Giving the opening prayer at Donald Trump’s inauguration will be Paula White, a megachurch “pastor” and televangelist who is a leading proponent of the “prosperity gospel.” In fact, prosperity gospel preachers were the leading “evangelicals” who supported Trump from the beginning in an organized way.
Westminster professor and White Horse Inn host Michael Horton has published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post about the prosperity gospel movement and its connections to the president-elect. He goes into its history and its beliefs, including the teaching that “you are as much the incarnation [of God] as Jesus of Nazareth,” rejection of the Trinity, and that Christ died not for our sins but for our prosperity.
I suspect Trump neither knows nor cares about any of this, though he did attend Norman Vincent Peale’s “power of positive thinking” church as a child and though Paula White claimed to have “led him to Christ.” Most Christians who voted for Trump surely did so for secular rather than theological reasons. But giving the “Word of Faith” people another seeming name-it-and-claim-it victory, as well as prominence and possible influence, is not good for American Christianity.
Conservative, orthodox Christians who supported Trump–does this bother you? Should we give the Trump regime a pass when it comes to condemning false doctrine and heresy? Do the religious beliefs and alliances of someone in a secular office matter?
Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration will include Paula White and possibly other members of his inner circle, Darrell Scott, “Apostle” Wayne T. Jackson and Mark Burns. They’re all televangelists who hail from the “prosperity gospel” camp. They advocate a brand of Pentecostal Christianity known as Word of Faith.Inaugurations are always curious rituals of American civil religion. It would not be surprising to see a non-Christian religious leader participating. But what’s problematic for me as an evangelical is how Trump’s ceremony is helping to mainstream this heretical movement.
The prosperity gospel — the idea that God dispenses material wealth and health based on what we “decree” — is not just fluff. It’s also not just another branch of Pentecostalism, a tradition that emphasizes the continuation of the gifts of healing, prophecy and tongues. It’s another religion. . . .
Kenneth Hagin, revered as “granddaddy” in Word of Faith circles, gave the faith-healing movement its theological core. It included odd teachings about us all being “little gods.” Those who are born again, Hagin said, “are as much the incarnation [of God] as Jesus of Nazareth.” “You don’t have a God living in you,” says Hagin’s student Kenneth Copeland. “You are one.” Creflo Dollar adds, “[The] only human part of you is the flesh you’re wearing.”. . .
Televangelist White has a lot in common with Trump, besides being fans of Osteen. Both are in their third marriage and have endured decades of moral and financial scandal. According to family values spokesman James Dobson, another Trump adviser, White “personally led [Trump] to Christ.”
Like her mentor, T. D. Jakes, White adheres closely to the Word of Faith teachings. Besides throwing out doctrines like the Trinity and confusing ourselves with God, the movement teaches that Jesus went to the cross not to bring forgiveness of our sins but to get us out of financial debt, not to reconcile us to God but to give us the power to claim our prosperity, not to remove the curse of death, injustice and bondage to ourselves but to give us our best life now. White says emphatically that Jesus is “not the only begotten Son of God,” just the first. We’re all divine and have the power to speak worlds into existence.