Read This Blog And God Will Prosper You…

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the different perspectives on theology that are within the Christian community and that are being expressed within the church. During this time of reflection a question has come to the forefront of my mind that I want to ask and hear some responses on.

Why is it that many conservative Christians are okay (and even support) those who advocate a prosperity gospel yet they condemn and judge those who raise questions about Christian theology and doctrine?

At the core of this question is another question, which is more wrong or damaging, those who use the gospel to gain profits or those who use questions to strive for a deeper understanding of faith, even when those questions may call into account traditionally held presuppositions? To me I find that those who advocate for questioning and even openly struggle with times of doubt are being honest and sincere in their desire to better understand Christ and following him, yet there are those who quickly condemn these people for preaching a false gospel. All the while, there are others who preach a gospel that tells us that if you are faithful to God he will bless you with health and wealth. These health and wealth advocates are accepted, quoted and supported by many Christians yet I find that their gospel is truly false. Granted, I can admit that many liberal theologians have gone too far in their pursuits for an empirical and completely rational Christianity but I do believe that pursuing to understand something better is far more honorable than manipulating the gospel to sell books. Some of the greatest thinkers of our time are guys like Hauerwas, Boyd, and (please contain your gasps) even Rob Bell; all of which have been labeled as heretics and false teachers for raising doubts and calling into question the status quo, yet guys like Casey Treat, Joseph Prince, and Joel Osteen are hailed as solid Christian teachers because they make people feel good. This is backwards to me.

So help me with this a bit, removing the extreme aspects of liberal theology, is it more noble and Christlike to pursue a deeper understanding of the Christian faith through questions and doubts or by preaching a gospel that advocates for riches, wellness, and happiness?

 

Advertisements

9 responses to “Read This Blog And God Will Prosper You…

  • Dan Hamilton

    I think you’re starting with a false presuppostition, that being that a “health & wealth” gospel is conservative when it is in fact liberal. Conservative Christianity speaks where the Bible speaks and is silent where the Bible is silent. The Bible is our authority. The Apostle Paul ran into this in 1 Corinthians dealing with divisions in the church. He warns that the problem stems from speaking beyond what is written. (See 1 Corinthians 4:6)

    A liberal theology adds to or ignores parts of Scripture. A prosperity gospel focuses on and adds to Scriptures that promise us good things while ignoring Scriptures that tell us we will experience adversity, persecution, poverty, etc. This puts it with other liberal theologies that teach things like there is no hell or judgement which is clearly revealed in God’s word.

    Anyone who calls themselves conservative Christians and supports a prosperity gospel while criticizing other liberal theologies is in error and needs to return to the authority of Scripture alone.

    • redlightorphanage

      Dan, maybe I should clarify because I do agree with the broad categorization that prosperity gospels would fit into the wide category of liberal theology. I shouldn’t have even brought up liberal theology because it brings people’s minds theologians such as Schleiermacher, Spong, and others who deny much of what the gospel teaches in order to empiricize the gospel.

      However, my intent wasn’t to place prosperity gospel into the conservative theology ideology but to point out that many conservative Christians support prosperity gospel advocates even though it is contradictory and yet they condemn any theologian who questions doctrine or theology in the desire of a deeper understanding of faith. So a better question would be which is worse, promoting a false gospel or raising difficult questions to contemplate that in certain contexts could lead to doubt?

  • mchl shepherd

    To interpret what I believe to be Ryan’s intent, is to ask:
    Why does the conservative mainstream of American Christianity seemingly rush to correct what they believe to be divergent views in those questioning elements of status-quo Christianity and not apply that same critical lens toward those that would espouse a material “prosperity gospel”.

    If the conservative will “speak where the Bible speaks and is silent where the Bible is silent” (as if that is purely possible, is another question), why the tacit approval of may also be deemed “false teachers”?

    Tacit approval being expressed in: supporting publishers, quoting material, attending conferences, and (perhaps) envying/idolizing/replicating that type of ministry.

  • redlightorphanage

    Very well stated Michael. I’m enjoying the dialogue that is developing on here. I would strive for an equalized critical lens that is used for all theological positions regardless of conservative, liberal, prosperity or liberation, equal critique should be given to all. I should have waited to post this since it was late at night and I wasn’t as articulate as I should have been.

