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Spirit-Prosperity: An Evangelical Mistake

December 21, 2009

With the death of Oral Roberts, I started thinking about the mistakes of the prosperity gospel. Interestingly, it seems that much of evangelicalism has bought into the same kind of gospel, but have replaced material prosperity with Spirit prosperity. The results are just as, if not more, damaging. Spirit prosperity is the belief that if you are living right with God, God will bestow upon you a feeling and experience of the Spirit which will continue to grow unabated as long as you are faithful. God, on this view, ceases to be a personal God, and is now a force for our own happiness. The Spirit, rather than being the Spirit of the wholly free God, becomes tethered to a simple and singular activity – our own happiness and joy. Ultimately, this view, which is prevalent in evangelicalism, undermines the cross of Christ.

The cross is depicted in the Bible as both an event in the life of our Lord, and as a pattern of our life in Christ. We are called to bear our crosses, in baptism we die and rise and in communion we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ. All of these activities, and many more, focus on the pattern of dying and rising. In many ways, we are dead and raised in the same way that the kingdom has come – we have died, Paul tells us, but we must still try and live as though we had died to our former manner of living. Our death and resurrection is "already" but clearly "not yet." 

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