The Prosperity Gospel and the Megachurches

In her article Did Christianity Cause the Crash? – The Atlantic (December 2009), Hanna Rosin points to the connection between the “prosperity gospel,” which teaches that God will make you rich if you only have enough faith–by which is meant positive thinking–and America’s megachurches:

Among mainstream, nondenominational megachurches, where much of American religious life takes place, “prosperity is proliferating” rapidly, says Kate Bowler, a doctoral candidate at Duke University and an expert in the gospel. Few, if any, of these churches have prosperity in their title or mission statement, but Bowler has analyzed their sermons and teachings. Of the nation’s 12 largest churches, she says, three are prosperity—Osteen’s, which dwarfs all the other megachurches; Tommy Barnett’s, in Phoenix; and T. D. Jakes’s, in Dallas. In second-tier churches—those with about 5,000 members—the prosperity gospel dominates. Overall, Bowler classifies 50 of the largest 260 churches in the U.S. as prosperity. The doctrine has become popular with Americans of every background and ethnicity; overall, Pew found that 66 percent of all Pentecostals and 43 percent of “other Christians”—a category comprising roughly half of all respondents—believe that wealth will be granted to the faithful. It’s an upbeat theology, argues Barbara Ehrenreich in her new book, Bright-Sided, that has much in common with the kind of “positive thinking” that has come to dominate America’s boardrooms and, indeed, its entire culture.

It seems clear to me that, unless I am missing something, the prosperity gospel is a different gospel than that taught in Scripture–namely, Christ crucified for sinners–and that it constitutes a new religion, and not Christianity at all. (Am I wrong? I’d be glad to hear otherwise.)

This seems to be largely a phenomenon among African-Americans, Hispanics, and poor people in general who get caught up in big dreams sold to them by their preachers. Does anyone know if it has penetrated to the white suburban megachurches? (Rick Warren, for one, condemns the teaching.) Does it show up (I shudder to think) in any Lutheran churches?

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.

  • Gil Franke

    Gene, this phenomenon is not limited to African American, Hispanic, and low income communities. Check out Joel Osteen’s ministry website (Houston, TX): http://www.joelosteen.com/Pages/Index.aspx — This is upper middle class, upwardly mobile society. In Corpus Christi we have one of the second tier churches as defined by Bowler. It draws from the same socio-economic level, serves Starbucks coffee in some 64 large thermos dispensers in the foyer, uses lights, smoke machines, impressive audio-visuals, in a theater setting. The message is amazingly “pharisaic” — “God gives material blessings to those who are faithful. Let me tell you how to achieve them.”

  • Gil Franke

    Gene, this phenomenon is not limited to African American, Hispanic, and low income communities. Check out Joel Osteen’s ministry website (Houston, TX): http://www.joelosteen.com/Pages/Index.aspx — This is upper middle class, upwardly mobile society. In Corpus Christi we have one of the second tier churches as defined by Bowler. It draws from the same socio-economic level, serves Starbucks coffee in some 64 large thermos dispensers in the foyer, uses lights, smoke machines, impressive audio-visuals, in a theater setting. The message is amazingly “pharisaic” — “God gives material blessings to those who are faithful. Let me tell you how to achieve them.”

  • Jack Kilcrease

    Even at the “happy-clappy” Lutheran Churches I’ve been to, there is generally no prosperity doctrine. This is one of the reasons (from a pure marketing perspective, of course not a theological one) why it doesn’t work for Lutherans to try to imitate American Evangelicals. We’re really not an American Church because we can never really buy into Arminianism and Lockean individualism. At best Lutherans can kinda pretend and most culturally American Christians can smell it and will probably go to greener, money promising, free-will having, America- the redeemer nation, churches.

    It almost seems weird to me that people would fall for such a thing in light of the fact that the only righteous person in history ended up systematically tortured to death. The apostles didn’t fair much better- so why do they think that they’re special? Christianity resulted in death and suffering in one period of history, but now it means money and goodies? I especially love the degeneracy of “name it and claim it.” It’s like the ultimate and terminal stage of Arminianism. It’s like this: My will is so free and therefore God-like, that I can just name something I want and God will give it to me. It’s like believers have become God in Genesis 1. “Let there be a DVD player.” Have any of them read Genesis 3 or Romans 1-6? It might be a good idea.

  • Jack Kilcrease

    Even at the “happy-clappy” Lutheran Churches I’ve been to, there is generally no prosperity doctrine. This is one of the reasons (from a pure marketing perspective, of course not a theological one) why it doesn’t work for Lutherans to try to imitate American Evangelicals. We’re really not an American Church because we can never really buy into Arminianism and Lockean individualism. At best Lutherans can kinda pretend and most culturally American Christians can smell it and will probably go to greener, money promising, free-will having, America- the redeemer nation, churches.

