The Way International never released information on the cause of V. P. Wierwille's death.
The cause of death is plainly described as
See article below for
details on the nature of
the disease and on why it
is so important for his
followers (and [ex-]
followers of The Way
Int.) To consider what it
Followers of The Way International often think it is mean-spirited when critics mention founder Victor Paul Wierwille's death of liver cancer in 1985.
Even so, many of them are not aware of the facts behind Wierwille's death, and do not realize (or don't want to face) the impact that the manner of his death has on their beliefs. The Certificate of Death filed with the Ohio Department of Health states that the immediate cause of death was metastatic liver cancer which set in a month before his death. It began with eye cancer about 18 months before, which then spread to his liver.
Most public figures (such as the U. S. President, evangelist Billy Graham and the Pope) publicly announce significant illnesses which affect their work. However, Wierwille's illnesses were not publicly announced. Many followers thought there was some kind of problem, but didn't know what. Some noticed that Wierwille wore an unexplained eye patch for a time, and that he didn't look quite right in some posed pictures in The Way Magazine. Witnesses at the Rock of Ages 1983 reported that Wierwille's speech began to slur during a hymn-sing, and he had to leave the stage during a teaching because he was having trouble communicating. Although rumors suggested Wierwille had two strokes, no specifics were generally announced. Why not?
The Way has long taught "the law of believing." Because Wierwille acquired this idea from men like Albert Cliffe (who was a spiritist, not a Christian), he used a lot of jargon which cannot be found in the Bible, such as "believing equals receiving," "get your needs and wants parallel," "believing works for saint and sinner alike" and "positive" and "negative" believing. It is a purely human effort, since God is not involved (it is even practiced effectively by atheists). The person is believing that something will happen, not that God will cause something to happen.
Wierwille told the story of a young boy who was struck and killed by a car. He blamed the child's mother for the accident, saying she caused it by her negative believing. The death was not really an accident. He had to happen simply because she feared ("believed") it would.
Since The Way sees Wierwille as "the man of God," their Father in the Word, the Patriarch, and the greatest Teacher since the Apostle Paul, they believe him to be a master of believing. Yet, this Patriarch suffered strokes, eye cancer, terminal liver cancer, and finally death at only age 68 (short of the 70 years that Psalm 90 suggests as average).
How could followers accept this? Did Wierwille cause his death by negative believing? If so, it shows that Doctor is spiritually lacking and full of fear and negative believing. How could the man of God who taught them how to believe be so full of fear for so long a time?
Wierwille's followers are trapped between a rock and a hard place. They either have to admit that Wierwille was not the spiritual giant they think, or admit that the teaching on the "law of believing" is false. Either the Teacher or the teaching has to fall, and unconsciously they know that both would go together since one depends on the other.
Christopher Geer, who was Wierwille's protegee, driver and bodyguard for years, tried to deal with this inconsistency by saying that Wierwille actually caused his body to die: "There were two points when I felt that he might change his mind and decide to go on living....I am fully convinced that he believed to stop the functions of his body" (Passing of a Patriarch, pp. 67, 68). He seems to believe that Wierwille chose to commit suicide using his spiritual weapon of "believing," rather than to continue fighting the spiritual decline of the trustees.
Geer took this inconsistency seriously, though did not have the perception to see the obvious-- that Wierwille is judged by his own standard and both are found wanting.
