theology

5 Reasons Why Prosperity Theology is Bankrupt

bankrupt-monopoly

1. The Bible Never Promises a “Financial Blessing” After Tithing in the Way Prosperity Theology Teaches

When we think of financial blessing in terms of prosperity theology, a divine pyramid scheme comes to mind. If we place $1,000 in the “storehouse” of so-and-so’s ministry, God will bless us in abundance for our faith.

In fact, many so-called preachers tout verse after verse in order to bolster their message that God wants you to test Him in this. One popular passage is Malachi 3:10…ish. (By …ish, I mean they conveniently leaves some parts out.)

 “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse…and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing…”

Sounds good, right? Bring your tithe to the storehouse (ministry) and put God to the test to see whether or not He will bless us (give us a bunch of money). The problem with this, as with many passages prosperity theology teachers use, is that the passage is far removed from its context.

Malachi 3:6-8 is a chastisement against Israel for disobeying God in His command to care for the needy. He then challenges them to bring their tithes and contributions of food (not only money) to the storehouse in order to witness His blessing of seeing the poor’s needs (not wants) completely met. Here again is Malachi 3:10 in full and proper context.

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

The Bible teaches us that we are given to so that we can give. We aren’t given to so we can hoard and become rich for our own gain. Whenever we come across passages throughout scripture that speak on God’s blessing us, it’s meant for us to return that blessing.

2. Jesus Never Taught Prosperity Theology

Jesus never once taught anything that remotely resembles prosperity theology. In fact, the prosperity “gospel” teaches that if you have enough faith in Jesus you don’t have to live like Him.

To the contrary, Jesus was a homeless itinerant rabbi who didn’t have enough money to pay his taxes. But, He was blessed enough by God to feed thousands of people!

This is a clear example of a biblical blessing from God. Our Father gives so that we may, in turn, reflect His charitable character. He gives so that we may give; He blesses us so that we may bless others.

Furthermore, the Bible warns us against the possibility of money becoming our object of affection and worship. Jesus teaches us in Luke 16:13 not to let money replace God in our lives because,

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

This is not to say having money is wrong, neither is the accumulation of wealth evil, but the selfish withholding of what God has given us to bless others is infuriating to Him.

Bottom line: If you are the leader of a multimillion dollar “prosperity ministry” , have your own personal jet, and stay in hotels that cost $10,800 a night, then you’re far from following Jesus.

Remember, if you come to Jesus for money then He’s not your god, money is.

3. Prosperity Theology Gives False Hope

If the Bible never promises a “financial blessing” in the way prosperity theology claims and Jesus never taught it, then prosperity theology gives people false hope. In fact, it’s helpful to view such a system of theology (along with its teachers) as predatory towards the poor, elderly, and needy, since it is generally these three groups that contribute the most.

Essentially, there is no difference between a prosperity theology “ministry” and title lending or payday loan businesses. The fact that Benny Hinn’s ministry website does not end in .biz should be a crime.

4. Prosperity Theology is Wholly Unknown to the Early Christians

In fact, they seemed to have objected to the acquisition of personal wealth for greedy purposes. In the early days of the church, we see Christians selling their belongings and property in order to ensure the needs of the down-and-out were met.

Acts 2:42–45 gives a clear picture of the church as an institution which proclaimed the gospel and helped out the poor. Nowhere do we see them giving a tithe and expecting ten-fold in return for their own gain.

Likewise, we never see an early church leader rolling up to a village on a Merdeces-Benz donkey wearing a Louis Vuitton tunic. They were more concerned with the needs of others than with the needs for themselves. The second-ever church position created (after pastor) was the office of deacon, whose responsibilities included the daily distribution of food for widows. One early church not only gave above their means during extreme poverty, but begged to be part in the relief of the saints.

The early church gave, not expecting in return. They gave and saw God’s blessing, just not the way prosperity theology teaches. They saw the blessing that God promised in Malachi 3.

Imagine the world if we postured ourselves like the early church! Did you know it would cost $30 billion for everyone in the world to have clean drinking water?[1] That’s less than how much Americans spend on gambling per year.[2]

If we stopped going to Vegas for one year, the entire world could have clean drinking water. Now that would be a blessing.

