Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
The Prosperity and Word of Faith Doctrines


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Chapter I - Introduction To The Prosperity and The Word of Faith Doctrines

Carol Brooks

    All Nine Chapters - Index and Summary

    Chapter 1 -  Introduction To The Prosperity and The Word-Faith Gospels.
    Chapter 2 - Alleged Biblical Support For The Prosperity Doctrine. HERE
    Chapter 3 - The Never Mentioned Verses. HERE
    Chapter 4 - Uninformed People in The Scriptures? HERE
    Chapter 5 - The Word of Faith Doctrine and New Thought. HERE
    Chapter 6 - Joel Osteen - The Blind Leading The Blind. HERE
    Chapter 7 - How Words Precede Form. HERE
    Chapter 8 - God and Money. HERE
    Chapter 9 - The Crown Without The Cross? HERE

    I certainly do not expect any one person to be an authority on every sentence in the Bible, nor do I expect pastors/preachers to sail through life without ever making a mistake.

    What I do expect is, if you claim to be a Christian leader, you make every effort to ensure that everything your preach, teach, or write is based squarely on the Bible. This means that when you use Biblical verses to substantiate something you may be teaching to thousands of people, the verses actually say what you claim they do. In other words, you have made every effort to discover what the original author had in mind when he wrote what he did and are not interpreting the verse according to preconceived ideas or pre-bias.

    This is rarely done.

    Not in the so called orthodox church where tradition rather than the Scriptures dictate doctrine that has been passed down from one generation to another - unquestioningly accepted by each one. And it certainly isn't done in the evangelical or charismatic world that have adopted ideas from the occult and run with them. Prosperity preachers do not differ from other more orthodox preachers inasmuch they appeal to a number of Biblical passages that convince many that their teachings come straight from the mouth of God Himself.

    They don't.

    It takes a knave, fool or very deceived person 20 seconds to make a false statement that appears to have Biblical support. It takes someone who wants to know what the Bible actually says much, much longer. A shallow reading of a verse or two can lead to very erroneous and sometimes dangerous assumptions. (See Eisegesis and Exegesis - the two ways Scripture is interpreted-  on the following page HERE).

    The problem is that most people (preachers and pastors included) seem unwilling to take the time and effort to do in-depth studies. Perhaps because it contributes to a far more comfortable and enjoyable life, they have managed to convince themselves that there is nothing wrong with their version of what the Scriptures say. They then present their shallow reading and erroneous interpretations on to their congregations that take the easy way out and accept the shallow 30 second 'sound bites' as God's truth.

    In spite of the fact that deception is one of the major themes of the New Testament, with the words deceit, deceitful, deceitfully, deceitfulness, and deceive, used over and over again. In spite of the fact that both Peter and Paul were very emphatic that the wolves would come from the flock itself, the majority of Christians seem to think that heresy is something that largely happens outside the church, and arrogantly believe that they themselves, or their pastor/denomination/spiritual leader, cannot be fooled.  See The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make

    The Prosperity Gospel
    In Jesus' day, many believed that wealth was clear evidence of God's blessing and that the wealthy would automatically be in the kingdom. By implication this meant that the poor were either doing something wrong or were being punished for sin. The Pharisees, who certainly looked down on the less fortunate, were lovers of money (Luke 16:14).

    And, in some churches, nothing has changed.

      The Prosperity Doctrine is the belief subscribed to by millions of Christians, that although Christians should keep one eye on Heaven, God doesn't want His people to wait until then have the best of everything including good health and material possessions in the here and now. "God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy, and personally happy" [01] in this life.

    This flies in the face of Jesus' unequivocal statement,

    "Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24 NASB)

    One version of the prosperity gospel was popularized by Oral Roberts. As the story goes, one day he randomly opened his Bible to John's third Epistle, and the words "Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2 NASB)" jumped out at him. He and his wife were greatly excited by this verse and he claimed that it opened his mind.

