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Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
The Prosperity Doctrine

 

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The Prosperity Doctrine
Part I... Introduction and Origins

Carol Brooks

    Index to All Sections

    You Are Here 001orange Section I: Introduction and Origins
    Section II: The Whole Counsel of God
    Section III: Supposed Proof Texts. Rhema Vs. Logos
    Section IV: Joel Osteen.. The Blind Leading The Blind
    Section V: General Principles, The Tele-Evangelists
    Section VI: In The Service of God OR Mammon, Covetousness and Greed, The Crown Without The Cross? What Happened to Prayer? The Sovereignty of God
    Section VII: Conclusion
     

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    ON THIS PAGE

    Introduction and Origins
    What is the Prosperity Doctrine?
    Does God Want You to Be Rich?

    Origins of The Prosperity Gospel
    Roots Embedded Deep In The Word of The Occult. New Thought

    Comparing The Methodology
    'Christianizing' Occult Concepts
    Napoleon Hill and Clement Stone

     

    What is the Prosperity Doctrine?
    The Prosperity Doctrine (also known as the health and wealth gospel, or the prosperity gospel) is nothing but the Word-Faith/Positive Confession movement... applied to finances.

    It is the doctrinal belief subscribed to by millions of Christians, centered around the idea that although Christians should keep one eye on Heaven, the good news is that God doesn't want His people to wait until then to inherit His blessings. God, who loves His followers, doesn't want those followers to be broke. He wants believers to wear the best clothing, drive the best cars, and have the best of everything in this life, provided they claim these blessing for themselves through positive confessions of faith and the 'sowing of seeds' (tithes and offerings).


    'Positive and Negative Confession'
    Since, according to this view, what a person says determines what he will receive and what he will become, great significance is attached to the spoken word which, if repeated often enough, will produce enough faith to procure the desired blessing.

    On the other hand, the believer who acknowledges the negative is guilty of a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words he will be sick only if he confesses he is sick, and will be poor if he confesses he is poor. Prosperity teachers instruct believers to start confessing that they already have whatever it is that they want, even though it has not yet become a reality. If a person wants money, he is to confess that he has money even if he is yet poor as the proverbial church mouse. If he wants healing he has to confess that he is already healed even though he may yet be unable to get out of his wheelchair.

    Although Prosperity theology is most commonly found in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches, it is certainly not confined to any denomination, but has wormed it's way, to one extent or another, into a huge number of evangelical churches. Very few of these churches actually seem to have the word prosperity in their Statements of Faith or Mission Statements, however material gain is a key part of their doctrine and they spend an inordinate amount of time talking about it.

    While it is understandable that money is of much importance to governments (a whole other topic), the reason to exist for corporations and a major concern to secular society at large, the fact that the accumulation of it is the core doctrine of so many evangelical churches is a cause for great concern. That Christians are being taught that the poor among us are poor because they lack faith, that poverty is of the devil or, even worse, giving you last dollar to a fast talking ‘tele-evangelist’ will guarantee getting 100 fold back.

    Certainly this doctrine has much going for it in the realm of marketability. Who doesn't want, at the very least, a life free of problems and ill health. Financial freedom, prosperity, health and success can seem very enticing indeed. And, what better way could there possibly be to get all these wonderful things we want than by evoking the power of the Living God to obtain them. How easy it is to fall into the age-old trap of seeking to satisfy our own lusts using ‘Biblical’ precepts and finding ways to prove that, in fact, God supports our desires.


    Does God Want You to Be Rich?
    The sheer number of churches preaching the Prosperity doctrine, and the size of some of those involved, drew the attention of Time Magazine not so long ago. Their September 2006 cover story called “Does God Want You to Be Rich?" featured a picture of a Rolls Royce grille with a chrome cross hood ornament, which was described by Albert Mohler (ninth president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky) as "fair, balanced, and devastating". Time Magazine stated that, according to their own poll... [Emphasis Added]...

      17% of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31%--a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America--agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money. [1]

    The write-up begins with a story about one George Adams who lost his job at an Ohio tile factory in October of 2005. Upon which "the most practical thing he did" was "go to a new church", moving his family, including four preteen boys, to a suburb of Houston from where he attended Joel Osteen's mega Lakewood Church.

      Inspired by the preacher's insistence that one of God's top priorities is to shower blessings on Christians in this lifetime--and by the corollary assumption that one of the worst things a person can do is to expect anything less--Adams marched into Gullo Ford in Conroe looking for work.

