(Lisa Robinson)

As a follow up to my last post On Shai Linne and Judging False Teachers, I’ve been reflecting on the underlying problem with the teachers represented in the song.  It leads me to this question:  does prosperity teaching deny the gospel? Put another way, do the teachers mentioned in Shai Linne’s preach another gospel? Clearly, there is an issue with teaching that is being promoted and it does run contradictory to main themes in Scripture. But what is the underlying problem of the teachers mentioned and what they promote? I found this comment here from the last blog post helpful.

Some watch bloggers and heresy hunters in their zeal to nail falsehood have become all too casual and blasé in labeling someone a “false teacher” and furthermore, they make swift assumptions about their motives such as “so and so is teaching these things to fleece people of their money”.

The reality seems to evade them that it is POSSIBLE to be “an honest heretic” or “an unconscious deceiver” in the sense that the person truly believes in their mind and conscience that what they teach is true biblical interpretation and they want to share it with their followers with a genuine desire to help them…If you are deceived yourself you’ll be naturally deceiving others.

I think he is right. There is a difference between intentional deception vs passing on erroneous teaching because of faulty presuppositions. Having listened to most folks on this list for years, I can attest to the fact that not everyone on that list is a straight-out charlatan. Now some would say that the theological core of the teachers represented is corrupt – denial of God’s character, denial of the atonement, denial of the hypostatic union of Christ. Well, the reality is that the teachers represented do not represent a monolith theology. The reality is that some do not deny the work and person of Jesus Christ and that salvation is based on him.

The issue however, is where Christian hope is placed. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he is addressing this very issue.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9)

What was the problem? The judiazers (probably professed believers themselves) were telling the newly converted Gentile Christians that in order to be accepted to God, faith in Christ alone was not enough. Now they did not deny the work and person of Christ per se. In other words, if you were to ask these false gospel-ers who Jesus was and what he did, the conversation would go something like this;

Asker: Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God?

Judiazers: yes

Asker: Do you believe that he died on the cross for our sins?

Judiazers: yes

Asker: Do you believe that he rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father?

Judiazers: yes

Asker: Do you believe that we are saved by putting faith in Christ?

Judiazers: yes

So here’s the problem: their Christian hope was placed in performing circumcision and compliance to the Law of Moses. Paul’s rather angry retort was that is another gospel. Why? Because hope was placed in Christ + something else. It was in the reliance of the something else that made it a different gospel, actually no gospel at all. That’s why he says “I do not set aside the grace of God. For if my righteousness can obtained through obedience to the Law, then Christ died for nothing (Galatians 2:21)” It is the setting aside of grace and receiving faith through other means that makes something a false gospel.

So to the extent that this is true with the teaching represented by those on the list gives weight to the reality of another gospel.  Even if there are some on the list that proclaim Jesus Christ and use the Bible, the question remains where are they indicating people should place their hope? How is one approved by God? Is it in the all sufficient sacrifice of Christ alone? Is it in the gift of God’s grace alone?  Or is our Christian reality based on something else?

If acceptance from God is built on how much faith we have, that’s not the gospel. If our Christian reality is built on changing the atmosphere through the words we speak, that is not the gospel (it’s not even Christian). If God’s unmerited grace is found in the blessings we receive and pursuit of those blessings, that’s not the gospel. If we trust in our experience as proof that God accepts us, that is not the gospel.  The gospel is sourced in what God did through his Son. Christianity is about proclaiming him, and living for him and dying to ourselves.

Now no one is denying that God does not want to bless us or that we should not pray to receive blessings. That is supported by scripture. But if faith is built on any activity other than the work and person of Jesus Christ and that other activity is being promoted as necessary for an authentic Christian existence, then another gospel is being promoted and THAT is what creates deception. Besides we are already blessed in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). He is the center and pursuit, not riches or elevation of self.

The proof is in the pudding of who or what is being promoted. Take a look at this video of a woman who tells her tale of teachings promoted from the teachers on that list. Where did she place her hope influenced by the teaching she received? Thankfully, it has a happy ending. I can only hope that more eyes will be opened.

