Honors College Theses

Date

2021

Major

Philosophy (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Daniel Pioske

Abstract

The rise of the prosperity gospel movement within present-day America has brought the issues of wealth and poverty to the forefront of discussion within the Christian community. Its theology, rooted in interpretations of biblical concepts about the believer and God, teaches the enjoyment of material wealth as a privilege to be experienced not only in life after death but also within the kingdom of God on earth. Because its core teachings on material prosperity are founded on particular understandings of biblical promises, an analysis of Christian religious texts is useful in determining how issues of wealth and poverty were understood in the 1st century CE in comparison to how they are understood by adherents of the modern-day American prosperity gospel. In this paper, I will provide an exposition of the prosperity gospel and its development in the United States. Thereafter, I will analyze Lukan texts on wealth and poverty from the 1st century CE and compare them to the teachings of modern-day American prosperity gospel preachers and their followers, using Joel Osteen and his Lakewood Church congregation as a focal point.

Thesis Summary

In this paper, I characterized the prosperity gospel by its central teachings on material prosperity and their foundational biblical concepts, most importantly the idea of partaking in the kingdom of God by faith. I then outlined a brief history of the movement’s development through a presentation of its most prominent teachers and preachers, concluding with the ideas put forth by Joel Osteen. Subsequently, I presented and analyzed passages from the Gospel of Luke for a look into 1st century teachings on wealth and poverty. Finally, I compared how the teachings have aligned in the history of Christianity and I argued that they differ not necessarily in the victory they claim for believers but in the postures they exhort.

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