5. You Have To Wear A White Suit To Teach Prosperity Theology

As a general rule, any theology which is preached from a pulpit by a guy in a bright white suit is always wrong.

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[1] Laurence Smith, The New North: The World in 2050 (London: Profile Books, 2011), 92.

[2] American Gambling Association, 2013 State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment (Washington, DC: American Gambling Association, 2013), 5.

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theology

Faithful Like Tychicus

paul-the-apostle

At the end of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus (Book of Ephesians) he mentions a guy by the name of Tychicus (pronounced tyi-keh-cuss).

“So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.” Eph 6:20-21

Paul’s mention of Tychicus is brief and we only hear about this “beloved brother” three other times in the New Testament. He’s not a big deal, really. Just the guy Paul picked to do the small task of delivering Paul’s letter.

But here’s the funny thing. Tychicus had a hand in changing the world.

How? For that, we’ll go back to Paul’s letter. Tychicus was given a small but important task by Paul – deliver a letter to the church at Ephesus. Today, almost two-thousand years later, we refer to that letter as the Book of Ephesians.

Paul, who had just completed the big task of writing the Book of Ephesians, entrusted Tychicus with the small task of delivering it. And Tychicus followed through. He was faithful with the small thing God gave him through Paul, which turned out to be a big thing after all.

FAITHFUL IN THE SMALL THINGS

One of the saddest things in the church is when someone believes they were given a small and inconsequential task by God for His kingdom. That they’re “just” doing something small while other people “get to” do something big.

They just mow their elderly neighbor’s lawn while a big ministry gets to build school houses in Haiti. They just serve coffee in the mornings at a small church while others serve huge luncheons at bigger, more “important”, churches.

They just disciple one person while a pastor gets to disciple hundreds. They just talk about Jesus to one person while a missionary gets to evangelize thousands.

They “just” do something small for the kingdom of God. But is that really true? Is there ever something small to be done when it comes to building the kingdom?

I don’t think so.

We should never believe that we “just” do something small for God’s kingdom. Tychicus “just” did something small and look what happened! Do you think he knew that the letter he was carrying would someday become part of the Bible?

That someday the French reformer John Calvin would call it his favorite book? That someday the Scottish preacher John Knox would have it read to him on his deathbed? That someday 2,000 years later, millions of people across the world would still be reading it, and that it would be changing their lives forever?

God’s economy works differently than ours. What we see as small things God sees as big things. And when we are faithful in the small things God is good to use them as the big things He intended them to be.

Remember, we never “just” do something small for the kingdom. Whenever we’re faithful with what God gives us, we are doing something big.

We just might not be able to see it yet.

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church, theology

Even Good Things Can Become Idols

bronze_serpent

The reformer John Calvin famously wrote that the human heart is an idol factory. Humans have a proclivity to take things, even good things, and turn them into objects of worship. As I was reading through 2 Kings last week I found a powerful example of this – one I had never caught before.

Throughout 2 Kings we are witness to a series of bad kings pushing the nation of Israel towards worshipping local gods and breaking God’s covenant with His chosen people. But then, in 2 Kings 18:4, King Hezekiah comes along and has had enough.

[Hezekiah] removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).” – 2Ki 18:4

The Israelites took a good thing that God used (the bronze serpent) and turned it into an idol. It happened slowly over time, but eventually a good thing God used replaced Israel’s worship of God Himself.

But first, let’s back up for a moment. What’s up with the Nehushtan? (Say that ten times really fast). Why was it a “good thing God used”?

WHAT’S A NEHUSH…WHATEVER?

In Numbers 21:4–9 we have a story of God’s recently freed people (the Israelites) becoming rebellious against God and complaining to Moses about being brought out of Egypt into the wilderness to die. They wanted to go back into slavery and sought a response from God about their request. In response to their complaints, God sends snakes which was probably not what they had in mind when they were complaining.

