Monday, September 07, 2009

Is the Prosperity 'Gospel' Salt and Light?


Damning people to hell with what they love as fallen people.

That's a pretty good summary of the 'prosperity gospel,' which is not the gospel at all. The appeal to the carnal desires of men (wealth, ownership, influence, etc.) as the basis, evidence, and goal of worship of God is, to put it mildly, soul destroying.

Now, a caveat. This is not to say there are not Christians involved in churches and sitting under preachers committed to the 'prosperity gospel.' There are. They trust Christ alone for their salvation. They love Him and they seek to serve Him.

Yet, they may not see how egregious an error the 'prosperity gospel' is. There is so much in the Scripture about blessings and about God's good gifts to His people. There is so much in the Bible about what is good and beautiful in life.

But the 'prosperity gospel' makes at least three critical mistakes that may not be easily discerned by a person regularly sitting under this teaching looking into a Bible that contains so much about God's blessings.

1. The 'prosperity gospel' makes wealth and possessions a part of the gospel. In other words, it teaches that Christ's work includes and purchases prosperity for His people, and defines that prosperity chiefly in terms of things in this life. That's a different 'gospel' (Gal. 1:1-9). It can not save. It says, "Come to Jesus to get your life in order" (the moralist prosperity gospel in so many 'evangelical' churches), or "Come to Jesus and you will have houses and lands and money in this life, now" (the materialist prosperity gospel variety taught by so many word-of-faith televangelists and their wanna-be followers). But the biblical gospel is "Turn to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, to be reconciled to the True God, to escape the wrath to come, and live eternally in His love." That's good news and precious treasure whether or not we ever find wealth, comfort, ease, or get our lives in some moralistic order. The 'prosperity gospel' displaces this good news with a lesser news, "free stuff."

2. The 'prosperity gospel' mistakenly assumes that because something is mentioned a lot in the Bible it must be the main point of the Bible. That's a serious mistake. My wife and I talk a lot about bills that need to be paid. We have our entire marriage, from the time were were broke college students each working two jobs to just last week when thinking about vacation and the kids' back-to-school needs. We communicate about money. But is our relationship about money? No, praise God! Our relationship is about a lot of other far more glorious things than money and decisions about money. So it is with the Scriptures. The frequent references about money or possessions or blessings are not the main point: God is the main point. The Bible is about God and His redemptive work. All of life is about God and worship of Him. It's not about us and our stuff. Prosperity preachers baptize their concern with worldly things with a lot of God-talk. But God becomes the Bible's backup singer to man's solo quest for stuff. It's a theological folly in missing the point.

3. The 'prosperity gospel' overlooks suffering. That's to be expected. Anywhere prosperity gets defined as material wealth, etc., emphasis on comfort goes up and attention to suffering goes out. And yet, the Lord and the apostles call us repeatedly to endure suffering for the glory of His name. In fact, the Christian life, in one sense, is synonymous with the sufferings of Christ. "For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows" (2 Cor. 1:5). Because we're united to Christ, we suffer. And we are blessed when we suffer for Him (Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Peter). One can't help but think that much of our weakness as Christians is owing to our un-Christian aversion to suffering, avoiding it at all cost and christening cowardice as wisdom. The 'prosperity gospel' lays a pretty deep foundation for that mistake.

Anyway... I didn't intend to say much at all about this, just to show the video. But I pray that the Lord's people, redeemed by His blood, would leave these churches and ministries in a mass exodus.

Related Posts
John Calvin on the 'Prosperity Gospel'
Mohler on the Prosperity Gospel
Husband-Wife Co-Pastors?


Shawn Abigail said...

As a friend of mine pointed out, God's great master plan of the ages is not simply to give people more stuff.

Anonymous said...

May we rest on the promises outlined in Jeremiah that God will take care of His flock because they are His to begin with and that He will remove the false shepherds, care for the flock until He raises a new shepherd to be place over them.

I love God. He is good.

Anonymous said...

I have only one seeming affinity with prosperity theology: that the gospel really is for more than just a disembodied heaven, as N. T. Wright writes in Surprised by Hope. On the other hand, I wouldn’t try to take this out of prosperity theology, because their narrative really isn’t about redemption at all, and their triumphalism has nothing to do with resurrection through the way of the Cross.

So we ought to unequivocally reject prosperity theology. At the same time, I think the focus on justification (including the theory of bank-wire-transfer imputed righteousness) as the totality of the gospel, or even the single centre of it, is misplaced.

Demetrius said...

The prosperity Gospel has so many theological flaws to it that I cannot even begin to point out all of them. One being that we can merit the favor and blessing of God. For example most prosperity people claim that Giving is the cure all for all of your problems and if you give God will bless you. Sounds subtile but in my opinion they are saying a whole bunch. they are saying well "God is moved by the works we can perform and the reason someone else has something and the other does not is because they gave and you didn't. This attitude can lead to boasting and pride on our part. It also reduces God to a mere genie and servant than the great sovereign he declares himself to be most prosperity people love his kingdom,its regal side,its power,but they speak very little of the king.

Unknown said...

The prosperity gospel is a message that does not require a conversion. It's just the opposite. It's very common for people listening to the prosperity message to be deceived into believing the gospel with the allure of much wantoness. Christ taught that many of his disciples would bring no fruit to perfection because they would fall into the deceitfulness of riches. Paul said that the time would come when they would heap to themselves teachers having itching ears. These are ministers that appeal to the flesh. The reason why the prosperity gospel is so deceptive is because there is an overlap between the true gospel and the prosperity gospel. Christ taught us to pray for our material needs. Give us this day our daily bread. But Christ also emphasized there is a foreseeable risk of harm in setting your heart on material things. Paul said they that will be rich fall into temptation. So it's a continuous process of weeding out the thorns and making the right decisions financially. I wrote a book last year called "Ready or Not, Here I Come". In the book I wrote a play about a news anchor whose excited about following Christ for the money. Jim Borrowitz aspires to be the world's first receiverologist, but his co-anchor Mary Sparrowitz is very concerned about his heart. I won't spoit the story for you but you can look at the book on by Steven A. Janda