WIERWILLE'S TEACHING ON SICKNESS
V. P. Wierwille consistently taught that people's own negative believing (fear) make and keep them sick. In Power for Abundant Living, he wrote,
"If one is afraid of a disease, he will manifest that disease because the law is that what one believes (in this case, what he believes negatively), he is going to receive....Today I have no fear within me....fear always defeats the promises of God....(p. 38, 53)
Wierwille adds that people in Nazareth were not healed by Jesus Christ because of their unbelief. Wierwille wrote in The Bible tells Me So,
"...we do not limit God, then we will not talk about worry, fear, anxiety, sickness and want. We forget those negatives for we are sons by the One who overcame.... If you doubt your recovery from sickness, you will by all means slow up and retard your own progress.... If you doubt its success, you have, by your own believing, determined its unsuccessful outcome. (P. 22, 45)
He added in God's Magnified Word,
"We may at times have diseases, but these should not linger. When we say 'I believe God's Word' and really believe it, we come out the victor.... The prosperity of your substance and health is dependent upon how much our minds are renewed to what God's Word says." (P. 44, 45)
Wierwille's Advanced PFAL class syllabus claimed,
"...man's acceptance of the Devil's lie brought sickness and disease into evidence." (P.31) The class also taught that healing is accomplished by believing and often by casting out devil spirits which cause diseases.
Based on Wierwille's own teachings quoted here, Wierwille's prolonged illness which resulted in death indicates that V. P. Wierwille:
- had cancer because he feared (negatively believed for) cancer
- defeated God's promises about healing by his own fear
- could not be healed by God because of his unbelief
- limited God and could not forget sickness
- doubted, and therefore retarded, his recovery from cancer
- determined his own continued illness and death by his own believing
- did not have health because his mind was not renewed to what God's Word says
- accepted the Devil's lie, thereby causing his own disease
In other words, V. P. Wierwille caused his own cancer, prevented his own healing, and died because of his own negative believing and lack of the renewed mind. Victor did not come out the victor because of his own fault.
WIERWILLE POSSESSED BY A DEVIL SPIRIT OF CANCER
The "trancenet.org\nowayout" web site published a letter in Feb. 1998 by a former Way staff member and Corps grad which confirms and adds to this information. Rick, of Chicago, was on staff at New Knoxville when Wierwille was ill and died. He confirmed that TWI never publicly announced any part of Wierwille's illness or cause of death in any publication or announcement in a Sunday night service. Rick adds,
"...it would be unimaginable to think that the 'man of God' was not able to believe for healing for himself. ...The other part of the answer is that Wierwille taught that cancer is a devil spirit. Cancer, according to him, is not just caused by a devil spirit, it IS a devil spirit. His logic went something like this: All life is spirit. Cancer has a life of its own. Therefore, cancer is a devil spirit, and anyone with cancer is possessed with a devil spirit. If that teaching was not familiar to the rank-and-file followers of The Way, it was certainly known to anyone who had taken the Advanced Class on PFAL. It's not hard to imagine the problems that would have been created if Wierwille or anyone else had announced that he had cancer. The idea that 'the greatest man of God since the Apostle Paul' was possessed with a devil spirit would have been devastating to say the least!"
THE FALLACY OF FAITH VERSUS BELIEF
On the surface, Wierwille's teaching on the law of believing sounds good. But a closer look shows that it does not rightly divide the Word of God. The book The Integrity and Accuracy of The Way's Word, pages 29-31, deals with several of the problems in some detail.
Their are several effects of this false teaching on believing. People become lords of their own healing, excluding God from the picture, since "believing" works as well for atheists as it does for Christians. Those who accept this teaching sooner or later are riddled with guilt when they experience illnesses that their bodies (or those of their loved ones) cannot overcome.
We also suggest that readers visit Christian book stores, many of which carry books which extensively evaluate false teachings on "believing" which are often found in "word-faith" teachers like Kenneth Hagin, Ken Copeland, and E. W. Kenyon (who was the origin of these teachings; V. P. plagiarized large sections of Kenyon's books).
Wierwille's followers can find no reasonable way out of this dilemma. They either have to admit that Wierwille was not the spiritual giant they think, or admit that the teaching on the "law of believing" is false. Either the Teacher or the teaching has to fall, and unconsciously they know that both would go together since one depends on the other.
The manner of V. P. Wierwille's death should make one thing crystal clear to his followers: neither the teacher nor his teaching on believing accurately follow Jesus Christ and the truth of God's Word.
Dr. John Juedes, C. 1998
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