Saturday, 19 April 2014
Prosperity Gospel And 419 In The Church – Part 2 By Rev. C. K. Ekeke and Prof. Debra J. Mumford
I have deliberately removed Bishop Oyedepo from the title of this article for a couple of reasons: first, to let his followers and supporters understand that the first part of my essay was not about their bishop. Second, I hold nothing against Bishop Oyedepo. In fact, I admire him as a businessman. He is a smart and astute industrialist. I do not however, consider him a spiritual leader. Third, the prosperity gospel being promulgated today is much bigger than Bishop David Oyedepo. So, those of you who are followers, supporters and protégées of the bishop, please stop making all sorts of hateful comments or even threatening me, because you don’t know who I am. Do not threaten the voice of a true prophet of God or touch His anointed one.
Usually I try to stay away from reading comments—especially negative ones; but when your hateful emails and negative comments began arriving in my personal inbox and even those phone calls, I then realized how truth hurts the hearers who are in error. However, I'm not concerned about your empty threats and tantrums but your ignorance and stupidity. In part 3 and final part of the essay, I will explore the teachings of Jesus Christ on the subject of money, finances and material prosperity, so that some of you who are biblical ignorant can learn from the master teacher.
Let me also make this point. I do not disagree that your bishop is called of God. You must understand that the “Call of God” is not always associated with shepherding a church or running a ministry. If you study the Holy Scriptures very carefully, you will notice that people were called to perform various activities and carry-out different assignments. Some were called to be leaders, kings, military warriors, missionaries, judges, kingdom builders, revolutionaries and off-course to be priests, prophets and teachers (study these names: Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham & Sarah, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Jonah, Deborah, Gideon, Samson, Ruth, Esther, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Jesus, Apostles, Paul). They were all called of God.
If you also study the political, social and economic systems of biblical times, you will notice that none of those called to be priests, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc were rich or wealthy. In fact, when the priests tried to extort the people, they were rebuked by the true and courageous prophets of God. Also when food lacked in the homes of the priests, God rebuked the people for failing to tithe their grains into the house of the LORD (Malachi 3). Today, Malachi 3:10 is abused just like Luke 6:38, John 10:10, 3 John 2, and other Scriptures that are falsely used to teach prosperity gospel, which have nothing whatever to do with money. In fact the context of Luke 6:38 was about judging others and taking care of the needy and poor. We will explore those Scriptures and others in part 3 of the essay.
Yes, Abraham was wealthy, but he was not a priest or bishop. Isaac, his son was also rich, but he was not a priest or prophet. Jacob was wealthy but, he was not a bishop. Joseph controlled the riches and wealth of Egypt; he was not a pastor but a prime minister. Because of his godly lifestyle and wisdom, he was appointed to administer the wealth of Egypt. Daniel prayed three times daily and refused to bow to the gods of king Nebuchadnezzar. The King noticed his great faith and godly wisdom, and elevated him to be the wise counselor in the king’s cabinet.
Bishop James pleaded to the churches in Rome and Asia Minor to send their offerings to support the poor stricken church in Jerusalem and to carry out the work of the apostles. Apostle Paul was supported by the wealthy women and rich merchants of the Corinthian church. As a missionary and evangelist, he worked as a carpenter to supplement his living expenses. Jesus Christ, even though had a treasurer in His ministry, who kept the meager donations from the people, He had to borrow a white donkey to ride into Jerusalem. He didn’t have money to buy one, although He could have commanded money to do whatever He wanted to be done, but he didn’t. On one occasion, he commanded money out the mouth of the fish to pay His taxes to Caesar. He borrowed two small fish and five loaves of bread to feed His congregants. His tomb was a borrowed tomb.
On and on, you will notice that those who were rich and wealthy in biblical times were common folks who simply worked hard to become rich, but also folks who trusted the God that they served to bless them. And that blessing was not just monetary, but peace, protection and ability to work.
When you a read the Bible, you will also come across hundreds of stories of men and women—young and old, named and unnamed, sometimes, it is a story of sadness, suffering, pain, poverty, disease, sickness and death. But many times, it is the story of joy, of power, influence, riches, wealth, love, charity, faith, and wisdom. Today, especially in our society, such virtues are gone and no where to be seen. Today’s Christians are obsessed with money and materialism—a mentality of “have it all” in this life, “god-wants-you-rich theology.” The great virtues of love, charity, faith, humility, courage, character, integrity, and prayer are thrown out of the doors of modern-day churches.
