Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel 1st Edition
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"Blessed is beautifully written and extremely entertaining, yet not at the expense of its subjects. Bowler analyses them with academic rigor and as an insider-outsider-a Christian who does not claim the prosperity gospel-yet she exudes compassion, even for easy targets like disgraced televangelists. Her sources are varied and vast, with two appendices clearly laying out intensive research. Recently re-released in paperback, Blessed a must-read for all students of religion and American culture, from college undergraduates to journalists to academics. Read it now!" -- Brendan J. Payne, North Greenville University
"[A] magnificent study."--Heath W. Carter, Journal of Cultural Economy
"Highly entertaining...and deeply human."--David F. Ruccio, Journal of Cultural Economy
"Very readable and engaging...Blessed is the best history of the development of the prosperity gospel written to date. It is an important addition to the library of pastors or scholars who regularly encounter the prosperity gospel in their ministry."--Southwestern Journal of Theology
"Bowler shows how the prosperity gospel movement has drawn from multiple denominational, racial, ethnic, and even secular subtraditions. She identifies both the dazzling diversity and the common understandings that have given the prosperity gospel coherence"
"Bowler's respect for her subjects and her ability to locate them in the larger American religious narrative mean that serious scholars dismiss the prosperity gospel at their own peril. Bowler shows us that its deep roots and vibrant future, even after the recent recession, place it solidly in the category of religious movements to watch." --Church History
"Marvelous this is a stunningly empathetic book. By pushing far beyond caricature, Bowler has produced a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the prosperity gospel and how it is, even now, remaking the American religious landscape." --The Christian Century
"An important account of an audacious contemporary religious phenomenon." --Booklist
"[A] riveting historical account." --Publishers Weekly
"The 'prosperity gospel' is as much despised by its detractors as it is embraced by its millions of adherents. Yet until Kate Bowler's Blessed, no one has attempted a balanced, informative, inquisitive survey. Her book is a metaphorical godsend for those with an outsider's curiosity about one of the fastest growing religious movements in contemporary America and a literal one for those inside." -- Mark A. Noll, author of Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction
"Though often maligned and misunderstood, Bowler's comprehensive and exciting examination of the prosperity gospel demonstrates the ways 'health and wealth' has been a staple of American Protestant life since the 19th century. Blessed provides a thorough and nuanced account of the phenomenon, as it skillfully examines varying attitudes toward prosperity which emerged across racial, regional, and denominational lines. This is a grand contribution to the field of American religious history." -- Jonathan L. Walton, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Professor of Religion and Society, Harvard University
"This book propels Kate Bowler into the first rank of younger historians of religion in America. The author's keen ear, her perceptive insights, and her command of history make this a remarkable and unforgettable book-and her conclusion that the 'prosperity gospel consecrated America's culture of optimism' rings very true." -- Randall Balmer, author of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America
"Blessed is worthwhile reading for what it is-a history of the prosperity gospel and not a theology of the prosperity movement. I've benefited from time spent working through it and would recommend it to those seeking to learn about this topic." --The Gospel Coalition
"Blessed is a good history of the rise and flourishing of the gospel." --The Blade
"...[A]n unprecedented historical examination of health and wealth as spiritual subjects in American Christianity by tracing the rise, development, and transformation of the prosperity gospel in the United States." --Religious Studies Review
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Because it is basically her dissertation, the book is a bit dry in places and somewhat repetitive as she tracks various groups through different aspects of the movement. However, the word "dissertation" makes me think of reading the phone book and this was anything but a boring, dry, dusty tome. I loved the way she traced the early years of the movement, showing how disparate strands of thinking came together to eventually gel into the Prosperity Gospel. What I liked most, however, was the way she lived, breathed, and drank this teaching and then shared this journey with me via her book. She shared her own experiences, her insights gleaned through close working relationships with members of this movement, even participating in a Prosperity Gospel Church for over a year (not to mention all the churches she visited and/or the trip she took overseas with a Benny Hinn group).
But the thing that drew me to this book most is the fact that she is honest and strives to be fair. She's not mean-spirited or out to belittle anyone - she just really wanted to know what draws people to this movement and how it helps them as well as how it may hurt them.
In short, I felt it was very readable, written not just from an academic view but from an honest, open heart. If you are curious about this movement, I think you will find this book very helpful, well worth the time it takes to read it.
• Seeking to show how millions of American Christians came to see money, health, and good fortune as divine.
• Documenting the transformation of Americans who question an ethic of self-denial, and replacing it with a method of reaching into “God’s treasure trove and pulling out a miracle”.
• Explaining how the prosperity gospel is centered on four themes: faith, wealth, health, and victory.
Much of Bowler’s work is that of a historian. She traces the history and development of the prosperity gospel from its New Thought beginnings which led to positive thinking (p. 36), including the influence of Norman Vincent Peale (pp. 55-60). This was followed by the healing revivals of the 1940s and 1950s (pp. 39-55), the charismatic movement of the 1960s and the subsequent Vineyard Movement which opened the door between Pentecostalism and the traditional church. It was through this door that the prosperity gospel entered main-stream Christianity (p. 76). The Full Gospel Business Men’s Association became an important catalyst for the spread of this rising brand of Pentecostalism (pp. 82, 121). Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts and the Copelands all played major roles in the early spread of prosperity teachings. The mantle was later picked up by a great number of Word of Faith and prosperity leaders such as Benny Hinn, Jimmy Bakker, Fred Price, David Cho, Paul Crouch, Marilyn Hickey, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Randy & Paula White, and Joel Osteen. By 1970 there were 50 prosperity megachurches; by 1990 there were 310 (pp. 100, 181-186). The number has greatly increased since then.
It is interesting that, when questioned, most prosperity teachers deny the title (p. 249) but they can be identified by their common teachings such as (see chart p. 253):
• Positive confession (our words determine our life (pp. 22, 66-68, 187-190, 225)).
• Healing in the atonement (pp. 18, 95, 149).
• Promise of health
• Sowing and reaping.
• Rhema – or Word of Faith Theology
• Seed faith
• Victory in this life as our destiny (p. 179).
• The law of attraction – our words and faith attract good or ill (p. 236).
Some form of the prosperity gospel has now won over the majority of Christians worldwide. Its appeal is well summarized by Bowler:
"The prosperity movement offers a comprehensive approach to the human condition. It sees men and women as creatures fallen, but not broken, and it shares with them a “gospel,” good news that will set them free from a multitude of oppressions…The faith movement sells a compelling bill of goods: God, wealth, and a healthy body to enjoy it…The prosperity gospel’s chief allure is simple optimism" (p. 232).
Blessed is a most helpful book for understanding the theology, history, and dangers of the prosperity movement.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel
However, there is no critical evaluation from a Biblical standpoint.
Top international reviews
I personally think it's not wise to 'throw the baby out with the bath water' (as the saying goes). Positive thinking alone can certainly not save you, nor does it have any spiritual power...but doctors do know that those with a good, positive outlook are more likely to have a better experience of sickness, than those who are angry or not at peace.
So this us a good, strong academic piece, but at times seems to exude a little cynicism. Great book for anyone wanting to understand the origins of this line of teaching!