Friday, September 23, 2011

The Prosperity Gospel and Its Derivations

There is a good article over at GetReligion that surveys both the purveyors of the "prosperity" gospel and its critics.  I heartily recommend it.  For my part, I particularly like one sentence:  "Whereas Augustine said that the essence of sin was the human person turned in upon him or herself, Osteen’s [et al] version of Christianity is all about turning inward on ourselves.”

We want so desperately to believe that God wants us to be rich in things, happy and content with our mortal lives, in control of our destinies, and successful in all our endeavors that we have learned to ignore or explain away much of what Jesus actually said.  The whole notion of carrying the cross is antithetical to the idea that God wants for us what we want for ourselves -- material comfort, physical ease, mental acuity, earthly success, and the insatiable desire for more.  This distortion may not be the fault of the evangelicals but it has surely come from that wing of Christendom -- more than any other.  We continue to resist any idea to the contrary and expect that the goal of God in our lives is to make today so blessedly happy and wonderful that our eternal tomorrow is more extension of the present joy than the unimaginable paradise and bliss that is not even glimpsed by the human eye or imagined by the human heart prior to glory.

Once I had a guy shake hands at the door one Easter Sunday.  As he walked pass me, he said, "Life's a bitch and then you die...."  Well, yes, sometimes but just as God does not desire nor create the bitch that life can be, neither does God contribute to the confusion of earthly joys with heavenly blessedness.  We live in the terrible tension in which earthly joys are both temptation and blessing.  But the same can be said about earthly troubles and trials.  They are both temptation and blessing.  And in the midst of them all, St. Paul brings the Gospel to bear.  He has known want and he has known abundance.  He desires to go and be with the Lord and to suffer here below to do the Lord's bidding.  He has complained to the Lord about his weakness and offered that weakness to the Lord, finding His strength made perfect there.  And so he confesses that God makes all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His eternal purpose.  As long as we are in this mortal flesh we struggle with this and seek to know the surpassing peace and joy of this faithful affirmation. 

Personally, I am comforted most of all by these words (whom a few suggest just might have been of the same St. Paul), who speaks of Jesus.  "Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross and scorned its shame..." and it is my prayer in success and defeat, in abundance and want, that God will help me fix my eyes upon Jesus.  The gospel of prosperity, no matter from whence it came or who preaches it best, turns the eye away from Jesus and therefore from the good that God is working and the joy His presence and His purpose brings.  The prosperity gospel is, sad to say, so commonly held that folks in mainline, Roman, Lutheran, and even Orthodox churches have come to assume that it is the genuine teaching of our Lord.  For this reason, none of us can afford to ignore its effect or proclaim the truth with greater fervor.


Anonymous said...

The "Health & Wealth Gospel" has 3
false teachings: 1)If you have enough
faith in God, then you will achieve
great wealth and good health.
2) Forgiveness of sins and eternal
life in Christ are not the main focus
of Christianity instead you can
manipulate God for your own benefit.
3)Their focus is on earthly life
as they accumulate material things
rather than focus on spiritual things
and that our real home is heaven.

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

My experience with the Health Wealth and Prosperity gospel goes back to Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copland. Their teachings included the despicable notion that the reason why you had problems in your life such as illness, etc. was because of secret unconfessed sins. And so all they did was pile up guilt upon those who had real problems that couldn't be 'positively confessed' away. Joel Osteen has learned from that generation and keeps his prosperity gospel far more ambiguous by not going near tough subjects like sin and eternal damnation.

I believe it was Kenneth Hagin who boasted that because of his great faith that for eight years no one in his congregation died, causing Walter Martin to quip 'I guess in order to go home and be with your Lord in eternity you have be excommunicated."

Anonymous said...

Health and Wealth Preachers practice
what they preach.

Kenneth Copeland has $6 million home
Benny Hinn has $4 million home
Joyce Meyer has $2 million home
Joel Osteen has $2 million home

They say their members want them
to have a mansion, not just a house.

Anonymous said...

Joel Osteen attended Oral Roberts
University for 1 Quarter and dropped
out. This is the extent of his
post high school education. No
college degree and no seminary degree
he was ordained by his father after
serving a decade as camera man for
his father's televised worship