Prosperity Gospel

Have I mentioned that I’m editing The Global Conversation? It’s a series of articles addressing key issues in the global church with global voices. I get to moderate the conversation.

This month’s topic is the prosperity gospel. Simply put, that’s the idea that God will bless faithful people in material ways. You may know it as expressed by¬† leading theologian Janis Joplin: “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz. My friends all have Porsches. I must make amends.”

It’s easy to make fun of the prosperity gospel, but it’s probably the strongest single expanding force in global Christianity today. I think this edition of the Global Conversation gives a pretty good introduction to it, and some varied responses. Don’t miss sociologist Peter Berger’s positive assessment or Ruth Padilla Deborst’s scathing indictment. The video from Ghana is also excellent.

Christian leaders often worry over “growth without depth” in the expanding churches of the developing world. There’s a deeper question, though: are we even talking about the same religion? In the first and second centuries, Christianity’s expansion involved a variety of movements, some of which were eventually deemed heretical. The same may be true today.

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One Response to “Prosperity Gospel”

  1. James Swenson Says:

    Goodness, Tim: you used the H word!

    And I think you’re right to ask the question. I hope, though, that the xenophobes of the Church in the U.S. won’t catch on. Those who are already reluctant to think of the people of the third world as brothers and sisters do not need any extra excuses!

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