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An Examination of Prosperity in Christian Faith
The purpose of this study is to examine God's prosperity as it relates to Christian Ministry to determine whether prosperity is about monetary wealth alone or whether it involves other aspects of the Christian life. The rationale is to understand why we need God's prosperity, things to do to command His prosperity, and finally how Christians can maintain their prosperity. The significance of this research is to help Christians discover where they can find prosperity, how it can be found, and to show biblical principles of prosperity as laid down by God. If Christians can follow these principles, they can succeed and even prosper.
I would like to dedicate this dissertation to my family and to all those in the Ministry who have stood with me in the challenging times that I have experienced in the course of my studies.
First, I acknowledge my mentor and teacher of the Gospel....for being there for me in every step of my studies. Second, I appreciate my entire family for standing with me and supporting me through words of encouragement towards the accomplishment of my dream. Third, I acknowledge my fellow students for their support. May God bless you all.
I declare that this thesis/dissertation is original work that has been done by myself and that it has not been submitted, in whole or in part, in any previous application for a degree in any university. In cases where information from other authors has been used, proper referencing has been done to that effect in appreciation of their work.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM
1.1 Statement of the Problem
Prosperity in the Christian faith remains one of the most contentious issues in the religious environment. The biggest challenge in terms of defining and understanding prosperity in the Christian faith has been the existence of clashing perspectives where some Christians believe that prosperity is attained when one only receives financial blessings while others believe that apart from being wealthy, prosperity is attained by Christians enjoying good health, being happy, living a long and successful life (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). Those who believe that prosperity is all about financial blessing always dwell on the understanding that it is God's will that through their strong faith and donations to their religion, they are bound to gain material wealth. The clashing beliefs in terms of what reflects a prosperous religious life make it virtually impossible to convince Christians to dedicate themselves to sacrifice and service to the Lord. In most instances, Christians who believe that prosperity is only attained through financial blessings are mostly guided by the Abrahamic covenant (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). For instance, in Genesis 17:8, when God was making a covenant with Abraham, He told him, The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God (Gen. 17:8, NIV). This covenant points to material benefits, and many Christians believe that as much as they offer their service to God, they have to be blessed with material benefits that make them wealthy and respected as Abraham was promised by God.
On the other hand, the evidence that prosperity in the Christian faith goes beyond material benefits and wealth is spread across the different books in the Bible with relevant guiding verses. For instance, in 3 John 1-2, God says, Beloved, I pray that in every way you may prosper and enjoy good health, as your soul also prospers (3 John 1-2, NIV). This verse means that God has the capacity to help Christians prosper in all aspects of their lives. This means that prosperity is not only manifested in the material benefits that individuals are gain from their service to the Lord but in all aspects of life including enjoying quality life and having peaceful souls. The clashing views on prosperity need to be addressed in-depth for Christians to dedicate themselves fully to God's service without only anticipating material benefits, but overall life prosperity.
The emphasis of the contemporary religious teachings on material gains as a way of prosperity has not been so beneficial to the growth of faith among Christians, as many of them have subsequently lost the purpose of God in their quest to seek material gains. Many Christians have deviated from serving God with all dedication especially when they feel that they are not progressing well in their wealth (Synan, Asamoah-Gyadu, & Yong, 2016). Because of the desire to make money out of serving God, greed seems to have taken over the purpose of many Christians. They have forgotten the words of God as demonstrated in Ecclesiastes 5:10, Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless (Eccl. 5:10, NIV). Therefore, there has been an easier opportunity for pastors and evangelists to dupe their gullible followers into self-enriching practices such as planting seeds or buying handkerchiefs, oil, and holy water for purposes of financial gain. Christians have been forced to go to the extent of doing everything to please their pastors because of the belief in the blessing of wealth, as they continue serving the church (Silva, 2014). Overall, this problem could be solved if Christians come to realize their main purpose and appreciate the view that wealth is not the only way to religious prosperity, but other things such as happiness and good health equally amount to spiritual prosperity.