Many churches today are designed for ecstatic and euphoric worship style where man rather than Jesus Christ is glorified; where the pastors and bishops are flying in private jets, and the majority of their parishioners are wallowing in abject poverty and wretched mindset. With exception of corrupt politicians, civil servants, business barons and the 419’ners, most of the people in our churches today are folks living in abject poverty and yet, those who are suppose to be educating their minds and empowering them are extorting from the little they have. Nigerian Christians can’t think anymore on how to create and build wealth but how to manipulate God to rain dollars on them. Today, the teaching in the church that wealth and material blessings are based on one’s faith is a travesty. It is the kind of teaching and preaching that keeps people in bondage and spiritual blindness. Today’s church is spiritually blind. To be spiritual is not to be stupid. Spirituality does not equate to stupidity. And that’s where most Nigeria Christians are currently—in spiritual bondage.
Debra J. Mumford, PhD., MDiv., the Frank H. Caldwell Associate professor of Homiletics at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, in her classic book: “Exploring Prosperity Preaching – Biblical Health, Wealth, and Wisdom,” masterfully explores the core teachings of prosperity gospel and their proponents in the American church and offers constructive criticism of the prosperity message, its contributions to Christianity as well as its consequences.
We reproduce here below the overview of “Exploring Prosperity Preaching” by Professor Debra J. Mumford for your edification.
Although the prosperity gospel is relatively new on the religious landscape, she writes, its worldwide media presence has enabled the dissemination of its message to people of all ages, ethnicities, races, and religious and denominational affiliations. We will closely examine the prosperity gospel to deconstruct its teachings. But first we need to understand how prosperity preaching evolved and learn about the people responsible for its existence.
Chapter 1 provides an overview of the history of prosperity preaching, including people and movements that influenced its origins, such as E.W. Kenyon, Kenneth E. Hagin, and Oral Roberts. The book surveys African American preachers of New Thought, including Father Divine, Reverend Ike, and Johnnie Rae Colemon, and introduce contemporary Word of Faith ministers as well. The next ten chapters outline the core teachings of the prosperity gospel. Each chapter bears a title that represents a frequently used phrase by prosperity preachers. The theology that undergirds each phrase is explained, and affirmations and critiques are included in a section titled “Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff” in each chapter. Biblical texts that prosperity preachers use to justify their teachings are included where applicable.
In Chapter 2, “The Word of God Means Exactly What It Says,” explores the biblical assumptions on which the prosperity gospel is based. Word of Faith preachers interpret the Bible using proof texting, typology, and propositional revelation – basically the use of rationale of literal interpretation and rejection of biblical exegesis. In the Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff section, I describe the dangers of interpretation without context. I present an alternative interpretive approach.
Chapter 3 looks at the prosperity gospel’s teaching that declares, “The world’s economy is not your economy.” According to Word of Faith theology, two economies exist in the world—the secular economy and God’s divine economy. In the divine economy, believers become wealthy only by giving away what they have. Adherents are advised to ignore the realities of the world’s economy and to believe that God will supply not only their needs but also the desires of their hearts. In Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff, I examine the potential consequences of ignoring secular realities, using prosperity preaching’s role (as reported in some news articles) in the 2008 housing crisis as an example.
Chapter 4, “Poverty Is a Curse, and Jesus Was Not Poor,” explores the Word of Faith contention that poverty is a curse. Since the central figure of the gospel (Jesus) cannot be under a curse, they also argue that Jesus was not poor. I use very familiar Scriptures to support Word of Faith teachings about poverty, including how prosperity preachers offer alternate interpretations of biblical texts that describe Jesus’ socioeconomic status. In Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff, I differentiate between the poor people as “cursed of God” and “poverty” as “a curse.” I also offer an African American prophetic preaching perspective on Jesus’ social status.
In chapter 5, I consider the “God is your source” teaching. While all preachers of Word of Faith theology contend that God is the source of all blessings, including finances, some preachers are more specific about the sources of wealth available for Christians. For example, some teach that “the wealth of sinners is laid up for the righteous.” In order for the righteous to receive stored money, they literally need to cry out for it. In Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff, I offer an African American prophetic preaching perspective. I also offer a basic approach to biblical exegesis.
