Category Archives: Economic Justice

The Problem With Prosperity

The prosperity gospel, or “health and wealth” preaching, originated about 70 years ago in the United States. At various tent meetings connected to Voice of Healing and similar ministries, preachers like Oral Roberts and A. A. Allen started to teach things like financial sowing and reaping, the prosperous power of faith and that God wants us to be rich.

Their theology was influenced by Baptist theologian E. W. Kenyon, who in turn was highly influenced with ideas from New Thought. This American movement is quite similar to New Age and emphasizes, among other things, the power of the mind to influence physical reality by, for example, naming and claiming health and wealth before it actually has materialized.

Sounds familiar?

Of course, a believer in the prosperity gospel will probably reject the brief historical review above and claim that they believe in these things because it is what the Bible teaches. And so, we must deal with the Biblical material. In this article, I will go through two passages that challenge prosperity teaching, and two that’s being used in its defense. Continue reading The Problem With Prosperity

Benny Hinn Just Denounced the “Health and Wealth” Gospel—but Why?

Benny Hinn is for many synonymous with the prosperity gospel of “health and wealth”. The Israeli televangelist has for decades been preaching that you get rich if you donate a lot to him, that Jesus was rich and that luxury and affluence signifies a “blessed” life.

Needless to say, many were surprised when he said this:

The recording is from a service last Monday that was being broadcast live on Facebook. Hinn said, among other things:

I think it’s an offense to the Lord, it’s an offense to say give $1,000. I think it’s an offense to the Holy Spirit to place a price on the Gospel. I’m done with it. I will never again ask you to give $1,000 or whatever amount, because I think the Holy Ghost is just fed up with it.

The Christian Post points out that Hinn himself did that just five years ago. Hinn continued:

I don’t want to get to Heaven and be rebuked. I think it’s time we say it like it is: the Gospel is not for sale. And the blessings of God are not for sale, and miracles are not for sale. And prosperity is not for sale.

Skärmavbild 2019-09-06 kl. 11.41.19

A lot of headlines has described this as Benny Hinn denouncing the prosperity gospel. He did point out, however, that he still believes in prosperity, since “the Bible clearly teaches it.” But his understanding of what prosperity means has changed:

When I was younger, I was influenced by the preachers who taught whatever they taught. But as I’ve lived longer I’m thinking, wait a minute, you know this doesn’t fit totally with the Bible and it doesn’t fit with the reality. So what is prosperity? No lack…

Did Elijah the prophet have a car? No. Did not even have a bicycle. He had no lack. … Did Jesus drive a car or live in a mansion? No. He had no lack. How about the Apostles? None lacked among them,” Hinn said. “Today, the idea is abundance and palatial homes and cars and bank accounts. The focus is wrong … It’s so wrong.

At Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice, we’re happy that Hinn has changed his mind on this. The Bible warns against those receiving money in order to impart God’s gifts and blessings to others (Acts 8:20). Paul goes against the idea that one can gain financially through faith in his first letter to Timothy:

These men regard godliness as a means of gain. Of course, godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, so we cannot carry anything out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. (1 Tim 6:5-9)

So why did Benny Hinn change his mind? Many have pointed out that his nephew Costi Hinn, who denounced himself from his uncle’s ministry years ago, recently published his book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. Costi, who not only rejects prosperity teaching but also charismatic theology, shares in the book how it has been to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle based on the gifts of people more poor than you are, and the struggles he’s had justifying this from the Scriptures.

So was Benny influenced by his nephew? Maybe, but Costi’s departure from charismaticism makes me doubtful that his words would have much authority for Benny. I think that Benny genuinely describes the cause for his change of opinion when he says

I’m sorry to say that prosperity has gone a little crazy and I’m correcting my own theology and you need to all know it. Because when I read the Bible now, I don’t see the Bible in the same eyes I saw 20 years ago… The more you know the Bible the more you become biblically based and more balanced in your opinions and your thoughts, because we are influence.

I do think that Bible study helped Benny realize his errors. And I take this as great encouragement to continue to point to the Scriptures when discussing with fellow brothers and sisters why we should care about peace and justice. People are not beyond redemption and correction. Even those with deep convictions can change over time. We should not give up pointing to what the Bible really teaches about poverty and wealth.

