Christianity and the Patriotic Gospel

The other day, I came across this question on Twitter, “What’s worse, the prosperity gospel or the patriotic gospel?” My first reaction was it was a bit of a toss up. But the more I thought about it and observed the discussion on my Facebook page, I do think the patriotic gospel needs to be spelled out a bit. I don’t know the author of the tweet so I have no idea what he meant by it but I thought I would write out a few thoughts about what I believe it is. I suspect that some will disagree but these are my convictions.

I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with patriotism, as long as it is kept in perspective. I see no prohibition in Scripture where one cannot love their country and want what is best for it. Though America has not always lived up to her ideals, we can celebrate her victories.

However, the patriotic gospel is more than just a love for country. I actually do believe it is a form of the prosperity gospel so let me lay that out. A common misconception about the prosperity gospel is that it is about money or getting rich. Actually, wealth is just an outcome of its foundation. At the heart of the prosperity gospel lies the notion that material gain symbolizes favor with God. Material gain can be wealth but also comes in different forms, such as employment success, social standing, houses, cars, and other earthly treasures. While proponents of the prosperity gospel will say they are placing their faith in Jesus, in reality, hope is placed in obtaining material gain since that represents right standing with God. It’s why you see so much emphasis on the material in prosperity teaching. Sadly, I think softer forms of prosperity teaching run rampant in mainstream American evangelism.

Now, let’s make that application to the patriotic gospel. I think the most obvious form is believing that the United States has a special status with God and therefore, supporting her prosperity means continued favor. It’s treating the US as if God has made a covenant with her. This line of thinking sees no problem with inserting patriotic symbolism into Christian expression such as Bible verses and church services. Continue reading

Should we call the prosperity gospel something else?: a subtle deception

money on the altarThe Gospel Coalition posted the first article in a series on the prosperity gospel. As I read through, 5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel, and I’ll get to these points in a minute, I couldn’t help but think that calling it prosperity might be a bit misleading. Why do I say that? Because in reality, proponents of prosperity teaching don’t refer to it as such. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that many proponents of prosperity teaching would reject the notion that the aim of our Christian existence is to get rich and would be quick to label the Creflo Dollars of TV fame as charlatans. So I think by labeling it “prosperity gospel” might have the impact of turning a deaf ear to it’s troubling foundation.

Herein lies the subtle deception of prosperity teaching. The premise of what is called a prosperity gospel is simply put: material blessings are a sign of God’s acceptance and favor. One does not necessarily have to believe that riches are the goal to buy into prosperity teaching. This is evident in looking at the five points outlined in the article. More than anything, I think that many people who buy into prosperity teaching are well intentioned about the Christian faith and strive earnestly to live that faith out. But I believe the main contributor to prosperity promotion is a lack comprehension of what material blessings meant in the Old Testament. It is evident in the teaching (which I myself embraced for many years, that prosperity teaching fail to consider that the whole theme of Scripture is rooted in God’s redemption of his creation in an elaborate scheme that involved calling out a people called Israel as his own. This only serves as the basis of how he will unite Jew and Gentile as equal heirs to his promises fulfilled in Christ.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll highlight a couple of the five points in relation to point I’m making that prosperity teaching is more about the material blessings as the basis of genuine faith. But I encourage you to read all 5 points; Continue reading

Blessed Assurance?

I was thinking of some hymn makeovers for prosperity teaching, which seems fitting since it makes Christianity over into something unrecognizable.

money on the altar

Then there’s Blessed Assurance

Verse 1

Blessed assurance, all wealth is mine

Oh what a foretaste of dreams so divine

Heir of such riches, brought on my God

Sowing my seed and receiving in love

Verse 2

Perfect submission, is God to my tests

Cuz he just wants me happy and blessed

Watching and waiting, speaking it now

His obligation to my word vow

Chorus

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my purpose, all the day long

This is my story, this is my song

Destiny awaits me, all the day long

Ok, so maybe that is a bit extreme but not the underlying philosophy that subjects God’s actions to words we speak and encourages misplaced trust in our actions, instead of in God’s all sufficient work in Jesus Christ.

Why I Think L.A. Preachers Need a Reality Show

l.a. preachersI know that sounds strange coming from me, but let me explain. I came across this article from Thabiti Anyabwile over at The Front Porch, a new site to foster discussion around biblical faithfulness in the black church. Thabiti gives a break down of the scenes from the trailer. He then concluded with a section asking what are we to make of all this?

In a comment to The Christian Post, Noel Jones responds to criticism by saying the show is “no evangelical tool”. He explains:

“My original intention was (for) it to be a tool to help bring the minds of Christian people to the place where they give some balance to who their pastors are and how they deal with their pastors,” said Jones. ”The only reason I signed up was to help to reduce the iconoclastic proclivities that church members have about their pastors to the point where if they break any of the rules that the church members are breaking, they completely throw them away.”

Thabiti responds by saying this;

To be clear, an ‘iconoclast’ is someone who destroys icons. A ‘proclivity’ is a strong tendency, a bent, a habit, usually toward something negative. What Jones intended to say is he wants to reduce the tendency to idolizing—making idols of—pastors and church leaders. That’s a good aim. There’s not much “iconoclastic proclivity” on display in these churches—just the opposite. Continue reading

Seed of the Apostles

grain in bagThe past several Sunday sermons have been going through the book of Acts. Last Sunday was Acts 4:32-37. As the sermon so convinctingly emphasized the idea of dedication of our gifts and resources to the body of Christ, I couldn’t help but note the stark contrast to how this passage would be written according to philosophy of seed and harvest that is so prevalent today. I imagine it would go something like this;

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul and every one said that the things that belonged to them were a result of the seed they had planted. So they shared this in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the blessings of the Lord Jesus and the great favor that was granted them because of the seed they sowed. There was not a needy person among them because they all had planted a seed by laying it at the apostles feet so the apostles could proclaim the favor that fell upon them and proclaim the anointing of those who fell at their feet.  Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and took the money as his seed and laid it at the apostles’ feet so he could reap a harvest.

Um, no…and note the difference of what it actually says Continue reading