PROSPERITY GOSPEL (PART ONE)
Russell Kelly’s Review of
Health, Wealth and Happiness
David W Jones and Russell S Woodbridge, 2011
Note: This book is excellent in every way. I highly recommend it.
Why is the prosperity gospel so popular?
1. It contains a grain of truth.
2. Appeals to the natural human desire to be successful
3. It promises much and requires little.
4. Many of its advocates have polished presentations.
5. Many followers have little knowledge of the Bible doctrine.
6. Many have experienced success and healing and have attributed it to the prosperity gospel.
7. Many Christians lack discernment in this area (p18-19)
NEW THOUGHT MOVEMENT (p27-49)
In 1895 a Boston group defined its doctrine as “to show that through right thinking one’s loftiest ideals may be brought into realization and to advance intelligent and systematic treatment of disease by spiritual and mental methods.” (p27).
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a clairvoyant who claimed to have spoken to Paul for over a year and with Martin Luther over 100 times. Yet, contrary to Luther, he rejected the Trinity, the deity of Christ and salvation by grace through faith alone. The human mind has the capacity to control the physical world. (P28-29).
Phineas Quimby (1802-66), the Father of New Thought, pioneered the idea of mental healing. The mind can create and influence others by thinking what one wanted to happen (p29). He believed that sickness follows disturbance of the mind (30). Mary Eddy Baker was one of his patients (31).
Ralph Waldo Trine (1866-1958) taught that Buddha was equally inspired with the Bible. Influenced Napoleon Hill (31-32).
Norman Vincent Peal (1898-1993) wrote The Power of Positive Thinking (1952). Chapters were Prayer the Most Powerful Form of Energy; How to Think Your Way to Success and Change Your Thoughts and You Change Everything. Peale merged secular ideas with biblical themes (3-34).
TEACHINGS OF THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL: (50-80)
As an organized movement the prosperity gospel has only existed for about a hundred years (50).
E W Kenyon (1867-1948), Father of the Prosperity Gospel, was influenced by Unitarian-Universalists and Christian Science. He taught that speaking the right words would bring about a new reality and probably began the phrase “What I confess, I possess.” (51) Positive confession is the key to prosperous living and health. “The cross has no salvation in it. It is a place of failure and defeat.” “When Jesus died his spirit was taken by the Adversary and carried to the place where the sinner’s spirit goes when he dies.” ”The value of Christianity is what we get out of it.” In Kenyon’s system a relationship with God is a means for a person to get what he or she wants. God never planned that we should live in poverty – physical, mental or spiritual.” (52-53)
KENNETH E HAGIN: (1917-2003) (54): In the late 1940s Oral Roberts spread the word about faith healing and faith prosperity. Kenneth Hagin is the Father of the Word of Faith movement. At age 16 he reported dying, seeing Hell and being brought back to life 3 times while being converted. At age 17 he reported seeing Jesus 8 times in a few months. Typical of prosperity preachers, he relied on extrabiblical revelations (54). As an Assembly of God preacher, he claimed to be an anointed prophet. His message from Jesus was “Say it. Do it. Receive it. Tell it.” Critics have found many verbatim quotations plagiarized from Kenyon (55).
THE TEACHINGS OF THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL (55)
1. A Distorted View of God:
Many deny the Trinity: God is one in essence and three in person – coequal and coeternal. They teach the ancient heresy of MODALISM: God is One in Person and appears in different Modes; God is not simultaneously the Father, Son and Spirit. TD Jakes, a Oneness Pentecostal, teaches Modalism. In 1990 Benny Hinn proclaimed that each person of the Godhead was Triune (57). Creflo Dollar says that God is one person with 3 different roles.
Kenneth Copeland wrote “I was shocked when I found out who the biggest failure in the Bible actually is … The biggest One in the whole Bible is God … Now the reason you don’t think of God as a failure is He never said He’s a failure.” (58)
2. Elevation of Mind Over Matter (59)
Like New Thought, words –both thought and spoken—are a force and have creative power. Charles Capps wrote “Man speaks spirit words that work in the world of the spirit. … Man breathes spirit life into God’s Word and it becomes a living substance, working for him as it worked for God in the beginning. These spirit words dominate the natural world” (59).
Creflo Dollar said “As believers we have authority over the physical world.” Speaking the right words combined with faith in those words can produce amazing results (59). The believer’s task is to use the words in order to exercise spiritual laws for their own benefit. (60) If believers repeat the right words and believe, then God must bless.
Dollar says “God uses words to create what he wants to exist. Christians have the same ability. … When you want healing, say what the Bible says ‘By his stripes I am healed’” (60). These arguments are false because they fail to distinguish between in Infinite Omnipotent God and finite humans; if people had the same creative power of God they should be able to create new objects out of nothing (61).
Kenneth Copeland says that once you have prayed in faith … You can now rest assured that what you prayed will now come to pass. They seem to forget the conditional aspect of prayer – “Thy will be done.” Copeland thinks that it was God’s faith in His own words that created the world. In Copeland’s twisted theology even the God of the universe needs faith (61).
Joyce Meyer even provides lists of positive confessions. The positive confessions are simply positive thinking like that of the secular New Thought’s law of attraction: you attract what you think about (62).
Joel Osteen says you have to see your success in your mind because what you see in your mind is what you produce. Mind over matter (62).
