Regardless of what we think of differing theological systems, one thing that we should all agree on as believers is that accurate representation and characterization of other people is important. The Bible tells us not to lie and not to bear false witness (Leviticus 19:11, Exodus 20:16). In this article, I will address the allegation raised by D.R. McConnell that Kenneth Hagin plagiarized E.W. Kenyon also known as Essek William Kenyon.
In discernment ministries, and in books that are critical of others, it is not uncommon for positions to be misrepresented and people to be mischaracterized. Unfortunately, Kenneth Hagin, as well as many in the Word of Faith movement as a whole, have been victims of such occurrences.
Regardless of whether someone is word of faith, cessationist, calvinist, arminian, etc., it is wrong to misrepresent people and their positions. I recognize that this is not always done intentionally, but if it is not done intentionally, it is due to speaking too quickly, which the Bible also warns against (James 1:19, Proverbs 17:28). One of the things I want to do with this ministry website is crack down on discernment ministries and people who write on topics of discernment that are out of line or out of control.
Before I go into this issue, I’d like to extend a special thank you to Rod Saunders, who is the owner of the website Jew and Greek, and he also has his own YouTube channel. He was a student of Kenneth Hagin at Rhema Bible College, and he is very knowledgeable about the history of the Word of Faith movement. If you are wanting to know the other side of the story concerning Word of Faith theology, I recommend his material. He also has written a book.
Much of the information that is used to accuse Kenneth Hagin of plagiarizing E.W. Kenyon comes from a book by D.R. McConnell called, ‘A Different Gospel.’ In this book, McConnell incorrectly identifies a Baptist Minister named Kenyon as the father of the Word of Faith movement (this will be covered in a later article, but Rod Saunders did a video series on this that I will share in this article as well).
In his book, D.R. McConnell shares a number of passages from Kenneth Hagin’s books that are almost exactly like quotes from E.W. Kenyon’s writings. He then goes on to argue that Hagin plagiarized Kenyon.
D.R. McConnell writes,
“Hagin, of course, would deny any plagiarism of E.W. Kenyon. He maintains that it was not until after his discovery of the truths of the Faith gospel that he was introduced to Kenyon’s writings. There is reason to believe however, that he was acquainted with Kenyon earlier than 1950, perhaps much earlier. For example, Hagin remembers reading a book in 1949 with the following quotation: “It seems that God is limited by our prayer life, that He can do nothing for humanity unless someone asks Him to do it. Why this is, I do not know.” This quotation comes from Kenyon’s book, The Two Kinds of Faith. Even the “revelation” supposedly given to Hagin on his deathbed is described by him with an undocumented and plagiarized quotation from The Two Kinds of Faith.”[ref]
D.R. McConnell also appeals to Ruth Houseworth-Kenyon, E.W. Kenyon’s daughter,
“Although Mrs. Houseworth is extremely gracious when asked about her father’s lack of recognition, she is decidedly not “laughing” about it, not even “a little bit.” She feels hurt that the Faith teachers have failed to give credit where credit is due. Moreover; the Kenyon Gospel Publishing Society has been exploited financially by the massive popularity of Hagin (whose first book was not published until 1960), Copeland, et al. Houseworth can no longer afford to publish its newsletter because of what she sees as the injustice done to her father.”[ref]’
Answering the Accusation
Though Kenneth Hagin did mention the quote that is found in E.W. Kenyon’s book in 1949, the aforementioned quote, “It seems that God is limited by our prayer life – that He can do nothing for humanity unless someone asks Him,” is actually most often attributed to John Wesley, not Kenyon. In fact, in Kenyon’s book, In His Presence, it is possible he was quoting John Wesley.[ref] This may be because many people do not know Wesley was the one who might have originally said it.
It is likely that Kenneth Hagin either was reading a book by John Wesley or a book by someone else who was quoting John Wesley (or maybe even quoting E.W. Kenyon’s book). It should be noted, however, that while most people attribute the quote in question to John Wesley, I have been unable to find an original source showing that John Wesley was the original source for the quote. I am still in the process of validating this claim, but because most people, including those who are familiar with Kenyon, are attributing the quote to John Wesley, I think this possibility warrants a mention.
It is true enough that E.W. Kenyon has been the victim of plagiarism, but Kenneth Hagin was not one of the ones who plagiarized him. In fact, when Houseworth was complaining about people plagiarizing Kenyon’s works, she was talking about people who had been in the ministry for only a few years; she was not talking about Hagin. As prolific as Hagin was, if she thought he was plagiarizing Kenyon’s work, she certainly would have mentioned him.
D.R. McConnell provides a chart in his book that maps out the allegations of plagiarism. Though the quotes are almost exactly alike, there is an explanation for why this occurs, and I believe we have better reason to believe Hagin’s side of the story than McConnell’s.
After D.R. McConnell’s book was published, Joe McIntyre (a biographer of E.W. Kenyon) from The Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society responded,
“In his book A Different Gospel, author D.R. McConnell goes to some length to show that Kenneth Hagin plagiarized the writings of E. W. Kenyon. Some have contacted the office of Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society quite irritated about this situation. So what is our response?
First of all, it must be noted that Kenneth Hagin, to the best of my knowledge does not actually write his books. What I mean by this is that his books are for the most part transcriptions of his speaking ministry. Someone transcribes the taped messages and then they are edited and put into book form. Those who are preachers understand that it is impossible to stop and credit everyone who influenced your message while you are preaching. As someone who has been preaching and teaching for around 20 years, I shudder to think what would happen if I were called upon to remember each author or speaker who had influenced any given message I teach.
