Given that human thinking in the 21st century have changed, especially by the influence of postmodernism, our pillars of the Christian faith have slowly and unconsciously eroded. The Bible is no longer thought to be the only revelation or standard from God. Instead, what has become trendy is extreme Charismatic spirituality, prosperity theology, hyper-grace theology, or liberal theology... There are even many fake leaders who become famous by promoting their own so-called revelations, performing miracles and telling about all kinds of visionary dreams and prophecies. For today's Christians, the most terrible thing is no longer external coercion but the devil's doping with gospel "truths".
When the gospel takes on the same worldly values and its truth becomes plausible, it is a true horror that is written about in the Bible: the blind leading blind, and both falling into the pit. Entering the door of heaven is blocked and others are also blocked from entering.
Who is this Jesus that we believe in today? Is he an all-healing physician? Is he a master who always responds to difficulties of all types? Is he your servant whom you summon when you need assistance but keep away when you do not? Must everything be fulfilled based on your own will or if not, is it because either you are faithless or God is incapable? In the face of this pandemic, prosperity theology loses its argument in explaining itself. It can be said that this pandemic has proven to the prosperity gospel to be clearly false! Why have the blessings and benefits from God as He has promised not been realized, not to mention the many precious lives that have been lost.
In Wuhan, where the pandemic is most severe, many Christians and ministers were infected and lost their lives. And then there are those many misguided fools who commented: believers of Jesus should not be sick! There are many people who believe that Christians should be the richest, healthiest, and have the highest social status. Moreover, some ask this: Without money, how can the gospel be preached?
In the past year, false Christians appeared in churches in several urban areas speaking of pyramid marketing schemes. The deception they used was first to talk about a success theology and then persuade listeners to make investments in pyramid marketing schemes. A few brothers and sisters were deceived. You may frequently hear such claims from them that Jesus was very rich and the three magi brought him gold, incense and myrrh. He also encouraged people to become rich. Jesus specifically mentioned that the servant who earned another five thousand talents was a faithful one. In addition, in the Old Testament time, wealth was a sign of God's favour and blessing. Examples of this were Job, Abraham, and Solomon who all were either wealthy individuals or entrepreneurs.
I know of a couple who went to the great northwest to preach the gospel. They often listened to some online sermons about the prosperity theology or grace theology at home. Later they went to Shanghai as there was more money there to support the family. When they had more money, preaching the gospel would be more effective and convincing even if they encountered various setbacks in life. All the while they showed no reflection or repentance. That really let me see the depth of people's ignorance and the harm of heresy.
Rev. Paul David Washer once said, "I hate the theology of success, and I love the glory of God." Why is the theology of success not the gospel? It is not because it seeks what a "depraved humanity" craves. What it seeks is the same as what a man who has not been reborn desires. And it is so sad and wrong to equate it with "trust", "righteousness" and "becoming holy".
The true gospel (the good news) begins with man's "bad" news, which is that one must die to oneself in order to live for Christ. However, with success theology, also known as the prosperity Gospel, "chicken-soup" feel good theology, or extreme Charismatic spirituality for example, the true "bad" news begins with the gospel of fulfilling the center of the self.
Rev. John Piper said: "Too many successful preachers leave us such an impression that they not only mess God's way of blessing but also develop a false theology in order to justify their extravagance and wealth. Paul is the opposite!" (Refer to 2 Corinthians 2:17).
Some scholars have pointed out that in reality, our pain and loss is often a test to see whether or not we value the almighty God that we have lost. This test shows how much we love the world, be it good or bad. Our difficulties reveal our potential idolatry. Yet the theology of success denies that God has a great plan for our suffering and it prevents us from clearly identifying the idolatry in our hearts.
The prosperity Gospel does not encourage us to discover God's plan of kindness in our suffering but simply teaches that there is no plan and that any evil plans that attack us are ultimately from Satan or from evil people. The purpose of success theology is to gradually lessen God's grace, which caters precisely to the needs of our hypocrisy.
Satan's original way of demagoguery in the Garden of Eden was to preach that people can be as God and to tempt people to be equal to God. Today's secularized gospel, the "cheapened" gospel, the poisonous spiritual chicken soup are all about lifting man up high by emphasizing the importance and preciousness of people, paralyzing people's thoughts so that they are sucked into self-centeredness and secularization.
Therefore, some ministers say: We strongly oppose the theology of success, but we also recognize that godly Christians are blessed with God's specific favour, protection, grace, presence, and guidance. While godly Christians will not pursue indulging in the worldly pleasures of this life, God will have them experience spiritual fulfillment. Although godly Christians will experience God's "silence", they are convinced that God will keep his promise as is said in the Bible.
Remember this: "Success theology stepping over the cross of Christ and taking up the world's crown whereas biblical theology is stepping over the world's crown and taking up the cross of Christ."
- Translated by Charlie Li