Chapter 6, “The Anointing Produces Victory,” examines how the teachings of Kenneth E. Hagin, who believed in the power of the Holy Spirit (the anointing) to empower believers for ministry, have been adopted by Word of Faith preachers to teach that the anointing also empowers believers to prosper financially. I investigate interpretations of Joel 2:18–4:17, including the teachings of the Latter Rain movement. In Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff, I examine the concept of anointing in the Old Testament and present an African American prophetic preaching alternative.
In chapter 7, she explored the Word of Faith teaching in the refrain “There is authority in the name of Jesus.” Word of Faith preachers proclaim that believers should use that authority to create their own life realities. Essentially, adherents are taught that their lives are direct reflections of their verbal confessions. In Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff, I look into the dangers of misusing the concept of “authority” and offer an African American prophetic preaching perspective.
In chapter 8, “Claim Your Healing,” I probe the Word of Faith assertion that believers need never be sick. Good physical health is a right of all Christians, and so believers have only to claim their good health in order to receive it. She highlights the Word of Faith interpretation of Isaiah 53:4-5 as it relates to God’s promise of healing. In Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff, I offer an alternative interpretation of the Isaiah text and examine other healing texts. Using the testimony of Betty Price, wife of prosperity preacher Fred Price, I encourage readers to broaden their thinking about healing beyond the miraculous.
In chapter 9, “You Are the Righteousness of God,” we will test the Word of Faith teaching that asserts that believers have been declared righteous in God’s sight and therefore have at work in them the same unlimited ability and wisdom of God as Christ had. She contrasts Word of Faith theology of the righteousness of God and the favor of God of prosperity preachers with that of Swiss reformer John Calvin. In Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff, I dissuade readers from conceiving of God as their personal valet.
In chapter 10, “Race Doesn’t Matter,” Prof. Debra Mumford examines the teachings of Word of Faith teacher Creflo Dollar Jr. on race. Building on the promise of the elusive American Dream, his teaching asserts that people no longer need to identify with their natural heritage (race) once they are born again, because they have a new spiritual heritage with which to identify. Identifying with a particular ethnic or racial group creates division in the church. I contrast Word of Faith’s theology of race with the teachings of evangelical and prophetic traditions. In Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff, I argue that racism is not a personal problem but a systemic issue.
Chapter 11 examines Word of Faith’s belief that “living by the word of God eliminates social ills.” Adherents say that all of society’s issues of social injustice would be resolved if all people would convert to Christianity. Word of Faith’s focus on individual conversion is indicative of the individualistic nature of prosperity theology. Believers are taught to make confessions (verbal claims to the promises of God) to God on behalf of themselves and their families rather than on behalf of others. I highlight the entitlement issues that result and compare and contrast these claims with those of black prophetic preaching.
In chapter 12, “Affirmations, Denouncements, and Reconstruction of Faith,” I delineate the gifts that prosperity theology brings to Christendom, along with its shortcomings. She offers observations and insights about the primary beneficiaries of prosperity theology, draw conclusions about the value of and need for critical biblical interpretation and holistic theological education, and suggest approaches to reconstructing faith after rejecting the prosperity gospel. Finally, I appeal to all people of God to work for the resurgence of the African American prophetic preaching tradition.
In Part 3, the concluding part of this essay, we will examine the teachings of Jesus Christ on the topic of prosperity—money, finances and material blessings and explore the teachings, the truths and secrets of money, riches and wealth. We will also learn the secret and requirement for obtaining true prosperity as found in the book of Joshua 1:6-9 and then conclude with the six (6) basic kinds of prosperity and blessing taught in the Bible. To be spiritual does not equate stupidity and that is where many Nigerian Christians are currently—in spiritual bondage. The church’s teaching nowadays has become syncretistic and frankly leading people to stupidity, wretched mindsets and death.
Rev. C. K. Ekeke, M.Div., Ph.D., is a theologian, author, consultant and leadership scholar; he is the president of Leadership Wisdom Institute, USA
Prof. Debra J. Mumford, PhD., MDiv., is the Frank H. Caldwell Associate professor of Homiletics and Associate Dean of Students Academic Affairs at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, USA