Friday, October 3, 2008

Prosperity Gospel

The whole idea behind the "Prosperity Gospel" has been something very interesting to me. It came up because I just stumbled upon this article which describes how the Prosperity Gospel might be driving people to foreclose on their homes now.

The basic idea behind prosperity theology is that God will financially bless those who follow him and are obedient to his teachings. It is prominant among African American evangelicals today (Pentecostals most typically, most famous individual I know of who touts it is T.D. Banks) and to me it seems as though it has its roots in the "Calvanist Work Ethic" - whereby the Calvanist was thought to work harder in order to please God and thereby would be financially successful. It seems as though as a country we have always believed that God somehow blesses Godly countries with financial prosperity more than others as well.

My first exposure to it had to be within the Church of Christ denomination. Now clearly, they did not teach this verbally, but it seemed to be an underlying position, especially among the more conservative "anti" groups. Instead of catering and helping the poor (the very ones that Jesus went out and talked to), we instead ignored them or tried to keep them away because they were just bums wanting our money. They should go out and get jobs for themselves.

When I became Catholic, I realized how foolish I had been. The poor are so important - being human beings - and they need our love and help. Jesus constantly went to the poor and encouraged us to do the same. All people are not just bums because they are homeless - some have addictions, mental problems, and other issues that we can't even imagine that prevent them from functioning properly in society. Jesus went to those people. Think about Lazarus, for instance, who rests in Abraham's bosom. Compare him to the rich man who, well didn't make it. The rich are portrayed more often than not as negative in the New Testament (of course that doesn't mean it is always negative, but there is a lot of temptation once you have money, and it might be hard to live a Godly life and become rich.) The actual advice Jesus gave was to give all your money away and follow him! Some of our Saints have done this, like St. Francis.

Let's pray for those who are losing their homes because of faulty theology, and for all the poor.

St. Francis, pray for us.


Anonymous said...

Hey there Joseph - I visit your blog on occasion and always enjoy it.

I came across the same article linked through CNN and plan to post a similar blog entry today. This "gospel" - which is, of course, really NO gospel at all - is that espoused by the leading "pastor" in America, Joel Osteen. It's also that of the top three "Christian" television networks. Frightening stuff.

I was shocked to learn about the early Calvinist belief that prosperity was a sign of one's election - I read it some time ago in a biography of Jonathan Edwards. In the Puritan society (and later the Congregationalists) the wealthy of a town were given special seats of prominence in the worship meeting as well. So much for not giving preference to those who show up in gay apparrel, eh?

BTW, I'm a convert, too - in RCIA, converting from strong Calvinist/Reformed Protestantism.

The Church Fathers made me do it.



mel said...

Interesting ideas today! Thanks for the forum.

Osteen and the like bring a bad name to anything that at all resembles biblical Christianity. In the conservative circles of real Reformed teaching, there is none of this nonsense of "obey and be blessed with material goods." We know we're called to suffer. We know we're going to get sick every now and then. And yes, the humility of living with less is actually a greater virture than most t.v. preachers are saying.

And so we agree. Hooray!

While y'all have mentioned some of the 'Calvinist' teachings, that doesn't line up with the actual spiritual doctrines. Not sure why -- lifestyle should match teaching, ya think?! Nothing like a hypocrit to lead others astray...

Jennifer, hi, do you blog about your conversion experiences? I'll have to check it out.

When all lumped together, "evangelical" gets a bad rap. I always feel like I'm defending Scripture -- and it should stand for itself -- but the majority of the world is biblically illiterate, and it's important to stand for sound doctrines. (sigh) Too much blogging for a relaxing Friday afternoon....

Good to see ya. And now I feel like I've rambled and said nothing...

~Joseph the Worker said...

Wow, two great comments. Thanks guys.

Jennifer: Thanks for visiting, I'm going to add you to my blog roll and am interested in knowing more about your conversion story as well.

