Monday, June 13, 2016

"Health, Wealth, & Happiness" by David Jones and Russell Woodbridge: A Review

One of the greatest threats to the gospel of the past century has been the prosperity gospel. People like Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Kenneth Copeland (along with his wife), Kenneth Hagin, the Crouches, Paula White, Creflo Dollar, and countless others have distorted the gospel to benefit only themselves. They are heretics and will be judged for leading countless people around the world astray. They pray on the vulnerable and the poor and gospel-minded Christians ought to stand against them.

In their book Health, Wealth, and Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ? authors David W. Jones and Russell S. Woodbridge take on the prosperity gospel and show how theologically empty it is and why it should be challenged.

There are three sections worth mentioning in this book. First, the author's offer two great chapters tracing the historical development of the modern prosperity gospel. They begin, not with the prosperity gospel, but with its forefather: New Thought. New Thought was a pagan philosophy that became the bedrock of prosperity gospel complete with many of the elements still present in the prosperity gospel. Elements like speaking things into existence, a high (god-like) view of man, an emphasis on health and materialism, etc. were all present in the New Thought movement. The authors show just how pagan and panentheistic this movement was. In many ways, it is difficult to see where the New Thought ended and the prosperity gospel began because they were so similar. This is the one part of the book in which I gained new knowledge. I knew of Norman Vincent Peale, but I did not know of the New Thought movement. This put everything into context.

From there the authors trace the history of the prosperity gospel itself. Again, a helpful section that shows the reader how we have gotten to where we are today.

The authors then critique the movement regarding key theological issues like theology proper, anthropology, christology, soteriology, etc. In each instances, the authors show, using the words of prosperity preachers against them, how off-base they are. I knew most of what is mentioned here but it was helpful to see it laid out and the authors include quotations and interact with a variety of the prosperity gospel leaders to illustrate to the reader that these are not just extreme views of a few, but of the majority in this movement.

The last section of the book discusses a more biblical view on suffering, money, health, etc. A helpful guide for the reader and a welcomed section. The book, then, isn't just a critic of a movement, but a correction of that movement. Throughout the critique I couldn't help but ask about the cross. Christ suffered. Christ died. Christ was betrayed. All of which prosperity preachers reject. If Christ suffered, the New Testament teaches, how can we expect anything less? It is in this last section that the authors present this correction and kudos to them for including it.

This is a great book that is well-researched. My one "beef" with it is that I wish the footnotes were at the bottom of the pages instead of the end of the book. In books like this I like to see where certain quotes are taken from and oftentimes the authors would explore something more and I don't like to keep flipping to the back of the book. But that is a personal preference and does not reflect on the content of the book.  The content is excellent and this is a great place to start for those who want to know more about this gospel-denying movement.

I read this book while going through some personal health issues myself. I have gone deaf in one ear and am suffering from daily migraines. How fitting. I've had surgery, had tests ran, and am popping a lot of pills and yet I have found peace in the gospel of Christ - something that prosperity preachers cannot explain. Such preachers want you to find contentment in greed which, by definition, is impossible. The gospel grants us joy and security in Christ. The prosperity gospel is empty pure and simple and Jones and Woodridge shows us just that.
Post a Comment