The Prosperity Gospel: an Orthodox Perspective

For some time I have desired to write an article addressing the Orthodox perspective on one of the most popular Evangelical teachings today known as the prosperity gospel. However, I recently discovered a short work that summarizes the issue quite nicely, which I would like to quote in full. The following is an excerpt from Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick’s book entitled, “Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy.”

“This teaching (the prosperity gospel) has its origin in a strain of Calvinism that linked earthly prosperity with faith. For these Calvinists, a sign that you were among God’s ‘elect’ was that you enjoyed success in the earthly life. For prosperity gospel preachers, earthly success is directly linked to how much ‘faith’ you have, which is often demonstrated by sending in donations to their ministry. The ostentatious and luxurious lives of such preachers are put forth as ‘proof’ of their great faith.

Yet Christ’s instructions to His Apostles and the witness of the saints is that those with true faith are often persecuted, poor, and hated by the world. For Orthodoxy, true faith is not measured by any of these things, certainly not by earthly riches. It also has nothing to do with being able to perform signs and wonders. True faith is a life of repentance of sins and participation in the grace-giving sacraments of the Church. True faith is humble, never making a show of anything, especially not miracles. When Jesus performed miracles, He used no emotionally manipulative music or over-anxious preaching. Indeed, He often sent everyone out of the room, and then after He was done told those He had healed not to spread the news to anyone.

Orthodoxy is marked by sobriety, not by emotional enthusiasm. It is also marked by a quite ‘ordinary’ persistence in living the humble, consistent life of Christ, not by seeking out extraordinary experiences, especially supernatural ones. To the true believer, those experiences sometimes do come, but they are rare, and the example of the saints is that they are often suspicious of them. It is better accidentally to reject an angel by being overly vigilant than to embrace a demon through undiscerning enthusiasm.”

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4 thoughts on “The Prosperity Gospel: an Orthodox Perspective

  1. Navyguns, I feel your pain. I was in the movement (though not friendly to it) for nearly 20 years. I stayed for as long as I did, I think, because I felt a certain indebtedness to help change the heart and minds of those wrapped up in it. Those who are convinced of its truths are not easily swayed, even after bankruptcy.

  2. “To the true believer, those experiences sometimes do come, but they are rare, and the example of the saints is that they are often suspicious of them.”

    For those who have mystical experiences, it is essential to have a Spiritual Director for a guide and to discern the spirit behind them.

    I found many times that such an experience preceded some rather difficult purification. They sustained me through very difficult times. Since I prayed from the beginning of my faith to be purified, I was grateful for the sustaining grace that accompanied me in each painful purification process. I wanted the fast track, but be prepared for what that means.

    I do think there is a place for the grace that comes through inspirational words and music, especially for the oppressed and poor, as long as it is accompanied with empowering them to work for change in their lives and conditions. This does not mean prosperity in the sense of finances, but prosperity in a spirit of giving, sharing, participating in community, finding joy in whatever circumstances one is in.

    True prosperity is one’s faith and how they selflessly serve others.

    The Body of Christ is inclusive, not exclusive.

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