Saturday, November 17, 2007
WHAT DO YOU REFORMED GUYS HAVE AGAINST "PROSPERITY" ANYWAY?!
Nothing. It's just the "prosperity gospel", in all it's insidious forms, that I hate. Why? Well, it's not because I think that money, good health and fruitful relationships are bad things. After all, as we all know, it's not money that is the root of all evil. It's the love of money that is the root of all evil. Trust me, I'm the guy who used to hold to the "pre-tribulational rapture". Not because I thought it jibed with Scripture; but because I have a low threshold for pain!
I have several problems with the "prosperity gospel". First and foremost, it just ain't biblical! Regardless of how many testimonies you may have heard to the contrary, the "prosperity gospel" is not the Gospel that courses throughout Scripture. It is a different gospel. One that the Apostle Paul calls for the pronouncement of "accursed" for it and its purveyors (Galatians 1:6-9). Ask yourself this question: What did mankind truly lose when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden? Yes, they lost the comforts of paradise. Yes, sickness now entered their experience. And, yes, all their increase would come through toil ans sweat. These things cannot be denied; but these were mere asides compared to the reality that they had now been cut off from their Creator. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve would walk and talk with Almighty God. Now, their fellowship was entirely severed. Consider this (those of you who have been fortunate enough to have had strong and loving relationships with your earthly fathers), what do you most cherish about your earthly father? What most readily comes to mind when you remember your childhood relationship with him? Is it, how much money he earned and spent on you; or, is it how vital his guidance, wisdom and support was to your growth and maturity?
The Gospel that pervades Scripture is about a loving, righteous and Holy God. Who, although He was spurned for the selfish pursuit of prosperity (a prosperity of knowledge and autonomy), sovereignly conquered sin and death redeeming a people to Himself through the precious and innocent blood of His only begotten Son.
The "prosperity gospel" misses this entire message. It indulges man's proclivity for selfish gain and personal well-being. The Word of God consistently warns us about the pitfalls of pursuing wealth and how riches become idols and enslave us. In fact it commands us NOT to pursue riches. Yet somehow the very same people who can't stop lying, who can't stop cheating, who can't stop buying bootleg DVD's, believe they can overcome the pitfalls of earthly prosperity. How foolish.
The second reason I despise the "prosperity gospel" is that it is predicated on twisted Scriptures.One of the favorites of the prosperity preachers is Mark 10:29-30.
" Jesus said, "Truly I say to you,there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the gospel's sake,but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life".
This passage usually gets a few folks up and running around the building. The problem is, however, these preachers always make the "houses" and "lands" literal and the "brothers", "sisters", "mothers" and "children" figurative. These they say are the hundreds of brothers, sisters and "mothers", etc. "in Christ" that you will receive. And the "persecutions" you'll receive are just the misguided jealousy and backbiting other will do because of your blessings. How convenient.
My third reason for anathematizing the "prosperity gospel" is that it puts believers in bondage. When this "WMD" of a theology (it's unfounded, get it!)fails to work for people, what's the excuse? Usually, it' s the persons fault. Either they didn't have enough faith, or there must be some secret sin in their life. My personal favorite is that it's just not their season yet. If I see another church marquis with the message "Your Breakthrough is Coming" ever again, I think I might breakthrough it with a nice rock! Some people who really want to leave their false church are actually afraid to do so because they think they might miss their "breakthrough" if they leave too soon. And these predators in the pulpit know that they hold people with this type of message. It's down right satanic.
Fourth, the "prosperity gospel" leads believers to inadvertently contend against God.
The credo of this bastard gospel is that if one has faith one should never be sick or in want. This automatically places one in contention with God when He desires to glorify Himself through sickness, want or suffering. Remember John 9:1-3. . .
"As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him . . .'"
If the blind man had been sitting under the "prosperity gospel" he and his parents would have been binding satan and speaking sight back into his eyes. God's sovereignty and divine will would not have even been considered. The disciples and today's prosperity pushers assume sickness is due to sin. The truth is, sometimes God is glorified in sickness. A word to the predators: your arms are too short to box with God.
