Sunday, September 13, 2015
There is a pernicious teaching in some segments of the Christian church which needs to be named. This teaching goes by at least several different names: “Name and Claim It” or “Faith Healing” or the “Prosperity Gospel”. To put it simply, the substance of this teaching is this: If a person will have adequate faith in God’s promises of blessing and abundance (almost always meant to be material things or physical healing) then God is then required to grant that person what he or she is asking for. If you doubt me watch some of the religious television programs on cable sometime. Many (if not the majority) will teach some version of this doctrine. This is nothing other than a form of witchcraft dressed up rather shabbily in Christian terms.
This teaching presumes that there is some way to impose upon God binding obligations so that he must give us what we want. “I am believing God for a wife (and I already know who she is). She just has not come to recognize it yet.” The presumption here is that what this man has identified as both his need and his want God must also concur with him on! And since God, after all, wants him to be blessed and happy then God must be working to give this desire of his heart. Where is the fear of God in this attitude? Where is real faith in this presumption? How does this longing (genuine) for a wife and presumption that God must grant it assist such a man to have his own character be conformed to the mind of Christ? Where is true submission to doing God’s will?
The key point of practical theology for this doctrine hinges on finding the correct (magic, if you will) formula: If we can just identify the right form of belief, the correct terminology to use in demanding things from God and do the right things behaviorally or in religious ceremony then God will be obligated to do what we want. This is no different than the idolatrous mindset of the ancient Israelites which the prophets called out as outright rebellion against the living God covered up with religious ceremony (for example, Amos 5:21-27). King Saul was reproved and had his kingship revoked because of his disobedience and utter pretense of loyalty to God as the anointed king of Israel (see 1 Samuel 13:8-14; 15:1-30). In fact, after God had stopped speaking with him in any form (for he never repented of his sin, which Samuel named in 1 Samuel 15:22-23) he took the formal step of seeking a medium in order to talk to the (deceased) Samuel again (1 Samuel 28).
According to the Scriptures God is extraordinarily patient and kind and will extend grace to people—regardless of what they have done. However, God will not be mocked. His righteousness stands and as he is holy he will eventually judge and act to intervene against those who are committed to sin (in its various forms and manifestations). This is not only shown in the Old Testament (for example, Hosea 10) but also in the New Testament (see Revelation 18). To have genuine faith and love of God includes a healthy fear (or reverence) of God and to steadfastly seek him so as to avoid participating in evil practices that he hates. And God hates what destroys his creation.