      (And there you have an outstanding example of a doctrine built on verses hopelessly wrenched from its context. See 3 John 1:2 on the next page)

    The Lord also allegedly told Roberts to build a university which Roberts did, soon developing his famous concept of seed faith still popular today. He taught that donations made to to his organization were "seeds" that would thrive and grow, and that God would multiply what ever was given and return immensely more to the donor. Although, it is easy to see why it would appeal to the less fortunate, the whole seed faith idea was (and is) nothing more than a cash cow for whatever organization promoted it. As an article on Grace to You points out,

      It generated untold millions for Robert’s empire and was quickly adopted by a host of similarly-oriented Pentecostal and Charismatic media ministries. The Seed-Faith principle is the main cash-cow that built and has supported vast networks of televangelists who barter for their viewers' money with fervent promises of "miracles" - invariably described in terms of material blessings, mainly money. [02]

    Also See Tithing - God's Plan or Man’s Design?
    Many believers have been taught that tithing is a command of God for Christians today. Were one to ask most teachers of tithing to cite a passage of Scripture supporting the practice, a few verses - I like to call them "the usual suspects" - can be rounded up. Frequently, only parts of Scripture passages are cited, and they are usually rendered out of context. Also Note that the Apostle Paul never once appealed to tithing even though he obviously often suffered financial difficulties. However, he wrote rather a lot about FREELY giving financial support where one is able. (In-depth Article)

    Time Magazine's Devastating Statistics
    The sheer number of churches preaching the Prosperity doctrine, and the size of some of those involved, drew the attention of Time Magazine not so long ago. Their September 2006 cover story called Does God Want You to Be Rich? was described by Albert Mohler (ninth president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky) as "fair, balanced, and devastating".

    Time stated that according to their own poll (Emphasis Added)

      17% of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31%--a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America--agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money. [03]

    An Example of How It Works
    Time Magazine's write-up began with a story about one George Adams who lost his job at an Ohio tile factory in October of 2005. Upon which "the most practical thing he did" was go to a new church, moving his family including four preteen boys to a suburb of Houston from where he attended Joel Osteen's mega-church in Lakewood.

    Osteen's relentlessly upbeat television sermons had helped Adams, 49, get through the hard times, and now Adams was expecting the smiling, Texas-twanged 43-year-old to help boost him back toward success. And Osteen did. Inspired by the preacher's insistence that one of God's top priorities is to shower blessings on Christians in this lifetime - and by the corollary assumption that one of the worst things a person can do is to expect anything less-- Adams marched into Gullo Ford in Conroe looking for work.

    To cut a long story short, it wasn't long before Adams was on his way to a six-figure income. The sales commission helped pay the rent, but as the story went, (Emphasis Added)

      Adams hates renting. Once that six-figure income has been rolling in for a while, he will buy his dream house: "Twenty-five acres," he says. "And three bedrooms. We're going to have a schoolhouse (his children are home schooled). We want horses and ponies for the boys, so a horse barn. And a pond. And maybe some cattle." [04]

    But what if God had little or nothing to do with it and Adams was a superb salesman who found his niche selling cars?

    Besides which, although we do hear from some who claim that God has done some wonderful things in response to their faith or monetary donations (seeds) why are the number so low? Surely after hearing variations on the same message week after week more of Osteen's congregation than not should be extremely wealthy. Are they? Nor are we ever told of those who sent their their last dollar to the church suffering extreme financial hardship in the process but never received anything in the return.

    The Time magazine article also quoted Joyce Meyer as asking,

      "Who would want to get in on something where you're miserable, poor, broke and ugly and you just have to muddle through until you get to heaven?" [05]

    Well actually Joyce.. anyone who has been given an accurate picture of what salvation entails (See The Message of The Bible) and has a smidgeon of common sense. The promise the Gospel holds out is everlasting life, not the drop in a bucket seventy odd years that we have in this life. But keeping that in mind may be a bit much to expect from this 'Gimme Generation" that wants everything and wants it now. See What and Where is Heaven?

    And, why does there seem not to be any middle ground between "miserable, poor, broke and ugly" and palatial homes, classic automobiles, expensive works of art and a fat bank account.