1.2 Importance of the Study
The study is important because it teaches Christians the best ways of living without merely expecting monetary blessings from God. Many Christians seem to be deviating from Gods word requiring them to remain humble, trust in Him, help the less fortunate in society, obey His Word, and worship Him in truth and spirit because of the focus on financial blessings in the course of their ministry (Sutter? ty, 2016). They believe that based on their service to God, they are supposed to enjoy prosperity by gaining materially. This study is important because it seeks to demystify such an approach to God's ministry by teaching Christians the fact that God's prosperity is manifested in other different ways apart from material benefits including having good health, being happy, being a blessing to others, and living a longer life. Christians must understand what prosperity entails for them to be true to God and serve Him without the expectation that they are going to grow wealthy in return. This will help improve service to God's ministry.
More so, the study is important in explaining to Christians why they are not experiencing the needed prosperity from the Lord. In the contemporary world where technology and media have become accessible to everyone, televangelism has taken over and many Christians have been blinded to the level where they believe that material possessions are the only best indicators of Christian prosperity. Thus, many Christians have been hoodwinked into following the false belief that they need to do what is preached for them to attain material benefits (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). This has driven many Christians from God's purpose in the Christian faith and has denied them the opportunity to experience prosperity because they see everything in terms of financial benefits. This study will be important in explicating to Christians the different elements in life that deny them the opportunity to experience what God has planned for them in respect to living a prosperous life. It is only through the understanding of what limits their experience of prosperity that Christians will be thorough in terms of dedicating themselves to the service of God and being a blessing to the rest of mankind. It will also ensure that they are not misled into following what contradicts God's intentions in their lives.
Finally, the study is important because it works at correcting the misguided mindset within religious circles where a Christian is seen to be more faithful to God when he/she attains material prosperity. Although wealth prosperity is not inherently sinful, most people have misconstrued the word of God to imagine that wealth is essentially a demonstration of one's faithfulness in God. This is a significant misunderstanding in religion because it leads to false notions that the poor are poor. After all, they do not have sufficient faith in God (Jones, 2015). The study is important in eliminating false beliefs that wealth prosperity is the only demonstration of faith in God. Even the poor have faith in God but have been blessed to prosper in different ways such as having good health even compared to the rich. Thus, it would be significant to eliminate the thought that individuals are poor because of deficient faithfulness and belief in God. The study clarifies that prosperity is wide and not just limited to material benefits that Christians enjoy.
1.3 Organization of the Study
The study is effectively organized into chapters to ensure the ideas flow systematically to the conclusion and recommendations. The study is organized as demonstrated below in tandem with the content model;
Chapter One: Introduction to the Problem: In this chapter, the background of the study and the problem that will be explicated in the rest of the study are identified. Delimitations are also identified and the key terms making up the study clearly defined.
Chapter Two: Critical Literature Review: In this chapter, the history of the topic will be explicated. Moreover, the theories that are fundamental for the understanding of the study are discussed. Previous literature will focus on understanding why Christians need God's prosperity and the characteristics of those who experience God's prosperity...
Chapter Three: Material Gains and Christian Prosperity: This chapter will explicate why many Christians have misconstrued the Word of God to only see material gains as the form of prosperity that they can enjoy in the course of serving God. It will demonstrate the staunch belief in material treasures by some Christians as a reward for serving God. It will also demonstrate the things that Christians can do to command God's true prosperity.
Chapter Four: Prosperity Beyond Material Benefits for Christians. The chapter will focus on other notable elements that demonstrate prosperity among Christians apart from wealth. Christianity is not only founded on wealth and hence the need to understand that Christians can become prosperous beyond expecting material benefits. There will also be a discussion on how Christians can maintain God's prosperity.
Chapter Five: Significance of Pastoral Ministry and Bible Teachings for Christians to Understand Prosperity: Pastors as the representatives of Christ on Earth have the responsibility to guide Christians in the correct way toward understanding what prosperity entails. This chapter will explicate the roles of pastoral ministry and the teachings of the Bible in helping Christians understand factors that constitute prosperity.
