From the Inside Flap
- Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
"The prosperity gospel is neither prosperous nor is it the gospel as defined by Scripture. Simply put, it is a false teaching and a dangerous heresy. This book written by two dear friends and superb biblical scholars carefully and accurately investigates, critiques, and exposes the biblical and theological errors that pervade this movement. This is an important and valuable work. I pray for its wide distribution and reading."
- Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC
"This book takes a balanced approach that is both biblically rigorous and in touch with current issues. This is an invaluable resource for those wishing to deal with the prosperity gospel with accuracy and clarity. This is a very Gospel-centered book."
- J. D. Greear, Lead Pastor of The Summit Church, Durham, NC.
"I praise God for the release of this book. It is a reliable resource for all who want to understand the destructive nature of the prosperity gospel movement. Jones and Woodbridge carefully point out its major biblical errors and call attention to the presence of erronious concepts found in prosperity theology. By exposing these errors, as well as interacting with some of the leading proponents of the prosperity movement, Jones and Woodbridge have provided a wonderful resource to hand to those who've bought into a counterfeit gospel, and for pastors who desire to protect their flock from wolves. May God use this book to direct people to the only true Gospel, and to the Savior, who is Himself our inheritance and our treasure."
- Tony Merida, Teaching Pastor at Temple Baptist Church, Hattiesburg, MS
- Benjamin L. Merkle, Associate Professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC
- Erwin W. Lutzer, Senior Pastor, The Moody Church, Chicago, IL
From the Back Cover
Every day on radio or TV there's a new gospel being proclaimed--the gospel of prosperity. This gospel teaches that God wants to fulfill our every desire for health, wealth, and happiness, and all it takes is enough faith. The preachers of prosperity tout their own opulent lifestyles as proof of their message: God wants his children to have it all. Is this the gospel? Or is it just a feel-good, self-centered appeal to our materialistic impulses that omits the message of Jesus and the cross?
The Bible does have a lot to say about wealth and possessions, but those teachings are routinely twisted out of context or carelessly misinterpreted. Authors David W. Jones and Russell S. Woodbridge go back to the Scriptures to set forth a truly biblical understanding of wealth, poverty, suffering, and giving. They identify five crucial areas of error related to the prosperity gospel movement and challenge readers to rediscover the true gospel of Jesus.
Top Customer Reviews
As a minister, I would use this book in several ways. First, I would recommend it to my congregation for reading. Second, I would use it to help outline a sermon series on prosperity theology. The twofold movement of “critique” (Part 1) and “correction” (Part 2) is a helpful way to organize the movement of your sermons. Show the errors first, then show the truths. Moreover, the next time I preach on 1 Corinthians 16:1–2 or 2 Corinthians 8–9, I plan on borrowing Jones and Woodbridges’ principles of giving: Giving should be periodic, personal, planned, proportionate, and plentiful (pp. 154–155). Third, I would encourage Sunday school classes and small groups to use it as the basis of a 6-week curriculum. This is an ideal book for group use: It is short, irenic, thought-provoking, and readable.
That doesn’t mean I agree with everything Jones and Woodbridge write. For one thing, as a Pentecostal, I affirm the doctrine of healing in the atonement, while they don’t. Christ’s death and resurrection reconciles us to God both spiritually and physically. For some, this healing happens “now”; for others, it has “not yet” happened but will. The question, it seems to me, is not whether healing is provided for in the atonement but when it will occur.
Indeed, one of the major problems of prosperity theology—oddly unmentioned by Jones and Woodbridge—is its overrealized eschatology. While believers experience tokens of the New Heaven and New Earth in the present, they will experience the fullness of these things in the future. Prosperity theology promises more than the Bible (and Christian experience, for that matter) says will be delivered in this lifetime.
Third, it seems to me that we need to stop thinking of prosperity theology as one set of beliefs. Jones and Woodbridge note that prosperity theologians differ among themselves. For example, hardcore Word of Faith theology is different than, say, Joel Osteen’s “prosperity light” theology. I would add that the word prosperity itself means different things to different people. To a middle-class North American, it means a Mercedes and a bigger house. To an African eking out a subsistence living, it means having enough to live one, and then some. Perhaps we should start talking about prosperity theologies in the plural and recognizing that a one-size critique does not fit all of them.
That brings me to a fourth and final point: Perhaps so many people find prosperity theology (of one kind or another) attractive precisely because we have de-emphasized what the Bible teaches about bodily health and material wellbeing. It’s one thing for already-rich North Americans to look askance at televangelists who preach what amounts to slick defenses of gluttony. (Our North American social context is where Jones and Woodbridge’s critique works best.) It’s another thing for “the wretched of the earth” to read the Bible’s robust promise of provision and healing in Matthew 6:18–34 and James 5:13–16 and then to believe them. Shouldn’t we be be careful lest, in pooh-poohing the faith of these Majority World believers—most of whom adhere to some version of prosperity theology—we teach them to become people of “little faith”?
