Thursday, February 15, 2007

Part 5, Prosperity gospel

A tale of two sons

Let us move on to an extensive dissertation by brother Copeland concerning the parable of Jesus, the Prodigal Son. In this passage brother Copeland attempts to draw a distinction concerning the brother of the prodigal son being someone who has a problem with “littleness of thinking”. But first, we need to give brother Copeland his due for stating the gospel clearly… Only to take away the good news at the last second.

We have seen from the Word that God has established His covenant in the earth, but what about the new covenant? The Word says it is a covenant of righteousness based on better promises. As we have read in Deuteronomy, God called Israel stiff-necked and unrighteous. According to the new covenant, we have been made the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. God does not see us a stiff-necked people. (He sees us many times as an untaught people because we do not know the covenant, but we are not stiff-necked and unrighteous.) He sees us through the blood of the Lamb: spotless, blameless, beyond reproach. Israel was the servant of God; we are the sons of God (see Galatians 4:7). We need to realize our rights as His children and citizens of the kingdom of God.20

Although there are many points that could be picked on here, let’s stick with brother Copeland’s use of the gospel in this case. Are we to assume that even after Jesus paid the full price for sin, we still are somehow missing out on the benefits of salvation? He continues:

To illustrate, let’s look at the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15. For many years we have read this story without realizing its full significance, and it has a very important application in the area of prosperity which has been entirely overlooked. As we have read about the prodigal son coming home, we’ve stopped there. Our minds have been on him, but what about the other son? The prodigal son took his inheritance and squandered it. When he returned home, his father killed the fatted calf and threw a big party welcoming him with open arms. Then the other son came in, saw what had happened and got mad at his father. He said, “I have stayed with you, and you have never even given me a little goat. Yet when he goes off and wastes his money, you celebrate by killing a calf for him!” Then his father said, “But, son, everything I have belongs to you.” In other words, he was saying, “You could have had a fatted calf anytime you wanted it. It belongs to you. I’m pleased that your brother has come home, but you could have had it for the asking!” You see, the other son would have settled for a goat when the calf was his all the time! The inheritance belonged to both sons; only one took advantage of it. The older son did without because of the littleness of his thinking. Most Christians are cheating themselves out of their full inheritance in Jesus Christ because of the littleness of their thinking. By not knowing their covenant, they do not know their rights as children of Almighty God!21

Note first of all that brother Copeland resorts to a frequent tactic used by “word of faith” teachers, in that rather than quote scripture verbatim as we have seen him do previously, he paraphrases the text. He also pulls the passage out of context, which leaves him with a good place from which to prove his point: The second son is a “little thinker”. That means that, since there are many Christians not prospering in their newness in Christ, they all must be suffering from the same bad thinking. Note that we have located an important connection between “word of faith” teachings and those of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, who helped found Christian Science.

The context of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 Is found at the beginning of the chapter:

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2 NIV)

Each of the Parables in this chapter has attacks aimed directly at the Pharisees:

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7 NIV)

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 NIV)

The final dig comes at the end of the parable, when Jesus points up the attitude of the Pharisees toward not only the people Jesus was associating with, but Jesus himself.

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” (Luke 15: 22-32 NIV)

The Pharisees couldn’t have missed these attacks. Indeed, this kind of language was exactly what led to Jesus being crucified. Jesus has here drawn a comparison between the brother of the prodigal son and national Israel. The brother in the parable couldn’t be angry that he doesn’t have anything, because at the beginning of the parable Jesus plainly states that the father divided his property between his two sons. No, the brother is angry because of his father, who “never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

His father never gave him even a young goat. Even after he had worked so hard for his father. And worse yet, his father gave his wayward, sinning brother a feast upon his return. The father never gave the brother anything. Brother Copeland has missed the point of this parable, and worse, seems to be more interested in using the scripture to make his point concerning health, wealth and prosperity than striving to arrive at the truth of scripture.
20 The Laws of Prosperity, 1974 Kenneth Copeland, page 39
21 The Laws of Prosperity, 1974 Kenneth Copeland, page 40


the big test

Since someone, somewhere, has seen fit to deprive the world of Issues etc and take a huge bite out of confessional Lutheranism at the same time, I will not take up the mantle of working to see that those who did it answer for their actions.
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