Some of them began to die from poisonous snakebites. This is when the people realized they needed God’s help. They repented and asked that the snakes be taken away from them. Moses took the request to God who told him to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Moses was then instructed to hold the pole up in the air, and if the people would look at the pole (or Nehushtan), they would not die from the snakebites.

All in all, this story points ahead to Jesus – the pole represents the cross and the snake (sin) represents Jesus on the cross. Jesus taught this interpretation Himself in John 3:14.

FROM GOOD THING TO IDOL

Fast-forward hundreds of years to Hezekiah and 2 Kings 18:4. Apparently, the Israelites had been making offerings to the bronze serpent that Moses had fashioned. Instead of worshipping the God who saved their ancestors, they were worshipping a thing that God used to save them.

This must have been extremely frustrating for God watching His chosen people worship a thing that was used instead of the one who used it. It would be like thanking the life-ring instead of the lifeguard for saving you from drowning. Or thanking the fire hydrant instead of the fireman from dousing the flames engulfing your home.

The bronze serpent was something God used, not God Himself. Instead, the Israelites took a good thing and turned it into an idol.

The more I reflected on this story the more I realized how relevant this is for us today because we tend to do the same thing. Sometimes we forget that even good things can become idols. Of the many ways this is possible, here are three that come to mind.

1. Idols can be things God used many years ago, but has since moved on.

The bronze serpent was something God used while the Israelites were wandering through the desert. That was roughly 750–780 years before Hezekiah was king. Even still, people were holding on to the relic of God’s work in the past and worshipping it in the present.

Don’t we do this as well? We being to idolize a movement, ministry, or minister who God used in the past. We look back at the glory days when God used someone or something and then we put them or it on a pedestal.

Like the Israelites, we need to be careful not to fixate (and even worship) something that God used many years ago, but has since moved on. The only thing worth looking back in time to worship is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Anything else could become an idol.

2. Idols take the focus off the things God does and on to the things God uses.

Notice that the Israelites were making offerings to the bronze serpent and not for what God did through the bronze serpent. There’s a huge difference.

If the Israelites were making offerings for what God did through the bronze serpent (i.e., giving Him thanks for what He had done for their people all those many years ago) there wouldn’t have been a problem. But the Israelites were making offerings to the bronze serpent. In essence, they were thanking and worshiping the thing rather than the being who used the thing.

This happens to us all the time. We tend to gravitate towards things or people or movements that God uses, then eventually replace them for God altogether. For example, we may appreciate a particular preacher God is using. We gravitate towards that person and slowly begin to focus only on them. We only listen to their sermons or podcasts. We only read their books or blogs. Soon, they become the object of our affection rather than God.

Is there anything wrong with gravitating towards a person God is using? Of course not. The problem begins when we replace them with God. Like the bronze serpent, we forget that they are a tool being used by God and not actually God Himself.

3. Idols can be anything, anywhere, at any time.

The Israelites were worshipping a ~780 year old bronze serpent that God once used for good. Sounds really weird, doesn’t it?

We tend to think of idols as something archaic. Backwards ancient people worshiped golden calves and sacrificed their children to giant statues, but we’re modern and evolved. We don’t worship idols and sacrifice children like those foolish people in the past.

However, we must remember that an idol is anything that shifts our focus of worship off God and onto something else. For the ancients it was a fabricated deity that took the form of some statue made by a craftsman – big business back in the day. They focused their worship (time, efforts, finances, etc.) to a fabricated deity rather than God in hopes of success, fulfillment, and/or blessing.

Today, we tend to worship fabricated deities that take the form of things like careers and hobbies – big business today. We focus our worship (time, efforts, finances, etc.) to a career or a hobby rather than God in hopes of success, fulfillment, and/or blessing.

We’re no different than the ancients. We’ve just found more complex ways of being idolaters. The ancients sacrificed to a deity’s statue for health, wealth, and enjoyment just like we sacrifice to careers and hobbies for the same thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with careers and hobbies (or bronze snakes), but when they become gods to us we start to veer off course.

TO SUM UP

How do we keep from ending up like the Israelites and worshipping a good thing that God used instead of worshipping God Himself?

I think the answer is in Hezekiah’s actions – he broke the bronze serpent into pieces.

