Is the “Prosperity Gospel” heresy?

Recently I talked with a reporter for a major metropolitan daily newspaper about Pentecostalism. He called me after interviewing (he said) many scholars about Pentecostalism. He said that the people most enamored with Pentecostalism were non-Pentecostal religious scholars; none of them would say a bad word about Pentecostalism. He had read my article on the dark side of Pentecostalism in Christian Century and knew I could say some negative things about the movement. (Most of the negative things I have to say about it relate to the independent Pentecostal evangelists and entrepreneurial pastors–not the leading Pentecostal denominations.)

One thing that shocked  him and me both was the responses he received to questions about the so-called Prosperity Gospel of health and wealth that is rampant among independent Pentecostal and Charismatic “Word of Faith” churches and evangelists. He told me that one sociologist of religion explained it to him as nothing more than Pentecostal pastors and evangelists trying to teach their followers how to handle money responsibly. Needless to say, I filled him in on what it really is from first hand experience with it.

As some readers here already know, my first full time teaching position was at Oral Roberts University (1982-1984). I accepted that position because, returning from my studies in Germany, I had no other option. The tenure track position was in the undergraduate theology department. For those of you “in the know” I succeeded Chuck Farah who moved to the graduate school of theology. (Chuck was a leading critic of the then-budding health and wealth, word of faith “gospel” then being proclaimed by Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland. His book From the Pinnacle of the Temple was, to the best of my knowledge, the first book length critique of it.)

I was already aware of this teaching before moving to ORU to teach in the summer of 1982. I was raised Pentecostal and there had long been a “lunatic fringe” of the movement that promised physical and financial blessings in response to prayers of faith. They were our lunatic fringe because almost to a person they prayed for people’s teeth to be filled with gold. One of them came to our town (where my father was pastor of a Pentecostal church), set up his tent, and proceeded to pray for people’s teeth to be filled with gold. Several people from our church claimed to have had their teeth so “healed” by the prayers of this evangelist. When my father strongly suggested that our people not go to those meetings, the evangelist “prophecied” that my father would be struck down with cancer for opposing him. That kind of thing was well known and common along the fringes of the Pentecostal movement in the 1950s and before.

While attending seminary I served as assistant pastor at a Pentecostal-Charismatic church. Several of our members drifted away to become followers of television evangelists. Again, the pastor of that church openly opposed the television evangelists who preached the then new version of the gospel of health and wealth that denied the sovereignty of God and made God a slot-machine (words of faith in, healings and financial blessings out). We were just seeing the end of the so-called “Shepherding/Discipleship Movement” (Derek Prince, Don Basham, et al.) when Jim Bakker and PTL went on the air with people like Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin receiving the spotlight to proclaim that God is bound to heal and bless with riches those who spoke the word with faith. (You had to speak it; you couldn’t just ask for it.)

Mainstream Pentecostal leaders were slow to respond, but eventually they did respond with “position papers” denouncing the more extreme versions of the Word-Faith movement and doctrines.

When I went to ORU in 1984 Oral Roberts was still a United Methodist. While I was there he left the UMC and joined Billy Joe Dougherty’s church that met on campus. It was an independent charismatic congregation with leanings toward the prosperity gospel. Then Oral began inviting Word-Faith preachers to speak in chapel. I will never forget the day a California-based African-American preacher of positive faith and prosperity (he boasted of owning several Rolls Royces) spoke in chapel. We were all required to attend. With students in wheel chairs in attendance he shrieked “You can’t be a good witness for Jesus from a wheel chair!” Dead silence fell over the nearly five thousand people in the Christ Chapel. Then he asked “Well? Am I right?” One usually quiet and very humble professor stood to his feet and shouted through cupped hands “NO!” Then he sat down. Many, many chapel speakers were from that wing of the Charismatic movement. Oral himself did not teach or preach an extreme version of the so-called Word-Faith message he allowed surrogates to do it for him. And when Farah’s book was published, strongly criticizing it, Oral called him on the carpet.

While I was teaching at ORU a graduate theology student was conducting research into the origins of the Word-Faith teaching and found word-for-word parallels between the writings of E. W. Kenyon, an early 20th century Pentecostal healing evangelist who had been influenced by New Thought, and Kenneth Hagin, the then leader of the Word-Faith movement. He published his findings in A Different Gospel. His name was D. R. McConnell and his critique of the “name-it-and-claim-it” movement and teaching was devastating. He proved its genesis in New Thought and demonstrated its unbiblical character while also strongly hinting that it is downright dangerous to people’s health and financial well-being (insofar as they were being taught to act like they were well and rich even when they weren’t). McConnell succeeded me when I left ORU (with a huge sigh of relief) in 1984. (Some day maybe I’ll tell more of what I saw and heard during those two years at ORU, but I don’t want to in any way hinder the work being done there since Mart Green took over a couple years ago. For now I’ll just say that before I went I read Give Me That Prime Time Religion by Jerry Sholes and couldn’t believe what it said about Oral Roberts was true. After two years teaching there I believed every word of it.)

Recently I saw a billboard a few blocks from my house on a major thoroughfare. It says “Never sick, always well; never poor, always rich–Guaranteed!” (or something like that–it’s since been removed). It cited a web site so I went there and found that a new Word-Faith church was starting up in a store front near my home. Over the past 25 years this movement has exploded in America and around the world.

The essence of the movement is this: God promises that if you have positive faith and truly believe AND speak that faith with your mouth in positive affirmations (e.g., “God is my source of healing and prosperity; I am well and rich”) God is obligated to heal you and give you financial blessings beyond your wildest dreams. It isn’t always stated that baldly, but that’s the essence of it–especially as it is HEARD by its many adherents. There are, of course, degrees of it. Oral Roberts’ version was called “Seed Faith.” It was mild compared to some of the chapel speakers’ messages. But the essential message is that God will give you abundance, meaning well-being in every sense, if you exercise faith in him for that abundance by speaking it into existence.

Now, this is a perfect example of something I recently blogged about here–that there is really little new under the sun. Anyone old enough and who was paying attention will remember “Reverend Ike.” And before him was “Father Divine” and “Daddy Grace.” And it all goes back at least to the New Thought movement started (?) by Phineas Quimby in the early 19th century. It’s main promoters were Mary Baker Eddy, Ernest Holmes and Charles and Myrtle Fillmore (founders of UNITY). It’s main popularizer was Napoleon Hill whose book Think and Grow Rich is till in print. A mild version of New Thought was popularized by Norman Vincent Peale and, through him, by Robert Schuller. New Thought entered into the fabric of American folk religion as positive thinking. But the Fillmores taught that true faith that works to bring healing and financial prosperity must be spoken in positive affirmations.

Ultimately, it goes back to the Puritans who taught that financial success was a “sign of election.” From there it entered into the American ethos and prepared the way for New Thought and the Word-Faith movement.

