Suggested Reading: Suffering Followed by Glory

Tim Chester has kindly made chapter 12 from his latest book The Ordinary Hero available on his blog. The chapter is entitled ‘Suffering Followed by Glory – The Pattern for Disciples’, and as this suggests, outlines the pattern of present suffering in the hope of future glory which emerges throughout the NT.

He opens the chapter by quoting Joel Osteen‘s [1] message of ‘total victory’ in this life, and goes on to rightly identify at least part of the problem with this perspective as a miss-shaped eschatology. I have called it an over-realized eschatology, which while posessing a sound logic does not fit with ‘already but not yet’ framework of NT teaching. [2]

His chapter provides a good read, I recommend it, and look forward to getting my sticky hands on the book at some point in the future.

[1] I think the quotation is from this sermon on youtube.

[2] See my post The Language(s) and Logic of “Prosperity”


The Language(s) and Logic of “Prosperity”

“Because of the price he [Jesus] paid we have a right to live in total victory… He has paid the price so that we may be totally free… abundantly free”[1]

“God’s plan for your life, including your money, is summed up in one beautiful word: prosperity… God wants you to succeed in the area of your soul, in the area of your physical body, and in the area of  your finances”[2]

The language used in prosperity teaching is not uniform, many different images and metaphors are used including those in the above quotes.  But while the language varies from preacher to preacher and book to book, a clear logic constantly emerges:

  • GOD desires that we “prosper” in every area of our lives –>
  • This includes our finances and material possessions –>
  • This means it is GOD’s intention for us to possess an abundance of money and material possessions.

This sounds amazing and exciting. It takes as its starting point the fact that GOD loves us in our entirety. He is not merely interested in us carrying out “religious” rituals and avoiding certain actions that are an offense to him. He is concerned with the whole of our being and our life in all of its dimensions. So where does prosperity teaching go wrong if at all?

Here’s what we need to ask: Does GOD actually make these promises? Does GOD intend for us to “prosper” in these ways in this life? Or do we await for the “fullness” of GOD’s kingdom in the future? Have we been too quick to move from the clear scriptural fact of GOD’s love to what we think that should mean for us now? In other words, having begun with a sweeping and general theological theme (GOD’s love), have we ignored the concrete particulars of the NT?

I believe there is a fundamental failure in prosperity teaching to understand the truly ‘eschatological’ nature of GOD’s mission. We still await the full presence of GOD and his reign on earth including the full transformation of our bodies and hearts and minds and lives. This will be the time of “prosperity”, where no one is without food, shelter,peace, joy, and love. Until then, we know in part, we love in part, this world is set right in part. Prosperity teaching seems to operate with an “over-realized eschatology”, when the fullness of the personal aspects of salvation, along with the social and cosmic still await realization in the future.

[1] Joel Orsteen, Parts of a Sermon from YouTube.

[2] Derek Prince, God’s Plan for Your Money (New Kensington: Whitaker House, 1993), 13-14

Introducing “Prosperity Teaching”

Is it GOD’s intention for us to possess and enjoy financial wealth and/or material abundance in this life?

For some of us, the answer is clearly no, for others yes. Then there are those who would offer a ‘qualified’ yes, or a ‘no, but…’.

That said, this is not a question to be considered of peripheral importance to the Christian faith. In their helpful book, Across the Spectrum, Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy cite the maxim, “In the essential things, unity. In the nonessential things, liberty. In all things, charity.”[1] How we define “essential” and “nonessential” is an important question, but here I simply wish to say that how we understand GOD’s intentions for our lives in the present is crucial in a way that debates over the nature of “Hell” or the “destination of the unevangelized” are not.

Our answer to the above question reveals our expectations of GOD and what we believe GOD expects of us. It provides a means of judging how we’re doing in our walk with GOD and can lead us to disappointment and despair if we our expectations are mistaken.

The theology that I will refer to as prosperity teaching and which others have called “the prosperity gospel”, answers with a resounding YES! It is GOD’s desire and intention that we “prosper” financially/materially.

I believe this answer is mistaken and that it is of non-negotiable importance that we get it right. And so, it is essential that we discuss this, and that we do so with charity.

[1] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2002), p8