Say What?! Serious Errors of the “Decree & Declare” Doctrine – Part 2
I love watching Cirque du Soleil. The physical agility of these performers – no, athletes – is incredible. The way they spin and twirl and twist and contort, barely breaking a sweat, sometimes I shake my head in disbelief. No, they did not just do that! How in the world?!
I feel the same way about preachers of “decreeing and declaring.” Except for the love part. Of course, I love them, but I hate what they do. Hate it. The way they spin and twirl and twist and contort God’s Holy Word to make it say what they want it to say, barely sweating it as they do, it makes me shake my head, it’s so unbelievable. No, they did not just do that! How in the world?!
In this Part 2 of looking at serious errors of the “Decree & Declare” doctrine (see Part 1: “Abracadabra“), I examine seven major Scriptures preachers and practitioners take out of context to try to support it. As I do, please keep the following in mind:
Context is so important. It is a crucial tool for accurately interpreting and understanding anything we hear or read, not just the Bible. It’s something we learn starting with reading comprehension classes in elementary school, because it helps give the who, what, when, where, why and how of what we hear or read.
Anyone who doesn’t consider context is at a serious disadvantage. Anyone who knowingly ignores context, or thinks it only matters sometimes, or refuses to be corrected by it, is without excuse.
For context in the Bible, every verse should be read and understood in light of the verses before it and after it. Also, any one part of the Scriptures should be read and understood in light of all the rest of the Scriptures.
With proper context in mind, then, we will see how just a cursory examination of seven major Bible verses (in chronological order here) will reveal how much “decreers and declarers” put their own spin and twist on it to make God say what He really hasn’t said. Say what?!
1. Job 22:28a – You will also decree a thing, and it will be established for you.
This statement was made by Eliphaz (verse 1), who was suggesting that Job was suffering because he had turned away from God (verses 1-22), and if he would just return to Him, Job’s life would change (verses 23-30) – with successful “decreeing” being one of the benefits (verse 28).
The problem here is that Eliphaz was actually being presumptuous! Job was in fact blameless, as clearly stated in Chapter 1 by God Himself (verses 1 and 8). Furthermore, later in the Book of Job God rebukes Eliphaz, telling him (Job 42:7-9), My wrath is kindled against you…because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has…”
Even if we pretend that Eliphaz’s specific statement about “decreeing” in and of itself is not wrong, his credibility is now suspect. Why would Christians latch on to any statement made by someone God rebuked so severely?
2. Proverbs 6:2 – You are snared by the words of your mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth.
I remember a member of Crenshaw Christian Center once told me he wouldn’t pray for a foot condition I had because, as long as I was “confessing” that I had it, it would keep “manifesting.” He then pulled out his notes from church and quoted Proverbs 6:2. When I asked him for the context, he basically said, “Well, how much context can there be since this is only the second verse?”
Come on, Christians! Use the fundamentals of reading comprehension you learned all through school! I’m sorry, but really?!
Forget the fact even his “apostle” has rightly taught that the original manuscripts of the Bible were not written with chapter and verse divisions. Verses 1 through 5 make it very plain the context of Proverbs 6:2 is a warning about the problems associated with making indiscriminate pledges (promises or oaths) that can put us in difficult situations.
The lesson is not about the power of our literal words but about the potential outcome of our contractual agreements. In this case, words of agreement are just like shaking hands on it (verse 1). It is a sign of sealing the deal, nothing more. In that sense only is how our words can snare us.
3. Proverbs 18:21 – The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Like many sections of Proverbs, this verse is part of a list of wise sayings that don’t directly relate to each other. The context tells us when a verse stands alone and when it goes with the surrounding verses (such as Proverbs 6:2 discussed above). Even if a verse such as Proverbs 18:21 stands alone, we can and should still consider it in the context of the rest of Scripture.
Those who take Proverbs 18:21 in the literal sense – “speak life into your circumstances, not death!” – are reading into it what they already want to believe, instead of taking out of it what God intended. And what God intended is just the common sense wisdom that the attitude, intentions and tone of the things we say with our mouths can have good or bad outcomes; and if you love to talk but aren’t careful about who hears (including God, who hears everything), there will be consequences.
Nothing about Proverbs 18:21 tells us to take the verse literally instead of figuratively, and the rest of the full counsel of God’s Word (i.e., context) helps us to see we don’t have to.
4. Mark 11:23b – …he shall have whatever he says.
I’m only providing the part of the verse quoted the most by lay Christians and some preachers who affirm “decreeing and declaring.” For example, once I sneezed and said I was catching a cold and my brother (see “Jesus Died for This?“) told me, “See, you said it, now you’re going to catch one!” That’s preposterous.
But to be fair, they base it on the whole verse, which says, 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 says shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he says. In other words, proponents conclude, “You have what you say!”
It’s easy to see why they interpret the verse this way. Jesus, our Master and Teacher, is talking here, teaching His closest disciples, and He is clearly saying we can move mountains and have anything we ask for if we believe.
But in light of the broader context of this verse, as well as the fuller context of all the Scriptures, having whatever we believe and speak is not the lesson Jesus wants His followers, including us, to walk away with. The lesson is about faith (verse 24) and, more specifically, to have faith in God (verse 22). It’s about trusting our Heavenly Father to the point that even mountains could be moved.
Mark 11:23 is not about having faith in our faith, faith in our uttered words, or faith in some formula that’s supposed to somehow guarantee the desired outcome as long as we work it right.
Proponents counter that verse 22 should really be translated or interpreted to read, not “Have faith in God” but “Have the faith of God.” From there, they then spin it into “Have faith like God.” And then from there they take this giant leap and twist it into, “Have the God-kind of faith.” How in the world?!
