Positive thinking vs the Gospel : Should Christians always be positive?
I have been engaging in a discussion with someone offended at me and among other things, he thinks that Christlike is being positive and be upbeat. Is this a biblical representation of the gospel and it is historical faithful? While it has become popular to believe in positive faith by people like Robert Schuller and lately Joel Osteen; let’s look at the scriptures.
The Old Testament is full of prophets that were rebuking the nation for sin and spoke often about judgement. We know that Jonah was mad at God because He did not want to see the people at Nevihah get right. He was hoping that the wrath of God would destroy them. This is repeated by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Joel to name a few.
The heartbeat of the message through the Old Testament was repentance and turning their hearts towards God. The stories are a timeline of repentance, freedom and liberation. However, the Old Testament can be summed up with the final word: curse.
The message of gospel is very similar. John the Baptist gets it started with “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2) The same core message of transformation is at the heart of everything that the prophets are speaking. The greek word here, metanoéō, means to think different or change your mind. The presentation of the Kingdom of God changes how you see the world around you.
Jesus had a very similar message. He was known to tell people they were twice the devil that their father was. (Matthew 23:15) He was regularly have confrontations with people, especially the religious crowd. He was even know to throw mud in people’s face and snap wimps at people at the temple. Hardly, the tame Jesus we present Him as in many churches.
After Pentecost, the church has such boldness that they face serious problems for their preaching. One of these was Stephen who gave the following message,
“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him– you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
I really do not think that the first martyr of Christianity was trying to make friends and influence people.
What is the gospel of Jesus historically?
The next question is what has the gospel been believed to be through history. The message seems to always been repentence and turning from sin. This is especially true since the reformation. Martin Luthur was known for calling people sinners.
However, the message of repentence and holiness has been the central message for the last three hundred years without question. George Whitefield preached all over America his sermon, Sinners in the hands of an angry God. It converted the young nation and led to the formation of the United States.
The message of hellfire and brimstone was repeated over and over through history. Charles Finney was even known to tell people they were not ready to get the sin out of their lives. Peter Cartwright was just about as blunt against sin in the second Great Awakening.
After the fire of Azusa Street was burning, Pentecostal preachers crossed the nation telling the world to get the sin out of their lives. It was a message of repentence and turning from their wicked ways. The revelation of holiness was central to the Pentecostal preaching. This was partly due to influences of the holiness movement in the 1800’s.
Where did the positive thinking teaching come?
It all started in the late 1800’s with a E.W. Kenyon in the Pacific Northwest but really did not get wide acceptance until the 1960’s in the revivals with Kenneth Hagin. He wanted to address how ugly some Pentecostal preachers had gotten. However, the positive thinking doctrine were way past scripture and the faith message became heretical in some ways.
It quite become overkill and led to some abuses. People had to make sure they had their “confession right.” It was completely bondage for thousands of people. It really put a whole generation in bondage and sidetracked the whole Charismatic movement.
It actually got a point that many groups had to publically confront it. The Assemblies of God have sound the alarm about the positive thinking movement many times and they even had to form an official position paper about it. Click here for that position paper.