Chapter Six: Summary, Conclusions, Recommendations, and Future Studies: The chapter will summarize everything that will ultimately have been explicated in the study while also offering sound recommendations on what needs to be done to enhance the Christian understanding of prosperity. It will also suggest what needs to be done in future studies for the further understanding of the subject.
The methodology that will be applied in the study is the critical review of the literature. It is worth noting that the critical review of literature goes beyond the mere explanation of the different perspectives presented in the article or book. The information presented in the books and the articles will play an instrumental role in leading to the understanding of what really constitutes religious prosperity drawing from its earlier times to the current times (Synan, Asamoah-Gyadu, & Yong, 2016). The methodology is selected based on the understanding that the topic has been widely researched and it will be important to get the different views presented by researchers and compare them effectively. Getting the best out of the research studies will set the pace for the understanding of what has been done in the field of research going forward. It also presents an easier opportunity for the understanding of the theoretical perspectives that have already been presented in the field of study hence leading to the successful identification of major points and key conclusions that can be drawn from it.
The first notable delimitation of the study is that it will not primarily focus on Christians of one particular denomination. It defines a Christian as anyone who was baptized in any particular Christian faith and attends church regularly and hence there will be no limitation to a particular type of Christianity whether it be Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, or any other. The overall collection of Christians will be explicated for purposes of understanding what have been the clashing perspectives on the aspect of Christian prosperity in their service to God.
The second delimitation of the study is that there will be no review of other religions apart from the Christian faith. The study only focuses on individuals who subscribe to the Christian faith and hence the findings that will be derived cannot be generalized to the whole of humanity. This narrow focus will be instrumental in ensuring that the best outcomes and conclusions are developed and derived from the study until its completion.
1.6 Definition of Terms
Prosperity: This is the state of making positive progress in life and could be seen in terms of wealth, success, and living a good life.
Wealth: These are the financial and physical properties that someone owns.
Christian faith: It is living the life of belief in God and the trust in God's teachings.
Christian: This is a person who adheres to Christianity also referred to as an Abrahamic.
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Prosperity Theology
Prosperity theology is also referred to as the health and wealth gospel, gospel of success, and prosperity gospel and it is a religious belief among some Christians who hold that a belief in God attains prosperity through the expansion of wealth. Accordingly, the gospel tends to emphasize to the faithful the need to see God's blessing from a financial point of view where it is believed that God increases those who serve Him materially (Nwaomah, 2014). Evangelists who preach the prosperity gospel seek to put a high level of confidence in their followers to make them understand that God cares about them and that He is always willing to give them financial benefits as part of leading a prosperous life. Thus, to justify prosperity through material wealth, there is always a sense of a selective approach to the use of Bible verses to make their followers believe in the preaching.
Several misinterpretations have been associated with the prosperity gospel, which mainly emphasizes that Christians will gain wealth as a sign of prosperity. One of the most significant issues with the prosperity gospel is that it misleads Christians to believe that the Abrahamic covenant is a means to material entitlement (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). Specifically, in the contemporary world, many Christians have been led to believe that as God promised Abraham, they are also entitled to material benefits. There is a misconstrued view of the formation of the covenant and its application to individuals. The second problem with the prosperity gospel is that it alludes to prayer as a tool to force God to grant individual prosperity. Many Christians pray to God to grant them a quality life without ever focusing on thanking God for what He has done in their lives. As much as Philippians 4:6 emphasizes the need for individuals to make their submissions known to God with the assertion, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Phil. 4:6, NIV). The need to pray as envisaged in the verse requires individuals to be also thankful for everything that God gives them through prayer. However, prayer is currently being used as a tool to essentially command God to grant material benefits, making most of these prayers selfish and shallow. The third notable fault that is seen in the prosperity gospel is that it forces Christians to give to gain material compensation from God. In this regard, many preachers of prosperity are encouraging Christians to plant seeds or buy anointed oil for them to receive material compensation from God. The more a Christian gives to his/her church, the greater is the promise of material gain from God. For instance, in Gloria Copeland's 2012 book titled Gods Will in Prosperity the author noted that if a person gives $10 they are bound to receive $1,000 and that if an individual gives $1,000 they could end up receiving $100,000 (Jones, 2015). Forcing individuals to give higher amounts and promising material benefits to them is not what God intends for humanity. More so, forcing individuals to give might scare away those who are not in a financial position to make contributions to the church, leaving only the wealthy class of individuals who are seeking to gain greater material benefits. Another notable shortcoming of the prosperity gospel is that it leads to the belief that faith is a self-generated spiritual force that leads to prosperity among Christians (Jones, 2015). According to those who emphasize the need for Christians to gain material benefits based on their faith, faith is viewed as a human force that is not necessarily given by God. An individual needs to exhibit his/her own faith by trusting God for a particular material good such as a financial breakthrough or even the ability to buy property. Christians thus do not benefit from a faith that is God-centered but follow their desires to create the perception that they have faith in a God who they are trusting for particular material benefits.
