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.