Writing for The Gospel Coalition today, Nicholas McDonald has an insightful post comparing the “prosperity gospel” with a pyramid scheme.
McDonald was previously involved in the prosperity gospel movement, (i.e. the counterfeit version of Christianity falsely teaching that Christ guarantees health, wealth, and prosperity to those who have enough faith and give enough money to a prosperity gospel ministry). After being enlightened by the truth of Scripture that such a gospel is false, he now shares 3 reasons why it’s really the worst pyramid scheme ever:
1. It’s based on the deceptive success of the guy at the top. – “They see the success of the guy at the top [the “pastor”], and think: It’s working for him, isn’t it? Yes, it is. And that’s because someone paid for that pastor’s house. Me. I paid, when I bought the book. So do millions of others, when they bring truckloads of seed-money to his doorstep each weekend.”
2. It’s a lie told to desperate people. – Missiologist Paul Borthwick tells of a trip to Ghana, where he witnessed a 300-pound preacher appeal to his body as proof that God had blessed him, and would bless his listener’s seed-money as well. “When you live in poverty” the missionary with Borthwick said, “you don't want to feel loved. You want God's power to make you prosper.”
3. It feeds our idolatry – “We don’t fall for pyramid schemes because we’re stupid. We fall for them because we want to fall for them. We want the money, health, and esteem they offer—and we want it quick.”
It is estimated that approximately half a billion people worldwide are caught up in some form of prosperity gospel teaching. About this, John MacArthur writes,
“The gospel that is driving those surging numbers is not the true gospel, and the spirit behind them is not the Holy Spirit. What we are seeing is in reality the explosive growth of a false church, as dangerous as any cult or heresy that has ever assaulted Christianity.” (Strange Fire, p. xvii, Thomas Nelson, 2013).
*(For more on this, see our video interview with Dr. MacArthur here.)
“[But] why does David pray for prosperity? For one reason: the glory and delight of the Lord. When God prospers people who are no longer living for their own little kingdoms, but are living for his, the result is the furtherance of his kingdom purposes on earth, which results in his glory. What David is requesting is completely different from the modern "health and wealth gospel" prayers for prosperity. Those prayers for prosperity have one fatal flaw in them. They are prayers for prosperity for the purpose of the delight of the person praying the prayer. Not so with David.”
Your turn: What is your experience with the “prosperity gospel?” Who are some of the most popular prosperity gospel preachers today? Share your reasons why you think they are (or are not) truly Christian ministries.
Writing for The Daily Beast, columnist Jay Michaelson recently highlighted some unsettling survey results about whether terrorist suspects should be tortured. The Washington Post poll showed that over two thirds of professing Christians support the torture of terrorist suspects, compared with just 41% of nonbelievers. Michaelson then doesn’t pass up the chance to take a hackneyed cheap shot at Christianity with the comment:
“In a way, this shouldn’t be surprising. Christianity is the religion that brought us the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the burning of witches. So perhaps it makes sense that Christians are more supportive of torture than atheists…”
The remainder of Michaelson’s article discusses his four possible reasons as to why people who profess to love Jesus might be in favor of torturing suspected terrorists: 1) Hypocrisy, 2) Religion is Evil, 3) Republicanism, and 4) Moral Righteousness.
While polls are certainly interesting, it’s difficult to account for the reasons why people answer the way they do. Fortunately, Christian teaching isn’t determined by polls, but by Scripture properly interpreted by leaders who meet the qualifications described in the Bible itself.
Notably on this issue, Arizona Senator and former American prisoner of war, John McCain, said effectively in a December address before Congress that torture isn’t just immoral, it also doesn’t work.
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering,”
“Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. Acting without conscience isn't necessary [and] it isn't even helpful in winning this strange and long war we're fighting.”
Your turn: What are your thoughts? Do you agree that it’s okay to torture terrorist suspects in order to prevent further acts of terror? If you think it isn’t, share your reasons.
Today's lead editorial in The New York Times came out in strong support of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for firing the city's Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran. Cochran, as you may know was fired recently for having “antigay views.” Christian author and professor, Denny Burk, took issue with the NYT editorial on his blog, arguing that if the Atlanta Fire Chief’s termination isn’t a religious liberty case, then nothing is.
Extensive details about this curious case of termination are easy to find elsewhere. For instance, see this Christianheadlines.com article, click the related links throughout this post, and view Chief Cochran’s own statement here. While it's important to be informed about the details this monumental event, it's just as important to know how to think clearly about it. Chief Cochran’s firing sets an alarming precedent that may have far-reaching implications for Christians throughout America. Follow the logic of Dr. Burk’s argument and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.
“The Times editorial acknowledges the fact that the Mayor’s own investigation turned up no evidence of discrimination against LGBT people on the Chief’s part. The Chief treated all his employees fairly, regardless of their sexuality. Nevertheless, the editorial says something quite stunning:
‘It should not matter that the investigation found no evidence that Mr. Cochran had mistreated gays or lesbians. His position as a high-level public servant makes his remarks especially problematic, and requires that he be held to a different standard.’
“Did you get that? The editors at The New York Times think that it doesn’t matter that Chief Cochran treated all of his employees well. His views are so toxic that he has to be ‘held to a different standard’—apparently a standard that punishes city employees for their religious views.”
“Chief Cochran’s book… [contains] …a passing reference to what Christians have always believed about homosexuality. There’s no evidence the Chief shared his book to make a statement about homosexuality. Nor is there any evidence that he mistreated any of his employees. Nevertheless, the editors at The New York Times are treating him like Jim Crow.”
In other words, the Atlanta Mayor's decision to terminate Chief Cochran means that simply believing your Bible amounts to discrimination now. And heaven help you if you hold a public position. Your free exercise of religion will simply not be tolerated.
Your turn: What are your thoughts on the termination of Kelvin Cochran? Do you disagree that this is a crucial moment for the fate of religious liberty in America? If you think it isn’t, share your reasons.
Images credit: BGEA
We live in a time of great skepticism. Even though belief in the Bible as a reliable, historically accurate document is well-supported, the fact of human doubt about the Bible persists.
For instance, last week I discussed the recent cover of Newsweek bearing the title The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin. The article re-hashed popular ignorant attacks on Christianity even though the author’s attacks have been responded to time and again throughout the centuries (along with every other charge levelled against Christianity). These attacks keep finding new life because it is natural for people to doubt the reality of God. The Bible actually predicts man’s objection to God. For, if God really has spoken in time, space, and history then man must acknowledge his accountability to Him—a prospect that man detests (Romans 1:19-21).
Even so, the historical reliability of the Bible is well-supported, and it’s an important component of Christianity. We don’t believe in myths and fairy tales. But the best case for Christianity is a cumulative one. In other words, all of the evidence must be weighed together, not taken separately and picked apart. One area of Christian evidence is the field of archaeology. It is not the only area of support for the truth of Christianity, but it is important.
Recently, Christianity Today listed Biblical Archaeology’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2014. It’s an interesting read, though much of it is speculative. Here are a few highlights: (Read the whole article here.)
1. Herod's Gate at Herodium - Hebrew University archaeologists announced the discovery of a monumental entrance—60 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 60 feet high—providing direct access to the inner courtyard of Herod’s desert palace.
2. “Stone rejected” by the temple builders (cf. Matt. 21:42)
3. Babylonian tablet that said the ark was round (dated around 1750 BC)
4. Tomb of St. Stephen (the first Christian martyr, around 35 AD)
Your turn: What are your thoughts on the archaeological evidence for the Bible? Are you often stumped by doubts or unable to respond to charges levelled at the Christian faith? Have you ever considered the cumulative case for Christianity?