Is prosperity theology OK?

I grew up during the 1980s when, unfortunately, many televangelists fell victim to scandal.

The defrocked ministers Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker were major pop culture figures from the decade. Their sprawling ministries earned millions and brought both in close contact with temptation neither could resist.

Bakker later wrote a book renouncing his past teachings on prosperity theology.

In the 1996 book, “I Was Wrong,” Bakker described reading the Bible all the way through for the first time while in prison. That made him realize he had taken certain passages out of context — passages which he had used as “proof texts” to back up his prosperity teachings.

I mention this topic as it relates to Joel Osteen. Senior pastor for Lakewood Church in Houston, Osteen, 48, is also a best-selling author whose ministry reaches over seven million broadcast media viewers weekly in over 100 nations around the world.

He is a millionaire who unabashedly espouses prosperity theology. That makes some uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable.

The focus on prosperity has been harshly criticized by leaders of mainstream evangelicalism as a non-scriptural doctrine or as an outright heresy. Secular commentators allege that leaders of the movement take advantage of their followers.

That Osteen never attended seminary and has no high-level training in theology or Bible studies has made him a controversial figure. He was sharply criticized in this Oct. 6 column.

I certainly don’t believe a man or woman of God needs to take an oath of poverty, but on the other hand, the pursuit of financial reward seems at odds with genuine religious teaching and worship.

What do you think?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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One Response to Is prosperity theology OK?

  1. Sarah says:

    My husband is a pastor and I totally believe that pastor who are rich miss the message of Jesus. Look at Jesus did He believe in the religion of prosperity? He was a person who spent all His time caring for the poor and marginalized. Pastors should be able to live without being on food stamps but too much stuff ruins the message.

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