2.2 History of Prosperity Theology
19th Century Origins: In their book, Woodbridge and Jones (2010) affirm that the whole aspect of the prosperity gospel emanated from the new thought movement. The new thought movement began in 1895 and is not specific to any particular church or denomination. The new thought movement is based on the idea that the Bible does not hold the monopoly on Christian thought. It is based on the individual thoughts and understandings of the individuals who supported the movement and its progress. According to Woodbridge and Jones (2010), Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) and Phineas Quimby (1802-1866) are the pioneers of the prosperity gospel in the Christian faith (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). Moreover, popular new thought teachers such as Charles Fillmore were vital in the growth of prosperity gospel, as their teachings focused primarily on material success among Christians. Other ministers of prosperity gospel such as E.W. Kenyon took the initiative to attend Emerson College of Oratory in the 1890s with the view of gaining the required skills and knowledge to convince believers through mind-power teachings on prosperity in God's ministry, which was specifically material success (Silva, 2014). Other notable individuals who have been credited with promoting prosperity religion include Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, and Oral Roberts.
From its origin, the prosperity gospel was built on various key tenets. The first tenet is that God has infinite intelligence or is always omnipotent and omnipresent. This tenet is aimed to make the faithful more appreciative that even as they give to God, He is always watching over them and will ensure that they prosper accordingly (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). The second tenet is that the spirit is the ultimate reality. This means that individuals need to remain faithful in their service to God and the Church. The way of remaining spiritual was vital in attaining prosperity while serving the Church and God. The third tenet that is part of the prosperity gospel is that true human self-hood drive is divine (Silva, 2014). This tenet means that individuals need to remain in their service to God and the Church to be viewed as a way to prosperity in the life of a Christian. The fourth tenet is that divinely attuned thought is a positive force for good. The tenet made earlier believers understand that they needed to align their thoughts with what is taught in the word of God for them to attain the desired level of prosperity. The fifth tenet is that all disease is a mental origin. Thus, there is no natural disease according to this perspective. The only disease emanated from what individuals thought about themselves. If one thinks that they are sick, then they truly are (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). The last significant tenet of the early prosperity gospel is that the right-thinking has a healing effect. This required believers in the early gospel to adhere to only positive thinking to have their lives improved and to have a better standard of living.
The 20th Century: By the 20th century, the prosperity gospel had taken shape across many churches around the globe. To emphasize the whole aspect of prosperity in the Christian faith, various authors wrote motivational books that would help Christians make sense of prosperity in their faith. The books are written in the early 20th century centered on the health and successes of individuals hence emphasizing the new thought further (Silva, 2014). Some of the key books written at this time included Creative Mind and Success by Ernest Holmes, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, In Tune with the Infinite Fullness of Peace, Power, and Plenty by Ralph Waldo Trine. All these books emphasized the need for Christians to remain steadfast in their commitment to serving God for them to realize the desired level of prosperity, which is mostly seen through material benefits among individuals. In fact, Ralphs's book was more impactful, as it was translated into over 20 languages that would ensure that the message reached many people is that material prosperity is important for Christians (Silva, 2014). 1 Timothy 4:1 aptly captures the misconstrued teaching of the Word of God to only emphasize that prosperity is only attained through material benefits as it states, Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons (1 Tim 4:1, NIV). This gives a clear view of the new thought ideology, which did not necessarily give a proper perspective of what God expected of Christians, but an individualistic view of what preachers believed was God's purpose for human beings.
