Prosperity Preachers

The courts have been flooded with lawsuits ever since "Prime Time's" report last fall on prosperity preachers. Followers of various televangelists and faith healers say they want damages for pain and suffering caused by fraudulent promises. Some of the preachers are responding with counter-suits. And the media is having a field day reporting on the antics. The rest of us can only cringe as we see the word Christian become an object of mockery. But we ought to be thinking of ways to be proactive in this painful situation-ways to educate people and inoculate them against the allure of the prosperity gospel. In his book Christianity in Crisis, Hank Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute does a great service in combating the heretical teachings of many prosperity preachers. For example, did you know some teach that Jesus was rich? You may have read in the Gospels that He "had nowhere to lay His head." But one televangelist says that merely means Jesus couldn't find a hotel room one night. According to the prosperity gospel, Jesus lived in a luxurious home, wore designer clothes, and had so much money He needed a treasurer. Not a hint here that we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross. Another distortion in the prosperity gospel is its concept of faith. Faith is treated as a spiritual force or power, with a positive side and a negative side. The positive side of the force is faith, which activates God to do good things for us. The negative side of the force is fear, which activates Satan to do bad things to us. This doesn't sound like the Bible, it sounds like Star Wars. What's more, prosperity preachers say the power of faith is controlled through words. By uttering the right words, we can create any reality we want. They sometimes call this making a "positive confession." If we confess that we are healthy, we can overcome any disease. If we confess that we will make a million dollars, it shall be so. This is presented as a spiritual law: Just picture in your mind what you want, speak the words, and the words will create the reality. Obviously, this is not what the Bible means by faith. But where do these odd ideas come from? Anyone who has studied the New Age movement can answer that immediately: The idea that we can create reality through the power of our minds and our words is classic occult philosophy. In the New Age movement it's called "creative visualization." It's also the idea behind witches' spells and incantations. At root, we're talking about the age-old temptation, "You shall be as gods." Prosperity preachers tell us that-just like God-we can speak a word and create a world. As Christians we need to educate ourselves on the culture we live in. We can be thankful for ministries like the Christian Research Institute that teach us to recognize false gospels-and to know why they are false, even when they come to us dressed in Christian language. To help us take a stand for the truth. A rash of court cases may put some unscrupulous TV preachers out of business. But ultimately the only defense against false gospels is the true one.


Chuck Colson


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