My point is that, in my opinion, the Word-Faith “prosperity gospel” is little more than New Thought with a Charismatic veneer thrown over it. It is heresy because it makes God into a cosmic slot machine and turns salvation into a self-centered acquisition of physical blessings. It is the perfect example of “culture religion.” The cross plays almost no role in it whatsoever–except that (according to some of its leading preachers) Jesus died spiritually before he died physically (a very gnostic idea) so that he died a mere man abandoned by his divinity. He died a “sin slave to Satan.” He descended into hell to exercise his power of faith to conquer sin, sickness and death and rose from death by the power of that faith. (I heard this all the time from students who transferred to ORU from a leading Word-Faith Bible institute across town.)

This doctrine of guaranteed healing and financial prosperity through the “spoken word of faith” ought to be opposed with all might by all evangelical Christians. In my opinion, churches and evangelists who teach it are proclaiming a false gospel.

 

  • Joshua

    Do you consider Joel Osteen to be a proponent of the prosperity gospel?

    On an unrelated note – please teach me how to write like you.

    • rogereolson

      I wrote an article for Modern Reformation (!) about Joel Osteen and New Thought (Nov/Dec, 2008). I don’t know that I’m all that good at writing, but I know I’m not a good teacher of writing! :)

      • http://rufflemission.org John Ruffle

        Roger, could you please post a link to your Joel Osteen / New Thought (Nov/Dec, 2008) article? I appreciate your article, thank you! Joshua, -keep writing about those things you are passionate about, keep practicing and let the Holy Spirit guide you. Blessings, John.

        • rogereolson

          I don’t have such a link. Search for it using google or some other search engine or go to Modern Reformation’s web site (again, use google to find it) and see if it’s available there.

  • Dan Johnson Sr.

    As a Pentecostal Christian I am deeply grateful for this piece. It ought to be published and widely distributed (before it’s too late). I would like to see the present ORU president, a decent and good man, respond to this. We need to hear from other good Pentecostal leaders like Jack Hayford and George O. Wood.

    • rogereolson

      I’m satisfied that ORU is no longer a hotbed of the prosperity gospel. In fact, it never really was. The faculty never embraced it and, in fact, worked hard in their classes to counter its influence. It was only some students and chapel speakers who promoted it. I’m also satisfied that George Wood and Jack Hayford have done all they can do to counter it within their spheres of influence. I hope they keep it up and hold it at bay. It is spreading especially in the Global South among Pentecostals.

      • http://rufflemission.org John Ruffle

        “It is spreading especially in the Global South among Pentecostals.” – Yes, sadly this is the case. It is attracting cradle Roman Catholics. So many new church “converts” are actually Catholics by upbringing, and the tragedy is that they are often uprooted from their faith and cultural roots. Then, when personal crisis hits, their new pastors are often ill-equipped to help them, and they are too ashamed to return to their Catholic pastors for help. This is why I am working WITH Catholics, not trying to “convert” them. Forgive me for raising more questions here; I am not trying to be contentious.

      • Hans Zaepfel

        I read that it has made significant inroads in Africa and South America.

    • Albert

      Anything that detracts from the worship of Jesus (this can include money, people, institutions, etc.) is error. Just because someone does not wear the suit of the “prosperity message” does not mean that they themselves did/have not fall(en) into some error of their own which is, in my estimation, just as bad and could be even worse than an unbalanced prosperity message. Some love power more than wealth. Some love both.

      These people also have not helped the situation. I am learning that once anyone makes merchandise out of the gospel, he/she is in danger of error. Does not matter who it is. We may not even know this has happened because they are not “teaching” false doctrine. They are only practicing it in private. Anyone who makes merchandise out of the Kingdom of God I believe is just as bad as if they were preaching an unbalanced “prosperity” message.

      I just wanted others believers to know what they already know….if it tastes and smells (spiritually speaking) like the fruit of the spirit, then it is genuine…..if not…then we know God is not in it. God’s spirit will bear witness with our spirit when something is right, and when something is not. Trust Jesus to guide you by His Spirit….he loves us.

      It is a very subtle thing (making merchandise of the gospel, fleecing the flock, bringing undue attention to ourselves) and we all need to be beware and we all need to make sure that we are pointing others to Jesus.

      • rogereolson

        I’m not sure I trust everyone’s “fruit examining” ability. I start with Scripture, move on to the Great Tradition, engage reason and experience (when putting a new teaching to the test). Spiritual discernment itself needs some objective criterion outside itself.

        • Albert

          Dr. Olson,

          Very true…thank you for injecting this…the bible should always be our guide. All I meant by fruit is the spirit of God that lives within us…warns us…and we can back it up by scripture.

  • T

    I’m glad you posted this, and I say that as something of a Charismatic myself, though there’s a loaded label if there ever was one. In any event, this is the kind of thing that needs to be talked about openly and called out by Charismatics/Pentecostals.

    The reason it needs more open discussion is that too many are letting the extremes of cessationism on one end and word -faith on the other act like magnetic poles, as if one must be pulled haplessly to one or the other. In the middle we have the actual New Testament stories and teachings and their ongoing legacy today, in which, for example, Paul both healed the sick and told Timothy to take wine for his stomach. We have miracles and tragic losses, both healing (even raising the dead) and death. Lazarus was raised, but he’s not still walking around. Yes, faith plays a role, both according to Jesus and James, but it’s not the only thing that matters. God doesn’t just give on command, or confession.

    Here’s a question I have, more out of curiosity than anything else: Do you see hard cessationism (the opposite of word/faith) as heresy as well? If not, why not? I see the “God never will (because of this oddly selective theological construct)” and “God always will (because of this oddly selective theological construct)” as equally if not more heretical, but I don’t think that’s how most evangelicals see it.

    • rogereolson

      I don’t see cessationism as a “different gospel.” I do see at least the more extreme versions of the prosperity “gospel” as a different gospel.

      • T

        That’s interesting. I’d put the extremes in the same camp. Here are a few reasons, I wonder what you think of each. I think Scot McKnight’s most recent book makes an important point about what the “gospel” is, namely the story of Jesus (as the culmination of God’s story in creation and Israel). Essentially the point is that the gospels are the gospel. Within the gospels, we have Jesus healing the sick as a mark of his ministry, his kingdom (and of the Father’s heart?), and teaching his disciples to heal the sick, etc. and predicting that others who believe will do the same (and greater). Further, the content of the faith that Jesus praises (and criticizes) revolves around people having faith in Jesus being willing and/or able to heal (the centurian, the canaanite woman, the disciples when they were unable to cast out a demon, etc.). It is odd, don’t you think, to promote faith with a content that Jesus criticized, or criticize faith with content that Jesus praised (not saying word-faith, but faith that Jesus is able to heal)? Believe me, I’m not very comfortable with all this myself, but if we let the gospels be the gospel, and (thereby) seek to allow Jesus above all to frame the content and practice of our faith, it becomes hard to not see an all together different gospel (from the gospels) in extreme cessationism? Think also that at least the word-faith folks can point to multiple express quotes and teachings of Jesus (even if it needs the fuller story than they give) and the NT (esp. James). And cessationists point to what, exactly, in the scriptures for their teachings? A very weak argument about the canon being “the perfect” that has already come, so that we now see God “face to face.”

