7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher

On his blog, Blogging Theologically, Aaron Armstrong gives a light-hearted but true list of seven signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher. Here’s an opening paragraph and the list (in brief).

Every so often we all stumble into prosperity theology, usually unwittingly. While occasionally you’ll get a nugget of helpful truth (in the same way that you’ll find some helpful things in your average self-help book), there’s a lot of goofiness which can make for a fun night of “Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie.” So, how do you know if you’re reading a book written by a prosperity preacher? Here are seven signs:

1. A bright shiny smile that looks like it belongs on a poster for a dentist office.

2. The title makes it clear someone is really important—and that someone is you.

3. It’s advice that could easily be confused with the message from a fortune cookie.

4. There’s a proverb on the cover.

5. Someone’s caps-lock got stuck.

6. It may or may not be trying to cast wicked spells.

7. Seven is always the magic number.

I suggest you click through and read the whole thing HERE.

~ p d b

a857e3278d3ae29cbd5405bacbc57f8fPostscript — Aaron Armstrong himself has a great smile, but he does not put it on the cover of his books. 🙂 I have read his books, and they don’t meet the other criteria listed above. In fact, his writings are biblical, and very helpful — I recommend them, especially his book CONTENDING: DEFENDING TH FAITH IN A FALLEN WORLD!

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Legalism, a paint-by-number spirituality

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“The attraction of legalism is that, despite all its complexity, it’s mindless. It requires little or no personal engagement. It’s sheer mechanics, simple arithmetic, no more difficult than cranking a hoist or measuring a length of board. You just follow orders. You match the parts to the diagram and apply pressure. It need draw nothing from your heart, your mind, your strength, your soul. Its like paint-by-numbers: it requires no artistry, no imagination, no discipline, just dumb, methodical obedience.”

from Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God; Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (W. Publishing Group, 2006), page 108; emphasis added.

pbd

A Culture of “Peter Pans”

I was reading the latest issue of IMPRIMIS today, and was struck by a brief piece by a young teacher, Jason Barney. He quoted Cicero in Latin, and then translated it…

Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. “Not to know what happened before you were born, that is to be always a boy, to be forever a child.”

Jason Barney went on to observe the following about our culture — and I think he hits the bullseye.

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“Too many citizens of our country today are, in Cicero’s terms, forever children. If knowledge of the past matures the soul, it is not something we can afford to marginalize or sideline. Unfortunately, the hard work of gaining knowledge, eloquence, and wisdom is all too often skirted by teacher and student alike. Because we have neglected knowledge of the past and the great tradition of historical understanding, we live in culture of Peter Pans, flying free in Neverland with no past and no future, only the ever-present game, the mock battle against pirates or Indians. Wendy’s stories, with their plot of real challenges to be overcome, only reveal to us our immaturity, the fact that we are forever children who won’t grow up.”
[read the whole Jan. 2013 issue here]

We see this immaturity not only in the culture at large (and it is, sadly, very hard to miss), but we also see it in modern theological inquiry. There are many who are giving their two-cents on the church, or Scripture, or the Trinity, etc., without an awareness of what has been discovered or established (or ruled-out) long before them — both in the content of the doctrine being discussed, as well as in the realm of methodology employed.

This is very sad to see, given the clear charge of Jesus to His disciples — to make disciples (not merely converts) and to teach them everything He commanded. In the church, as in the culture at large, the older generation bears much of the blame for the present deficiencies. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of bright, culturally-engaged scholars and pastors (such as Kevin DeYoung), on the scene who give me hope.

May the Lord have mercy, and help us recover and restore what has been lost.

 

pdb

More Than My Hair Was Cut Last Night!

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Spiritual Lessons Learned at the ‘black barbershop’

I went to see my barber late last night.  It is not a “traditional black” barbershop, but it has many of the same elements – except it is physically and morally cleaner.  I was really hoping the dietary laws in the OT would come up again (see my previous post with the picture of the lobster), but when it did, it didn’t turn out the way I expected.