    It almost seems weird to me that people would fall for such a thing in light of the fact that the only righteous person in history ended up systematically tortured to death. The apostles didn’t fair much better- so why do they think that they’re special? Christianity resulted in death and suffering in one period of history, but now it means money and goodies? I especially love the degeneracy of “name it and claim it.” It’s like the ultimate and terminal stage of Arminianism. It’s like this: My will is so free and therefore God-like, that I can just name something I want and God will give it to me. It’s like believers have become God in Genesis 1. “Let there be a DVD player.” Have any of them read Genesis 3 or Romans 1-6? It might be a good idea.

  • Kirk

    @Gil,

    I agree. TBN, which seems to cater primarily to white viewers, has been a purveyor of the prosperity gospel/word of faith for decades.

    Additionally, I think that the prosperity gospel appeals to both poor and rich alike. The poor see it as a materialistic hope. The rich see it as a justification for their life long pursuit of money, and often times use their wealth justify themselves.

  • Kirk

    @Gil,

    I agree. TBN, which seems to cater primarily to white viewers, has been a purveyor of the prosperity gospel/word of faith for decades.

    Additionally, I think that the prosperity gospel appeals to both poor and rich alike. The poor see it as a materialistic hope. The rich see it as a justification for their life long pursuit of money, and often times use their wealth justify themselves.

  • Larry

    It appears in suburban mega churches (a Rick Warren imitator church), I use to belong to one and even more smaller wannabe churches. It’s a plague in Kentucky from Louisville (the largest city) to more rural counties. But it appears in various forms and more subtle teachings. It’s not as overt as say Creflo Dollar or T. D. Jakes. Warren like churches might condemn the more overt version of this but many practice, especially when shaking a tithe out of people. I experienced it in hundreds of various forms. From pressure to “build the church” (if you build it they will come), to “need it for evangelism/missions”, etc… When “tithing” for such it is implied or even taught explicitly you WILL receive blessings, and if not God will not bless you. It’s not the variety that Hollywood could make a good “greedy preacher” movie out of but a much more subtle version that pries open your wallet. The affects on us was to drain our money over time with the subtle pressure of building the church/evangelism and you receiving reward. I even had it more than once implied that “well a REAL Christian will give at least 10% of their gross”, the implication being – you have to put it into non-Lutheran context where there is no “for you” Gospel in sacraments – “you may not be saved/reborn/truly converted etc… as such tithing is or can be a “proof” of those things. Again, its never overt per se but very very very subtle. Subtle enough that one has plausible deniability as to being like those rank health and wealth preachers out there, just enough one can condemn it on one hand but really be doing it on the other hand in a different way. Thus, you might not be promised a Cadillac if you give in strong faith like those rank H and W preachers, but what is held out to you is often stronger like “proof of conversion” and what Christian doesn’t want to know if he/she is saved. In fact I would argue that this is a worse other religion than rank H and W preachers.

    Larry

  • Larry

    It appears in suburban mega churches (a Rick Warren imitator church), I use to belong to one and even more smaller wannabe churches. It’s a plague in Kentucky from Louisville (the largest city) to more rural counties. But it appears in various forms and more subtle teachings. It’s not as overt as say Creflo Dollar or T. D. Jakes. Warren like churches might condemn the more overt version of this but many practice, especially when shaking a tithe out of people. I experienced it in hundreds of various forms. From pressure to “build the church” (if you build it they will come), to “need it for evangelism/missions”, etc… When “tithing” for such it is implied or even taught explicitly you WILL receive blessings, and if not God will not bless you. It’s not the variety that Hollywood could make a good “greedy preacher” movie out of but a much more subtle version that pries open your wallet. The affects on us was to drain our money over time with the subtle pressure of building the church/evangelism and you receiving reward. I even had it more than once implied that “well a REAL Christian will give at least 10% of their gross”, the implication being – you have to put it into non-Lutheran context where there is no “for you” Gospel in sacraments – “you may not be saved/reborn/truly converted etc… as such tithing is or can be a “proof” of those things. Again, its never overt per se but very very very subtle. Subtle enough that one has plausible deniability as to being like those rank health and wealth preachers out there, just enough one can condemn it on one hand but really be doing it on the other hand in a different way. Thus, you might not be promised a Cadillac if you give in strong faith like those rank H and W preachers, but what is held out to you is often stronger like “proof of conversion” and what Christian doesn’t want to know if he/she is saved. In fact I would argue that this is a worse other religion than rank H and W preachers.