        I understand, since you’ve witnessed extreme pentecostalism first hand, the willingness to call those extremes heresy. I agree. But cessationism results in the “gospelling” of a God who is supposedly present only in the distant past, distant future, or “in our hearts.” His messengers come not with demonstrations of the Spirit’s power, but with persuasive arguments. Jesus is Lord of Heaven, but not so much the Earth.

        I know you’re big on pointing out that the god that extreme Calvinism proclaims is a horrible monster. What kind of God does cessationism proclaim, and how does that differ from the Christ proclaimed in the gospels and by the apostles?

        Anyway, enjoyed the post. Thanks again.

  • http://www.merechristianradio.com Orthodoxdj

    I became a committed Christian in 1997. I was 18. I had been raised Pentecostal all my life, so it was the only church I knew. That summer there was a camp meeting. A slew of evangelists started teaching things I had never heard of before, things that didn’t sit right. An older member of the congregation gave me a copy of “Counterfeit Revival” by Hank Hanegraaff. That changed my life. After that I read his work, “Christianity in Crisis.” I thank God for me pentecostal upbringing, but the Word-of-Faith movement is dangerous, and too often it is taught by pentecostals-in small and large doses.

  • http://www.contendingforthefaith.com John Metz

    Thanks Roger for this very enlightening and helpful post, especially the next-to-last paragraph. The link to the “Puritan ethic” was surprising but fitting. The link to Hill and “Think and Grow Rich” was also spot on. As I was reading early paragraphs, that book came to mind–then two paragraphs later you mentioned it! The references to Peale and Schuller were also good.

    The next-to-last paragraph was especially alarming. I try to keep abreast of as much of the Christian situation as possible and am aware of much of the Word-Faith teaching but have not studied their ‘theology’ in detail.

    I am old enough to remember Reverend Ike. Yikes!

    Thanks again, Roger.

  • Pingback: Is the “Prosperity Gospel” Heresy? by Rodger E. Olson « THE WORD on The Word of Faith (a GroupBlog)

  • Glen

    You mentioned that the Puritans taught financial success was a “sign of election.” I’m curious, which Puritans said this?

    • rogereolson

      Sorry, I don’t have time to look that up right now, but it is a well-known fact that this was a prevalent attitude among the Puritans.

  • http://http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com James Goetz

    I believe that the “prosperity gospel” needs context in inaugurated eschatology, which takes away the excess of unqualified guarantees.

    • rogereolson

      Unfortunately, much of the “prosperity gospel” implies a kind of realized eschatology.

  • http://clearerperspective.wordpress.com/ Jerry Jacques

    I agree with your conclusions. This “false gospel” will cause many to lose track of the need for a relationship with God.

    Also, I’m curious concerning the response of the faith preach to the humble professor that said “no!” :)

    • rogereolson

      Immediately after the professor shouted “NO!” in response to the prosperity preacher’s question “Well, am I right?” Oral stood up, took the microphone and berated the professor. Later he was called into Oral’s office (a dreaded event at that time) and again brow beaten for his bold and prophetic interruption. Oral was not necessarily agreeing with what the preacher said; he was angry about what he regarded as a disruption of the chapel service. However, the preacher did ask for it.

      • http://mikeandkaren.blogspot.com Michael McDonald

        It seems to me that Roberts was being spiritually abusive in this situation and also as the employer was abusing tan employee. I have seen this same type of behavior in local churches. If you disagree even when asked for an opinion your are rebuked, humiliated and ostracized. Roberts was clearly at fault here. He was acting like a spiritual bully.

  • Zach

    So what makes the Prosperity Gospel outright heresy and double predestination just “wrong”?

    • rogereolson

      I take it that the prosperity gospel is not truly Christ-centered; it is self-centered. Then there is the gnostic teaching that surrounds it about Christ dying “spiritually” before he died “physically.” Did you read that part of my post?

    • http://www.merechristianradio.com Orthodoxdj

      Zach, I really like your question. Years ago I began to think through many of the things I had believed at one time or another (Word of Faith teachings, later on Calvinism) and it struck me as odd that while many evangelical leaders were right on about the aberrant theology in the Word of Faith of movement, even labeling it as heresy in some instances, there are FEW who will Calvinism heresy. I formulated it as a question: What’s worse to believe/teach? “Jesus wants all people to be healed and have financial prosperity” OR “Jesus wants some people to go Hell.”

      I don’t think either are true, but I can pray for people to be healed or receive financial blessings and not feel weird about it, but I cannot imagine praying for someone to go to Hell.

      • rogereolson

        Wait! “Praying for people to be healed or receive financial blessings” is NOT what I mean by “the prosperity gospel.” What I mean by it is the belief that God MUST heal and provide financial blessings in response to positive faith expressed verbally in affirmations of faith and that it is okay to “confront God with his Word” to make God do these things. It often also includes beliefs about Jesus deity and humanity that are blatantly heretical. (E.g., that Jesus died a “sin slave to Satan,” having lost his humanity which left him, descended into hell and overcome Satan by speaking words of positive faith which resulted in his resurrection). I thought I made clear what I mean by “the prosperity gospel” in my post. Let’s not wander off from that into lesser definitions of it which I explicitly excluded as not properly “the prosperity gospel.”

        • Dustin

          I understand completely. What I’m saying is that WOF, while wrong, at least maintains God’s love as its backdrop. Calvinism does not. I think both theologies are wrong, but I can’t understand why one gets a pass. Believing God MUST heal is wrong-headed, but believing God MUST send some people to Hell in order to show His goodness seems much worse.

        • Steve Dal

          Once again we need to be clear what we mean when we use certain terms. Seems to be a real problem no matter what issue you are talking about.

          • rogereolson

            Right. I try very hard to be very clear and specific when talking or writing about a movement or teaching. But it seems impossible ever to be clear and specific enough!

    • GUEST

      The way it is peddled to pay God for his help then this is not supported by New Testament scripture.
      Romans 8:32 God Freely gives us all things.

      • Jason

        Jesus healed a man who was blind his whole life up to that point. God didn’t make him blind as some form of punishment. However, he allowed the blindless that the man may be healed and bring glory to God.

        As a Christian, my life is eternal. If temporal suffering due to the fallen world brings additional glory to God, I count it a blessing. As I should.

        • rogereolson

          It’s one thing to count your own sufferings a blessing; it’s another thing to call someone else’s suffering a blessing.

  • Jim Payne

    I read Dr. Farah’s book in the 70′s and was thankful for his courage to write it. I also recall that longtime ORU professor Howard Ervin was very critical of the “faith message” especially in regard to divine healing.

    • rogereolson

      I knew Howard as well. We attended the same Baptist church in Tulsa (the only American Baptist Church in Oklahoma at that time). Howard was a gentleman and a scholar, but he kept his head down when it came to publicly criticizing the excesses of the charismatic movement (at least when I was there).

  • John O’Connor

    I am wondering about the brief comment in your article that the prosperity gospel being derived from the Puritan teaching that financial wealth was a sign of election. Could you point me to a source to explore the topic more?

    • rogereolson

      See Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. I do not claim that this was official Puritan doctrine; it was a tendency among Puritans–to regard financial success (not necessary wealth and certainly not luxury) as a sign of God’s blessing.

