A Theological Appraisal of the Doctrine that Jesus Died Spiritually, as Taught by Kenyon, Hagin and Copeland
Atkinson, William P
This thesis appraises the doctrine that Jesus ‘died spiritually’ (JDS), as taught by E. W. Kenyon, Kenneth E. Hagin and Kenneth Copeland: important research because of the influence of these men and their teaching, not least on Pentecostalism. JDS teaching originated with Kenyon, was introduced to the Word-faith movement by Hagin, and continues to be offered by Copeland. However, it has been the subject of much criticism. The appraisal conducted in this project is primarily theological. Aspects of JDS teaching are considered in the light of both the Christian scriptures and the church’s great thinkers. Theological investigation into Kenyon’s immediate sources is also conducted. The research finds that the alleged ‘spiritual death’ of Christ incorporates three major elements: in this ‘death’, Jesus was separated from God; partook of a sinful, satanic nature; and was Satan’s prey. Jesus had to die thus to atone for human sin. The appraisal observes that criticism of JDS teaching offered so far is partially inaccurate. In particular, the alleged ‘spiritualisation’ of Christ’s death does not owe its origin to New Thought or Christian Science, as claimed, but is developed by Kenyon from seeds lying within Higher Life and Faith Cure circles. However, study of the three main aspects of JDS teaching confirms earlier research that it often misrepresents the Christian scriptures. Furthermore, it departs significantly from historic Christian formulations. This particularly applies to the claim that Christ partook of Satan’s nature. The project concludes that JDS teaching is not readily compatible with the traditional trinitarianism, incarnationalism and substitutionary atonement to which it claims to adhere. Adoption of JDS teaching by Pentecostalism would be damaging in these doctrinal respects, and thus draw the latter away from its moorings in traditional Christianity. Pentecostalism is advised to reject the bulk of this teaching.