If there is something in our lives that we can’t help but worship, then maybe it’s time to “break it” into pieces. We need to take it off the pedestal in our minds, break it, and replace it with God.

Sure, it could be painful. I’m not sure Hezekiah took pleasure in destroying a wonderfully important piece of his people’s history, but if it becomes an idol then it needs to go. The idol needs to be broken into pieces.

The good news is that there is liberation in breaking our idols into pieces. After Hezekiah destroyed Israel’s idols we read that “the Lord was with him.” This is not to say that God wasn’t always there and had just now shown up, but that Hezekiah (and Israel’s) relationship was restored with God. It was fuller, richer, more complete.

When we destroy our idols, we begin to experience God’s joy in worshipping Him. After all, that’s what we were made to do.

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current, theology

Image of God

image_of_god

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about an atheistic church. In it, I discussed my observation that many attendees were yearning for community and worship – it was a primary motive for many people who visited the service. They missed the community and worship that their childhood church had provided them and wanted it back in their lives.

When I wrote the article I had no clue that this would be the major point of contention among non-Christians. I suspected that I would be corrected for implying that God was behind the Big Bang. But I was wrong – many folks simply did not agree with the worship aspect.

On forums, those who disagreed pointed out that they don’t worship and neither do they have the desire to worship. Therefore, the concept of being made in the image of God is laughable at best.

But this is a misunderstanding of what it means to be made in God’s image. So, what do Christians mean when they say we are “made in the image of God”?

MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE

Christians get this idea (among other places) from Genesis 1:27.

“So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.”

From this we come to understand that we are 1) intrinsically valuable, 2) creative beings who 3) have an innate desire to worship and 4) to be in community.

  1. We are intrinsically valuable because we bear the image of the infinitely valuable image of God.
  2. We are creative beings because we mimic the ultimate Creator, architect, and sustainer of all reality.
  3. We have an innate desire to worship because we were created by a God who has within himself perfect worship – or the desire to continually pour out admiration, adoration, praise, devotion, service, love, etc.
  4. We desire to be in community because God is triune and exists as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or the Trinity).

It should be no surprise that these four aspects are so profoundly embedded in the human experience – we all know them to be true at some level or another. We all sense these four attributes in humanity. We all feel that humans are…

Intrinsically valuable

Extremely creative

Incessantly worshipping

Yearning for community

At the end of the day, being made in the image of God is what makes humans, well, human! It’s why we pine for community and yearn to worship. It’s why we’re creative, musical, artistic, and intellectual.

Do you feel compassion for the misfortunate? Do you feel angry at injustice? Are you moved by a beautiful piece of artwork? Do you love your friends and family? That’s the image of God at work in you.

In addition, because God enjoys worship within himself (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), we too worship.

BUT I DON’T GO TO CHURCH AND WORSHIP, SO I’M NOT MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE

This objection isn’t uncommon. In fact, I’ve read it a lot the past couple of weeks. Here are some objections I’ve found to the article.

I don’t want to worship anything. And neither should anyone else.” – farpadokly

Not everyone worships anything, and some who.do worship are not worshipping your god” – freako104

Oddly enough, being raised with none of the ritual, have had no desire to worship, always found it odd, oddly enough.” – Canadiest

And what about the countless millions, like myself, who have never felt the slightest urge to worship anything?” – Pete

While it’s true people might not be worshipping God, that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t worshipping anything at all. We all worship, it just depends on what we worship. Allow me to demonstrate.

Let’s say, just for example, we severely reduce the definition of worship to the following acts:

  • Sacrificing money to something
  • Giving up time and energy to something
  • Praising something in song, cheering, and raising of hands

This immediately conjures up images of the ancients worshipping their idols. The ancients, generally speaking, sacrificed animals (their money) and spent hours in the temple. During their temple visits, they may have sang songs, raised their hands towards giant statues, and even shouted or cheered.

And this definition of worship sounds a lot like a Christian, doesn’t it? Christians, generally speaking, sacrifice money (offering to a church) and spend their Sunday mornings in church services. During those services, they sing songs, raise their hands, and sometimes even shout out and cheer.

