CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Away With Your False Gospels

Jan 1, 2014

OK, it is the New Year, so no sense in beating around the bush. I have resolved to keep promoting truth in 2014, regardless of how many people take offense and/or break fellowship with me. Time is short, truth matters, and far too many people are being led astray.

Sure, we are to speak the truth in love, but we dare not shrink back from proclaiming truth in a culture that hates truth and despises any sure word. This is just as true in our churches as in the world. So let me again offer warnings and words of exhortation.

In the past I have not been averse from telling an entire room full of Pentecostal and charismatic students that the prosperity gospel is a damnable heresy. It is one of the most pernicious and destructive false gospels making the rounds today, and I have no doubt it is high up on Satan’s list of doctrines of demons.

It has led many astray and caused many to shipwreck their faith or abandon it altogether. It appeals to the flesh, and wars against the spirit. It is about as opposed to the message of Christ as you can get, yet millions worldwide are being deceived by this, and plenty of huckster preachers are getting rich off it.

The prosperity gospel is a great reflection of modern hedonistic “me-first” consumerist culture, but is a lousy reflection of the gospel message. We are here to serve and worship our Lord, not to see what material benefits we can weasel out of Him.

I have written about the prosperity gospel often before. Here I wish to note that although this diabolical seduction of the gospel originated in the United States – not surprising: perhaps the most materialistic and consumeristic nation on earth – regrettably it has spread far and wide, and caused untold damage in the developing world.

Poor believers without food and running water are being told there that they can have a Mercedes in every driveway. Of course they don’t even have driveways, let alone a roof over their heads. Yet fraudulent Western preachers are coming there telling these folks if they have enough faith and give their little bits of money to the preachers, they can be rolling in the dough.

One leading charismatic leader who has been often to Africa has had a gutful of this deplorable and harmful gospel. J. Lee Grady says this: “I’m often asked to describe how God is moving in Africa today. Since I’m an optimist, I usually tell of the large churches, the passionate praise and the intense spiritual hunger that characterizes African Christianity. But there is also a dark side, and I think it’s time we addressed one of the most serious threats to faith on the continent.

“I’m talking about the prosperity gospel. Of course, I know a slick version of this message is preached in the United States—and I know we are the ones who exported it overseas. I am not minimizing the damage that prosperity preaching has done in my own country. But I have witnessed how some African Christians are taking this money-focused message to new and even more dangerous extremes.”

He goes on to list five ways in which this false gospel is damaging the continent of Africa today. Here are some of them:

“2. It fuels greed. Any person who knows Christ will learn the joy of giving to others. But the prosperity gospel teaches people to focus on getting, not giving. At its core it is a selfish and materialistic faith with a thin Christian veneer. Church members are continually urged to sow financial seeds to reap bigger and bigger rewards. In Africa, entire conferences are dedicated to collecting offerings in order to achieve wealth. Preachers boast about how much they paid for suits, shoes, necklaces and watches. They tell their followers that spirituality is measured by whether they have a big house or a first-class ticket. When greed is preached from the pulpit, it spreads like a cancer in God’s house.

“4. It works against the formation of Christian character. The prosperity message is a poor imitation of the gospel because it leaves no room for brokenness, suffering, humility or delay. It offers an illegal shortcut. Prosperity preachers promise instant results and overnight success; if you don’t get your breakthrough, it’s because you didn’t give enough money in the offering. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and follow Him; prosperity preaching calls us to deny Jesus and follow our materialistic lusts. There is a leadership crisis in the African church because many pastors are so set on getting rich, they can’t go through the process of discipleship that requires self-denial.

“5. It actually keeps people in poverty. The government of Malawi is currently under international scrutiny because of fraud carried out by top leaders. The saddest thing about the so-called ‘Cashgate’ scandal is that professing Christians in the administration of President Joyce Banda have been implicated. One of these people stole millions of kwacha from the government and hid the cash in a teddy bear! Most people today in Malawi live on less than $1 a day, yet their leaders have been known to buy fleets of cars and huge plots of land with money that was not theirs. Sadly, the prosperity gospel preached in Malawi has encouraged pastors and leaders to follow the same corrupt pattern. As a result, God’s people have been financially exploited.”

His whole article is well worth reading. As he says, believers in both the West and non-West are being greatly damaged by this. It is a complete inversion of biblical Christianity. It puts self and greed at the centre, instead of Christ and self-denial. It is truly a doctrine of demons, and those peddling this pernicious teaching need to repent and turn away from this poison.

As Michael Horton writes, “We exist for his pleasure, not he for ours; we are on this earth to entertain him, to please him, to adore him, to bring him satisfaction, excitement, and joy. Any gospel which seeks to answer the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ has it all backwards. The question is, ‘What’s in it for God?’”

Oral Roberts University professor Charles Farah echoes this idea, noting that prosperity theology “represents an unwitting return to the old liberal theology that exalts man at the expense of God. A man-centered theology must ultimately fail, because truth finally triumphs; and the truth is, God is not here for our convenience, we are here for His purposes.”

www.charismamag.com/blogs/fire-in-my-bones/19113-5-ways-the-prosperity-gospel-is-hurting-africa

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16 Responses to Away With Your False Gospels

  • Today I read the chapter on the Hireling and The Good Shepherd in R.M. McCheyne’s book. The hireling ( or false shepherd) represents unfaithful ministers.
    McCheyne says – “this is the black mark of the hireling: ‘He that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep and fleeth'(verse 12). But, brethren, it is not merely the seeking money that marks the hireling, but seeking our own ease, our own honour, our own fame. “

  • It’s not just wealth they promise but health. I will never forget the funeral of a very devout Christian who died at 52 from end stage asthma, and being so angry when the Pentecostal minister implied that is she’d had faith she wouldn’t have been sick. Clearly she was an embarrassment to the congregation! As I recall Jesus Christ had compassion on the sick and didn’t trivialise their sufferings.

