The Heart of the Prosperity Gospel: Self or the Savior? -- By: Dan Lioy

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 04:1 (Mar 2007)
Article: The Heart of the Prosperity Gospel: Self or the Savior?
Author: Dan Lioy

The Heart of the Prosperity Gospel: Self or the Savior?1

Dan Lioy2


This essay explores whether self or the Savior is at the heart of the prosperity gospel. An analysis and critique of its dogma indicates that it is predominantly anthropocentric, rather than Christocentric. This ego-focused outlook is likewise present in the health-and-wealth movement. One discovers that preachers of success are touting a religion of self in which people are the measure of all things. A detailed discussion of Ephesians 1:3–23 provides a needed biblical response. One learns that the Son, not self, is at the heart of the Father’s plan of redemption. Also, it is in Christ alone that believers find forgiveness, hope, and wisdom. Only He is the meta-narrative of life, whether temporal or eternal in nature. Indeed, He is the sole reason for the existence of the church and the one who enables believers to complete their God-given work.

1. An analysis and critique of the prosperity gospel dogma

In July 2007, both Christianity Today and The Christian Century printed articles on the prosperity gospel (Glifford 2007; Phiri & Maxwell 2007). The fact that both a theologically conservative, evangelical magazine (Christianity Today) and an ecumenical, mainline Protestant magazine (The Christian Century) covered the same topic around the same time suggests the editorial boards of these respective publications considered it to be an increasingly important subject. Indeed, as Hunt (2000:73) notes, the “health and prosperity gospel” is “one of the fastest growing religious movements on a global scale”. It has been “adopted as far afield as Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Africa, India, Latin America and the Pacific rim of Southeast Asia” (Hunt 1998:272).

The latter observation is confirmed by a Time magazine poll, which determined that in the U.S., “17% of Christians” who were surveyed “said they considered themselves” to be part of the “Prosperity Theology” movement (Van Biema & Chu 2006). Additionally, a “full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous”. On the African continent, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey in 2006 in which individuals were asked whether God would “grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith” and whether “religious faith was ‘very important to economic success’” (Phiri & Maxwell 2007). Roughly 9 out of 10 participants from Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya said yes.

While the theolog...

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