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    31 replies to "Does Prosperity Teaching Deny the Gospel?"

    • Kevin Bullock

      Excellent post, you have articulated the issues with prosperity gospel well . Our families faith story is very similar to the woman’s in the video. I was well on my way into a ministerial role in a denomination that placed a heavy emphasis on tithing and “blessing” gospel before I became disillusioned with the problems I saw with it.
      A few years down the road we’re still working our way back from the isolation that happens when you step away from a church body.

      Hearing the good news has been an exhilarating ride into spiritual freedom I don’t regret. Thanks for posting

    • Minimus

      Why have I never seen any kind of “proper teaching” on finances from those who denounce the “prosperity gospel”?

      THAT is my real question.

      Real debate and substantive things have been written re: the charismata for and against, eternal security and more, yet on this issue there is almost solely “name calling” with no real substance (that I’ve read from anyone….yet) from opponents to the “prosperity gospel.”

    • theoldadam

      We all ought be good stewards of God’s gifts (which we aren’t, often).

      But handling finances is a law issue.

      It’s not a gospel issue…at all.

    • I suppose we should look at Phil. 1:12-18, in this question and issue. And yet the Apostle Paul calls some “false brethren” in Gal. 2: 4 / 2 Cor. 11:26. There can be no mistake about what Paul believes! (Gal. 2: 4-5)

    • Myself, I do not see the people in Philippians 1: 15-18 as pure “Judaizers”, but people who were not fully behind Paul for whatever reasons? And amen Paul is not a “modern” pretender or hypocrite!

    • theoldadam

      Paul does say of those who went back into themselves (and what they do) for any assurance of their righteousness, that “they sever themselves from Christ”.

      That is pretty heavy.

      It also seems to suggest that faith can be lost. (not to open a whole nuther can of worms)

    • Ken Temple

      Minimus:
      Any good Orthodox(meaning correct doctrine, not Greek Orthodox)/Doctrinal/Evangelical pastor and Bible teachers who are NOT word of faith teach the principles of money and finance from the Bible when it comes up.

      Basically:
      1. We are to earn money by working hard, not by naming or claiming or believing hard, etc.
      2. We are trust God in trials and fianancial hardship – understanding that God never promises financial success.
      3. The Book of Job should be taught properly. God deliberately put him through trials to test him and his faith precisely because he was a God-fearing and godly believer, not because of any “fear” in him or because he let the devil attack him, etc. God sent the trials and God allowed Satan to attack his finances – Job chapters 1-2.
      3. Principle of Contentment – Philippians 4:9-11 – stop lusting after everything that others have. Stop trying to live the American dream by claiming and “faking it till you make it” (Creflo Dollar)
      4. Live within your means – make a budget – and follow it; don’t use credit cards, unless you can pay it off every month.
      5. Praying for a job or God’ provision is not wrong, but prayer is worship and trust and submission to God’s Soverieignty – “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10) – “if we ask according to his will” – 1 John 5:14; see also Luke 22:42
      6. Pray with pure motives, not the evil, greedy, selfish motives that these false teachers teach – like Creflo, Copeland, Marilyn Hickey ( “speak to your wallet – you big fat wallet you full of money” etc.) – what garbage!!
      James 4:3-4
      Psalm 66:18
      Psalm 139:23-24

      7. Give generously to one’s local church first. 2 Corinthians 9:7 – “as each one has purposed in his heart” – free will – but give something.

      8. Don’t use Malachi 3:10 in order to manipulate people – that was Israel’s tax system – 3 tithes – 23% – 2 of 10% and one every three years of 10%, which is 23.333 % per year. It is Not a NT promise

    • Ken Temple

      Also
      go to grace to go / John McArthur’s web-site – he teaches proper Biblical principles of handling money and finance. Put the key words of principles of handling money and you can find lots of sermons and articles.

      Dave Ramsey is good also – The Total Money Make-Over

      I ran out of room in the earlier post – save your money also, after you work hard and meet basic needs, and live within your budget.

