[Warning plagiarizing ahead...]
Over the past couple of weeks my wife was approached (in love) about what was believed to be a wonderful ministry that has changed lives. It is the ministry and teaching of Henry Wright. We were invited to read his book. So, I read his book called A More Excellent Way.
What is this more excellent way? What does Wright claim? He says that diseases are caused by specific sins in one’s life. He states that if a person repents of that sin, then they can pray for healing and that person will get well. If there is no repentance, then there can be no healing.
Sin does cause sickness! Many times diseases, from ulcers to cancer, are a result of our sin. In fact I will go so far as to say that apart from sin there is no sickness. Sickness entered our world with the first sin of Adam and Eve! In this sense all sickness is a result of sin. Furthermore, when we are sick the Bible commands that we should search our hearts and see if there might be something spiritual/emotional behind the sickness, and if the cause of a sickness is sin, then dealing with the sin should deal with the sickness. James 5 addresses this issue. James asks, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
God does heal today! The Bible, properly interpreted, makes this plain and therefore a genuine Christian expectation. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed”! There have been times—in my own experience—where God has answered fervent prayer and healed miraculously.
Henry Wright may have, through his research and experiences, found some possible links between certain sicknesses and certain sins. He certainly has a lot of experience and examples to illustrate his points. And some of his information might be useful in identifying the spiritual source of a particular illness. So should this book be endorsed? Regrettably, no; in fact it is a detriment to understanding sickness instead of an aid.
One of the criteria to determine if an idea is biblical is whether that idea is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture. This idea certainly appeared biblical, because Wright has a verse or two for every point he makes. (I actually counted 186 verses quoted in the first 50 pages!) But his supposition is not biblical because of the way he uses scripture. Wright seems to intuit this for he says, “the authorized King James version of the Bible is the scriptural foundation for this teaching. Please do not change the King James version as a scriptural foundation, as this teaching will lost the integrity and intent of its meaning.” (Preface) Any interpretation of a verse that necessitates a single version of the Bible is not dealing rightly with the contents of that verse and should be discarded on principal alone. It’s not so much that he’s saying that he prefers the King James Version, but he is saying that he has no foundation for his views apart from the particular word choices made by the translators of the King James Version.
He also uses verses to establish a literal and universal link between spiritual causes and their effects being manifested in a particular sickness without taking in to consideration that the Bible often uses metaphoric language. An example is when Wright says that osteoporosis is caused by envy. Proverbs 14:30 is his proof text because it says, “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones”. But a quick word search in the Bible for passages that also contain “bones” and “rottenness” will net you Proverbs 12:4 which says, “the wife who acts shamefully is like rottenness in [her husband’s] bones.” To be consistent, Wright would have to say that men with osteoporosis must be envious of their wives in their shameless actions. He also makes these unmitigated and universal assertions, “In Psalm 90, God through Moses prophesied that your lifetime should be 70-80 years. Anything less than that is a curse.” (p. 25) [This necessitates a view of infants dying of disease in infancy being accursed.] “The failure in all family problems begins with the man.” (p. 33) [Which would be an agreeable statement if rendered, Many family problems… ] While these examples are unfortunate they are admittedly not destructive of his main premise. They are, however, indicative of his exegetical method; a method that does result in him holding a biblically impossible view.
But before we get into the fatal exegetical flaw of his main premise, it should be noted that Wright does say that only 80% of sickness is “spiritually rooted” (to use his phrase), but this acknowledgement is utterly lost and contradicted so strongly and so often that it ends up being an empty assertion. He says, “If someone is not healed, there is a spiritual root, and there is a block that has to be dealt with. There’s a root problem which gives the devil a right to your life.” (p. 52) “Later in this teaching, I will break down many diseases and tell you why people have that disease, and what it’s going to take to move the hand of God to have it healed.” (p. 58) “I consider all disease to be a curse.” (p. 64) “All disease is a result of separation.” (p. 65) “If you see any disease … you see a curse and if you see a curse, there is a reason for it.” (p. 66) “The basic principles that, when applied, will move the hand of God to heal, are the same principles that, when applied, will prevent disease.” (p. 31) And just in case we misunderstand and read these quotes as him only stating the very orthodoxy view of all sickness being the result of Adam’s original sin consider this quote, “In order to get the disease removed, I must get the cause removed.” (p. 67) If all he is talking about in these former quotes is the reality that though Adam sickness entered the world then how is it that he is going to remove original sin? Here, though, is a very clear contradiction to his earlier denial of all sin being a result of our sin, “all of your diseases are the result of what you carry around. I call it the plaque of life. Just like when you go to the dentist to have the plaque on your teeth removed, it’s time to do some spiritual cleaning.” Also telling is that never (that I could find) does he give an example of a sickness that is not a result of sin.
