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Introducing The Prosperity Gospel Debate

Auteur: Matthews A Ojo
Date: 14.03.2010
Category: Évangile de la prospérité

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L'original est en anglais

Since the 1980s, the Prosperity Gospel has become one of the doctrinal emphases of contemporary Christianity. Although it is found widely in some continents and countries, however, is often associated with leaders and preachers associated with the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. The newness of this emphasis stems from the fact that biblical metaphors of success and material prosperity have taken on new meanings within the competitive modern market economy. Besides, this emphasis shows how Pentecostalism has responded to popular demand of Christianity for economic relevance in the modern world. Using proofext reading of the Scriptures as a method, Pentecostals and Charismatics have taken certain passages (e.g. III John 1:2; Joshua 1:8; and Deut 8: 6-9) as support for the prosperity Gospel.

As we begin our reflection on the Prosperity Gospel, it is necessary to recapitulate the content of this teaching. There are different refinements about prosperity among Pentecostal preachers, but generally the following represents the consensus within the constituency.

Some prosperity preachers insist that the emphasis flows from the concept of salvation, while others argue that prosperity is part of the blessings available to believers as part of God’s covenant with Abraham.  Generally, preachers of the Prosperity Gospel insist that Christians ought to have access to material wealth and live life on a big scale, and not experience any financial hardship nor contemplate poverty.  Consequently, many preach and teach that failure, poverty, unhappiness, and all forms of difficulties are considered as curses which should not be the lot of Christians.  They equally insist that God created men and women for a better life than many are experiencing, hence God’s abundant goodness is supposed to be enjoyed by Christians who ‘discipline themselves, become decisive, bold, adventurous, believing, daring, risking and determined.’ In practical terms, prosperity connotes material prosperity or financial prosperity, defined as having enough resources, which can be money, houses, cars, children, promotion, jobs, etc. 

Prosperity preaches also insist that Christians enter into the realm of prosperity based on individual understanding of the God’s promises because God has given humans access to the Abrahamic covenant. Hence, one’s salvation launches one into the realm of God’s abundance.  However, Christians who are not prospering could be harbouring unbelief or are unaware of God’s promises and the laws of success or have accepted the lies of the Devil or are bogged down by sin.

Most preachers of Prosperity Gospel often encourage their members to give testimonies of how they have been materially blessed or have their finances transformed as evidence of the genuineness of this doctrinal emphasis. 

As we begin our discussion on this issue, preparatory to the Lausanne Congress, we need to reflect deeply on the questions listed below and many more that will be raised later.

  1. What are roots of the Prosperity Gospel in the West as well as in the Third World?
  2. What type of works ethics does this emphasis promote?
  3. If material prosperity is guaranteed for all Christians, why are there provisions for the poor in the Scriptures?
  4. What are the connections between health and wealth from the perspectives of the prosperity preachers?
  5. What are the implications of the Prosperity Gospel for Christian integrity in the context of unbridled materialism in the contemporary world?
  6. How does the Prosperity Gospel address sin and its consequences
  7. How true it is to affirm that true spirituality is evidenced by material prosperity?

Mots-clés: prosperity gospel, Pentecostal, Charismatic, materialism, material prosperity, success, promises, sin, West, Third World, work ethics, poverty, wealth, health, integrity

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Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas Danny_McCain (2)  

I think one of the key statements in your paper is the phrase  "biblical metaphors of success and material prosperity have taken on new meanings within the competitive modern market economy." There is much metaphor in the Bible and often we turn the metaphor into prose and miss the point. We in Northern Nigeria tend to do a similar thing with metaphors related to weapons or the military when it comes to responding to violence. Until we get a good understanding of the Biblical use of metaphors, we are going to miss many things in the Bible, especially in the area of prosperity.

Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas wallison (3)
@ Danny_McCain:

This is a well noted point.  We tend to look at the Biblical message with our modern understanding of the usage of words.  We lose a lot of meaning when we translate from one language to another.  I think that as ministers of the Gospel we need to make certain that we do proper hermeneutics of the text.

Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas als828 (1)

I really appreciate seeing the line prosperity gospel adherents "insist that God created men and women for a better life than many are experiencing." This is one of the more compelling premises of the prosperity gospel from my perspective. Where we go wrong with this statement (which I would consider fundamentally true), is when we assume that the better life God intends has anything to do with our material wealth. It really is high time to redefine our concept of a "good life."

Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas Jim_Harries (-3)

Thanks for this contribution. Some considerations to add on the topic of prosperity gospel.
1. Prosperity Gospel can arise ‘by default’ from the interaction between Western (e.g. American) and Africa Christians. The American way of life is, on many African standards, so ‘prosperous’ that an American often need not overtly be preaching the prosperity Gospel at all, to be implicitly preaching the prosperity Gospel.
2. I have found that Americans tend to ascribe the prosperity gospel in African to their own history. Yet the link between ‘spiritual success’ and material prosperity is very close also in many African traditions. The reason for much ‘spiritual activity’ in Africa is very often aiming to achieve ‘worldly success’. I have found that it is very hard for some to conceive that there could be any other reason to engage in spiritual activity, e.g. prayer.
3. In intercultural perspective, overcoming prosperity gospel cannot be a matter of ‘better teaching’ alone, given 1 and 2 above. It must be a matter of demonstration, or the teacher will appear to be a hypocrite. That is, a disconnection between ‘spiritual success’ and ‘worldly success’. This, I believe, we see very much in the Scriptures, with Christ himself being the very epitome of such an example.
4. Number three above needs to be carried through to policies of funding for missions etc. It is in practice, it seems, all too tempting for charismatic figures to keep raking in the money. Unlike presumably in the Catholic Church, Pentecostal preachers are their own ‘lords’. That may not be very healthy. Can they self-impose ceilings on their income?


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PhContributeBy Matthews Ojo 
Lieu: Ile-Ife
Pays: Nigéria

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