New thought ideas were further popularized by Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993), the Marble Collegiate Church pastor in New York City. Peale's church was part of the Dutch Reformed Church, which was a key historical and conservative Calvinistic denomination. To ensure that most of his followers were made to believe that prosperity is attained through material wealth, Norman combined the views of the bible and the new thought through his books including The Power of Positive Thinking (Silva, 2014). The thoughts views about by new thought pastors emphasized primarily on the need for Christians to be committed to God's service, as it was the only way to be rewarded materially.
As the father of the modern prosperity gospel, Essex William Kenyon combined the Bible and new thought ideologies in his teachings for prosperity among Christians. He used the popular phrase, What I confess, I possess in teaching Christians the best ways to attain prosperity in their lives through service to God (Silva, 2014). They needed to believe that they will attain material prosperity for them to gain it from God. At this time, Kenyon emphasized the message that God did not intend for people to be poor in their spiritual, mental, or even physical aspects. They only needed to be rich in the same way God had made Israel an affluent, respected nation.
In 1947, Oral Roberts began his teachings on prosperity Christianity emphasizing the blessing pact as a law of faith where God would bless individuals' donations sevenfold (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). Roberts encouraged more believers to offer donations because God was seeing everything and would eventually bless them with more financial benefits. Later in the 1970s, Roberts emphasized donations through seed faith doctrine where believers were encouraged to grow seeds that would eventually grow in value and ensure that believers derived more benefits from their service. In his preaching about financial prosperity, Roberts was guided by 3 John 1:2, Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well (3 John 1:2, NIV). This was used to reiterate the whole message of prosperity among individuals. However, instead of looking at other things such as health captured in the verse, Roberts basically emphasized monetary benefits for his followers. To challenge and motivate more followers to his course of seed donation Roberts started recruiting partners and the wealthy class of donors who were given preferential treatment when it came to an invitation to conferences and access to the ministry for support purposes.
1953 was another fundamental year that witnessed the continued growth of prosperity gospel with A. A. Allen, a faith healer, publishing The Secret to Scriptural Financial Success, which focuses on encouraging followers to adhere to giving and get material rewards in return (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). Allen promoted the prosperity of religion through means including miracle tent savings and prayer cloths that were anointed with miracle oil. Accordingly, Allen's gospel continued the strong emphasis on the significant role that religion could play in changing the financial situation of those who serve God. Examples such as individuals becoming rich to the tune of millions of dollars through supernatural powers enhanced the growth of prosperity gospel anchored on financial benefits.
The 1960s experienced the continued growth in prosperity religion as the focus shifted to healing revivals. One of the key individuals involved in the promotion of prosperity gospel at this time was T.L. Osborn who promoted the idea of material prosperity by ostentatiously displaying his wealth (Silva, 2014). However, those opposed to the existing prosperity ideologies such as the leaders of Pentecostal Assemblies of God criticized the approach taken to prosperity through tactics such as healing evangelism and fundraising.
In fact, in 1967, Kenneth Copeland attended Oral Roberts University (ORU) where he effectively learned about Roberts's approach to the prosperity gospel (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). By attending Oral Roberts University, Copeland followed all the healing crusades delivered by Roberts and hence getting the opportunity to learn about his ministry further. This is what prompted him to get into the prosperity ministry while also crediting his approach to ministry to Kenneth Hagin.
As a key contributor to the prosperity gospel, Hagin founded the RHEMA Bible Training Center in 1974. The school has been quite successful, having trained over 10,000 students in the past twenty years (Silva, 2014). His Word of Faith prosperity teachings was summed up to name it and claim it meaning that Christians could get anything they wanted just by attending his Church and claiming what they wanted in the course of that.
