Prosperity Gospel: A Different Gospel?

 Is Health, Wealth, and Wisdom Prosperity gospel a different gospel? Is it true that Christians can “name it and claim it” or “What I confess, I Possess”?

Although Word of Faith movement has many elements of truth, its core doctrine, namely prosperity gospel, falls outside the faith that was once for all delivered.

In this series I attempted to explore the routes and progress of “Word of Faith” movement, respond to Biblical passages used by its proponents, and last show that prosperity gospel is a different gospel that distorts the gospel of Christ because it is a faith in faith and not faith in Christ Jesus.

The faith, I contend for, is that which enjoys, delights and treasures Christ for who He is and not for what gifts He can provide. Christ Jesus’ grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in our weakness, and not in our physical health nor material wealth prosperity.

Name It And Claim It: Understanding Word of Faith

Utilizing New Thought of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby’s (1802-1866), a metaphysical notion that sickness and suffering originate in incorrect thing and man has a power of positive confession, to visualize health and wealth and confessing them with his mouth so as to tangibly receive them, Essek William Kenyon(1867-1948), in late 20th, wedded “power of mind” and “Pentecostalism” to form the Word of Faith (“name it and claim it” or “What I confess, I Possess”) movement.

De jure, proponents of Word of Faith will attempt to substitute “power of mind” with “force of faith” but de facto, I believe, it’s a substitution without difference. For example Emilie Cady asserted “there is power in our word of faith to bring all good things right into our everyday life […] our affirming, backed by faith, is the link that connects our conscious human need with His power and supply”(Cady nd) and Warren Felt Evans contended, “ Faith is the most intense form of metal action”(Evans 1873:152)

Kenneth Hagin, studying under Kenyon, pocketed Kenyon’s theology and advanced it to a higher level, which I believe, helped to shape what is the Word of Faith movement today.

Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Paul & Jan Crouch, Frederick K. C. Price, John Avanzini, Robert Tilton, Marilyn Hickey, Paul Yonggi Cho, Charles Capps, Jerry Savelle, Morris Cerullo, Paul Crouch, Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are among known Church leaders in Word of Faith movement.

Word of Faith movement emphasizes in speaking, confessing, stating or demanding the Bible promises-verses. If you believe and confess/speak “spiritual” or “faith-filled” words, this movement clarifies, then you, as a child of a King, will receive what you  speak, confesses, state or demand of God.

Frederick K. C. Price, whose life was transformed by Kenneth Hagin’s books; “What Faith Is, Right and Wrong Thinking, The Authority of the Believer”,  claimed in his sermon titled Is God Glorified Through Sickness?”:

“How can you glorify God in your body, when it doesn’t function right? […] What makes you think the Holy Ghost wants to live inside of a body where He can’t see out through the windows, and He can’t hear out the ears? […] And what makes you think He wants to live in a temple where He can’t see out of the eyes, and He can’t walk with the feet, and He can’t move with the hand? [...] The only eyes that He has that are in the earth realm are the eyes that are in the body. If He can’t see out of them then God’s gonna be limited he’s not going to be helped” (Price: tape)

Positive confessions, speaking, confessing, stating or demanding out aloud what you want to happen with the expectation that God will make it a reality, is a creative power to demand favors of God. God, in Word of Faith movement, has already blessed us not only with spiritual blessing but also material and physical blessing and the only thing that stands between us and receiving the blessing is our faith. God, is said, wants your best life now.

In the next article, in this series, I will explore the theology of preachers in Word of Faith movement, bringing to light their teachings. “He that serves God for money will serve the devil for better wages.” warned Robert L’Estrange.

Question: I am correct in thinking that prosperity gospel is a different gospel? Give reasons.

Next: Understanding the Gospel According To Prosperity Preachers


[1] Geisler, N. L., & Rhodes, R. (1997). When cultists ask: A popular handbook on cultic misinterpretations (292). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Bibliography:

Cady ,H. Emilie, Lessons in Truth (Unity Village, MO: Unity Books, n.d.)

Warren Felt Evans, “Mental Medicine: A Treatise on Medical Psychology,” 15th ed. (Boston: H. H. Carter & Co., 1873 [orig. 1885]), 152; quoted in Braden, 121.

Price, Frederick K. C.” Is God Glorified Through Sickness?” Los Angeles: Crenshaw Christian Center, n.d. audiotape #FP605

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15 thoughts on “Prosperity Gospel: A Different Gospel?

  1. The answer to your question, it depends. Like many other parts of our faith the concept that God wishes to prosper His children is true. However, like anything else, if taken to extreme, it becomes error. Are there some who are teaching error? Absolutely. Are all “prosperity gospel” preachers teaching error? Absolutely not.