    • Steve

      Ken, you are spot on with this post. Nothing more need be said.

    • Pete again

      Ken Temple, well said! By the way, most of your post would also be approved as an Orthodox (as in Eastern Orthodox) understanding of giving (except for #3)

      Lisa, nice post. But I think you should have noted that the “Prosperity Gospel” is not even a Christian concept! The “Prosperity Gospel” is a pagan concept.

      Pagan beliefs go like this: “we will sacrifice to a god, and that god will give us good material things.” The “Prosperity Gospel” is a pagan teaching!

      The “Prosperity Gospel” is one of the WORST heresies EVER.

    • David Peterson

      I appreciate the quote about the possibility of being an honest heretic. The elephant in the room is that many of these teachers have not had much theological training and what training they’ve had is as disciples of previous prosperity preachers. Given their educational background they aren’t much interested in the kind of theological questions that interest many upper middle class evangelical types. Their focus is much more practical.

      On another note, prosperity preachers may have an audience because they emphasize truthes (albeit in a distorted fashion) that others are neglecting. Jesus often spoke about having faith and not doubting. James speaks in the same way. Spurgeon in the preface to his devotional “Faith’s Checkbook” can almost sound like a faith preacher. So also Luther can talk about the importance of asking in faith. I’ve got some great quotes by Calvin on importunate prayer. Of course none of them are talking about guaranteed material blessings, but they were able to speak to these promises of scripture in ways many present-day heirs of the Reformation seem unable to do.

      Right teaching on faith, prayer, and obedient action is desperately needed and in the language of people who haven’t had the benefit of much advanced education.

      So many of the critics of faith teachers are culturally far removed from the people they criticize and seem to have little empathy when it comes to understanding why it is that these teachers teach as they do. Is greed involved? No doubt it is, but certainly there’s more than that going on here. Some of these critiques show a decided failure of imagination in the critics’ inability to see the fundamental ambiguity of the human condition reflected in prosperity preachers and their preaching.

    • mbaker

      I don’t think it denies the gospel, per se, but i do think that some of the prosperity preachers put wealth, health and blessings above the true teaching of it.

    • […] Does Prosperity Teaching Deny the Gospel? – “As a follow up to my last post On Shai Linne and Judging False Teachers, I’ve been reflecting on the underlying problem with the teachers represented in the song.  It leads me to this question:  does prosperity teaching deny the gospel? Put another way, do the teachers mentioned in Shai Linne’s preach another gospel?” Parchment and Pen Blog […]

    • C Barton

      “When I was a child . . . but when I grew up”.
      When a child, I expected my parents to come immediately when I cried, giving me exactly what I wanted: but then I grew and realized that some things are the result of work.
      When a child, I loved sweets and cartoons, and lots of make-believe: but then I grew, and understood the joys and challenges of relationship. I had to become disenfatuated with the selfish and worldly pleasures and riches in order to know and enjoy God’s fellowship. And now that I compare them, I know which is better!
      “Love the good and hate the evil”

    • C Barton

      And about following the Law: suppose you promise your son $20 and the car for the weekend if he cleans his room and does the laundry. The neighbor’s son hears you, and sneaks in and does the work: but he won’t get the reward, because you didn’t promise it to him, but to your own son, under special conditions.
      We are now under the Age of Grace, and althought the Law is still a guide to know right from wrong (the Law shall not pass away), we don’t earn God’s favor for getting a few of them right. We are gifted with His unmerited favor for faith.
      But, this messy world won’t clean itself . . .

    • Dave Z

      Let’s assume that the comment Lisa quoted in this article is correct – there are some on the list who are deceived themselves. In that case, their error is not intentional. So labeling them as false teachers with “evil, greedy, selfish” (from an earlier comment) motivation would not be entirely accurate – at a minimum, any part of the charge dealing with motives would be false.

      There is a term for that, for publically charging someone with something that is not true – it’s called slander. While scripture says nothing about publically naming false teachers, it has a lot to say about slander. And it ain’t good.