But is also sounds a lot like a football fan. Football fans, generally speaking, sacrifice money (offering to the NFL) and spend their Sunday afternoons watching games, sometimes in massive temple-like stadiums. During those games, they sing songs (Bear Down, Chicago Bears!), raise their hands, and usually shout and cheer.

You see, every human worships. It’s not a matter of if but what we worship.

(I’m not saying watching football is bad – I’m a big Bears fan myself – but when it becomes the object of your life’s admiration, adoration, praise, devotion, service, love, etc., then it becomes something you worship.)

Because we were made in the image of God, we long to worship. Some of us worship idols (statues, football, careers, people) and some of us worship God. But at the end of the day every human worships.

TO SUM IT UP

We were created by a God who loves community and incessantly worships. It’s okay to love community and incessantly worship as well! Most of our problems begin when we withdraw from community with God and cease worshipping Him.

We find little idols in our life to worship – careers, cars, cash, games, travel, food, ect. None of those things are bad – heck, enjoy them! – but when they replace God, we no longer operate according to our design.

Those little idols severely limit our community with our Creator God. Ditching Him to find fulfillment elsewhere also causes us no longer operate according to our design.

The most fulfilling lives (now and hereafter) are spent worshipping God and being in His community. The best news is that we can do so no matter who we are or what we’ve done.

We just need to respond to Jesus’ call – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”[1] And this Jesus is the image of God, “the image of the invisible God.”[2]

Want to know God? Know Jesus.

Want to witness true community and true worship? Know Jesus.

What to experience true community and true worship?

Know Jesus.

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[1] Matthew 11:28

[2] Colossians 1:15

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theology

Between Two Rebels

*An excerpt from an upcoming project*

I think the greatest example of faith by grace alone is displayed at the crucifixion event itself.  We all know the story – Jesus was falsely accused, sentenced to death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, crucified between to thieves, laid to rest in a tomb, and rose three days later to conquer Satan, sin, and death.  While this is all correct, there is one popular misconception about the crucifixion event, that Jesus was crucified between two thieves.  This isn’t entirely true.

According to Roman law, stealing alone was not enough to warrant crucifixion.  This is because crucifixion was such a terrible, horrendous, and atrocious penalty that it was reserved for only two types of criminals – slaves and rebels.[1]  The penalty for stealing (peculatus) would not have been crucifixion (unless, perhaps, the thief was a slave); rather, the thief would have been subject to a combination of restitution and exile depending on the severity of the theft.[2]  On the other hand, the penalty for rebellion (vis) was capital.[3]

With this in mind, consider the unlikely possibility of Jesus being crucified with two common thieves.  In modern terms, this would be like sentencing two gas station robbers and a terrorist with the same penalty.  Most English Bible translations only confuse matters more since they have traditionally chosen the word ‘thieves’ or ‘robbers’ to describe the two men on either side of Jesus, but the word (leistai) may also connote something more sinister.  In Roman ears, this word would have brought to mind brigandsvigilantes, and rebels, or in modern ears freedom fighter or terrorist.[4]  In some instances, it would also have brought up images of pirates and buccaneers.[5]  While it is true these people may steal and warrant the title ‘thief’ and ‘robber,’ leistai would have committed something much worse to be branded with such a name.  They would have rebelled against the state.

At any rate, leistai was not a word one would want association with, as they were considered freedom fighters in the minds of their supports and rebels in the minds of everyone else.  Were the Roman authorities to execute two men for simply robbing, it would be a very unusual occurrence.  There was more to their crime than petty thievery.  The two men crucified with Jesus were most likely mob bosses, influential pirates, or even leaders of rebellious gangs who desired to topple the Roman authorities.

