The New Way of Abundance and Power Class of 2006:
The Absent Christ
Former president of The Way International (TWI) L. Craig Martindale solidified his grip on TWI as "the Man of God" by recording a class called The Way of Abundance and Power, which replaced the old Power for Abundant Living class recorded by TWI founder V. P. Wierwille.
However, Martindale's reign was filled with conflict. Only seven years after he was installed, TWI imploded, with the large majority of its followers leaving to form splinter groups. He struggled to gain control, in part by terminating longtime practices of TWI such as the WOW Ambassadors and the annual Rock of Ages festival. He replaced some structures with his own, such as the Way Disciples (short term mission groups) and used manipulative tactics to exert overbearing control over TWI followers. Martindale filmed The Way of Abundance and Power (WAP) Foundational class in April 1995 to replace the old Power for Abundant Living.
Martindale's reign came to a close when two lawsuits were filed against him by two married women who claimed he had sexually used them and scores of other women. Before these could be brought to trial, Martindale resigned from the presidency in April 2000 and disappeared from TWI soon after.
The New WAP Class
Martindale's fall presented a problem. How could TWI continue to use the new WAP class which featured a disgraced and removed president? Initially, many members of the Way Corps used the class syllabus to teach what they called "the Way class" (the term used for WAP inside TWI) live.
In March 2006, six years after Martindale's resignation, TWI came out with a new version of WAP, using new teachers. TWI leadership said the class was recorded to solve the problem of spotty quality in teaching. This is strong criticism of some of the Corps, as well as the top TWI leadership who trained them. Nonetheless, the main motive was probably the Trustees' desire to make everyone dependent on the "Root" at headquarters.
The new WAP class features three teachers, none of which is the new president of TWI, Rosalie Rivenbark (though she makes a brief appearance in it).
John Rupp (one of TWI's three vice presidents) teaches the first two sessions. Steve Longley teaches sessions three to six. David Chavoustie teaches sessions seven to twelve. Beth Coyle is featured in pre-recorded session reviews.
Steve Longley is a long standing Corps grad who runs the computer services department and is on the President's Cabinet who report directly to the Directors. He was one of the better communicators among the many teachers of the Sunday Services, which may have helped win him a spot as a WAP teacher. His part in the WAP class has made him more prominent in TWI.
David Chavoustie is a long time Corps grad who is the coordinator of the Research department at TWI. He took exhaustive notes of teachings he heard from
founder V. P. Wierwille before his 1984 death, a storehouse President Rivenbark considers valuable. He is also on the President's Cabinet at the New Knoxville
The syllabus has 24 segments, two per class session. Each video session of two one hour sessions is played for small classes. There are usually three to four classes per week for three to four weeks.
The committee of teachers who teach WAP and the Sunday Night Services in New Knoxville represent a radical departure from TWI practice. In the past, TWI revolved around "The Man of God for our day and time," who taught and led TWI by revelation and had absolute control over TWI doctrine and practice. The TWI organization itself has taken the place of "the Man of God," billing itself as "the representative of the living God on earth." However, all aspects of TWI are controlled by the Board of Directors (the Trustees which have varied from three to five members, led by president Roslie Rivenbark), who in effect have become collectively "the Man of God" for TWI followers.
Copy, Trim and Ignore Martindale
The class is more structured than either WAP or PFAL, which tended to ramble. It teaches the same doctrine. The sessions have the same titles as the previous WAP, though some sessions are completely retooled. The teachers speak extended quotations from both previous classes as their own words. Credit is given to Wierwille, and Chavoustie mimics Wierwille at times.
The title page of the 1995 Foundational WAP syllabus clearly lists Rev. L. Craig Martindale as author. However, Martindale is given no mention at all in the 2006 syllabus, even though he developed the original WAP class. TWI clearly wants to distance itself from Martindale, even though he originated much of WAP.
The new class is obviously based on the old. For example, Segment 1 of both classes has almost exactly the same content. Most of the content and charts are identical. Many charts would be familiar to people who took the original PFAL class decades ago.
However, the newer edition of Segment 1 is slightly shorter (four pages to the older class's five), mainly because it deletes a few Bible passages with commentary. The 1995 class syllabus totaled 148 pages, while the new 2006 class totals 120 pages. Apparently efforts were made to tighten up the older class, improving on Martindale's tendency to ramble, rant and say outrageous things at times.