The 2000s to the Present: From the 2000s going forward, the prosperity gospel has gained massive penetration into the religious space and it seems to be taken over the current pastoral duties in many churches (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). The prosperity movement has strengthened even further with Neo-Pentecostal movements being partly influenced by the emphasis on prosperity religion. From the onset of the 2000s, the greater number of people following prosperity theology was more pronounced in the Sun Belt and by the late 2000s, Christians around the globe had been greatly influenced to accept prosperity theology (Silva, 2014). Even with the appreciation of the prosperity gospel, major controversies were raised and some pastors came under pressure for their approaches to prosperity theology. For instance, in 2005, Reverend Matthew Ashimolowo of Kingsway International Christian Center in Southern England, which focuses on preaching health and wealth was compelled by the Charity Commission to return the money that he tended to take for his personal use from the regular tithes collected from worshippers (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). Some of the key senior preachers who are mostly associated with preaching the gospel of prosperity in the Christian faith at the moment include Creflo Dollar, Paula White Ministries, Benny Hinn Ministries, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer Ministries, and Enoch Adejelare Edeboye. However, worshippers automatically have different views that point to their varying beliefs in the aspect of prosperity in the Christian faith.
Televangelism has offered a greater opportunity for preachers to reach out to diverse masses across the world to emphasize the message of prosperity further and to lead to the understanding that they should focus on serving God to attain religious prosperity in their lives through quality living.
2.3 Contemporary Theories
Religious Market Theory: This theory is also commonly referred to as the rational choice theory. Stark and Bainbridge developed this theory and they uphold the view that religion continues to influence people all over the globe. They dismiss secularization, terming it Eurocentric. In the views of Stark and Bainbridge, religion has no golden age and there is no point in predicting the future of religion where everyone will be an atheist (Koch, 2014). Therefore, the theory utilizes two key assumptions to explain religious prosperity. The first assumption is that individuals are naturally religious and it meets human needs demand for religion remains constant even though people follow different types of religions. This means that no matter what happens in the world, individuals will always want to stick to their religious beliefs to guide them in their lives. There is not much concern about who the preacher is or what he is preaching about (Sutter? ty, 2016). The choice of religion is based on the rational choices of individuals based on where they would want to fit and be classified. People will choose a religion based on how it effectively meets their needs. The second key assumption of the theory is that it is human nature to seek rewards and avoid costs. When individuals decide to join a particular religion, they often do a cost-benefit analysis, and the more the benefits, the higher the benefits they derive from their religion. Thus, in most situations, the kind of preaching that is associated with materiality tends to attract more people, especially those who believe that they need to get maximum benefits from their work of serving God. The assumption on costs and benefits explains why most preachers are current cherry-picking Bible chapters and verses such as Mark 11:24, which says, Therefore I say unto you, what things so-ever you desire when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them (Mark 11:24, NIV). Pastors are using such scriptures to justify the view that the benefits that congregants are bound to benefit from their service to God.
In essence, the theory reiterates that religion has become more attractive to people around the globe because it provides followers with compensators. There must always be rewards and in cases where real rewards are difficult to find, religion tends to compensate its followers by promising followers what to expect as they continue serving God (Nwaomah, 2014). The theory is in line with the practice in many contemporary churches where individuals are encouraged to plant seeds with the promise of more quality life and financial benefits in the future. Such promises keep individuals even more focused. However, in some instances, depending on the faith of the believer, promising rewards other than money could still be a vital compensator. The situation in the current world seems to be more anchored on the promise of financial breakthrough because everyone wants to lead a quality life.
