The Three Gospels

Each week at Red someone writes up a summary of my sunday talk for our church e-newsletter. I thought that I would start putting them up here on my blog as a way of capturing some of the stuff that I have been teaching about. I hope that it is helpful.

This Sunday past I talked about the way that the proto new age concept of New Thought affects our worldview. I contrasted the three worldviews of Positive Thinking, its Christian synthesis – Prosperity Theology and ended with the Jesus’ Gospel of repentance and the Kingdom.

GOSPEL # 1 : POSITIVE THINKING

This is the gospel of having the ‘right attitude’ – that with positive thinking anything could happen. The world is your oyster if only you name it and claim it. Here God is a force in the universe that responds to your positivity. All we need to do is rid ourselves of any negativity, work hard and focus on the good…and if we really desire something all we have to do is visualise it and it will be yours. Thanks Oprah, Anthony Robbins and the best seller – The Secret.

GOSPEL # 2: PROSPERITY DOCTRINE. This is the Christian version of the above. Here illness, poverty and depression is what’s wrong with the world but God is here to change it. He is the giver of good things, the fulfiller of MY dreams. Faith is about finding your inner champion – and becoming the best you you can be. This is about discovering a life of walking in God’s favour; being flooded with the good gifts from above. If you don’t have money in your wallet or the latest and greatest you have fallen out of step with God’s best for you.

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Let’s take a break here for a second as we reflect on gospel #2. Let’s not read glibly past it, let’s actually acknowledge the depth to which this has shaped our Western Christian world view. Surely God is meant to bring on the good life!? yeah? This doctrine is at the heart of many faith crises experienced by us in the modern west. The dissonance between what we honestly believe life is meant to bring us compared to what life becomes is often too much to bear. Where are you Jesus!!?? Author Barbara Ehrenrich who has observed this Prosperity phenomenon puts it like this;

“So the seeker who embraces positive theology finds him – or herself in a seamless, self enclosed world…Everywhere, he or she hears the same message – that you can have all that stuff in the mall, as well as the beautiful house and car, if only you believe that you can. But always, in a hissed undertone, there is the darker message, that if you don’t have all that you want, if you feel sick or discouraged, or defeated, you have only yourself to blame. Positive theology ratifies and completes a world without beauty, transcendence, or mercy.”

GOSPEL # 3 : JESUS CHRIST. Jesus has not forgotten us. He is still here. Not always in the ways we expect (often not in the ways we expect). Instead of the high-flying life where all my dreams come together at once, Jesus presents himself as a lowly sacrificial lamb. As someone, who instead of speaking a message of self-belief and positivity, talks about repentance, of dying to yourself and following God’s Kingdom – a Kingdom which is inside out and back-to-front to every other positive and prosperous Kingdom that flaunts itself in front of our hearts and souls. This is a gospel which takes the issues of sin, rebellion, self-interest and pride very, very seriously. This is the only gospel that has any hope of speaking to our greatest needs and the reality of our human condition. May this be the gospel we reacquaint ourselves with over the coming week.

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