By Bamidele Johnson (email@example.com)
Can God be bullied? The question should be marked “pointless.” If (as believers claim) God is omnipotent and omniscient, He certainly cannot be bullied. But that has not stopped many Christians from trying. Christians, very vigorously and regularly, attempt to order Him around in the assumption that they are God’s own God.
In all probability, they may not know this is what they are doing. The strongly seductive “decree and declare” dogma that has been successfully sold by Pentecostal preachers is such that makes clear thinking a difficult task. Preachers, widely viewed as God’s deputies, continue to dupe followers into believing that God grants every wish “declared and decreed” via boisterous prayers, abetted by ceaseless monetary donations to the church and preachers.
The “declare and decree,” dogma, I have to admit, is a seductively scented one. I think it’s a safe bet that not many of us will be offended if handed the power to “decree and declare” into existence the ownership of a Rolls Royce Phantom or other indices of a lush lifestyle.
With most of us harbouring less than modest social aspirations, preachers are trading in a market that can’t get enough of their wares, selling the lie that God will do special things in the lives of Christians when they “decree and declare”. Christians sure have dreams and wishes. But if, as most Christians claim, God is omniscient, their dreams and desires should be subject to His will. Hawkers of the “name it, claim it” creed seem to disagree with that. Boiled down, the dogma is akin to suggesting that God can be told to do stuff whether it is His will or not.
The dogma is indifferent to “If it be your will Lord.” Luke 22:42 shows that Jesus neither declared nor decreed: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
I am unconvinced that issuing decrees and declarations carry more potency. When a Christian “declares and decrees” healing in the life of an infirm person and he dies, which is fairly often, he is unlikely to charge the occurrence into Satan’s account. He attributes the occurrence to the will of God. In that case, what is the use of “decree and declare”, even if done with the eyes bulging?
For all the vaunted efficacy of the dogma, I have never seen any of its exponents say: “Everyone listening to me will get up and follow me to Shoprite. There, I declare that we will buy 40 packs of chicken, 150 bags of rice and cases of bottled water. I decree that we will take to the streets today and feed every homeless person we see. I also declare and decree that the money you are going to pay in tithes will all be given to the poor. I declare and decree it right now!” Never. Neither have I seen nor heard of a preacher “decreeing or declaring” the restoration of an amputated limb.
That way, the efficacy of Lamentations 3:37 (“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?”) can be adequately tested. Teachers of the dogma hold up Romans 4:7 as an example of how Christians are to speak faith-filled words: “God, who quickens the dead,…calls those things which be as not as though they were.”
This should invite two questions. One: Who, in the verse, is it that quickens the dead and calls those things which be not as though they were? Two: Whose words could have such unfettered might? The answers are God and God’s alone. There is no hint in the verse or any other in the Bible that God can be ordered around. What the Bible has as evidence is that His spoken word alone expresses His divine authority and His will implemented at His pleasure.
They also get mileage from Matthew 12:34, which offers them the flimsy shield of “speaking out of the abundance of the heart”. They contend that positive confession of “faith-filled words” is required of Christians, the reason for which they need to weigh their words carefully. But considered in the context that Christ spoke, what the verse shows is how one’s speech can indicate, in an uncomplicated manner, the state of his/her morality. Christ simply rebuked the hypocritical Pharisees for their toxic and judgmental speech.
The verse does not, in any way, prescribe faith speaking. “O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the hear, the mouth speaketh.” The verse makes no suggestion, explicit or otherwise, that Christians have moral or spiritual equality with God and as such, have no power to speak anything into existence. To teach the dogma is to encourage Christians to think of themselves as not only able to wield, but claim a birthright to limitless power that is exclusive to God. When confession does not deliver possession, the temptation to lose faith becomes very strong.
Real Christian faith, I believe, is taking God’s assurances that His provision is sufficient. This was what I was taught as child. Faith is not manufactured by forceful confessions. What is being taught to a fickle Christian populace, conned into expecting instant gratification by mind scientists masquerading as preachers, is narcissistic mysticism.
Now let’s make some necessary distinctions. Everything you say is technically a declaration. Declare is an English word and there is nothing sinful or unscriptural about it. If I say “I’m going to work now”, that is a declaration. I declared my intent to go to work. There are many such declarations in the bible. The difference is that for most of us, declaring my intent to go to work does not actively cause me to get to work. My intent to go to work together with my effort to drive myself there is what gets me to work. Declaring that intent has absolutely nothing to do with it – it is not the active cause that results in the effect. “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” is a declaration, but saying so does not make me the righteousness of God. It is Christ’s atonement on Calvary that makes it so. So there is nothing ever so special about a declaration. Every praise to God is a declaration – God is great. But saying that he is great does not make him great. He is great on his own, and in fact that is why I say it. It is not so because I say it. I say it because it is so.
This is an important point that illustrates the differences between people like myself and the “decree and declare” movement. I believe that declarations are not causative, but they believe that they are … especially when coupled with decreeing.