  • Dan Hamilton

    “a better question would be which is worse, promoting a false gospel or raising difficult questions to contemplate that in certain contexts could lead to doubt?”

    There’s nothing wrong with raising questions as long as you’re searching the Scripture for answers rather than relying on human reasoning to decide what makes sense to define God and how he would act. The problem comes when man’s thoughts are presented as a different, perhaps more palatable gospel. Then your question is like asking which deadly poison is worse for you? Stay away from both.

    As far as raising questions that “could lead to doubt”, Paul warns in 1 Cor. 8 not to use our liberty in such a way that it might wound and ruin a weak brother for whose sake Christ died. If we do so the Scripture tells us we are sinning against Christ.

    We need to be like the Bereans who are commended in Acts 17:11 who “received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” God’s Word is our critical lens.

  • Kyle Moffitt

    I really don’t see that the people who disagree with the emergents are in agreement with the health/wealth gospel.

  • redlightorphanage

    Let me first respond to Dan. Dan, I fully agree with you, however I don’t believe that the answer is quite that simple. While the Scriptures our the basis for our Theology and understanding of faith, however you cannot, even in the most noble pursuit search the Bible for answers and walk away with an interpretation that isn’t tinted by human reason, the closest attempt that an interpretation that would not be tinted even in the slightest by human reason would be that of extreme literalism which scholars across the board, from neo-fundamentalist to protestant liberalism, will all say that there are parts of the Bible that are not meant to be taken literally. The responsibility we have is to be sure that our interpretation of Scripture is held against a biblical antecedent, however even then it comes down to in some regard an individuals reason. I just don’t see a perfectly clean solution to this. Now, we have accountability in weighing our interpretation against traditional orthodoxy and heritage and peer accountability but overall the point of this article was to point out the irony that many conservatives are okay with reading, and indirectly supporting prosperity gospels while condemning those who (are not protestant liberals such as Schelermacher, Ritzchl, or Harnack) hold views that may seem progressive.(For a better understanding of the difference between Protestant Liberalism, which I think is what you have in mind when you say Liberal and we both agree upon, and progressive theology, read this article by Roger E. Olson here.) And ultimately, it points to the fact that across the board our lay people need to be more aware of the authors that they are reading because they most likely don’t realize what they are endorsing, on either end of the spectrum. And practically speaking it points to a need to equip people to study the Bible to understand the views and have enough of a foundation to stand firm in sound biblical teaching to be able to engage a variety of authors’ opinions and see what the true intent is, profit, deeper understanding or misguiding.

    Kyle, I’m not sure where Emergents came into the conversation. I’m not referring to prominent leaders (although I do see Driscoll endorsing people like Judah Smith, albeit Judah Smith is on the light end of the prosperity gospel group) but rather am referring to lay people who support people like Joseph Prince or Joel Osteen as having sound biblical teaching and then condemn people like Gregory Boyd or Stanley Hauerwas as being false teachers. I do realize that I mentioned Bell above, and by stating that he was a great thinker does not mean that I agree with all of his views, but he also is not a part of the Emerging Church movement.

  • redlightorphanage

    By the way, I want you all to know I’m enjoying the conversation. It is these types of conversations that should be promoted within Christian theology, civil, honorable, at points differing, yet always seeking to glorify God. Thanks!

  • Dan Hamilton

    Ryan, I agree with you that there is a lot of garbage out there that people are trying to pass off as Christian theology. It concerns me that people spend more of their time reading man’s opinion rather than God’s revelation. I also agree that there are also biases that we bring in our understanding of Scripture and that many translations have a Calvinistic bent. That’s what I appreciate about the Restoration movement. It seeks to get beyond these influences and back to the source, to first century Christianity. We need to look back before Calvinism, Armenianism, and all the other “isms” and get back to walking with God. It doesn’t need to be that complicated. We need to simply spend time daily with God in His Word (with an open heart and mind, asking Him our deepest questions) and in prayer and then live out his revelation by serving, giving and loving others in His Name. Not all of our questions will be answered quickly. We’re too used to modern American thinking that wants an immediate answer. God’s not in a rush, but patiently invites us to walk with Him and grow into Christ’s image.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: