A friend of ours is a Senior Lecturer at the Anglican Bible college in Dodoma and I asked him what he thought about western responses to the prosperity gospel. We feel we’ve been doing lots of learning on the topic of prosperity theology but we’re always keen to run it past local theologians. This friend is Kenyan.
Here were three things he said:
- No western theologian should expect to say anything to an African about the prosperity gospel until they have lived in Africa long-term. From the comfort of the west, how could you possibly expect to understand the appeal of the prosperity gospel, to grapple with the worldview behind it, or to respond compassionately towards it?
- The extremes of the debate sadden him. In an effort to deny that God can be manipulated, opponents of the prosperity gospel often neglect the theme that God is the giver of all good things, and they portray the Christian life as one of doom and suffering. Their version of God is just as offensive.
- While prosperity gospel exists in the west as well, there is great anxiety about it ‘taking over Africa’. If it is just a problem in Africa, why do western theologians not listen to the local responses to it and critiques of it? They act as if importing western solutions will work for an African problem. An example of this kind of import is expecting that it’s only in the context of a whole biblical theology of blessing that an antidote to the prosperity gospel can be found.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.