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Derek Vreeland

This paper was written by Derek Vreeland.

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Derek Vreeland holds an M.Div degree from Oral Roberts University. He is the assistant pastor of Cornerstone Church in Americus, Georgia.


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Articles > Charismatic Theology > P.G. Vargis and the Indian Prosperity Gospel

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Footnotes

The Prosperity Gospel in an American Context

The prosperity gospel, as it is known in popular religious circles, has its roots in American Pentecostalism.  David Harrell notes that the doctrine that God will prosper his children goes as far back as Thomas Wyatt in the 1930s.[5] It gained significance through the independent charismatic ministries that grew out of the healing revivals of the 1950s.  Harrell adds that by the 1960s financial prosperity had “almost supplanted the earlier emphasis on healing.”[6]  One of the leading evangelists preaching the message of prosperity was Oral Roberts. Poverty and financial struggle were not uncommon for Pentecostal ministers.[7] Out of this context, Roberts rooted a doctrine of prosperity in the goodness of God.  “God is good and has something good for you today” became a slogan that applied God’s care not only for spiritual needs (salvation) and physical needs (healing), but also financial needs (prosperity). He writes,

God is interested in our every material need as well as our every spiritual need. Our continued prosperity is His will for us.  He is generous beyond all conceptions of generosity.  God wishes our freedom from both the love for and lack of material means. The love of money may be worse than its lack, but both have a terrible power to defeat us.[8]

  Essentially, the “gospel of prosperity” is the doctrine that the work of salvation includes the abundant supply of financial resources for one’s needs.  This message spread throughout independent charismatic streams and continues to today as a major doctrine in word of faith oriented churches and ministries, most notably in the ministry of Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Fred Price and others.[9]

 

The Cry of Cultural Conformity

  This doctrine is not without its criticisms.  It has been called the “cult of prosperity,” “a disease,” “a gospel of greed,” “self-indulgence and selfishness,” “egocentric,” and “a corruption Scripture.” One of the most common theological arguments against prosperity is the claim that it is a case of syncretism, a biblical hermeneutic infected by a conformity to cultural values that are non-Christian in their ethic and application.  In his observation of independent charismatic missions, Edward Pousson interjects, “…Once we allow a materialistic rights-consciousness to replace cross-bearing servanthood, we are in danger of baptizing the American dream.”[10] Other critics have gone a step further, stating that Pousson’s “danger” has been actualized – that prosperity preachers have allowed the materialism of American culture to shape their understanding of Scripture and thus produce a perverted doctrine. Quentin Schultze in Televangelism and American Culture adds,

I simply wish to suggest that worldly prosperity is a distinctly American version of the gospel, not a particularly biblical one. God’s will for our lives is far more eternal than is typically acknowledged by the advocates of the health-and wealth gospel.[11]

  Schultze captures the essence of the cultural conformity argument – prosperity is an American gospel, not a biblical gospel. If this were indeed true, then an indigenous preacher in a non-American, non-materialistic, non-Western context would not preach a prosperity message.  However, in the poverty-stricken nation of India, a prosperity message can be heard from the preaching of P.G. Vargis.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Footnotes

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User Contributed Comments

sony abraham
Friday 19th of August 2005

i full agree with bro p g vargis and have had personal experiences of god blessing his people when they put their trust in him to bless them


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