Friday, December 28, 2007

"Name it and claim it"

Sen Charles Grassley of Iowa has initiated an investigation of six television "ministries." All of them have in common the teaching that faith will bring "health and wealth" [it has certainly provided the wealth part for the six people being investigated]. The AP yesterday described the investigation, and in the process described the recent history of the error:
Most scholars trace the origins of prosperity theology to E.W. Kenyon, an evangelical pastor from the first half of the 20th century.

But it wasn't until the postwar era - and a pair of evangelists from Tulsa, Oklahoma - that "health and wealth" theology became a fixture in Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

Oral Roberts and Kenneth Hagin - and later, Kenneth Copeland - trained tens of thousands of evangelists with a message that resonated with an emerging middle class, said David Edwin Harrell Jr., a Roberts biographer. Copeland is among those now being investigated.

"What Oral did was develop a theology that made it OK to prosper," Harrell said. "He let Pentecostals be faithful to the old-time truths their grandparents embraced and be part of the modern world, where they could have good jobs and make money."

The teachings took on various names - "Name It and Claim It," "Word of Faith," the prosperity gospel.

Prosperity preachers say that it isn't all about money - that God's blessings extend to health, relationships and being well-off enough to help others.

They have Bible verses at the ready to make their case. One oft-cited verse, in Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians, reads: "Yet for your sakes he became poor, that you by his poverty might become rich."

Critics acknowledge the idea that God wants to bless his followers has a Biblical basis, but say prosperity preachers take verses out of context. The prosperity crowd also fails to acknowledge Biblical accounts that show God doesn't always reward faithful believers, Palmer said.

The Book of Job is a case study in piety unrewarded, and a chapter in the Book of Hebrews includes a litany of believers who were tortured and martyred, Palmer said. [more]
.... And Our Lord Himself suffered and died. And Lazarus, although brought back to life, presumably died again later. And Peter was crucified. And Paul was executed. And on and on....

Of course Job was not "a case study in piety unrewarded." Faith, in his case, was rewarded both in his life on earth and in his expectations. "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God..." (Job 19:25-27)

"....all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28), not just the pleasant, enjoyable things. The problem with prosperity teaching is not that it is too spiritual, but that it is far too materialistic.

Believer bitter over 'prosperity' preachings -

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