    Are the things you are seeking according to His will, to advance the kingdom, and glorify God? If you can answer yes, you’re likely on the right track. Are they to satisfy your own selfish desires? If you answer yes to that (be honest), you need to re-evaluate. Are you about Kingdom business? Are you walking out your God given destiny? If yes, then you have a right to expect God’s blessing and provision in your life. Are you ignoring these things, whether out of fear, laziness, or perhaps it’s just a matter of being content and comfortable where you are? You’re not likely to see His blessings in your life.

    There is a lot to this topic, more than I can possible discuss here. However I have discussed this in the past in a series on Kingdom Finances, specifically Part 4 http://watchersonthewall.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/biblical-finances-part-4-prosperity/

  2. Thank you for commenting. My point above was that 1) underlying the Prosperity Gospel is a theology of empowerment and human flourishing with the goal of releasing people from a “welfare” or “victim” mentality and 2) there has been, and will ever be, people exploiting and twisting sound doctrine, including the fact God wants you healthy and prosperous.

    I see sickness and poverty as NOT good. As Gods children we have the Holy Spirit inside of us and because of that Spirit we have power. When two or more of us come together and we ask the Spirit to carry our prayer to Gods ear I believe that in fact, that is exactly what happens. Now, that isn’t to say I order God around like I would a waiter. No, I send my petition on the wings of the Spirit and I await the will of God.

    I believe The Person of the Holy Spirit – at the event of salvation – takes his residence in us. This Person, the exact representation of the Godhead, “enters, possesses, and operates in the consecrated heart.”

    Like pouring oil through a funnel directs the liquid exactly to the required spot, the Person of the Holy Spirit has his complete way with the obedient disciple. Like the directed oil, the Spirit directs power into the believer’s heart and, in simplicity, that Christian knows what they need to do.

    It’s the Spirit sense that’s honed in discernment and I use that to see right through false teachers.

    As a person would walk into our lives, upon our invitation, sauntering through the door, we have invited the Spirit within at the reception of salvation.

    We noticed something new; something entirely different occurred. It could be only the Advocate of Jesus.

    Better than marriage – where two persons become one spiritually, but remain two separate persons – the entrance, possession, and operation of the Holy Spirit within us has made manifest with rebirth.

    We have, for the first time, become one with ourselves – in God. There is no other way of becoming one with ourselves.

    It was our Divine destiny. Suddenly the keys to unlocking the mind’s power and heart’s flourishing desire to love as God loves are made effectual. We love such ‘a possession’ – God, in effect, upon our invitation, has invaded our being. Love wins.

    But still, our relationship with God is dependent on us. The Person of the Holy Spirit cannot bear wanton sin as we wallow in it. It desires to flush such filth into oblivion, along with sickness and poverty. And only with this Advocate can we do it. Truth wins.

    The desire of the Person of the Holy Spirit is to sanctify us through and through; to simplify our focus; to remind us of the overcoming power resplendent in God; to purify us from the color of scarlet and crimson to white as snow and wool (Isaiah 1:18).

    Like it would be in learning to listen to a person with a difficult dialect, we, with our spirit sense, listen in to our heart for what the Person of the Holy Spirit is saying.

    As we imagine listening, we know very well this will take focus; hence, simplicity. We are to be quite single-minded in this!

    The Holy Spirit is power this way, just like the highly respected mentor; just that, being the exact representation of the Godhead, the Person of the Holy Spirit utters only, and inspires, truth. Even truth we will not want to hear, but truth all the same.

    Prosperity Gospel and Biblical truth are complete opposites. In the prosperity gospel the believer is told to use God, whereas the truth of biblical Christianity is just the opposite — God uses the believer. Prosperity theology sees the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the believer wills. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person who enables the believer to do God’s will.

    Want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.

    “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:13-16 Far from speaking things into existence in the future, we do not even know what tomorrow will bring or even whether we will be alive.

    Peace

  3. I agree with your position on prosperity preaching, but I don’t believe that position should extend to healing the sick. The healing of the sick is absolutely Biblical, and is a common thread throughout the Tanakh and the B’rit hadachah. Jesus’ ministry was to preach the Gospel, cast out demons, and heal the sick
    ——And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. -Matthew 4:23-24

    Jesus commissioned his disciples to carry out all the aspects of his ministry, and gave them the authority to do so;

    ——And He went up on the mountain and called to  Him  those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons- Mark 3:13-15

    James instructed the first Church in Jerusalem to absolutely exercise complete faith, and implied action on the part of God when that prayer of faith is offered;

    ——Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.-James 5:14-15

    Interesting that forgiveness of sins is included here with physical healing, this is a Jewish idea foreshadowed throughout the Tanakh;

    ——Praise the Lord , my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases-Psalm 103:2-3

    We are not guaranteed prosperity or wealth, but healing is a continuous theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. Any theology that rejects physical healing does so in response to human observation, not what the Bible actually states. So which view actually reflects what the Bible teaches?