Micael Grenholm is editor and contributor for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Do Christians Have to Tithe?

by Joel Daniels, originally posted at Engaged Pentecostalism (follow them!).

This series of posts is dedicated to (re)considering basics of Christian faith, and today we examine one regularly misconstrued topic: tithing.

Tithing Mandate?

The Church persistently preaches that Christians must tithe, meaning give 10% of their income to the local church. Of course, there’s a whole sub-genre on whether or not 10% means from net or gross pay. Churches tend to push gross.

And lest we think this is a minor concern, churches often organize around this compulsory practice. I’ve been on staff at churches, in fact, that would not allow churchgoers into leadership positions until they tithed, even though other less concrete aspects of their lives were not as unequivocally scrutinized.

So the question I want to consider is whether or not tithing is a prescribed Christian practice, especially within the contemporary Church context where tithing (or at least giving of some sort) is the one message that is preached every single week during the offering portion of the service. In what follows, I will suggest that tithing is actually not a Christian prescription. But before we delete our online giving profiles, we’ll also discover that Jesus’ actual invitation is much more profound and “costly.” Continue reading Do Christians Have to Tithe?

New Book: Guerrilla Gospel by Bob Ekblad

guerrilla-gospel-1-683x1024.jpgJesus was born into a world marked by oppression and injustice to announce and embody God’s global liberation movement. Like an insurgent, Jesus comes in under the radar, behind enemy lines, and then builds a foundation of trust with a growing entourage of humble followers. He incites a revolution that he calls the Kingdom of God.

Guerrilla Gospel: Reading the Bible for Liberation in the Power of the Spirit is a practical manual that condenses the outlines of God’s liberation movement.

In this book you will learn to

  • identify and overcome common obstacles to stepping into active faith,
  • grow in your awareness of how God speaks and the Spirit guides,
  • discover approaches to preparing messages that invite conversion and holistic transformation,
  • learn essential basics for preparing and leading Bible studies and
  • grow in understanding how the gifts of the Spirit are available now to provide essential support for the adventure of faith.

Get the book here!

Bob Ekblad is co-founder and co-director of Tierra Nueva in Burlington, Washington. Bob is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  He holds a ThD in Old Testament and is known internationally for his courses and workshops on reading the Bible.

THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGING…

In the mid-60’s Bob Dylan sang a song which was not only prophetic in its insights at that time of massive cultural shift but continues to be as relevant now. The words are below and you can hear his dulcet tones in this video:

The changing times are nothing short of astounding, for two reasons. One is that we in the West never expected to see in our lifetimes such thinly disguised hatred, cruelty and the normalising of heinous policies coming from ordinary members of society, (although there are enough precedents – see Nazi Germany, the slave trade operating out of Great Britain and the southern states of America, and the Spanish Inquisition to name just a few) to disenchant us of our illusory state of niceness. 

The emergencies of our world are too numerous to write but among the most prominent are the way in which multiple nations refuse to accept refugees – ‘we are full and our economy can’t sustain helping refugees, plus, they’re different to us’ being the most common reason given by the more prosperous countries. An even greater crisis is the blind refusal of governments to acknowledge that the delicate ecology of our planet is being trashed, driving us to the destination of a world we will not recognise. 

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Continue reading THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGING…

What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions

by Craig Keener, originally posted on his blog as the second part of a series on Spirit empowering.

If the immediate expression of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was prophetic empowerment, the longer-range impact was a new community of believers who walked together in their lives and shared one another’s needs.

Much of Acts 2:41-47 follows the following structure:

A         2:41     Successful evangelism (3000 converts)

B         2:42     Sharing meals, praying together

C         2:44-45            Sharing possessions

B’        2:46-47a          Shared meals, worship

A’        2:47b   Successful evangelism

Whereas the conversions in 2:41 responded to Peter’s preaching, the conversions in 2:47 apparently responded to the life of the new community. Peter’s preaching explained divine signs at Pentecost; but the sacrificial love that Christians showed one another was no less divine, no less supernatural. Continue reading What Revival Looks Like: Sharing Possessions

Pentecostals, the Church and Justice

by Elizabeth D. Rios, Ed.D. D.Min (ABD).