    Larry

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    In answer to Veith’s question the answer is no at least generally speaking. The Word/Faith movement is generally speaking a heterodox teaching as it still acknowledges the divine and human natures of Jesus and to an extent the doctrine of the Trinity. Their soteriology is generally arminean, but where they uniquely go astray is that they believe that because God loves me he wants me to be rich. Word/Faith is basically holy consumerism. If you watch ads this time of year you will see the idea if you really love someone you are going to give them big expensive gifts. Essentially, Word/Faith “sanctifies” the idea by promoting the idea, if God loves me he will give me big gifts. To some extent you could say they take the Calvinist thought, you will know the elect by their works/blessings to its logical conclusion.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    In answer to Veith’s question the answer is no at least generally speaking. The Word/Faith movement is generally speaking a heterodox teaching as it still acknowledges the divine and human natures of Jesus and to an extent the doctrine of the Trinity. Their soteriology is generally arminean, but where they uniquely go astray is that they believe that because God loves me he wants me to be rich. Word/Faith is basically holy consumerism. If you watch ads this time of year you will see the idea if you really love someone you are going to give them big expensive gifts. Essentially, Word/Faith “sanctifies” the idea by promoting the idea, if God loves me he will give me big gifts. To some extent you could say they take the Calvinist thought, you will know the elect by their works/blessings to its logical conclusion.

  • Craig

    Dear Dr. Veith and responders,

    First, thanks for getting the Atlantic article out there for us to see. I saw the magazine yesterday actually. Second, thanks to those who have made such astute comments and third, this should grieve us-that Christianity in our beloved country has come to this.

  • Craig

    Dear Dr. Veith and responders,

    First, thanks for getting the Atlantic article out there for us to see. I saw the magazine yesterday actually. Second, thanks to those who have made such astute comments and third, this should grieve us-that Christianity in our beloved country has come to this.

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

    I would like to say the prosperity gospel is not prevalent in the Lutheran Church. I would like to say that…
    However I think it comes out at least once a year when the pastor does his obligatory “stewardship” sermon. Not all fall into the trap, but I have heard it more than once that God will bless me with riches for tithing. In fact that was the message behind a very popular “stewardship” book from the 60′s that I read on vicarage, given to me by a parishioner there, something to the effect of “the Power of Pure Stewardship” or something or other. Made me want to gag.
    I think though our pericope system somewhat shields us pastors from preaching on stewardship every Sunday, so that helps keep the heterodoxy down a bit.

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

    I would like to say the prosperity gospel is not prevalent in the Lutheran Church. I would like to say that…
    However I think it comes out at least once a year when the pastor does his obligatory “stewardship” sermon. Not all fall into the trap, but I have heard it more than once that God will bless me with riches for tithing. In fact that was the message behind a very popular “stewardship” book from the 60′s that I read on vicarage, given to me by a parishioner there, something to the effect of “the Power of Pure Stewardship” or something or other. Made me want to gag.
    I think though our pericope system somewhat shields us pastors from preaching on stewardship every Sunday, so that helps keep the heterodoxy down a bit.

  • Larry

    Dr. Luther in 21st Century,

    I would have to partially not concur entirely with that answer with this explanation:

    More than once we would be “instructed” in clearly non-health and wealth Baptist churches who openly condemn them that IF we gave we’d receive blessing and if we didn’t that might be the source of our woes (whatever they are). Now the blessing would not necessarily be “a bass boat” or a “million dollar home” that, to them, would be H & W preaching, rather some other blessing that and the inclusion of “proof of faith” which is in turn “proof of conversion/rebirth”. To not do this garnered the opposite. And I was in a LOT of SB churches of various names including the ever ubiquitous “First Baptist…” local church, none of which were H and W churches and roundly condemned openly such. Typically the passage of Malichi was a perennial favorite to support such teachings. One might argue that they were not formerly H and W churches, as such, but they preached and taught the principles. There was no doubt, you were definitely more blessed if you didn’t have problems and if you did have problems, something was at the root at it you were withholding from God, either works or money.

    Larry

  • Larry

    Dr. Luther in 21st Century,

    I would have to partially not concur entirely with that answer with this explanation:

    More than once we would be “instructed” in clearly non-health and wealth Baptist churches who openly condemn them that IF we gave we’d receive blessing and if we didn’t that might be the source of our woes (whatever they are). Now the blessing would not necessarily be “a bass boat” or a “million dollar home” that, to them, would be H & W preaching, rather some other blessing that and the inclusion of “proof of faith” which is in turn “proof of conversion/rebirth”. To not do this garnered the opposite. And I was in a LOT of SB churches of various names including the ever ubiquitous “First Baptist…” local church, none of which were H and W churches and roundly condemned openly such. Typically the passage of Malichi was a perennial favorite to support such teachings. One might argue that they were not formerly H and W churches, as such, but they preached and taught the principles. There was no doubt, you were definitely more blessed if you didn’t have problems and if you did have problems, something was at the root at it you were withholding from God, either works or money.

