We examine the Prosperity Doctrine and the teachings of the Word of Faith denomination to determine if they are accurate and examine why it they have become so popular.
- Doctrinal Analysis
- Seed and Sowing
- Positive Confession
- God Wants Everyone to be Healthy and Wealthy
- Faith is a Substance
- Why Is the Doctrine Appealing?
- 2 Timothy 4:3-5
- Matthew 13:3-9
- Matthew 13:18-23
- Proverbs 18:21a
- Proverbs 18:19-21
- 3 John 1:2
- 3 John 1:1-3
- Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)
- Hebrews 11:1
- Philippians 1:15-18
2 Timothy 4:3-4
3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
- People won't endure sound doctrine
- Teachers in accordance to their own desires
Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, the gospel of success) is a religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one's material wealth. Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, God will deliver security and prosperity.
Prominent leaders in the development of prosperity theology included: E. W. Kenyon, Oral Roberts, A. A. Allen, Robert Tilton, T. L. Osborn, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Reverend Ike and Kenneth Hagin.
According to historians, the prosperity gospel was formed from the intersection of three different ideologies: Pentecostalism, New Thought, and the American ideals of pragmatism, individualism, and upward mobility.
The New Thought movement is a philosophical movement which developed in the United States in the 1880s that holds that Infinite Intelligence, or God, is everywhere, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and "right thinking" has a healing effect Followers of this movement shared beliefs concerning: metaphysics, positive thinking, the law of attraction, healing, life force, creative visualization, and personal power.
New thought doctrine introduced the philosophy that if you wish for something hard enough you would get it. The New Thought movement was responsible for popularizing belief in the power of the mind to achieve prosperity. By the 20th century, New Thought concepts had saturated American popular culture, being common features of both self-help literature and popular psychology.
Introduction Into Pentecostalism
E. W. Kenyon, a Baptist minister is credited with introducing New Thought teachings into early Pentecostalism after being exposed to it in college. He taught that Christ's substitutionary atonement secured for believers a right to divine healing. This was attained through positive, faith-filled speech. He claimed that the spoken word of God allowed believers to appropriate the same spiritual power that God used to create the world and attain the provisions promised in Christ's death and resurrection. Prayer was understood to be a binding, legal act and he taught believers to demand healing since they were already legally entitled to receive it.
By the 1940s and 1950s, a recognizable form of the doctrine began to take shape within the Pentecostal movement through the teachings of deliverance and healing evangelists.
Word of Faith
Although nearly all of the healing evangelists of the 1940s and '50s taught that faith could bring financial rewards, a new prosperity-oriented teaching developed in the 1970s that differed from the one taught by Pentecostal evangelists of the 1950s. This "Positive Confession" or "Word of Faith" movement taught that a Christian with faith can speak into existence anything consistent with the will of God.
By 2006, three of the four largest congregations in the United States were teaching prosperity theology. A 2006 poll by Time reported that 17 percent of Christians in America said they identified with the movement.
As is true of other prosperity movements, there is no theological governing body for the Word of Faith movement, and well-known ministries differ on some theological issues. There is no official governing body for the movement, though many ministries are unofficially linked.
Some prominent Word of Faith pastors include:
- Kenneth Copeland
- Creflo Dollar
- Myles Munroe
- Joyce Meyer
- Paula White
- Benny Hinn
- Fred Price
- TD Jakes
- Joel Osteen
6 of these are on the list of America’s top 10 richest preachers.
Many of the teachings of the prosperity doctrine have become woven into mainstream Christian doctrine.
The teaching is often based on non-traditional interpretations of Bible verses. Many of the interpretations can only be drawn if you take the verse out of its biblical context.
Example: “I don’t think I want to go to the party because I’m sick.”
- He said “I want to go to the party”
Let’s look at some of the doctrines taught by some of the prominent leaders of the movement.
Seed and Sowing
- What ever amount you give to the church, God will give it back to you multiplied by 30, 60 or 100 times.
- God only blesses those who give money to the church.
“In 2014...All you’ve lost will be restored. Guaranteed!
All the enemy has taken from you is coming back double. Guaranteed!”
“All you have to do is release your faith”
“The Word of God promises that only the giver is favored with His blessing”
“So today, sow your seed for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ with explosive faith.”
3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
- They teach that your seed is your money and God will multiply it
- If you give it to them
18“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
- The verse is not about money
- It's about saving souls to Christ
- Ironically the person who worried about being wealthy is the one who's seed got choked
- People are giving for the primary reason of making money.
- They are not giving it to God because it is His they are loaning it to Him expecting interest.
- Vending machine view of God’s blessings.
- What I get out is determined by how much I put in.
Positive Confession / Spoken Word
If you speak something it will come into being. A believer may claim whatever they desire from God, simply by speaking it. If you speak to your problem (health issue, finance issue, etc.) God will create what you’re speaking
The Bible has promised prosperity for believers, so positive confession means that believers are speaking in faith what God has already spoken about them.
Christians have been given power over creation because they are made in the image of God and positive confession allows Christians to exercise dominion over their souls and material objects around them.
The Power of Life and Death is in our tongue
19A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city,
And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.
20With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied;
He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.
21Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
- This is talking about watching what you say
- It's talking about not speaking badly about others
- This verse is a warning to those who like to gossip and talk too much.
