Saturday, January 7, 2012
The Bible and Its Contradictions: Supporting--and Challenging--the Prosperity Gospel
Can the Bible make you rich? Some seem to think so...
You may have heard about it. It's called The Prosperity Gospel. And it has caused quite a controversy within traditional Christian ranks. One of its greatest evangelical proponents is Joel Osteen, pastor of the mega Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. His sermons appear to come directly from the Bible but his detractors insist that he's misinterpreting the Scriptures at best and misleading his flock at worst.
So, with that in mind, does the Bible in fact support the so-called Prosperity Gospel? Let's see...
Mark 10: 29, 30: "There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my sake and gospel's, but he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children and lands." In other words, follow Jesus and your wealth will be increased a hundred times over. Sounds good. Real good.
Psalms 37:25: "I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread." Again, the followers of God shall never be wanting.
Psalms 112: 1, 3: "Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord...Wealth and riches shall be in his house." That's what we're looking for, right? A god who doles out a lot of goodies to those who serve him.
Job 22: 23, 24: "Then thou shalt lay up gold as dust." And with the price of gold on the rise, who would turn this down?
On the other hand...
Luke 6:20: "Blessed be ye poor." Say what?
Matt. 6: 19, 21: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth... For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Come again?
Matt. 19:24: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Tough stuff.
It appears there are some slight(?) contradictions in this Prosperity Gospel thing. If we are admonished by ministers and Bible teachers to take the Bible literally, on face value, and never question its authority, then surely there must be some explanation for this apparent anomaly. (I use the word 'anomaly' loosely here because this particular set of references is just the beginning of woes when it comes to wealth and the Bible. I will present much more as this series continues.)
And to you more progressive types, I offer a gentle warning: No fair pulling passages out of context just support to your own philosophical approach.
I, for one, am rather fond of The Prosperity Gospel, but in the final analysis, there is only one possible explanation: The Bible is a human construct, put together by committee in the 4th century, and therefore is prone to mistake and contradiction. I'll just have to make up my own mind about it. You, too?
Unfortunately, too many of us have turned the Bible into an idol. Which, if I'm not mistaken, is one of the very issues we are warned about in this book we have so idolized.
(If you can come up with a valid and rational interpretation of these contradictory passages of Scripture, I have a comment section at the bottom of this post.)