Church-Sect Theory: Richard H. Niebuhr proposed the theory in his book The Social Sources of Denominationalism. The theory brings out the view that there is a difference between churches and sects. Churches and sects follow a particular cycle. This means that religions initially develop sects and are tailored to serve the needs of the deprived in society. The essence of religion is to serve the need and interests of both the middle class and upper-class individuals in the society and their continuous growth transforms them into churches (Machado, 2010). The church stands strong in meeting the needs of people. With the increasing needs of people in society ranging from the different sufferings that they undergo, many churches are coming up in the wake of each day with the focus on addressing these challenges. The monetary challenge has been one of the biggest challenges and many upcoming churches have taken advantage of it to entice more worshippers to the church. For instance, continuous quoting of verses such as Deuteronomy 28:11, which states, And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your livestock and the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you (Deut. 28:11, NIV). The quotation of these verses is always intentional to demonstrate to Christians the view that churches care about their needs and that they can work toward meeting their needs in the best ways possible. By referring to what God promised in terms of monetary benefits, individuals can be swayed to believe in what is being taught by their pastors without any form of doubt (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). Therefore, the church-sect theory sets the ground for understanding how churches spring up to attend to the needs of members of society. It directly implies that in the contemporary world, many people seem to be going to church because they seek to enjoy the benefits that religion provides.
Neoplatonic Theory: The theory brings out the view that the universe is structured in such a way that God sits at the top while every other thing that follows God is located in a series of steps underneath Him. Regarding prosperity in the Christian faith, the theory affirms that in the Christian context, a person moves gradually from the material aspects in life to the spiritual forms (Synan, Asamoah-Gyadu, & Yong, 2016). This means that when a person goes to a particular church, in most situations he/she is interested in satisfying the spiritual needs and not necessarily material needs. The Neoplatonic theory also points out that while it is not sinful for an individual to be incorporated into the material realm, material aspects make individuals fall into the state of exile and subsequently forget their true goal, which is the reunion with the divine. Ultimately, individuals only reunite with the divine after their death. The theory has a clear meaning that paints the picture of many Christians and even pastors being driven away from good because of looking for wealth in the church rather than paying attention to the true purpose of serving God in truth and spirit (Jones & Woodbridge, 2010). Most Christians rely on their pastors or priests to define a perfect future for them where they look forward to having wealth, and in the course, lose the focus on being truthful to God. With the pursuit of wealth, as a form of prosperity in the church, death is always near for most of these individuals leading to death. It is only in death that individuals get to be united with the divine. Otherwise, they lose themselves in the pursuit of wealth on the earth and forget to totally serve God in the required manner.
Mind-Cure Theory: The theory was developed by William James, who focused on the best ways of curing the emotions and feelings of Christians. In tandem with the theory, James notes that there are two main types of religious people including the healthy-minded and the sick souls (Machado, 2010). Healthy-minded Christians are the ones who exhibit spiritual optimism while the sick souls are the ones who wrestle with themselves and are mostly overwhelmed by their sense of sin. Thus, those with sick souls are looking for something that would give them hope in life and have the opportunity to believe in God again. Regarding the two types of Christians, prosperity religion could be seen in two ways. Healthy-minded Christians feel the satisfaction of leading a Christian way of life and this allows them to exploit other ways of being prosperous in life. As they are already happy in their souls and faith, there is the chance that they will be swayed into believing that more prosperity in life is realized through financial gains (Synan, Asamoah-Gyadu, & Yong, 2016). On the other hand, the sick souls mostly need to see their prosperity through attaining happiness, living a meaningful life, and even making a difference in the lives of other people. They might not necessarily focus on monetary benefits as their source of prosperity because of the struggle to come out of what they believe to be already a sinful life. With the two types of Christians, this theory is criticized that healthy-minded religion is limited in the sense that it does not confront tragedy and radical evil in the best ways possible. Mind healthy Christians do not get the opportunity to fight all their evils desirably, as the focus is on boosting the sick souls to get out of the sinful life.
All the theories above present the view that the prosperity gospel is a real phenomenon that has been in place since time immemorial and it is becoming even more pronounced with the evolution of time. The theories elucidate the view that contemporary pastoral roles have been mostly dedicated toward motivating Christians to gain prosperity through wealth with only limited mention of other aspects such as happiness that are envisaged by God.