    Larry

  • historyprofbrad

    The prosperity gospel is nothing new. It is little more than an updated version of the “Gospel of Wealth” of the 19th century. Go look up Russell Conwell’s “Acres of Diamonds” and you will see it, albeit in a form conducive to a nation in the process of industrialization rather than late capitalism like we have now. It reared up again with people like Norman Vincent Peale in the 1950s, and has enjoyed success over the past 25 years thanks to charismatic personalities like Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, and the ever-smiling Joel Osteen (who is little more than an updated version of Norman Vincent Peale!). In other words, from a historian’s perspective, this is nothing new at all, but it is in many ways uniquely American. It sells to a great degree because it fits our microwave, “give it to me now,” sense of entitlement culture. Add the cult of celebrity that permeates pop culture to the mix and you get this stuff. It is both frightening AND fascinating at the same time!

  • historyprofbrad

    The prosperity gospel is nothing new. It is little more than an updated version of the “Gospel of Wealth” of the 19th century. Go look up Russell Conwell’s “Acres of Diamonds” and you will see it, albeit in a form conducive to a nation in the process of industrialization rather than late capitalism like we have now. It reared up again with people like Norman Vincent Peale in the 1950s, and has enjoyed success over the past 25 years thanks to charismatic personalities like Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, and the ever-smiling Joel Osteen (who is little more than an updated version of Norman Vincent Peale!). In other words, from a historian’s perspective, this is nothing new at all, but it is in many ways uniquely American. It sells to a great degree because it fits our microwave, “give it to me now,” sense of entitlement culture. Add the cult of celebrity that permeates pop culture to the mix and you get this stuff. It is both frightening AND fascinating at the same time!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Along the lines of what Larry is saying, I think this prosperity teaching is ingrained in many true-blue Americans, including many Lutherans and is definitely not just found in megachurches. I also find myself believing it and must repent of it often. That if a person struggles with some sin like alcoholism or homosexuality, or homelessness then that person didn’t have a good upbringing (parents and community condemned) or their faith is wrong in some other way (the person is completely condemned). On the other hand, if you are successful and outwardly righteous, you and your parents are praised and rewarded by this cultural understanding of works righteousness. But this is just popular “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” sentiment. Many feel that this is just the way it is, its common sense, and they hold it so deeply they are sure that it must be Christian teaching on sin. The truth about their spiritual condition scares them so much, they push it away with the horrible comfort of this pernicious teaching.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Along the lines of what Larry is saying, I think this prosperity teaching is ingrained in many true-blue Americans, including many Lutherans and is definitely not just found in megachurches. I also find myself believing it and must repent of it often. That if a person struggles with some sin like alcoholism or homosexuality, or homelessness then that person didn’t have a good upbringing (parents and community condemned) or their faith is wrong in some other way (the person is completely condemned). On the other hand, if you are successful and outwardly righteous, you and your parents are praised and rewarded by this cultural understanding of works righteousness. But this is just popular “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” sentiment. Many feel that this is just the way it is, its common sense, and they hold it so deeply they are sure that it must be Christian teaching on sin. The truth about their spiritual condition scares them so much, they push it away with the horrible comfort of this pernicious teaching.

  • DonS

    Besides Joel Osteen, clearly the Crystal Cathedral under the pastorate of Robert Schuller has promoted a positive thinking, prosperity gospel message. Of course, Robert Schuller was a disciple of Norman Vincent Peale, in the same denomination, Reformed Church of America.

    There are two clear errors (at least) in prosperity gospel teachings. First, that a right relationship with God will result in material blessings. Second, that wrongful actions, such as not giving liberally to ministry, will result in negative material consequences. The Bible clearly teaches that God disciplines His children when they stray, but that discipline may take many forms, and is not necessarily directly linked to any specific action or non-action of a particular Christian.

    That being said, I’m not sure it’s wrong to teach that giving can result in God’s blessing. What is wrong is teaching that there is necessarily a direct correlation (giving should not be done for the purpose of receiving blessing), or that the blessing will be material. The Apostle Paul speaks in Phil. 4:16-17 as follows (KJV) “For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” In Titus 3:14, he amplifies: “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful”.

  • DonS

    Besides Joel Osteen, clearly the Crystal Cathedral under the pastorate of Robert Schuller has promoted a positive thinking, prosperity gospel message. Of course, Robert Schuller was a disciple of Norman Vincent Peale, in the same denomination, Reformed Church of America.

    There are two clear errors (at least) in prosperity gospel teachings. First, that a right relationship with God will result in material blessings. Second, that wrongful actions, such as not giving liberally to ministry, will result in negative material consequences. The Bible clearly teaches that God disciplines His children when they stray, but that discipline may take many forms, and is not necessarily directly linked to any specific action or non-action of a particular Christian.

    That being said, I’m not sure it’s wrong to teach that giving can result in God’s blessing. What is wrong is teaching that there is necessarily a direct correlation (giving should not be done for the purpose of receiving blessing), or that the blessing will be material. The Apostle Paul speaks in Phil. 4:16-17 as follows (KJV) “For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” In Titus 3:14, he amplifies: “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful”.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    Condemnation of the prosperity gospel is good, right, and proper.