- It's not saying you can have an iPhone X if you claim it
Mimics God’s ability in Genesis 1:2
- Deifies man
- Takes God out of the equation
- You can do what God can do
God Guarantees to be Healthy and Wealthy
Every Christian is entitled to health, wealth and prosperity because it is God’s will. If you have faith you will be materially wealthy and you will be in good health. Jesus’ death already made you wealthy and healthy you just need to activate it with faith.
It’s as easy to get healed as it is to get saved
It’s as easy to get healed as it is to be forgiven
Healing should never be separate from salvation
3 John 1:2
2Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
3 John 1:1-3
1The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. 2Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth.
- This is a greeting
- Like “I pray that you're doing well”
Example: God Bless You - salutation
- You have the power to command the blessings of God
He says “I pray” you prosper and be in good health
- If it was guaranteed Paul wouldn’t need to pray for it
A focus on material possessions even though that wasn’t Jesus’ focus.
It leads to the conclusion that:
If you’re not rich or you’re sick then either:
- God is a liar
- There’s something wrong with you
What can be wrong with you?
- You don’t have enough faith
- Unconfessed sin
- You haven't given enough money
- You're not really saved
Faith is a Substance
Faith is a spiritual force. Like gravity and electricity are natural sources.
God is not the object of your faith
- Faith is a substance itself that you direct at God
Faith is a tangible, invisible force
Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)
1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (NASB)
1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
(a) confidence, assurance, (b) a giving substance (or reality) to, or a guaranteeing, (c) substance, reality.
If we are saved by “faith” and faith is a substance how does Jesus fit into the equation. It replaces Jesus with “a force” that saves us.
Why Is the Doctrine Appealing?
Come to Jesus because:
- He’ll make you wealthy
- He’ll heal your body
Coincides With Common Theology
Deep down many Christians think that if bad things are happening to me or if I'm not getting the things in life that I want and maybe it's because:
- I'm not praying enough
- I am sinner
- God is unhappy with me
- I don’t go to church enough
- I’ve been bad
- I was bad in the past
This is the same theology that Job’s friends blamed Job with.
- But we saw God came along later and corrected their error.
Reward for Righteousness
Many people believe that if I’m good for God, God will be good to my wallet
Gives You Control Over Your Circumstances
- You don’t have to just wait on God, you can take action
- You don't have to pray and not hear anything back
- It's all about your action
- No need to wait on God
- You can have it now
- It's already been promised
- God must give it to you if you have faith
- It puts the believer in the driver’s seat
- Problem: you’re the master
Removes Rich Guilt
- Rich people often feel guilty
- Many donate to alleviate that guilt
- This helps justify their wealth because God wants wants them to be rich
- Wanting to be rich isn't looked at as being greedy
- It’s a reward from God
- "God will never give you more than you can handle"
The Church Environment
- Sense of expectation
- Energetic music
- Mini sermon before the offering with promises of return on investment
- Focused, driven people
- People that want to be in control of their lives
They draw the motivated and determined individuals
- They draw successful people
- The ones that make money give more
- The ones that are driven will statistically be more likely to be successful in life
- Once they achieve success they’ll credit it to the church and give more
Self selected crowd
- Those who gave and didn’t get money
- Give more
- Eventually they'll go broke
- Then they'll leave
- They didn't have money anyway...
- Bible knowledgeable Christians (aka Bereans)
Recession proof up to a point
- When people don’t have money they give more
- Head of a charity can’t live luxuriously
- Pastors in other doctrines may even pretend to be poor
- Or try to portray a modest lifestyle
- The prosperous Pastor gets more respect
- The more he has the more faith he must have
- It shows that He has approval from God
- It proves that what they preach is true
- You can have your cake and eat it
This is the “best scheme” some people have seen
- Similar to network marketing
- Environment of expectation
- Charismatic leaders
- Promises of wealth
- It’s your fault if you’re not successful not the system
- A lot of the leaders get rich from selling books and materials to their followers
- It’s not backed by a bank it’s backed by God
- It’s backed by the bible
- A bank gives you less than one percent interest
- This one gives you 30, 50, 100 fold
- Endorsed by men of God
- The pastors endorse each other
Did Jesus promise abundance?
- The bible promises believers streets paved with gold, and many mansions.
Is physical healing provided for by Christ’s death on the cross?
- Sickness and disease is the result of the sin of Adam and Eve
- Jesus paid for our sins and for the consequences of our sins
The answer to both questions is ...yes!
They are actually correct that Jesus’ death:
- Cured all sickness
- Guaranteed prosperity for every Christian
Jesus death also promises:
- Eternal life
- A glorified body
- Living a sin-free life
But these blessings of the atonement are promised to be realized in heaven.
- We don’t expect to live a sin-free life, or to be immortal right now.
They have what theologians call an “over-realized eschatology”
- They speak of getting things now that are promised in the afterlife.
They have taken two elements that are promised in Heaven and claim them as being realized here on earth:
Story: Joel Osteen’s Night of Hope event last year
- 10s of thousands of people
- Hundreds of unbelievers gave their life to Christ that night
15Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.
- If they are drawing people to our Christ then we should rejoice
- Is their Jesus the same as our Jesus? ...more on that later
Presenter: Michael Leadon
Prosperity Theology (Wikipedia)
The Prosperity Gospel Message by Dr Paul Choo
A Call for Discernment Session 1 - Dangerous Doctrine