Enjoying God Forever: An Historical/Sociological Profile Of The Health And Wealth Gospel -- By: Dennis Hollinger

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 09:2 (Fall 1988)
Article: Enjoying God Forever: An Historical/Sociological Profile Of The Health And Wealth Gospel
Author: Dennis Hollinger

Enjoying God Forever:
An Historical/Sociological Profile
Of The Health And Wealth Gospel

Dennis Hollinger

Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries

Enjoying God Forever! This partial response to the opening question of the Westminster Catechism would seem to describe the contemporary health and wealth gospel movement. The 1647 Catechism begins with the question. “What is the chief end of man?” The cathecist responds, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Throughout the church’s history certain groups and movements have tended to over-emphasize one dimension of this response at the expense of the other. The health and wealth gospel appears to be a case in point. By accentuating the goodness of God (which is activated by a believer’s faith) the movement’s adherents are inclined to focus primarily on enjoying God over glorifying God. Evidence for the theme of enjoyment is seen in the promises of healing, financial prosperity, and general well-being.

The health and wealth gospel is an identifiable religious movement comprised of distinct teachings, key preachers, a particular clientele, conferences, massive publications, media ministries, local congregations that identify with the teachings and preachers, educational institutions, and a loosely-knit organization called the International Convention of Faith Churches and Ministries (ICFCM). Adherents have often labeled themselves “Word” or “Word of Faith Churches” as well as “faith movement.” Critics have utilized such phrases as “name it and claim it,” “the gospel of prosperity,” and “the health and wealth gospel.” Among the major leaders are Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Jerry Savelle, and Fred Price—people with substantial followings not only in the United States but also, parts of Europe and the Third World. All share a common commitment to spreading the Word of God, a Word which they believe has been distorted and unheeded with regards to faith, healing and prosperity.

The themes of the movement are certainly not new. The emphasis, for example, on financial prosperity as a fruit of true Christian commitment, prayer, or faith has precedence within Christian history. During the Gilded Age in late nineteenth-century America numerous clergy espoused the notion that right thinking and right living could unlock the doors to bountiful wealth. William

Lawrence (1858–1941), an Episcopalian Bishop of Massachusetts, taught that “in the long run, it is only to the man of morality that wealth comes …Godliness is in league with riches.”1

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