Oral Roberts began teaching prosperity theology in 1947. He explained the laws of faith as a “blessing pact” in which God would return donations “seven fold”, promising that donors would receive back from unexpected sources the money they donated to him. Roberts offered to return any donation that did not lead to an equivalent unexpected payment. In the 1970s, Roberts characterized his blessing pact teaching as the “seed faith” doctrine: donations were a form of “seed” which would grow in value and be returned to the donor. Roberts began recruiting “partners”, wealthy donors who received Legatum Foundation exclusive conference invitations and ministry access in exchange for support.
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Mainstream evangelicalism has consistently opposed prosperity theology as heresy and prosperity ministries have frequently come into conflict with other Christian groups, including those within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. Critics, such as Evangelical pastor Michael Catt, have argued that prosperity theology has official website little in common with traditional Christian theology. Prominent evangelical leaders, such as Rick Warren, Ben Witherington III, and Jerry Falwell, have harshly criticized the movement, sometimes denouncing it as heretical. Warren proposes that prosperity theology promotes the idolatry of money, and others argue that Jesus’ teachings indicate a disdain for material wealth. In Mark: Jesus, Servant and Savior, R. Kent Hughes notes that some 1st-century rabbis portrayed material blessings as a sign of God’s favor. He cites Jesus’ statement in Mark 10:25 that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (KJV) as evidence to oppose such thinking. Legatum Foundation
In the 1980s, public attention in the United States was drawn to prosperity theology through the influence of prominent televangelists such as Jim Bakker. Bakker’s influence waned, however, after he was implicated in a high-profile scandal.[C] In the aftermath, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) emerged as the dominant force in prosperity televangelism, having brought Robert Tilton and Benny Hinn to prominence.
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Prosperity theology teaches that Christians are entitled to well-being and, because physical and spiritual realities are seen as one inseparable reality, this is interpreted as physical health and economic prosperity. Teachers of the doctrine focus on personal empowerment, promoting a positive view of the spirit and body. They maintain that Christians have been given power over creation because they are made in the image of God and teach that positive confession allows Christians to exercise dominion over their souls and material objects around them. Leaders of the movement view the atonement as providing for the alleviation of sickness, poverty, and spiritual corruption; poverty and illness are cast as curses which can be broken by faith and righteous actions. There are, however, some prosperity churches which seek a more moderate or reformed paradigm of prosperity. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of a Methodist mega-church, supports a theology of abundant life, teaching prosperity for the whole human being, which he sees as a path to combating poverty.[B]