The unintended prosperity gospel: why tangibility matters

god-touching-manIf you’ve followed me for any period of time, you know that I abhor the prosperity gospel. As I wrote about here, the prosperity gospel has a deceptive nature in that it is not really about getting rich. Because of that, prosperity teaching flies under the radar because many who gravitate towards it would denounce that Christianity is about lining the pockets. What gets missed, is that wealth is just a by-product of the real foundation: material blessings are a sign of God’s favor. So we really can’t restrict the prosperity gospel to money but to any material blessing that we place our hope in. It’s peddler’s would have you believe that getting blessed by God in ways that make you look like you are winning (by the world’s standards) is a true mark of God’s favor. This is the very nature of the prosperity gospel, that favorable conditions are a sign that God approves of us.

And it’s not just about despising a doctrine for doctrine’s sake. But this distorted teaching actually impacts people’s lives. Either people can be lured into a false sense that God is on their side because they are “winning” in life. Or conversely, feel like God is opposed to them when suffering and loss occur and believe they are less loved by God, failed in some way to earn his favor, or basically just have insufficient faith. It’s easy to ridicule those who embraced such distortions and spurn the teachers of this dastardly teaching. After all, the Christian hope, trust and confidence is the work and person of Jesus Christ. Period.

But if we’re honest, there is something about receiving tangible results to life’s negative circumstances: the rescue from wayward happenings, the reversal of loss with a gain of something hoped for, the improvement of life’s condition with a better home, car, job or status symbol. Receiving material rewards, while not the basis of favor from God, can make us feel like God is on our side, that he is looking out for us. Continue reading

Posted in eschatology (last things), humanity, pain and suffering, reflections and musings | 1 Comment

Worst advice possible…telling Christians to look within themselves

woman hugging herselfWhile scrolling through my Facebook feed not too long ago, this statement assaulted me;

The wizard [of Oz] says look inside yourself and find self. God says look inside yourself and find [the Holy Spirit]. The first will get you to Kansas. The latter will get you to heaven. Take your pick.

Well, based on the title of the post it’s pretty obvious that I think this is this worst advice to Christians. Sadly, this came from a pastor who is telling his congregation this. I hate to say it, but it is actually sub-Christian that unfortunately has gained solid footing within Christianity. Aside from the fact that nowhere does God tell us in Scripture to look inside ourselves to find the Holy Spirit, this is problematic because it puts emphasis on the wrong person -us.

Considering the role of the Spirit, the 3rd person testifies to the Son (John 15:26) and provides the seal of regeneration for those who believe by the will of the Father (see Eph 1:3-14). It is to Christ that we look. The Holy Spirit within enables us to do this (see 1 Cor. 12:3). Consider the book of Hebrews. These Jewish Christians were tempted to go back to Judiasm because they missed the glory of the temple and prominence of their status as God’s elect. Instead of telling the troubled Christians to look within themselves, the writer instead points them to the Son. “Consider Christ.” This is the theme of the book. This is the theme of Christianity.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2 ESV)

Look at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3 where Paul is contrasting the Old and New Covenant, he highlights where the veil imposed by the law is lifted in Christ; Continue reading

Posted in Christian living, contemporary castophries | Leave a comment

The church in the age of MLK: the culture and us

mlk_giving-speechThanks to the memory section on Facebook, an article written by Dr. Anthony Bradley popped up from two years that I shared titled The KKK, Selma, and Southern Christianity. It was a raw reflection from seeing the movie Selma but also being from the South, he knew all too well the realities that existed for black citizens especially having parents that lived through Jim Crow.

But he makes a specific point regarding the church;

As a theologian, this is where the movie became really interesting. Those who joined King were mainly Jewish, Protestant mainliners from the North, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox. Conspicuously absent were conservative Protestant evangelicals, especially those from the South. In fact, Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was the highest ranking non-black religious figure in America to join King in the Selma march. This raised several questions for me: What was different about Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions that allowed them to freely join the fight for voting rights while evangelicals chose to do nothing or join the cause to support Jim Crow? Where were the Calvinists who believed in total depravity? Where were the evangelicals? Where was Billy Graham? Where were the Jonathan Edwards fans? Where were the Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, Methodists, and so on? I am asking because I do not understand.

What is it about southern evangelicalism that prevented those churches historically from seeing the plight of blacks as connected to the Gospel and the command to love God and neighbor? Maybe there is a real deep theological flaw in what is known as “evangelical theology?” Maybe the evangelicalism of the 1940s, 50s and 60s did not really understand the Gospel as clearly as many are lead to believe. I honestly do not have the answers to these questions but if evangelicals were so blinded by these issues during the Civil Rights Movement it makes me wonder what evangelicals might be missing today.