    But, we should not allow our response to that become an overreaction against all preaching on tithing, stewardship, and money.

    Proper teaching and preaching on the principles of Biblical tithing and God’s promise to bless such tithing should be welcomed.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    Condemnation of the prosperity gospel is good, right, and proper.

    But, we should not allow our response to that become an overreaction against all preaching on tithing, stewardship, and money.

    Proper teaching and preaching on the principles of Biblical tithing and God’s promise to bless such tithing should be welcomed.

  • GEZ

    Rick Warren condemns the prosperity gospel? Then why does he sell the Christian life based on the fact that it leads to healthier choices, healthier relationships, a better sense of purpose, etc. All misinterpreted law-driven preaching that directs us to ourselves and our works is, essentially, prosperity gospel preaching. Theology of glory at its worst.

  • GEZ

    Rick Warren condemns the prosperity gospel? Then why does he sell the Christian life based on the fact that it leads to healthier choices, healthier relationships, a better sense of purpose, etc. All misinterpreted law-driven preaching that directs us to ourselves and our works is, essentially, prosperity gospel preaching. Theology of glory at its worst.

  • Steve Schreiner

    The teaching is a bastardization of Matthew 6:33:

    “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

    The “these things” that is refernced are the answers to the three questions : ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (Matthew 6:31).

    Far too many believers answer these questions for themselves, instead of looking for the answers in the bible. We feel lots of money or prosperity in general will provide for our needs. Instead of relying upon God to provide. Be it much or little. Our wants are the problem. A large number of believers confuse needs with wants. So the idea of teaching that if you really have faith you will be given much is not in line with scripture, as the much that we seek will go towards our wants, and not our needs (since they are provided for by God).

    So. What is the answer to the questions? Matthew 6:34: Don’t worry. For God will provide. So we should be satisfied with what we are provided with. Be it much or little.

  • Steve Schreiner

    The teaching is a bastardization of Matthew 6:33:

    “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

    The “these things” that is refernced are the answers to the three questions : ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (Matthew 6:31).

    Far too many believers answer these questions for themselves, instead of looking for the answers in the bible. We feel lots of money or prosperity in general will provide for our needs. Instead of relying upon God to provide. Be it much or little. Our wants are the problem. A large number of believers confuse needs with wants. So the idea of teaching that if you really have faith you will be given much is not in line with scripture, as the much that we seek will go towards our wants, and not our needs (since they are provided for by God).

    So. What is the answer to the questions? Matthew 6:34: Don’t worry. For God will provide. So we should be satisfied with what we are provided with. Be it much or little.

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    From what I read this morning, this problem is not new, as we know. Those churches are teaching what people want to hear.

    It is great comfort to know that this is not how things work, especially when there are reversals. People who are steeped in this false doctrine suffer much more. Their preachers are doing them no favor.

    “I can guarantee this truth: You’re not looking for me because you saw miracles. You are looking for me because you ate as much of those loaves as you wanted.” (John 6:26).

    “Christ tells the people that they are not following him because of his teaching but because of their stomachs, which they hold dear… In this passage, the Lord reveals what type of followers the gospel will attract. Even today, the gospel attracts people who think it will fill their bellies, satisfy their desires, and help them here in this life… People, pretending to be sincere disciples, come to hear a sermon. But under this guise, they come only for personal gain… Christ didn’t shed his blood for this purpose!

    The gospel proclaims God’s glory and teaches us how to praise the Lord…”

    (From 365 Devotional Readings from Martin Luther, Aug. 26, CPH).

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    From what I read this morning, this problem is not new, as we know. Those churches are teaching what people want to hear.

    It is great comfort to know that this is not how things work, especially when there are reversals. People who are steeped in this false doctrine suffer much more. Their preachers are doing them no favor.

    “I can guarantee this truth: You’re not looking for me because you saw miracles. You are looking for me because you ate as much of those loaves as you wanted.” (John 6:26).

    “Christ tells the people that they are not following him because of his teaching but because of their stomachs, which they hold dear… In this passage, the Lord reveals what type of followers the gospel will attract. Even today, the gospel attracts people who think it will fill their bellies, satisfy their desires, and help them here in this life… People, pretending to be sincere disciples, come to hear a sermon. But under this guise, they come only for personal gain… Christ didn’t shed his blood for this purpose!

    The gospel proclaims God’s glory and teaches us how to praise the Lord…”

    (From 365 Devotional Readings from Martin Luther, Aug. 26, CPH).

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

    Andy,
    @12, am I to read here that we should condemn the prosperity gospel as long as it isn’t “our” prosperity gospel?
    And given the New Testament mandates, “tithing” in the strict sense is no longer a Biblical principle that a pastor has the right to preach as a command of God.

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

    Andy,
    @12, am I to read here that we should condemn the prosperity gospel as long as it isn’t “our” prosperity gospel?
    And given the New Testament mandates, “tithing” in the strict sense is no longer a Biblical principle that a pastor has the right to preach as a command of God.

