Baptist Press, “News with a Christian perspective” is all gaga over a recent book that claims the prosperity gospel, also known as prosperity theology, is a “pagan teaching with a Christian face.”
Once again we get to see Pagans accused of what’s wrong with Christianity.
Please, folks, keep it in-house and leave us Pagans out of your trials and tribulations. We aren’t to blame. And before you say, this is you problem Hrafnkell, not mine, remember that by Pagans the Baptist Press means not only actual Pagans like yours truly but secular humanists, atheists, feminists, and any liberal or progressive leaning human being – basically, anyone who is not one of them.
The book in question, Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?, by David W. Jones and Russell S. Woodbridge (Kregel Publications, 2010) discusses a “A dangerous ‘egocentric gospel’ that omits Jesus, neglects the cross, and instead promises health and wealth” that “is being promoted by some of America’s most well-known preachers today.”
Well, I’m familiar with the Bible and with the history of Christianity and I think the prosperity Gospel is nonsense. Jesus would think it was nonsense, given his recorded words regarding rich people. But it’s not my problem. I’m a Pagan.
But these two seminary professors, Jones and Woodbridge, want to make it my problem and because you’re being lumped together with me – your problem.
According to Baptist Press,
The prosperity gospel is dangerous, the professors say, because it contains just enough truth to make it appear biblical but more than enough distortions to make it heretical. That, they say, has led Christians to become discouraged in their faith or angry at God, or worse, to walk away from the church for good. After all, if a preacher says that enough faith can make a sick person well, and no healing ensues, then — according to the preachers — that person’s faith is weak.
Well alright, but again, that’s not Paganism. Paganism isn’t about an absence of Jesus. Paganism existed before Jesus and has nothing to do with Jesus’ existence or non-existence.
“If Christianity is supposed to be about God and His glory and is supposed to be about Christ, and we’re making it about us — that’s the worst thing we could do,” one of the authors, David W. Jones, told Baptist Press. Jones is associate professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. “It is so catering to the flesh and it so exalts man that it gets to the point where you obscure Christ.”
Caters to the flesh. Oh, I think I see where this is going…
The prosperity gospel, Jones says, is a “pagan teaching with a Christian face.”
So something that caters to something other than Jesus is Paganism? Again, Paganism was around a long time before Jesus. It was around a long time before Moses too. Moses found Paganism in situ when the Jews supposedly arrived in Canaan. It’s not like those Pagans were worshiping the flesh. They were worshiping their Gods and loving their Gods and, incidentally, loving their religion. The Pagans pre and post-Jesus also loved their Gods and religion and they were very much spiritually aware and satisfied.
This is more anti-Paganism, pure and simple, more hate from narrow-minded religious bigots. And remember, if you’re not one of them you’re all Pagans too.
Baptist Press treats us to a Q&A with one of the authors:
BAPTIST PRESS: Why has the prosperity gospel grown when, as you argue in the book, its teachings are overtly unbiblical and contrary to historical Christianity?
JONES: It caters to the fallen human flesh. All of us want Christianity to be about us, and we want to focus upon our own wants and desires and needs. And since our heart is already bent that way, when the prosperity gospel comes along and says, “Christianity is about you, and if you just believe in Jesus you’ll be healthy, wealthy and wise,” that just resonates with our fallen flesh. People are already primed to hear that message — especially those in our churches that don’t know much of their Bibles.
Look, we Pagans do not obsess about afterlifes, ideas of heaven and hell. Our focus is the here and now – the life we absolutely do get to live. Not believing in the Christian heaven is not what makes me Pagan. Nor does not believing in Jesus or the Christian heaven make my beliefs revolve around the “flesh”. After all, Jesus himself cared about the flesh, or he would not have supported the Law of Moses, which caters to some very fleshly concerns. There are plenty of people who call themselves Christians who take a more open-minded attitude toward these issues and I’m certain the Baptist Press would think of them as Pagans as well.
BP: You devoted an entire chapter showing how the prosperity gospel has its foundation in New Thought philosophy [a late 18th- and early 19th -century quasi-Christian heresy that promoted the belief that the mind has power over movement]. Why did you think it was important for Christians to understand the foundation of the prosperity gospel?
JONES: We thought people need to realize that the prosperity gospel is not just another variety of Christianity. It’s a baptized form of a secular heresy. It’s not just Christianity that’s a little bit off. It’s pagan teaching with a Christian face. We thought that if folks can start with that and grasp that, then some of the objections we’ll raise later in the book will be easier to process. We’re not trying to say that every advocate of the prosperity gospel knows the roots of their own belief system. But the movement as a whole and its core teachings, that’s where it comes from.
When we’re not being accused to worshiping another Christian cast-off, Satan, we’re accused of worshiping wealth. Great.
This is just another example of Christianity’s shunning of personal responsibility. Just as 9/11 was blamed on Pagans so too anything one group or another of Christians find distasteful in their own ranks is blamed on Pagans or on society at large. The Other has always been an essential monotheistic scapegoat and that has not changed in 2,000 years of Christianity. And today, more than ever, with theocracy right around the corner – literally a vote away in 2012 – it’s important that the blame be properly apportioned and that none of it attach itself to Christianity – our future lords and masters.