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Prosperity theology vs. poverty theology

Yesterday I watched a 15-minute interview between Mark Driscoll, Joshua Harris, and Francis Chan. Francis is preparing to leave a thriving ministry at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley to start a church plant in inner city L.A. In the meantime, he plans to spend some time in a third world country to gain a fresh perspective and see things apart from the hustle and bustle of American life. His goal in this whole endeavor seems to be to follow Jesus, to get back to early church life, and to strip away the misconceptions of how ministry should be done.

In the interview, Driscoll asks Chan some very penetrating questions: How do you know that in several years, you're not going to grow dissatisfied with this new endeavor as well? Is there a danger that we have exchanged the error of a prosperity theology with the error of a poverty theology? In other words, since we know God often sanctifies us through poverty, simplicity, and suffering, have we decided that riches, complexity, and health are intrinscially bad? Should we feel guilty or ashamed by these things and deliberately avoid them?

This conversation hits the nail on the head, and echos cautions made by Mark Dever to David Platt at the IX Marks at 9 seminar in Orlando last June. See also Kevin DeYoung's review of Radical, where he says,

We must do more to plant the plea for sacrificial living more solidly in the soil of gospel grace. Several times David [Platt] talks about the love of Christ as our motivation for radical discipleship or the power of God and the means for radical discipleship. But I didn’t sense the strong call to obedience was slowly marinated in God’s lavish mercy. I wanted to see sanctification more clearly flowing out of justification.

Most of us are still far from the danger of a poverty theology, and still have much to benefit from the almost prophetic lifestyle and ministry of Platt and Chan. But I appreciate Driscoll's warning against a Catholic form of asceticism that may be subtly at work here which could ultimately undermine the gospel itself.

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  1. This discerning post is refreshing, thank you.

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