire, because the soul has great power of its own. However, the soul is full of death (Rom. 5:12), and hence, the soul is in a state of rebellion against God. Soulish affirmations, then, are a form of witchcraft, attempting to manipulate our surroundings (and even people) into doing what we want them to do to benefit ourselves. Such prosperity, then, comes through soulish witchcraft, not by the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, if we follow the leading of our spirit, which is in unity with the Holy Spirit, then we speak things into being in agreement with the perfect will of God. The soul becomes the servant of the spirit, according to the original plan of creation. We speak the promises of God, not the “good” things that the soul desires for its own comfort and purpose.
A good place to start is to look into your eyes through a mirror and give affirmation to your spirit, saying,
“Spirit, you are the real me. You are perfect, for you are united with the Holy Spirit. You cannot sin, for you were begotten by God Himself. I declare that my identity is not found in my soul, nor in my flesh that was begotten by man. I empower you to be me and to rule in my life.”
When you really know who you are in Christ, having changed your legal identity from soul to spirit, then you can begin to live your life as a new creation. Instead of trying to beat your flesh into subjection and make it perfect, you can enter God’s rest by becoming a new person. It is not bad to discipline your flesh and soul, but you must understand that your soul is not you—it is only servant of the real you. Discipline it as your servant, but do not acknowledge it as the real you.
In this way, you may be a true man/woman of faith, not walking by positive thinking or by mere persuasion that is a soulish belief system, but walking instead by the power of the Holy Spirit.