Lastly, the "prosperity gospel", even when it "works", gives a false sense of security. The Pharisees were prosperous; but Jesus called them "whitewashed tombs".
Solomon was prosperous; but he realized that it was all vanity, a "chasing after the wind" Dives was prosperous; but he woke up in Hades where he couldn't buy anything to drink. Oh, how much better is godliness with contentment. They're not called the "deceitfulness" of riches for nothing!
That's what this "reformed" guy has against the "prosperity gospel". I believe it is far more prosperous for us to pursue what the Westminster Shorter Catechism states is the "chief end of man". That is to glorify God and to enjoy HIM forever!
The question becomes (this is where the preacher begins to "whoop") . . .
Can you glorify God and enjoy Him forever, when you're sick and in pain?
Can you glorify God and enjoy Him forever, when you're broke and have not gain?
Can you glorify God and enjoy Him forever, when you're alone and your eyes are wet?
Can you glorify God and enjoy Him forever, when you're bank account is empty and you're deep deep in debt?
Can you glorify God and enjoy Him forever, when mother and father don't know your name?
Can you glorify God and enjoy Him forever, when wife and kids forsake you and the dog does the same?
Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!
P.S. What did Lazarus die of the second time, anyway?
Monday, November 05, 2007
Representin' for the Reformation
I've been hanging out over at The Black Church Page over the last week. Yeah, I remember what I said, but I figured I'm preaching to the choir over here. So, as I expected, I found some true opposition over there.
I opened a forum on Reformed Theology and as usual it got bogged down into a debate over election/predestination. Nonetheless, I do believe I did win a friend and found another reformed ally. If you would care to review the forum here's a link for you . . .
The Black Church Page Forum on Reformed Theology
I thought I'd just leave you with my semi-closing statement (the forum is still open if you would like to weigh in) from the forum and let you tell me what you think.
"As is far too often the case, this discussion which was to deal with the whole of Reformed Theology, has bogged down to a debate over 'election'.
As my opening quote indicates RT is about much more than just this hot-button issue. The central tenet of RT is not election, but the supremacy and sovereignty of God in ALL things. It also focuses on man's faithful worship of this triune, omnipotent and incomprehensible God in "spirit and in truth". As Pastor John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN says: "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him".
How does RT compare with much of the church ( yea, even the "black" church) today. Here is what I have observed . . .
Modern Church: Increasing emphasis on personal health, wealth and materialism.
Reformed Theology: Emphasis on personal holiness and submission to God's sovereignty
Modern Church: Triumphalism/claiming earthly territory
Reformed Theology: Rejoicing in suffering which produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope (Romans 5:3-5a)
Modern Church: Declining emphasis on the preaching of the Gospel
Reformed Theology: Insistence on the preaching of the Gospel persistently.
Modern Church: Increasing espousal of heresies ( deification of man, the denial of the deity of Christ, etc.) False prophecy
Reformed Theology: Emphasis of the Five Solas: Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) Sola Fide (by Faith alone) Sola Gratia (by Grace alone) Sola Christus (Christ Alone) all for Sola Deo Gloria ( the glory of God alone).
Modern Church: Increasing "new" revelation
Reformed Theology: Contending "for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" Jude 3. Agreeing with the Apostle Paul that " even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" Galatians 1:8. There is no "new" revelation.
Modern Church: Proliferation of female "pastors", "elders", "bishops", and even "apostles" .
Reformed Theology: Honors biblical standard for leadership in the church.
Modern Church: Lack of accountability for pastors/maverick preachers
Reformed Theology: High accountability through governing bodies.
Modern Church: Abandonment of confessionalism resulting in biblical illiteracy and doctrinal ignorance.
Reformed Theology: Strong, well established confessional history and doctrinal instruction.
Modern Church: Compromise with false religions (muslims particularly)
Reformed Theology: Firm denunciation of false religions.
Modern Church: Celebrity status of many Pastors.
Reformed Theology: Pastors castigated for uncompromising stance on biblical truth.
Modern Church: The church as a multinational corporation/ the pastor as CEO.