Mel: Thanks for the great comments. I didn't want to seem down on "evangelicals" and I hope I wasn't, but I am down on this prosperity stuff.

And to both: DUH! I don't know why I didn't think about Joel Olsteen.

mel said...

We've been warned by the Apostle Paul and others about false teachers....and I don't even lump some of these guys in with the real believers (not really evangelical -- very liberal in theology and practice). Semantics is a tricky always know what people mean when they use the same words. (That's the interesting thing about the visible church -- lots of people are "in churches" but may not be truly regenerate....another blog for another day...)

Peace on this Friday evening. (I'm not easily offended, esp. in safe circles.)

Anonymous said...

Hello Gents -

I have not started blogging about my conversion just yet... it is NOT a popular subject among my family and friends. Perhaps I should say it is a popular subject... just not a popular decision on my part! I know for a fact that phone lines have been buzzing across the southeastern United States since my dear hubby (who isn't even sure he's converting) announced that we're attending RCIA at our local parish.

But on to more important things...

Mel, I'm glad you aren't easily offended because I didn't make note of that historical Calvinist belief to offend! I simply found it curious - and surprising - that such a belief was the case among an otherwise austere people. My own background is Calvinist - in the orthodox and classical sense.

The modern American religious atmosphere, which started back with tent revivals and circuit riding preachers and received a boost with the arrival of the charismatic movement in the 80's, has utterly corrupted any good reputation the "church" in America has and resulted in a feel-good group of "Christians" who go from one emotional high to another, with no understanding of the role of suffering OR of their "place" in the history of the Church. Crazy stuff.

"Doctrine... who needs it?!? Let's focus on what unites... not divides!"


Although some of the more traditionally reformed folks would not consider him to be truly "reformed" in all areas of doctrine, John Macarthur has been among the most outspoken (and spot on) opponents of the garbage coming from Joel Osteen and his ilk. There can be no doubt on that. I don't confuse the historical views of Calvinist adherents with the modern followers of Calvin. Indeed, my bookshelves lean heavily toward the "Reformed" side. I credit R.C. Sproul (in his book Willing to Believe) for introducing me to the early Church fathers!

I enjoy your blog, Joseph. I'll be sure to come back!


Anonymous said...

Guys - if you are interested, here is a ROUGH draft of my conversion story. I sat down to begin my own "apologia" (a la Cardinal Newman... only far less wonderful!) to give to family and friends when the inevitable attacks begin and didn't get up for about five hours... then I spent another five hours... and another three... and I'm still not finished!

~Joseph the Worker said...

Thanks Jennifer, I'm very interested. I'll read this tonight.

~Joseph the Worker said...

A wonderful spiritual journey Jennifer. I'm going to do a new post on it right now...

Caron said...

Check out the video here: for a sound critique of this movement. It is EXCELLENT.

~Joseph the Worker said...

Very interesting Caron, although I obviously don't agree with everything Justin there has to say either.

Belita William said...

Hi! You all are missing something concerning the "Prosperity " Ministry..There are VERY specific scripture ,on giving to God..and in his goodness, bless us with our temporal needs..This is about OBEDIANCE to God,who says to give to Him..Money from these "gifts" go to the Broadcast Industry(to spread the Word of God ) through TV,or missionary pays for employees,and general costs to operate on an International level.also it helps the Poor with all their needs,medical and temporal..lets face it God does in a way depend on our generosity to help out on Earth. In a way Our Religion IS big business ,operating with money as is any big company.Im Catholic.and I believe in the concepts of "seed Faith"! Many are not aware that Pat Robertsons (CBN) made it possible to air Mother Angelica! Of course it is important to note that our focus ultimately should be Spirituality ,and that we cant take Earthly possessions with us..but we have to live(with money) because we are on Earth.God also made a beautiful World for us to enjoy..there has to be a correct Balance of perspective with "Prosperity"Thinking.