Voltaire said those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. The philosopher might have added that they can also empty your wallet.
“For every pound you put in this offering bucket, you will get a hundred back.” This is the doctrine of the hundredfold return.
I hate telling people I used to believe that. The reason I hate telling them is the thought that went through your head when you read that first sentence:
“No you won’t!”
You didn’t even have to think about it. It’s just not true. If you put a pound in an offering bucket, the net result is that you have one less pound in your pocket, and that is all. I will always envy you for that. You didn’t lose twenty years to it, and I did.
For me, it was the indisputable truth and anyone who couldn’t see it was just deceived by the devil. I hate seeing the blank, unimpressed looks on people’s faces when I tell them this. This was the whole of my life for two decades, and you can dismiss it in less time than it takes me to say it.
How is this? As you can (hopefully) see, I am not stupid. How can it be that men with slicked back hair and expensive suits have conned hundreds of thousands – in Britain, not just America – with something so blatantly, transparently false?
They used Scripture.
I cannot overstate the importance of this. There are dozens of psychological factors explaining how con men get compliance from intelligent people, but in the case of the Word of Faith, the main one is simply that they quoted the Bible.
Almost everyone who converts to the Word of Faith is already a Bible-believing Christian. It is impossible to exaggerate the authority the Bible has to them. It is the complete, inerrant Word of God. It cannot possibly be wrong. It contains no mistakes, and no contradictions.
To a fundamentalist Christian, a well-used quotation from the Bible ends all debate. It has more authority than any evidence, or any peer-reviewed journal article. If the Bible says it, it is beyond question. Even evidence can’t disprove it.
If you can persuade a fundamentalist that the Bible says it, you can make them believe anything. This is why fundamentalism is so dangerous. Christian fundamentalism doesn’t make headlines because, so far, there have been few high profile cases of Scripture being used to justify terrorism. But there’s no reason why it couldn’t happen.
So anyway, this sowing and reaping thing:
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
I know your eyes glossed over, but just get the last bit: It produced a crop, multiplying up to a hundred times! Luke 6:38 says that if you give, it will be given unto you until you are running over! Of course, those stuffy theologians might say that these verses aren’t talking about money, but we know that just isn’t true:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Whatsoever a man soweth. Is money a “whatsoever”? There you are then. Sowing and reaping is a spiritual principle that applies to all areas of life. And there are some other verses that clearly aren’t just talking about spiritual things:
“And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”
He shall receive a hundredfold of lands and houses! Material things! In this life! As God told Abraham: “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.”
So, get this: Wealth is part of the Covenant which God promised to Abraham. Which we are a part of through Jesus, according to Galatians 3:14.
So there you are. Case closed, God wants you to be rich, and to get it, you just have to give money in the offering. Don’t believe it? You’re deceived by the devil.
The second you accept there’s a truth which is infallible – that you would not reject no matter what the evidence – you have opened the door to insanity. You can believe lies, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it – or even realise it.
Lots of fundamentalists look at the Word of Faith and say, “Oh, that’s obviously a cult.” But ultimately, there is no bulwark to stop them believing equal craziness (in fact, they do believe things of equal impossibility). Word of Faith preachers have a vast knowledge of Scripture, and can pull on a massive array of supporting verses.
I hope the hilarity of different groups, all claiming to follow Scripture literally, but all disagreeing on (to them) important points, is not lost on you. If the Bible is meant to be taken literally, then God sucks at communication.
The Word of Faith is just as internally consistent as any other claimed “literal” reading of Scripture. Yes, it is selective, but so is every reading of Scripture. Fundamentalist, do you believe in killing children for disobedience? No? Then you’re being selective.
You might not fall for a cult like the Word of Faith. But seeing what accepting that the Bible is infallible can do should be an eye-opener. If you uncritically accept all Scripture as true, you could believe anything.
What makes you think the conclusions you’ve drawn are any better?