    And, to cut a long story short, it wasn't long before Adams retailed his first car and was soon on his way to a six-figure income. The sales commission helped pay the rent, but as the story goes.. [Emphasis Added]

      Adams hates renting. Once that six-figure income has been rolling in for a while, he will buy his dream house: "Twenty-five acres," he says. "And three bedrooms. We're going to have a schoolhouse (his children are home schooled). We want horses and ponies for the boys, so a horse barn. And a pond. And maybe some cattle." [2]


    Origins of The Prosperity Gospel
    In the words of journalist Hanna Rosin

      Many of the terms and concepts used by prosperity preachers today date back to Oral Roberts, a poor farmer's son turned Pentecostal preacher... In the late 1940s, Roberts claimed his Bible flipped open to the Third Epistle of John, verse 2: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health. Even as thy soul prospereth.” Soon Roberts developed his famous concept of seed faith, still popular today. If people would donate money to his ministry, a “seed” offered to God, he’d say, then God would multiply it a hundredfold. Eventually, Roberts retreated into a life that revolved around private jets and country clubs. [3]

    Oral Roberts was soon followed by a parade of slick, silver-tongued, ostentatious preachers on Christian television, not the least of whom were Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. However, like most or all heresies, it went underground for a while. Then spurred on by by a host of wolves on TBN, and books such as Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now (reputed to have sold some four million copies), the movement rapidly made its way from "out in left field" into more conservative mainstream churches and denominations.


    New Thought
    While there is no question that Oral Roberts, one of the most recognizable and controversial religious leaders of the 20th century, was instrumental in bringing American Pentecostalism into the mainstream, the Positive Confession doctrine did not originate with him, but has it's roots deep in the world of the occult...New Thought or Science of Mind to be precise.

    Kenneth Hagin: The founding father of the Faith movement is commonly held to be Kenneth Erwin Hagin, who's teachings on faith, healing, and prosperity have underscored almost every major Faith ministry. Even the other heavyweights of the Faith movement readily admit that Hagin's teaching and leadership were the key to both the sucess of the movement and their own personal success. However Hagin's theology can be traced directly to one Kenyon, whose writings predate Hagin's by more than thirty years. As said by D.R. McConnell in his book From A Different Gospel... Hagin "plagiarized Kenyon both repeatedly and extensively". In fact "In many instances, Hagin has, indeed, copied word-for-word without documentation from Kenyon's writings". Mr. McConnell shows any number of passages which are identical between Kenyon and Hagin's books. Excerpts of the book including some comparisons can be read at the following URL... The True Father of the Modern Faith Movement. http://www.mtio.com/articles/bissar51.htm

    However one has to dig a little further.. If Kenneth Hagin, the father of the faith movement extensively plagiarized E.W. Kenyon, the question has to be asked as to where Kenyon learned his theology. Sadly it was not the Bible and only the Bible.

    E.W. Kenyon: In 1892, E.W. Kenyon moved to Boston, soon thereafter he enrolled at Emerson College of Oratory, by which time the religion of its founder Charles Emerson "was a veritable smorgasbord of the sources underlying New Thought metaphysics: Platonism, Swedenborgianism, Unitarianism, and Emersonian Transcendentalism.” In fact Charles Emerson is on record as being a member of the Mother Church of Christian Science from 1903 to 1908. As said by pastor David Cloud...[Emphasis Added]

      Though Kenyon claimed to be opposed to the New Thought cults and though he claimed to derive his teaching strictly from the Bible, there is no question that he incorporated many New Thought ideas into his doctrine. Like New Thought, Kenyon taught that the spiritual is the cause of all physical effects and that positive confession has the power to create its own reality. [4].


    And What is New Thought?
    While the majority of people may be unable to define New Thought, hundreds of thousands are increasingly becoming influenced by it, since it is the cornerstone for most of the formulas for happy and successful living. Wikipedia defines it so...(Note that this exactly same definition can be found on numerous New Thought web sites. See List of New Thought denominations and independent centers on Wikipedia)

      The New Thought Movement or New Thought is a spiritual movement which developed in the United States during the late 19th century and emphasizes metaphysical beliefs. It consists of a loosely allied group of religious denominations, secular membership organizations, authors, philosophers, and individuals who share a set of metaphysical beliefs concerning the effects of positive thinking, the law of attraction, healing, life force, creative visualization, and personal power.

    Reduced it to it's essentials, New Thought very simply believes that your thoughts play a crucial role in the kind of life you experience.

    Sound familiar?

