Six Keys to Detecting the Prosperity Gospel

apjA few months ago Nine Marks ministries released an e-journal on the subject of the “prosperity gospel.” In that journal, I wrote about something that I have seen in ministry, what Kate Bowler has labeled the “soft prosperity gospel.” In my article, I listed five ways of detecting this form of the prosperity gospel. They are

  1. Soft prosperity elevates “blessings” over the blessed God.
  2. Soft prosperity detaches verses from the redemptive framework of the Bible.
  3. Soft prosperity diminishes the curse that Christ bore and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Soft prosperity relies on pastor-prescribed therapeutic techniques.
  5. Soft prosperity largely addresses first-world, middle-class problems.

Today, on his daily Q & A program, Ask Pastor JohnJohn Piper lists six more ways to detect the softer prosperity gospel. In order they are, in question form:

  1. Does the preacher deal honestly with the biblical doctrine of suffering?
  2. Does the preacher speak about the need for self-denial?
  3. Does the preacher preach expository sermons, where the shape and content of the Bible forms the shape and content of the sermon?
  4. Does the preacher wrestle with tensions in the biblical text?
  5. Does the preacher live a lavish lifestyle that elevates him over most of the people in his church?
  6. Does the preacher elevate self and minimize the greatness of the glory of God?

If the answer to any or many of these questions is “yes,” then there is or is beginning to emerge in that church a message of prosperity preaching.

Sadly, the softer form of the prosperity gospel is rife within evangelical churches. We need to be aware of it, repent of it, and pray that God would give us grace to combat it in our churches and in the corridors of our own hearts. Knowing the signs of the soft prosperity gospel is a beginning place to address the problem.

To hear John Piper’s answer in full, check out his podcast “Six Keys to Detecting the ‘Prosperity Gospel.'” You can also read his thoughts about developing a philosophy of ministry that does not move towards the prosperity gospel: “Prosperity Gospel: Deceitful and Deadly.” For the whole 9Marks journal, visit here.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

A Prayer for the Heretic

Irenaeus of Lyons was biblical theologian par excellence, a faithful apologist for the church, and warm-hearted pastor.  In his polemical work against Gnosticism, he spends two books unpacking and then demolishing the false doctrines of Marcion, Valentinus, and others.  Then in books 3-5, he unfolds a rich biblical exposition of the Scriptures that centers on Christ and that demonstrates mostly well (in some places poorly) what biblical typology looks like.  But at the end of Books 3 and 4, he offers a prayer for those deluded souls for whom he is contending.

He is not merely arguing against these false teachers; he is crying out to God on their behalf, asking for their souls to be saved from these pernicous doctrines.  He is doing what Jude 22-23 instructs us to do: “have mercy on some who are doubting; save others snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”

Reading Irenaeus prayer gives you a renewed perspective of contending for the faith.  It is not simply a proud, boastful war of words or theological jockeying– it is a crying out to God, who alone can change hearts, open eyes, and free imprisoned souls from the shackles of Satan.  May we who love the truth consider that the next time we contend for the faith, and pray with Irenaeus for those who are in bondage to false teaching:

We do indeed pray that these men may not remain in the pit which they themselves have dug, but separate themselves from a Mother of this nature, and depart from Bythus, and stand away from the void, and relinquish the shadow; and that they, being converted to the Church of God, may be lawfully begotten, and that Christ maybe formed in them, and that they may know the Framer and Maker of this universe, the only true God and Lord of all.  We pray for these things on their behalf, loving them better than they seem to love themselves (Irenaeus Against haereses 3.25.7).

May we love the truth, and may we truly love by interceding for brothers and sisters held hostage to false teachers!

Sola Deo Gloria, dss