The newer WAP includes Appendix 1 "The Tithe Doth Still Provide" and Appendix 2 "The Spiritual Abundance of Abundant Sharing." The article Buying Blessings by this author evaluates these Way teachings in detail.
Martindale's WAP included a detailed teaching on how the first sin was a lesbian encounter between Satan and Eve, This controversial teaching is not included in the new WAP. However, Martindale's theory that continental drift occurred suddenly during the days of Peleg (Genesis 10:25) is included in the newer class.
The Absent Christ
The Way of Abundance and Power speaks of "the absent Christ" (p. 104). In context, WAP means primarily that Jesus is not physically, visibly present today.
However, this phrase also hints at the virtual absence of Jesus Christ from WAP, and reveals more about the lack of Jesus Christ in TWI teaching than the author intended or realized.
WAP superficially mentions Jesus Christ. Segment 4 says, "the primary subject of the whole Word of God is Jesus Christ" (p. 13). One would expect WAP to then devote several segments to the Primary Subject, describing the nature, teachings, miracle, work, suffering, death, resurrection and presence today of Jesus Christ. But, no. Instead, WAP immediately switches focus to the written Word of God. From there on, there are only passing references to Jesus Christ in WAP.
The Bible frequently emphasizes believing in Jesus Christ:
"These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31)
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31, spoken by the Apostle around 15 years after Pentecost)
"It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him" (Philippians 1:29)
"A man is not justified by observing the law, but by believing in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 2:16)
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.... Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:1,5, written by an apostle about 60 years after Pentecost).
WAP devotes three segments to believing, Segments 12 to 14, totaling 15 pages of the syllabus. One who knows the Bible would expect that segments about believing (about three hours of the class) would be filled with teaching about Jesus Christ. But the syllabus mentions Jesus Christ only twice, and that only in passing. WAP mentions only that Jesus was hungry and spoke to the fruitless fig tree (p. 50), and that "Jesus Christ is teaching people to believe" (p. 52).
WAP misses the whole point of the New Testament, even though that point is repeated often- we can believe, trust in, follow Jesus Christ. TWI replaces believing in Jesus Christ- Someone- with believing in Some things- usually material things which are worth nothing in comparison with Jesus Christ. See this author's article The Law of Believing- No God Needed for a detailed evaluation of TWI's teaching on believing.
WAP mentions Jesus in the introduction of WAP, and a number of times in the segment on sonship rights. But even there the emphasis is on believers' rights and efforts to take advantage of them, not on the nature and work of Jesus Christ. WAP spends far more time on the specious theory of a two-part "gap" creation theory based on only a handful of vague passages than on Jesus Christ who is not just the primary subject of the Word, but is himself the Word of God.
The Jesus Christ of the New Testament is not absent-- He is very present and active:
"I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20)
"Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them" (Matthew 18:20)
"... I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name... you may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it" (John 14:12-14)
"Remain in Me and I will remain in you" (John 15:4)
In addition to the absence of teaching on Jesus Christ in most of WAP, "the absent Christ" also suggests a difference between TWI religion and evangelical Christian faith. Evangelical faith emphasizes our living relationship with Jesus Christ who is present with us, while TWI idolizes the written Word as a way of learning about God and Christ. In TWI, learning replaces relationship with Jesus Christ to a great degree.
Specious Theories on Two-Part Creation and Continental Drift
WAP is enamored with specious theories on two-part creation and continental drift, without any explanation of why it is more important than central doctrines of the Bible.
WAP theorizes that there were actually two creations, not one. It claims that God created the world in its entirety in Genesis 1:1, and that all the description that follows does not in any way describe the original creation. Instead, WAP says that creation was soon destroyed (made "without form and void") by Lucifer in a mutiny of evil angels against God. The creation story that follows is actually a re-creation of the earth long after the first creation-from-nothing (WAP pp. 24-34). This imagines a gap of a huge amount of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. (Martindale and TWI did not come up with the gap theory on their own; it has been around for decades.)
