My Master’s Thesis is on Jesus’ teaching that you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer if you believe for it, specifically the passages in Matthew relevant to this topic. Of course, this is one of these are fundamental passages to the prosperity gospel camp. This afternoon someone recommended I take a look at Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori’s Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement. Several sections discuss the social effects of the prosperity gospel. While they point out the many potential negative issues related to it, surprisingly they also repeatedly suggest it may have positive effects. For example, consider the following excerpt:

One observer we interviewed in Manila was far from cynical in her analysis of the Prosperity Gospel, even though she was not a Pentecostal herself. In her opinion, the biggest problem that poor people face is that they have no hope for future advancement. Prosperity Gospel preachers provoke people to think in new ways, and while members may be disappointed if they are expecting a quick fix, they may also start organizing their lives in ways that allow for upward social mobility. Furthermore, some of these Prosperity Gospel preachers actually offer sound advice regarding lifestyle change, budgeting, family planning, and business investment… Hence, while some Prosperity Gospel preachers may rely more on magic than sound theology, there may be a latent effect in which individuals start thinking differently about their lives and therefore may pursue courses of action that result in upward social mobility. pp. 176-7.

This is interesting. I’d never considered that possibility. There are still huge problems with treating God like a free vending machine, but hopefully it does cause the poor to reach for something better as they have opportunity.