Is this the opposite extreme?

I don’t think I actually know anyone who would sign up to the nonsense called prosperity gospel. It is an extreme abberation of biblical teaching suggesting that Jesus will make us happy, prosperous and all will be well.

I happened across this clip today on Purgatorio where John Piper takes it in a totally opposite direction. As I watched it I couldn’t help wondering if in his attempt to communicate an important message, Piper hasn’t jumped to the other extreme…

What do you reckon?

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20 thoughts on “Is this the opposite extreme?

  1. Yeah I reckon he has probably gone to an extreme, but as I watched it I couldn’t help thinking about that scene at the start of the Passion of Christ when Jesus violently crushes the head of the snake.

    When something as insidious as the prosperity message weaves itself into our churches and our thinking, it needs to be stamped on.

  2. Powerful clip. I don’t always agree with Piper in all his theology but I think he’s on the money here.

    I saw evidence of this prosperity type teaching when I was in Africa and it really was sickening to see that being preached in the midst of a community stricken by poverty. And it gives Christianity a bad name even there – the newspapers were full of scandals and criticism of this sort of message.

  3. I dont think he is wrong in anything he says…but I detect that most sensible churches have moved on from the excess of the prosperity doctrine….so the question I ask is, why was he not saying this 10 years ago, when it was needed…maybe he was? also…maybe, just maybe, his style and emphasis of ministry has as much to do with his personality type as anything else. I believe God wires us all differently, for good reason.

  4. I had a very close christian friend who got caught up in the prosperity gospel , he went overseas to a seminar which cost $10,000. It was all about investing money offshore to avoid paying tax here etc, there were christian speakers at this seminar and he went ahead with his plans even though people tried to warn him against it.

    Two years later he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Prior to being diagnosed he became involved with a group of christians who are very big on healing and promote that god doesnt want christians to be sick. Well you can imagine what teaching he decided to take hold of when he was told he had cancer.

    This would have to have been one of the ugliest things I have ever been a part of within the christian community. As my friend began to take on the belief that god was definateley going to heal him, it became more and more difficult for family and friends to enter into what was really happening here. He was in fact dying.

    We were not allowed to talk about death in front of him, if anyone talked to him about when he gets to heaven , he didnt want to hear it. His wife was unable to discuss funeral arrangements with him and probably the saddest thing of all was that he never spoke to his two teenage children in a way in which one probably would like to if you knew you were going to die.

    So everyone sat around watching as the cancer grew in his body to the point that he looked like a pregnant woman.

    Well, after being diagnosed he was dead within 6 weeks , all the while believing god was going to do a miracle and heal him. No-one got to say goodbye and those he gathered around him who believed as he did came out with the usual “he mustnt of had enough faith” or “he gave up believing”.

    Oh and getting back to the offshore money thing , his widow then went and invested insurance money overseas on the advice of well meaning christian friends and lost the lot.

    So do I think John Piper has gone to the extreme , definateley not. I am quite a fan of his and am glad that there are men around like him who have the guts to stand up and speak out against this and many other false teachings that go on in the name of Jesus, its exactly what he calls it “crap”.

    I also think the american church is probably far more steeped in this teaching than perhaps we are , if you want to read a good article , read Megachurches, Megaphones by eric redmond, how the church has traded the truth for a lie in order to accomadate the world.

    Well now that I have got all that off my chest, Hamo , what exactly did you mean by “the other extreme”?

  5. I think most western christians have a bit of the prosperity gospel in them, because it is rooted in our western culture.

    The basic philosophy of our society is economic growth. If growth slows then we hit panic stations. It isn’t unexpected that we carry that into our spiritual lives. I think of the constant drive for bigger and more successful churches stems partly from this way of thinking, yes, we are meant to go forth and train disciples, but we translate that into the pursuit of success and bigger and more, rather than simply taking it one disciple at a time.

    So whilst I don’t know any full on prosperity types, I think I need to be continually reminded not to centre my life on societies ideals but on those of Christ, which is a far cry from bigger, better, more…

    I liked it….

