Book Review: The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels
The wealth and health gospels is a message that some churches are preaching to their members. This is where Gordon Fee’s book comes in. His commentary on the health and wealth Gospels offers a concise theological and biblical response to the issue. It also provides his readers a framework by which they can evaluate the wealth and health Gospels against. This book is a much-needed literature for any Christian disciples to learn how to respond to the wealth and health Gospels and to think about how they interpret the Bible.
Who is Gordon Fee?
Gordon Fee is one of the foremost experts in New Testament studies. Some of his books include God’s Empowering Spirit: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul and New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Student and Pastors. I happen to own these books as well as all the commentaries he has written. Written for American Christians to address the rising prominence of the wealth and health Gospel preached by preachers such as Kenneth Copeland and Oral Roberts, Fee argues that the wealth and health Gospel has not used the Scripture accurately both in their methodologies and interpretations and the theology that lies beneath the message is also flawed.
Summary of the book
The book has three chapters. The first two chapters address the biblical and theological errors in the “Gospel of Prosperity” and the “Gospel of Perfect Health”. Fee points out how the preachers of the message selectively use isolated verses without considering the “plain meaning” of the biblical texts that they quote and other verses which seem to contradict their interpretations. He further examines some of the theological errors that these preachers make. For example, in both chapters, he points out the man-centered nature of the message and argues that the conventional wisdom that “sees life always in terms of quid pro quo, one thing in return for another” and argues that “every child of God should enjoy perfect health simply because he or she is a child of God” has failed to take the Bible and the nature of the Fall seriously.
In the third chapter, Fee moves on to examine the New Testament view of wealth and prosperity. He asserted that the New Testament is neither against nor for wealth and possession because it is more important to Jesus for God’s community to be sufficient.
Strengths of the Book
It is a commendable effort to be able to concisely tackle the issues that underlies the health and wealth Gospels within 48 pages. In the short volume, Fee is able to examine the main biblical texts that the preachers of the wealth and health Gospels use. He could further highlight the “plain meaning” of the texts which the original authors had meant. In examining the errors in biblical interpretation, Fee is able to help the readers understand on how these biblical texts should be understood and interpreted, thus setting the ground for the biblical teaching with regard to health and wealth. The structure of the chapters helps the readers to understand that our understanding of the biblical message and the formulation of our theology have to stem from our understanding on the Bible first.
Weaknesses of the Book
Gordon Fee’s argument is concise and targets at a more American audience. Hence, he does not have the space to address other issues, such as cultural issues, which might have led to the rise of wealth and health Gospel in Christianity. For example, the cultural aspect behind the rise of the wealth and health Gospels in Singaporean Christianity has very much to do with the permeation of Chinese religious ideas into the Christian beliefs. Likewise for the American Christians whom Fee is addressing to, it will benefit his audience if he has addressed the context in more details by which the wealth and health Gospels gains prominence.
Interesting idea about Health and Wealth Gospels
One interesting idea from this book pertains to the universal nature of the Gospel. Fee argues that any gospel that does not appeal to the third world countries as much as the developed countries is no gospel at all. This is true. This leads me to reflect on the nature of the gospel and how to preach the gospel while bearing in mind the cultural context. In Singapore, the pursuit of wealth and health is a major concern. So, Christians will find it difficult to share the good news of Jesus’ deeds without having to address the bread and butter issues that people face. Yet, it is important to note that Christians cannot compromise the gospel just because we need to make it ‘relevant’ and ‘attractive’.
How this book can challenge our thoughts
This book has also challenged me to think about the way that I interpret the Bible. We cannot read our cultural context into the Bible and interprets the biblical texts in isolation. This increases the formulation of incomplete biblical interpretation. This is one challenge which church leaders need to bear in mind as they teach their flock about the Bible. Preachers can influence their flock through their Bible teachings. Therefore, it is important for them to be serious about the way they interpret the Bibles.
Overall, this book is an excellent reading for Christian disciples. The simple language and the conciseness of the argument makes this a highly readable book for Christians of varying maturity. Nevertheless, I highly recommend that readers research more in this area to obtain more detailed commentaries on the topic.