  • Steve Schreiner

    I don’t see the connection between tithing and the Prosperity gospel. The Prosperity gospel is the increase of personal wealth for our own benefit. Tithing, the monetary act of giving back to God what is already His, and a showing that we have faith that God will provide for our needs, allows the Church (the entire body of believers) to (hopefully) further God’s Kingdom through various activities (not the accumulation of wealth for the church (not Church) in and of itself.) “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I feel that preachers should instruct that we should give more than the 10% normally associtated with the tithe. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” But everything is God’s. So we should give all we possibly can, and not just 10% !! Just as the deciples gave up all for Christ.

  • Steve Schreiner

    I don’t see the connection between tithing and the Prosperity gospel. The Prosperity gospel is the increase of personal wealth for our own benefit. Tithing, the monetary act of giving back to God what is already His, and a showing that we have faith that God will provide for our needs, allows the Church (the entire body of believers) to (hopefully) further God’s Kingdom through various activities (not the accumulation of wealth for the church (not Church) in and of itself.) “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I feel that preachers should instruct that we should give more than the 10% normally associtated with the tithe. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” But everything is God’s. So we should give all we possibly can, and not just 10% !! Just as the deciples gave up all for Christ.

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

    Steve,
    All to often the “tithe” is brought out with the promise that if you give 10% God is going to bless you with more than you have now etc.
    Second, No pastor has the right to bind a persons conscience to something God has not commanded. The tithe was never commanded to the Gentiles in the first place, but is superseded by the give what you can with a cheerful heart. What you can give will great vary from family to family. To some this might be more that 10%, to others much less. But the giving will always be in the realm of the law, and if you aren’t giving our of love for God, and thanks then you are condemned by this law. Giving out of a sense of obligation, or in some attempt to manipulate God is pure paganism.

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

    Steve,
    All to often the “tithe” is brought out with the promise that if you give 10% God is going to bless you with more than you have now etc.
    Second, No pastor has the right to bind a persons conscience to something God has not commanded. The tithe was never commanded to the Gentiles in the first place, but is superseded by the give what you can with a cheerful heart. What you can give will great vary from family to family. To some this might be more that 10%, to others much less. But the giving will always be in the realm of the law, and if you aren’t giving our of love for God, and thanks then you are condemned by this law. Giving out of a sense of obligation, or in some attempt to manipulate God is pure paganism.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    Bror,

    There is no “our prosperity gospel,” nor did I imply one.

    Furthermore, to be clear, you would consider a Pastor preaching on stewardship, tithing, bringing first fruits, etc. as a Christian duty to be inciting his flock to paganism?

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    Bror,

    There is no “our prosperity gospel,” nor did I imply one.

    Furthermore, to be clear, you would consider a Pastor preaching on stewardship, tithing, bringing first fruits, etc. as a Christian duty to be inciting his flock to paganism?

  • http://uest fws

    #19 andy

    pretty much andy.

    the ONLY thing that can be called christian is faith in jesus christ. this is the ONLY think that separates wheat from weed, sheep from goats and shallow from deep soil.

    To combine christian and duty is to say that being a christian is faith+works.

    it does not require an ounce of faith in Jesus to tithe. the pharisees did this.

    Further, the christian attitude is to turn only to God’s Word to see what he says will please him in outward righteousness, which is the mortification of the flesh, not christian sanctificaton. We do not roll-our-own good works. tithing is nowhere called a good work by God in the bible.

    God HAS promised earthly material blessings for following his will and for external righteousness as found in the 10 commandments as a summary and serving our neighbor. Those blessings are earthly and will perish with the earth. He has promised nothing for tithing since he has not commanded it in the bible.

    preaching on stewardship is not wrong at all! it serves your neighbor! To the extent that your stewardship blesses your neighbor he is not only pleased, but has promised earthly blessings. that will perish. this is not christian. this is discipline, mortification of the flesh, subduing the flesh, wresting out of the old adam by threat of the law (“duty”) and carrots (“material blessings”). I can point you to alot of books by pagans that are better at teaching you this than your pastor is. I am a CPA btw so I know a little somn somn about this topic. but it is NOT christian. no faith is required.

    So if you are saying that something is cristian duty when it is neither chrisian nor a duty god has said he is pleased with, then yes… pure paganism.

    Pagans can be just as outwardly righteous as any christian. so if it is earthly outward righteousness you want that will perish with the earth and cannot avail before God as righteousness, then paganism is as good a choice as any. A christian’s works, outwardly, are identical to the outward works of a righteous pagan anyhow right? NO difference. name ONE thing a christian does outwardly that a pagan cannot do. just one. this is not about being christian.

    so yes. YOu got it right dear brother.

