Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oral Roberts, 1918-2009

As announced on the Oral Roberts Ministries web site, evangelist Oral Roberts died today at the age of 91.

Of the various things that might be said about Roberts, we will say this: he is the person most responsible for popularizing what is now derisively called the health-and-wealth gospel. With his concept of "seed faith," Roberts successfully promulgated the idea that those who by faith invest something with God will reap material abundance.

That notion has been around the world multiple times since Roberts first preached it. Today the prosperity gospel is a global, not just American phenomenon, especially powerful in Pentecostal circles but hardly confined to them.

So as Oral Roberts has passed from this life to the life to come, it is worth assessing the future of seed faith and the good news of prosperity. We think that Roberts' distinctive concepts are in for a rough time in the near future. Bad theology yields massive disappointment, and health-and-wealth is bad theology for sure. As it spreads, it also withers.

But we also think it's here to stay. Something deep inside people wants to believe that wealth can be conjured. Roberts' surviving disciples will always have an audience ready to have its ears tickled while hoping to have its pockets filled.

Like pyramid marketing, we will always have the prosperity perversion of the gospel--and its casualties.


steve-o said...

John MacArthur recently declared war on health-and-wealth gospel preachers, declaring it the Madoff of evangelicalism.

Although I laughed off Oral Roberts for most of my life, I changed my position when I befriended a minister from a church in Tulsa. His congregation ended up dealing with those who had flushed their life savings down the O.R. toilets hoping to secure blessings for themselves.

One particular woman let her children starve, giving O.R. her last dime. Social services ended up taking custody of her kids and she'd divert her government assistance towards that "ministry." Truly pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Olsteen couldn't (or maybe he did!)answer in your provided clip - can you? Is a non-Jesus believing Jew going to hell - yes or no. Thoughts?

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

We will not begin answering all the theological questions that Joel Osteen has answered poorly. No one has the time to do that. So our doing it this time is not what we expect to do generally.

All salvation comes through Jesus and is appropriated by faith in him. If there is a "wideness in God's mercy," it still comes through Jesus and is given to faith, though how faith that doesn't seem to have Jesus as its conscious object can appropriate God's mercy is beyond our ability to say from a biblical theology. We have many more reasons to say no than to say yes about this.

For we humans entrusted with the gospel, the point is moot because the need is the same. Everyone ought to know about Jesus and believe in Jesus, period, even if--somehow by some means that we don't understand--God extends his mercy to some who seem to us not to believe.

The question about Jews who don't believe in Jesus is a classic "gotcha" question posed by journalists who don't understand theology to prominent ministers that journalists don't like. In this case, we join the journalist who posed this question to Osteen in our dislike of him. But we also disparage the journalist who tries to create a story out of the old news that Christian theology is exclusivistic in its view of salvation.

Anonymous said...

thanks....i think

KevinAK said...

Just in time for Christmas CNN had this article on the prosperity gospel phenomenon:


A BLESSED 2010 to the SWNIDS