  • If you want to look at our immigration minister and the way he manages his portfolio then just look at the Church he worships at. He was Tourism Australia director when the Lara Bingle adds came on asking us “Where the ….. are you” in relation to promoting Australian tourism.
    I challenged him to show a Christian character to his work, he replied that how he lives is between he and God. True but he is a Christian who holds public office and thus is in a position to bring Glory or shame to the Name of Jesus.

  • Congratulations on an important message. Unbelievers arnt stupid; they can spot a salesman a mile away. One only has to look at youtube to see the witness these tele evangelists portray to the world. How cagey they become when questioned about their wealth. Nothing new, the catholic church was selling blessings for hundreds of years, whilst burning christians at the stake. so all in all nothing is new under the sun. God will always have his remnant and Bill is one!

  • Talking of false gospels, Mr Muehlenberg has issued cogent observations previously about the quasi-deification of Nelson Mandela. What he might not know – and what I myself did not know until this afternoon – was the role of Australia’s best-known Catholic prelate in this quasi-deification, while Mandela remained alive:

    http://www.sydneycatholic.org/people/archbishop/stc/2013/201377_559.shtml

    Perhaps readers with (unlike myself) a legal background can inform me whether the law does, or does not, permit me to use the phrase “moral imbecility” in connection with this bilge and its perpetrator.

  • The prosperity gospel — such grey and difficult territory !

    There is also the false – poverty gospel! Where Christians believe God is pleased when they are poor and miserable!
    Oh dear, balance is needed here.
    Benny Hinn emphasises God will prosper the WORK of your hands, [not lazy hands] I like that take on things—not, I gave God 10 dollars, I`ll just sit back and wait for him to deliver my 1000. Plenty of room for discussion on this topic.!

  • Thanks Gerald

    Actually it is not ‘grey and difficult territory’ at all. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that the love of wealth is a sin which we all can succumb to. Hundreds of Scriptural warnings are found on this topic. So there is nothing ambiguous about it at all. And if you read my other writings on this I already speak to your concerns. As Proverbs 30:8 puts it: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread”.

    See more on this here for example:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/1998/09/08/silver-and-gold-have-i-none/

    Or here:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2013/01/04/jesus-or-prosperity/

  • For those more interested I can recommend the following books (if you can find them):

    “Christianity in Crisis” by Hank Hanegraaff (the best book on the subject I’ve read.)
    “The Seduction of Christianity” by Dave Hunt and T.A.McMahon.
    “Beyond Seduction” by Dave Hunt.
    “The Agony of Deceit” Ed. Michael Horton.
    “The Health and Wealth Gospel” by Dan McConnell.

    Just to name a few.

    You are right, Bill. The “Prosperity Gospel” in indeed a damnable heresy, especially in its Christology and is every bit as bad and soul destroying as other pseudo-Christian cult such as the J.Ws, Mormons, etc.

    Mick Koster.

  • Balance is needed on this subject, I’m neither with you on this one Bill nor am I with those who push it hard. The accusations always seem to imply that if your well off or desirous to be well off that you ‘love’ wealth.

    I have no motive for speaking other than the scriptures…im generally busted financially tbh, I cant recall how many times ive sold or given away all of our stuff, always rented etc, and had to go without many many times…all for the Gospel. I turned down being the 4th main shareholder in a company that makes millions each year because it meant I had to slow down working for heaven, but I believe the scriptures and there are many of them which are indeed promises that we can trust God for….oh boy im opening a can of worms here lol….I also abhor what happened in the 90’s when this went ballistic and was preached every sunday…as ive said ‘balance is important’.

  • Thanks Dorian. I already offered the biblical balance in my above comment: Proverbs 30:8 puts it this way: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread”.

    There is nothing wrong with wealth creation. What we do with that wealth is the key. If we use it for the Kingdom and others it is fine. If we use it just for our self and our wants and greed and selfishness, then it is wrong.

  • I like to ask people what they would do if they won lotto.
    Some say they dont play that game, some say i would buy my children a house and some say i would use it to build Gods kingdom, by way of a halfway house for sick kids or printing a thousand Bibles to give away or taking street kids on outback camping trips that last for months etc etc.

  • Bill, I’m surprised you would let somebody take such a really cheap shot at Scott Morrison. I do not know him personally but I have heard good reports about his willingness to share his faith. I think he does his tough job as Immigation Minister very well . He is a Christian and he has, to his great credit, reached high political office. He may well be in line to take over from Tony Abbott in due course. So he goes to a Pentecostal Church. Good on him. Thank God he goes to Church at all and pray for him.

  • Hi Bill thanks for the comment back, maybe I should ask another question here before I comment further to help me clarify your position on this correctly.

    Do you believe that Proverbs 30:8 is to be the ‘physical’ balance every believer should ask God for?

    By that I mean, do you believe that every believer should be seeking to ‘not be wealthy’ nor ‘be impoverished’ but to ‘materialistically’ be in the middle so to speak?

    thanks

  • I would have thought the passage is quite clear: do not seek either. As I already said, there is nothing wrong with wealth creation and the free market. It has been the best way to raise the masses out of poverty. And if God blesses you with wealth, that is fine as long as you use it for the Kingdom and not just to live a fancy, selfish lifestyle.

    We simply must take the hundreds of warnings about wealth and greed seriously.

  • Thanks Bill, I just read the other 2 articles you posted in the comments line to help me understand the point your trying to make and got it. I completely agree. thanks

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