    Universal Application?
    Considering that any Biblical doctrine has to have universal application whether the believer lives in a grass hut in the jungle, or shops on Main Street. It has to be as effective in the slums as it is in the suburbs. It has to work in third world countries as much as it does in the west. As asked by the Assemblies of God...

    Does the teaching have meaning only for those living in an affluent society? Or does it also work among the refugees of the world? What application does the teaching have for believers imprisoned for their faith by atheistic governments? Are those believers substandard who suffer martyrdom or grave physical injury at the hands of cruel, ruthless dictators. [06]

    Sadly, George Adams is not the only kind of believer in the Prosperity Doctrine....

    Some Just Want Reassurance.

    All too often those that buy into these promises do so out of desperation. Kate Bowler, assistant professor at Duke Divinity School, recently diagnosed with cancer, hit the nail on the head when she wrote (Emphasis Added)

    It is true that the prosperity gospel encourages people — especially its leaders — to revel in private jets and multimillion-dollar homes as evidence of God's love. But among the less well-heeled believers, I sensed a different kind of yearning, one that wasn't entirely materialistic. Believers wanted an escape: from poverty, failing health, and the feeling that their lives were leaky buckets.

    Some people wanted Bentleys, but more wanted relief from the wounds of their past and the pain of their present. People wanted salvation from bleak medical diagnoses; they wanted to see God rescue their broken teenagers or their misfiring marriages. They wanted talismans to ward off the things that go bump in the night. They wanted an iota of power over the things that ripped their lives apart at the seams. [07]

    Blessings For a Buck:
    Note that when tele-evangelists make extravagant promises about God repaying the "offerings" many times over, they are doing today exactly what the Catholic Church did in the 16th century - running a business in the name of God's blessings - a practice sparked the reformation.

    The original story about Martin Luther posting his thesis on the door of Wittenberg castle is more the stuff of legend than historical accuracy (See Martin Luther) However, if he were alive today I can imagine he would probably be very tempted to post a thesis on the doors of TBN's headquarters in protest of the principle of salvation for a buck.

    The Word-Faith Movement.
    However, while they trundle along on parallel tracks, the point has to be made that the prosperity gospel is not necessarily synonymous with the Word-Faith doctrine.

    Most prosperity teachers imagine their doctrine originates in the Scriptures however, the Word of Faith movement has taken the Prosperity doctrine to a far more sinister level. Word of Faith teachers do not refer to faith as a person's belief in and reliance on the power of God, but teach that the words themselves have "creative power". Thus what a person believes and says determines his future.

    For example, in their Bible Commentary on Mark 11 (specifically verses 23-24) Andrew Wommack Ministries says (All Emphasis Added)

      faith is released by speaking words. Notice that speaking is emphasized three times in this one verse, and the Lord commands us to believe that what we say will come to pass. We are to believe in the power of our words. Failure to believe in the power of words won't keep this law of God from working. The last part of this verse says, "He shall have whatsoever he saith." If we receive this instruction and begin to speak words in faith that line up with God's Word, then we will have the positive results that follow. But if we refuse this lesson and continue to speak words of doubt, we will eventually believe them and have the negative things that these words produce. [08]

    This entire concept stems from the New Age belief called the "Law of Attraction". In other words, 'like attracts like' which means a person can attract positive or negative conditions into their lives depending on whether they focus on positive or negative thoughts. In fact, Word of Faith teachers instruct believers to start believing and confessing that they already have whatever it is they want.

    If a person wants money, he is to confess that he has money even if he is as poor as the proverbial church mouse. If he wants healing he has to confess that he is already healed even though he may yet be unable to get out of his wheelchair. On the other hand, the believer who lacks faith and acknowledges the negative is guilty of a self-fulfilling prophecy - He will stay sick if he confesses he is sick, and will stay poor if he confesses he is poor.

