Contend Earnestly: Augustine Holds True Against the Prosperity "Gospel"

Monday, September 08, 2008

Augustine Holds True Against the Prosperity "Gospel"

I am not a great historian. I kind of wish I was, but the fact is, I don't have time and when I read biographies with a lot of facts, I usually lose interest. This is a huge hole in my theological knowledge, and sometimes it pains me. I bring this up because of a couple of quotes that I read from Augustine. They would be very appropriate to take to the prosperity gospel proponents for questioning. The reason I speak of my limited knowledge on history is because I wonder when the prosperity gospel started taking such a foot hold worldwide. We know that it has always been somewhat present because we see Paul say some things that would point to the evil preachers of money during his time:

For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
2 Corinthians 2:17

We also even see this said in Isaiah (which is speaking of the evil people taking advantage through evil statutes, but the moral reasoning still stands):

So as to deprive the needy of justice
And rob the poor of My people of their rights,
So that widows may be their spoil
And that they may plunder the orphans.
Isaiah 10:2

The biggest issue that I find with the Prosperity "Gospel" is that they put the gift above the giver. They put on display the glory of the gifts more than the glory of the Saviour. This is a really big issue. We find in 1 Peter 3:18 what our gift is, namely, God!

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
1 Peter 3:18

Notice that Christ died for us, to bring us to God. Not to bring us to God's gifts. What I find interesting through all this is a couple of quotes from Augustine that hit directly to the heart:

You are ever active, yet always at rest. You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need...You grieve for wrong, but suffer no pain. You can be angry and yet serene. Your works are varied, but your purpose is one and the same...You welcome those who come to you, though you never lost them. You are never in need yet are glad to gain, never covetous yet you exact a return for your gifts...You release us from our debts, but you lose nothing thereby. You are my God, my Life, my holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you? Can any man say enough when he speaks of you? Yet woe betide those who are silent about you!

Augustine, Confessions, p. 23 (I,4)

Suppose, brethren, a man should make a ring for his betrothed, and she should love the ring more wholeheartedly than the betrothed who made it for her...Certainly, let her love his gift: but, if she should say, "The ring is enough. I do not want to see his face again" what would we say of her?...The pledge is given her by the betrothed just that, in his pledge, he himself may be loved. God, then, has given you all these things. Love Him who made them.

Augustine (Brown, Augustine of Hippo, p. 326 (Tractate on the Epistle of John, 2:11))


Anonymous said...

You make very good decisive points Seth!

One reason I cringe at this prosperity gospel or whatever it is, it certainly is not the Gospel, is a couple of citings, as in these citings of Scripture. You don't come away with that warm and fuzzy feeling you falsely are meant to hope in by taking seriously the prosperity gospel as they teach it:

Heb 11:35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.
Heb 11:36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
Heb 11:37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated--
Heb 11:38 of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
Heb 11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
Heb 11:40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.


1Pe 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
1Pe 2:19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.
1Pe 2:20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
1Pe 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.


1Pe 3:17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
1Pe 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,


1Pe 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
1Pe 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1Pe 4:14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

It seems to me from where I sit, this false teaching purportedly insulates you from the harshness of this world system controlled by the devil, which it does not?

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