And, if Wright does not believe that all disease is caused by sin, then Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” should not cause a problem for him. But it evidently does, because he redefines Paul’s thorn to be a spiritual problem and not a physical problem. Wright says it was an “area of his carnal nature that he just never got under control.” (p. 75). He then points to Romans 7 where Paul lays out his struggle against the flesh as proof. Wright apparently failed to read Romans 8 where Paul describes how the Holy Spirit gave him victory over the flesh. The point of Romans 6-8 is that we cannot overcome the old nature by our own power. We can only overcome it with the Spirit’s power. But we CAN find victory over sin. Wright is taking verses out of context to prove his point. But, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume he’s correct and that Paul’s problem was spiritual. What is Wright teaching about struggles against the sin nature? If Paul couldn’t overcome his, and he’s the apostle who saw the risen Christ, was multi-gifted, had a multitude of revelations from the Lord, and wrote half the New Testament, then what are our chances of overcoming envy, jealousy, anger, bitterness, fear, etc.? Wright’s whole message is that disease is caused by the above sins, but then he teaches that we may be stuck with our envy, anger, etc. What hope is there?
Wright also points to Job 3:25 and says that fear was Job’s problem and the cause of his physical problems (p. 73-4). Before mentioning Job Wright claimed that the cause of aneurysms, strokes, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins is fear and anxiety. Did any of those things happen to Job? And God himself said that Job was the most righteous man on the earth. Yes, Job was concerned that his children might not be following God and so he sacrificed and prayed for them, but to say that Job was concerned about the spiritual condition of his children is not to say that Job was controlled by fear. In fact the revelation of Job’s “fearful” activities comes in the first chapter of Job where the inspired writer of Job is using that very thing as an example of how “blameless and upright” a man Job was. More importantly, from the context of God pointing out Job’s righteousness to Satan and giving Satan permission to test Job we should recognize that his sickness was definitely not due to his sin. It was to demonstrate to Satan that Job’s love for God was not based on his prosperity or health. But again, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume he’s correct and that Job’s problems were because of Job’s sin. If Job, the most righteous man on the earth, couldn’t overcome fear, then why should we bother trying?
If Wright does not believe all disease is caused by sin then why does he try to prove that Paul’s thorn in the flesh and Job’s sickness were caused by their sin? Two very clear examples of where it was God’s will for someone to get sick or stay sick are redefined so that it was their fault (i.e., their sin). Therefore, if one does not do what Paul or Job did, then one will not get sick; this is the clarion point that Wright is making.
Even more destructive to us taking Wright as being biblical, is the other option; namely that he means and believes both of the two mutually exclusive positions. Examples of him seeming to be utterly contradictory abound, here are just a few: “Ignorance is a form of knowledge but it can be dangerous to our health.” (p. 56) “God would have to become evil in condoning evil in order to bless us in our sins, except for those time when He would- have mercy upon whom He would have mercy- disease was an issue of circumcision of the heart.” [This quote has God being both able and unable to bless us in our sin.] “I tell you I cannot minister to side effects…We’re very careful in determining…the root problem disease and not the side effects from a drug that they’re taking…There is no healing for the side effects of a drug.” (p. 43) [Why? Is it because side effects are brought on by our sin? How is this sin problem any different then his view of any of our sin caused disease?]
(A third option is that he is simply not serious, consider this quote from page 80, “I’ve been involved with many people helping them in their lives, and I came up with an incredible revelation. In my studies of the Word, in my studies of various things, I have never come up with a more astounding revelation that this in all my life. I have finally discovered the root problem for misunderstandings. Would you like to know what it is? This is incredible. The root problem for misunderstandings is that somebody just didn’t understand. It seems very simple. And if we could go directly to that level, we would eliminate all misunderstandings. If we try to find out who misunderstood, we end up in a war zone over the misunderstanding. All we need to do is go back and communicate; then if we need to, repent, and the misunderstanding is resolved.” This must be tongue-in-cheek; any other view must result in us dismissing him as an absurdity.)
As to the promised fatal exegetical flaw; it is found here, in Job. Job 3:25 and following says, “the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes.” Wright points to this verse as the silver bullet that kills any notion that Job was without the sin of fear. Wright unequivocally asserts that Job here is evidencing the cause of his sufferings and that that cause is Job’s own sin; the sin of fear! But what was it that Job was afraid of? Job 1:1 answers this question: “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Jesus says in Luke 12:5 “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” Fearing God is not a sin. Indecently Wright is here contradicting himself for earlier he says that fear of God is not a sin when he says of himself, “…I am working out my salvation daily with fear and trembling…” (p.64) (But, as Wright is apt to do, that contradiction is contradicted by an even earlier statement, “I love God just because I love him. I am not obedient to God […] because I am afraid of [Him] scorching my butt in hell.” (p. 62) [emphasis mine])
How is this destructive of Wright’s position? Wright’s whole point is that if you sin you should expect to get sick. If you want to be free from sickness you should hate sin. God will not stop Satan from bringing sickness in your life if you do not hate sin. Obey God and you will be free of sickness! But Job WAS obeying God; Job turned from evil because he was afraid of what God would allow to happen in his life. And just so that we do not think that Job only thought he was obeying God the inspired writer of Job says, “that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” Job obeyed God because he was afraid of God allowing sickness into his life! Job held the same view as Wright. If you sin you get sick. Job was afraid of the calamity that God would allow in his life if he did not turn from sin and so Job turned from sin; the very thing that Wright would have us do! But Job’s point in 3:25 is not an admission to the sin of fear, it was a declaration that he WAS obeying God and yet he STILL got sick! He is here saying that he was hating sin and still what he was trying to avoid (what he feared) came upon him.