    It is deeply alarming that most Christians seem to be blissfully unaware of the fact that the theology of the Word-Faith movement being trumpeted from pulpits across the land stems from the same sources as Christian Science, New Thought/New Age, Unity School of Christianity...with little to distinguish between them.


    [Tracing this unholy genealogy can be a daunting, time consuming task. The chart on this page should make it a little easier and, hopefully, prove enlightening. [See Roots of Evil]


    Charles and Myrtle Fillmore
    founders of the Unity School of Christianity (a church within the New Thought movement) were students of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, a 19th century (1802–66) metaphysician and inventor and the earliest identifiable proponent of what came to be known as New Thought. Myrtle Fillmore was also a follower of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, who was likewise influenced by Quimby. Unity, therefore, was birthed by the Fillmores, but its roots go back to directly to Mary Baker Eddy and both directly and indirectly to Phineas Quimby.

    As early as 1936 Charles Fillmore (1854 – 1948), known for his contributions to metaphysical interpretations of Biblical scripture, brashly adapted the Twenty-Third Psalm.

      The Lord is my banker; my credit is good.

      He maketh me realize the consciousness of omnipresent abundance;

      He giveth me the key to His strongbox.

      He restoreth my faith in His riches;

      He guideth me in the paths of prosperity for His name's sake.

      Yea, though I walk in the very shadow of debt,

      I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me;

      Thy silver and Thy gold, they secure me.

      Thou preparest a way for me in the presence of the collector;

      Thou fillest my wallet with plenty; my measure runneth over.

      Surely goodness and plenty will follow me

      all the days of my life.

      And I shall do business in the name of the Lord forever. [5]

    But lets take it a step further and...


    Compare The Methodology / Technique
    Below are 17 quotes from different sources, roughly divided into three groups.

    The First Group refers to "seeing" what it is you wish to achieve. While all the statements in this group outline exactly the same concept, note carefully the identical wording "conceive and believe" in the first three quotes. How this happened will be addressed a little later on

      A)...the first step to living at your full potential is to enlarge your vision... you must start looking at life through eyes of faith, seeing yourself rising to new levels. See your business taking off. See your marriage restored. See your family prospering. See your dreams coming to pass. You must conceive it and believe it is possible if you ever hope to experience it.

      B) "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve."

      C) "What the mind can conceive and believe, and the heart desire, you can achieve."

      D) Believe it in your heart; say it with your mouth. That is the principle of faith. You can have what you say.

      E) To conceive it, you must have an image on the inside of the life you want to live on the outside. This image has to become a part of you, in your thoughts, your conversation, deep down in your subconscious mind, in your actions, in every part of your being.

      F) The reason visualization is so powerful is because as you create pictures in your mind of seeing yourself with what it is you want you are generating thoughts and feelings of having it now

      G) Everything that's coming into your life you are attracting into your life. And it's attracted to you by virtue of the images you're holding in your mind. It's what you're thinking. Whatever is going on in your mind you are attracting to you.

      H) What you keep before your eyes will affect you. You will produce what you're continually seeing in your mind. If you foster an image of defeat and failure, they you're going to live that kind of life. But if you develop an image of victory, success, health abundance joy peace and happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you.

      I) "... we are masters of our fate because we are masters, first of our attitudes. Our attitudes shape our future. This is a universal law. The poet should have told us with great emphasis that this law works whether the attitudes are destructive or constructive. The law states that we translate into physical reality the thoughts and attitudes we hold in our minds, no matter what they are. We translate into reality thoughts of poverty just as quickly as we do thoughts of riches.


    The Second Group
    refers to negative thoughts and confessions or "wrong thinking".

      J) Too many times we get stuck in a rut, thinking we've reached our limits. We don't really stretch our faith; we don't believe for anything bigger. But God wants us to constantly be increasing, to be rising to new heights. He wants to increase you in His wisdom and help you to make better decisions. God wants to increase you financially, by giving you promotions, fresh ideas, and creativity.

      K) Don't blame God for your lack of success. Like S.B. Fuller you can develop a burning desire to succeed. How? Keep your minds on the things you want and off the things you don't want.

      L) The Scripture says that God wants to pour out “His far and beyond favor.”  God wants this to be the best time of your life. But if you are going to receive this favor, you must enlarge your vision. You can't go around thinking negative, defeated, limiting thoughts. Well, I've gone as far as my education will allow. Or, I've had this sickness for years. I guess it's my lot in life.

      M) "I was raised in the slums and that's something you can never get out of your system. "I only had a grammar school education". These people are all saying, in essence, that the world has given them a raw deal...They start out with a negative mental attitude. And, of course, with that attitude they are handicapped.