WAP then mentions the flood of Noah, stating that some of the huge volume of water came from "the Deep," which is above the heavens. The contradiction of why "the Deep" (which is normally down) is supposed to be high up is never explained. The Hebrew word for "the deep," tehome, is used several other places in the OT which describe it as under, not above. They include Genesis 49:25, "blessings of the deep that lies under" and Deuteronomy 33:13, "May the Lord bless this land with the precious dew from heaven above and with the deep (waters) that lie below."
A few generations after Noah and Babel, WAP imagines, the one land mass on earth was divided into the current separate continents. This is based on a very brief, vague verse, "Peleg, for in his days was the earth divided" (Genesis 10:25, 1 Chronicles 1:19).
WAP does not explain why "earth divided" has to mean the moving apart of continents. Mankind in the mid-East could not have experienced separation of the continents. It would make more sense if this verse referred to something they could have seen and understood. For example, the growth in population after the flood would have prompted nomadic herdsmen and harvesters to establish land ownership and land rights, which are the basis of large societies (in much the same way that open range cattlemen in the early American West established land ownership and rights as population increased in the 1800s). Or it may have referred to establishing of government, which is also a product of increasing population density and necessitates dividing of land into governmental jurisdictions (every government except the Kingdom of God is established on boundaries and jurisdiction of land).
At any rate, Genesis 10:25 is not specific and to insist that it refers to continental separation imposes foreign ideas on the passage. It also shows how WAP "majors in minors" by emphasizing things of little significance compared to the Bible's clear teachings on many other subjects.
The Destructive Power of Your Negative Believing
WAP spends three of its 24 segments on the Law of Believing, one of TWI's most important teachings (Segments 12-14). According to WAP, anyone can produce good things in his life by positive believing, or produce bad things by negative believing. You make the choice, not God or the Devil, WAP says:
"There are two types of believing, positive and negative.... Believing is a law. As one believes, he receives the results. On the positive side, believing the Word produces positive results. On the negative side, fear is believing. Fear is believing in reverse; it produces negative results.... Fear is the believer's only enemy.... Fear builds unbelief, and it is unbelief that defeats the promises of God." (P. 53)
The Bible compliments a handful of men as outstanding examples of righteousness and faithfulness to God. One of these is Job. As the prophet says, Even if these three men- Noah, Daniel and Job- were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness" (Ezekiel 14:14,20). James compliments Job on his patience (James 5:11).
But WAP instead condemns Job for having caused his ten children, his many servants, and his 11,000 cattle all to be killed on the same day. According to TWI, the Devil was waiting to do this, but the killings could not take place until Job allowed, or caused, them to happen by his fear.
The Bible never says Job produced the result of these deaths by his negative believing, but TWI says this is so:
"Job made a mistake in allowing fear to build in his life.... (p. 54)...Job feared that his children were not properly respecting God. Job was afraid that his children were sinning.... (p. 55)... Fears... always defeat us.... Fear is negative believing; Job received the results of his fear. That fear was the hole in God's hedge of protection around Job, giving Satan an opening through which he could enter and take all, leaving Job without family, without possessions, and without health." (P. 56)"
The deaths of scores of human beings, including all his children, and the deaths of 11,000 cattle happened only because Job had fear.
TWI tries to sidestep the shock that follows hearing a Bible teacher say such things by asserting that Satan killed them. But it is clear that Job, by his negative believing, caused or allowed Satan to kill them all.
These segments (13 and 14) from WAP reproduce the material in V. P. Wierwille's book God's Magnified Word, Chapter 3, titled "Job: From Victim to Victor." (A more accurate title would be "Job: From Victimizer to Victor," since Wierwille believed that all the dead people were victims of Job's fear.) Almost every detail is taken from Wierwille, and many of the comments printed in the WAP syllabus are copied word for word from him. Wierwille told another story about negative believing recorded in the book and class titled Power for Abundant Living. In it he asserts that a mother caused her young child to be killed by a car by fearing it hit him. The mother's fear caused her own child's death, Wierwille said. Here Wierwille and TWI's current teachers tell a similar story: a father called Job caused his ten children to die using the powerful tool of his negative believing.
WAP's listeners will get the point- when any of their loved ones die, when they lose their jobs, cars or possessions, when any bad thing happens to them- it is their fault. They produced their own bad results by their own negative believing. It is tragic that TWI imposes such guilt on its followers in the name of God, especially at times of loss when they most need comfort, support and guidance.