But why was Jesus crucified with these leistai?  Since the Jewish leadership wanted to kill Jesus, but didn’t want to do it themselves, they needed to convince the Roman authorities that Jesus was plotting a rebellion against the empire in order to have him crucified.  They needed to convince Rome that Jesus was a vigilante rebel who was leading a cause against the Roman state.  Their argument was that “everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar,” as they presented Jesus as a rebel against the Roman Empire. [6]  It was only after they accused him of rebellion that Pilate brought him in for questioning.[7]  This is why Pilate asked Jesus about being the “King of the Jews” during his questioning, and may also be why an inscription labeling him as “King of the Jews” in three officially recognized Roman languages was fashioned to the cross.[8]

Fast-forward to Jesus’ crucifixion.  He had been found guilty of rebellion and was crucified with two other rebels.  Remember, Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t a random event thrown together by Pilate; it was a deliberate crucifixion of rebel leaders with Jesus being one of them.  Even one of the rebels nodded at the fact that they were all there under the same sentence.[9]  He was there for the crime of rebellion, not just stealing, and the punishment for such a crime was death.

As the three were being crucified, the crowed jeered at Jesus.  They made offensive comments at him, insinuating that if he was truly the Messiah and there to save the Jews, wasn’t it a bit suspect that he couldn’t even save himself?[10]  Initially, both of the leistai heckled at him as well, but eventually that changed.  One of the rebels repented and asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom.[11]  By faith, he asked for forgiveness and Jesus gave it.[12]

So why is all of this important?  Why does it matter whether the two criminals were petty thieves or rebels against the Roman state?  What does this have to do with salvation through faith, by grace alone?  The importance lies squarely in the salvation for the repentant rebel.  We can all relate to him.  We are all rebels, at the same level as the two leistai crucified with Jesus.  We’ve all rebelled against God’s kingdom, just as the two leistai had rebelled against the Roman Empire.[13]  But one was forgiven while the other was not.  Why?  Because of his faith in Jesus alone.

This is important to share with people who believe they can earn their salvation through works – the rebel’s salvation is a prime example of how we can’t.  The repentant rebel was at death’s door on a cross when he was forgiven.  He was fashioned to thick beams of wood and could not possibly have worked towards his own salvation, as he lacked both the time and the ability.  It was simply by faith through God’s grace alone that the rebel was saved, and by nothing more.

We should tell those we are dialoguing with that we are all rebels with death sentences on either side of Christ.[14]  If we believe we can work our way to salvation, then we have to get off the rebel’s cross somehow.  But we can’t.  We’re stuck there, powerless to merit anything on our own.  We can only trust in Jesus for our salvation through faith alone and by God’s grace alone.  If it is true that God demands good works from us for salvation, then that rebel wasn’t saved and Jesus was a liar.  However, if we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, then that fellow rebel is a brother in Christ for all eternity.


[1] Gillian Clark, Christianity and Roman Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 4.

[2] Andrew M. Riggsby, Roman Law and the Legal World of the Romans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2010), 201.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Mark 15:27

[5] Aaron L. Beek, “Peirates, Leistai, Boukoloi, and Hostes Gentium of the Classical World: The Portrayal of Pirates in Literature and the Reality of Contemporary Piratical Actions” (honor’s thesis, Macalester College, 2006), 7.

[6] John 19:12

[7] John 19:13

[8] Mark 15:2, John 19:19-20

[9] Luke 23:40

[10] Matt. 27:39-43; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-37

[11] Luke 23:42

[12] Luke 23:43

[13] Rom. 3:23

[14] Rom. 3:23; 5:12; 6:23

PHOTO: Pitts Theological Library Digital Image Library

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church, theology

Good Ol’ Fashion Faith Healin’

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine wrote me a text message…

“Guys, quick!  Derren Brown has a show on channel 4 eight now about faith healing in the US…!”

This friend’s recommendations are never lame so I flipped the television on, changed to the channel, and began watching a show with famous a British magician about faith healing in Texas. [1]

The premiss of the show was to demonstrate how the majority of faith healings were faked by conmen who desire not to heal the inflicted but to hoodwink the faithful.  Armed with a crew posing as a foreign faith healer, Derren Brown masterminded a live event of fake faith healing only to end the event in front of a live, believing audience with a message that most faith healers were liars who were only after their money.

It was a good show.  And it got me thinking.

Derren Brown caught on to something during their experiment.  He noticed that fake faith healers used extremely charismatic preaching to excite the crowd into a fervor for the main event – the healing.

