The Prosperity Gospel: A Historical Overview – Wikipedia

Originally from here.

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I do hereby confess and positively declare that while God does increase power to get wealth among hard-working and productive, godly Christians–the New Thought teachings and the love of money pushed by the Prosperity Gospel and the Word of Faith Movement, are heretical, and nothing more than shameful expressions of a greedy heresy. But that you may know the history of this heresy, I have published this article. 2 Corinthians 2:11, NLT: “So that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” For a Biblical view of economic growth, click this.–John Boruff

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Postwar Healing Revivals

Main article: Healing Revival

Leaders of the Pentecostal Movement in the early 20th century did not embrace prosperity theology.[22] A recognizable form of the doctrine began to take shape within the movement during the 1940s and 1950s, through the teachings of Pentecostal deliverance and healing evangelists. Combining prosperity teaching with revivalism and faith healing, these evangelists taught “the laws of faith (‘ask and ye shall receive’) and the laws of divine reciprocity (‘give and it will be given back unto you’)”.[23]

One prominent early figure in prosperity theology was E. W. Kenyon, educated in the 1890s at Emerson College of Oratory, where he was exposed to the New Thought Movement. Kenyon later became connected with well-known Pentecostal leaders and wrote about supernatural revelation and positive declarations. His writing influenced leaders of the nascent prosperity movement during the post-war American healing revival. Kenyon and later leaders in the prosperity movement have denied that he was influenced by the New Thought Movement. Anthropologist Simon Coleman argues that there are “obvious parallels” between Kenyon’s teachings and the New Thought Movement.[24]

Oral Roberts began teaching prosperity theology in 1947.[12] He explained the laws of faith as a “blessing pact” in which God would return donations “seven fold,”[25] 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.[12] 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.[25][26] Roberts began recruiting “partners,” wealthy donors who received exclusive conference invitations and ministry access in exchange for support.[27]

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.”[28] 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.[29] Allen taught the “word of faith” or the power to speak something into being.[28]

In the 1960s, prosperity became a primary focus in healing revivals.[30] T. L. Osborn began emphasizing prosperity in the 1960s and became known for his often ostentatious displays of personal wealth.[31] During that decade, Roberts and William Branham criticized other prosperity ministries, arguing that their fund-raising tactics unfairly pressured attendees. These tactics were prompted in part by the expense of developing nationwide radio networks and campaign schedules.[30] At the same time, leaders of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God organization often criticized the focus on prosperity taken by independent healing evangelists.[32]

Televangelism

TBN World Headquarters in Costa Mesa, California

During the 1960s, prosperity gospel teachers embraced televangelism and came to dominate religious programming in the United States. Oral Roberts led the way, developing a syndicated weekly program that became the most watched religious show in the United States. By 1968, television had supplanted the tent meeting in his ministry.[33]

Reverend Ike, a pastor from New York City, began preaching about prosperity in the late 1960s. He soon had widely aired radio and television programs and became distinguished for his flashy style. His openness about love for material possessions and teachings about the “Science of the Mind” led many evangelists to distance themselves from him.[34]

In the 1980s, public attention in the United States was drawn to prosperity theology through the influence of prominent televangelists such as Jim Bakker. Bakker’s influence waned, however, after he was implicated in a high-profile scandal.[6][C] In the aftermath, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) emerged as the dominant force in prosperity televangelism, having brought Robert Tilton and Benny Hinn to prominence.[35]

Word of Faith

Main article: Word of Faith

Although nearly all of the healing evangelists of the 1940s and ’50s taught that faith could bring financial rewards, a new prosperity-oriented teaching developed in the 1970s that differed from the one taught by Pentecostal evangelists of the 1950s. This “Positive Confession” or “Word of Faith” movement taught that a Christian with faith can speak into existence anything consistent with the will of God.[36]

Kenneth Hagin was credited with a key role in the expansion of prosperity theology. He founded the RHEMA Bible Training Center in 1974, and over the next 20 years, the school trained more than 10,000 students in his theology.[8][37] As is true of other prosperity movements, there is no theological governing body for the Word of Faith movement, and well-known ministries differ on some theological issues.[38] The teachings of Kenneth Hagin have been described by Candy Gunther Brown of Indiana University as the most “orthodox” form of Word of Faith prosperity teaching.[5]

Recent U.S. History

The Neo-Pentecostal Movement has been characterized in part by an emphasis on prosperity theology,[39] which gained greater acceptance within charismatic Christianity during the late 1990s.[13] By 2006, three of the four largest congregations in the United States were teaching prosperity theology, and Joel Osteen has been credited with spreading it outside of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movement through his books, which have sold over 4 million copies.[6][D] Bruce Wilkinson‘s The Prayer of Jabez also sold millions of copies and invited readers to seek prosperity.[4]

By the 2000s, adherents of prosperity theology in the United States were most common in the Sun Belt.[11] In the late 2000s, proponents claimed that tens of millions of Christians had accepted prosperity theology.[11] A 2006 poll by Time reported that 17 percent of Christians in America said they identified with the movement.[6] There is no official governing body for the movement, though many ministries are unofficially linked.[8]

In 2007, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley opened a probe into the finances of six televangelism ministries that promoted prosperity theology: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Creflo Dollar Ministries, Benny Hinn Ministries, Bishop Eddie Long Ministries, Joyce Meyer Ministries, and Paula White Ministries. In January 2011, Grassley concluded his investigation stating that he believed self-regulation by religious organizations was preferable to government action.[40][E] Only the ministries led by Meyer and Hinn cooperated fully with Grassley’s investigation.[40]

International Growth

In the 2000s, churches teaching prosperity theology saw significant growth in the Third World.[41] According to Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University, poor citizens of impoverished countries often find the doctrine appealing because of their economic powerlessness and the doctrine’s emphasis on miracles.[42] One region seeing explosive growth is Western Africa, particularly Nigeria.[41] In the Philippines, the El Shaddai Movement, part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, has spread prosperity theology outside Protestant Christianity.[43] One South Korean prosperity church, Yoido Full Gospel Church, gained attention in the 1990s by claiming to be the world’s largest congregation.[4]

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About John Boruff

John Boruff is the founder of WesleyGospel.com, a husband, father, and sometimes an open air preacher. He graduated from UNC Pembroke in 2008 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion and views himself as a Wesleyan-Arminian Reformed Pentecostal. As a Christian, he feels connected with all members of the body of Christ, but can identify the most with churches like the Assemblies of God and the Vineyard. In 2015, he released "The Gospel of Jesus Christ," which is meant to be a Bible study for open air preaching. For his other writings, search articles on this site or see the E-Books section.
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