  • http://uest fws

    #19 andy

    pretty much andy.

    the ONLY thing that can be called christian is faith in jesus christ. this is the ONLY think that separates wheat from weed, sheep from goats and shallow from deep soil.

    To combine christian and duty is to say that being a christian is faith+works.

    it does not require an ounce of faith in Jesus to tithe. the pharisees did this.

    Further, the christian attitude is to turn only to God’s Word to see what he says will please him in outward righteousness, which is the mortification of the flesh, not christian sanctificaton. We do not roll-our-own good works. tithing is nowhere called a good work by God in the bible.

    God HAS promised earthly material blessings for following his will and for external righteousness as found in the 10 commandments as a summary and serving our neighbor. Those blessings are earthly and will perish with the earth. He has promised nothing for tithing since he has not commanded it in the bible.

    preaching on stewardship is not wrong at all! it serves your neighbor! To the extent that your stewardship blesses your neighbor he is not only pleased, but has promised earthly blessings. that will perish. this is not christian. this is discipline, mortification of the flesh, subduing the flesh, wresting out of the old adam by threat of the law (“duty”) and carrots (“material blessings”). I can point you to alot of books by pagans that are better at teaching you this than your pastor is. I am a CPA btw so I know a little somn somn about this topic. but it is NOT christian. no faith is required.

    So if you are saying that something is cristian duty when it is neither chrisian nor a duty god has said he is pleased with, then yes… pure paganism.

    Pagans can be just as outwardly righteous as any christian. so if it is earthly outward righteousness you want that will perish with the earth and cannot avail before God as righteousness, then paganism is as good a choice as any. A christian’s works, outwardly, are identical to the outward works of a righteous pagan anyhow right? NO difference. name ONE thing a christian does outwardly that a pagan cannot do. just one. this is not about being christian.

    so yes. YOu got it right dear brother.

  • http://barrybishop.blogspot.com/ Barry D. Bishop

    When is it ever good to add adjectives to the word “Gospel?” Usually the adjectives mean another gospel and not the biblical one. “Prosperity,” “social,” “liberation”… none of them point to the cross of Christ, his atonement, and faith in Him alone for salvation.

    I don’t know of any better articulation against the prosperity gospel than John Piper’s when he calls it “crap.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTc_FoELt8s

  • http://barrybishop.blogspot.com/ Barry D. Bishop

    When is it ever good to add adjectives to the word “Gospel?” Usually the adjectives mean another gospel and not the biblical one. “Prosperity,” “social,” “liberation”… none of them point to the cross of Christ, his atonement, and faith in Him alone for salvation.

    I don’t know of any better articulation against the prosperity gospel than John Piper’s when he calls it “crap.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTc_FoELt8s

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    Health & Prosperity churches, pheh!

    Seems like a cargo cult to me. They’ve even turned Jesus into their own version of John Frum.

    But, touch not the annointed of God, yadda yadda..

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    Health & Prosperity churches, pheh!

    Seems like a cargo cult to me. They’ve even turned Jesus into their own version of John Frum.

    But, touch not the annointed of God, yadda yadda..

  • Peter Leavitt

    These “prosperity” gospel mega-churches, along with assorted other Protestant absurdities, are the logical and necessary outcome of a Reformation that has gone awry. Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin would be appalled at such developments.

  • Peter Leavitt

    These “prosperity” gospel mega-churches, along with assorted other Protestant absurdities, are the logical and necessary outcome of a Reformation that has gone awry. Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin would be appalled at such developments.

  • http://Bror0122@hotmail.com Bror Erickson

    Andy,
    I think what i said speaks for itself. It isn’t that you shouldn’t preach stewardship, but be very very careful in how you do it! It is law, and must not be confused with gospel.

  • http://Bror0122@hotmail.com Bror Erickson

    Andy,
    I think what i said speaks for itself. It isn’t that you shouldn’t preach stewardship, but be very very careful in how you do it! It is law, and must not be confused with gospel.

  • Kelly

    Doubly careful, if Christians are creating “principles” out of Old Testament ceremonial law which is no longer binding on Christians.

    As for the very real threats of punishment for not following these “principles,” they’re out there: http://www.biblicalrecorder.org/post/2009/03/25/Rodgers-Non-tithers-risk-Gode28099s-wrath.aspx

    You can say that we “ought to do it out of love and not fear of punishment” till you’re blue in the face (faithful Jewish people will say the same about following the Torah), but at the end of the day, this is still a (man-made) law, and so necessarily carries with it the threat of God’s displeasure if it’s not carried out.

  • Kelly

    Doubly careful, if Christians are creating “principles” out of Old Testament ceremonial law which is no longer binding on Christians.

    As for the very real threats of punishment for not following these “principles,” they’re out there: http://www.biblicalrecorder.org/post/2009/03/25/Rodgers-Non-tithers-risk-Gode28099s-wrath.aspx

    You can say that we “ought to do it out of love and not fear of punishment” till you’re blue in the face (faithful Jewish people will say the same about following the Torah), but at the end of the day, this is still a (man-made) law, and so necessarily carries with it the threat of God’s displeasure if it’s not carried out.