  4. A great book on this subject is “Health, Wealth, & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?” http://www.amazon.com/Health-Wealth-Happiness-Prosperity-Overshadowed/dp/0825429307

    Here is one of my take aways from the book:

    Calling these teachers heretics may seem harsh or judgmental to some people, but after reading just the first few chapters I find it very hard to come to any other evaluation. One of the great strengths of this book is the amount of research that was put into to studying exactly what the major prosperity gospel teachers are in fact teaching. There are numerous direct quotes from the books they have written, from the sermons they have preached, and the answers they have given during nationally televised interviews. As you read this book it is obvious that these authors want you to see what these ever so popular teachers really believe and are really teaching.

  5. @ Roy, who wrote:

    “I am sure they in turn, tithe in various ways, and who is to say their ministries are not pleasing to God. Do you know the mind of God?”

    While we are not to judge people, we ARE to judge every TEACHING and every DOCTRINE. We are also to judge CHARACTER and have no fellowship with those who love “filthy lucre,” the undisciplined and unruly, etc., and false teachers. We are not even to wish false teachers “God speed” lest we participate in their evil deeds by doing so! The Apostle Paul was explicit, writing, “Let them be accursed!”

    Do I know the mind of God? Not fully, but I know from His written word that He despises false teachings and false teachers that use His name to enrich themselves while leading the Lord’s sheep astray. The “prosperity gospel” does EXACTLY that. Ezekiel 34 describes the fate of these false teachers, and it’s important that the Church know who these people are! That’s why I applaud the author of this post for mentioning them by name.

  6. The prosperity gospel is not wrong. It is exploited by some greedy people. All the people you mentioned are millionaires by tithes from their followers and sales of merchandise they produce. I am sure they in turn, tithe in various ways, and who is to say their ministries are not pleasing to God. Do you know the mind of God?

    The problem I see with it is that the love of money is so very powerful, who has the ultimate strength to resist such an easy way to make millions by exploiting believers of Christ?

    My dad taught me to pray for the ability…the opportunity…the wisdom…the strength. He taught me to pray for God to lead me by His will, which is much different than the Prosperity Gospel. I’m sure God wants the best for His children – health and prosperity – but there will always be con artist who are only after money.

    The bottom line is this – don’t get fooled into thinking that you’re “unholy” if you don’t have the material possessions that your pastor has – even if he/she preaches that your faith is weak if you’re not “walking in the same overflow” that he/she is.

    It’s a lie that satan uses to make you put a price tag on your relationship with God, and it’s crippling the Body of Christ. I’ll leave you with Jesus’ own words regarding the matter:

    “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

    And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

    So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

    This doesn’t mean “be stupid”, you should SAVE 10%+ of your income for retirement! And ALWAYS have a “when stuff breaks” fund.

    Peace

    P.S. None of the original 12 preachers died a rich man.

    • In the third world, you could easily pass for a demi god if you can take care of the needs of the masses. This is echoed in M. K. Gandhi’s statement:

      ”There are people who are so hungry that God cannot come to them in any form except bread”.

      As long as people extort money and give to others, the argument will continue. Isn’t it in fact true, that, the most corrupt people in this world are seen as the most responsible people in their families? I think modern pastors just take responsibility for people and get paid – simple as that.

      I must say that really appreciate the discussions on this page – I am learning a lot. Thanks to you all.

  7. They do indeed have different definitions for common theological terms, primarily FAITH. For them faith is an impartial, impersonal “force” which can be used for good or for evil, directed by the spoken word. We were taught to use MANTRAS (of course, we couldn’t call them that, but that’s what they were) to “get the word down into your spirit, where it can give birth to faith.” Because “faith comes by hearing,” we were encouraged to speak the mantras out loud. This is auto-suggestion, which we called “positive confession,” No need to brainwash your followers, just have them do it themselves!

    What was really surprising once I got out of the movement, was how desperately I had clung to my beliefs even after years of failure as well as scriptural proof of my error. Word of Faith teaching is more than just a doctrinal error, it is demon-inspired bondage to false hope and a means of outlandish fund-raising power for its principle teachers.

  8. i have been to churches preaching this gospel and it reminds me of the verse where the seeds are scattered but not rooted, because they seem to be preaching that the prize is the new house and car and not God’s Kingdom. i pity those following this gospel because if they encounter hard times, their faith is not strong enough to equip them for it.

  9. The Prosperity Gospel is a false gospel that has no basis in Scripture and isn’t remotely close to the message that Jesus preached. What is worse is the fact that millions are being led astray by it, and America is exporting it to the Third World with promises that their belief in God will yield them riches, health, and all the rest. God rewards the faithful with more sacrifice because He can trust us with sacrifice and we can go out into the world to serve Him.

    Cheers!

  10. You are right on point here. Prosperity “gospel” is not God’s Good News and has no basis in Scripture. The names you cited are errant preachers who are leading millions of people astray.

  11. I would say so it is a different gospel, It focuses on how to get things out of God, instead of worship him. Its kind of the opposite of reform doctrine. In regards to worship,

    Word of Faith: God is here to provide for us and he wants the best for us
    Reformed: We are here to worship God. That is why he created us.

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