      N) "Your own wrong thinking can keep you from God's best"

      O) If you are thinking thoughts of defeat, I urge you to rid yourself of such thoughts, for as you think defeat you tend to get it.


    The Third Group speaks about 'daily practices'.

      P) Each morning before you get out of bed, make it a habit to feel the feelings of gratitude in advance for the great day ahead, as though it is done.

      Q) I had actually made a hundred-thousand-dollar bill that I'd put on the ceiling. So first thing in the morning I'd look up and there it was, and it would remind me that this was my intention.

      R) Each day you must choose to live with an attitude that expects good things to happen to you. The Bible says, "Set your mind and keep it set on the higher things." When you get up in the morning , the first thing you should do is set your mind in the right direction. Say something such as "This is going to be a great day. God is guiding and directing my steps. His favor is surrounding me.

      S) Repeat this program night and morning until you can see, (in your imagination) the money you intend to accumulate.

    Although you probably haven't seen much difference between them, the above quoted some from widely differing sources... from the pulpit of one of America's most populous churches to the mouths of devils incarnate.


    Group 1

      A, E and H are statements made by Joel Osteen in his immensely popular book Your Best Life Now 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential published by FaithWords in August 20, 2007. Quotes are from pages 4-7.

      B is from Page 15 of Napoleon Hill and Clement W Stone's runaway bestseller Think and Grow Rich (Ballantine Books. May 12, 1987). In fact this phrase is one of Hill's hallmark expressions.

      C is by Norman Vincent Peale. Positive Imaging: The Powerful Way to Change Your Life. Page 42. Ballantine Books (August 27, 1996)

      D is by Kenneth Hagin. You Can Have What You Say. Tulsa Faith Library. 1979. Page 14.

      F is by Rhonda Byrnes author of The Secret. Page 81. Atria Books/Beyond Words; First Edition edition (November 28, 2006) [See The Secret]

      G is a statement made by Prentice Mulford...a pioneer of New Thought. Quoted in The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes.. Page 4. Atria Books/Beyond Words; First Edition edition (November 28, 2006)]

      I is by Napoleon Hill and Clement W Stone in the Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude (Simon and Schuster, 2007, Page 7), which was a sequel to Think and Grow Rich.


    Group 2

      J, Land N) are from Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential. Pages 4-5 and 18. FaithWords (August 20, 2007)

      K is by Napoleon Hill and Clement W Stone's Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. Simon and Schuster, 2007.  Page 18

      M is also from Napoleon Hill and Clement W Stone's Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. Page 24. Pocket (June 12, 2007)

      O is by Norman Vincent Peale in his ever popular book... The Power of Positive Thinking [Paperback] Fireside; First Fireside edition (March 12, 2003) Page 102] [More About Norman Vincent Peale]


      Group 3

      P and Q) Rhonda Byrnes The Secret. Atria Books/Beyond Words; First Edition edition (November 28, 2006). Pages 80 and 96 respectively.  [See The Secret]

      R) Joel Osteen. Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential. Page 13. FaithWords (August 20, 2007)

      S ) Napoleon Hill and Clement W Stone. Think and Grow Rich. Page 62. Ballantine Books. May 12, 1987)


    'Christianizing' Occult Concepts
    It is truly amazing that both the secular world and professing church claim almost exactly the same thing, which is that there are spiritual “laws” which people can learn to use on their behalf.  These laws, which will work for anyone regardless of their religious beliefs (or even lack of) are referred to in different terms.

      New Agers refer to this law as the “law of attraction” as amply demonstrated in The Secret.

      The Business World is more familiar with the term “the power of positive thinking” courtesy Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. 

      In Witchcraft, the phrase “as above, so below” comes from the beginning of The Emerald Tablet, one of most revered magical documents in Western occultism. In essence the phrase means... as it is in the spiritual, so it is in the natural.

    It take but half an eye to see the similarities between all these doctrines, however it has to be especially noted that the single largest common factor between the Word Faith teachings in the church and the occult teachings without is that.. whether it applies to finances, health or anything else people are taught that they have to speak of whatever situation they want to see come about as if it already exists, not as it presently is in real life.

    What believers do not realize is that there is a very good reason for this.. a reason that has it's feet firmly set in the world of the occult, which believes that the physical is either an illusion or is ruled by the spiritual. Man and God are counterparts of each other and the lower is ruled by the higher.... “as above, so below”.  All systems of magic claim to function by this formula.

