Wealth Gospel foundering?

For many years people have suggested that if there is a uniquely American contribution to heresy, it is that of the “Health and Wealth” gospel. The basic idea is that God showers (material) blessings on believers. Thus the more material goods one has, it follows, the more faithful a believer one is. Proponents of the message would challenge this simplified version and would point to many passages in the bible that support their claims.

Over recent years a large group of preachers in America (and in Africa) have begun though to teach this prosperity gospel as a central theme of their message. It follows that the preacher must live out what she or he preaches. So many of the most popular and influential preachers point to their affluent life styles as proof of the depth of their faith.

But their wealth is coming from gifts given by their followers, often given as “seeds of hope” with the expectation that God will reward the giver many times more. And the wealth has not always been properly accounted for in the mind of federal and state tax authorities.

So today, the AP has news describing a move by these authorities to examine the books of the various preachers and ministries:

“Proponents call it a biblically sound message of hope. Others say it is a distortion that makes evangelists rich and preys on the vulnerable. They say it has evolved from ‘it’s all right to make money’ to it’s all right for the pastor to drive a Bentley, live in an oceanside home and travel by private jet.

‘More and more people are desperate and grasping at straws and want something that will alleviate their pain or financial crisis,’ said Michael Palmer, dean of the divinity school at Regent University, founded by Pat Robertson. ‘It’s a growing problem.’

The modern-day prosperity movement can largely be traced back to evangelist Oral Roberts’ teachings. Roberts’ disciples have spread his theology and vocabulary (Roberts and other evangelists, such as Meyer, call their donors ‘partners.’) And several popular prosperity preachers, including some now under investigation, have served on the Oral Roberts University board.

Grassley is asking the ministries for financial records on salaries, spending practices, private jets and other perks. The investigation, coupled with a financial scandal at ORU that forced out Roberts’ son and heir, Richard, has some wondering whether the prosperity gospel is facing a day of reckoning.”

Read the rest here.

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