Anyone listening to me preach who was familiar with E.W. Kenyon would recognize many of his ideas in my preaching. The thoughtful listener would also recognize many other influences in my speaking ministry. This would be confirmed by my personal library of books and tapes.
One respected Charismatic leader, who has since gone on to be with the Lord, said of E.W. Kenyon that he was often quoted, yet seldom footnoted. Many people have absorbed his phrases and echoed his ideas. I have heard Kenneth Hagin personally testify to the fact that many of the phrases he has used and ideas he has taught, he heard from some other preachers before he ever heard of E.W. Kenyon. It is quite possible that they were quoting Kenyon and using his material and Kenneth Hagin didn’t know the original source. Liking the sound of the phrases, Hagin added them to his preaching vocabulary.”[ref]
So, a society that is a source of distribution for E.W. Kenyon’s writings doesn’t have a problem with Kenneth Hagin. Most of Hagin’s books were transcribed from talks he gave. It is likely that the person who transcribed the talks didn’t know that Kenyon was being quoted. Furthemore, in 1978, Hagin received permission from Ruth Kenyon-Houseworth to quote Kenyon’s works (to his credit, D.R. McConnell does acknowledge this in his book).
Kenneth Hagin routinely recognized people who had an influence on him, and he did not start mentioning E.W. Kenyon until after 1950, yet before 1950, Hagin was quoting other theologians and referencing them. If Hagin wanted to steal other people’s works, why was he mentioning these theologians? Furthermore, if Hagin was wanting to steal Kenyon’s works, why did Hagin start selling and teaching from Kenyon’s books after he found out about Kenyon in 1950?
Prior to 1950, Kenneth Hagin, in his sermons, did say something that E.W. Kenyon said in one of his books (which we now know the quote may have been originally from John Wesley); however, even if Hagin was quoting Kenyon prior to 1950, it is not surprising because pastors often quoted from Kenyon in their sermons and books.
If Kenneth Hagin was trying to steal E.W. Kenyon’s works, there is no discernible reason why Hagin would start mentioning Kenyon after 1950. The narrative of the plagiarism allegation doesn’t make any sense. Furthermore, Hagin maintained a positive relationship with Kenyon’s associates, family, and friends. If he was plagiarizing Kenyon, how would this be possible? We already know that Kenyon’s associates are not afraid to point out instances of plagiarism because they acknowledge that there are people who plagiarized Kenyon.
It’s one thing to point out similarities, but it is another to accuse of plagiarism. If there is any possibility of dishonesty, it is on the part of D.R. McConnell. Why didn’t D.R. McConnell explain that most of Kenneth Hagin’s books were transcribed from the talks Hagin gave? In allegations of plagiarism, this matters because in transcribed books, the transcriber often fails to get all of the citations because the transcriber may not recognize that someone is being quoted.
In summary, we can make the following points:
1. After 1950, Kenneth Hagin frequently acknowledged E.W. Kenyon. This goes right along with Hagin’s claim that he didn’t hear of Kenyon until the 1950s. Furthemore, Hagin frequently acknoweldged other pastors and theologians in his talks prior to 1950. Thus, the pattern of behavior that is established by Hagin before 1950 does not mesh with the notion that Hagin was looking to plagiarize Kenyon. In other words, there is not an established pattern of behavior by Hagin that suggests he would plagiarize someone else’s work.
2. Like it or not, pastors frequently quote without references. Kenneth Hagin could have initially heard some quotations of E.W. Kenyon’s work from other pastors without knowing that Kenyon was the source of the quote. We also know that one of the quotes that Hagin mentioned from a book in 1949 may have been from John Wesley and not Kenyon.
3. Most of Kenneth Hagin’s books are transcribed talks by Hagin, and that is likely why E.W. Kenyon was not always cited.
4. Despite D.R. McConnell’s alleging that Kenneth Hagin plagiarized E.W. Kenyon, it is clear that Kenyon’s friends, family, and associates do not see him that way. In fact, they have this to say about Hagin:
“We consider Kenneth E. Hagin to be a great man of God. If E.W. Kenyon were here today, he and Hagin would probably be good friends. And from his vantage point in heaven, Kenyon is probably delighted that Kenneth E. Hagin has been so successful in getting the message of faith, so dear to Kenyon’s heart, out to so many in the world in this generation.
If Kenyon himself wouldn’t be bothered about it all, why should anyone else?”[ref]
- The True Father of the Modern Faith Movement from A Different Gospel by D.R McConnell <https://www.issuesetcarchive.org/articles/bissar51.htm?fbclid=IwAR1MrZasYkuaT92m1IX6d2ODQyOtCHTmVnnsoI4tkHATWzU7qgpDT7n3mEA> Accessed September 23, 2019
- Mitch Horton, IT SEEMS THAT GOD IS LIMITED BY OUR PRAYER LIFE – JOHN WESLEY, <https://mitchhorton.com/it-seems-that-god-is-limited-by-our/> Accessed September 24, 2019
- Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, Plagiarism of E. W. Kenyon by Kenneth E. Hagin? <https://www.kenyons.org/plagiarism-of-ew-kenyons.html?fbclid=IwAR1ihJico5dXEGJ49UGeHKzDMiQjpvPDu5P96C1tBPLO59kfR5ONII-NmUw> Accessed September 23, 2019