You have seen them on T.V. and heard them on radios. These “pastors” proclaim at the top of their lungs that God desires Christians to experience such an overflowing amount of wealth and health but these come with a cost. For only a certain amount of money per month to their “ministry,” you will experience God’s “favor.” However, there are too many times where this is not the case.
J. Daniel Salinas’ edited volume, “Prosperity Theology and the Gospel,” identifies what exactly is this “prosperity gospel”, its theological distinctiveness, and why this “gospel” is dangerous to Christianity.
The book is divided into four parts. The first turns to Scripture to examine what God’s Word says about wealthy, prosperity, and the gospel. It is necessary to ground any response to a theological movement in Scripture. The first chapter provides a brief overview while the second and third delve into the Old and New Testaments on their respective discussions of wealth and the Christian gospel.
The second part reflects on historical, sociological, and ethical perspectives. Whenever the gospel is preached, these perspectives are addressed. The prosperity gospel affects those in different sociological positions by generally targeting the desperate, poor, and those who have the most to lose yet give. The historical perspective addresses the Lausanne Movement which has committed itself to addressing the dangerous false gospel of prosperity. Then, of course, there are ethical implications which are based on giving funds and time to one who preaches such a gospel.
What follows in the third part of the book is three case studies. The first is from Ghana; the second from Latin America; and the third from Peru. What is significant about understanding the Latin American case study is the background of Liberation Theology and the freedom of the oppressed. The prosperity gospel is a false, monetary theology of “liberation.” Another key aspect to understanding the prosperity gospel is the formation of the New Apostolic Reformation movement (NAR). This movement suggests that the office of apostle is still open, which many prosperity preachers claim they hold, and the Holy Spirit is moving afresh within the church. Also presented in the third part is Asian perspectives of the prosperity gospel, prosperity theology in North America, and in the United Kingdom. This is the first comprehensive book I have read on a Christian response to prosperity theology, and certainly the first which addresses the United Kingdom and diverse Asian perspectives.
Finally, the book concludes with a “way forward” which proposes that Christianity certainly can offer a better theology than the (morally) bankrupt theology of prosperity. It is necessary that Christians do so because lives are at stake.
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