Here again, they contort God’s precious and perfect Word into the impossible. They miss the fact that having the faith “of God” is easily interpreted to mean having the faith which comes from God, that is imparted to us by God. This interpretation agrees with such passages as Romans 12:3-8 about how even our faith is given to us by the grace and purpose of Almighty God to do His will and not our own.
Besides, there is no such thing as the “God-kind of faith” because God by His very nature does not operate by faith. If God has faith, it is only in the sense that He has it to give to us. Here’s why: Faith in the Greek (the original language of the New Testament) is a firmly relying confidence, a conviction based on hearing and not on sight or knowledge.
So, if God exercises His own faith, whom did He hear it from? Whoever it is would have to be greater than He, because that person would obviously have to know more than Him. Which in turn would mean the God of the Bible would not be the Supreme God. (But He is.) Furthermore, what is it that God doesn’t see or know, since He’s omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful) and omnipresent (present everywhere)?
5. Romans 4:17 – …calls those things which be not as though they were.
I didn’t quote the whole verse again because proponents of “decreeing and declaring” don’t; and those who do still take it out of context or collapse context with other Scriptures that are equally out of context. That is, they stick different verses together to try to show how they support each other, but to do so they have to take each separate verse or passage out of its own proper context. It’s like putting square pegs into round holes.
The broader context of Romans 4:17 is about how Abraham was a great example of faith in God. The immediate sub-context is how powerful the God he had faith in is, that He has the awesome power (ability) and authority to call those things which do not exist as though they did; that is, to cause things to come into existence. Such as giving life to the dead, as the full verse says.
Nowhere in this verse or in the context of this verse does it say, imply or instruct that man has that same power or authority. It is God who can create something from nothing, not man, not even faith-filled Christians. This verse even by itself can’t be any clearer on that fact.
Proponents counter that, yes, Romans 4:17 clearly says it’s God who calls things into existence, no argument there. But then they’ll add that we can indeed do it, too. This is where collapsing context comes in.
They’ll go to Genesis 1:26 (if they know where to look) and other Old and New Testament Scriptures to point out that we are made in God’s image and that we are to be like Christ. They’ll also use John 14:12, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. But they don’t have any way to support the grand leap of logic it takes to go from A) being made in His image (He’s a Person, we are persons) and B) we will do greater works than Jesus did all the way to Z) we can bring things into existence.
I stand by the perpetuity of spiritual gifts; my position is that God still uses the faithful to heal the sick and even raise the dead if He chooses to. But it is as He wills, not as we will (e.g., 1 John 5:14). Being conformed to the image of Christ is not about being little gods (sorry, Creflo Dollar and Kenneth Copeland) but being holy, humble, loving, truthful, wise, merciful, gracious, kind, spiritually fruitful, ready to do good works, not magic tricks. Yeah, decree and declare those things!
In fact, if we can really call those things that be not as though they were just like Jesus could, and since Jesus raised people from the dead, why isn’t there more decreeing and declaring to raise people from the dead today, such as precious children who die of cancer, neglect or abuse?
6. 2 Corinthians 4:13 – And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak.
The context here is the Apostle Paul referring to how he and his brethren were able to not lose heart through all their trials for the sake of the truth of the Gospel. Paul was not “decreeing and declaring” but simply and beautifully affirming how they were able to stay strong and encouraged, reciting a portion of Psalm 116:10 as a focal point to keep themselves on track with what was already established about the Kingdom of God.
Paul was just agreeing with what God had already ordained when He called them to the hard work of evangelism.
Besides, if 2 Corinthians 4:13 were about “decreeing and declaring,” then the whole chapter would be one huge negative confession! The “decreer and declarer” would have to conclude it’s why Paul and his co-laborers suffered as much as they did! But, of course, just a simple, objective (versus pre-conceived) reading of it reveals how encouraging and strengthening Paul’s words are, even for us today.
7. James 3:10 – Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.
This verse is making an observation, not giving an instruction for us to follow. It’s part of a larger lesson about the dual nature of man’s tongue – not that it has any creative power to “speak life” or “speak death” into our circumstances but that it tends to praise and offend, help and hurt, encourage and discourage, tell the truth and deceive, love and hate.
The context of James 3:10 is the lesson that we as Christians should (by God’s strength) tame what is so hard to tame. The purpose is not so that we will learn how to directly, literally “create” change in our circumstances. Rather, it is so that, just as much with our tongues as with every other vehicle for our attitudes and behavior, we will act like God’s obedient children and not like hypocrites. For example, we are to bless instead of curse; praise instead of ridicule; speak kindly instead of disrespectfully; know when to speak and when to shut up; and think before we speak so no one can call us a fool.
The real purpose for “Decreeing and Declaring”
Virtually every time I see someone decreeing and declaring, it’s for something they want or need for themselves in this life, or it’s a preacher “decreeing and declaring” over the lives of their fans – which makes that preacher even more popular and wealthy.
You can’t fill the pews with unpopular preaching, even if it’s biblical. Indeed, you’ll empty the pews by preaching about sin, hell, accountability, humility, repentance, suffering for Christ, bearing crosses, storing up treasures in heaven, looking out for the needs of others first, etc.
Should we pray for things in this life? Of course. God tells us to (e.g., Philippians 4:6). Should we expect our negative circumstances to change if we believe and ask God? Absolutely. Believe you receive, Jesus said. But we have to do so rightly, in accordance with His Word taken in proper context, in accordance with His will before our own, and for His glory only. Any purpose other than that, achieved by putting our own spin on God’s Word or twisting and contorting it to fit our own greed, is really self-centered idolatry.
“Decree & Declare” is a false doctrine
I hope this Part Two, and Part One, have helped you get a biblical understanding of why professing Christians should not practice “decreeing and declaring.” Please leave a comment and I will endeavor to respond at my earliest opportunity.