  6. Hi Lesley

    I was thinking he may have gone to the opposite extreme by an overemphasis on suffering.

    The illustration of the young girl dying seemed to lack some of the reality of grief and confusion that would be a reality. It focused more on who God is.

    No problem with suffering being part of our deal, but perhaps a little over-emphasis here

  7. I think I’d want to hear the whole message. This looks like it has been edited to fit a commercial rather than encompass a whole message. I think John Piper usually preaches for more than 2 minutes so I guess there’s a whole chunk cut out.

    If that’s the case it would probably be a bit harsh to make a complete judgement on his message because it’s not complete. That said, Christ is supposed to be all sufficient and love to be more valuable than gold; the idea that anyone can preach that the more money you give the more money you’ll get back just makes me feel uncomfortable.

  8. Yep I think Phil is right it does sound like only part of a message, I have seen this happen before and it can often give a one sided view which can reflect badly on the preacher.

    Having listened to Piper preach I have found that he is willing to tackle subjects that others dont want to touch and suffering is one of those.

    If you ever read some of his sermons on the sovereignty of god you will find he is very passionate for the glory of god and yet has great compassion for those who suffer.

    Personally I would like to hear more preaching about who god is , I think the gospel has become very man centered in the last 10 years.

  9. Sometimes passion = extreme one way or the other

    People hunger and thrist for hope. In the midst of suffering – words are not enough – how can we do more than share the story of our suffering Lord?

  10. These days Piper’s whole style and approach grate at me quite a bit. He often seems to overplay things, but I think that’s got more to do with culture than anything else. I don’t think his message is dodgy Hamo, maybe like me you are reacting to the cultural differences between us.

  11. Wow. That blows your socks off. These are strong words. I find myself in agreement. Too long has the church found satisfation in “things”. This has created an empty Christian faith.

  12. I’m with all who say he is grating. Back in sheffield I was going to the gym every morning at six and used to listen to sermons on my ipod. One morning i listened to the first five minutes of aPiper sermon and the intensity of it all did my head in – he’s relentless from the first minute. It felt like the rowing machine was in the Atlantic on a stormy night. I gave up on his books years back and his speaking style is a real turn off. Sounds harsh, given I like his concept of being satisfied in God and him being glorified in us when we are, but I’d rather quote him than listen to him.

  13. I loved what he had to say. Sure some things were strong like ‘I hate’ etc but I think he’s spot on.

    The illustration of the girl may have been extreme but I totally agree with the truth behind what he said. The fact is maybe we in Australia have come to a point where we are very comfortable Christians who, may not believe that we get riches on earth because we follow Jesus but . . we are comfortable on the whole, so we don’t get the opportunity to see God at work and then want to look to God in difficult circumstances. We’d rather just curse Him if something goes wrong. The fact is that most of the time God isn’t just enough, we want more of what this earth can give us, then we might say God is enough. To tell you the truth I think a heap of persecution and suffering may do the followers of Jesus here in Australia the world of good so we can start valuing the things that are really important.

  14. i am with piper on this.

    I read Jesus words on how much we should hate sin (better for you to gouge out your eye…etc) – and i am left with the question “why don’t i hate sin that much?”.

    I am left with the uncomfortable thought “maybe it is because i don’t actually delight in God and his goodness – as much as the songs i sing declare that i do”.

    What if, offensive/abrasive as it is, Piper’s reaction is closer to that of Jesus’ than we might like?

  15. I spent four years in a semi-prosperity church (i say “semi” because it by no-means compares with some of the crap in the US). We were conditioned to consider any message that was opposed to the prosperity message as being from the enemy.

    So, while the little snippet from John Piper does not demonstrate what I consider to be ideal communication, it may be what is required to “shock” some of the prosperity disciples into opening their mind to consider other possibilties. If you been conditioned in a prosperity church you are not going to be inclined to open up a book authored by a slum-dwelling missionary because you have been taught that they are “mis-led”.

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