Why is South Africa so Vulnerable to the Prosperity Gospel? (4) Limited Good

Fun Lover Coaches for Fun Loving Theology

The concept of “limited good” denies that wealth can be created. It supposes that since there are not enough good things for everyone to enjoy, a person can only increase his or her wealth/blessings/good at the expense of others.

Notice this kind of limited good thinking in Pumla Gqola’s book Rape: A South African Nightmare:

“[The desire for wealth] seduces the poor into working harder, in search of the elusive ease, but no matter how hard they work, there are finite resources in the world. Therefore wealth requires the hoarding of resources, which means taking away resources that would allow the poor to live decently in an equitable world” (38).

 

“Limited Good” in Africa

Prof. Koos Van Rooy, an anthropologist and linguist for decades among the Vendas in rural South Africa, defines the African idea of limited good this way:

“There is only a limited amount of good (that is: life force, good luck, prestige, influence, children, possessions) in the cosmos. Each person is allotted a fixed quantity of this good. It can only be increased at the expense of someone else, by way of black magic, ritual murder or theft.”

Think of a pie. Limited good thinks that by cutting out a piece for oneself, the person is taking from others. Wealth, as the thinking goes, can only be transferred from one person to another. If I become rich, someone else must become poor. Continue reading

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Why is South Africa so Vulnerable to the Prosperity Gospel? (3) Witchcraft

African culture has long been interwoven with belief in magic, witchcraft and sorcery. Samuel Kunhiyop in African Christian Ethics says that almost all African societies believe in witchcraft. A personal anecdote will help.

During my first two years in Africa I stayed in a little rural village with the chief’s family. One evening, while I was away preaching, thieves broke into my room and stole most of my electronic devices. Because the chief’s wife was responsible for watching my room, she felt terrible. The next day she could be seen scurrying about with a list in her hands containing “items” the witch doctor needed. These would make the potion that would soon locate my pilfered goods. And she was a ZCC member that “believed in Jesus.”

Witchcraft in Scripture

According to Deuteronomy 18:10-11, many forms of sorcery fall beneath the umbrella of “witchcraft.” “Diviners” (v. 10) seek insight from evil spirits. “Sorcerers” (“those who cause to appear”) specialize in conjuring up ghosts and visions (Jdg. 9:36-37). “Soothsayers” like to use objects for their craft (Gn. 44:5). “Spell casters” (v. 11) hurl hexes and curses upon people (Ps. 58:5).

Notice the promotion for “power.” Notice the venue. To date, none of the blind have ever been healed

“Witch doctors” were experts at warding off evil (Isa. 47:9-12) or performing signs–like Pharaoh’s wise men turning rods into snakes (Ex. 7:11). “Mediums”, “necromancers” and inquirers of the dead could communicate with the dead–such as the witch of Endor (1Sm. 28). The latter takes the form of ancestor worship today.

The Lord abominated all of these practices. Moreover, human sacrifice was often associated with witchcraft, as seen in this passage and in others (2Kngs. 17:17).

Witchcraft in African Culture

The example above of the chief’s wife probably fits into the “soothsayer” category. She tried to manipulate divine power through a witch doctor and a host of traditional methods such as amulets and muti to ward off evil or bring blessing. Continue reading

Why is South Africa So Vulnerable to the Prosperity Gospel? (1) Single-Parent Homes

We’ll be exploring several of the reasons why the Prosperity Gospel (PG) is so prevalent in South Africa. The first cause we’ll address is absentee fathers, or, single-parent homes.

Surveys show that South Africa has among the highest number of single parent homes in the world. In fact, according to a recent study, children from South Africa are least likely to live in a home with two parents. Only about 36% of South African households have both a father and a mother.

It is most likely even worse in the rural areas because so many men and women leave for Joburg and other big cities to find work.

Why do single-parent homes lower a culture’s defenses against false teaching like the PG? First, Scripture warns us that charlatans and false teachers will prey on women. “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions” (2Tm. 3:6). Continue reading

30 Reasons it is Good for Christians to Suffer

John G. Lake, Zion City evangelist and co-founder of the Apostolic Faith Mission in South Africa, laid out one of the strongest pentecostal cases for the superhuman ability to overcome sickness. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, in her 1875 manifesto Science and Health, disavowed the reality of sickness and death–arguing suffering comes from mental errors. E.W. Kenyon believed physical healing is God’s intention for humanity. Kenneth Hagin claimed: “I have not had one sick day in 45 years.” Continue reading

Review: Strange Fire

John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2013, 352 pages, 4 of 5 stars

As one author put it: the Prosperity Gospel is Christianity’s version of professional wrestling–you know it’s fake but it nonetheless has entertainment value.

As a missionary in Africa, I value this book because the errors it addresses are deeply embedded among our people. The slogan “What I confess, I possess” was first coined in the early 20th century by a white American Baptist but is repeated thousands of times over in innumerable 21st century African churches. Continue reading

14 Reasons for Poverty in Rural South Africa

[Please see followup post] Living in a rural African village for over a decade has taught me that poverty doesn’t come by accident. There is a reason rural South Africa is poor. Often, it stems from sin.

This does not mean the poor are always at fault. Ultimately, the Lord himself causes poverty (1Sm. 2:7; Dt. 8:17-18; Job 1:21). The poor will always exist on earth (Jn. 12:8). Jesus commended the godly church in Smyrna and they were very poor (Rev. 2:9). Many of those in deep poverty are honest, devout, and hardworking. Continue reading

Review (pt.4): When Helping Hurts

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Moody, 2009, 230 pages 

Corbett_Helping HurtsFourth Concern: Mis-defining the prosperity gospel

It was painful to see how the authors defined the prosperity gospel. There is no greater deterrent to the gospel in sub-Saharan Africa than the Health and Wealth message. One missionary syllogized it as follows:

  1. Prosperity theology is the most common expression of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. Prosperity theology is not Christian.
  3. Therefore, sub-Saharan Africa’s Christianity is actually not biblical Christianity.

The sons of Sceva have reached our continent in the form of Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Fredrick Price, Joel Osteen, and TB Joshua.

I was thrilled, then, when I saw the heading “Repenting of the Health and Wealth Gospel.” Finally, something I’ll agree with. But in the end, the authors define the PG not as the false notion that Jesus came to earth to make us healthy and wealthy, not as the promise to heal us of all our diseases, but rather as the failure of genuine (yet wealthy) believers to trust God in everything (68-70). This, friends, is the prosperity gospel.

Seth Meyers says regarding When Helping Hurts: “This book will not help us to plant churches or evangelize like the believers in Acts, and yet it wants to pretend that the emphasis it places on poverty alleviation is rooted in the NT model of the church. There may be some temporal pain caused by placing the great majority of our resources into church planting in contrast to helping unbelievers out of poverty, but if we believe the NT model is best, then there will be little helping without it.”