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24 October 2012

Why E.W. Kenyon Is Unimportant

In his book A Different Gospel, Dan McConnell [1] claimed that the Faith Movement, theological parent to the Prosperity Gospel, rests on Kenneth Hagin's plagiarism of the New Thought metaphysics of E.W Kenyon. This is certainly interesting historically and theologically, but sociology, it detracts from the more important point that the Word of Faith movement and the Prosperity Gospel in particular became popular not because of the supply of an idea (at least not alone) but because of an underlying increase in the demand for individualistic religious tenets which themselves were the result of overarching social structural changes. By this reasoning, both Kenyon's and Hagin's popularity were responses in line with the same social epiphenomenon. The New Age philosophies/religions of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and the self-oriented recasting of evangelical Christianity of the mid- to late-twentieth century are part of the same trend. In effect, it doesn't matter if Hagin stole his ideas or words from Kenyon. Assuming he did, we can speculate that someone would have inevitably innovated the Prosperity ideas independently if he hadn't to fill the supernatural void in the shifting worldview of the times.

[1] McConnell, D. R. 1988. A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers.

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