These men would preach a message about how God did not want them sick, how the Holy Spirit could heal them, and why Jesus is the answer to all their ills.

The faith healer’s message was a pretense to the primary purpose being the faith healing (and ultimately people’s money).  The Gospel message was the foundation on which the healings were performed.

Something about Derren Brown’s poignant insight drew me to the Book of Acts.  I know there were miracles involved with the early church, but were they done in the same manner as the fake faith healers on Brown’s show?  Was the formula really [preaching < faith healing]?

So, I started reading and here’s what I found.

The apostles in the Book of Acts performed miracles, but they did so not as a main event.[2]  Rather their healing miracles were always a precursor to the message they wanted to preach.

The healing was used to excite the crowd into a fervor for the main event – the preaching.  This is the exact opposite of the faith healers.

The apostle’s formula was [healing < preaching].

Healing should never be the main event to anything in a church, it should always be the preaching and message of the Gospel.  The apostles knew this – the Gospel is the only thing which can offer healing beyond physical affliction.

Miracles have and always will play the supporting role to the Gospel.

Unless, of course, you really think Peter Popoff’s “Debt Cancellationg” miracle spring water is legit.  Seriously, a debt “cancellationg” kit.

Taken from Peter Popoff Ministries website

(It is probably so marvelous that Popoff had to combine the words ‘cancellation’ and ‘cancelling’ to accurately describe its awesomeness.)

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[1] You can watch the show here, just know there is strong language used.

[2] This is seen well in Acts 14:8-18

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apologetics, theology

God’s Egotism Issue

Every Thursday night we host a small group at our house.  It’s an awesome time of fellowship with good friends as we go through scripture and pray for each other.

This past week an interesting question was posed to the group by one of the members.

Is God egotistical?

The member who posited the question had been asked the same question at their place of work and wanted to discuss it with other Christians.

The question they were asked was – Is God egotistical for creating human beings only to worship and praise him forever?  Doesn’t it seem a bit arrogant to create something that must worship you forever?

If God is truly god, with everything this entails (being perfectly content on his own), why go to the trouble of creating humanity to worship you?

As if God is a cosmic toddler who surrounds himself with building blocks just to do with them as he pleases (i.e., tears them down, builds on them, forgets about them and waits for his parents to put them away, etc.)

So what’s God’s deal?  What’s God’s egotism issue?

To begin, this question presupposes that God is a single being.  As true as this may be for many of the world’s religions, it is not for Christianity.  Before the universe existed, God was not lonely pondering what to do one Saturday night before concocting the idea of creating humanity to satisfy his boredom and egotism.

God has always existed in community with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[1] He is self-sustaining in his own worship and admiration.  Were human beings never to come on the scene, God would still be worshiped, loved, and adored.

God’s existence and fulfillment is in no way dependent on his creation.  Period.

Since God does not need our worship to be satisfied or complete in his being, he is not egotistical for creating humanity to worship him.[2] In fact, just the opposite is true.  God would actually be egotistical not to create human beings to worship him forever.

Here’s a thought experiment;

There is a being (Being A) that exists.  Being A’s very existence is absolute love, power, beauty, justice, perfection, righteousness, and magnificence.  Being A also has the power to create ex nihilo, from nothing.

Being A chooses not to create beings (little beings) to enjoy the most powerful, beautiful, just, perfect, righteous, magnificent being existing far beyond their comprehension.  Being A is by definition selfish for not creating little beings to enjoy its very existence.

In other words if God is absolute love, power, and beauty, and he has the ability to create something which could enjoy that, would it not be selfish of God to not create us?

Would it not be egotistical of God to keep him all to himself?  To never share his love with anyone but himself?

God’s egotism issue is not that he created humanity to forcibly worship him for all eternity; God’s egotism issue is his created humanity who let their own egos prevent them from realizing their very purpose of existence…

…enjoying absolute love, power, beauty, justice, perfection, righteousness, and magnificence.


[2] This is not to say, however, that he does not desire it.  Not for his sake, but for ours.  We need to worship God far more than God needs us to worship him.

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