    However since the Word Faith group claim to be Christian they have to “Christianize” the concepts and somehow add God into the mixture. But since the Biblical God does not fit this mold, they completely reinvent Him in an image that conforms to their beliefs, teaching that the power of faith is a force… one that can even twist God's arm. [some Christians have been known to use the term "laws of faith"]

      Note: The Message, Eugene Peterson's translation of the Bible into Contemporary Language, became wildly popular and was even the first Bible version that Rick Warren quoted in The Purpose-Driven Life. In Peterson's paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer, he uses the term "as above, so below" instead of "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven". [See The Message]


    Napoleon Hill and Clement Stone

    Note that of the above 17 quotes five or almost a third, were from two separate books by Napoleon Hill and Clement W Stone. Think and Grow Rich is still in print in several versions, and has sold more than 30 million copies while Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, among several other books, was written as a sequel. Note that in the preface to the original edition of Think and Grow Rich Hill refers to his method as a "secret" and a "magic formula". This "magic formula" has been used to some extent or another by virtually every motivational guru ever since they were published.

    While it is reasonably certain that Kenneth Hagin was indirectly influenced by metaphysical sources, what is truly mind boggling is that the books by Napoleon Hill and Clement W Stone's were channelled.


    Napoleon Hill's "Invisible Counselors"

    Think and Grow Rich which is still in print in several versions, and has sold more than 30 million copies was inspired by a group of men whose lives and life-works Hill said had been most impressive to him. These men were Emerson, Paine, Edison, Darwin, Lincoln, Burbank, Napoleon, Ford, and Carnegie. Hill stated that he followed the habit of re-shaping his own character, by trying to imitate them. Which sound perfectly innocent so far. But...

    Every night, over a long period of years, Hill held an imaginary Council meeting with this group whom he called his "Invisible Counselors." After some months of this nightly procedure, Hill says he "was astounded by the discovery that these imaginary figures became, apparently real".

      Each of these nine men developed individual characteristics, which surprised me. For example, Lincoln developed the habit of always being late, then walking around in solemn parade. When he came, he walked very slowly, with his hands clasped behind him, and once in a while, he would stop as he passed, and rest his hand, momentarily, upon my shoulder... Burbank and Paine often indulged in witty repartee which seemed, at times, to shock the other members of the cabinet. One night Paine suggested that I prepare a lecture on "The Age of Reason," and deliver it from the pulpit of a church which I formerly attended. Many around the table laughed heartily at the suggestion. Not Napoleon! He drew his mouth down at the corners and groaned so loudly that all turned and looked at him with amazement. [6]

    Now either Hill was stark raving mad, or these were not the "imaginary" figures that he maintained they were.

    What is certain is that by 1967, when Hill published Grow Rich With Peace of Mind he had graduated from talking to an "imaginary cabinet" to talking with actual unseen beings. In Grow Rich With Peace of Mind, Hill says unseen friends hovered about him, and that was being watched by them. He says he discovered this when a voice spoke to him telling him that it had come "from the Great School of the Masters" to give Hill one more section to include in his book. The disembodied voice said it belonged to the "Council of Thirty Three who serve the Great School and its initiates on the physical plane" (pages 158 to 162)

    So Hill's journey into communication with the spirit realm apparently began at least as early as 1937 and continued until for at least 30 years... apparently getting more and more intense. [I Strongly Suggest You Read The Rest of The Story of  Napoleon Hill and The Council of Thirty-Three]

     

    Part II... The Whole Counsel of God [HERE]


    End Notes
    [1] Time Magazine. Does God Want You To Be Rich? David Van Biema And Jeff Chu Sunday, Sep. 10, 2006.
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1533448-2,00.html

    [2] Time Magazine. Does God Want You To Be Rich? David Van Biema And Jeff Chu Sunday, Sep. 10, 2006.
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1533448,00.html

    [3] Hanna Rosin. Did Christianity Cause the Crash?
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/did-christianity-cause-the-crash/7764/

    [4] David W. Cloud. The Strange History of Pentecostalism" Part 2 of 3. Fundamental Baptist Information Service.
    http://op.50megs.com/ditc/strange2.htm

    [5] A Prosperity Treatment...The 23rd psalm revised  by Charles Fillmore.
    http://www.successmanual.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Prosperity-by-Charles-Fillmore-1936-Success-Manual-Strategist-Edition-2010.pdf

    [6] Napoleon Hill. Think and Grow Rich. Chapter 14...The Sixth Sense.  Pages 314-316.
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/nth/tgr/tgr19.htm

    Prosperity-Back

    Index To Section On The Prosperity Doctrine ..
    Does God Want Us To Be Rich?

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