There is a saying which characterizes the political left: Never let a good crisis go to waste. It appears the same logic characterizes the Charismatic movement, specifically the extreme prosperity gospel wing of the movement. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen all manner of ridiculous “prophecies” and “healings” coming out of these cranks. It got me thinking about how important theology is in determining how we respond to current events. Therefore, we will take this opportunity to examine the impact theology has on real-world responses.
The coronavirus, labeled by some as China virus or Wuhan virus, and officially known as COVID-19 by the CDC, has been basically the only thing in the news for the last few months. People around the globe have been seized with an irrational panic and bought enough toilet paper and canned goods to last them years. In this environment of panic, charlatans and greedy people make a killing because people are not thinking rationally. These are not always religious charlatans. One set of brothers in Tennessee bought up hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer (another panic buy item) and attempted to sell it online at a massive mark-up before being forced by public pressure to donate it. While this is greedy, at least people were getting something that had some value out of the transaction.
Unlike the hand sanitizer, the charlatans that inhabit the prosperity Gospel movement offered no value in return for the hard-earned money of their followers. Here is some of the nonsense spewed by these false teachers in the last few weeks. “The Tide is Turning on Coronavirus” (several weeks old as of this writing) “Religious freedom will stop the coronavirus” (that’s not how viruses work). I’ve also seen the notorious false teacher Kenneth Copeland, a well-known member of the prosperity Gospel movement, doing multiple wacky things, including claiming that the prayers of God’s people have overwhelmed the coronavirus (how he knows that is beyond me), and raising oil-covered hands to the camera and claiming to be healing people from the coronavirus (if he has, I’d like to see some evidence). Then, of course, Paula White asking people to send her money to “keep their covenant” with God to fight coronavirus. This is utter rubbish and why more Christians are not calling out these heretics is beyond me.
However, while these prophecies and blatant profiteering off people’s panic is deplorable, these individuals are being consistent with their underlying theology. They preach a theology that claims God wants only to bless His faithful. They are currently engaged in misusing Psalms 91 to claim that nothing bad can happen to Christians. Even if we assume that Psalm 91 solely applies to Christians, which it does not, we still need to compare it to the wider context of Scripture. Consider 2 Timothy 3:12 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” That does not sound like we are promised sunshine and roses in this life. Further, if you read Hebrews 11, it becomes abundantly obvious that those who followed God did not live comfortable lives. “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. ” Hebrews 11:36-38. That does not sound like a wonderful, prosperous life.
Unfortunately, when people believe that God only wants to bless them and that if they just have enough faith, they will receive abundant blessings, they become susceptible to con artists like Copeland, White, Bennie Hinn, and others. This false theology works itself out in their behavior. They believe they have to exhibit faith by sending money to these con artists, often well beyond what they can afford, and trust God to provide for them. While I am all for trusting God, I am not in favor of being reckless, particularly when bad theology underlies the movement. Christians should openly and publicly condemn these false prophets as wolves in sheep’s clothing, despoiling the flock. Unfortunately due to the general ignorance of theology in the church, these charlatans have an audience. This is one of the reasons In His Image is developing the Theology Matters podcast, to educate the church on basic theological issues. The church desperately needs to understand theology and it does not. One of our goals is to change that.
Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.