The Way's teaching on believing is filled with error. We refer the reader to a companion article, The Law of Believing: No God Needed which examines TWI's teaching on believing in detail.
Another striking thing about the WAP syllabus is how often believing is read into Bible passages which do not mention it at all. For example, WAP quotes part of 1 John 4:4, "ye are of God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." The WAP commentary then says that believers have "ability to overcome any evil or negative when they believe rightly." (P. 59). How could WAP twist the point so completely? 1 John plainly says believers overcome because of the One who is in them (Jesus Christ). It does not say, "overcome them when they believe rightly." WAP forces people's own believing into a passage which points us to the exact opposite- the Lord who is in his children.
TWI insert believing into other passages which say nothing of the sort. TWI's original class, Power for Abundant Living, based its title on John 10:10 "I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly." TWI says that this abundance comes when you believe for it. But John 10 says nothing whatsoever about believing for it. John speaks only of listening to and following Jesus Christ, the Shepherd. This recalls Psalm 23 which begins "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," not "I have positive believing, I shall not want."
TWI does not point people to Jesus Christ, as the New Testament does. Instead it points its followers to themselves, where they can find pride in their "positive believing" if things go well, and guilt in their negative believing when things go poorly.
WAP spends three segments (12-14) on believing. In these 15 syllabus pages, Jesus Christ is mentioned only twice, and that only in passing. TWI's "law of believing" is certainly a Christ-less concoction.
What the Evolution of The Way Class Tells Us
The Way class has gone through three main editions- Wierwille's PFAL, Martindale's WAP, and the Directors' (Trustees') revision of WAP. Comparing these three classes tells us several things about TWI's teaching and teachers.
PFAL was a hodgepodge of ideas Wierwille plagiarized from other authors and presented as though they were revelation from God to him. Listeners got the clear message of the class, even though it was not explicitly stated: "I know things the rest of the world doesn't know- you can get the accuracy of the Word only from me." Wierwille even claimed that he took all his books to the city dump and that God spoke audibly to him, promising to personally teach him "the Word as it had not been known since the first century." (The Way, Living In Love, p. 178)
This wasn't true. Much of the class was plagiarized, including sections where he is apparently reading directly from the notes in E. W. Bullinger's Companion Bible without indicating this to listeners. Much of the class was inaccurate, but he gave the impression of great scholarship by quoting many Greek words to support his interpretations. The words were frequently wrongly defined and misused (and sometimes not even actually in the text), but impressed people who were untrained in Greek and Biblical scholarship.
The generous sprinkling of Greek is not evident in WAP (though it is there to a degree), however, and the large section in PFAL on keys to reading the Bible was pared down. While Wierwille had a legitimate seminary education he could draw from, Martindale had only superficial teaching in the Way Corps. Martindale wasn't installed as president because of his scholarly ability, and in the recorded version of WAP, he seems to be promoting himself and implicitly trying to convince Wayers that he was a good choice to be President. Although the Corps imagines itself as having quality Biblical education, comparing the Corps to an accredited seminary education is like comparing a match to a searchlight. WAP teachers, past and present, left out what they didn't understand and lost some of the scholarly veneer.
WAP leaves in some scholarly terms such as "critical texts," although it is hard to find any Way Corps who can accurately explain what it means.
Much of class time is wasted just explaining the obscure wording of the King James Version of the Bible which is used exclusively in TWI. The typical commentary of a Bible passage lists English words that appear in the KJV along with TWI's definition or explanation of what they mean. Here's an example:
"1 Corinthians 2:6,7
'Howbeit' - however
'perfect' - mature....
'Princes of this world' - Satan and his chief devil spirits" (p. 80)
Many KJV words need to be explained because they either are not used today (like "howbeit" and "divers") or mean something different today than they did 400 years ago (like "perfect" and "meat"). If TWI used a contemporary translation, the text could speak for itself instead of needing TWI to explain it.
WAP also uses its commentary to introduce its unique terminology, such as "devil spirits," which does not appear in the New Testament. "Devil" and "spirits" are biblical words, but the term "devil spirits" is not in the NT. The KJV is imprecise, using the word "devil" to translate two different Geek words-- daimonion [demon] and diabolos [devil].. TWI adds to this imprecision by introducing its own unbiblical term.