  • Larry

    “You can say that we “ought to do it out of love and not fear of punishment” till you’re blue in the face”

    Kelly you are exactly right. It’s one thing to describe in this language the way giving works, a teaching way if you will, the way one might teach how calculus works. It is quite another to push that sentence as motivation or energy to fulfill what it says. In that way it is simply more Law for it commands one “to love”.

    I’ll do a rare Calvin quote here in which he got this very right when replying to Cardinal Salato (sp??) in which the cardinal was speaking of not doing something legal but ‘out of love’. Calvin’s reply in one of his more “lutheran moments” was basically “as IF THAT is easier”. Calvin understood Law as Law there. That’s very different from when the Gospel inspires a free heart of joyful giving be it a penny or thousands of dollars.

    I learned a real life lesson in Christian giving three Sundays ago at church. We were running late and I was already in my hurry up huffying and puffing impatient mode with the kids. We were getting out of the van and my three year old spied a penny down on the bottom of the door frame. I looked at it with my fleshful adult eyes and did what most of us would do thinking, “sheesh a penny, might as well be a piece of lint” and impatiently told my three year old daughter, “Come on we are going to be late”. She was very happy at finding it and I blew it off, again in my impatience, I rolled my eyes as she bent down to get it and said come on. She picked it up.

    We get into church and she puts the penny in the diaper bag and says to me with a HUGE smile on her face in her child voice, “I want to give this money to the church when they pass the plate around”. At first I thought, again my adult sinful flesh, “That’s a cute child”. Then it struck me! That’s the widow and the might and I’m the Pharisee here. I never felt so filthy sinful in my life. When the giving plate came around she runs over to me, again with great joy in doing so, “Daddy I got to get my money out”, and she reaches in and gets her penny out, puts it in the plate, it clinks in the wooden plates bottom giving away its penniness, she’s beaming from ear to ear and almost jumping up and down. I slither my envelop/check into the plate thinking, “She gave all she had with great joy and I gave nothing.”

    It reminded me of Luther’s encounter with his own daughters faith and he waxed lavishly of the faith of a child versus the unbelief of an adult. I wish we all could give with that kind of great joy. We adults get stuck in the bean counting all too easy and thus joyless giving and thus though we may give 100s or even 1000s give nothing at all, while a widow or child clinks in a penny or less and gives more than all of us combined.

    Larry

  • Larry

    “You can say that we “ought to do it out of love and not fear of punishment” till you’re blue in the face”

    Kelly you are exactly right. It’s one thing to describe in this language the way giving works, a teaching way if you will, the way one might teach how calculus works. It is quite another to push that sentence as motivation or energy to fulfill what it says. In that way it is simply more Law for it commands one “to love”.

    I’ll do a rare Calvin quote here in which he got this very right when replying to Cardinal Salato (sp??) in which the cardinal was speaking of not doing something legal but ‘out of love’. Calvin’s reply in one of his more “lutheran moments” was basically “as IF THAT is easier”. Calvin understood Law as Law there. That’s very different from when the Gospel inspires a free heart of joyful giving be it a penny or thousands of dollars.

    I learned a real life lesson in Christian giving three Sundays ago at church. We were running late and I was already in my hurry up huffying and puffing impatient mode with the kids. We were getting out of the van and my three year old spied a penny down on the bottom of the door frame. I looked at it with my fleshful adult eyes and did what most of us would do thinking, “sheesh a penny, might as well be a piece of lint” and impatiently told my three year old daughter, “Come on we are going to be late”. She was very happy at finding it and I blew it off, again in my impatience, I rolled my eyes as she bent down to get it and said come on. She picked it up.

    We get into church and she puts the penny in the diaper bag and says to me with a HUGE smile on her face in her child voice, “I want to give this money to the church when they pass the plate around”. At first I thought, again my adult sinful flesh, “That’s a cute child”. Then it struck me! That’s the widow and the might and I’m the Pharisee here. I never felt so filthy sinful in my life. When the giving plate came around she runs over to me, again with great joy in doing so, “Daddy I got to get my money out”, and she reaches in and gets her penny out, puts it in the plate, it clinks in the wooden plates bottom giving away its penniness, she’s beaming from ear to ear and almost jumping up and down. I slither my envelop/check into the plate thinking, “She gave all she had with great joy and I gave nothing.”

    It reminded me of Luther’s encounter with his own daughters faith and he waxed lavishly of the faith of a child versus the unbelief of an adult. I wish we all could give with that kind of great joy. We adults get stuck in the bean counting all too easy and thus joyless giving and thus though we may give 100s or even 1000s give nothing at all, while a widow or child clinks in a penny or less and gives more than all of us combined.

    Larry


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