Author’s Note: This article was originally published 3 years ago as part of a series. Somehow it got deleted from the server. This version replaces it. — Dr. Steve
Many opponents of the prosperity doctrine have declared it to be “another gospel.” What do they mean by this?
Actually, it’s a euphemism for “heresy” and they are alluding to a passage in Galatians Chapter 1 where Paul wrote:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. — Galatians 1:6-9 (emphasis mine)
Before we go further, let’s establish the context for this passage:
- Paul is writing a letter to the churches he founded throughout Galatia, a Roman province encompassing most, if not all, of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey).
- He is refuting one of the three main heresies Satan has formulated against the Church: judaizing, the false doctrine claiming Christians must obey the Law of Moses in order to be saved.
- Judaizing negates one of the foundational doctrines of Christianity: salvation by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone.
- He labels judaizing “another gospel” and pronounces the direst of curses (anathema) upon all who would preach it.
- a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction; a curse; a man accursed, devoted to the direst of woes
So in bald terms, anti-prosperity folks are convinced those who believe in divine prosperity are:
- Not born from above, and therefore;
- Are going to hell.
In my blog article covering correct biblical interpretation, you will find the term “heresy” defined as any contradiction of essential doctrines. Essential doctrines are those we are required to believe in order to be a true Christian believer.
So let’s examine precisely what is proclaimed as essential doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed and then the Nicene Creed, the latter written by the Council of Nicaea around 300AD for the express purpose of refuting both the other 2Gnostic and Arian heresies:
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried. On the third day, He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, Who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Along with the inerrancy and verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, the depravity of mankind, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, every concept in these creeds form the core foundational beliefs of Christianity aka essential doctrine. Folks who do not accept and believe essential doctrine, both in their entirety as well as correctly are actually not true Christian believers and not going to heaven, no matter how religious they may appear.
Groups of folks who all believe the same heresy are called “cults” and we believers are forbidden by God’s Word from fellowshipping with heretics, period.
All this begs the following question:
Are finances mentioned anywhere in these lists of essential doctrines?
That would be a resounding, “NO!”
Let’s take a look at the 10 Commandments (in practice, most churchgoers consider them as the 10 Suggestions, but I digress…). They read as follows:
- I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
- You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.…
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…
- Honor your father and your mother…
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.
With the exceptions of commandments #3 and #7, all the other commandments are indeed applicable to finances:
- We are prohibited from allowing money to become our idol (#1, #2)
- We may not violate the principle of Sabbath in the pursuit of money (#4).
- Honoring your parents is directly related to supporting them financially in their old age, not simply respecting them (#5).
- We are not allowed to murder someone to obtain their money (#6).
- We are prohibited from taking money, by stealth or force, from another person without their willing permission (#8).
- We are not allowed to lie to obtain someone else’s money (#9).
- We are prohibited from lusting after anyone else’s possessions, which includes their money (#10).
Nowhere in this list — nor anywhere else in Scripture, for that matter — does it proclaim, “Thus saith the Lord: thou shalt be poor!” Neither do we see its corollary, “Thou shalt not be rich!”
Finally, let’s examine the conditions for salvation found in Romans:
…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. — Romans 10:9-10
Again, using the best magnifying glass and analytical tools available to mankind, we can see a sum total of zero words in any of these authoritative documents concerning money at all, much less how much of it we are divinely permitted to possess/want or anything about our attitude towards it.
So where do Scripture verses concerning finances fall within the Christian doctrinal hierarchy? Actually, they are what is called “peripheral doctrine,” meaning they are right there in the Bible alright, but our not accepting/believing/practicing them does not cost us our salvation, just those earthly blessings we would otherwise receive. Other such doctrines in this classification would be the taking of communion, water baptism, divine healing, the charismatic experience, etc.
How we practice peripheral doctrines within any given church congregation falls into an even broader category called “traditions.” There are as many traditions as there are churches and denominations — even non-denominational churches have them!
Traditions have become something of a dirty word in Christian circles because throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus repeatedly chastised the scribes and Pharisees over the issue of traditions. Our Master did this, not because traditions are inherently wrong in and of themselves — because they’re not! — but because those folks had elevated their traditions to the point where God’s Word had been supplanted by them.
Divine prosperity falls into a doctrinal gray area somewhere between the categories of peripheral doctrine and tradition because it contains elements of both.
As we have just covered, neither class of doctrine costs you your salvation or fellowship with the Body of Christ if you don’t agree with or practice them. Neither class of doctrine allows you to disfellowship (separate) yourself from fellow believers who disagree with you about them, period.
So let me be perfectly clear here: in the 45+ years I’ve been hanging around the WoF movement I have never heard even one pastor, preacher, or teacher utter a single word violating essential Christian doctrine from either a pulpit or on television, not once!
The major problem with their “another gospel” schtick is this: those proclaiming it are exalting themselves to the judgment seat of Christ and declaring all who believe it is God’s will to prosper His children are deserving of hellfire and damnation, that we are not even saved.
Their doing so is a sin in its own right (see Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37; John 7:24; 1 Corinthians 3:5; James 4:11). I feel the major command in play among all of those written prohibiting such behavior is this:
Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand… But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ… Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. — Romans 14:4,10,13
Based upon historical Christian documentation accepted as authoritative by both sides of this debate, the so-called prosperity gospel is absolutely not “another gospel!” Ergo, it is not heresy, and those who believe it are not in a cult and in no way at risk of losing their salvation, period, end of story!
Those who casually wield this accusation against their Christian brethren are themselves violating God’s clear-cut commandment to avoid exalting themselves and judging those who have the temerity to disagree with them.