  • Greg Farra

    Thanks, Roger.

  • Mikael Stenhammar

    Amen! Thanks for this post.
    I graduated Hagin sr.’s Rhema Bible Training Center and taught the Prosperity Gospel for several years as the dean of a ministry training school in Kenya. Later I entered academic theology with the intention to be one of the first academically qualified Word of Faith people who could answer the criticisms voiced against Hagin and defend the Prosperity Gospel against the “pit-hole-diggers” (PhD’s). But especially a close study of Jesus and Paul forced me to rethink almost everything I believed and I saw that the Prosperity Gospel was impossible to defend. I had to repent.
    Now I am heading a Bible institute in Kenya which is spreading a “different gospel”, or rather, the true gospel of Christ. There the greatest enemy against authentic Christian faith is the fast spreading gospel of health and wealth; it is not longer found only in the free Pentecostal and Charismatic churches but also in mainstream churches and denominations. I have found that it can be satisfactory deconstructed by helping the students learn the basics of hermeneutics.

    • rogereolson

      May your tribe increase! (Which reminds me of the time in ORU chapel when Oral said of a certain donor “As the Bible says, may his tribe increase!” The provost, Carl Hamilton, a Ph.D. in English, whispered in Oral’s ear after which Oral said “Carl Hamilton tells me that’s not in the Bible. Well, all I have to say about that is, if it isn’t, it should be.” He said it with a perfectly straight face and nobody laughed.)

  • Eric

    Thank you very much for bringing the roots of this movement out. I grew up in the same denomination as you, in the “mecca” of Des Moines can reflect on times when people I respected and still respect allowed to get themselves caught up in some of this teaching. This belief was one of reasons why I left because as others in the church profited off of my family’s misfortune it became evident that I wasn’t good enough for these people. It took me 11 years to re enter that church and after some misfortune of their own I found a much more humble congregation that placed love at a higher place than financial status.

    So this brings me to a question for you, Roger. I am finishing my degree from North Park Seminary and am going to return to the denomination of our origin and I know that there are still some voices proclaiming this un-gospel. My desire is to not isolate or exclude these but to lovingly help them see that they are doing the Gospel a disservice. Do you think this is worth while or should I just “give them the boot” and not engage them at all?

    • rogereolson

      I wish you the best if God is calling you to do that. I was not aware that our common denomination harbored that heresy. However, I came to believe it wanted to be too much to too many and not draw hard and fast lines where they needed to be drawn. Instead, in my experience, it drew them where they didn’t need to be drawn. Are you by any chance related to the Dixons I went to college with? I knew them when I was a teenager and their father pastored the church in Howard, SD.

      • Eric

        I am the eldest son of Norm and Linda and they remember you from college as well. If you would like I can pass along my dad’s email address to you.

        The denomination never went down the road of health and wealth but individuals tried to push it in the church community I grew up in. One individual was still trying to teach this and other “new”movements of HS at the Bible college until just a few years ago.

        • rogereolson

          Great! Thanks. I remember Norm and Wymetta and your grandparents very well. I remember watching Norm play basketball on the Howard high school team; he was terrific. We used to hang out when my parents took my brother and me to visit your grandparents in Howard. My wife attended college with Norm and Wymetta (I hope I’m spelling her name correctly) and Linda. Sure, give me your dad’s e-mail address and we’ll re-connect. I hope he and your mom and Wymetta are well. I assume your grandparents are no longer with us?

  • Percival

    Mart Green? I thought it was Mark Rutland at ORU now.

    • rogereolson

      Mart Green provided the $ to rescue ORU and then Rutland became the new president after Richard Roberts resigned. I have heard recently that Rutland has left ORU, but I don’t know for certain or any details. Mart Green is the owner of Mardell’s and Hobby Lobby and an AG layman. Rumor has it he donated around 75 million to rescue ORU from bankruptcy and possible closure. The entire board of trustees resigned and were replaced by people I respect. I only wish that had all happened when I was there! :)

      • http://www.brianroden.com Brian Roden

        Rutland has announced his pending retirement as president with time to allow the board to name a successor before he formally steps down.

        • rogereolson

          I will be interested to see who his replacement is. After all that ORU has been through, I’m sure most of the faculty are anxious about this decision. I nominate Adam Hamilton! (Sorry, Adam. I shouldn’t wish that job on my worst enemy, but I think you’re the guy who could finally turn ORU into a respected evangelical-charismatic academic institution.)

  • Percival

    Sorry. A little googling would have revealed that Mart Green is the head of the board of trustees and Mark Rutland is the new president.

    That was a very interesting insiders view Dr. Olsen. Thanks.

    How much of an effect was Korean pastor Paul Yongi Cho on the ‘word of faith’ teaching? It seemed he wasn’t about money so much.

    • rogereolson

      I heard him preach in Munich when I lived there–before teaching at ORU. It was interesting. A Korean preaching in English in Germany being translated into German. It happened in a huge lecture hall with enormous tapestries hanging on the walls depicting naked male heroes of Greek and Roman mythology. Quite an unusual setting and event, to say the least. I didn’t detect any heresy in what he preached. I have heard that he does preach healing and prosperity but not as guaranteed so as to deny God’s sovereignty.

    • http://mikeandkaren.blogspot.com Michael McDonald

      There is an excellent article which is helpful in understanding Cho’s theology in the book Christian Theology in Asia bu Cambridge University press. Chapter 7 “The Word and The Spirit: overcoming poverty, injustice and division in Korea” by Sebastian C.H.Kim. I enjoyed it immensely and thought it had some very good insight.

  • Clay Knick

    I had a dear friend who I am sure died too soon from breast cancer because she refused chemo due to this theology. I have never forgotten Farah’s phrase, “Bad theology is a cruel taskmaster” (I think he attributed this to Barth, not sure) and I’ve seen it play out in situations like this. Bruce Barron wrote a good book on this years ago: “The Health & Wealth Gospel.” I wonder if we need someone to write about this again? Maybe Roger Olson?

  • http://www.brianroden.com Brian Roden

    A good short read on this topic is Gordon Fee’s “The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel”

    • rogereolson

      Thanks for that reading suggestion. I see on amazon that it was published by Regent College Publishing in 1985 and is 31 pages long. I am sure it is a good introduction to the problems with that heresy from a leading evangelical (and Pentecostal) scholar.

  • Richard

    Would have been handy to have this perspective as part of the dialogue at the Elephant Room 2 apparently…

  • Mike

    Great article Dr. Olson. I was wondering if you see any connection between the Word-Faith movement and the New Apostolic Reformation headed by C. Peter Wagner and teachers like Dutch Sheets? Are they similar or different?

    • rogereolson

      I don’t know anything about Dutch Sheets. But I do know C. Peter Wagner–not personally but by reputation and correspondence. I have e-mailed with him about The New Apostolic Reformation and, so far, I don’t see the problem with it. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything about it or everything someone associated with it does or says. And I’m not on board with it. But it doesn’t jump out at me as heretical or deserving of censure or condemnation. I don’t see the connection with the Word-Faith movement. I think they get mixed up together because both are charismatic or semi-charismatic (or Third Wave) and believe in spiritual warfare. I am open to being educated further about The New Apostolic Reformation Movement if I’ve missed something. But I need to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. That is, I can only judge it by what Wagner himself says, not by things people claiming to be his followers say.

