Wednesday, November 4by Reverend Dan on November 4, 2020
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth ... But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven"
The Prosperity Gospel movement and theology is not old in comparison to most theologies. Its earliest history dates back to the late 19th century and a man named E.W. Kenyon.
In 1884 Kenyon became a Methodist at a prayer meeting in his hometown of New York. He was 17 years old at the time. Within a short time, he was a deacon in the church and preaching there regularly, but he had a crisis of faith and left the church for 2 ½ years. For the next few years, he studied acting and sold pianos and organs, and in 1984 while attending a Baptist church he rededicated his life to Christ. He preached in New York for a short while and then opened the Bethel Bible Institute in Massachusetts where he served as president for twenty-five years.
While at BBI, Kenyon came up with the concept of “positive confession” which today is known as “Word of Faith” in Pentecostalism. This concept was influenced by a popular secular philosophy called the “New Thought Movement”. It believed that if you only spoke positive things and believed, that’s all it took for those things to come true. Kenyon died in 1914 and while never realizing the foundation he had laid is considered the early father of the movement. The irony is that Kenyon did not view faith as a means to material prosperity, but instead as a threat to a person’s well-being.
Fast forward now to post WWII in the United States. The “American Dream” is coming true for veterans and their families. Work hard, get ahead, and all is right with the world. By the late 1940’s when the “Healing Revivals” began to travel across the country, the culture of society began to overtake the theology of the revivals. In fact, the Prosperity Gospel was first called “A Gospel of the American Dream”. If was from this theology where a recognizable form of the doctrine began to take shape. Combining prosperity teaching with revivalism, emotionalism, and faith healing, the evangelists began to teach two “new laws” of religion: “the law of faith” which said “ask and ye shall receive”, and “the law of divine reciprocity” – give and it will be given back to you.”
The first of the prosperity theologians was Oral Roberts in 1947, who is considered the father of modern prosperity gospel teaching. He explained the laws of faith as a "blessing pact" in which God would return donations "seven-fold", promising that donors would receive back from unexpected sources the money they donated to him. Roberts offered to return any donation that did not lead to an equivalent unexpected payment. In the 1970s, Roberts characterized his blessing pact teaching as the "seed faith" doctrine: donations were a form of "seed" which would grow in value and be returned to the donor.
Before long, faith healers preaching the Prosperity Gospel turned up all over the country, and with each revival, the promise of God’s blessing of health and wealth was trumpeted louder and louder.
In 1953, faith healer A.A. Allen published The Secret to Scriptural Financial Success and promoted merchandise such as "miracle tent shavings" and prayer cloths anointed with "miracle oil". In the late 1950s, Allen increasingly focused on prosperity. He taught that faith could miraculously solve financial problems and claimed to have had a miraculous experience in which God supernaturally changed one-dollar bills into twenty-dollar bills to allow him to pay his debts. Allen taught the "word of faith" or the power to speak something into being (a misinterpretation of E.W. Weldon’s humble beginning thoughts).
During the 1960s, prosperity gospel teachers gravitated from tent revivals to televangelism and the rush was on.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some of the prominent names in the history and current school of Prosperity Theology.
“Father, Open our eyes to the true meaning of scripture. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”