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The prosperity gospel, or “health and wealth” preaching, originated about 70 years ago in the United States. At various tent meetings connected to Voice of Healing and similar ministries, preachers like Oral Roberts and A. A. Allen started to teach things like financial sowing and reaping, the prosperous power of faith and that God wants us to be rich.
Their theology was influenced by Baptist theologian E. W. Kenyon, who in turn was highly influenced with ideas from New Thought. This American movement is quite similar to New Age and emphasizes, among other things, the power of the mind to influence physical reality by, for example, naming and claiming health and wealth before it actually has materialized.
Sounds familiar? (more…)
Does a strong faith in God lead to a prosperous life filled with health and wealth? Since the 1950’s, several Pentecostal and charismatic preachers have been arguing that followers of Jesus should be rich and successful. Oftentimes, they have put their teachings into practice by possessing expensive jet planes and huge mansions.
In this Holy Hangout I talk with design student and Vineyarder Friederike Berghauer from Germany and former Vineyard pastor and blogger Joshua Hopping from the United States. We discuss what prosperity really is, the historical roots to why “Health and Wealth” teaching originated, why it’s popular in Latin America and Africa, Biblical texts that challenge traditional prosperity teaching and the role of contentment and suffering in a Christian’s life.
If you have a suggestion on a topic for a future Hangout and/or want to join, just contact me!
“People of corrupt mind… have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. – 1 Timothy 6:5-11, NIV
It’s a great passage and very prophetic, since Paul foresees a lot of crap that future Christians will teach about money. He debunks these heresies so that true disciples would have solid biblical arguments against them. First of all, he debunks the prosperity gospel, the idea that if you have a strong faith in God, you will get rich – godliness is a means to financial gain. Those who believe this are people of corrupt mind that have been robbed of the truth, according to Paul.
Another heresy Paul addresses is the idea that Christians should and could want to be rich. He says that we should be content with food and clothing (literally: nourishment and covering) while those who want to get rich fall into “many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction”. The Greek word for “get rich”, ploutein, can also mean “be rich”. We should thus not desire to be rich, but we should be content with the most necessary of things.
I finished my bachelor’s thesis Holy Spirit Development earlier this fall. Here’s an excerpt:
It is an interesting phenomenon that the Pentecostal and charismatic movement grows rapidly among the poor, something that has been explained with the charismatic promises of healing, prosperity and answered prayers (Togarasei 2011, Pfeiffer et al 2007). But how do charismatic churches in developing nations tackle the poverty of their members? In 2007, Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori published a book called Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement. Originally the authors wanted to write about churches in general that work with social justice in developing nations, but when they, to their surprise, discovered that the vast majority of churches that did so were Pentecostal, they decided to study this movement further.
According to the authors, the stereotype of Pentecostals being so caught up in eschatological expectations and evangelistic focus that they are not “wasting time” on social and political change (Miller & Yamamori 2007, p. 21), is not very relevant for Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity in the global south. Instead, the authors come up with the term “Progressive Pentecostals” to describe what they believe is very common: Pentecostals seriously involved in social action. Throughout the book, they give examples of how Pentecostals and charismatics run charities as well as mobilize political campaigning for social justice as a result of their faith.
Although I don’t agree with everything Samuel Lee writes in his book “A New Kind of Pentecostalism”, I think this part of a review by the author himself is pretty awesome:
As a Pentecostal pastor, I have been in this movement long enough to say with assurance that I have seen many Pentecostals who pray in tongues and who experience and perform miracles and manifestations and yet are full of arrogance, racism, ethnocentrism, or denomi-centrism. They exclude others; they are overflowing with prejudices, yet they claim they are “filled” with the Holy Spirit. I wonder to which Holy Spirit they are referring.
The Pentecostalism that I promote is about humility and is not a commercialized, Hollywood-esque Christianity, where the hairstyle of the preacher and his/her wealth attracts the attention or where leadership becomes a pyramid system in which the superstar preachers become the new living icons and idols of the Pentecostal believers. I would love to see a Pentecostalism in which people learn to depend on God and on each other through love. I desire to see a Pentecostalism in which the leaders are servants and preachers of humility and grace. (more…)