David Platt & the American Dream

David Platt, former pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, has given us a critical call to the harvest fields in Radical: taking back your faith from the American Dream. Having deep roots in the what detractors’ call “the prosperity gospel,” I want to take time to consider what many friends say is the anti-thesis on the health and wealth message.

I will be the first to tell you that much of what flies in the faith movement is out of line. I do not turn a blind eye to people “confess” new cars, houses, and even a new wife! It is happening and without question, has happened before. I have heard with my own ears preachers saying wearing glasses is a lack of faith in Christ. There is no question about the foolishness.

As a classic Pentecostal, there is a theology for suffering for the cause of Christ. Many early missionaries like A.G. Garr paid a heavy price for the proclamation of Jesus with miracles following. Many of them paid for the Pentecostal witness with their lives in countries that most Americans could not even find on a map.

It is with this mindset that I picked up Radical. I was raised in a Pentecostal church (Assemblies of God), spend years in the Faith movement and believe completely in the movement of the Spirit. However, I believe that there is something of value in a book by a Baptist preacher from Alabama.

While there are some doctrinal differences in the book, 95% of the content would line up with Pentecostal theology. There is a few references to the errorous “once saved, always saved” and some doom and gloom eschatology. Otherwise, it is just as solid as Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill.

American Gospel and American Dream

The thesis on the book is quite simple. The American gospel is not the gospel at all. The idea that we sprinkle Jesus on top of the American Dream and call it Christianity is not acceptable. In this statement, I am in complete agreement with Platt. I firmly believe much of the prosperity message is serious misunderstood and abused.

While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American Dream instead of giving to proclaiming the Kingdom of God,literally billions in need of the gospel remain in the dark. (Page 14)

As I read this, it is refreshing to see someone out of the Southern Baptist Convention talking about the Kingdom of God. There was a time that if a Baptist questioned the traditional view called cessationism; they would be rejected completely. It seems more and more people within the SBC are openly open to the idea that signs and wonders as well as the Kingdom of God are for today.

As a missiologist, I am encouraged to hear David Platt being a voice for the voiceless and the unreached in the far flung corners of the earth. It is very true that the American Dream and sadly capitalism at large can be counter productive for the Great Commission. Americans are full of fake wisdom that looking blessed to our community is more important than being a blessing to the nations of the world.

The reality is, most of us in our culture and in the American Church simply don’t believe Jesus or Paul….We just don’t believe our wealth can be a barrier to entering the Kingdom of God. (Page 125)

This is a truth that makes many people uneasy (and it should). It is something we don’t want to hear but need to hear: our quest for status in our society is the anti-thesis of the gospel and the core message of the Apostles. Having a Plasma TV is not really that important in light of eternity. I do not think having the newer iPhone will matter much at the Judgement Seat of Christ, either.

While I do not believe that having a prosperous life can keep you from being saved; it can be make you lose it if you worship God’s blessings more God Himself. I have seen people go from loving to God’s presence to loving to God’s presents until they have lost all touch with Heaven altogether. It happens. It happens often.

The problem with the lure of the American Dream is that preachers, especially televangelists, can make it sound sooo spiritual. It would seem to be scriptural wrong for us not to desire to walk in divine health and be blessing in our finances. There are times that prosperity could become the very poison that destroys our soul.

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