The example of Job is that we are to accept evil from God the very way we accept good from God; in faith that it is ultimately for our good. The ones that God calls blind guides where trying to insist that Job’s predicament was a result of Job’s sin and God himself comes and tells them they are wrong! Wright so misinterprets and so twists the Bible that he is found using the very book that disproves his too pat view in his attempt to support his view. Job's three friends had taken the position that the severity of Job's suffering must be the sign of some grievous sin in his life. God is punishing Job. But Job silences these three by showing that there is no hard and fast correlation in this world between righteousness and prosperity or between wickedness and suffering. The righteous often suffer more than the wicked and the wicked often prosper more than the righteous. Job is victorious over the superficial theology of his friends. In chapters 32-37 the younger friend Elihu rebukes the three friends. The three friends of Job had not been able to account for the suffering of this good man with their theology.
Wright’s view of Job is the exact opposite of the inspired writer of Job’s view; which is that God allowed Job's sufferings to commence in order to show Satan and the armies of heaven that Job cherished the worth of God more than his possessions and his family and his health; the whole point was to demonstrate God's right to display His value and glory. Job’s suffering was not punishment. It was not a sign of God's anger with Job and Job says so in verse 3:25; “I purposefully did things in such a way as to avoid sickness (which can be the punishment and anger of God), and yet I find myself dealing with the very things I was so intently trying to avoid!”
In addition to that dispositive error we can add the following: When Jesus, in Matthew 9, said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven”, the paralysis remained! Jesus does not remove un-repented sin. The sins of this man are dealt with and removed and yet the paralysis remains. And when Jesus does heal the paralytic does Wright think that some unresolved sin was dealt with in the period between the declaration of his sins being forgiven and the time he is told to take up his mat and walk? Also note that Jesus was not going to heal the man’s external state, and only did so to prove a point to the scribes. Wright’s premise is that God wants to heal you but your sin stands in His way. Yet what barrier was preventing Jesus from healing this paralytic? Matthew gives no indication that the paralytic does anything at all that then allows Jesus to heal him! In the reverse we all know instances of unbelievers recovering, getting better, being in remission, and being totally healed. What sins did they confess and repent of?
Also of note is Wright’s view of allergies. He says verbatim, "I'm here to give you some startling information. Your body is not allergic to anything. [emphasis his] You've been had. You've been had with the biggest lie of the devil you've ever been had with. In creation God created you to be compatible with everything that you are exposed to." (p. 162) What specific lie did my son Christopher believe when we first discovered that he was allergic to peanut butter at 8 months old?
In Wright’s view there is no room for God to use sickness to glorify himself or to teach us some spiritual lesson. When, in John 9, Jesus definitively declares that, “it was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Therefore the Bible itself teaches that sickness is sometimes allowed for God to demonstrate His Glory. When the nutrition advocate eats right but gets sick anyway, could God be teaching them that they are not in control? What is the proper response to sickness? It is to recognize that God is in control and leave that control of your health/life up to Him. Go back to eating healthy, knowing that it really does have good results, but knowing that you could still get sick if God sovereignly designs it for your growth. The wrong response is to try to find another way to control your life/health/etc. Henry Wright offers that promise of control. If you just find the right sin, you can cure the disease or if you take power over that demon then you can be healed of your sickness. He expresses no doubts about getting well if you “know the truth” (as he teaches it). Is that not a promise of controlling our destiny (health)?
And if you don’t get well after praying, then what must you conclude if you follow the teaching of someone like Henry Wright? You just haven’t found the sin that caused the disease, so keep digging. The result will be that a person who really has no problem with fear, but who has an illness which Wright says is cause by “fear” will have to invent fears to repent of. The result is a self-centered focus and not a Christ-centered focus. If this sounds like a stretch then consider these quotes, “What would you think if I asked you to take responsibility for a spiritual root in exchange for healing? Would it be worth it?” (p. 57) “…when we don’t get a healing, what do we do? …We’ll go back to God and ask Him why the devil still holds us captive at His will…We need to find the strongholds in our lives that are keeping us from receiving God’s healing.” (p. 53)
Most importantly, God promises us the abundant life. According to the health and wealth preachers, the abundant life is only being healthy and wealthy. That is an earthly (unbiblical) perspective. The biblical perspective is that the abundant life is being able to have joy in the midst of trials – whether sickness, poverty, prison, or whatever. The abundant life is not found in circumstances. It is found in relationship with Christ, the Lord of and over our circumstances.