Paul's Passing Thoughts

Wouldn’t the Prosperity Gospel be Completely Consistent with Protestant Orthodoxy?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 16, 2019

ppt-jpeg4We are warned about it constantly by church leaders: having a “righteousness of our own.” If you do, apparently, as John Piper often barks, “your soul is in peril.” Oh my, we don’t want that.

Of course, many assume that the following idea is being confronted by Piper et al: righteousness originated within us. That’s not what is being confronted at all; what is being confronted is the idea that a like righteousness of God is infused into our being through the new birth. That’s supposedly a “righteousness of our own,” so the concept of a free gift that we take ownership of and something that originates within us is conflated to make the former synonymous with the latter. It also rejects the idea that a newborn possesses the same nature and characteristics of one’s biological father.

The central soteriological doctrine of Protestant orthodoxy is Double Imputation. What’s that? Answer: Christ not only came to die as a substitute for the penalty of sin, but he also came to live a perfect life of law-keeping so that can be imputed to our lives as well. Protestantism insists that all righteousness must remain outside of the believer. Any righteousness attributed to us must be a substitution by Christ. Hence, our justification is a “legal declaration,” not our actual state of being via the new birth.

Well, that raises some questions doesn’t it? How then does the Christian life work? How does one live by faith alone in the works of Christ and not anything we do?  However, note that the very idea conflates justification and sanctification and makes sanctification the progression of justification (salvation). The answer is what Protestant scholars call “objective justification experienced subjectively.”

There is actually something Christians can DO which is considered living by faith alone and not good works that we do (faith alone works). Yes, if one works hard at the “ordinary means of grace,” viz, tithing, submitting to the elders, the Lord’s Table, preaching the gospel to ourselves every day, sitting under “gospel preaching,” attending church “whenever the doors are open,” etc., etc., etc., the perfect law-keeping of Christ will be imputed to your life.

According to Martin Luther who articulates this doctrine in his Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, we must assume that all works we do are evil (even those that appear good), but in our Christian experience of subjectivity, some of the works we experience are actually the actions of Christ imputed to our lives but we have no way of knowing which are from us or manifested by Christ. Before you think this is kinda weird (“golly gee, I have been a Christian for years and never heard that before”) I must ask you: how many times have you heard another Christian say, “I didn’t do it—it was Christ (or the Spirit).” Right, because if you actually did it—it is a “righteousness of your own.” Luther stated that our lives are therefore subjective; we don’t have any way of knowing which works we are actually performing or those done by Christ that we are only experiencing as if we are doing them. We must only assume that every work we do is evil lest we believe in a “righteousness of our own.”

But wait a minute: wouldn’t Jesus’ suffering also be a substitution? Would we then not be leary of a “suffering of our own”? Wouldn’t suffering for Jesus be a rightous act of our own and therefore a rightousness of our own? After all, doesn’t the Bible say that we are “healed by his stripes”?

I find it odd that mainline evangelicals whine and moan about the so-called “prosperity gospel.” If everything about the gospel is a substitution, and Christ’s suffering is part of the gospel, why would that not include suffering? In fact, would’nt a focus on health and wealth demonstrate our unworthiness to suffer as Jesus did?

And yet still, even if we concede that we should suffer as Christians, would we not have to proclaim that we are only experienceing the suffering and it’s not really us suffering? “I’m not suffering; it’s Jesus” lest we have a “rightousness of our own”?

If suffering for Jesus is a good work that shows us to be worthy, according to Protestant orthodoxy, we must deny that we are doing that work. At the very least, we must confess that we are only experincing the suffering subjectively.

Hence, the propserity gospel is wholly consistent with orthodoxy.




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