  • DKing

    A wise bible college professor once said to me, “Any theology must be apply to everyone anywhere in the world at any point in time” Is this a gross over-simplification or do you think this is correct? The prosperity gospel certainly does fail these two tests miserably.

    • rogereolson

      I do think that’s an over-simplification that doesn’t take into account cultural differences. A theology created in, say, the United States in the 1890s might be good for that time and place but utterly beyond comprehension for a Christian in New Guinea in the second decade of the 21st century. I tend to agree that the gospel itself is trans-cultural, but its expression and especially systems of theology, will have to be adapted to culture (hopefully without accommodation).

  • http://rwtyer.blogspot.com Rory Tyer

    This reminds me of my first encounters with John Piper’s preaching in undergrad; it was a YouTube clip – put together by one of his admirers – of a brief part of a sermon in which he strongly and emotionally condemns the prosperity gospel. I watched it during a time in which my father was going through some job uncertainty and I was realizing, through my response to my family’s financial situation, that financial security was in fact an idol for me. Watching that clip still moves me to tears.

    It is comforting to be reminded, despite the many things (content and methodology-wise) on which you and Piper disagree, that there are still some things behind which which Christ-honoring yet disagreeing persons can wholeheartedly unite.

    • rogereolson

      Oh, to be sure! John and I agree on much. It’s sad to me that he thinks those areas where we disagree are so great as to justify the things he has done and said to me and other Arminians and open theists. He is a great preacher of the gospel, passionate promoter of missions, skilled discipler of young people (especially college age students), etc., etc. We agree completely about the prosperity gospel and many other things.

  • http://www.ofdustandkings.com T. E. Hanna

    “One usually quiet and very humble professor stood to his feet and shouted through cupped hands “NO!” Then he sat down.”

    Let me guess… Dr. Bob Tuttle? ;)

    • rogereolson

      No, but close. Actually, I don’t remember his name, but he taught Greek in the ORU Graduate School of Theology. I know Bob, though. He was a good friend and colleague, but we’ve lost touch. I last saw him at Garrett Evangelical Divinity School when he taught there.

      • John

        It was Jim Hewett, now a retired pastor in the Oklahoma Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Dan McConnell relates this event on pages 96-97 of “A Different Gospel”. I was a freshman at ORU when this happened, but I heard rumblings from the Graduate School of Theology. (Tuttle is also retired now. He taught at Asbury Seminary in Orlando for the last several years.)

        • rogereolson

          John, I don’t remember that many of my ORU students, but I do remember you and for good reasons. I want everyone to know that the thing I remember most fondly about ORU and my time there was my students. For the most part they were outstanding. Thanks for jumping in and providing this information.

      • http://practicingresurrection.wordpress.com Bill

        Dr. Tuttle recently retired from teaching at Asbury, where he was a very popular professor. I think he may still teach a World Religions class there.

  • http://www.ReachingAfricasUnreached.org Jacob Lee

    Thank you Dr. Olson! This false message is also rampant in the sub Sahara causing much harm in the Body of Christ. May the Lord help us all expose this false teaching. Our contentment can only be found in Christ alone!

  • Steven

    I appreciate the message, although, I’m sorry to say that, the message is no more than lip service. Why do people listen to the prosperity gospel? For some it is greed, for others, it is necessity. Why would these people listen to the “better” Christian evangelicals that prosperity gospel is false? Who are the evangelicals – campaigners against same-sex marriage, pro-life, Republican supporters who would support cutting welfare programs, enthusiasts in massive prayer gatherings for rains, and, at the same time, people living a middle class life-style. How can the have-nots be convinced that the gospel is not about health and wealth?

    I am old enough to remember those days when most churches will share their wealth with the poor even as far as overseas countries. “There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” I have to admit that I can’t follow it, but my weakness doesn’t invalidate the command. If I were to speak against prosperity gospel, I know my middle class life-style will only weaken my condemnation.

  • Mikael Stenhammar

    I have read most of the critiques on the Word of Faith movement and one of the absolute best is the British Evangelical evaluation: “Faith, Health and Prosperity: A Report on ‘Word of Faith’ and ‘Positive Confession’ Theologies” edited by Andrew Perriman. They have gone out of their way to understand the worldview of Word of Faith people and in a loving way point out the faults. Highly recommended!

  • http://www.ofdustandkings.com T. E. Hanna

    Bob is retired now, but he still teaches here at Asbury on occasion. I happened to be sitting in his world religions course this week, and I shared this article with him. He chuckled remembering that incident. Great guy.

    • rogereolson

      Say hello to Bob for me!

  • Eric Miller

    Would you please define for me what you mean by heresy. Thanks, this is a great article!

    • rogereolson

      “Another gospel” would seem to be by definition a heresy when taught under the guise and within the context of “Christianity.”

  • http://lifeandbuilding.com kyle

    In the Old Testament Judaism was an earthly/physical religion- earthly priests, temple, sacrifices, promises, and blessings. All these things were types of Christ and spiritual realities (Col 2:16-17). In the New Testament we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph 1:3). The epistle to Hebrews contrasts Judaism with Christ and repeatedly stresses the heavenly nature of the new covenant. Isn’t the prosperity gospel a return to an Old Testament situation, limiting God’s interest in man to blessing him outwardly? I think it severely undermines God’s inward operation in life within a believer. Everyone I have known who has been caught up in signs, wonders, dreams, miracles has really been derailed from the experience of Christ or really even a solid basis in God’s word, or maybe they just become selective in the portions of scripture they remember. I think they are just plain distracted. An interesting and somewhat related portion is 1 Kings 19 where Jehovah is not in the wind, earthquake, or fire but in the gentle quite voice. I think this demonstrates the principal way in which God operates in the New Testament- inwardly by life. ALTHOUGH I think Pentecostalism was a good in the sense that it was a reaction to the overly academic and primarily doctrinal nature of the Brethren assemblies (although of course the Brethren did much for the truth). But yes, the health and wealth teaching is definitely off and definitely derails people.

  • http://practicingresurrection.wordpress.com Bill

    Thank you for this post, which I very much enjoyed. A few years ago I was on a business trip to Malaysia and I was invited by a friend to attend a Christian church service there. I was very excited to go and worship in a predominantly Muslim country.

    There was a guest preacher that night–an African-American man from California (but too young to be the preacher you recall). He said, among other things, that when Jesus was on earth he only stayed in the nicest houses of the people with the most money. If you want Jesus to come to your house when he returns, he said, then you need to have a nice house (i.e an expensive house). The way to have such a house (and the other financial rewards of Christianity) was to have faith, claim them, and give a lot of money to the church and to his ministry. I could go on but you will get the drift by now. It was shocking. And this is the Christianity that many folks in that culture are seeing (and in many cases embracing).

    I’m glad that you noted that this heresy isn’t present in all Pentecostal churches. We regularly attend a church affiliated with the Four Square denomination. Although technically pentecostal, there is nothing that happens in the services which would indicate that. The prosperity gospel has never been taught there.

