Heresy in the Prosperity Gospel Movement

To add to this week’s posts on the Prosperity Gospel. . . .There is a lot of heresy in the Prosperity Gospel Movement, but that strain is facing challenges from within its own circles, from preachers who are now emphasizing saving money instead of ostentatious spending. From Prosperity gospel faces challenge: frugal savers :

For 40 years, the Rev. Charles Cowan has been preaching that God wants Christians to prosper. So he's not about to change the message, no matter how bad the economy looks.

That includes telling his followers that if they are faithful in giving to the church, God will reward them financially.

"We want to be sure that we are taking care of honoring God, because his Word tells us that if we honor him, he will honor us," said Cowan, pastor of nondenominational Faith is the Victory Church in Nashville.

Despite the economic downturn, the prosperity gospel remains alive and well. Pastors like Cowan or televangelists like the Rev. Creflo Dollar and the Rev. Kenneth Copeland continue to promise that financial blessings will follow donations to their ministries.

But it faces a challenge from a new austerity gospel, which says God blesses those who work hard, save their money and pay off their debts.

The article goes on, detailing the controversy within the movement.

Both sides, of course, are still in the same conceptual error, making the gospel and faith a matter of MONEY, in direct contradiction to Scripture. Again, we have a theology of glory vs. the theology of the cross. I can’t understand why the real Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is not enough for anyone.

Also, I have heard that much of the growth of Christianity in the developing world is of the Prosperity Gospel variety. Is that right? If so, we may be seeing the rise of a new religion rather than the advancement of the real Gospel.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://uest fws

    ” I can’t understand why the real Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is not enough for anyone.”

    because we want it to always be about us…

    mark galli says it so well in a mockingbird blog interview:

    “The doctrine of grace is so radical and so contrary to our assumptions about what religion is about, that once we express it in a clear fashion, it will appall people. Because we’re all so anxious—even people like me who preach grace—to justify our lives. We want our lives to be meaningful, purposeful, useful. So we hook our futures to God and think, “Now I can really make my life purposeful and useful and I can do something for God in the world. And if I work with God, he’s going to change me.” We’re not so interested in God a lot of times, we’re tired of who we are and we’re more interested in wanting to be a different kind of person so we can feel better about ourselves. So much of our religious language and religious motive is about ourselves: justifying ourselves or improving ourselves, with God as a means to that end. Well, the fact of the matter is it’s not about you. But that’s shocking and appalling to most people because we’re so used to thinking that religion is about us, even though we’ve learned to use religious language to suggest otherwise. But in fact, it really ends up being all about us.

    Now, some people would say that it’s depressing that I can’t change. Well, it’s not depressing, it’s freeing! It’s depressing and oppressive to think every morning that I somehow have to be better than I was the day before to justify my Christian religion and to justify my faith. That’s the oppressive thing. The freeing thing is to realize that I am a sinner and God has accepted me as such. And yes, of course we’re called to strive and be better and to love and all those things—duh!—that’s not the issue. The issue is the motive out of which that comes and what we actually expect to happen as a result of that.

    A lot of this is driven by my own personal spiritual journey and is hammered home by the biblical message, and something that Luther got really well: the harder I try to be a good Christian, I notice the worse Christian I am: more self-righteous, more impatient, more frustrated. But when I stop trying to be a good Christian and just realize I am a sinner and that God has accepted me, and that’s the way it is, that, for some reason, releases the striving part of me that makes life harder, and all of a sudden I find myself, surprisingly, more patient, more compassionate, less judgmental and more joyful. So I think that kind of personal experience is a merely reflection of what the Gospel truth is. And those moments when I experience that, that’s wonderful.”

    http://mockingbirdnyc.blogspot.com/2009/11/exclusive-interview-mark-galli-of.html

  • http://uest fws

    ” I can’t understand why the real Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is not enough for anyone.”

    because we want it to always be about us…

    mark galli says it so well in a mockingbird blog interview:

    “The doctrine of grace is so radical and so contrary to our assumptions about what religion is about, that once we express it in a clear fashion, it will appall people. Because we’re all so anxious—even people like me who preach grace—to justify our lives. We want our lives to be meaningful, purposeful, useful. So we hook our futures to God and think, “Now I can really make my life purposeful and useful and I can do something for God in the world. And if I work with God, he’s going to change me.” We’re not so interested in God a lot of times, we’re tired of who we are and we’re more interested in wanting to be a different kind of person so we can feel better about ourselves. So much of our religious language and religious motive is about ourselves: justifying ourselves or improving ourselves, with God as a means to that end. Well, the fact of the matter is it’s not about you. But that’s shocking and appalling to most people because we’re so used to thinking that religion is about us, even though we’ve learned to use religious language to suggest otherwise. But in fact, it really ends up being all about us.