Jesus certainly teaches this in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). We are of more value to God than the lilies of the field or the birds of the air.
Yet while Jesus talks about basic provision, preachers of the prosperity message go beyond needs to desires. In so doing, they shift the center away from God, putting humans and our wants and wishes for success and wealth at the center. In the end, it is no longer Gospel – good news – but for those disillusioned by its unfulfilled promises, it is bad news, a modified strain of Christian faith that leaves little room for sin, repentance, the Cross, or the place of hardship and suffering in the Christian life.
This is the most important take-away from David Jones’ and Russell Woodbridge’s Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ? (Kregel, 2011; Kindle edition). The authors identify their subject:
"This gospel has been given many names, such as the “name it and claim it” gospel, the “blab it and grab it” gospel, the “health and wealth” gospel, the “word of faith” movement, the “gospel of success,” “positive confession theology,”and, as this book will refer to it, the “prosperity gospel.” No matter what name is used, the teaching is the same. This egocentric gospel teaches that God wants believers to be materially prosperous in the here-and-now" (location 118, italics added).
Particularly enlightening was Chapter 1. There, Jones and Woodbridge summarize the teachings of the New Thought Movement. New Thought gained some popularity in U.S. in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Its proponents included Emanuel Phineas Quimby, Ralph Waldo Trine and Norman Vincent Peale (among others). Explaining what the authors call the “five pillars” of New Thought – a distorted view of God, elevation of mind over matter, exalted view of humankind, focus on health/wealth, and a unorthodox view of salvation – the authors make a convincing case that today’s prosperity preachers have recycled many of New Thought’s dubious ideas, including the importance of speaking words to make things come to be. This seems dangerously close to the use of magical incantations.
Though the authors are unafraid to critique the teaching of prosperity preachers – Joel Osteen receives special scrutiny – I appreciated that the book did more than just point out what is wrong with the prosperity message. In the second half of the book, they construct a positive and biblical alternative, including an excellent chapter on the biblical theology of giving.
There are ways in which the book left me unsatisfied. While Jones and Woodbridge rightly debunk the misinterpretation of the “by his wounds you have been healed” slogan (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24 – see location 720), this overlooks that there is a legitimate doctrine of divine healing in Scripture expounded in passages like James 5. Since the word “health” appears in the title of their book, the reader is justified in expecting at least a few more pages to present a more balanced and comprehensive biblical view of the issue. Unfortunately, what they did well when it comes to giving they fail to attempt on the question of health.
A second unquestioned assumption is that all pastors are male. An example of this gender bias appears at location 1708: “An elder or pastor can reasonably expect support from the church that he serves.” Since the authors are from a Baptist background, at one level, their word choice is unsurprising since many Baptists reject the ordination of women. However, a little effort could have avoided this distraction by choosing general neutral wording, i.e. “A elder or pastor can reasonable expect congregational support.” Since the authors are sensitive to the use of gender-inclusive language elsewhere in the book, including the use of the word “humankind” instead of “man” (locations 178, 187, 306), one wishes they had been consistent.
The prosperity message is not just a North American phenomenon but has gained traction elsewhere in the world, including across Africa, introducing an incomplete and shallow version of Christian faith. As diseases like Ebola have ravaged parts of West Africa, one church leader on the ground observed that prosperity teachers have been notably silent. Is this because their message cannot stand up under the sobering realities of pain and suffering? Health, Wealth and Happiness is a well-written book that will open the eyes of many around the world who have bought into a skewed and superficial prosperity message that – though alluring – offers little comfort in the crucible of life.
The authors gave both there critique and correction of the prosperity gospel which was biblically sound. I especially enjoyed reading the section on it's foundation and the critique of Joel Osteen.
Most people do not realize that the prosperity gospel is not based on sound exegesis of Bible passages. It's origin is in New Age (New Though as the authors described), Christian Science, Gnosticism and Mysticism. It is based on heretical teachings; namely that man is a god, Jesus' death was a ransom to Satan to reclaim our authority, and by faith and our spoken words, we can declare whatever we want. This is a monstrous atrocity that makes God nothing more than a cosmic bellhop whose wish is our command. It completely rejects the sovereignty of God and His right to rule. It's ultimate regard is not the glory of God, but for it's constituents selfish needs.
More serious is that most pastors are not preaching expository messages on Scripture. Instead, they preach this garbage, and because it makes people feel good, they listen and get deceived.
A book like this is necessary to inform us the errors of this teaching. It is more crucial that pastors preach the word (2 Tim 4:2. This passage also goes on to inform that sound doctrine will be replaced by "feel good" doctrine such as this heresy. The church needs to be informed of this, and the authors have done a good job.
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