Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Jones, David W. and Russell S. Woodbridge, Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ? Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011.

In his first letter to the young pastor Timothy Paul encourages and instructs him by saying: ” If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed” (1Tim. 4:6). “These things” include all the previous teachings of Paul in this letter. But, the most important issue at hand was the gospel itself and Timothy’s faithfulness to rightly teach this gospel.  Concerning this gospel, Paul told the Galatians: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). There are many false gospels in this world, but one of the most prevalent in our culture is what some call “the prosperity gospel.” What is this prosperity gospel? Jones states:

Given its departure from the historical, orthodox message of the church, one would think that most Bible-believing Christians would reject the prosperity gospel. However, this is not the case. The prosperity gospel is spreading beyond the confines of the charismatic movement where it has been traditionally strong, and is taking root in the larger evangelical church. A recent survey found that in the United States, 46 percent of self-proclaimed Christians agree with the idea that God will grant material riches to all believers who have enough faith. Why is this so? The prosperity gospel has an appealing but fatal message: accept God and He will bless you–because you deserve it (p. 16).

This gospel of prosperity appeals to all races, genders, denominations, crosses international boundaries, and is on the rise worldwide. But, according to Jones and Woodbridge, this prosperity gospel is a false gospel and needs to be exposed. This is exactly what this book successfully accomplishes.

The book is organized through two main sections: 1) Critique of this gospel; and 2) Correction of this gospel. Chapter one is a survey of the historical foundations of the prosperity gospel in which the authors show its basis in the unorthodox teachings of the 19th century teaching called “The New Thought.” Chapter two is a survey of the history of the prosperity gospel which includes its understanding about God, the mind, humankind, health, wealth, and salvation. Chapter three examines the doctrinal errors of the prosperity gospel. This is accomplished by showing the Scriptural teaching on many theological doctrines including faith, the atonement, the Abrahamic covenant, prayer, and the Bible and then comparing this teachings of the prosperity gospel. Chapter four focuses on the topic of suffering, again examining the biblical teaching and comparing it to that of the prosperity gospel. In chapter five the authors establish a biblical theology of wealth and poverty, again comparing it to the erroneous teachings of the prosperity gospel. Finally, in chapter six, a theology of giving is developed, asking questions such as: “Why should Christians give?” “How much should Christians give?” To whom should Christians give?”

This book does not answer every question on the prosperity gospel. However, it serves the church well by giving a thorough introduction that effectively proves this gospel as false. Written in a well-organized format, this book is easy to understand. Primary sources of the most prominent prosperity gospel preachers are quoted throughout, leaving no one to doubt their clear teachings. One of its greatest strengths is not simply exposing a false gospel, but also revealing the one true gospel once for all delivered to the people of God in the Bible. Another strength is its focus on the definition of biblical wealth. Any Christian who desires to understand what the Bible teaches on the biblical principle of giving will find it helpful. I recommend this book with great enthusiasm!

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