Oprah with Joel

Just watched Oprah with Joel or was it Joel with Oprah. Anyway, it was really interesting.


Apparently, Oprah has said “I am a Christian.”

Although some are still criticizing Winfrey, The Black Christian News Network (BCNN) is standing in defense of the sincerity of her confession….BCNN thanked the likes of Stedman Graham, Tyler Perry, T.D. Jakes and others who wisely encouraged Winfrey and coached her on how to make her public profession of faith in Christ before the world.

“We believe that Oprah’s true ‘next chapter’ is to finish her life leading millions to the Christ that saved her,” BCNN wrote. “We want to encourage all Christians to pray for Oprah as she grows in her faith in Christ.” quoted from here

Joel said about the prosperity gospel:

“Does God want us to be rich?” he asks. “When I hear that word rich, I think people say, ‘Well, he’s preaching that everybody’s going to be a millionaire.’ I don’t think that’s it.” Rather, he explains, “I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don’t think I’d say God wants us to be rich. It’s all relative, isn’t it?” quoted from here

Mark Driscoll seemed quite warm towards Jeol in this comment:

“I am aware of the theological differences that exist between our tribe and Pastor Joel,” Driscoll responded. “I also know my Reformed brothers like to treat Pastor Joel like a pinata, but there are worse things than being happy and encouraging at a time when the most common prescription medications are antidepressants.”

In the same article Joel is quoted as defining “prosperity” as

“The way I define it is that I believe God wants you to prosper in your health, in your family, in your relationships, in your business, and in your career. So I do … if that is the prosperity gospel, then I do believe that,”

Driscoll says lots of good things about Joel but cautions against encouraging people with the same route to happiness as the worlds, ie

“Get rich. Get healthy. Be happy. That’s the equation. Health and wealth. Prosperity.”

Apparently Time magazine did a poll of people in America and

“31 percent—a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America—agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money.”

The reason that sort of “prosperity gospel” belief is wrong is because it is so one dimensional. Something beautiful and true has been squashed and stretched and stamped on until it is a flat splat. Like an ice sculpture that has been melted. It makes God sound like a good investment bank for your money where you get amazing interest.

The truth is that that God has already given us all that he has in his son. His generosity is unquestionable. We have forgiveness, adoption, and eternal life to name but a few.

It is also true that God works through faith. His kingdom comes and his blessings flow through our wholehearted trusting in him and his goodness and grace. The goodness of God builds up and up in our lives but first breaks through and flows as we trust in him. Our trust itself is of course his doing and in any case has no merit in itself except that it points to him and his glorious grace and provision.

Now someone might give money to feed someone in need or rescue someone from slavery. Should they then expect God to provide for them? Yes they should. Might that be in a financial way? Yes it might. It might not happen in that way, but it would be right to expect that it would. Especially so as we trust God while standing on the firm ground of his incredible provision for us in the death and resurrection of his son. Should we not get what we hope for, or expect, the bottom does not fall out of our world. God is still good and trustworthy even though we will have to live with a measure of mystery (and poverty!) as to why something did not happen as we thought it might.

It is the same for healing. Should we expect God to heal? 100% yes. Does that always happen. No. Were we wrong to expect it? No. The fact is that we live in a war zone between two kingdoms. Not every battle is won and there are setbacks. Satan does have power and this world is fallen. Every bullet may not meet its target but that does not mean we cease fire. We keep exercising faith based on God’s goodness to us in Christ. We can’t always draw straight lines in this life. It’s a chaotic war. The final victory is at the end of this age when Jesus comes back. Then every injustice will be righted. Every sickness healed. All poverty eradicated. It’s then that we will be able to add everything up and say “yes, I gave £100 and got back one hundred fold”  ie £10,000.

I’m waffling so let me try and summarise, or inflate the prosperity gospel a little by talking about true faith:

  • Faith looks to God’s kingdom coming in all its fullness. It reaches to the heavens for God’s kingdom to come on earth. That happens in all sorts of ways and it’s often patchy.
  • Faith presses through short term losses to an eternal victory.
  • Faith is personal. It is in the context of a relationship. It’s not like internet banking. It’s trusting our heavenly Father.
  • Faith is reasonable. We have already been given God’s son and through him forgiveness and sonship. Of course we should expect everything else too. After all it will be ours one day.
  • Faith trusts through situations where it does not see what it hoped for, believing that God will somehow bring good out of the more terrible defeat.

The prosperity gospel is a shrivelled prune if God is understood as an impersonal investment back. But it can be rehydrated with some of the above concepts. After all, Jesus does say “give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38).

The opposite to the prosperity gospel is the poverty gospel, ie that Christians should expect to be poor, ill, and disliked. I think that also needs some rehydrating but I’ll leave that to you. I bet you could join elements of the prosperity gospel and the poverty gospel together to get something more accurate than either of them. Anyway, enough for now.


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