I awkwardly brought up the issue by saying, “Tyrone (pseudo name), if we can just get you to enjoy your seafood without the guilt we will be all right.”  He answered, “I love my seafood.”  “I know,” I said.  “But the last time you said you loved all kinds of seafood even though the Bible tells us we shouldn’t eat it.  He said, “The Bible does say that about shell fish.”  Just when I was about to play ‘Superman’ and save the day, another voice said, “Yes that is true, but what did God tell Peter in a dream?”

And then I thought to myself, who said that!?  Oh, I know that voice.

It was the man who comes into this shop regularly.  Actually, I’ve seen him three times before.  The barber called him “REV.”  He would say, “Hey Rev. how is it going?”  When he walked into the shop, the conversations got cleaner, and some people sat up straighter in their seats. But I was successful in avoiding this “Rev.”

I know it sounds bad, one Rev. avoiding another Rev. But in my lifetime, I’ve come in contact with three Rev’s in the black barbershop: the one who used to be the number runner; the one who drove the big Cadillac and took everyone’s money; and the one who made all the ladies uncomfortable and the husbands and/or boyfriends mad when he came into the shop.  No, I had already ‘pre-assessed’ this guy.  He was probably just another ‘Reverend Bishop Charlatan’ — a democratic, social gospel, Bible-rejecter, who is probably a mason, and striving to become the next ‘bishop’ in the capital district; no, I didn’t want any parts of him.  But here he was expositing Scripture with relative ease and no shame right in the barbershop!

I was in the barber chair, but my Afro was not the only thing being cut down so I could look pleasing in the sight of all – my pride was getting the same treatment, so that I could look pleasing to One.

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What happened?  How did I get here?  Obviously, I must have forgotten some spiritual truth, several actually.

Earlier that day I was reading a theological book written by Michael Barrett (I plan to write a book review on this blog when I’m done with the book). He explained that the concept of righteousness could be stative or fientive.  I applied it to something with which I was familiar – grammar.  Stative is like a being verb, “He is tall.”  Fientive is like an action verb, “He runs.”  I understood this perfectly, I thought.  Jesus fulfilled all righteousness (fientive), because Jesus is righteousness (stative). The Bible teaches that I have become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

That’s fine, but I forgot that Christ’s Righteousness was imputed to my account, not infused inside of me.   The heart of man is deceitfully above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9).  My wicked flesh (Romans 7:18-20) led me down a path that convinced me that I was higher than my brother in Christ.

I repented and confessed my sin to God.

Rev. was clearly greater.  Jesus said so Himself, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Mark 10:43).  Thank you, Rev. for the lesson in humility; thank you Tyrone for the fresh cut – now I look more pleasing to my wife and children; and thank you God for the ‘fresh cut’ – now I look more pleasing to You.

 

Brian L. Spivey

The Swinging of the Pendulum

The swinging pendulum reminds me of the Christian life.

For a book I avoided for so long, I am sure getting a lot out of it.  The study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians has been great for my spiritual development.  I know I am in great company because many of things that Paul admonished the Thessalonians about, are some of the same things with which I struggle.

He had to correct them about the “Day of the Lord.”  He gave them some truth in 1 Thessalonians, and then they swung the pendulum too far over to the left and he had to come back and correct their thinking again.   This is what has recently happened to me.  In the last four or five years, I began to explore and embrace Reformed Theology, and because of my personality type, and my prior church experience, I swung the pendulum too far to the right – no pun intended.

The wrath of God is upon sinners, yet God loves the world.  How do we reconcile those two truths?

I discovered through the Scriptures and other reformed authors that God has used the foolishness of preaching to bring sinners to a saving knowledge of Himself.  We presume on the grace of God when we exclude the bad news of our fallen state from our gospel presentations.  The Wrath of God is upon mankind must be proclaimed if we are going to encourage the unconverted to flee to Christ for safety.  But will I ever be able to say again, “God loves you,” to the unconverted sinner?

Yes.

With the help of John Frame I was reminded that God sends rain and sunshine; He gives food for all living things; and He calls people to faith and repentance.  The gospel has brought about improvements in society, in the condition of the poor, in marriage and families, in political and economic freedom, in justice, in education, in work ethic and many more (Doctrine of God, p. 433).

“The wrath of God is upon unrepentant sinners,” AND “God loves you!”

There, I said it.  Now my pendulum is headed toward the middle.

 

Brian L. Spivey