    Thanks again for a great post.

  • John Inglis

    Interesting that the modern prosperity preachers make the same connection between prosperity and faith that the puritans did (though to different ends), and that in both there is very much a focus on being the elect.

    For example, a pastor in the Church of God the Eternal states, ”
    Many “believers” seem not to prosper during hard times, and even in normal times find themselves inhibited from receiving blessings like their neighbors. As mentioned earlier, walking in truth is prerequisite to gaining God’s desire for His children to prosper and be in health. As we have been instructed to examine ourselves before taking the Passover, we should also examine why we may be failing to prosper. Seek first all of God’s commands (righteousness) as they are directed to you; obey them with the spirit of truth and all these things will be added to you. . . . Even in our old age He provides us vision to wait for Him as His very elect; willing to shorten the days just ahead for our sakes and give us power to prosper and be in health.”

  • http://theprotestantpastor.blogspot.com/ David Peterson

    While I’m happy about the changes at ORU I’m concerned that the school may become merely another classical Pentecostal university. (Much of the leadership is coming from the Assemblies of God.) What drew me to the Graduate School of Theology was the unique mixture of mainline charismatics, classical Pentecostals, conservative evangelical charismatics, and nondenominational Pentecostals/charismatics. It was a wonderful mix. I chose ORU for seminary because I wanted that kind of variety and freedom. Oral Roberts had his problems but he allowed for a kind of ecumenism one doesn’t find in many places. Schools tend to be conservative evangelical or mainline. Rare is the place where the two worlds coexist.

    • rogereolson

      All that is true and I agree. One thing I enjoyed during my 2 years teaching at ORU was the mix of denominational backgrounds on the faculty and among the students. Hey, one of the top administrators was a Roman Catholic. There was an Eastern Orthodox professor in the Graduate School of Theology. I was then (and still am) a non-Charismatic Baptist who believed all the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the New Testament are still for the church today. Even when I was being interviewed nobody asked me if I speak in tongues. Maybe they assumed it; I don’t know. But it was never an issue. They saw my being Baptist as a virture–to add to the mix of denominations represented on that floor (undergraduate and graduates theology departments). That evangelical ecumenism was a joy to feel and participate in.

      • http://theprotestantpastor.blogspot.com/ David Peterson

        An example from my time there (91-94). I took theology courses with James Breckenridge, a graduate of Covenant and Corcordia seminaries and very much influenced by that stream of evangelicalism (PCA, LCMS). We were reading Van Til and others. So I know my way around that stream and can appreciate its strengths. At the same time I loaded up on classes taught by Henry Lederle who loathed the Calvinists, told me he loathed Van Til. He referred to himself as Calvinian (he was PCUSA at the time) and we read Lochman and Tom Torrance and others. My advisor Leonard Lovett (COGIC) was big into Tillich and the Niebuhrs. Maurice Culver (taught ethics and world religions) was an old-fashioned liberal Methodist. People look at me in disbelief when I tell them the mix of people there.

        • rogereolson

          We’re still talking ORU, right? I remember Culver. He and I had a public debate about “sola scriptura.” He denied it and I defended it. It was a very friendly and open conversation. I don’t remember the others, but I was in the undergraduate department of theology.

          • Josh

            I studied at ORU from (2007-2010) in both the undergrad and grad theology departments. For my systematic theology 1 class in undergrad my assigned textbooks were: Doctrine of Reconciliation by Barth; Trinity & Kingdom by Moltmann; Triune Identity by Robert Jenson; and Systematic Theology I by Pannenberg. The professor for the class was a pentecostal who drank deep from the wells of modern theology. I also had six classes with a Roman Catholic (who liked Scot Hahn), and three with a former Methodist minister (who was obsessed with N. T. Wright & Greg Boyd). In the grad department Dan Thimell introduced me to T. F. & J. B. Torrance. I was amazed at the scope of theological perspectives at the school and throughly enjoyed my time in the theology departments. I also was there during the time of transition between Richard Roberts and Mark Rutland. Rutland is very well studied man and has really done a great job with the school. I remember in a couple of the first chapels he did, he had the Catholic Bishop give the benediction and had the school stand up and say the apostles creed! You should have seen the look on some of the students faces! Also, after a WOF preacher came to chapel, the next day he basically was on clean up duty apologizing for the night before and trying to bringing healing to the damage that was done by the preacher. My second to last semester there I read three books by you as well as four by Donald Bloesch. I was especially grateful for your book “Arminian Theology” and introduced it to my professor Dan Thimell who I thought was giving an unfair analysis of Arminianism. After I mentioned it to him, the next day he told me he got the book and was already reading it. Thanks for your dedication and commitment to historical theology. I believe ORU is headed on the right track

          • rogereolson

            Good report. I’m glad for all that is happening at ORU. As I said, I wish it had happened when I was there.

          • http://theprotestantpastor.blogspot.com/ David Peterson

            Yeah, ORU. I believe Breckenridge is still there but Lederle has moved on to some PCUSA college.

  • Jeff

    Strangely enough, I had a similar experience at ORU chapel. It would have been in 1980 or 1981. Fred Price was preaching and he kept repeating the word “if”. At one point he said it over 10 times in a row. I was sitting behind a row of theology professors. They were getting more and more agitated and paging through their Greek New Testaments. I leaned forward and one of them whispered, “that word doesn’t appear in the Greek”.

    Fred was very combative with the crowd and after one of his many challenges, one of the guys in front of me stood up and said “NO”.

    Oral leaped to his feet and went on a tirade, threatening to close down the school of theology. I remember it very well because Oral seemed to be staring right at me as he was berating the professors sitting just one row up.

    • rogereolson

      Thanks for that first-hand account. If it was in 1980 or 1981 I wasn’t there yet. Time can do funny things to memory because I can picture it in my mind. I must have watched it on film or something. (I knew some people who recorded chapels and watched and listened to some of the older ones before I was there with them.)

      • John

        Jeff is talking about the same event. I’m pretty sure it was my freshman year (fall of 1980). I just re-checked: McConnell gives the date–Sept. 19, 1980. I remember Oral saying something like, “We’ll shut the place down and turn it into a Bible school.” Jim Buskirk, who was on the stage, was shaking his head “No” at that. Your two years there must have been my junior and senior years. I know I had Church History and four semesters of Systematic Theology with you (which helped a lot when I got to seminary, by the way).

    • Scott

      Was that the year Fred Price called everyone who didn’t agree with him “b-b- brains”? I was there, too. It was 1980-81. Oral shot up out of his chair and demanded to know who had yelled out, saying, “This is an institution of higher learning and even if we do not agree with someone we treat them with dignity…” or somehting like that, and he DEMANDED the person to apologize. Of course FP had just spent 20 minutes telling people who did not buy into his assertion that “faith is a substance which can be manipulated” that they were idiots. BTW, Prof. Olson, I remember you when you taught Sys The. III and IV in 1983. You had just come fresh from Pannenberg’s circle, right?

