The prosperity gospel is a hot topic. We’ve written on it and I’ve added to that in some comments over at The Gospel Coalition. David Ogungbile’s chapter on it in African Pentecostal Theology describes it:
Thus, prosperity gospel preachers maintain the underlining factor of possessing the spirit of prosperity in order to counter the spirit of poverty, which is claimed to be the cause of African problems… However material acquisition is central, and money is crucial. To these preachers, prosperity is living in comfort and having enough money to meet one’s immediate and future needs without hardship. Comfort means having cars, clothes, jewelry, good accommodation, modern amenities and facilities, quality living including the ability to take care of health needs, political connections, recognition and being in a position of honour.
It is especially dangerous for vulnerable members of society having a:
Negative impact particularly on the middle-aged and youth members whose attitudes have been influenced to see the gospel message as a commodity to be invested upon in any way possible…. Most see the prosperity gospel as a quick means of getting wealth.
We’ll come to some critiques of the prosperity gospel next week. For now, let us look at the roots of the prosperity gospel in Africa:
The poor socio-economic situation caused by the failure of African governments to cater to their citizens leading to ‘considerable uncertainty, economic disruptions and social unrest’ has inspired the theology and message of the prosperity gospel of the African Pentecostals. As one considers the development and growth of prosperity gospel in Africa, one discovers that the African Pentecostals have cashed in on the poverty state of these communities and developed a survival and economic theology since the modern market economy has not improved their financial state.
Indeed, while Folarin notes the ‘terrible and negative consequences on the quality of Christian spirituality in a number of ways’ he also identifies four ways in which the prosperity gospel is a theological response to the problem of poverty:
- First, God is interested in the entire affairs of human beings.
- Second, there is the need to change the negative attitude of those who assume that poverty is spiritual.
- Third, there is the need to question the notion that poverty is a virtue.
- Fourth, prosperity gospel has contributed to the numerical strength of the Christian population.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.