    Now, some people would say that it’s depressing that I can’t change. Well, it’s not depressing, it’s freeing! It’s depressing and oppressive to think every morning that I somehow have to be better than I was the day before to justify my Christian religion and to justify my faith. That’s the oppressive thing. The freeing thing is to realize that I am a sinner and God has accepted me as such. And yes, of course we’re called to strive and be better and to love and all those things—duh!—that’s not the issue. The issue is the motive out of which that comes and what we actually expect to happen as a result of that.

    A lot of this is driven by my own personal spiritual journey and is hammered home by the biblical message, and something that Luther got really well: the harder I try to be a good Christian, I notice the worse Christian I am: more self-righteous, more impatient, more frustrated. But when I stop trying to be a good Christian and just realize I am a sinner and that God has accepted me, and that’s the way it is, that, for some reason, releases the striving part of me that makes life harder, and all of a sudden I find myself, surprisingly, more patient, more compassionate, less judgmental and more joyful. So I think that kind of personal experience is a merely reflection of what the Gospel truth is. And those moments when I experience that, that’s wonderful.”

    http://mockingbirdnyc.blogspot.com/2009/11/exclusive-interview-mark-galli-of.html

  • SjB

    Dr. Veith,

    I have had quite a bit of experience with this heresy. If my understanding is correct, it is the pentecostal version of Christianity that is spreading like wildfire overseas. Partly because they hold enormous revival style meetings in various large cities and mostly because TBN is aired 24/7 worldwide. TBN has worked hard since the 80′s to purchase TV stations and cover the world with TBN. The last I heard, they had succeeded and there is almost nowhere, where one cannot view their free program. It makes me glad that EWTN is there to compete with them. I’d much rather see people become Roman Catholics (Christ is preached in the Eucharist) than health/wealth pentecostals (Christless Christianity).

    I think a main deceptive quality with the H/W pentecostals is that they preach the OT conditional promises (if you do this, then God will do that). People mistake it for the truth about God and his relationship with them because they see it plainly written in the Bible. The law is always preached with promises attached to their obedience. People cannot understand why it is wrong because the Bible is used to support these false interpretations. It is a wicked web that is woven and people become blinded and prevented from hearing the truth of the gospel. Their minds are drilled in the law and obedience to the law in order to earn God’s favor. Like all heresies, it attacks both soteriology and Christology.

  • SjB

    Dr. Veith,

    I have had quite a bit of experience with this heresy. If my understanding is correct, it is the pentecostal version of Christianity that is spreading like wildfire overseas. Partly because they hold enormous revival style meetings in various large cities and mostly because TBN is aired 24/7 worldwide. TBN has worked hard since the 80′s to purchase TV stations and cover the world with TBN. The last I heard, they had succeeded and there is almost nowhere, where one cannot view their free program. It makes me glad that EWTN is there to compete with them. I’d much rather see people become Roman Catholics (Christ is preached in the Eucharist) than health/wealth pentecostals (Christless Christianity).

    I think a main deceptive quality with the H/W pentecostals is that they preach the OT conditional promises (if you do this, then God will do that). People mistake it for the truth about God and his relationship with them because they see it plainly written in the Bible. The law is always preached with promises attached to their obedience. People cannot understand why it is wrong because the Bible is used to support these false interpretations. It is a wicked web that is woven and people become blinded and prevented from hearing the truth of the gospel. Their minds are drilled in the law and obedience to the law in order to earn God’s favor. Like all heresies, it attacks both soteriology and Christology.

  • http://lionswardrobe.livejournal.com Eric R.

    So now suddenly the Prosperity Gospel is starting to meet Max Weber. Who’da thunk?

    Pax.

  • http://lionswardrobe.livejournal.com Eric R.

    So now suddenly the Prosperity Gospel is starting to meet Max Weber. Who’da thunk?

    Pax.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “But it faces a challenge from a new austerity gospel, which says God blesses those who work hard, save their money and pay off their debts.”

    So do you have to be Christian to work hard, save money and pay off debt? Where is the “religion” in this? Who doesn’t know this path?
    As for me I thought God gave everyone their daily bread, even all evil people. So I try not to worry about it but give him thanks, and then manage it as best I can, which is probably to say, not very well at all.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “But it faces a challenge from a new austerity gospel, which says God blesses those who work hard, save their money and pay off their debts.”

    So do you have to be Christian to work hard, save money and pay off debt? Where is the “religion” in this? Who doesn’t know this path?
    As for me I thought God gave everyone their daily bread, even all evil people. So I try not to worry about it but give him thanks, and then manage it as best I can, which is probably to say, not very well at all.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    Either way, it’s Cargo Cult Christianity.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    Either way, it’s Cargo Cult Christianity.


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