Every blessing? (2)

4 03 2009
Visiting Writtle during the Starburst activity...
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The quickest way into the Prosperity Gospel issue that I’ve found is to up the stakes – and talk about death.  Consider this statement:

Jesus has won every blessing for us at the cross.  In particular, Jesus has defeated death at the cross.  He has won for us victory over death.  So that means no Christian should ever have to die, if they’re putting their faith in Jesus.

I haven’t yet come across anyone who’s willing to let that argument stand without modification.  But once someone’s accepted the principle that this argument needs qualified in some way, then that often opens the door for a productive discussion about how “already/not-yet tensions”1 apply to blessings in general.

Sickness is small fry compared to death.  Yes, Jesus came to defeat sickness – but even more importantly he came to defeat death and sin.  So if the argument above needs modified in regard to death, it will need modified in regard to sickness as well.  (And also sin: the holiness movement2 made the same sort of mistake, but with sin instead of sickness.)

Now in some ways, this goes against my instincts.  My instinct is to begin with a verse from the Bible – that’s our ultimate authority after all!  But, on this Prosperity issue, I’ve found that people are more willing to take on board a specific Bible verse, after they’ve wrestled with a more general biblical concept first.  (Like the issue of death, above.)

In the next post, I’ll try to sketch out why I think that is.  Again, I’d value your thoughts on that in advance – so let me ask a specific question:

2 Tim 3v12 is pretty clear: “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” – but quoting it, or verses like it often isn’t enough.  Why not?

1 The language of “already/not-yet tensions” is a way of trying to describe how everything in history pivots around the coming of Jesus.  The Bible speaks of this “present age” and also of the “age to come”.  And it’s Jesus who moves us from one to the other – but with an overlap.  The cross and resurrection marked the beginning of the new age to come; but the present age won’t come to an end until Jesus returns.  So now, we are living in the overlap between those two ages.  The new age is already inaugurated, but not yet consummated.  The blessings of the new age are already inaugurated, but not yet consummated.  E.g. we are already co-heirs with Christ, but we have not yet received the full inheritence that will be ours in the new creation.  Death has already been defeated, but it has not yet been banished.

2 The holiness movement said that if you were really trusting Jesus then you should be able to eliminate sin entirely from your life, because Jesus has defeated sin at the cross.
Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holiness_movement

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One response

22 03 2009
Michael Jensen

That’s why I was interested in martyrdom. If you start talking about martyrdom and its importance for the early church, the prosperity gospel starts to look pretty silly.

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