These are great questions, especially considering the fiercest defenders of segregation were evangelical Christians. A common retort that I’ve heard is that people weren’t really Christians. I think that’s a cop out. But perhaps the answers are probably more obvious and sobering than we might think. I believe the cultural forces that saw black citizens as inherently undeserving of equal rights and treatment were so permanently entrenched in the church, that Bible reading and believing folks accepted this premise without batting an eye. How else do you explain the cognitive dissonance? Continue reading

Posted in church life, culture, ecclesiology (church) | Tagged | 19 Comments

How dare those Christians use their gifts on worldly platforms

scared-crowdAfter all, we need to be salt and light. Reminds me of this submission I made to the Babylon Bee.

Church expresses growing concerns of woman entering secular accounting profession

Members of Greater Cornerstone Independent Bible Fellowship Church commit to keeping careful watch of one of the beloved members as she accepts a job in a secular firm specializing in accounting. Having long prided themselves on not watering down their Christian witness in the secular work world, some members are noticing a growing trend of Christians abandoning their beloved Christian environments to participate in works of work that doesn’t preach the gospel specifically.

“It isn’t safe,” said Bill Pederman, head deacon. “Interacting with all those numbers are bound to muddle up the faith and lure Christians into a secular mindset. What if a column of entries adds up to 16.3 instead of 3.16?” gasped Pederman weary that when specific Bible references are not made, people are likely to forget they are representing the King of Kings. Long time member, Barbara Menke added that this has a bearing on the Christian witness. “By engaging with spreadsheets that secular people make, the Christian witness can be compromised because you end up turning out a product that looks like the world.” She gasped at the prospect of losing salt with pollution of the world.   “God didn’t call us to be pepper,” she firmly insisted.

GCIBFC is assembling a committee to investigate these matters further so that the Christian witness is preserved.

I think you know what I getting at. By the way, this article Are You the Manure of the Earth from Dr. Anthony Bradley on being salt and light is a wonderful read.

Posted in Christian living, culture | 1 Comment

The presupposition dance: our tango with Scripture and systems

reading-the-BibleI got into a couple of interesting threads the other day on Facebook that got me thinking about this post I did a few years ago, The Myth of Non-theology and Neutrality. One of the discussions involved limited atonement. I recounted how I too once struggled with the concept until I started asking different questions. Now these questions went beyond the typical identification of cherry picked proof texts, but were derived from a more systematized approach to Scripture that naturally arises from it. In other words, it wasn’t enough for me to rest on the passages I believed communicated a universal atonement but to ask what the whole counsel of Scripture has communicated about the nature and application of the atonement. I posted this article here as a succinct summary.

Well, sure enough, one of the rebuttals was that it seemed that the position was being derived because of doctrine or rather, a doctrinal system was being imposed on the text. Because the article itself didn’t deal with any particular passages. On the surface, I think this kind of conclusion might sound like a good corrective. I mean, we do want Scripture to speak for itself. However, my retort was in line with what I wrote a few years ago regarding the myth of neutrality. There is a dance between our exegesis, i.e., letting Scripture speak for itself and our presuppositions that are formed from making decisions on how the whole of the 66 books form a complete picture. This also presumes that we all bring presuppositions into the text, hence the myth of neutrality. The issue is not whether we do or not, but what is informing the presuppositions. I wrote;

But his main point must be duly noted. It’s naive to think that we can have no method of interpretation and just approach the text with neutrality. We all have some kind of influence that we bring to the text and especially those we learn from who help us shape our ideas about Christianity. There is no such thing as just being biblical because it is necessary to have some type of methodology to interpret Scripture. The idea that we just pick up the Bible and read often ends up in what I call Scattegory Hermeneutics, a hodge-podge of interpretative methods that either over-emphasize some areas than others and/or produce inconsistencies with the complete witness of Scripture and faithfulness to historic Christianity.  When coupled with pragmatism and experience that is so prevalent in mainstream evangelicalism, interpretation becomes its hostage bending to the will of expediency.

Now this may raise an obvious question and concern. Does this mean we impose theology unto the text? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that there is a set of presuppositions that are the sina que non of Christianity. Meaning, there certain things we must believe to be true about the tenets of the Christian faith, without which Christianity does not exist. That’s why its important to have teachers, who themselves have taken the time to study the depth and breadth of Scripture, church history and the discipline of theology. This helps in knowing have or have not been faithful to the historic witness of Christianity.

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Posted in exegesis, hermeneutics, scripture | Leave a comment