    Exactly what Joel Osteen, one of the most popular 'pastors' in America claims in his best selling book Your Best Life Now (Emphasis Added)

      Words are similar to seeds. By speaking them aloud, they are planted in our subconscious minds, and they take on a life of their own; they take root, grow, and produce fruit of the same kind. If we speak positive words, our lives will move in that direction. Similarly, negative words will produce poor results. We can't speak words of defeat and failure yet expect to live in victory. .. When you say something often enough, with enthusiasm and passion, before long your subconscious mind begins to act on what you are saying, doing whatever is necessary to bring those thoughts and words to pass. [09]

    This, in effect, means that God has surrendered His sovereignty and the believer is calling the shots. In fact, Creflo Dollar as much as said so - He wrote (Emphasis Added)

       "When we pray, believing that we have already received what we are praying, God has no choice but to make our prayers come to pass. . . . It is a key to getting results as a Christian.”

    The teaching that believers are to confess rather than to pray for things is not found anywhere in the Bible but, much to the contrary, has its roots firmly embedded in the occult. In fact, make absolutely NO mistake.. the secular world, by learning and applying certain principles can and does match, or even exceed, the gain that "Christian" ministers promise.

    In light of which are we to believe that this teaching emanating from pulpits across the land is from God?

    The Word-Faith doctrine and its links to the occult have been covered in more detail in chapters FIVE and SIX.

    There is something else we need to bear in mind.

    If God wants His followers to be rich and healthy, then it is fair to assume that the giants of the Old and new Testaments must have had some idea as to how to go about it. So what we should and will do is travel back in time and see if we can find some evidence of "Positive Confession" and whether it is true that negative statements result in negative results - both bedrock principles of the Word-Faith movement. See Chapter FOUR

    The New Generation of VERY Wealthy Celebrity/Prosperity Teachers
    Many of the 'ministries' commonly associated with the Prosperity Doctrine are one-man shows. As of writing Kenneth Copeland is over 80, as is John Avanzini. Fred Price and Marilyn Hickey both have a few years on them. Jesse Duplantis is close to seventy.

    However, the Prosperity Doctrine mantle has been assumed by a different breed of cat that may not make any blatantly stupid statements like the ones made by Copeland, Duplantis, Dollar etc. (see next page), but are prosperity teachers nonetheless. The pitch hasn't changed, but has simply been worded differently - "Success", "God's Favor" and "Dreaming Bigger" seem to be the new buzzwords.

    The degree of shamelessness and Scriptural manipulation remains the same.

    See The New Breed of Wealthy Celebrity Pastors With Plenty of Style and Little Substance. HERE

    Continue On To Chapter 2 - Alleged Biblical Support For The Prosperity Doctrine. Prosperity teachers commonly make the claim that Jesus was a rich man therefore His followers are are entitled to the good things in life. Additionally, appeal to a number of Biblical passages that convince many that their teachings come straight from the mouth of God Himself. But was Jesus a rich man, and do the Bible passages they quote prove that God wants us to be rich? HERE

    End Notes - Chapter 1
    [01] David W. Jones. 5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-errors-of-the-prosperity-gospel/

    [02] Grace to You. Measuring Oral Roberts's Influence. https://www.gty.org/library/Print/Blog/B091218

    [03] Time Magazine. Does God Want You To Be Rich? David Van Biema And Jeff Chu Sunday, Sep. 10, 2006. Part 2 of 8.

    [04] Time Magazine. Does God Want You To Be Rich? David Van Biema And Jeff Chu Sunday, Sep. 10, 2006. Part 1 of 8.

    [05] Time Magazine. Does God Want You To Be Rich? David Van Biema And Jeff Chu Sunday, Sep. 10, 2006. Part 3 of 8.

    [06] The Assemblies of God Statement on The Believer and Positive Confession

    [07] Kate Bowler. I'm a scholar of the "prosperity gospel." It took cancer to show me I was in its grip.

    [08] Andrew Wommack Ministries. Commentary on Mark 11:23. http://www.awmi.net/bible/mar_11_23

    [09] Joel Osteen. Your Best Life Now. 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential. Pg. 122. FaithWords (August 20, 2007)


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