Reformed Theology: the church as the "house of prayer"/ the pastor as faithful servant and under-shepherd.
That's the short list of what I have witnessed.
I submit to you that a return to the foundational tenets of the historic Christian faith is what is desperately needed today. We have fallen from being the conscience of the nation to being the entertainment of the nation. As a pilot by profession, I travel widely and I frequently hear the world's impression of the church. We are more known for our conflicts, wife-beatings and world-likeness than for our flat-footed uncompromised preaching of Christ and Him crucified.
I believe this can only be because we have abandoned the principles we fought and died for during the Protestant Reformation. We have effectively been cut off from that history ( one of satan's most devious tricks). The average Christian can tell you nothing beyond the history of his own church (if that). What we fail to realize is that all our denominations are rooted in the Reformation. The great reformer,
Martin Luther, understood that when he translated the Scripture into the vulgar (common) languages he was opening a hornet's nest(denominationalism). But He fought for our right to be able to read God's word ourselves in our native tongues. But as is our way, we have turned this to a means toward our ends rather than God's ends.
As blacks we are still so wrapped up in our plight that we believe we hold the patent on suffering. We discount the persecution and suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters have faced long before our enslaved ancestors ever lived. They were fed to lions in the Roman Coliseum, disemboweled and broiled alive in the "iron chair". Their bodies were tarred, set aflame and used as human torches to light the emperor's courtyard. We dismiss the courageous stands of great men like Athanasius, Polycarp, Augustine, Wycliffe and Hus. God used these men to ensure that we'd have this faith that has sustained us through so much suffering.
As proud as we are of our black heritage, how many of us are familiar with Lemuel Haynes, a Calvinist black minister in the 18th century who argued vigorously against the slave trade. Haynes along with other 18th century black authors (Jupiter Hammon, James Albert Ukasaw Gronniosaw, Phillis Wheatley, John Marrant, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano and Olaudah Equiano) "found in calvinsm a tradition of exegesis that could be leveled against the slave trade and slavery". John Saillant, biographer of Haynes, states "early black calvinism was vigorously anti slavery" and Lemuel Haynes was its most prolific voice and writer.
Heart and Mind
Reformed Theology is both experiential and intellectual. It realizes no dichotomy between heart and mind. It's not puffing up the mind (even if fallible people do fall into that trap) leading to a cold, indifferent religion. It's about a mind nourished in the truth of the triune God, who He is and His unimaginable splendor, glory and holiness. All leading to an outpouring, from the heart, of unyielding worship, trust, obedience and love of Him who is infinite. RT recognizes that emotion is a good thing; but it must bow its knees to the truth. Truth is obtained through the mind.
When we enter into the presence of God in our churches on Sunday morning, we are not supposed to check our brains nor our hearts at the front door. I am confident that if any of you were to perform an objective and honest investigation of Reformed Theology, you will find a profound and revolutionary deepening of your walk with Jesus Christ.
If you are willing to accept my challenge, I have a suggested list of books (links) that will be indispensable in conducting your study . . .
History: Eusebius, "The Chuch History"
Not necessarily a RT book, but essential for understanding our roots.
1) "Knowing God" J. I. Packer
2) "Back to Basics" Douglas J. Wilson
3) "Grace Unknown" R. C. Sproul
4) "When Grace Comes Home" Terry Johnson
5) "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ" John Owen
Tough read. Not for the squeamish!
6) "The Holiness of God" R. C. Sproul
7) "Desiring God" John Piper
"Chosen by God" R. C. Sproul
9) "The Doctrines of Grace" James Montgomery Boice
10) "On Being Black and Reformed" Anthony Carter
11) "Holiness" J. C. Ryle
12) "Essential Truths of the Christian Faith" R. C. Sproul
13) "The Sovereignty of God" Arthur W. Pink
Special Bonus: Reformed websites/blogs (links):
In Submission to Sovereignty - My personal blog.
Non Nobis Domine (Not Unto Us, O Lord)
Council of Reforming Churches"
Viva la Reformation!!!
Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!