The Bankruptcy of the Prosperity Gospel: An Exercise in Biblical and Theological Ethics -- By: David W. Jones
FM 16:1 (Fall 1998) p. 79
The Bankruptcy of the Prosperity Gospel:
An Exercise in Biblical and Theological Ethics
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC 27587
Just over one hundred years ago, the renowned pastor and statesman Charles H. Spurgeon spoke these words to the then-largest congregation in all Christendom:
I believe that it is anti-Christian and unholy for any Christian to live with the object of accumulating wealth. You will say, “Are we not to strive all we can to get all the money we can?” You may do so. I cannot doubt but what, in so doing, you may do service to the cause of God. But what I said was that to live with the object of accumulating wealth is anti-Christian.1
Over the years, however, the message being preached in some of the largest churches in the world has changed. Due, in part, to the rise of several ungodly philosophies and movements,2 a new gospel is being taught today. This gospel has been ascribed many names, such as the “name it and claim it” gospel, the “blab it and grab it” gospel, the “health and wealth” gospel, the “word of faith” movement, the “gospel of success,” the “prosperity gospel,” and “positive confession theology.”3
No matter what name is used, though, the teaching is the same. Simply put, this egocentric gospel teaches that God wants believers to be materially wealthy. Listen to the words of Robert Tilton, one of the prosperity gospel’s most well-known spokesmen: “I believe that it is the will of God for all to prosper because I see it in the Word [of God], not because it has worked mightily for someone else. I do not put my eyes on men, but on God who gives me the power to get wealth.”4
Teachers of the prosperity gospel encourage their followers to pray, and even demand, of God “everything from modes of transportation (cars, vans, trucks, even two-seat planes), [to] homes, furniture, and large bank accounts.”5 By closely examining the faulty theology and errant biblical interpretation of the teachers
FM 16:1 (Fall 1998) p. 80
of this movement, this study will prove that the prosperity gospel teachings regarding the acquisition and accumulation of wealth are ethically incorrect.
The Theology of the Prosperity Gospel
“Theology is important,” wrote scholar Millard J. Erickson, “because correct doctrinal belie...
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