Sunday, December 13, 2009

More thoughts on TBN, MacArthur and money

I think Dave Black made a very valid point regarding the frenzy in the blogosphere over MacArthur's post about TBN (somebody please help Dr. Black format his blog so that we can link directly to his posts!):

I see it's "go after the prosperity preachers" week. I'm all for it -- if the purpose is to bring greater civility, clarity, and theological precision to the discussion. But there is a bit of a problem here. You see, we evangelicals have never found it easy to superimpose morality on others without coming across as a wee bit arrogant. There's nothing that ecstatifies us quite like burning witches and excoriating fools. Sure, the Reverend Ike types are building their empires off the hard-earned (and foolishly donated) money of the average, gullible evangelical. But they're not the only ones. Goodness, didn't anybody read that report about what the Christian CEOs of the largest NGOs are making?

I'm not saying that confrontation is wrong. I'm just saying that every honest Christian struggles with materialism -- the temptation to use our relationship with God to get more of this or that, whether it be physical healing or money in the bank. In fact, Jesus' apostles were remarkably materialistic. The age in which they lived was just as decadent as ours -- phallic worship, astrology, pleasure-seeking, and the grossest forms of materialism. The disciples followed Jesus for some good reasons and for some bad reasons -- like the hope of getting a business advantage (by sitting on His right hand!).

I could mention other things -- for instance, 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are clear that Christian leaders are to be free from the desire for sordid gain. But mostly I just want to say this: If we're going to point the finger at the money-grubbing health-and-wealth preachers out there and their so-called prosperity gospel -- and there are plenty of them to go around -- our own lives had better be free of materialism and the love of money.

I don't think "ecstatifies " is a word. But I digress. We certainly are in full "torches and pitchforks" mode. While the vile "gospel" preached by TBN and other deserves the indignation and vocal correction by John MacArthur, John Piper and others, I think Dr. Black makes an important point here. There is plenty of materialism and love of money in the most orthodox of churches and in many a pious Christian. That is not to minimize at all the damnable heresy of the prosperity preachers, on TBN and elsewhere, who tell the lost and elect alike that the cross is not enough, that we get to use God as our ATM with prayer as the pin number, that if we contribute enough God is required to bless us with money and heal our aches and pains. I stand by every word I said and agree with everything MacArthur said. I also have to say that we have plenty of issues with money and materialism in the church and if I may go a step further, the way we exalt and obsess about money in the church makes the job of these prosperity preachers far easier.

How have we denied ourselves, really sacrificed? The prosperity Gospel makes so much sense in America because it is what we see week to week. Not just in $130 million religious campuses or in megachurches. I am talking about the local church that spends tons of money to replace carpet that might be ugly but works, adding video effects to make the "worship" more meaningful, spending tons of money on staff and denominational bureaucracy. Granted it is not mixed in with the Gospel but when we justify frankly frivolous and/or pride driven giving and spending in the local church, we need to pay attention to our own materialistic hearts and attitudes and ask what role that plays in the spread of prosperity preaching.

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1 comment:

Joe said...

Yeah, some guys completely beat "paying the pastor" to a pulp. Someone needs to admonish these whack jobs.