3. AN EXALTED VIEW OF HUMANKIND (63)
Prosperity theology INVERTS the relationship between the Creator and the creature. Humans are at the center of the universe; God exists to meet their needs. The gospel is human-centered and egotistical. This ignores the biblical teaching that humans exist for the purpose of glorifying God. Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Joel Osteen says “I can expect preferential treatment. I can expect people to want to go out of their way to help me.” In other words, God exists to serve people and everybody exists to serve me. This contradicts Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (63).
Paul Crouch and many others consider humans to be divine. He says “I am a little god. Critics be gone.” Kenneth Copeland says “You don’t have a God in you; you are one.” Yet the Bible never teaches that humans are divine (63). Humans are neither Omnipotent, Omniscient nor Omnipresent.
Ps 82:6 is quoted by prosperity gospel teachers to prove the men are gods. However 82:7 puts it into the context of evil judges claiming to be gods and above reproach. Creflo Dollar uses Ps 82:6 to distort truth (63-64).
T D Jakes says that humans were made from God’s DNA. However the Bible does not teach that humans were made out of God; it teaches that humans were made BY God. (Much more on page 64.)
4. FOCUS ON HEALTH AND WEALTDH (64)
Many teach that neither Jesus nor His disciples were poor. Robert Tilton even teaches that it is a sin to be poor. The driving force is not to help others, but to receive compensation in return. When Christians give generously, God gives more in return and there is an ever-increasing cycle of prosperity. Whereas Jesus teaches His disciples to “Lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35), prosperity theologians teach their disciples to lend because they will get a great return. The prosperity message is in captivity to the American dream and many in impoverished nations easily fall prey to that vision. The prosperity preachers become wealthy while promising American-type wealth to their poor congregations who remain poor.
Many prosperity teachers make promises that are simply not true (65). They say “Give to the ministry; plant a financial seed and God will give you a return on that act of faith (66). For the most successful prosperity preachers, this formula works (67).
Kenneth Hagin says “I believe that it is the plan of God our Father that no believer ever be sick.” This fails to admit the temporal effects of the fall of humankind (67). It also fails to consider God’s approval of Job’s calamity and poor health.
Robert Bolden says it is your right to be healed and you only need to exercise faith (68). Joyce Meyer says “’I will’ is the strongest assertion that can be made in the English language” (68).
5. ERROR OF UNORTHODOX VIEW OF SALVATION (69)
While making seemingly orthodox statements about the plan of salvation, many seriously leave the truth (69).
Kenneth Copeland teaches that Jesus completely emptied Himself of His divinity while on earth and ceased to be God during his incarnation (70).
Creflo Dollar says “Jesus did not show up perfect; he grew up into his perfection” (70). In reality, though, only the God-Man can save from sin.
Kenneth Hagin limits Christ’s atonement to his spiritual death and not to his physical death.
Frederick K C Price also rejects Jesus’ physical death as payment for sin; “the punishment for sin was to go into Hell itself” (71). This contradicts 2 Cor 5:21.
From what did Jesus save people? The orthodox answer is “from sin.” Yet many prosperity preachers prefer that Jesus saves people from a non-prosperous life. They undermine the gospel with their teaching. They focus on humans and not on God. The prosperity gospel is little more than a secular-style self-help program for material success (70).
JOEL OSTEEN (PAGES 72-80)
Osteen is pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas with a weekly attendance of over 40,000 – the largest church in the USA (72).
Osteen often makes up his own hermeneutics when interpreting Scripture (73-74). He presents the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ as a paradigm for overcoming challenges and obstacles in life instead of exalting Christ as the substitutionary sacrifice for sin (74).
Osteen also uses words as if the words themselves have magic powers. “There is a miracle in your mouth. If you want to change your world, start by changing your words. … with our words we can prophesy our own future’ (75). His belief in the power of words places people in control of their own destinies (75).
In explaining the steps to salvation, Osteen says “Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins. I ask you to come into my heart. I make You my Lord and Savior.” Osteen teaches that one is saved from the possibility of a difficult life rather than from one’s sinful condition (76). “When we believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and believe in ourselves, that’s when faith comes alive. When we believe we have what it takes, we focus on our possibilities” (76). “When you’re in difficult times, it’s good to remind God what you’ve done” (76). Yet, contrary to Osteen’s teaching here, biblical faith involves rejecting a self-righteous standard and recognizing that only Christ has the power to save (76).
Contrary to Romans 3:23 and Isaiah 64:6, Osteen holds an optimistic view of the goodness of people and their abilities (77). Like Jakes, he thinks that humans are made from the substance of God and have God’s DNA. “It’s in your blood.” Pure positive thinking can defeat hereditary disease (77).
Although science has proven that acquired abilities are not passed on via hereditary, Osteen teaches that positive actions change DNA which is then passed on to future generations (78). This is a works-based righteousness that eliminates the need for God’s grace. In fact God never promised unconditional blessing to one’s descendants because the basis of our blessings is the life of Christ.
When interviewed on national TV’s 60 Minutes, Brian Pitts noted Osteen’s perverted theology: “To become a better you, you must be positive towards yourself, develop better relationships and embrace the place where you are. Not one mention of God in that.” Osteen responded “That’s just my message.” Osteen’s answer is not centered on Christ. He is preaching his own message (78).
Osteen appears to open the door of salvation to everybody regardless of one’s acceptance of Jesus Christ (79). He does not place Scripture in the center of his message (80).