Friday, September 23, 2011

"Pagan teaching with a Christian face"

The Baptist Press reviews a book about an error that not only affects American Christians but seems to be spreading even more rapidly elsewhere. The book is Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ? by David W. Jones and Russell S. Woodbridge.
....Health, Wealth & Happiness (Kregel), critiques what is often called the prosperity or "health & wealth" gospel — the claim by some of America's most well-known preachers that God desires all Christians to be materially wealthy and physically healthy.

The prosperity gospel is dangerous, the professors say, because it contains just enough truth to make it appear biblical but more than enough distortions to make it heretical. That, they say, has led Christians to become discouraged in their faith or angry at God, or worse, to walk away from the church for good. ....

"If Christianity is supposed to be about God and His glory and is supposed to be about Christ, and we're making it about us — that's the worst thing we could do," one of the authors, David W. Jones, told Baptist Press. ....

The prosperity gospel, Jones says, is a "pagan teaching with a Christian face."

The book, co-authored with Russell W Woodbridge, a missionary in Eastern Europe who is an adjunct professor at Southeastern, gives the history of the prosperity gospel movement, interacts with quotes from some of the most well-known prosperity gospel preachers, and ends by giving a "corrective" — that is, an explanation of the historical, biblical teaching on suffering, wealth, poverty and giving. Jones and Woodbridge distinguish between what they consider soft advocates of the prosperity gospel (Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer) and more staunch advocates (Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland). .... [more]
The interview with David Jones follows this introductory summary. One of the questions and his answer:
BP: What are some of the basic biblical or theological errors of the prosperity gospel?

JONES: First of all, there's a distorted view of God — God is sort of like a cosmic bellhop that we can call upon and He's there to serve us as opposed to us being here to serve Him. No. 2, there's an exalted view of man – [it teaches that] Christianity is ultimately about us and not about Jesus and God's glory. No. 3, there's this idea of mind over matter — if you just believe it, it will come true. No. 4, there is an overall fixation upon health and wealth and the idea that if you're just a good person and you love Jesus and tithe, you can expect to have a full wallet and perfect health. No. 5, there is a false idea of salvation itself. [According to the prosperity gospel,] it's not so much that we're saved from eternal damnation, saved from God's wrath, but rather we're saved from the unfulfilling, unprosperous life.
Baptist Press - Q&A: The prosperity gospel – 'pagan teaching with a Christian face,' prof says - News with a Christian Perspective