Tag Archives: prosperity gospel

Irresistible, by Andy Stanley, A Review

Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. Pastor Andy Stanley overstates a central theme in his argument, but his critics should learn something from him as well.

A little backstory, as to why I decided to read this challenging book: I am not really the type of guy who would be naturally drawn to a pastor like Andy Stanley. At least, that is what I thought a few years ago.

Andy Stanley is the son of the well-known Atlanta pastor, Charles Stanley, who for years has been an example, par excellence, of classic, traditional Bible Belt preaching. When I think of the oft repeated phrase, “The Bible says… the Bible says…,” I think of Charles Stanley.

But I must confess. While he has had a profound, positive impact on the lives of many, and I am sure he is a wonderful man, Charles Stanley’s teaching never thrilled me personally.

About twenty years ago, I was teaching a Sunday school class on church history. I love studying and teaching church history. It helps deepen my love for God. The history of Christianity is often neglected in evangelical churches, so I was thankful for the privilege to try to fill in the gap, at our church. After a few weeks of examining how God has moved in the lives of influential Christians, across the centuries, one dear, elderly woman confronted me and asked, “It is all about history to you, isn’t it?

Apparently, this woman did not understand why anyone in a Bible-believing church needed to waste their time learning about church history. I responded by saying something along the lines of, “Yes, I do believe that God works in history. Jesus did not just stop working in the world after the completion of the New Testament, and He continues to work in our world today.” This genuinely sweet woman then had that “I-have-no-clue-what-you-are-talking-about” look on her face.

*SIGH*.

The following week, the same woman walked into class, and handed me a whole set of resources from Charles Stanley’s InTouch Ministries to look at. I gulped. In particular, she pointed me to a cassette tape, with a title, something to the effect of why “the Bible alone is the Word of God.”

I got the message: Just stick with the Bible, and forget about this history stuff. “The Bible says” is good enough.

I thanked the woman, as she was kind and well-intentioned, and while I did eventually listen to the tape, and agreed with the teaching message, I was still flustered. For if this woman, who evidently was a big fan of Charles Stanley, was learning that we should disregard the lessons of God’s working over the past 2,000 years, since the closure of the New Testament, then I was not really impressed with what she was being taught.

My less-than-enthusiatic encounter with my less-than-enthusiastic church history student pretty much poisoned me. Frankly, Charles Stanley’s son, Andy, had never been on my radar, at all, until a few years ago. When I learned that Andy Stanley, a former youth pastor, now a mega-church pastor himself, started to rise in prominence, I really had no interest in learning anything from him either. Like father, like son, I supposed. Life is short, and since I can not read or listen to every resource article or sermon someone gives to me, I just left the ministries of the Stanleys at that.

That was until son Andy began making waves among his fellow Southern Baptist, conservative evangelical constituents. Though Andy Stanley continues to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, he no longer thinks that the old evangelical mantra of “the Bible says” really works any more in an increasingly post-Christian society. We simply can not assume today that people believe the Bible.

That is a pretty big shift in message from the elder Stanley…. and it got my attention, because that is the world I live in.

My interest was sparked. Perhaps the younger pastor Stanley has something important to say after all. As it turns out, he does. I am chagrined to think that I never paid attention to this before. Continue reading


Do You Really Want Jeremiah 29:11 to Be YOUR “Life Verse?”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).

It is a great Bible verse. But when I see it on bumper stickers, and friends tell me it is their “life verse,” I often wonder: Do those friends even know what Jeremiah had in mind when he wrote that verse, so many years ago?


Continue reading


Why Christians Need to Be Wary of the Prosperity Gospel

Pastor Paula White, evangelist and one of the prayer leaders for 58th United States Presidential Inauguration.

Pastor Paula White, evangelist and one of the prayer leaders for the 58th United States Presidential Inauguration, for Friday, January 20, 2017.

When Reformed theologian, Michael Horton, wrote his editorial for the Washington Post in early 2017, calling out evangelist and pastor, Paula White, as a proponent of the “Prosperity Gospel,” it caught people’s attention. Before reading this, I had never heard of Paula White before in my life. But according to her website, in 2006, she was ranked by some organization as one of the Top 50 “most influential Christians in America.” I guess I do not move in the same circles as Paula White.

Pastor White has been asked to give a prayer at the Presidential Inauguration, this coming Friday, January 20. Horton’s concern is that this public exposure will give Pastor White an opportunity to promote her message, which includes the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.”

