Oral Roberts, mainline Protestant

The blog GetReligion, which critiques media coverage of religion, points out that most obituaries of Oral Roberts are missing the point. First, as Mollie Hemingway points out, he was NOT the patriarch of the prosperity gospel. Journalists are confusing him with fellow-Tulsan Kenneth Hagin. In fact, Roberts was associated with critics of that movement. Also, Roberts, despite his roots in backwoods Pentecostalism, was a member of the mainline United Methodist Church. His main significance, argues Terry Mattingly, is that he represents the way Pentecostalism found its way into mainline denominations and morphed into the charismatic movement.

I myself prefer him in his old days as a TV faith healer, which, whatever its validity, was spellbinding television. Later, after he founded Oral Roberts University and broadcast from his prayer tower, his show became slick and insufferable, but those black and white broadcasts of the sweaty, shouting preacher was great TV. And if you read Flannery O’Connor–say, “The Violent Bear It Away”–you would appreciate it, even if you didn’t believe it.

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.

  • wayne .pelling

    Oral Roberts came here to Melbourne Australia,in the ’50s’.I can remember that my father-ardent Christian-was disgusted at the tactics used to attack Roberts,includingCommunists or Catholic rightwingers attacking his tent mission.

  • wayne .pelling

    Oral Roberts came here to Melbourne Australia,in the ’50s’.I can remember that my father-ardent Christian-was disgusted at the tactics used to attack Roberts,includingCommunists or Catholic rightwingers attacking his tent mission.

  • CJ

    Didn’t he write that book about the miracle of seed faith? If that type of teaching isn’t the granddaddy of the prosperity gospel, I don’t know what is. Also, faith healing and prosperity gospel are very much linked together. I can’t think of a church that teaches one and not the other.

  • CJ

    Didn’t he write that book about the miracle of seed faith? If that type of teaching isn’t the granddaddy of the prosperity gospel, I don’t know what is. Also, faith healing and prosperity gospel are very much linked together. I can’t think of a church that teaches one and not the other.

  • Jerry

    Previously I was led to believe Rev. Roberts joined the UMC after he became established so as to provide a little more legitimacy to his ministry.

  • Jerry

    Previously I was led to believe Rev. Roberts joined the UMC after he became established so as to provide a little more legitimacy to his ministry.

  • Booklover

    Faith healing and prosperity gospel are very much tied together. Anytime your focus is on something other than Jesus being the salvation from sin, you are sending us down the wrong theological road.

  • Booklover

    Faith healing and prosperity gospel are very much tied together. Anytime your focus is on something other than Jesus being the salvation from sin, you are sending us down the wrong theological road.

  • Booklover

    Al Mohler mentions Oral Roberts in his blog, giving some positive words but lamenting his prosperity theology:

    http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/12/16/newsnote-the-death-of-oral-roberts/

  • Booklover

    Al Mohler mentions Oral Roberts in his blog, giving some positive words but lamenting his prosperity theology:

    http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/12/16/newsnote-the-death-of-oral-roberts/


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