      I’ll add this – the eagerness to accuse someone of false teaching (or whatever) makes me think of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. Inherant in the prayer of the Pharisee is a sense of “I’m correct and that guy is wrong.” But as it pertains to this topic, it’s taken even further by the desire to publically castigate the sinner. Oh, we call it a warning, but there’s a lot of (self)righteousness involved; it smacks of “Thank you Lord, that I am not like that person, a [false teacher].” In fact it unavoidably assumes that position.

      People had better be sure about what they’re saying, because an account will be given for every careless word (Matt 12:36-37).

      Also, it seems that in the eagerness to denounce, we only remember certain scriptures – the ones about false teachers. Somehow, the principle behind Romans 3:4 doesn’t seem to enter the conversation.

    • If it were not for this thing called sin… Thanks to Ken Temple for the following link:

      http://apologeticsandagape.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/by-their-own-words-the-word-faith-teachers-condemn-themselves/

      Been there, done that, don’t care to listen to those who proportion out the ‘prosperity gospel’ which is heretical.

    • Dave Z

      Somehow I got the final scripture reference wrong in my last comment. The comment says Romans 3:4. My intent was Romans 14:4. Sorry.

    • bethyada

      Offering a false gospel is a grievous sin. So is accusing Christians of doing this. One must be clear what the gospel is and specify exactly how people are teaching a false gospel. Lisa is right that anything added to faith in Christ for salvation is the issue.

      The problem is not getting circumcised, it is doing so to get into the kingdom. As I am not familiar with all these American preachers I am not certain what they are teaching so cannot comment.

      My thoughts in further depth on false gospels (relating in this instance to the Calvinist/ Arminian debate but the gist is relevant).

    • Dave Z

      Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of darkness. So why are you denouncing flesh and blood?

      Address the error of other beliefs, not the teachers themselves. You don’t have to say Joseph Smith was a bad guy in order to question LDS doctrine. They are actually two separate things.

    • Simple Mann

      Mimius (and anyone else who is interested) ~

      Dave Ramsey teaches good stewardship principles in his Financial Peace University, but the biblical stewardship program that I usually recommend is the one offered by Crown Financial Ministries. It does a terrific job of balancing the WHY with the HOW when it comes to managing your money. The WHY basically boils down to ten different ways (over the ten weeks it takes to go through the entire study) that you manage the financial resources God has allowed you to have so that you HONOR GOD. That is the whole point of the study… that in paying off your debts, spending, saving, tithing, giving, and living, you acknowledge and honor God in all those things. It doesn’t matter if you have a little or have a lot. It doesn’t promise great wealth if you do X (or financial calamity if you don’t). Just sound principles that align with scripture so that you can have peace with God managing however much or how little He has given you. And they do not skip over the gospel and how that should impact the way you live your entire life. I highly recommend it.

      Blessings ~
      Simple Mann

    • Simple Mann

      Sorry… I meant to include a link to their site…

      http://www.crown.org

      I am not affiliated with them in any way. I took their ten week course several years ago, and then co-led it after I took it the next time it was offered. There should be a place on their site where you can look for local churches in your area that offer the study. Blessings.

    • Tired

      My issue with New Age’y type mind over matter/faith stuff is how it clashes with the simple concept of telling the truth.

      The formula for an act of faith presented as “you show your faith, and you shall be given”. Faith is shown by referring to the desired future result as a fact, something that has already happened. That statement will ignite the whole process be it prosperity, healing or what not. Your faith is the cause.

      This all presents a few dilemmas. How long do you wait before you give up? How do you live with the tension between the hope of something, doubt or fears of what if it does not happen (blocked away by your trump statement of faith)? How about the fear that your worries of life will jinx your “faith”?

      I have met so many people in this state of denial towards their situation in life, hanging in limbo, upholding “the method”, but gradually losing not only the faith in the method, but in God (what ever/how deep that faith was). I also meet people everyday who look into Christianity going: All those statements about healing, but where is the evidence? And there hardly ever is, is there? Let’s be honest. In a non Christian’s view here’s what you see: Someone stating healing has happened, but it has not. That is false, not true, a lie. A Christian’s easiest task would be to stick to the truth, wouldn’t it? So, how can we trust anything of what they are saying? Not everyone can look past that, and I wouldn’t blame someone who didn’t. So, I am saying this teaching is blocking the view of the real Gospel. Of God’s offer of salvation. That’s what’s wrong about it.