      • rogereolson

        Yes. And what a transition that was! From studying with Pannenberg in Munich to teaching at ORU in Tulsa. But I had great students and colleagues at ORU. I’ve often told people the only problem with ORU (when I was there) was Oral! When he left the administrators and faculty alone, it had the potential to be a great Christian liberal arts university. When he interfered (as often), things went down hill. I remember when he changed the name of our course on homiletics to “Oral Interpretation of the Bible.” Just one example….

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  • http://barrybiblicalnotes.com Barry Applewhite

    Good to hear ORU recovering from this issue.

    Jack Hayford, in particular, seems to be very biblical in his orientation . That sure matters in a group whose fringes tend to go off the deep end.

    -Barry

    • rogereolson

      Christianity Today labeled him the “Pentecostal gold standard.” If only more Pentecostals and charismatics looked to him for leadership.

  • jtkk

    If the “prosperity Gospel” is so erroneous, WHERE is a detailed exposition of PROPER Biblical dealings regarding finances?

    I keep asking this when I hear the critics, and I keep getting NOTHING…..please SOMEONE respond!

    • rogereolson

      Well, the burden of proof is on advocates of the prosperity gospel because it is novel. But the point isn’t that there needs to be an alternative view of finances because “finances” isn’t the issue. The issue is God’s sovereignty and knowing the difference between magic and prayer.

  • John Inglis

    To your list of the history of prosperity claiming via faith, I suppose that a more modern extension would be Oprah and the author of “The Secret”, which Oprah promotes. However, The Secret seems to be more new age and folk religion in style.

    • rogereolson

      The common factor is New Thought.

      • janiea

        My husband and I are friends with a couple who were raised Utah Mormon, rejected it, and are now very, very New Agey. A few years ago, they asked us to watch The Secret DVD with them. We agreed to do so in order to encourage dialog and also, just to be nice. We love and care for these people.

        It was like Deja Vu. We come from a Charismatic background and pretty much left Charismania years as a result of the permeation of the Word of Faith message where we lived (though I still believe and practice spiritual gifts), But as I say, watching The Secret was really like Deja Vu. It sounded like every Word of Faith preacher I ever heard except they didn’t mention Jesus. The guy even looked like a Word of Faith preacher and the music and setting were like a Word of Faith meeting. We were not expecting this and my husband and I just looked at each other with unbelief.

        • rogereolson

          What you were experiencing is New Thought–the distinctively American philosophy of prosperity through mind over matter. Its founder was Phineas Quimby who influenced Mary Baker Eddy. But other New Thought teachers went in a slightly different direction from Eddy. Charles and Myrtle Fillmore founded Unity which, in turn, influenced E. W. Kenyon who, in turn, influenced Kenneth Hagin. Both The Secret and Word of Faith charismatic teaching stem from New Thought.

  • Mark Sterns

    Excellent discussion. I have nothing but good things to report about ORU in recent years. I remember the dark days – the day of that Chapel experience – as well as the good times. I remember many of the professors mentioned in this thread, though not a theology major. If given the opportunity, I would encourage you to return to ORU for a visit, Dr. Olsen. It will do your heart good. Thank you for your faithful years of service.

    • rogereolson

      I have been back since the change and the place looks great. And my friends who are there still have their scars but are very optimistic. What I’d like to know, though, is who now parks in the underground garage, deep beneath the Academic Center, that was reserved for Oral, Evelyn, Lindsey and Richard’s BMWs? I saw them with my own eyes.

      • Albert

        Roger…blessings to you….May God continue to show you that He is truly the only one we can rely on. No one is perfect…not even the people you mention with esteem. No, they are very much human just like Oral, Evelyn and Lindsey. Have you seen some of their portfolios. The difference with Oral is that he did not hide his prosperity; others do!

        • rogereolson

          Well, I’m not so sure about that. I taught there for two years and never was able to see his house. It was behind two large security gates somewhat hidden on both sides of a normal looking house on a cul-de-sac. But my wife was in his house once and says it was nothing fancy. But I did see with my own two eyes the four brand new BMW four door sedans–Oral’s, Evelyn’s, Richard’s and Lindsey’s. I never saw them driving them, though. They were simply parked in an underground garage. Whenever I saw Oral in a car he was being driven in an old Chevrolet station wagon by a friend and helper.

          • Albert

            Dr. Olson,

            Thank you for your reply. I’m sorry about what you went through there. I glad that it sounds like everything has worked out for you in spite of your past experiences at ORU.
            Blessings to you always.

          • rogereolson

            Oh, but I want to make clear I had many good experiences at ORU as well! My colleagues were fantastic as were many of my students. I couldn’t wish for better. I often told people the only thing really wrong with ORU was Oral and Richard. History seems to have vindicated me with regard to the second one. Oral, I judge, was emotionally unbalanced. I don’t know any other way to explain some of the things I saw and heard in faculty meetings and chapels.

  • Nancy Davis

    To Dr. Olson,
    I just read your article. I really liked it. You have much to offer because of what you went through. All forms of power abuse is just downright wrong! Being a christian for many years…I can attest to this. However, unless one goes through it themselves…(some don’t go through it because they are the ones in “charge.”) one will not understand, or they don’t want to understand.

    I am a student at ORU in the Grad. Theology Dept. I am almost finished. I am what people refer to as a “non-traditional” student. What can I say…I’ve been naive for the good part of my life. I really liked Oral Roberts because he made God look REALLY BIG! I never sensed that he was speaking about himself, or that he was bringing attention to himself…but then again…when I watched him it was only in passing. But this is what I remember most about him. I loved him for this (for making God look good and big). What can I say.

    When I read in your article about “non-Pentecostal religious believers” not saying a bad word about Pentecostalism, I thought, “what a tribute to them.” This is just how some people are. They probably figure that they don’t personally know enough about Pentecostalism to say anything bad about it. I’ve watched the Roberts family from afar…so I have nothing but good to say about them. However, I think that even if I knew them “up close,” I’d like to believe that I would still love them. This is my calling. Even when people may mis-use their power. I don’t have to agree with them…but I can walk away with prayer in my heart for them and leave the rest to God. Just as you once did, and now look. Thank you for your prayers for the school. You and others who have prayed for the school have inadvertantly helped Richard. He needed to move on to what he believes is his calling. I just love Richard also, in spite of what the news has to say.

    Being in the Grad dept. at ORU has given me a greater perspective than what I had before I attended. What is so ironic is that what Oral taught (God is good and God is able)…this is what I am walking away with from the Grad theology department, but with a greater measure. Nothing has changed…other than I am leaving with a greater perspective of how big God is. I imagine God knew I needed a greater understanding about this. Some of my professors have taught me well [too long to list here] and I would be an ingrat if I did not mention this.

    Mark Rutland seems like a very likable person. I hope nothing but God’s best for him as I do for Mart Green (who also seems like a very likable person). They both worked very hard and diligent to oversee the passing of the “old ORU” into the entrance of the “new ORU.” None of us who are on the outside looking in, have no idea what they went through.

    Dr. Olson, forgive me for such a long “letter”. I just had to comment. Keep up the work of articulating the difference between God’s blessing and the “new thought” gospel. God is a good God, and there is no one greater than Him!

