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A Fine Man Who Has Fallen Pray to the Spiritual Cancer of the Prosperity Gospel Heresy
on April 8, 2013
I greatly enjoy listening to the preacher Joseph Prince occasionally. I am inspired by his energy and commitment to the Lord. That is why this review will be not so much fun to write. But write it I shall, because the Scriptures call on us to tell the truth, and to speak out against false doctrine. I am afraid that this book, 100 Days of Favor: Daily Readings from Unmerited Favor has a great mix of false doctrine and (I mustn't forget to make this clear) true doctrine in it. I will go over some of the truths in the book, then the falsehoods.
First for the truths. I think that Prince's emphasis on the grace of God, via the New Testament (Covenant) of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross for our sins, is a useful antidote to a very legalistic Christianity that is prevalent today. Emphasizing God's grace, and how He is the One Who is important, not us, is critical. GOD earned it all through His Son on the Cross, not us. We don't earn things, we get them by God's grace. God is the focus, not ourselves.
Another critical truth is that God is Lord as well as Savior. I think too many Christians do not emphasize this enough. This bothers me because Christ as Lord is not just the truth of the Word, but is also such an incredible blessing. God saves us from Hell, but also gives us a yearning and desire to serve Him, and the ability to satisfy that desire. In other words, he gives us joy unspeakable. We have the joy of God in any situation, due to God's Holy Spirit moving in our hearts.
God is in control. Prince mentions this again and again, and he is entirely correct. This illness, that disease, etc., are not news to God. He doesn't respond with shock to some new incident. He has known all things since before the beginning of Creation, and nothing takes him by surprise. He is there for us to comfort us if we just look to Him.
Unfortunately, for all of the above, and other, truths in the book, there are enormous untruths. The untruths and heresies can be traced to the so-called "prosperity Gospel". This insidious doctrine is that if one trusts God and has true faith in Him, and counts on Him for blessings, he or she will get riches, long life, health, etc. This leads many Christians astray and is thoroughly unbiblical.
Let me be the first to state that the Scriptures do indeed link moral living to some good factors. But this is a general rule of how we can benefit from service to God in life. This is not some promise of "good success" if we serve God. In fact, if one wants to look at promises, look at the number of times that Christians are promised suffering and persecution in this world, and told their reward is in Heaven. Strangely, this is absent from Prince's perspectives. I never once heard references to persecution or suffering. Even though the Lord explicitly promises this to us in His Word.
Another problem is Prince's insistence on never giving focus to, or praying for forgiveness for, our individual sins post-salvation. I can understand his reasoning for this. If we focus on our sins too much, instead of on Christ and His finished work on the Cross, we can get pulled into a wrong perspective that robs us of the power to serve the Lord. We also must remember that the entire debt of our sins was forgiven on upon salvation. Any continued prayers of forgiveness just gets us in a right mind and relationship with God again.
But on the other hand, we are ordered by God to "mortify" the sins of the flesh. This means basically to weaken, or to "starve", if you will, our sinful tendencies, as we develop new tendencies and habits in conformity to God's Word. How do we do this with no concentration on, and prayers from God to help us defeat, those same sins?
One major problem I have is the treatment of the Law by Prince. The Law is not some evil thing that came apart from God. To be fair, Prince doesn't call it this, but he certainly acts like it is. The issue is that the Law, while not the path to God since the New Covenant was instituted, is useful and intertwined with the New Covenant, as a lesson and reason for God instituting the New Covenant in the first place. Paul himself in the Scriptures points out this use of the Law as a reason/teaching tool for the New Testament. You see, having someone know that God loves them and they should believe in Him isn't enough. They need to know why Christ came. They need to know that each person is a sinner on the way to Hell, and that the Law (whether it be the Law of the OT, or the Law God writes on each of our hearts) can never be kept enough to "earn" Heaven. Only with Christ can we get Heaven and a relationship with God. Those who yearn for God need to understand this part as well to be saved. They need to be cognizant of, and confess, their sins.
Finally, in a move full-circle, let us return to the prosperity Gospel heresy I first mentioned earlier. Prince takes many Scriptures that are speaking of just the Old Testament figures, of Heaven, or figuratively, and applies them to current life on earth. This is patently unbiblical. The Bible speaks of persecution in this life and unspeakable joy in the next. To apply verses with no proper point of context, is false teaching.
The second part of this is Prince's insistence that God never brings suffering, or allows suffering into lives, to teach and mold us. Prince must really think Paul had a problem, since God used the devil's "thorn in the flesh" to help him learn dependence on the Savior. James must really have been off for suggesting that trials and sufferings we meet are the "testing of our faith". Like it or not, Prince's assertions here are against Scripture.
I really, really, really have not enjoyed writing this review. I see much truth in some of what Prince teaches, and I do think that he is a sincere brother in the Lord who honestly believes he is teaching what is right. For that, and the above mentioned nuggets of truth in his teaching, I am going to place him far above that anti-christ Joel Osteen. In other words, Prince is a true brother in Christ, one whom I greatly admire, whereas Osteen is not, in my opinion, if his sermons are any reflection. Nevertheless, his prosperity Gospel heresy is troubling, and I pray for him that God reaches his heart about this spiritual cancer that has infected him.
Unfortunately, for the above reasons, unless one is spiritually discerning enough to separate the "wheat from the chaff", as it were, of Prince's teachings, I can not recommend this book.