Pentecostalism has often been accused of being withdrawn from social and political concerns due to an either/or mentality that erroneously makes people feel like they have to choose between evangelism, personal salvation and political engagement.  When we look at the Pentecostal movement in its early days we see that there not be such an ultimatum to choose. It is not either/or but both/and.

In my research, I found that in addition to this mindset, lack of knowledge by those in positions of power in the church on things such as how justice is biblical, how civic advocacy is not the same as political campaigning and even their own Pentecostal history has contributed to the passivity of Pentecostals to take a step toward advocating for justice. Interestingly enough, the Pentecostal movement has always thrived among the underprivileged and its success was in how they made leaders out of the very people overlooked and undervalued in society.

Dr. Raymond Rivera would often quip in his office at the Latino Pastoral Action Center in NYC, Pentecostal churches turned the janitor into the Pastor and the housekeeper into the Deacon. This in itself was a prophetic and political activity which challenged power structures and hierarchies, as they elevated the lowly and raised up the oppressed. The Pentecostal church in and of itself stood as not only a beacon of hope but a political declaration to surrounding culture that through the power of the Holy Spirit, they made treasure out of what society deemed as trash.

Some churches are known for having produced leaders that went on to make significant contributions to the movement and in their communities, other churches were known to produce leaders that shook the very foundations of their cities by involving themselves in movements of peace and justice, and still others were so passive the community did not even know they existed.  What I’ve found to be true is that this happens because some pastors used their pulpit and classrooms for discipleship that focused not only on who they were being made into as new creations but how they were expected to live out Christ-center practices as citizens. Thus the church in the life of a believer is crucial for their formation not just spiritually but civically. Essentially, where you go to church matters.

Researchers Nathan Todd and Anne Rufa stated, “Understandings of social justice do not develop in a vacuum, and many social settings such as families, schools, and religious congregations provide a rich context for social justice development.”* Therefore, I argue that the church is pivotal to the making of justice crusaders.

However, a pastor, planter, leader does not know what they do not know. Unless exposed to Pentecostal history that discusses the origins of Pentecostalism as a movement of the marginalized in a variety of contexts, they will buy into the nationalistic ideology that has pervaded our westernized view of evangelicalism. If not taught about how in the early 1900s the move of the Spirit was very much political in nature by empowering disciples to stand against inequality while being victimized themselves, they will believe the narrative always taught, evangelism is the only purpose of the church.

Dario Lopez Rodriguez states,

“The God of life is the God who loves and defends life, and liberates human beings from all oppression. In this sense, for Pentecostals who have been liberated by God from the chains of oppression, it should not be strange that they be involved in the defense of the dignity of all human beings as God’s creations. This is a concrete form of living in the Spirit, and for this reason, they must denounce all forms of personal, social and structural sin.”**

Hence, Pentecostal pastors and leaders, use your worship services, your education rooms, your table fellowship as labs not only to hear about how God is working in the lives of your people but to pastor and teach them how to think and act in today’s world from a Jesus centered, practice-based perspective. In this way, discipleship becomes a means of political engagement and people energized by the Spirit are formed into defenders of human dignity committed to both spiritual and social transformation. The rise of the both/and movement has begun.

Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Rios is the Founder of the Passion Center, a justice-oriented faith-based community helping people stand up and live out the gospel mandate of loving God, loving themselves and loving their neighbor in Miramar, FL. Find out more at www.ThePassionCenter.org and www.ElizabethRios.com

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ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

References


*N.R. Todd and A.K. Rufa, 2013. “Social Justice and Religious Participation: A Qualitative Investigation of Christian Perspectives.” American Journal of Community Psychology 51 (3/4): 315-31, accessed November 12, 2018 doi: 10.1007/s10464-012-9552-4.

**Dario Lopez Rodriguez, 2011. “The God of Life and the Spirit of Life: The Social and Political Dimension of Life in the Spirit.” Studies in World Christianity, (17.1) 1-11, accessed September 4, 2018, doi:10.3366/swc.2011.0002.


Cover photo: Rural church in South Africa, by Micael Grenholm