The “Prosperity Gospel” goes back at least to the 1950s, when preachers like Norman Vincent Peale talked about the power of “positive thinking.” Through the 1980s and 1990s, Robert Schuller taught that humanity’s basic problem was not sin, but rather, the lack of self-esteem. As Michael Horton argues in his essay, this brand of Christianity has been curiously bound together with the “Word of Faith” movement, with its infamous “name-it-and-claim-it” Bible teaching. This broad tradition of the “Prosperity Gospel” is carried on today by about 70%, or more, of what you see on the Trinity Broadcasting Network television.

In a nutshell, the “Prosperity Gospel” makes the theologically suspect promise that God wants to give people material blessing, both in terms of financial wealth and good health, as a sign of His favor towards us. Now, there is nothing wrong with having “health and wealth,” and being grateful to God for it. But such teaching can lead to the wrong view that suffering, whether it be financial, physical, or otherwise, is a definite sign of God’s displeasure towards the believer. This is a false and misleading doctrine, as any right-thinking Christian, with a good grasp of the Bible, will know that God’s people go through suffering at various times, as part of the sanctification process, bringing us more into conformity with the likeness of Christ. After all, Jesus Himself suffered and died on the Cross, to deal with our sin and provide for our salvation, and He is calling every believer to follow Him!

Surely, our disobedience to God’s Word can, at times, lead to suffering. But according to the late pastor, Dick Woodward, who was paralyzed due to a degenerative spinal cord disease for over twenty years, this is only one of several Biblical reasons why Christians suffer (See Dick Woodward’s sermon and brief booklet, Thirty Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer). If you think that by “naming and claiming” (supposedly) “God’s promises” you can avoid suffering, or simply to promote your own success, then you are setting yourself up for spiritual disaster.

Michael Horton’s alarm over Paula White should require Christians to have discernment, not only with the “Prosperity Gospel,” but even in other areas. For example, Paula White has responded to her critics, and noted that she does, in fact, accept and teach the doctrine of the Trinity to be true, from her statement of belief found on her website. Nevertheless, if you read a recent article in Christianity Today magazine, by Kate Shellnutt, not everyone is convinced by the integrity of White’s response.

The main point I want to convey, is not to criticize Pastor Paula White, as I simply know very little about her (though I learned that she is married to Jonathan Cain, the keyboard player of the 1980’s popular band, Journey, which is interesting). She might even give a very fine prayer at the Presidential Inauguration, for all I know.

But whenever a public figure, who portrays themselves as a representative for the Gospel, makes a stand for Christ, we need to carefully consider what is being said and taught. Christian believers should check out what that teacher or preacher actually says, and line it up with the teaching found in the Bible. In those areas, where the teacher is in alignment with Scripture, we should gladly affirm those things. Yet wherever the teacher goes against Scripture, we need to apply discernment, stand guard for the truth, and be wary, less we might stumble into unknowingly accepting a type of counterfeit “gospel” (Acts 17:11).

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3 ESV).


Dick Woodward on BBN Radio This Week (Jan. 16-20)

Dick Woodward

Dick Woodward

The late, pastor emeritus of Williamsburg Community Chapel, Dick Woodward, is on the Bible Broadcasting Network (BBN) this week, on their evening “Conference Pulpit” program, at 9pm EST (January 16-20).

Dick Woodward served as the pastor at my church in Williamsburg for many years, despite suffering from a degenerative spinal cord disease, that eventually left him as a quadriplegic. Woodward’s message series this week addresses the topic of suffering. Reverend Woodward died in 2014.

Last night’s message touched on the subject of the “prosperity doctrine,” which has been in the news lately, with respect to some controversy over the choices of some of the prayer leaders, who will be participating in the Presidential Inauguration ceremonies later this week.

The Bible Broadcasting Network is a nationwide, American radio ministry with some 30 full power stations and over 100 low power stations, in some 29 different states, with Internet streaming capabilities across the world. The nightly Conference Pulpit program features recordings of leading Bible teachers over the past 100 years. Theologically, BBN leans more towards promoting dispensational premillennialism in their teaching.

In the Hampton Roads, Virginia area, BBN operates at at WYFI, 99.7 FM. You can also stream the program from the previous evening, available for the next week, on BBN’s website at here or here. Since I forgot to mention about this yesterday, you can listen to last night’s message currently available from “Monday,” on that BBN website.

UPDATE: 01/19/2017   The Colson Center and Breakpoint.org have a brief article covering the Inauguration and Prosperity Gospel controversy from an evangelical perspective.

 


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