  • GUEST

    A better title of this article would have been: Is the Prosperity Message taught by Word of Faith- Prosperity teachers- heresy?” Like the Catholic indulgences sold for their money with a promise of salvation in the 15 Century, there’s nothing new under the Sun.

    This particular prosperity message is teaching a message of sow seeds (translated as: send money to these Prosperity teachers to fund their Empires to get some kind of favor & blessing from God).

    They are basically selling the free grace of God by teaching to send money to certain prosperity teachers for God’s help. This is false advertising!

    In some circles it has gone beyond false advertising into heresy because many are now saying: Tithers will go to Heaven. Goggle Creflo Dollar’s remarks on this.

    If you follow Kenneth Copeland, Mike Murdock, Todd Coontz and the rest of their clones– oh and let’s not forget Creflo Dollar’s idiot remark (goggle it on UTUBE) that Non-paying tithers are crooks that should be shot with Uzi’s. Creflo Dollar later said he was only jesting when people protested his remark but his face was seriously stern at the time he first said it ). What was so pathetic is Creflo did not specify if it was only for people with income coming in to tithe, or not.

    Th Prosperity message is popular among the poorest denomination.

    Pew Research on Religious studies did a survey to discover that Pentecostals have the least income among all the Christian denominations. The Prosperity teaching is rampart in Pentecostal circles esp. among people of color).

    You can tune into TBN during their Praise-a-thon, or watch the Inspiration Channel or other Christian programs. You will hear sow a seed (pay cash) for a blessing with Mike Murdock & Todd Coontz getting lots of air time teaching this.

    People like Mike Murdock and Todd Coontz flat out advertise sending in specific amounts of cash with a promise of a triple return on your investment.

    Where is the outrage and those speaking out against selling blessings to the highest bidder among mainstream Evangelicals? Where are the Martin Luther’s like that German Monk who protested the selling of Indulgences in the 15 century?
    What happens to a persons faith when they send in money for a healing or some blessing and it never happens? Someone I heard of sent Benny Hinn money for a healing and still died.

    Many Christian church leaders are not blameless themselves. Some use guilt and fear by quoting Malachi 3:8-10 curse to endorse tithing.

    Many Christians do not realize Gal.3:13 declares us free from the curse of the law. Christians are free to cheerfully give as they have decided 2 Corinthians 9:17.

    The Bible illiterates who fail to understand what took place after Jesus said It is Finished “Paid in Full.” will be easy prey to prosperity messages of pay up or else.

    With a change in the Priesthood came a change in the law Hebrews 7:12
    Christians need to learn, Who, When & What Covenant was in place when God & Jesus was speaking & what took place after the cross?

    Prosperity teachers tie the blessings of God to the amount of money one gives their Ministry. Jesus never charged one dime to help anybody. I pity those who don’t understand the grace & love of God.

    • GUEST

      correction 2nd Corinthians 9:7 2 Corinthians 9:7
      Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

      Prosperity teachers take it to another level to give money to get God to make you rich (in cash).

    • Nancy

      I agree with what you wrote; this sort of teaching is so rampant. I use to think that apostasy meant a falling away from the church (people not attending a church meeting); but now I understand it to mean that it is a falling away from the true gospel of faith in Christ alone. Let’s face it, many sell out. Many have made merchandise of the gospel; those you listed and many of the “emergent” modern churches of today. You mentinoned that the prosperity message is popular among the poorest denomination. I won’t be so bold as to list the name of a very rich church, but it is considered an “emergent” church and while they may not use the terminology that the famous “prosperity” teachers use, this church nonetheless is all about money and building its own empire. Not to worry, God will some day set the record straight!
      Solo Christo!

  • Bart Breen

    I’m sorry I missed this article earlier.
    I was a student at ORU from 1980-1981 and 1982-1985. I was in the Chapel that as I recall was known among many of us students as “Black Friday” (I think it was Friday …. Maybe I have the day wrong). I remember the sermon by Price. I remember the person standing up and shouting “No”. I remember the rebuke and tirade from Oral and the forced apology from the person standing up.

    I also remember something else that maybe others don’t remember so much. As I recall, one of the things that was stated clearly in that message from Price was the outright statement that God promised people 70 years of life and that if they died from illness or accident it was because they lacked in faith. As you no doubt remember Dr. Olson, Chapel at ORU was a big deal. All 5000 students from all schools were required to be there and they were broadcast as well on the closed circuit TV. In the week following that chapel, there was a tremendous increase in visits to the counseling ministry under Bob Stamps (the chaplain), as well as the student chaplains on wing ministries. There was a tremendous amount of pain and suffering from students who had lost loved ones who now were racked with doubts and vicarious guilt. It was not pleasant and a young man of 18 to watch and it opened my eyes as did the whole City of Faith debacle and others then and shortly followed.

    I remember and also hold dear my experiences in the New Testament department (I never had you as a professor although you were there.) Some of the strongest lessons I learned were going from Chapel to Exegesis and it wasn’t uncommon to open our Greek Texts to the verses that were quoted in Chapel and asking if the message was using the passage in context or was reading things in. I don’t need to tell you I’m sure how many times the conclusion wasn’t favorable to the message of such teachers such as Price, Baker, John Wesley Fletcher, and often Richard or Oral himself. I always respected that my professors took that risk. They were respectful but they didn’t hold any punched and let us do the work and learn for ourselves.

    Good memories in the midst of much of the insanity at times. I learned as much by observation and experience in that environment as I did from the classes.

    • rogereolson

      Thank you for this, Bart. Those were interesting times. I often tell people the only craziness was in chapel, faculty meetings (when Oral ran them) and Oral’s “Prayer Partners” conferences. Inside the classrooms and lecture halls, and in professors offices, what took place was serious biblical and theological reflection. I had my students at ORU reading the church fathers, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Barth, Brunner, Tillich, liberation theology, etc., etc. And they wrestled with them valiantly and with real openness. The craziness only began as we walked into chapel (and places like that where Oral or Richard were in charge). Unfortunately, the general public and many evangelicals painted the whole place and everyone involved with the same broad brush–as charismania, prosperity gospel, etc. And, I should say, we had some really good chapel speakers. Joni Erickson Tada stands out as one. Bill Bright and Southern Baptist theologian Dale Moody were others. And campus pastor Larry Hart was a bright spot in chapel. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to speak as often as I wished he would. (And, of course, before him, Bob Stamps deserves special mention.)

      • Bart Breen

        I remember it well. Yes, there was a great deal there too that was positive. Francis MacNutt and Dennis Bennett were good memories as well as were many of the Seminary Professors who would speak.

  • williamtucker

    I enjoyed your article I agree with it and and many of the comments. I note your statement – “I was then (and still am) a non-Charismatic Baptist who believed all the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the New Testament are still for the church today..Even when I was being interviewed nobody asked me if I speak in tongues. ” So can you say now please, do you speak/pray in tongues? If not, are you a cessationist?

    • rogereolson

      Neither do I speak/pray in tongues nor am I a cessationist. Why do you propose those as the only alternatives? I’m glad there are people who have the gift of speaking/praying in tongues. That’s not my gift.


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