The commentary and definitions are also used to impose TWI doctrine on the passages rather than letting Scripture speak for itself. One example of this is Colossians 2:9 in which WAP defines "Godhead" as "Head God."
The new WAP pared down Martindale's class in much the same way that Martindale pared down Wierwille's class- leaving out things they were uncomfortable with or had little understanding of. But why keep the lengthy, mainly useless, section on the Deep and similar peripheral ideas?
"The Deep" and other sections of WAP served the same purpose as much of PFAL. They serve as a means of indoctrination, implying that TWI is the only place anyone can find this unique knowledge, unknown anywhere else. They are used as a wedge to pry people away from whatever Christian backgrounds they have and shoehorn them into TWI.
"The Way class" has always been the required entrance course for TWI because it is TWI's means of indoctrination. Unlike most Biblical classes which are sold to the public, the Way class is offered only in Way fellowships because the purpose is not to teach truth to the largest number of people, but to indoctrinate them into TWI.
Potshots at Orthodoxy
Although WAP spends a lot of time on side issues like "the Deep," it never has a thorough and organized session on Jesus Christ. But it does take an occasional potshot at evangelical teaching about Jesus Christ while expounding on unrelated topics. For instance, it imposes its "Jesus Christ is not God" teaching in passing in several segments. PFAL did not do this because when it was filmed, Wierwille hadn't yet floated this "new" idea. WAP (Although Wierwille did take potshots at other evangelical teachings.) For example, WAP takes a potshot at the preexistence of Christ at the beginning of its extended section on creation and the Deep (p. 22-23).
A bizarre example of another potshot is WAP's quotation of Colossians 2:9, "in Christ all the fulness of deity lives in bodily form." The word "deity" (Greek theotatos) clearly refers to God's nature. The KJV uses the word "Godhead." WAP ignores the true meaning of the Greek and instead resorts to dissecting the English word "Godhead." WAP says this means that the Head God, the Father lived in Christ, while the other God (Satan) stayed away. "Godhead" doesn't mean "Head God" anymore than "Diamondhead" means the Head Diamond. Wierwille also used this method of reading new meanings into English words even though they have no place whatsoever in the Biblical text.
How Classes are Held
The Directors of TWI have established rules by which "the Way class" must be run. Classes are run concurrently in the USA on a definite schedule. There is a October/November class, a March/April class and a July/August class. Every Way Corps branch coordinator is responsible to organize and run a class at each of these times every year, though no one actually hits this goal. Most average one or two a year, and some areas run no classes for a year or two.
There are minimum class sizes for the WAP, organized in two tiers. Small branches of 50 people/3 fellowships or less, need a minimum of 5 new students to take the class. Large branches, anything above 50 people and 3 fellowships need a minimum of 7 students. Most branches are the smaller size. Minimum age for students is age 12. Students under 18 need parental authorization. The registration fee is $100. Students (23 and under, still at home) get a discounted rate of $50. People must be active in a Way fellowship in order to be allowed to take the class, which is a rule instituted by Martindale after TWI's implosion. Overall, this indicates a very small number of new recruits every year, which may not even cover attrition.
Class materials that come with the fee include - a syllabus, a set of class retemories (memory verses), a one year subscription to The Way Magazine, and four
books by V. P. Wierwille: Receiving the Holy Spirit Today, The Bible Tells Me So, The New Dynamic Church, and Christians Should be Prosperous. It does
not include the book Power for Abundant Living, which is essentially a transcription of the first four sessions of the PFAL class, nor The Word's Way, which
includes Wierwille's version of what came to be two segments of the WAP class on Job. Wierwille plagiarized almost all of Receiving the Holy Spirit Today
from books by E. W. Bullinger and J. E. Stiles.
In TWI "moving the Word" means running these classes, not sharing the Gospel. Now as in the past, there is a lot of emphasis on "signing people up for the
class" and pressure on the fellowship coordinators to run classes. Several other classes are scheduled throughout the year - the Intermediate Class
(January/May), Dealing with the Adversary (as needed), and the new "Advanced Studies" classes including Keys to Biblical Research and a family class. Each
class has a separate fee. The Foundational WAP class is a prerequisite for all other classes and for purchasing materials from TWI, so TWI sales and everything
else in the calendar hinges on running the WAP.
Dr. John Juedes, www.abouttheway.org rsr_newWap
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