      I want to clearly define what I believe in and who I get associated with. I do not want to defend that kind of stuff.

      Please beware, I am not (deliberately) passing judgement as to whether they are saved or not, playing part in building the Kingdom or not. All I am saying is that they should clean up their act, use another way of “provoking God into motion”.

    • […] Does Prosperity Teaching Deny the Gospel? […]

    • Susan

      Excellent, Lisa! A false gospel can be almost undetectable when there’s a sprinkling of gospel truth in the mix, but the deceptions that ultimately malign the gospel of grace will lead men, woman and children down the broad road that leads to destruction. I could hear, loud and clear, the self-righteousness that was inherent in this woman’s “if I do X–then– God will..”, thinking that is part of all false religion.

    • Hannah

      Having grown up in a church which was staunchly against the ‘prosperity gospel,’ all I can say is I’m tired of seeing Christians criticize, criticize, criticize. I was there, I know what it looks like. It FELT GOOD to point out all the error in another ministry, with scriptures to support. I was so smug. It was a nice way of avoiding addressing the real concerns and holes in our own lives/churches – ‘at least we’re not like such-and-such church which teaches a false gospel!’

      But what if I told you that there are people in some of those messages who have been powerfully saved and continue to serve the Lord with sincerity and love? That video above is NOT EVERYONE. Just like there are some in your churches who will be ‘ruined.’ Where is the consideration for the ‘little ones’ in faith? Surely the Lord will separate the tares from the wheat Himself?
      When will we finally be identified as a people who are slow to speak, quick to forgive, quick to show mercy and to mentor other sheep so they can follow the Lord faithfully and become more discerning?
      I know in response some scriptures will be thrown at me, but all I smell is self-righteousness. We seem to forget that God hates false teaching more than we do, but of all the people Jesus spoke to, He was harsh with those who considered themselves righteous in their own eyes.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Hi Hannah,

      I appreciate your concern about nit-picking and criticizing. Please know that my intentions here aren’t to be smug or make myself feel more righteous. That is a lousy attitude. I hope you can see that I’m merely presenting a case and asking the reader to evaluate for themselves.

      Also, you said,

      “But what if I told you that there are people in some of those messages who have been powerfully saved and continue to serve the Lord with sincerity and love?”

      Yes, I would say that describes myself and many others I know. You see, I don’t write out of a platform of criticism but from someone whose been there, embracing much of the teaching that is being perpetrated under WoF and prosperity. It took someone challenging me of the fragmented way I was reading the bible and blindly accepting some philosophy to really investigate for myself. Of course, there are those who love the Lord who embrace such teaching. But it also puts a corrupt twist on Christianity that gets filtered in with the sound stuff. So it is out of concern for the little ones that these things should be addressed.

    • Antonio

      Visit this group and read about the 7 doctrines the Word of Faith Movement preaches: https://www.facebook.com/wordfaithmovement

    • Helmut

      One of the best bookd I have read about money, was “Wealth, Riches, and Money”, written by Craig Hill and Earl Pitts, they teach a good and solid interpretation of Scriptures, and I would say that no many churches would like it as many churches in south America do not know what God says about these three and are taking the believer to a wrong use of tithing and offering and all other that action envolve with our stewardship of God’s creation…

    • Agam

      Your nuanced distinction between charlatan and sincerely mistaken false teacher is very needful here since the conversation (though online) is happening in North America where this prosperity gospel is not exactly considered by many as mainstream evangelical.
      However in places like Africa, it is the overwhelming majority of what would be considered evangelical Christianity. And honestly, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the charlatan and sincere proponent of false teaching.
      I have blogged on it at http://teachandlead.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/spice-pt-1-the-prosperity-gospel/

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